Sunday, November 16, 2014

CERD: How Independent Civic Groups' Reports Apply the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to Japan's Controversy Over Hate Speech Aimed at Ethnic Koreans

We are pleased to share this guest blog post from Andrew Macas of Chicago, who describes research on hate speech against Koreans in Japan.


How Independent Civic Groups' Reports Apply CERD to Japan's Controversy Over Hate Speech Aimed at Ethnic Koreans

Japan became a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Dec. 21, 1965, 660 U.N.T.S. 195 (“CERD”) on December 15, 1995.1 Japan made a reservation to CERD's Art. 4(a) and (b) prohibitions against “propaganda activities” and “incitement to racial discrimination[.]”2 The reservation limits Art. 4(a) and (b)s' application “to the extent that fulfillment of the obligations is compatible with the guarantee of the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression and other rights under the Constitution of Japan[.]”3

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination monitors implementation of CERD.4 Japan must periodically report on measures it takes to comply with CERD.5 Japan's reporting data and documentation for CERD is available on the UN's human rights website.6

NGOs on both sides of the hate speech issue chime in on the Japanese Government's role in the issue.

Arguments for Koreans Needing More Protection from Hate Speech

1. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA)

JFBA provides several examples of the need for more protection.7 This need for protection arises out of, inter alia, North Korea's missle launches and Nuclear testing in recent years.8 JFBA first brings up the Japanese Government's failure to engage in “awareness-raising activities to prevent the occurrence of harassment against Korean schoolchildren and students in Japan.”9 The Government did not even provide “details of the content and scale of 'enlightenment activities' stated in the [7-9 State Party's Report]” or study data for counseling it provides to Koreans.10 JFBA then lists several instances of violence aimed at Korean schools:

Immediately after it was reported that [North Korea] had a missile-launching test on July 5, 2006, Korean schools received a large number of threatening and silent phone calls, and derogatory e-mails only within the three weeks from July 5 to July 26. One of the threatening calls made such remarks as 'I am going to throw a firebomb into your school' and 'five high school students will be killed within a week.' There was also such harassment as marks in red paint on the entrance gates. There were 121 cases in total only which the schools reported to the central headquarters of the teachers’ union for [North Korea] residents in Japan. In some cases, defamatory bills were posted on the street. In Osaka, a boy in the second grade at elementary school was beaten by Japanese, and also in Aichi, a boy in junior high school was beaten.11

JFBA also provides an example of violent protesting and police inaction at a Korean elementary school:

The group interfered with the school’s educational activities on that date, and committed assaults such as throwing the platform for the morning assembly, which resulted in the arrest of four people for crimes such as forcible obstruction of business. Despite witnessing the apparent insults and forcible obstruction of business, the police at the scene did not arrest the group members on the spot, and even failed to deter them from such crimes. … [T]he police did not promptly prevent the group from committing the crime or arrest them. Partly because of not being immediately arrested, the same activist group once again intruded into the Kyoto No.1 Korean Elementary School in January 2010 to unleash a torrent of abuse.12

For these reasons, JFBA recommended that the Government study these violent situations in order to find solutions and “implement more decisive and effective measures to eliminate them, including criminal punishment of assailants.”13

2. The Committee on the Protection of Human Rights of the Central Head Office of the Korean Residents Union in Japan (MINDAN)

MINDAN also called on the Japanese Government to do more to prevent hate speech.14 “[MINDAN] was founded in October 1946 as an autonomous organization for Korean residents in Japan who were coercively or semi-coercively brought to Japan due to the Japanese colonial rule of Korea . . .  and [who] were unable to return to Korea after WWII.”15 MINDAN list seventeen “examples of hate speech[,]” such as:

1) August 25, 2012 Shin-Okubo, Tokyo

  • - Rally name: 'Subjugating the Koreans: Citizens' March in Shin-okubo'
  • - Main hate speech
  • 'Kill them all!' 'We're gonna kill you!' 'Burn them alive!' 'Death to Koreans'

2) October 27, 2012 Uguisudani, Tokyo

  • - Rally name: 'Immediately Drive Out the 50,000 Modern Koreans and Comfort Women! Citizens' March in Uguisudani'
  • - Main hate speech
  • 'Beat them to death!' 'Choke them to death!' 'Kill all Koreans!'

3) February 9, 2013 Shin-Okubo, Tokyo

  • - Rally name: 'Drive Out the Lawless Koreans! Rally to Eradicate Korean Influence in Shin-Okubo'
  • - Main hate speech
  • 'Massacre them all!' 'Hang the Koreans! Poison them! Let them jump off a building!'
  • 'Good or Bad Koreans, it doesn't matter, kill them all!' ….

