Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Watch History Being Made: Video of the Moment that New Zealand Passes Legislation for Marriage Equality
New Zealand has become the latest country to pass same-sex marriage legislation. Here is video of the moment that the legislation passed in the New Zealand Legislature. It's about five minutes long, and you will enjoy it.
IACHR Releases Annual Report
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has released its Annual Report for 2012. The Chair of the IACHR, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, presented the Report to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Organization of American States (OAS). The following information is taken from an IACHR press release:
"The [Annual Report] has four chapters. Chapter I refers to the legacy the IACHR has brought to the inter-American community of States and their peoples, and discusses the new human rights demands on the regional agenda and the Commission’s important contribution with respect to those new demands. Chapter II includes an overview of the Commission’s background and legal basis, along with a description of its most important activities in 2012. Chapter III contains the Commission’s decisions concerning allegations of human rights violations in the OAS Member States. This chapter also includes statistics on the Commission’s various tasks; summaries of the precautionary measures it adopted, modified, or expanded in 2012; and a follow-up to recommendations the Commission has made in decisions it has published since the year 2000. Chapter IV contains a specific analysis of the human rights situation in those OAS Member States the Commission has identified as needing particular attention: Cuba, Honduras, and Venezuela.
In 2012, the IACHR received 1,936 new individual petitions and accepted 137 petitions for processing. The Commission received 448 requests for precautionary measures and granted 35. It published 42 reports on admissibility, 17 on petitions found to be inadmissible, 8 on friendly settlements, 42 archive reports, and approved 15 reports on merits. Lastly, it submitted 12 cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
In his remarks to present the report, the IACHR Chair said that the inter-American system’s effectiveness as a supranational mechanism for protecting human rights presupposes that the Member States comply fully and effectively with the decisions of the Court and the Commission. “While important progress has been made in the implementation of the recommendations of the IACHR and in compliance with the decisions of the Court, a level of progress that would guarantee the efficacy of the system’s decisions has yet to be reached,” the Commission Chair said."
The IACHR Annual Report may be found here.
Guatemala Brings Action Against Peru at WTO
Guatemala formally initiated dispute settlement proceedings against Peru at the World Trade Organization (WTO) this week with respect to additional duties being imposed on certain agricultural products. In accordance with WTO dispute settlement procedures, Guatemala has requested consultations with Peru. If those consultations do not resolve the matter within 60 days, Guatemala will be entitled to request the establishment of a dispute resolution panel. The matter has been assigned case no. WT/DS457/1.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Iceland and China Sign Free Trade Agreement
Yesterday, Iceland became the first European nation to sign a free trade agreement with China. The purpose of the agreement is “to enhance their exchange and practical co-operation on the Arctic” and “further deepen their mutually beneficial co-operation in the fields of trade and investment.” Pursuant to the agreement, tariffs are most goods will be eliminated. Currently, trade between the two nations is relatively small, but that could change under the new agreement. Observers suggest that China has an interest in increasing its presence in the Arctic region and pursuant joint oil exploration activities with Iceland.
ICJ Issues Judgment in Border Dispute between Burkina Faso and Niger
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its decision today delimiting the frontier between Burkina Faso and Niger. The Court heard the case pursuant to a Special Agreement between the parties which they notified to the Court in 2010. The details of the ICJ's decision may be found here.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
WTO Announces Slate of Five Candidates for DG Position
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is in the process of selecting its next Director General (DG). The Chair of the WTO General Council announced today that after the first round of consulations with the Members, the slate of candidates has been narrowed to five as follows:
Ms Mari Elka Pangestu (Indonesia)
Mr Tim Groser (New Zealand)
Mr Herminio Blanco (Mexico)
Mr Taeho Bark (Republic of Korea)
Mr Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo (Brazil)
The next step will be to further narrow this list of five down to two final candidates. Consultations with the Member States will begin next week to accomplish this task.
The Chair's full statement on this matter may be found here.
Friday, April 12, 2013
ICJ Announces Public Hearings in Whaling Case
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has announced that it will hold public hearings in the case concerning Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening) from Wednesday 26 June to Tuesday 16 July 2013, at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Each party has been alloted two and a half days of argument in the first round of oral arguments and one and a half days of argument in the second round. Additionally, New Zealand has been alloted one morning of argument time to present its observations.
The ICJ will consider Australia's allegations that "Japan's continued pursuit of a large-scale program of whaling under the Second Phase of its Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic ("JARPA II") is in breach of obligations assumed by Japan under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling ("ICRW"), as well as its other international obligations for the preservation of marine mammals and the marine environment."
More information may be found in the ICJ press release.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Amnesty International Releases 2012 Report on Use of Death Penalty
In its fourth annual report on the global use of the death penalty, Amnesty International found progress towards its abolition in all regions of the world.
