Saturday, March 15, 2014
Owing to the negative vote of one of its permanent members, the United Nations Security Council today failed to adopt a draft resolution which urged countries not to recognize the results of this weekend's referendum in Crimea.
Thirteen of the Council's 15 members voted in favour of the draft text, Russia voted against, and China abstained. A veto by any of the Council's five permanent members -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- means a resolution cannot be adopted.
The resolution would have reaffirmed Ukraine's "sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity" and declared that Sunday's referendum which could lead to Crimea's break with Ukraine and union with Russia, "can have no validity".
Speaking ahead of the vote, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said it was "no secret" that Russia was planning to vote against the draft. He added that Moscow would respect the decision of the Crimeans but could not accept the basic assumption of the draft resolution which aimed "to declare illegal the planned March 16 referendum where residents of the Republic of Crimea should decide on their future".
Liu Jieyi, Permanent Representative of China to the UN, said after the vote that Beijing sought a "balanced" solution to the conflict within a framework of law and order. He called for the creation of a coordination group, a support package for Ukraine, and also called on countries to refrain from action which could further escalate the conflict.
Deep disappointment and incredulity was expressed by several Council members, who noted that this was the seventh time the body was convening to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
United States Permanent Representative Samantha Power, whose country sponsored the resolution, said the text was aimed at finding a principled and peaceful solution, and upheld UN principles on the sovereignty of its Member States. Russia has the power to veto a Security Council resolution, "but it does not have the power to veto the truth," she said.
United Kingdom's Mark Lyall Grant said the result of today's vote highlighted Russia's isolation over Crimea within the Council and from the international community.
Meanwhile, Gérard Araud of France quipped that Russia "vetoed the UN Charter" with its "no" vote.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that "emotions have been hardened" over the forthcoming referendum.
Addressing journalists Friday at the UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban cautioned against "hasty measures and decisions which may impact the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine" and stressed that any actions should be in accordance with provisions of the UN Charter.
UN officials, including Mr. Ban, have been appealing to all parties to calm the situation and to engage in direct and constructive dialogue to forge a peaceful way forward in Ukraine, which has been witnessing unrest for several months.
Tensions heightened last week as lawmakers in Crimea, where additional Russian troops and armoured vehicles have recently been deployed, voted to join Russia and to hold a referendum on 16 March to validate the decision.
(UN Press Release)
Friday, March 14, 2014
United States Joins Other Countries in Starting to Suspend Aid to Uganda Because of Its Anti-Gay Law
On February 24, 2014, Uganda enacted legislation that punishes homosexuality by terms of up to life in prison. (Earlier versions of that legislation had called for the death penalty, but that was scaled back to life in prison.)
Uganadan President Yoweri Museveni signed that legislation over objections from human rights advocates and a number of nations. After signing the anti-gay law, the World Bank and some individual nations started withholding or diverting aid to the Ugandan government. The United States now joins Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden in doing just that. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention is supending some assistance to the Uganadan Minstry of Health. Click here to read more.
A court challenge to the Ugandan legislation was reportedly filed earlier this week.
Carolina Academic Press has published a new, fifth edition of International Law by Valerie Epps. The book is 555 pages long and sells for an amazingly low price of $60. And there's even a discount on that if you click here. The teachers' manual includes powerpoint slides too.
There's also a document supplement from 2009 that you can use with this book or another international law casebook you might be using.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
A senior United Nations human rights official is continuing today his mission in Ukraine, returning to the crisis-torn capital, Kiev for a series of meetings, while in New York, the Security Council is expected to meet in an open session with Ukrainian political leaders.
The Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN requested the Council to convene urgently “due to the deterioration of the situation in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, Ukraine, which threatens the territorial integrity of Ukraine.” Chairing the meeting will be Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg, which holds the Council's presidency for the month. The session is expected to include a breifing from Jeffrey Feltman, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and hear a statement from Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The meeting comes as senior UN officials have been appealing to all parties to de-escalate tensions and to engage in direct and constructive dialogue to forge a peaceful way forward in Ukraine, which has been witnessing unrest for several months. Tensions heightened last week as lawmakers in Crimea, where additional Russian troops and armoured vehicles have recently been deployed, voted to join Russia and to hold a referendum on 16 March to validate the decision.
According to UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonovic continued his mission in Ukraine today, following a report yesterday that, along with logistical challenges that hindered Mr. Šimonovic from traveling to Crimea earlier in the week, he was informed by authorities that he could not be received there. Today, Mr. Šimonovic was Lviv, a city in western Ukraine, where he met with the head of the regional council, and where they discussed the hosting of displaced people from Crimea now living in the Lviv region. He also held talks with the regional Ombudsperson.
The spokesperson said that Mr. Šimonovic then met with representatives of local non-governmental organizations, including Crimean Tatars, and they discussed the human rights situation in Ukraine. He also had a meeting with the originator of a grassroots campaign to speak Russian in Lviv for one day in solidarity with Russian speakers in Ukraine alarmed by the decision of the country’s Parliament to repeal the language law. “Mr. Šimonovic returned to Kiev today, where he will meet with ministers and other officials. He is scheduled to hold a press conference in Kiev tomorrow,” said the spokesperson.
(UN Press Release)
The United Nations and Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria today announced that he has appealed to the Security Council to assist him in pressing for a possible new round of negotiations bringing together the Syrian Government and opposition groups to end three years of bloodshed in the country. “We would very much like to continue this Geneva process, but we would like the help of the Council and of all those who can help to make sure that if, and when, we have the third round, it will be a little bit more productive than the second round,” Lakhdar Brahimi told journalists in New York after briefing the 15-nation body.
Two rounds of talks earlier this year, the first in January followed by a second round in February, saw both sides sticking to their positions and yielded only modest cooperation on a humanitarian issue related to aid access in the long-besieged Old City of Homs. The basis of the talks is full implementation of an action plan adopted in the so-called Geneva Communiqué of 2012, the first international conference on the conflict, which calls for a transitional government to lead to free and fair elections.
In a statement yesterday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spotlighted the inability of the international community, the region and the Syrians themselves to put a stop to the three-year old conflict.
Both Mr. Ban and Mr, Brahimi are expected to brief the General Assembly tomorrow on the situation in Syria.
He appealed in particular to the Russian Federation and the United States, as the initiating States of the Geneva Conference, “to take clear steps to reenergize the process”.
Well over 100,000 people have been killed and an estimated 9 million others driven from their homes. In addition, there are currently more than 2.4 million refugees registered in the region: some 932,000 in Lebanon; 574,000 in Jordan; some 613,000 in Turkey; 223,000 in Iraq; and about 134,000 in Egypt, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
(UN Press Release)
In an increasingly interconnected world, children are more at risk that ever of being sexually exploited or sold, a United Nations independent expert warned today, calling for decisive steps at the global level to stop crimes such as child prostitution and trafficking. “Millions of girls and boys worldwide are victims of sexual exploitation, even though this issue in recent years has gained increased visibility,” said Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, as she presented her final report to the 25th session of the Human Rights Council, which opened last week and is to wrap on 28 March. Social tolerance and impunity, persistent demand and the lucrative aspect of this trade for global criminal networks are only some of the factors that make children increasingly vulnerable, she said, adding that “the ongoing development of new technologies has made access to children in all parts of the world easier and increased exploitation.”
The availability of child pornography online is growing. “Child victims of online sexual exploitation are younger and younger, and the images are more and more horrific,” explained Ms. Maalla M’jid, whose report provides an overview of the main issues and trends relating to her six-year long mandate.