5) February 24/March 31, 2013 Tsuruhashi, Osaka

  • A junior high school female student gives a speech in the street, and says, 'Forget about the Nanjing Massacre! Do a Tsuruhashi Massacre!'; 'We're going to massacre the Koreans!'16

MINDAN insists that this speech which crosses the line of “'Koreans must leave Japan!'” and “call[s] stridently for ethnic massacres” poses special dangers when it occurs in heavily Korean-populated neighborhoods.17 This situation creates “a pressing need to [] employ human rights education in public institutions and teach the importance of creating a society in which human rights violations do not take place and people can mutually co-exist.” Two reasons for doing so are to reduce “the potential [of] escalat[ing ]violence in the future” and to protect Japan's image for the upcoming 2020 Olympics.18

MINDAN also called on the Japanese Government to retract its Article 4(a) and (b) reservations and to implement “[s]trict legal regulations . . . to protect Japan's foreign minorities, children, youth and the democratic society here[ in Japan.]”19

Arguments for Koreans Needing Less Protection from Hate Speech

1. The Nadeshiko Action Japanese Women for Justice and Peace Group (JWJP, hereinafter, “Nadeshiko”)

Nadeshiko challenged the need for protecting Koreans.20 Nadeshiko asserts that “Korean residents in Japan have enjoyed their privileges [more] compared to other foreign residents and even to [those of] Japanese nationality.”21 Nadeshiko frames the issue as (1) "a racial privilege rather than as hate speech[]” and (2) “[t]he racial privileges given to the Korean residents in Japan is a kind of racism guaranteed by the state.”22

Nadeshiko defends the demonstrations of the Zaitokukai, “an association protesting privileges of Korean residents[,]” civic group.23

The very important thing is that radical or not, the legal demonstration under permission of the authorities is the right of liberty of expression or of the freedom of assembly [sic], the basic human rights guaranteed by the [Japanese] Constitution.

Some groups, which defend their privileges, attack these legal demonstrations under the pretext of 'Hate speech', obstructing with a kind of violence and violating the right of liberty of expression. It's these groups which do hate speeches masquerading as anti-hate speech.24

Nadeshiko cites two protest incidents, a racially-motivated knife attack by a Korean resident of Japan, a Youtube video, and eight photos in support of these propositions.25 The Youtube link, “” [sic], leads to a slightly different URL with the same video described in the Nadeshiko Report.26 The Video shows several segmented and often low-resolution clips of counter protesters as seen from the street.27

Nadeshiko finally calls for the Committee to recommend both “[t]aking measures to prevent violence against legal demonstrations or assembly guaranteed by the [Japanese] Constitution” and “[r]eview[ing] the privilege given to Korean residents in Japan [and] considering it as a kind of racism.”28

2. The Civic Activity [sic] for Appealing to Abolish The Privileges of Koreans in Japan (Zaitokukai)

Zaitokukai contests the “special rights” of Korean residents of Japan on the basis of Article 1(4) of CERD.29 That Article provides that:

4. Special measures taken for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals requiring such protection as may be necessary in order to ensure such groups or individuals equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms shall not be deemed racial discrimination, provided, however, that such measures do not, as a consequence, lead to the maintenance of separate rights for different racial groups and that they shall not be continued after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved.30

Zaitokukai first recommends heavily regulating pachinko gaming because of both its negative health effects and because it provides “funding for the North Korean criminal groups that have caused hundreds of abductions.”31 It contests allegations of hate speech at its rallies because “the aggressive phrases like 'Kill Koreans,' 'Cockroaches,” etc. were expressed by some participants of the demonstrations, and therefore not the appeal points of the demonstrations [sic].”32 It casts the blame for violence at its rallies on the “violent obstructions by the counter action groups.”33 It accuses the Chosan and MINDAN civic groups, which represent Koreans, of “handl[ing] violent men like the current counter action members as mentioned above, in order to force their opinions on Koreans in Japan.”34

Zaitokukai finally recommends registering Korean permanent residents of Japan “as citizens of South Korea within three years[]” so that “they do not need the current privileges[]” that they have in Japan.35


Even one issue such as the hate speech here may have many parties with a stake in how treaties and the law are interpreted.

Andrew Macas

1 (hereinafter, “CERD List”) (listing Japan's accession to CERD and status as of “13-11-2014 12:06:05 EDT) (last visited Nov. 13, 2014).

2CERD List (listing Japan's reservation to CERD), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Dec. 21, 1965, 660 U.N.T.S. 195 (hereinafter, “CERD”), Art. 4(a), (b).

3CERD List.

4Monitoring the core international human rights treaties, (last visited Nov. 13, 2014).

5CERD, Art. 9(1).

6 (hereinafter, “Reporting List”) (providing a list of treaties Japan participates in and reporting documents after selecting “Japan” from the “Please select a country” drop-down menu) (last visited Nov. 13, 2014).

7 Japan Federation of Bar Associations Report on Response to the Seventh, Eighth and ninth Report of the Japanese Government of the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, JFBA/36/14 (Jul. 14, 2014) (hereinafter, “JFBA Report”) (available in English at (last visited Nov. 15, 2014).

8JFBA Report, p. 17-18.

9JFBA Report, p. 17-18, CERD/C/JPN/7-9, Reports submitted by States parties under article 9 of the Convention Seventh to ninth periodic reports of States parties due in 2013 Japan (Jan. 14, 2013) (hereinafter, “7-9 State Party's Report”) (available in four languages including English at (last visited Nov. 13, 2014).

10JFBA Report, p. 18; See 7-9 State Party's Report.

11JFBA Report, p. 18.

12JFBA Report, p. 18-19.