In 2012, 21 countries carried out executions - the same as 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade ago. The five countries that carried out the most executions are China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
682 known executions were carried out worldwide, 2 more than in 2011. Amnesty International believes more were carried out in China, but said it cannot obtain accurate data.
Amnesty International "opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment."
For more information, see the Amnesty International press release.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
"Brother Number Two" Found Fit to Stand Trial Before Cambodia Tribunal
The trial chamber of the United Nations-backed court in Cambodia that is trying those accused of genocide and crimes against humanity ruled last week that Nuon Chea, also knows as "Brother Number Two" to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, is fit for trial. Mr. Noun is before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a mixed court set up under a 2003 agreement signed by the UN and the Government, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s.
"Notwithstanding the advanced age and frailty of the accused, Nuon Chea, and the accused's precarious physical health, the recent report and testimony of the court-appointed medical experts clearly indicate that the accused remains capable of meaningful participation in his own defence," the president of the court, Nil Nonn, said through an English translator. Mr. Noun waived his right to be present in court on grounds of health reasons. He is reportedly 86-years-old and suffers from heart disease, among other ailments.
Earlier this month, former foreign minister Ieng Sary, died of heart failure. His widow and former social minister, Ieng Thirith, was found unfit to stand trial last September owing to medical reasons and the Court granted her a provisional release
Nearly two million people are thought to have died during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. Out of five Khmer Rouge leaders indicted by the ECCC in 2007, the court has so far completed just one case, sentencing former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, whose alias is 'Duch', to life in jail.
In addition, witness hearings in Case 002/01 against Mr. Nuon and Khieu Samphan will resume on 8 April, the Court announced.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
UN General Assembly Debates the Role of the International Criminal Justice System in Reconciliation
The United Nations General Assembly today held its first ever debate on the role of the international criminal justice system in reconciliation, with its president stressing the vital part it must play not just in looking back on past atrocities but in bringing former foes together to build a better and more inclusive tomorrow. “The paramount question is how international criminal justice can help reconcile former adversaries in post-conflict, transitioning societies,” Assembly President Vuk Jeremic said in opening the session.
Over the past two decades various international criminal courts have been set up, either under UN sponsorship or in cooperation with the world body, to judge war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in countries as diverse as the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia.
These include the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is not country-specific.
Addressing the Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that the international criminal justice system was launched two decades ago, almost 50 years after the Nuremberg trials against Nazi war criminals, “in the face of horrendous acts that at times summoned up those very ghosts” from the Second World War. “Impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other serious international crimes is no longer acceptable, nor is it tolerated,” he said, noting that the system has also given voice to victims and witnesses. “Where once they might have gone unheard, left to suffer in silence, today they have a platform.”
He added that supporting international tribunals and courts means respecting, and not calling into question, their independence, impartiality and integrity. “It means implementing their decisions. And it means safeguarding them from those who seek to undermine them for reasons that may have more to do with politics than justice,” he said.
Highlighting the theme of reconciliation, Mr. Jeremic, who comes from Serbia, part of former Yugoslavia, said: “Reconciliation will come about when all the parties to a conflict are ready to speak the truth to each other. Honouring all the victims is at the heart of this endeavour. That is why it is so critically important to ensure atrocities are neither denied, nor bizarrely celebrated as national triumphs. “Reconciliation is in its essence about the future, about making sure we do not allow yesterday's tragedies to circumscribe our ability to reach out to each other, and work together for a better, more inclusive tomorrow.”
He noted that the subject is immensely sensitive, often involving considerations of delicate matters like sovereignty or impartiality. “But I firmly believe there should be no forbidden subjects in the General Assembly,” he said. “Where else can all Member States come together, as equals, to exchange views frankly, openly, and inclusively on far-reaching issues?”
Mr. Ban later met representatives of the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves, where at least some 6,000 Moslem men and boys were massacred in the breakaway Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 during the wars in former Yugoslavia, as well as the Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide.
Forty-eight countries are scheduled to speak during the day-long General Assembly session.
(UN Press Release)
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Be Kind to Lawyer's Day
Here in the United States, April 9 is National Be Kind to Lawyer's Day. Since many of our readers are lawyers, we thought you'd like to know that it's your day to ask for a little extra consideration. And keep up the good work!
Friday, April 5, 2013
Public to View WTO Aircraft Subsidy Dispute Case
At the request of the parties to the dispute, European Communities and Certain Member States — Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft (Recourse to Article 21.5 by the United States) (DS316
(Article 21.5 — US)), the World Trade Organization Dispute Resolution Panel has agreed to show a video recording of the non-confidential portions of its hearing on 18 April (and possibly 19 April) 2013. For more information, click here.