The Special Rapporteur stressed that certain forms of sexual exploitation are increasing such as trafficking of children for sexual and economic purposes, child sex tourism and online child sexual exploitation, but noted that the true scope of the problem was not clear due to inadequate legislation, lack of reliable data, and under-reporting. “The clandestine nature of such exploitation, the fear of reprisals and stigmatization, as well as the lack of child-sensitive complaints mechanisms, also hampers our understanding of these crimes,” she said. “The destinations for child sex tourism are continually changing, as perpetrators tend to choose countries with weak legislation and controls,” noted the UN expert.
In her presentation, Ms. Maalla M’jid drew attention to the “serious and long-lasting physical, psychological and social effects, not only for the girls and boys who are the direct victims, but also for their families and communities,” regretting that this impact is not sufficiently understood and taken into account when addressing recovery, remedies and compensation. “Despite significant efforts and reiterated global commitments, much still needs to be done to protect, rehabilitate and reintegrate victims, provide reparation to children for the damage they have suffered, sanction those responsible, change certain social norms, and to ultimately prevent such exploitation,” the expert said, urging the international community to establish a global response, through a global legal framework and sustainable transnational co-operation. In addition, Ms. Maalla M’jid called for close co-operation with the private sector, and for strong corporate social responsibility among internet service providers, telecommunications, tourism and travel industry, media and financial institutions.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
(Excerpt from a UN press release)
The University of Michigan Press has published a new book called Hybrid Justice: The Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia. The authors are John D. Ciorciari and Anne Heindel. The book is 464 pages long and sells from $85.00. We have not yet seen a copy of the book itself but we are told that it examines some of the conflicts, structural flaws, and other problems of the tribunal created to try officials of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
States that condemn torture while using information and products obtained through the practice in other countries are hypocritical, a United Nations human rights expert declared today, regretting that many Governments refuse to subject their intelligence agencies to strict scrutiny on the subject. "Governments cannot condemn the evil of torture and other ill-treatment at the international level while condoning it at the national level,” UN Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez said in Geneva today as he presented his latest report on the subject to the 25th session of the Human Rights Council, which opened last week and wraps on 28 March.
He told the Council that any use of torture-tainted information, even if the torture has been committed by agents of another State, is an act of acquiescence in torture that compromises the user-State’s responsibility and leads to individual and State complicity in acts of torture.
Mr. Méndez underlined the contradiction and hypocrisy between the fact that some States use information collected by others through torture, all the while having adopted "cardinal principals necessary for preventing and suppressing torture and ill-treatment,” including its absolute prohibition.
“This absolute and non-derogable prohibition also applies to collecting, sharing and receiving torture-tainted information between States during intelligence gathering or covert operations,” he highlighted, adding that States should “refrain from allowing torture-tainted evidence in judicial proceedings or by creating a market for torture-tainted information.”
The Special Rapporteur stressed that prohibition of torture needs to go hand-in-hand with “removing any incentive to undertake torture anywhere in the world,” and regretted that States’ refusal to subject the work of their intelligence/security agencies to scrutiny and/or international oversight “leads to the erroneous conclusion that executive collecting, sharing and receiving of torture-tainted information is not subject to international law.”
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
(UN press release)
The United Nations Dispute Tribunal (UNDT) and Appeals Tribunal (UNAT) are seeking judges to be part of the internal system of administrative justice in the United Nations that addresses employment-related disputes.
Judges are appointed by the U.N. General Assembly from candidates recommended by the United Nations Internal Justice Council.
For the UNDT, applicants should have ten years of judicial experience in the field of adminsitrative law, or equivalent, within one or more national jurisdicitons. For the UNAT, applicants should have fifteen years of experience.
The United Nations website also includes other current openings for lawyers.
Benjamin Ferencz, an American lawyer born in Hungary in 1920, was a Nazi War Crime Investigator and the Chief Prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen Trial, one of twelve military trials held by U.S. authorities at Nuremberg, Germany. He also participated in the setup of reparation and rehabilitation programs for the victims of Nazi persecutions, and participated in the negotiations that led to the 1952 Reparations Agreement between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany and the 1953 German Restitution Law.
