Monday, December 21, 2015

Live From "L"

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

(mew)

December 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Save the Dates! Upcoming AALS Annual Meetings in New York, San Francisco, San Diego, and New Orleans

AALS LogoThe Association of American Law Schools holds its well-attended annual meeting each January. Here's the schedule of upcoming meetings for the next few years:

  • January 6-10, 2016: New York
  • January 4-7, 2017: San Francisco
  • January 3-6, 2018: San Diego
  • January 2-6, 2019: New Orleans

The Association of American Law Schools is a nonprofit association of 180 law schools. Its law school members enroll most of the law students in the United States.  The AALS describes its mission as "to uphold and advance excellence in legal education." The AALS promotes the core values of excellence in teaching and scholarship, academic freedom, and diversity, including diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints, while seeking to improve the legal profession, to foster justice, and to serve local, national, and international communities.

Visit the AALS website for more information about the Association and its upcoming meetings and other activities. The AALS has a large number of Sections focused on various topics, including international law. At the 2016 Annual Meeting, the AALS Section of International Law has organized a field trip to the United Nations.

(mew)

December 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Reminder of AALS Day at the United Nations

UN General AssemblyThe Association of American Law Schools Section on International Law has organized an impressive lineup of presenters for its one-day field trip to the United Nations on Thursday, January 7, 2016. The event is part of the AALS Annual Meeting and is open to all law professors attending the AALS Annual Meeting. You need not be a member of the AALS Section on International Law (although if you're a U.S. law professor reading this blog, why wouldn't you be a member of that section?).

The day-long program includes a briefing, a luncheon, a tour of the United Nations, and time to visit the U.N. bookstore and gift shop. Tickets are still available, and participants can also purchase extra tickets for interested family members.

The speakers for the program are an impressive lineup organized by Dean Claudio Grossman of the Washington College of Law at American University. The speakers are:

  • His Excellency Cristian Barros, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations, speaking on challenges facing the U.N. Security Council.
  • Andrew Gilmour (to be confirmed), Director of the Political, Peacekeeping, Humanitarian, and Human Rights Unit of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General (EOSG). Topic: “Peace, Security, and the Secretary General’s Human Rights Up Front Initiative to Prevent and Respond to Serious Human Rights Violations.”
  • Claudio Grossman (confirmed), Chair, United Nations Committee Against Torture and Dean of the American University Washington College of Law. Topic: “The Human Rights Treaty Bodies of the United Nations – Challenges for the Future”
  • Katarina Mansson (confirmed), Human Rights Treaties Division, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Topic: “Partnering for Peace and Rights: The Evolving Relationship Between the United Nations and Regional Organizations.”
  • Craig Mokhiber (confirmed), Research and Right to Development Division, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Topic: “Development and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.”
  • Salil Shetty (to be confirmed), Secretary-General, Amnesty International. Topic: “Amnesty International’s Efforts”
  • Moderator: Prof. Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School--Chicago)

When you register for the AALS annual meeting, you can select the field trip as a separate option. The cost for the day-long event is $90.00, which includes the luncheon and tour. If you have already registered for the meeting, you can still add a ticket to this event to your registration.

(mew)

December 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

WTO Dispute Settlement News

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which reached another milestone this year - the receipt of its 500th trade dispute for settlement. Developed and developing countries have initiated disputes in almost equal numbers. The United States has been the most frequent complainant and respondent, with the European Communities a close second.  Most of the disputes have focused on anti-dumping and subsidy issues.

On December 8, the United States filed yet another trade dispute with the WTO Dispute Settlement Body.  This complaint alleges that China has violated WTO rules with respect tax advantages provided in the sale of domestically produced aircraft.  For more information, see WT/DS501/1.

(cgb) 

December 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kidnappings for Ransom Are On the Rise in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo MapAt least 175 people have been kidnapped for ransom during 2015 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Human Rights Watch said today. Former and current members of armed groups appear responsible for many of the kidnappings.

