Monday, February 22, 2016

Congressional Hearing on WIPO

The U.S. House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations will hold a hearing on the World Intellectual Property Organization on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.

(mew)

February 22, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Secretary of State Kerry's Statement on the Cease-Fire Settlement in Syria

Statement by Secretary Kerry on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria
I am gratified to see the final arrangements concluded today for a cessation of hostilities in Syria and call on all parties to accept and fully comply with its terms. If implemented and adhered to, this cessation will not only lead to a decline in violence, but also continue to expand the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian supplies to besieged areas and support a political transition to a government that is responsive to the desires of the Syrian people.
Today's agreement results from the committed diplomacy of many countries and groups, and I want to thank all those who worked diligently to bring it about, including the U.S. and Russian delegations and other members of the International Syria Support Group.
We are all aware of the significant challenges ahead. Over the coming days, we will be working to secure commitments from key parties that they will abide by the terms of this cessation of hostilities and further develop modalities for monitoring and enforcement.
This is a moment of promise, but the fulfillment of that promise depends on actions. All parties must meet their commitments under this agreement, ensure full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, and cease attacks on each other, including aerial bombardments. And all parties must remain committed over a period of time to make possible a political end to this conflict.
As we move forward, we will remain vigilant to ensure that implementation achieves what we set out to do, which is to stop the violence and provide the space and the opportunity for a negotiated political transition, consistent with the Geneva Communique of 2012, that unites all Syrians who reject dictatorship and terrorism and want to build a new future for their country.

(US State Department Press Release)

February 22, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cease-Fire Agreement for Syria to Take Effect on Saturday

Homs, SyriaUnited Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement announced today by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) Ceasefire Taskforce, on the terms of a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria scheduled to come into effect on Saturday.

Noting the “lengthy and detailed discussions” that preceded the announcement, Mr. Ban, in a statement attributable to his spokesperson said he believes the agreement, if respected, would constitute a significant step forward in the implementation of Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), which gave the UN an enhanced role in shepherding the opposing sides to talks for a political transition, endorsing a timetable for a ceasefire, a new constitution and elections.

“It demonstrates the commitment of the ISSG to exert influence on the warring parties to bring about an immediate reduction in violence as a first step towards a more durable ceasefire,” Mr. Ban stressed, adding that the agreement “further contributes to creating an environment conducive for the resumption of political negotiations.”

“Above all, it is a long-awaited signal of hope to the Syrian people that after five years of conflict there may be an end to their suffering in sight,” Mr. Ban said.

Urging the parties to abide by the terms of the agreement, the Secretary-General said the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria stands ready to support implementation, both on the ground in Damascus and in Geneva. The UN will also count on the cooperation of ISSG members – the Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations, and 17 countries, including the US and Russia – as all stakeholders jointly set the implementation mechanism in motion.

“Much work now lies ahead to ensure its implementation, and the international community, the ISSG and the Syrian parties must remain steadfast in their resolve,” Mr. Ban emphasized.

Earlier, the UN chief condemned the multiple bombings yesterday in Damascus and Homs, Syria, which reportedly killed at least 155 people, mainly civilians, and injured several hundred more.

“Those responsible for these atrocious and deliberate attacks on civilians must be held accountable,” said Mr. Ban in a statement attributable to his spokesperson.

The Secretary-General extended his deepest condolences to the bereaved families affected by the bombings, which were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL/Da’esh, and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.

Yesterday, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, strongly condemned the bombings as well.

In a statement attributable to his spokesperson, Mr. de Mistura, condemned “yet another set of car bomb and suicide explosions in Damascus and Homs cities.”

(UN Press Release; Photo of heavily damaged buildings in Homs, Syria. UNICEF/Juliette Touma)

February 22, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Celebrating St. Lucia's Independence Day

U.S State Department Press Statement

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 22, 2016

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I congratulate the people of Saint Lucia on 37 years of independence.

Defined by its welcoming population, lively music, and beautiful beaches, St. Lucia is a major tourist attraction for travelers from around the world – and it is a key partner to the United States on a wide range of critical issues in the Caribbean and across the Western Hemisphere.

Together, our nations work to promote citizen security, good governance, respect for the rule of law, and human rights. Our countries support energy diversification through the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative. And our peoples are connected through programs implemented by the State Department, by the efforts of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and by the steady stream of Peace Corps volunteers who have served in St. Lucia since 1961.

On this special day, as the people of St. Lucia celebrate another year of independence, I offer my best wishes and express confidence that our friendship will grow and prosper for decades to come.

February 22, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

World Day of Social Justice

In Resolution A/RES/62/10, the UN General Assembly has declared February 20 to be the World Day of Social Justice. It is a day when the United Nations and other organizations focus on issues of social justice such as poverty, exclusion and unemployment.  