Today, he is a fierce advocate for international criminal justice around the world and for having the U.S. join the International Criminal Court.
The John Marshall Law School in Chicago is hosting Ben Ferencz at a public lecture on "The Illegal Use of Force as a Crime Against Humanity." The program will be held in Chicago at The John Marshall Law School on Monday, April 14, 2014, from noon to 2:00 p.m. The lecture is part of the law school's Herzog Distinguished Lecture Program, which has included in the past persons such as ABA President Laurel Bellows (speaking on human trafficking), former U.N. Legal Counsel Hans Correll (speaking on the responsiblity of the U.N. Security Council), and Judge Thomas Buergenthal, former Judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and former Judge at the International Court of Justice.
The event is free but reservations are requested. Click here to register. If you've never had the chance to meet a Nuremberg Prosecutor, you will not want to miss this event.
From the U.S. State Department:
Ukraine is facing a moment of historic challenge and historic opportunity. In the coming months, the Government of Ukraine will need to take steps to restore economic stability and to conduct free, fair, and inclusive presidential elections to allow the Ukrainian people to choose their own future.
During Prime Minister Yatsenyuk's visit to Washington today, we discussed specific steps the United States is taking to support Ukraine at this critical time, including the $1 billion loan guarantee we are working with Congress to provide, and the package of technical and other assistance we are preparing, to meet Ukraine's priority needs. Specific U.S. assistance measures and initiatives discussed today include the following:
Reaffirming our Partnership
- We intend to resume activities of the Strategic Partnership Commission at the Ministerial level with the goal of deepening the U.S.-Ukrainian Strategic Partnership in the areas of nuclear security and non-proliferation, political dialogue and rule of law, energy security, security cooperation, and science and technology.
- The Department of Commerce will organize a U.S.-Ukraine Business Summit in Washington, D.C. that will bring together senior-level USG and GOU officials, U.S. companies with investments in Ukraine, and leading economic and legal experts on the Ukrainian market, to discuss how to increase economic growth in Ukraine and deepen our bilateral commercial relationship.
- The Department of Commerce, working together with the State Department and USTR,will develop an Innovation Council that will focus on creating the eco-system required to accelerate entrepreneurship and develop the legal culture and infrastructure for innovation in Ukraine.
- Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual will visit Kyiv this month for a meeting of the Energy Security Working Group, which will focus on efforts to boost Ukraine's energy security, including energy efficiency and the development of alternative energy sources.
- The Department of Defense will hold U.S.-Ukraine Bilateral Defense Consultations with Ukrainian counterparts in Kyiv within the next month.
- A senior-level Department of Commerce delegation will travel to Kyiv to conduct relationship-building with key GOU officials, streamlining future bilateral work on market access cases, pending investments, and means for addressing systemic issues affecting our bilateral commercial relationship.
- We will hold a meeting of the bilateral Trade and Investment Council through the U.S. Trade Representative's Office to address barriers to trade and investment and explore expanding commercial ties, boosting the investment climate.
- Support for the May presidential elections. The United States will double its planned assistance to support electoral law reform to improve election administration, provide election monitoring, and promote robust involvement by a strong and independent civil society and media.
- Department of Defense (DoD) personnel will organize a Humanitarian Assistance Planning Conference with the Ukrainian Armed Forces. DoD will provide Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
- Support for asset recovery efforts. Department of Justice and FBI teams are already in Ukraine to provide strategic advice and capacity building to locate the proceeds of corruption looted by former officials. The State Department also will offer additional assistance and technical expertise for bilateral and multilateral efforts to facilitate Ukraine's efforts to recover these assets located in overseas financial institutions.
- New technical support to help Ukraine with immediate economic management challenges. The United States is providing expertise to help the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance and Central Bank navigate near-term economic challenges. The Department of Treasury has already deployed an expert advisor and the United States stands ready to provide additional assistance to meet Ukraine's near-term economic and financial management needs.