Benjamin Ferencz to be Honored Today at ASIL International Criminal Law IG Luncheon
The American Society of International Law, which is meeting this week in Washington, D.C., holds a special luncheon today to honor Benjamin Ferencz. The event was organized by Professor Shahram Dana of The John Marshall Law School and the ASIL Interest Group for International Criminal Law.
Ben was an investigator of Nazi war crimes after World War II and served as the Chief Prosecutor for the United States Army during the Einsatzgruppen Trial, which was one of the twelve military trials held by the U.S. authorities at Nuremberg, Germany.
The photo here is of Ben Ferencz and his son, Donald Ferencz, attending the 106th Annual Meetingo fthe ASIL.
American Society of International Law 107th Annual Meeting
Pictured here (from left to right) are International Law Prof Blog Editor Mark Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School-Chicago), Former U.S. State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh (Yale Law School), and Hari M. Osofsky (University of Minnesota Law School).
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Inter-American Commission of Human Rights Refers Land Disputes involving Panama and Honduras to Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Earlier today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced that it has filed applications with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in two new cases, both involving land claims by indigenous groups in Panama and Honduras respectively.
In Case No. 12.548, Garífuna Community of "Triunfo de la Cruz" and its Members v. Honduras, the petitioners claimed that Honduras failed to protect the ancestral territory of the Triunfo de la Cruz Community from occupation and dispossession by third parties. This failure has caused a situation of permanent conflict for the community due to actions in its territory by third parties, both private individuals and public authorities. Moreover, the sale of communal lands by public authorities
has negatively affected the community's ancestral territory and led to pressure, threats, and even murders or arrests of community leaders and authorities. In addition, the community does not have proper and culturally appropriate title to its ancestral territory, and access to certain parts of its territory has been restricted by the establishment of protected areas, which has hampered its ability to maintain its traditional way of life. The Triunfo de la Cruz Community also claims that Honduras failed to consult the Community and its members concerning the adoption of decisions affecting the territory they have occupied historically, including the execution of tourism projects and megaprojects, the creation of a protected area in part of their ancestral territory, and sales of communal lands.
The IACHR determined that the Community have not had effective access to justice in the context of complaints related to the sale of ancestral lands; acts of threats, aggression, harassment, and persecution suffered by community authorities; and the situation of ongoing violence and insecurity caused by third parties in their territory. The IACHR decided to refer the case to the Court when Honduras failed to inform the IACHR regarding compliance with the recommendations contained in its Report on the Merits.
Similar issues are involved the second Case No. 12.354, Kuna Indigenous People of Madungandí and Emberá Indigenous People of Bayano and their Members v. Panama. There, the IACHR determined that Panama failed to meet its obligation to provide the Kuna indigenous people of Madungandí and the Emberá indigenous people of Bayano, and their members, with adequate, effective procedures for gaining access to their ancestral territories and for obtaining a response to the numerous complaints of third-party interference in their territories and natural resources. The IACHR determined that the violations committed against these two indigenous peoples constitutes a form of discrimination due to the application of laws that reflect an assimilationist policy.
More specifically, the case refers to the ongoing violation of the right to collective property of the Kuna indigenous people of Madungandí and the Emberá indigenous people of Bayano and their members, as a consequence of the State of Panama's failure to pay economic compensation stemming from the dispossession and flooding of the victim's ancestral territories that began in 1969. In addition, Panama failed to comply with its obligations to prevent the invasion of colonists and illegal logging, as a corollary of its obligation to effectively protect the territory and natural resources of the Kuna of Madungandí and Emberá of Bayano indigenous peoples and their members. This situation worsened beginning in the 1990s. The case was sent to the Inter-American Court on February 26, 2013, because the Commission deemed that the State had not complied with the recommendations contained in the IACHR's Report on the Merits of the case.
ASIL International Legal Research Interest Group
I'm speaking today at a meeting of the American Society of International Law (ASIL) International Legal Research Interest Group. Also speaking will be Sonia Roland of the ASIL Teaching International Law Interest Group (a group that I had the privilege to chair some time ago. Our topic is listed as "Teaching Substantive International Law in an International Legal Research Class" but I will also speak about "Teaching International Legal Research in a Substantive International Law Class." I think that international law students (as well as judges, lawyers, professors, and other researchers) need to improve their international legal research skills. I'm looking forward to the program and the discussion. I hope to see you there or at another session of this week's meeting of the American Society of International Law.
Mark E. Wojcik
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Results of ASIL Midwest Interest Group Election
The American Society of International Law (ASIL) announced the winners of the ASIL-Midwest Interest Group officer’s election. Hari Osofsky and Alexandra Huneeus were elected Co-Chairs. Shayan Davoudi was elected Vice Chair. Congratulations to all.