13JFBA Report, p. 20.

14Report on The Issue of Racism and Hate Speech in Japan (Jul. 18, 2014) (hereinafter, “MINDAN Report”) (available in English at (last visited Nov. 15, 2014).

15MINDAN Report, p. 2.

16MINDAN Report, p. 5-7.

17MINDAN Report, p. 9-10.

18MINDAN Report, p. 10.

19MINDAN Report, p. 22-23.

20Comment on The Issue of Hate Speech Masquerading as Anti-Hate speech by Privileged Korean Residents in Japan for 85th session (11 to 29 August 2014) in The International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Jul. 24, 2014) (hereinafter, “Nadeshiko Report”) (available in English at (last visited Nov. 15, 2014).

21Nadeshiko Report, p. 3.

22Nadeshiko Report, p. 4-5.

23Nadeshiko Report, p. 3.

24Nadeshiko Report, p. 3.

25Nadeshiko Report, p. 4, 6.

26Nadeshiko Report, p. 6, CH True Japan, Hate Speech Masquerading as Anti-Hate Speech, (hereinafter, “Video”) (available at (last visited Nov. 15, 2014).

27See Video.

28Nadeshiko Report, p. 5.

29Report on The Privileges of Koreans in Japan, p. 2 (submission and publication dates unavailable) (hereinafter, “Zaitokukai Report”) (available in English at (last visited Nov. 15, 2014), CERD, Art. 1(4).

30CERD, Art. 1(4) (emphasis added).

31Zaitokukai Report, p. 2-3.

32Zaitokukai Report, p. 5.

33Zaitokukai Report, p. 5.

34Zaitokukai Report, p. 7.

35Zaitokukai Report, p. 9.

Click here to visit the website of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

November 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Russia and the Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

We are pleased to share this guest post from Djenita Svinjar of Chicago: 

On November 9th, the world celebrated the 25th anniversary since the fall of the Berlin Wall. This event is undoubtedly one of the most significant events in German, and world history, in commemorating the removal of the barrier that had divided a country between democracy and communism. Yet, the anniversary of this significant event seemed to be overshadowed by grave remarks made by former USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev a mere day beforehand.

Gorbachev, who had been the president of the USSR until 1991 (notably the last leader of the Soviet Union), raised concerns about current Middle East issues and European conflicts. He specifically honed in on the Ukraine crisis, and Western countries and Russia casting the blame on the other party in "old ways" of thinking. However, Gorbachev attributed the blame to the US, stating that following the fall of the USSR, the US had taken part in "triumphalism" which contributed to the inability to cope with extreme international conflicts, as seen in the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, and most recently, Ukraine. Gorbachev seems to fear that a new Cold War has already begun, with tensions at an all time high, and seems to be urging the US and Western powers to ease tensions by lifting sanctions on Russia and taking part in peaceful talks. However, one may question whether these acts, if undertaken, would serve any purpose?

Russia seems to be flaunting its military muscle and hardheaded thinking when it comes to NATO and Western powers. Most recently, the country snubbed UN support for the extension of the EURFOR military mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was voted in by other members of the UN security council earlier this past Monday. Russia abstaining from voting for the extension was the first time in the 14 year installation of the program that a member declined to support it. It seems that Russia appears to be defying any possible control or part that Western powers have in Eastern Europe, particularly when considering that just last week, Great Britain and Germany undertook a new initiative (with US support) on Bosnia with hopes to progress EU membership, given that Bosnian politicians would sign on to, and support political reforms within the nation.

Sadly, Russia's ambivalence and defiance seem to shed some light on Gorbachev's warnings.

Djenita Svinjar

November 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Parents of Mike Brown, Police Shooting Victim, Speak to U.N. Committee Against Torture.

We're pleased to share a guest blog post from Victor Cerda of Chicago:

There is little room to doubt that racial relations, which continue to cause social unrest within the United States, have been historically strained. The events occurring in Ferguson, Missouri highlight how volatile the social implication of difference in skin color has been for centuries. The series of protests reveals a need for a national discussion on how to resolve this generational issue.

While a need for discussion is necessary, one must discuss the approach taken by the family of the victim. The parents of Mike Brown, the young man shot to death by police, are in Geneva, Switzerland, testifying before the United Nations Committee Against Toture. The U.N. Convention Against Torture came into force in 1987. The United States signed and subsequently ratified the treaty in 1994, meaning, as a nation, we have an obligation to uphold the treaty.

So, what exactly are the obligations under the treaty? Article 1 defines torture as:

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

— Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

A team of legal professionals has drafted a document complaining of the United States’ compliance with the convention. In that document, the drafters cite CAT article 1, but fail to emphasis the final sentence which adds that torture does not include “pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.” Each state within the United States, and the United States as a whole, has sanctioned lawful use of force by officers. We have authorized officers to decide when, where, and how to apply the use of force in the heat of the moment, in the line of duty. The decision to legitimize such authority has brought a relatively peaceful country under a rule of law.

I do not mean to imply that racial profiling does not occur. I am not suggesting that racism is not alive. What I am stating is that the disproportionate and systematic use of force by law enforcement is a domestic issue, and not one that amounts to torture, as defined by the convention.