Enhancing People-to-People Contacts
- The Department of State will expand funding for the inaugural year of the U.S.-Ukraine Fulbright Science and Technology Education Program ("STEP"), a pilot project that will fully fund the travel and studies of a select group of Ukrainian graduate students at U.S. universities in the 2014-2015 academic year.
- The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program will double the number of Ukrainian students for the 2014-15 academic year.
- Over 50 additional future leaders of Ukraine will be eligible for short-term exchanges and professional experiences in the United States in critically important fields.
- The United States will establish an Alumni Innovation Grant Competition for Ukrainian alumni of U.S. government exchange programs to allow the best alumni to launch ideas that will benefit their country's future.
The House Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a hearing on recent developments in Afghanistan on March 13, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2118 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the fiscal year 2015 budget for the Department of State on March 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm, 2172 Rayburn.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. relations with Taiwan on March 14, 2014 at 9:30 am, 2172 Rayburn.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.
We are happy to see the continued publication of volumes of annotated leading case law of international criminal tribunals. The latest updates contain decisions of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia between 2008-2009, and decisions of the International Criminal Court from 2006 to 2008 and in 2009. These annotated cases provide the reader with the full text of the most important decisions, including concurring, separate and dissenting opinions. Distinguished experts in the field of international criminal law have commented the decisions. Bravo, Intersentia Publishing!
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
The John Marshall Law School of Chicago is one of the two teams advancing to the White and Case International Rounds from the Southern Regional Rounds of the Phillip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition. Here is a photo of the team members and coaches with what appear to be some of the team supporters.
We're not sure about the authenticity of the photograph of course, but since you found this on the Internet it must be true.
The Phillip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition is organized and sponsored by the International Law Students Association. It is the largest moot court competition in the world, with more than 550 teams in 80 countries competing in regional and national rounds before the international rounds in April in Washington, D.C.
Hat tip to Sarah Peck
Monday, March 10, 2014
The United Nations Secretary-General today expressed concern about the situation in the Maldives following the decision of the Supreme Court to remove the Chair and the Vice Chair of the Elections Commission and to sentence the Chair for contempt of court. “The Secretary-General underlines the importance of respect for the principle of separation of powers, the rule of law, and the independence of constitutionally established bodies,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York. “He commends the Elections Commission for its professionalism and tireless efforts to ensure credible and transparent elections,” the statement said.
Further, the UN chief urged all political leaders to respect the democratic process and allow for a peaceful, inclusive and credible Parliamentary vote to take place in accordance with the Constitution. “It is of the utmost importance that of the will of the Maldivian people be respected throughout the process,” he said.
In mid-November, the Secretary-General welcomed the conclusion of the run-off of the presidential election in the Maldives, and urged everyone in the country to work together to advance the democratic process. That poll, which reportedly led to the election of Yaamin Abdul Gayoom, brought to a close a process that began with the first vote on 7 September, which was later annulled by the Supreme Court amid allegations of electoral fraud. A re-run planned for 19 October was further delayed, before finally being held on 9 November.
(UN press release)
International and well-coordinated support is vital to helping Libya through its democratic transition, a United Nations envoy told the Security Council today, as he described the recent polarization in the country, a dramatic increase in violence, including attacks on the media, as well as difficulties in strengthening the security sector. “Libya faces the risk of embarking on a new trajectory of unprecedented violence,” Tarek Mitri, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said in his briefing to the 15-member body.
Mr. Mitri has been heading the UN’s efforts to assist the Libyan Government and people as they undergo a democratic transition following the toppling of former leader Muammar al-Qadhafi three years ago. Recent months have witnessed worsening security and political divisions which threaten to undermine the country’s transition. He recalled that, on 2 March, the General National Congress building was stormed by protestors demanding its dissolution. About 150 young men ransacked the main chamber and assaulted members, four of whom were injured.