The first World Day of Social Justice was recognized in 2009.  

(cgb) 

February 20, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the first UN Secretary-General from Africa, has died at the age of 93.

Boutros Boutros-GhaliBoutros Boutros-Ghali, veteran Egyptian diplomat and the first United Nations Secretary-General from Africa, passed away today at the age of 93. He is being praised for guiding the Organization through the tumultuous early 1990s and for helping shape the UN's response to post-Cold War realities, drafting a seminal report on preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping.

Over four decades, Mr. Boutros-Ghali participated in numerous meetings dealing with international law, human rights, economic and social development, decolonization, the Middle East question, international humanitarian law, the rights of ethnic and other minorities, non-alignment, development in the Mediterranean region and Afro-Arab cooperation.

In September 1978, Mr. Boutros-Ghali attended the Camp David Summit Conference and had a role in negotiating the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel, which were signed in 1979.

(Excerpts from a UN press release)

 

Click here to read more.

Click here to listen to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's statement about the passing of Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

 

 

February 17, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Presses China on Arrests of Lawyers and Journalists

The top United Nations human rights official announced this week that he has sought clarifications from the Chinese authorities about the recent arrests of lawyers, and intimidation of Government critics and workers of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), describing these incidents as “a very worrying pattern” that has serious implications for the activities of civil society in China. “Civil society actors, from lawyers and journalists to NGO workers, have the right to carry out their work, and it is the States’ duty to support and protect them,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

He raised such cases with Chinese officials in Geneva, and acknowledged their efforts to clarify the matters at issue. However, their responses indicate that the authorities “too often reflexively confuse the legitimate role of lawyers and activists with threats to public order and security,” he said.

Police have detained about 250 human rights lawyers, legal assistants, and activists across the country since a nationwide crackdown began last July, although many were subsequently released. Last month, 15 additional human rights lawyers were formally arrested, 10 of them for the crime of ‘subversion of State power,’ which carries a sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Among those facing that particular charge are leading human rights lawyers Li Heping and Wang Yu.

Lawyers should never have to suffer prosecution or any other kind of sanctions or intimidation for discharging their professional duties as they play an essential role in protecting human rights and the rule of law, Mr. Zeid said, urging China to release all immediately and without conditions.

At the same time, he welcomed news of the release of two labour activists detained in Guangdong in December 2015, but noted some of their colleagues remain in detention.

Disappearances of Booksellers

Mr Zeid said he was also concerned by recent cases of disappearances of booksellers from Hong Kong. Five people from Causeway Bay Books – a shop that publishes books critical of the Chinese Government – have gone missing since last October, including Lee Bo, a British national, who, according to the Hong Kong police, told his wife that he was assisting with an investigation. Gui Minhai, a Swedish national, reappeared last month when he was presented on China state television. Gui, who went missing while in Thailand last October, “confessed” to a crime in the city of Ningbo in 2003.

Chinese authorities confirmed this month that the three other booksellers were also being held and investigated for “illegal activities” in China.

The human rights chief urged China to ensure a fair and transparent procedure for these cases.

He also expressed concern about the case of Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen and co-founder of the legal-aid NGO “Chinese Urgent Action Working Group.” He was detained in early January and was the first foreigner to be held on charges of “endangering state security.”

Method of ‘Confession’

Dahlin, who was expelled from China in January, was also presented on state television, where he “confessed” to having breached Chinese law, Mr. Zeid said, stressing that he finds this method of “confession”, extracted during incommunicado detention and publicized on national television, very worrying as it clearly violates the right to fair trial.

As part of a series of new laws governing national security in China, the Government is currently drafting new legislation which, if adopted, may have far-reaching implications for NGOs.

More and more Governments worldwide are using national security measures to restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and as a tool to target human rights defenders and silence critics, Mr. Zeid noted, emphasizing that security and human rights do not contradict each other, but rather complement and reinforce each other.

At the same time, the human rights chief welcomed the recent enactment of a nation-wide law on domestic violence as an important step in strengthening legal protections for women in accordance with China’s international commitments.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

February 17, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Bombing in Ankara

The Secretary-General of the United Nations condemned the explosion in the Turkish capital, Ankara, today, which reportedly killed more than two-dozen people. “The explosion, which occurred at rush hour in the heart of the city, claimed the lives of at least 28 people and injured dozens more,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson. “The Secretary-General hopes the perpetrators of this terrorist attack will be swiftly brought to justice,” said the statement, adding that Mr. Ban sends his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, and that the United Nations stands in solidarity with the people and the Government of Turkey at this tragic time.

(adapted from a UN press release)

February 17, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Global Legal Skills Conference in Verona

VeronaThe first round of acceptance letters is now going out for proposals to present at the upcoming Global Legal Skills Conference, May 24-26, 2016 at the University of Verona Department of Law. The conference is followed by a day trip to Padua.