The international community must be hesitant to allow such a broad application to the definition of the torture. The bright side, however, is that the international community’s attention could influence the United States to address the demographic discrepancies in law and punishment. Reform is necessary, but the world should pressure the United States to comply with the law, not change the law to comply with the facts.

Victor Cerda

Click here for a short CNN video about the visit of the parents to Geneva.

November 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

United Nations War Crimes Commission (1943-48) Opens Its Records for the First Time in 70 Years

On the heels of an announcement yesterday that the records of the United Nations War Crimes Commission were made open to the public for the first time in 70 years, a panel discussion examining the historical significance and potential use of the records was held this afternoon at UN Headquarters in New York. 

Yesterday, the records of the UN War Crimes Commission, which was operational between 1943 and 1948 and played a vital role in preparations for the war crimes trials that followed the Second World War, were made open to the public at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. 

Copies of the Commission’s records were provided to the museum this past July, although they were not freely available to the public until now.

Speaking at the panel discussion, United Nations War Crimes Commission Records (1943-1949): Past, Present and Future, Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, underscored the importance of acknowledging the Commission’s legacy in terms of dealing with war crimes today.  “The United Nations War Crimes Commission was an important international justice initiative, but its work has largely remained in the darkness,” Mr. Dieng said.

Noting the significance of getting nations to agree so many years ago on setting up a central authority to investigate and make recommendations on war crimes, Mr. Dieng said the release of the archives to the public also represents a significant reminder of the importance of gathering and keeping records and bringing perpetrators of war crimes to justice.

“The failure to hold those accountable can break down the social fabrics of society and perpetrate mistrust,” he said, adding: “A fragmented or frustrated society is a society that is more likely to return to violence.”

The archives of the War Crimes Commission contain evidence submitted by 17 Member States, including lists of alleged war criminals, files of charges brought against them, minutes of meetings, reports, correspondence, trial transcripts, and related documentation about the activities of the Commission, its committees, and individuals identified as alleged war criminals, including evidence compiled against them and records related to their prosecution by national tribunals.

Although some of the information in the documents has long been known to investigators and historians, prior to the Commission’s records being made available to the Museum, the public was unable to view the documents. Researchers at the UN, for instance, must petition for access through their governments.

In an interview with UN Radio, one of the panellists of today’s roundtable, Bridget Sisk, Chief of the UN Archives and Records Management Section, underscored the significance of ensuring that a record of what occurred during the Commission’s time of operation is kept. 

“We hope that the interest that’s been generated in the archives of the War Crimes Commission will stimulate greater research in the UN’s archives,” she stressed.

“We have archives spanning 108 years of history. But we also hope that it stimulates some momentum in the Organization among stakeholders to make sure that the digital records that the Organization is creating today of bodies such as the Commission are created and managed appropriately,” she added.

Speaking during the roundtable, Ms. Sisk highlighted that most of the charges discussed in the Commission’s records have never been subjected to judicial review.

She also noted that the rules regarding access to the records were not seriously challenged until 1986, when “intense pressure” led the Secretariat to a review of the policy following allegations that Kurt Waldheim, who served as UN Secretary-General from 1972 to 1981, had himself committed atrocities during the Second World War. 

Even today, Mr. Sisk said, the number of requests to the UN for access to the Commission’s records is “strikingly low,” averaging five or fewer per year. 

Opening the roundtable, Hua Jiang, Officer-in-Charge of the UN Department of Public Information, provided a history of the Commission and underscored the importance of the event. 

“Our goal today is to examine the Commission and to discuss the value of its records, not just from historical and legal points of view, but also in regards to their potential use by researchers, editors, and students,” she noted.

The event’s keynote speaker was Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji, Permanent Representative of India to the UN, who noted that the Commission was a “unique endeavour,” and that the UN did not exist when the Commission was established. 

Other panellists at the roundtable included Patrick J. Treanor, former member of the Office of Special Investigations of the US Department of Justice; Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for Diplomatic Studies and Diplomacy of the University of London, who was among those who initiated the call in 2007 for the release of the archives; and Henry Mayer, Senior Adviser on Archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The discussion, which was moderated by Edith Lederer, chief correspondent for the Associated Press at the UN, forms part of a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the founding of the UN. 

The event took place in accordance with General Assembly resolution 60/7, which was adopted on 1 November 2005 and deals with Holocaust remembrance. The roundtable was organized by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme of the UN Department of Public Information.

(UN Press Release)



November 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Graduate Programs for Non-U.S. Lawyers

Join the Association of American Law Schools Section on Graduate Programs for Non-U.S. Lawyers at its business meeting on Friday, January 2, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. That's the first night of the conference when the Registration Area opens. 

Professor George Edwards of Indiana University is the current chair. Professor Mark E. Wojcik of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago is the Chair-Elect and will become Section Chair at the end of that AALS Annual meeting. 

When you book your flight or train to DC, please plan to arrive in time to attend the 6:30 p.m. business meeting and to share your ideas on graduate legal education for international lawyers.