“Intense efforts to resolve differences and negotiate an agreement on the management of the transitional period, including the future of the General National Congress and the Government, have not succeeded in bringing an end to the divisions that have paralysed the political process,” noted Mitri. “Considerable differences remain over holding both parliamentary and presidential elections, and the extent of powers to be granted to a future president.”
The previous three months have witnessed a “dramatic” increase in violence across the country, he stated. This includes violence in Sabha in the south that resulted in over 100 fatalities, including children and the elderly, as well as the displacement of hundreds of families and shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies.
In the east, the unabated campaign of targeted assassinations, bombings and abductions in Benghazi has reached “intolerable” levels. Many victims have been security and judicial personnel. But civilians have also suffered unchecked terror and intimidation.
“In a city which prides itself on its role in putting an end to decades of tyrannical rule, the present public’s sense of anger is mounting,” said the envoy. “While the primary responsibility for reining in the perpetrators of this ugly campaign of terror lies with the State, this will only be possible with the concerted efforts by the Government, political, civic and revolutionary forces, aiming at the protection of the civilian population.”
In addition, Mr. Mitri reported that there has been an “alarming” increase in attacks on journalists and media institutions. Several television stations in Tripoli and Benghazi were the target of armed acts of vandalism. A number of journalists and media figures were abducted. He added that strengthening the State’s ability to assume its security responsibilities continues to be hindered by the absence of a political agreement over the rebuilding of a national army, the integration of revolutionary fighters and the collection of weapons.
“A solution to this problem will require a clear strategy and giving a number of assurances to the revolutionaries who are only nominally under state authority. These include recognition of their contributions to the revolution and safeguards for their legitimate rights and interests.”
The people of Libya, said Mr. Mitri, expect that the international community will assist them in the difficult task of building a State, with strong and accountable institutions. “Support to Libya, however, can be meaningful and effective if there is unequivocal commitment on the part of Libya’s leaders to this goal and a political will to resolve, through dialogue and concerted efforts, the major problems of the country.”
The Council also heard today from the current chair of the committee set up to monitor UN sanctions imposed on Libya, which include an arms embargo, a travel ban and an assets freeze.
Highlighting some observations made by the panel of experts assisting the committee, Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana of Rwanda noted that the proliferation of weapons to and from Libya remained a major challenge for the stability of Libya and the region. In that context, the panel noted that the control of non-State armed actors over the majority of stockpiles in Libya, as well as ineffective border control systems remained primary obstacles to countering proliferation and that Libya had become a primary source of illicit weapons. Also, trafficking from Libya was fuelling conflict and insecurity, including terrorism, on several continents, which was unlikely to change in the near future.
In discussing the report of the panel, the committee focused on serious concerns about persistent arms proliferation from Libya; the need to further clarify arms procurement structures and procedures in Libya; cooperation with UNSMIL concerning the storage and security of stockpiles; and how to carry forward the recommendations of the panel.
(UN press release)
Underscoring the Central African Republic’s (CAR) history of coups, violence and impunity, the head of a United Nations inquiry warned today that the spread of hate speech and the collapse of law and order in the strife-riven country are likely precursors to grave human rights violations, including genocide. “We want to present to the [UN] Security Council a complete file so the appropriate action can be taken,” said Bernard Acho Muna, who chairs the International Commission of Inquiry tasked with probing reports of human rights violations in the CAR, compiling information, and helping identify the perpetrators of such abuses.
The three-person inquiry, established by the Security Council, is expected in the country on Tuesday and will begin gathering evidence amid what UN Emergency Coordinator Valerie Amos recently described as an “extremely grave” situation, after months of inter-religious violence has wrecked State institutions, left millions on the brink of starvation and now threatens to suck in the wider region.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the CAR and 2.2 million, about half the population, are in need of humanitarian aid as a result of the conflict, which erupted when Séléka rebels launched attacks in December 2012. The fighting has taken on increasingly sectarian overtones as mainly Christian militias known as anti-Balaka (anti-machete) have taken up arms. The UN estimates that some 650,000 have been internally displaced, while nearly 300,000 other have fled to neighbouring countries.