Professors from at least 15 countries submitted proposals for the conference, which is co-sponsored by The John Marshall Law School of Chicago where it was first held. This year marks the 11th time that the conference has been held. Previous conferences have also been held in Mexico, Costa Rica, Italy, and Washington, D.C.

Although the first round of proposals has already closed, proposals are still being accepted on a space-available basis until March 31, 2016.

Nominations are also still open for the GLS Awards to be presented in Verona.

(mew)

February 16, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Reminder: Live from "L" Webcast

"L" is the nickname for the Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State. Several years ago, the American Bar Association Section of International Law started a program called "Live from L" in which the Legal Adviser would discuss current international law issues. The program will next be held on Thursday, February 18, 2016, at the George Washington University School of Law. It will be co-sponsored by the American Society of International Law. You can attend the program in person or listen in online. The focus will be on the Iran Nuclear Deal, but of course events may bring additional topics for discussion or to be raised in the question and answer segment. The program will also be webcast, making it widely available to all of you.

(mew)

February 13, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Deems Detention of Julian Assange by the United Kingdom and Sweden to be Arbitrary

On 4 December 2015, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) adopted Opinion No. 54/2015, in which it considered that Mr. Julian Assange was arbitrarily detained by the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In that opinion, the Working Group recognized that Mr. Assange is entitled to his freedom of movement and to compensation.

The application was filed with the Working Group in September 2014. The Opinion 54/2015 was sent to the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on 22 January 2016 in accordance with the Working Group’s Methods of Work. Given that Mr. Assange is an Australian citizen, one of the members of the Working Group who shares his nationality recused herself from participating in the deliberations.

Another member of the Working Group disagreed with the position of the majority and considered that the situation of Mr. Assange is not one of detention and therefore falls outside the mandate of the Working Group.

In mid-2010, a Swedish Prosecutor commenced an investigation against Mr. Assange based on allegations of sexual misconduct. On 7 December 2010, pursuant to an international arrest warrant issued at the request of the Swedish Prosecutor, Mr. Assange was detained in Wandsworth Prison for 10 days in isolation. Thereafter, he was subjected to house arrest for 550 days. While under house arrest in the United Kingdom, Mr. Assange requested the Republic of Ecuador to grant him refugee status at its Embassy in London. The Republic of Ecuador granted asylum because of Mr. Assange’s fear that if he was extradited to Sweden, he would be further extradited to the United States where he would face serious criminal charges for the peaceful exercise of his freedoms.

Since August 2012, Mr. Assange has not been able to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy and is subject to extensive surveillance by the British police. The Working Group considered that Mr. Assange has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth prison which was followed by house arrest and his confinement at the Ecuadorian Embassy. Having concluded that there was a continuous deprivation of liberty, the Working Group also found that the detention was arbitrary because he was held in isolation during the first stage of detention and because of the lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor in its investigations, which resulted in the lengthy detention of Mr. Assange.

The Working Group found that this detention is in violation of Articles 9 and 10 of the UDHR and Articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the ICCPR, and falls within category III as defined in its Methods of Work. The Working Group therefore requested Sweden and the United Kingdom to assess the situation of Mr. Assange to ensure his safety and physical integrity, to facilitate the exercise of his right to freedom of movement in an expedient manner, and to ensure the full enjoyment of his rights guaranteed by the international norms on detention.

The Working Group also considered that the detention should be brought to an end and that Mr. Assange should be afforded the right to compensation.

The Working Group’s Opinion on Julian Assange’s case (No. 54/2015) is available at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/A.HRC.WGAD.2015.docx

February 11, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

"The Sustainable Development Goals contain a specific target calling for an end to FGM. When this practice is fully abandoned, positive effects will reverberate across societies as girls and women reclaim their health, human rights and vast potential." Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General. 

Pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/67/146, February 6 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM consists of all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons.  FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.  Despite this fact, it is estimated that 200 million women and girls have undergone some form of FGM.

According to a UN website, FGM "reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death."  Most girls undergo the procedure before the age of 15.

For these reasons, the UN has included the elimination of FGM among its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Accordingly, the 2016 theme for this day is "Achieving the new Global Goals through the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation by 2030."

More information on this topic may be found here.

(cgb)

February 6, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Twelve Nations Sign Trans Pacific Partnership

Twelve nations with a collective population of 800 million persons signed a new trade deal today known as the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP.  The twelve nations include the United States, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.  They account for 40% of world trade.

The TPP aims to broaden and deepen economic ties between these nations. The agreement will result in a reduction in 18,000 tariffs.  Some tariffs will be eliminated immediately; others will be reduced or eliminated over time. The text of the agreement is available here.