November 9, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Anne Marie Slaughter on State Realism versus Human Realism: The Individualization of International Law

Anne Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning at the US Dept. of State and Professor of Law at Princeton, (now at New America)  was the Keynote Speaker at the American Society of International Law (ASIL) this evening.  She suggested that international law has traditionally focused on state to state relations and activities, but that today, international law should focus equally on the actions of individuals.  She asked the audience to consider an amendment to UN Charter article 2(4) that would make both states and individual actors liable for any use of force against civilians.  A lively discussion ensued regarding how the international community can hold individuals responsible for crimes against humanity and other violations of international law.


November 7, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Missile that Shot Down Flight MH17: Whose Legal Responsibility? at the ASIL Midyear Meeting

At the opening reception and program for the Midyear Meeting of the American Society of International Law (ASIL), a distinguished panel (below) discussed a number of legal issues relating to responsibility for the downing of Malaysian Flight MH 17 over Ukrainian territory in July.  The panel consisted of Larissa van den Herik from the University of Leiden Law School, Ruth Wedgewood from John Hopkins, Barry Kellman from Depaul, and was moderated by Michael Morkin of Baker & McKenzie. Larissa van den Herik stated that the investigation is the largest criminal investigation in Dutch history and that its purpose is to determine the cause of the crash, not to determine liability.  She stated that access to the crime scene has been poor and that the bodies have not been treated with dignity. She raised the issue of a state's duty to investigate and prosecute in the context of ongoing hostilities and stated that the Netherlands is more willing and able to undertake investigations than many other interested states.  2014-11-06 18.50.20

Ruth Wedgewood spoke next about the possibility of using various national courts of the victims' home countries for any legal actions taken in relation to the flight.   She pointed out that Ukraine is a party to the 1973 Convention on Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation, which calls for dispute resolution at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).  However, because of the ICJ's limited fact-finding capability, it may not be the best forum for legal action.  She also suggested the International Criminal Court (ICC) as an alternative and pointed out that article 12(3) of the ICC's statute regarding retrospective jurisdiction could be invoked. Finally, she talked about legal norms making a state responsible for the acts of its protegee.

Barry Kellman suggested that the international community needs to take action to keep anti-aircraft missiles out of the hands of nonstate actors.  He suggests the international community adopt a clear prohibition on the transfer of weapons of mass destruction, including anti-aircraft missiles, to nonstate actors; that states be required to provide protection for aviation; that the Arms Trade Treaty be given some teeth and that it be used to restrict access to weapons technology; that global destruction programs be implemented for anti-aircraft weapons; and that the international community create rules for state responsibility for supplying weapons of this type.

The panel raised a variety of interesting and topical legal issues and got the ASIL Midyear meeting off to a great start!



November 7, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Meet Wes Rist, Director of Education and Research at the American Society of International Law

Wes Rist ASILD. Wes Rist is the Director of Education and Research at The American Society of International Law (ASIL), which is holding its midyear meeting in Chicago.

Wes has been  the Director of Education and Research at ASIL since 2012. He supervises a variety of programmatic activities for ASIL’s membership, the international legal community, and the general public at large. He previously served as Assistant Director of the Center for International Legal Education at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law for six years, where he supervised Pitt Law’s LL.M. Program for Foreign Law Graduates, provided advice and support to J.D. students seeking to obtain internships and employment overseas and in international law positions, and taught courses on International Human Rights Law and Terrorism and the Law. Before his position at Pitt Law, Rist worked as a Visiting Lecturer at the University of the West of England Faculty of Law in Bristol, England. 

He has written on international legal education issues and has worked with several different organizations, including Fulbright, Muskie, and the Open Society Foundations on those topics around the world, including Austria, the United Kingdom, Jordan, and Palestine.

Mr. Rist is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and holds an LL.M. (with distinction) in International Human Rights Law from UWE Bristol Law School.

Pictured here with Wes are Virginia Russell and Professor Mark E. Wojcik of The John Marshall Law School. (Photo by Lisa Aruldoss)



November 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

American Society of International Law Opens Midyear Meeting in Chicago

ASIL Career Networking JMLSThe American Society of International Law is discovering how great Chicago can be for a midyear meeting.  From today until Saturday, meetings at four different venues will raise the Society's profile in the midwest and across the country.   

The opening event took place at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, where students and lawyers came for career networking and mentoring in new fields of international law.  The event was well attended and provided attendees with valuable information about careers in international law.


November 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Four Judges Elected to ICJ: Mohamed Bennouna of Morocco, James Crawford of Australia, Joan Donoghue of the United States, and Kirill Gevorgian of Russia; -- One More Judge to Be Elected Tomorrow

ICJ CourtroomThe United Nations General Assembly and Security Council today elected four judges to seats on the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the UN. 

After simultaneous rounds of voting in the Assembly and the Council – which met concurrently with but independent of each other – Mr. Mohamed Bennouna of Morocco, Mr. James Richard Crawford of Australia, Ms. Joan E. Donoghue of the United States, and Mr. Kirill Gevorgian of the Russian Federation were elected to nine-year terms on the ICJ, starting on 6 February next year. The Assembly and the Council will meet independently again tomorrow to elect a fifth judge to a seat on the ICJ.

The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected by an absolute majority in both the General Assembly (97 votes) and Security Council (8 votes). The timing of elections is staggered so that the General Assembly elects a third of the Court once every three years.