The vast majority of the cases documented by Human Rights Watch were in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province, in the eastern part of the country. At least three hostages were killed while another was fatally shot in a kidnapping attempt. One remains missing. Nearly all hostages were released after relatives or employers paid ransom. Twenty of the victims were Congolese and international aid workers.

“The alarming increase in kidnappings is a grave threat to the people of eastern Congo,” said Ida Sawyer, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Congolese authorities should urgently establish a special police unit to help rescue hostages and investigate and prosecute those responsible.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 45 former hostages and witnesses in North Kivu between May and December. They said that the kidnappers typically operate in groups of up to a dozen or more people, and are often heavily armed with Kalashnikovs and other military assault weapons. Many wear military clothes and appear to belong, or to have belonged, to one of the many armed groups active in eastern Congo.

The kidnappers often followed a similar procedure, beating, whipping, or threatening their hostages with death, demanding that they call their relatives or employers to press them to pay for the person’s release. The kidnappers often used the victims’ cell phones or their own to negotiate the ransom payments. Sometimes the kidnappers abducted a single hostage, in other cases, a group.

In one example, on September 2, armed men kidnapped a 27-year-old student near the general hospital in Goma and took her to a remote forest location, where she was held with other hostages. The kidnappers beat and abused the hostages, including burning them with bayonets heated in a fire. “When we asked for food, they chose a man among us and cut his throat, killing him,” she told Human Rights Watch. “‘If you want to eat, here’s the meat,’ they told us.” She was held for nine days, and released after her family paid a ransom.

In the cases Human Rights Watch documented, kidnappers demanded between US$200 and US$30,000 per hostage, though the amounts paid were often much lower than the amount sought, according to relatives and former hostages.

The ransom payments often caused severe financial hardship for families. One man had to sell his farmland to pay off the money his family had borrowed to pay for his release, leaving his family with no source of income.

Kidnappers also targeted national and international aid workers, contract staff working for the United Nations, and drivers for a major transportation company. In all cases they were later released. No information was made public on whether ransoms were paid.

In most of the cases Human Rights Watch documented, relatives of the hostages did not inform police or other authorities about the kidnapping, either because they believed they would get no assistance or because they feared that it might make matters worse and that they would face further extortion from the authorities for any assistance provided. One former hostage said that when her mother told a judicial official in Goma that her daughter had been kidnapped, his only response was that the mother should “go pay.”

At least 14 people were kidnapped close to areas where Congolese soldiers were based, leading some of the victims and their families to speculate that the soldiers may have been complicit. Human Rights Watch found no credible evidence indicating that Congolese soldiers participated in the kidnappings, though some of those involved appear to be members or former members of armed groups that Congolese army officers had armed or supported in the past.

One of the implicated groups is the Force for the Defense of the Interests of Congolese People (FDIPC), which collaborated with the Congolese army during military operations against the M23 rebel group in 2012 and 2013, according to Human Rights Watch and UN research. Former hostages and local authorities told Human Rights Watch that FDIPC fighters and former fighters were responsible for some of the kidnappings.

On April 14, 2015, Congolese authorities arrested FDIPC’s military commander, Jean Emmanuel Biriko (known as Manoti), his wife, and a dozen of his fighters and charged them with kidnapping, among other crimes. Their trial began a day later in a military court in the town of Rutshuru. On May 18, following deeply flawed proceedings in which the rights of the accused were violated, the court convicted Manoti and 10 of his co-accused and sentenced them to death for belonging to a criminal gang. Although the death penalty is still permitted in Congo, there has been a moratorium on executions since 2003. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inhumane and irrevocable punishment.

During the trial, Manoti alleged that he collaborated with several Congolese army officers, including one he said was involved in the kidnapping incidents. Human Rights Watch has not been able to identify any judicial investigations into the alleged role played by these or other army officers, although government and military officials know of these allegations. A high-ranking army intelligence officer acknowledged to Human Rights Watch that Manoti “might have worked with some of the military” during the kidnapping incidents.