Hat tip to Matthew Gomez at ASIL.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
UN General Assembly Approves Resolution for the Arms Trade Treaty
The United Nations General Assembly has approved a global arms trade treaty that failed to achieve unanimous support last week but which garnered the support of a majority of Member States when put to a vote today. The resolution containing the text of the treaty, which regulates the international trade in conventional arms, received 154 votes in favour. Three Member States – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Iran and Syria – voted against the decision, while 23 countries abstained.
Today’s action follows the failure of the Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) last Thursday to reach an agreement among all 193 Member States on a treaty text at the conclusion of its two-week session.
Speaking ahead of the vote, the President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, called the text “groundbreaking,” as well as “robust and actionable.” He recalled that in 2006, Member States had pledged in the same General Assembly Hall to engage in a multilateral effort to produce a legally binding instrument, establishing common standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms – including warships and battle tanks, combat aircraft and attack helicopters, as well as small arms and light weapons. “I personally believe that the final text of this conference meets those commitments to a great extent,” Mr. Jeremic said, adding that the lack of a regulatory framework for such activities had made a “daunting” contribution to ongoing conflicts, regional instabilities, displacement of peoples, terrorism and transnational organized crime.
The text draws a link with the presence of weapons across the developing world, especially in conflict-affected areas, with the challenge of sustainable development and safeguarding human rights, added Mr. Jeremic.
The President of the ATT conference, Ambassador Peter Woolcott of Australia, noted that the conference “came very close to success.” He praised all delegations for “working hard and negotiating in a constructive manner and looking for success,” adding that the different interests and perspectives in the conference room required work through complex issues.
Each version of the text built on previous ones, Mr. Woolcott said, and represented “a fair expression of negotiation, compromise between many different interests in the room, and ultimately what might command consensus at the end of the final conference.” Once the text was rejected Thursday evening, a Member State introduced a General Assembly draft resolution that same evening, according to the Office of the President of the Assembly.
Unlike in the Conference, where all 193 Member States had to agree on the final text, the Assembly needed only a simple majority, or 97 votes, to pass the text. The treaty will enter into force 90 days after ratified by the 50th signatory.
The treaty regulates all conventional arms within the following categories: battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons.
According to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, the treaty will not do any of the following: interfere with domestic arms commerce or the right to bear arms in Member States; ban the export of any type of weapon; harm States' legitimate right to self-defence; or undermine national arms regulation standards already in place.
(UN Press Release)
United Nations General Assembly Approves Arms Trade Treaty
Despite hurdles, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly today in favor of the first treaty to restrict the global trade in conventional weapons. Once in effect, the treaty will require states exporting covered weapons to develop criteria that would link exports to avoiding human rights abuses, terrorism and organized crime. It would also ban shipments if they were deemed harmful to women and children. Countries that join the treaty would have to report publicly on sales every year, bringing more transparency to the trade in weapons. The vote was 154 in favor, 3 opposed (Iran, Syria and North Korea).
The Obama Administration has expressed support for the treaty, formally co-sponsoring it at the UN, despite domestic opposition from gun rights groups. The Obama Administration has pointed out that the treaty does not affect domestic sales, but instead will apply to the $70 billion dollar annual trade in arms globally.
The treaty will be opened for signature and ratification by Member States in June 2013. 50 states must join before it will become effective.
Friday, March 29, 2013
A Farewell to Arms Trade Treaty?
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said he was deeply disappointed with the failure of the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to reach an agreement among all 193 Member States on a treaty text during the last day of the conference. "The treaty had been within reach, thanks to the tireless work and spirit of compromise among Member States," the Secretary-General said in a statement attributable to his spokesperson. "The Secretary-General commends Ambassador Peter Woolcott, President of the Conference, for his leadership in guiding the complex negotiations," according to the statement. Mr. Ban also commended civil society and the majority of States for their active support.
Some 2,000 representatives of Governments, international and regional organizations and civil society had gathered in New York since 18 March to hammer out the details of what was seen as the most important initiative ever regarding conventional arms regulation within the UN. The draft text which was nearly adopted was considered "balanced" by Mr. Ban, according to his spokesperson, and would have established effective common standards to regulate the international trade in conventional arms.
If passed, the treaty would have applied to all conventional arms within the following categories: battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons, according to the draft text.
Armed violence kills more than half a million people each year, including 66,000 women and girls. In addition, between 2000 and 2010, almost 800 humanitarian workers were killed in armed attacks and another 689 injured, according to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs.
Given the importance of the issues involved, Mr. Ban "strongly hopes that Member States will continue exploring ways to bring the Treaty into being," his spokesperson said in the statement. Mr. Ban "is confident" that the Arms Trade Treaty will come to pass and is encouraged by the shared determination "to make this happen as soon as possible," he added.
The previous attempts to reach a consensus on the treaty ended without success in July 2012. In December, the UN General Assembly agreed to a final conference and set today as the deadline for the two-week negotiations.
(UN Press Release)