The terms of five judges will expire on 5 February 2015: Bernardo Sepúlveda-Amor (Mexico); Kenneth Keith (New Zealand); Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco); Leonid Skotnikov (Russian Federation); and Joan E. Donoghue (United States). Judges are eligible for re-election.

According to the Statute of the Internnational Court  of Justice, its judges must be chosen by coordinated actions of both the Council and the General Assembly, with the date of elections determined by the Council. 

Judges are chosen on the basis of their qualifications, not their nationality, but no two judges can be from the same country. Effort is also taken to ensure that the principal legal systems of the world are reflected in the composition of the court. 

Established in 1945, and based at the Peace Palace in The Hague in the Netherlands, the ICJ – which is also known as the World Court – settles legal disputes between States and gives advisory opinions on legal questions that have been referred to it by the U.N. General Assembly or other specifically authorized UN organs.

(mew) (adapted from a UN press release)

November 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Singapore Upholds Its Sodomy Law

The United Nations human rights office has expressed regret over a recent Singapore Supreme Court ruling to uphold a law criminalizing consensual same-sex relations between adult men, calling the directive a “missed opportunity” to strike down the law.

Speaking at a press briefing in Geneva, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the ruling from 29 October to uphold section 377A of the Penal Code violated “a host of human rights guaranteed by international law,” including the right to privacy, the right to freedom from discrimination, and the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, including protection for sexual orientation and gender equality.

While the law is “rarely” invoked in Singapore, “it nonetheless codifies discrimination and contributes to societal stigma against individuals who are gay,” he said.

In its examination of the constitutionality of section 377A, the Supreme Court decided the section did not violate articles 9 and 12 of the Singapore Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and liberty, and right to equality before the law and equal protection of law, respectively.

While the Supreme Court expressed sympathy for the situation of the appellants, it stated it was up to the Singaporean Parliament to amend the law, Mr. Colville said.

Some political leaders in Singapore had publicly advocated for tolerance and inclusion, the spokesperson said, noting that OHCHR was thus hopeful that Singapore’s legislature would respond to the Court’s decision by repealing the section and enacting anti-discrimination legislation that includes discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"International Business With Russian Nexus: Why Not New York Law?"

On November 12, 2014 - from 6-8 PM -the International Centre for Dispute Resolution ("ICDR"), in cooperation with the Russian Arbitration Association ("RAA") and with support of the American Bar Association Section of International Law ("ABA SIL"), the US-Russia Business Council ("USRBC"), and the New York State Bar Association, International Section ("NYSBA IS") will host a discussion on the topic of "International Business With Russian Nexus: Why Not New York Law?" The event will take place on November 12, 2014 at the ICDR office located at 150 East 42nd Street, 17th Floor from 6 to 8 PM. Reception to follow.  

The focus is to explore whether New York law may be an attractive option to international businesses with Russian nexus. Registration is on a first come, first served basis as space is limited.  Please be sure to RSVP early. Thanks to the generosity of the sponsor, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, this event is free of charge. To get a registration form, email Mandy Sawier at 


November 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Reminder About the Upcoming ASIL Research Forum in Chicago

We've posted a couple of times already about the upcoming American Society of International Law Midyear Meeting and Research Forum being held later this week (November 6-8, 2014) in Chicago, Illinois.  The ASIL event will include:

  • a keynote address on "The Individualization of International Law" by former U.S. State Department Director of Policy Planning and current New America Foundation President Anne-Marie Slaughter
  • a discussion of "International Law in U.S. Courts" with U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Diane Wood
  • a plenary panel with American Branch of International Law Association President Ruth Wedgwood on the Malaysia Airlines disaster over Ukraine
  • an international law career development "speed mentoring" event at The John Marshall Law School, and
  • the annual Research Forum for the presentation and discussion of 70 cutting-edge works-in-progress

Among the Research Forum's 24 sessions:

  • International Law and the Reshaping of the American Constitution
  • The Changing Practice of Investment Arbitration
  • Evolving Practices of Prosecuting Atrocities
  • African Legal Practices and International Courts: Tensions and Prospects
  • How We Teach and Discuss International Law
  • Legitimacy and Authority of World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement
  • Unilateral Acts Affecting Respect for International Law

We hope that the ASIL meeting in Chicago is a good one and we hope that it becomes a regular event.


November 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A "Must-See" Video for Jessup Competitors

This helpful video discusses legal issues in the current Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition and provides some tips on effective advocacy.  The Moderator is Lesley Benn, Executive Director, International Law Students Association.  The panelists are Dr. Eirik Bjorge (Shaw Foundation Junior Research Fellow, University of Oxford), Rumiana Yotova (Lecturer in Law and Director of Studies, University of Cambridge), and Dr. James Irving (Lecturer and Founder of the Post-Graduate Module in Self Determination, London School of Economics).

Click here to see the video.

Hat tip to the International Law Students Association.