The arrest of Manoti and his men did not end the kidnappings. The majority of cases Human Rights Watch documented in 2015 occurred after their arrest. While Congolese authorities say they have arrested other alleged kidnappers, none have been brought to trial.

Citing the “immeasurable scale” of kidnappings in eastern Congo, the National Assembly’s Defense and Security Commission held a hearing on December 3 with the Vice Prime Minister and Interior Minister Evariste Boshab about the government’s response. Boshab replied that the situation is “extremely worrying” and “among the biggest security challenges confronting the government today.”

Three commission members said it was agreed that a parliamentary commission of inquiry would be established to investigate the kidnappings and possible complicity by government and security officials, and to assess what has already been done and make recommendations.

Human Rights Watch urged the commission to endorse the creation of a special police unit to document and respond to kidnapping cases; identify and arrest alleged kidnappers; report alleged complicity between kidnappers and officials; and work with judicial officers to bring those found responsible to justice in fair and credible trials.

“Putting an end to the kidnapping threat should be a top priority for the Congolese government,” Sawyer said. “The authorities not only need to bring those responsible to justice in fair trials, but also to uncover and act against any officials involved.”

Press Release from Human Rights Watch.

Click here for more Human Rights Watch reporting on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

(mew)

December 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. Has 15 Months to Implement WTO Ruling on Antidumping Dispute With Viet Nam on Frozen Warmwater Shrimp

Vietnam WTO ShrimpAn arbitrator for the World Trade Organization has issued his award regarding the “reasonable period of time” to implement the recommendations and rulings of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) in the dispute “United States – Anti-Dumping Measures on Certain Shrimp from Viet Nam” (WT/DS429/12). The arbitrator determined that the “reasonable period of time” for the United States to implement the DSB’s recommendations and rulings in this dispute is 15 months from the adoption of the panel and Appellate Body reports. The case first arose in 2012 when Viet Nam requested consultations with the United States concerning a number of anti-dumping measures on certain frozen warmwater shrimp from Viet Nam

Click here for the arbitrator's decision and for more information and background about the dispute.

(mew)

December 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

ICC Prosecutor Calls on Security Coucil to Help Bring High-Profile Indictees to Justice for Darfur War Crimes

ICC Prosecutor Fatou BensoudaThe Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today chided the United Nations Security Council for its “empty promises” to bring Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to trial for atrocities in Darfur, even as his victims cry out for justice amid indiscriminate killings and mass rape.

“Despite my repeated requests for the Council to take action with respect to Sudan’s blatant disregard of its obligations, and in violation of [it’s] resolutions, my appeals continue to be unheeded,” Fatou Bensouda told the 15-member body, noting that it was the Council itself which had referred the case of Sudan to the ICC more than 10 years ago.

“I observe with great regret that the adoption of each resolution has, in practical terms, amounted to no more than an empty promise,” she added, stressing that Mr. Al-Bashir is not only a fugitive from justice who continues to travel across international borders, but he also harbours other fugitives and refuses to facilitate their surrender to the ICC.

In 2005, the Council asked the Hague-based Court to investigate war crimes in Darfur. ICC judges issued arrest warrants in 2009 for Mr. Al-Bashir and other top officials for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the western Darfur region, where up to 300,000 people may have died and over 2 million been displaced since civil war erupted in 2003 between the Government and rebels.

“If I may be so bold, this Council must do more to demonstrate its commitment to Darfur,” Ms. Bensouda stressed. “It must confidently play its part in facilitating the arrest of suspects against whom the Court has issued warrants of arrest. It must act concretely on the Court's non-compliance communications.”

Ms. Bensouda, who has pleaded for Council action in her presentations before it over the past three years, noted that year after year, the victims’ hopes for justice and a durable peace have been dashed.