The TPP will now require ratification by the various signatories before it will become effective, which is likely to take some time.

(cgb)

February 4, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Reminder of Public Meeting of the U.S. State Department's Advisory Committee on International Law

The U.S. Department of State will hold a public meeting of the Advisory Committee on Private International Law to discuss international parentage and surrogacy. The meeting will take place on February 9, 2016 from 1 pm until 4 pm, Room 9.04, State Department Annex 17, 600 19th Street NW, Washington, DC. FR3229

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.

(mew)

February 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

ICJ to Hold Public Hearings in Nuclear Disarmament Cases

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has announced that it will hold public hearings from March 9-16, 2016 in three related cases brought by The Marshall Islands: Obligations concerning Negotiations regarding Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament.  The Marshall Islands filed the cases against the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan.  These hearings will address issues relating to jurisdiction, admissibility, and preliminary objections. For more information about these cases, visit the ICJ Press Room.

(cgb)

January 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Live from "L"

"L" is the nickname for the Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State. Several years ago, the American Bar Association Section of International Law started a program called "Live from L" in which the Legal Adviser would discuss current international law issues. The program will next be held on Thursday, February 18, 2016, at the George Washington University School of Law. It will be co-sponsored by the American Society of International Law. You can attend the program in person or listen in online. The focus will be on the Iran Nuclear Deal, but of course events may bring additional topics for discussion or to be raised in the question and answer segment. The program will also be webcast, making it widely available to all of you.

(mew)

January 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

ICC Opens Investigation into War Crimes in the 2008 Georgia-Russia Conflict

On Wednesday this week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorized the Prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Georgia between July and October 2008 during the Russian-Georgian conflict.  The alleged crimes were committed by three different parties to the conflict - the Georgian armed forces, the South Ossetian forces, and the Russian armed forces.

Georgia joined the ICC in 2003 and is therefore subject to the Court's jurisdiction and obligated to cooperate with the Court. Russia is not a party to the ICC Statute.  However, the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes that occurred on Georgian territory.  Under the principle of complementarity, the ICC did not have jurisdiction to proceed, however, until it was determined that the national authorities were either unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute.  As domestic proceedings in Georgia have been indefinitely suspended, that condition has now been satisfied.  Proceedings relating to the conflict are also ongoing in the European Court of Human Rights.

(cgb)

 

 

January 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Human Rights Watch 2016 World Report

Human Rights Watch has published its World Report 2016 containing its annual review of human rights around the globe.  The subtitle gives some clues as to the themes of this year's report, "Twin Threats: How the politics of fear and the crushing of civil society imperil global rights." Viewers can download the entire report, or choose specific country chapters to read.  In this regard, the chapter on the United States criticizes the U.S. criminal justice system for harsh penalties and racial disparities. It calls on the United States to engage in reform relating to drugs sentences and police tactics and training, among other areas. 

(cgb)

January 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Submit a Proposal for the Global Legal Skills Conference in Verona

20151127_150353The 11th Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in Italy at the University of Verona Department of Law from May 24-26, 2016 with an additional day field trip to Padua on May 27, 2016.

The conference focuses on legal skills training for lawyers and law students around the world. There is also a track for substantive international law presentations. Presentations are mostly in English, but one panel can be in German, one in French, and several panels can be in Italian. Participants already confirmed are coming from countries around the world, including Mexico, the Philippines, Italy, Qatar, and the United States.

Early bird registration is now open and presentation proposals are now being accepted. Visit the conference website for more information.

(mew)

January 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

WTO DSB Begins Process of Selecting New Member of Appellate Body

The Appellate Body for dispute settlement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) will soon be in need of a new member. Ms. Yuejiao Zhang of China will step down at the end of May when her second four-year term expires.  The WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) has agreed with the Chairman’s proposal for appointment/reappointment of Appellate Body members. In particular, it agreed to launch a selection process to replace Ms Yuejiao Zhang, which consists of the establishment of a Selection Committee composed of the Director-General and the 2016 Chairpersons of the General Council, the Goods Council, the Services Council, the TRIPS Council and the DSB, to be chaired by the DSB Chair.

WTO members have until 15 March 2016 to submit nominations of candidates.  It is expected the Selection Committee will carry out its work in April/May 2016 in order to make a recommendation to the DSB by no later than 12 May 2016 so that the DSB can take a decision to appoint a new Appellate Body member at its regular meeting scheduled for 23 May 2016.

The DSB also agreed to request the DSB Chairman to carry out consultations on the possible reappointment of Mr Seung Wha Chang of Korea, whose first four-year term of office will expire on 31 May 2016.  Mr Chang is eligible for reappointment by the DSB to a second term as Appellate Body member. 

For more WTO news, visit the WTO website.

(cgb)

January 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)