At a news briefing in Geneva, Mr. Muna said the spread of propaganda and the collapse of law and order in the CAR could be a precursor to serious human rights violations, including genocide. “We would like to talk to the refugees, groups of Muslims or groups of Christians who are running away from violence. They have a story to tell [and] those stories might lead us to be able to give a better picture to the Security Council,” he said.
He said the investigators have also heard reports of genocide. “I can tell you from my Rwandan experience that there is definitely a question of hate propaganda. I think it is implied in our mandate to see that we don't wait until genocide has been committed and then we call for prosecution,” said Mr. Muna, who is a former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). “I think it is in our mandate to see how we can stop any advances towards genocide,” he said, but added: “I hope this is only noise and when you put troops on the ground then law and order, it might disappear.”
The Commission, which also includes Fatimata M’Baye of Mauritania and Jorge Castañeda of Mexico, is expected to submit its initial report to the Security Council within six months.
(UN press release)
Sunday, March 9, 2014
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed serious concern last week over the conviction of Malaysian opposition leader, Karpal Singh, who was found guilty of sedition late last month and is due to be sentenced on 11 March. Under Malaysia’s 1948 Sedition Act, Mr. Singh was charged “after suggesting at a press conference in 2009 that it was possible to bring a legal challenge against a decision by the Sultan of the Malaysian state of Perak to dismiss the then Chief Minister,” explained OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville in Geneva.
“The prosecution in the case argued that Mr. Singh’s words had the tendency to create hatred towards the Sultan,” he said. “Lawyers must be able to discharge their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance or improper interference of any sort and should be entitled to express views in their professional capacities on matters concerning the law,” Mr. Colville continued.
In addition to being a prominent lawyer and a Member of Parliament, Mr. Singh is also the chairperson of Malaysia’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Action Party.
He faces a fine of up to 5,000 Malaysian Ringgit (approximately $1,500) and/or three years’ imprisonment. If he is fined more than 2,000 Malaysian Ringgit or sentenced to more than a year behind bars, he could lose his parliamentary membership.
“The 1948 Sedition Act is not in conformity with international human rights law. Using this law to limit freedom of expression and opinion could stifle enjoyment of these rights in Malaysia,” said Rupert Colville. “We urge the Government of Malaysia to review Mr. Singh’s conviction and to repeal the Sedition Act – something which the Prime Minister had, in 2012, publicly undertaken to do.”
(Adapted from a UN press release)
The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution setting out practical steps to combat violations against children in armed conflict, as United Nations officials underscored the need to do more to ensure that children are protected and perpetrators are brought to justice.
“All children deserve and are entitled to protection, not exploitation. They belong in school, not armies and fighting groups. Children should be armed with pens and textbooks, not guns and grenades,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his remarks at the Council’s open debate on children and armed conflict. Mr. Ban called on the Council to use all the tools at its disposal to protect children on the front lines of conflict and prevent a new generation from having to endure the same privations. “Let our children be children – safe and secure, living lives of dignity and opportunity.”
In the new resolution, the Security Council strongly condemned all violations of international law involving the recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict, as well as their re-recruitment, killing and maiming, rape and other sexual violence, abductions, attacks against schools or hospitals and denial of humanitarian access by parties to armed conflict.
The 15-member body “demands that all relevant parties immediately put an end to such practices and take special measures to protect children.” It also welcomes the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign initiated by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and launched yesterday, to end the recruitment and use of children by Government armed forces in conflict by 2016.
Fifteen years have passed since the Council adopted its first resolution specifically dedicated to children and armed conflict. A new element in today’s resolution is references to the use of schools by armed forces.
The Council expressed deep concern at the military use of schools in contravention of applicable international law, “recognizing that such use may render schools legitimate targets of attack, thus endangering children’s and teachers’ safety as well as children’s education. It urged all parties to armed conflict to respect the civilian character of schools, and Member States to ensure that attacks on schools are investigated and those responsible duly prosecuted.