October 29, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 27, 2014

40th Annual Meeting of the New York African Studies Association

A special three-college conference in the capital of New York State will mark the 40th conference of the New York African Studies Association. On 3-4 April 2015 Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Union College in Schenectady, and Albany Law School will host “Africa, Its Diaspora, and Laws.” For this conference, “laws” will be defined in the broadest sense that includes in addition to the usual definitions of statutory, common, indigenous, religious, and constitutional law, laws of science, “social Darwinism,” economic laws (Adam Smith, neoliberalism, trade laws, etc.), literary canon law, biological “laws” of health, the court of public opinion and “social laws.” NYASA 2015 welcomes proposals for presentations, panels, posters, and roundtables that address topics of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, identity, nationalism, health, religion, spirituality, politics, arts, economics, science, performance, and other pertinent topics. 

Specific topics include (but are not limited to) the following:

Social Sciences including Anthropology, Economics, Sociology, Political Science, Psychology, History, Religion and Spirituality.

Sciences including Health Sciences, Medical Apartheid, Pharmaceuticals, Environmental Sciences, Ecology, and Sciences in general.

Gender, Sexuality, and Women Studies.

International Laws and Regulations including Human Rights, Land Issues, Resource Issues, Immigration, International Trade and Finance, International Relations, World Institutions, International Aid, The United Nations, NGO’s.

Recurring Annual Themes include Teaching Africana Studies, Documenting Africana World, Mass Media and Africa, Migration and Diaspora, the Future of Africana Studies.

NYASA, founded in 1967 as the SUNY African Studies Faculty Association, is a nonprofit membership association, incorporated as NYASA in 1975, dedicated to advancing the discipline of Africana Studies. NYASA is open to all with an interest in Africa and the Diaspora. As a regional organization, the New York African Studies Association promotes the visibility and advancement of the discipline in New York State and surrounding areas, offers opportunities for scholarly and professional development of educators, and provides enhanced education for community members, leaders, and activists. Other topics for papers will be considered, as will proposals to organize panels and to promote student participation. By 1 December 2014 please send abstracts of not more than 150 words to the Local Organizing Committee at


NYASA 2015 Organizing Committee, c/o Kevin Hickey, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, 106 New Scotland Ave. Albany, NY 12208.

Please suggest which sub-theme best fits your topic. Also, please specify if you will need media resources (e.g., Audio Visual Equipment) for your presentation.

If your proposal is accepted and you need additional documentation of acceptance (for obtaining a visa or travel funds), NYASA will provide this upon your request.


$120.00 includes all events and membership—2 March 2015 deadline ($150 thereafter)

$150.00 late registration (after 2 March 2015) includes membership

$85.00 one day event without membership

$60.00 students and senior citizens, includes all events both days and membership

$30.00 one day event for students and seniors without membership

NOTE: To be included in the NYASA 2015 Conference Program, NYASA must receive your payment by Monday 2 March. Payments may be made using Paypal at or by check.


October 27, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN Compensation Commission Pays Out Another Billion for the 1990 Invasion by Iraq; Total Amount Paid So Far is $47.8 Billion

The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), which settles the damage claims of those who suffered losses in the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, last week made $1.06 billion available to the Government of Kuwait.

With today's payment, the total amount in compensation received by the Government of Kuwait now amounts to $47.8 billion, leaving approximately $4.6 billion remaining to be paid.

The Geneva-based UNCC's Governing Council has identified six categories of claims: four are for individuals' claims, one for corporations and one for governments and international organizations, which also includes claims for environmental damage.

This category E claim was submitted by the Government of Kuwait on behalf of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and awarded $14.7 billion in 2000 for oil production and sales losses as a result of damages to Kuwait's oil field assets.

Successful claims are paid monies drawn from the UN Compensation Fund, which is financed by a percentage of the proceeds generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and related products.

The Commission was established in 1991 as a subsidiary organ of the UN Security Council. It has received nearly three million claims, including from nearly 100 governments for themselves, their nationals or their corporations for losses and damages incurred as a direct result of Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait from 2 August 1990 to 2 March 1991.

The Government of Kuwait's claim represents the largest award by the Commission.

(Adapted from a UN press release)




October 27, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

American Society of International Law Midyear Meeting and Research Forum in Chicago

We've posted a couple of times already about the upcoming American Society of International Law Midyear Meeting and Research Forum being held November 6-8, in Chicago, Illinois.  The event will include:

  • a keynote address on "The Individualization of International Law" by former U.S. State Department Director of Policy Planning and current New America Foundation President Anne-Marie Slaughter
  • a discussion of "International Law in U.S. Courts" with U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Diane Wood
  • a plenary panel with American Branch of International Law Association President Ruth Wedgwood on the Malaysia Airlines disaster over Ukraine
  • an international law career development "speed mentoring" event at The John Marshall Law School, and
  • the annual Research Forum for the presentation and discussion of 70 cutting-edge works-in-progress

Among the Research Forum's 24 sessions:

  • International Law and the Reshaping of the American Constitution
  • The Changing Practice of Investment Arbitration
  • Evolving Practices of Prosecuting Atrocities
  • African Legal Practices and International Courts: Tensions and Prospects
  • How We Teach and Discuss International Law
  • Legitimacy and Authority of World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement
  • Unilateral Acts Affecting Respect for International Law

We hope that the ASIL meeting in Chicago is a good one and we hope that it becomes a regular event.


October 27, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Kryrgyzstan Parliament Urged to Reject Draft Legislation Discriminating Against LGBT Persons

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called on the Kyrgyz Parliament to refrain from passing draft legislation that would discriminate against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people. “Everyone is entitled to equality before the law, without any discrimination, and it is the State’s responsibility to protect all individuals from discrimination. We thus urge the authorities not to pass this law,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the OHCHR, told reporters in Geneva.

Ms. Shamdasani said the proposed law would violate fundamental human rights, including the rights to liberty, security and physical integrity and to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. “These rights are protected by human rights treaties ratified by Kyrgyzstan,” she pointed out.

UN human rights mechanisms have previously expressed concerns about discrimination and violence against LGBT people in Kyrgyzstan and the lack of a response from the Kyrgyz authorities.

“The draft law adds to those concerns and may lead to further violations,” noted Ms. Shamdasani, adding that its adoption would also go against the commitments made by Kyrgyzstan during the 2010 review of its record by the UN Human Rights Council.

The United Nations has documented that similar laws elsewhere have had negative impacts on human rights, including increased attacks and discrimination against LGBT individuals, notably children and youth. The law would also likely have a negative impact on national public health responses, in particular among people who live with HIV and those most at risk of contracting the virus, as well as on access to information about women’s reproductive rights.

OHCHR also voiced concern about another bill currently going through Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament, which risks creating a difficult environment for the operation of civil society groups.

“We are closely following developments on this draft law and call on the authorities to take measures to ensure that Kyrgyz national legislation fully complies with international human rights standards,” Ms. Shamdasani stated.

Adapted from a UN press release.



October 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Students Missing in Mexico

The United Nations human rights office has voiced concern about the continued enforced disappearance of students in the Mexican town of Iguala and urged local authorities to step up their efforts in finding them.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva last week, Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), welcomed the work done by Mexican authorities in tracking the 43 missing students but added that their “mechanisms have not yet been successful” in resolving the disappearance.

According to media reports, the students were last seen on 26 September as they arrived in Iguala to stage a protest. Upon debarking from their bus, the students were blocked by police who, by some accounts, were operating in collusion with a local criminal gang. The police then fired upon the students, killing six people, including a 15-year old child and three students, and injuring another 17 people, while the 43 students were then taken into custody.

As a result of initial investigations, 52 people have been arrested in connection with the students’ disappearance, including at least 36 local police officers, and security forces, investigators and technical resources have been deployed to Iguala and the surrounding region. In addition, the Ministry of Interior and the Attorney General have established a direct dialogue with families, students and NGOs.

Despite these efforts, the students remain missing.

Ms. Shamdasani expressed concern that nine mass graves were discovered on the outskirts of Iguala and urged Mexican authorities to conduct “effective, prompt and impartial investigations so as to identify those who were buried in the mass graves and bring those responsible to justice.”

She added that the UN Human Rights Office in Mexico was following closely these cases and was ready to provide any assistance that may be required.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

October 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Members Elected to UN Human Rights Council

UN Human RIghts Council VotingThe United Nations General Assembly last week elected 15 countries to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Council for a period of three years beginning on 1 January 2015.

In one round of secret balloting at UN Headquarters in New York, the Assembly elected the following ten countries:

  • Albania,
  • Bangladesh,
  • El Salvador,
  • Ghana,
  • Latvia,
  • The Netherlands,
  • Nigeria,
  • Paraguay,
  • Portugal and
  • Qatar.

Five countries were re-elected to continue terms that expire at the end of this year.  Those countries are:

  • Bolivia,
  • Botswana,
  • Congo,
  • India and
  • Indonesia.

Members of the Council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.

UN Human RIghts CouncilThe distribution of seats for the current election was as follows:

  • 4 seats allotted to the African States Group;
  • 4 for the Asia-Pacific Group;
  • 2 for the Eastern European Group;
  • 3 for the Latin American and Caribbean Group; and
  • 2 for the Western European and Other States Group.

The Councils’ outgoing members are:

  • Austria,
  • Benin,
  • Burkina Faso,
  • Chile,
  • Costa Rica,
  • Czech Republic,
  • Kuwait,
  • Peru
  • Philippines and
  • Romania.

Created by the Assembly in 2006, the 47-member Council, is an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.

All of its members are elected by the world body’s General Assembly, and it has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office at Geneva.

Those elected today will be joining in the following States who will remain on the Council: Algeria (2016); Argentina (2015); Brazil (2015); China (2016); Côte d’Ivoire (2015); Cuba (2016); Estonia (2015); Ethiopia (2015); France (2016); Gabon (2015); Germany (2015); Ireland (2015); Japan (2015); Kazakhstan (2015); Kenya (2015): Maldives (2016): Mexico (2016): Montenegro (2015); Morocco (2016); Namibia (2016); Pakistan (2015); Republic of Korea (2015); Russia (2016); Saud Arabia (2016); Sierra Leone (2015); South Africa (2016); the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2016); United Arab Emirates (2015); United Kingdom (2016); United States (2015); Venezuela (2015); and Viet Nam (2016).

(Adapted from a UN press release)


October 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)