“Military use puts schools and school children in danger. Schools become potential battle fields. Seeking ways to better prevent attacks on schools calls for efforts to incrementally prevent their military use by parties to conflict,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, told the Council.
Ms. Zerrougui noted attacks on schools and hospitals, as well as the killing and maiming of children, continue unabated in Syria, one of several countries – including also South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) – where conflict has taken a heavy toll on children.
In South Sudan – where more than half of the population are children – a whole generation, which should be entrusted with building a new nation, is about to deprived of a fair chance to do so, she said, while the impact on children of the ongoing violence in CAR has been “devastating.”
“We must not rely on hope when children suffering in armed conflict are calling upon us to be heard. Only action and concrete measures will ultimately make a difference,” she stated.
“Hundreds of thousands of children have their eyes upon you as you continue to lead the way in protecting children from armed conflict,” Ms. Zerrougui told the Council.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said that while the world has made real progress in recent years, more must be done. “Just as the global community has a responsibility to end grave violations against children, each nation, too, holds a responsibility to keep children from entering the ranks of its armed forces in the first place. As does every armed group.”
Verifying the ages of soldiers is an important first step, said Mr. Lake, as is birth registration, a greater awareness at the community level of the need to end child recruitment, and addressing the specific needs of child soldiers emerging from conflict as they seek to reintegrate into society. “With support, investment and encouragement, we can help these young men and women rebuild their lives, transform themselves and their societies, and help their countries emerge from the shadow of conflict.”
The debate is being held at the ministerial level and chaired by Jean Asselborn, the Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg, which holds the Council’s presidency for this month and is also the current chair of the Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. Among those addressing the meeting was Alhaji Babah Sawaneh, who was abducted and forced to fight as a child soldier with the rebel forces in Sierra Leone, and was in 2001 the first former child soldier to address the Security Council.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
Deeply concerned by an outbreak of inter-communal violence in North Darfur, the African Union-United Nations Mission in the region called today for an end to the fighting, which has sent thousands fleeing for safety and left a number of people dead over the past few days. According to a news release from the Mission, known as UNAMID, thousands of displaced civilians from the town of Saraf Omra, located some 90 kilometres east of El Geneina, are currently seeking refuge near UNAMID's base in the vicinity.
"The Mission is providing protection and water to those affected, as well as medical treatment for more than 30 wounded individuals," the release said, adding that UNAMID is working with the humanitarian community in taking the necessary steps to provide further much needed assistance.
UNAMID says that its patrols found the town looted and a local market destroyed. "Reconciliation efforts among the tribes have been taking place, however the situation remains tense and those displaced are in need of critical food and proper sanitary conditions," the Joint UN-AU operation said, calling on all parties involved to cease hostilities and to find a peaceful solution to their differences.
Just yesterday , the AU-UN Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, wrapped up talks between the top AU official and leaders of two of the region's main rebel movements, encouraging the parties to overcome their misgivings and press ahead towards a comprehensive political accord, for the benefit of not only strife-ridden Darfur, but also for wider Sudan.
According to an earlier news release, Mr. Chambas facilitated a meeting yesterday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, between the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and leaders of the Sudan Liberation Army - Minni Minawi (SLA-MM) and the Justice and Equality Movement - Gibril Ibrahim (JEM-GI).
The incident in Saraf Omra comes in the wake of other recent episodes of violence in Darfur, most notably in Taweisha and El Lait areas in North Darfur, and in South Darfur where thousands were displaced following the looting and destruction of villages in the areas of Um Gunya and Hajeer.
UNAMID today reiterated its call upon the authorities to allow the Mission unhindered and immediate access to these areas, so that it can carry out its core activity for the protection of civilians as mandated by the AU and the UN and as consented to by the Sudanese Government.
(UN Press Release)