“Instead, the people of Darfur have continued to endure desolation, alleged gross violations of human rights, indiscriminate killings, mass rape and sexual abuse, while the individuals against whom ICC arrest warrants have been issued, and who may be implicated in these crimes, continue to evade justice,” she declared.

“Countless victims have been demoralized. After all, who can blame them when attaining justice appears so remote; not the least because of the absence of adequate follow-up and support from the Council. Their frustration and resignation in the face of inaction must weigh heavily on our collective conscience,” she said, urging the Council to take appropriate measures.

“Terrible crimes allegedly continue to be perpetrated in Darfur,” she concluded. “Only strong and committed action by the Council and States will stop the commission of grave crimes in Darfur and ensure that the perpetrators of past crimes are held accountable.”

(UN Press Release)

December 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Arrests of Human Rights Defenders in Cuba

The top United Nations human rights official expressed concern today over the extremely high number of arbitrary arrests and short-term detentions of individuals, including human rights defenders and dissidents, in Cuba in recent weeks.

“There have been many hundreds of arbitrary arrests and short-term detentions – which in my view amount to harassment – in the past six weeks alone, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said today.

These often take place without a warrant and ahead of specific meetings or demonstrations, and seem to be aimed at preventing people from exercising their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly, he continued.

Mr. Zeid was particularly shocked that a number of people, including members of the Ladies in White non-governmental organization, were arrested on 10 December, Human Rights Day.

“This shows an extraordinary disdain for the importance of human rights on the part of the Cuban authorities,” he said.

The High Commissioner urged the authorities to respect everyone’s right to freedom of expression, and to peaceful assembly and association, and to stop arbitrarily arresting people, in particular before, during or after peaceful demonstrations.

“I call for the release of all those arbitrarily arrested who may still be in detention as a consequence of the legitimate exercise of their rights,” Mr. Zeid concluded.

(UN Press Release)

December 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

President of the University of Iowa Apologizes for Suggesting that Unprepared Professors Should Be Shot

Several news sources are reporting today that the President of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, has apologized for suggesting that professors who are unprepared to teach should be shot.

(mew)

December 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN Rights Officials Denounce Incitement Against Muslims

Expressing “grave concern” at the outpouring of intolerance and hate speech in public discourse and in the media in recent weeks, which focused particularly on Muslims, senior United Nations human rights officials have urgently called on those in positions of authority and political leadership to act responsibly and with respect for both international and national laws.

“We are sickened by blatant manifestations of hatred and intolerance, including by public figures in response to terrorist attacks by violent extremists, particularly the deliberate and dangerous spread of misinformation and the manipulation of people’s fears and concerns for political gain,” said the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Jennifer Welsh, in a joint statement.

The Special Advisers also “strongly and unreservedly” condemned all criminal attacks by violent extremists, wherever they may take place and underlined that the damaging effects of linking such attacks to a specific population, based on its identity has resulted in discrimination and targeting of Muslim populations.

Additionally, they recalled that any “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence” is prohibited under international human rights law and by the national laws or constitutions of many countries.

The Special Advisers noted that in recent weeks, there have been numerous acts of intimidation and violence against Muslims and Muslim sites, including vandalism of mosques as well as discriminatory, xenophobic and racist statements.

Some of these statements, they said, have referred to all Muslims – and all refugees and asylum-seekers originating from Syria and Iraq – as “terrorists.”

The Special Advisers also referred to calls by politicians for Muslims to be prevented from entering the United States, to be registered in a national database, or to be forced to carry identification that would highlight their religion, and other calls for governments to refrain from accepting refugees from Syria and Iraq.

“This is unacceptable. Refugees from Syria and Iraq are fleeing precisely the kind of violence that we in the West also fear. To turn them away when they are seeking refuge is an affront to our common humanity,” said the statement.

“At this time when the world is facing complex challenges, including confronting extremist violent groups and individuals, Governments and other leading actors in society should publicly counter lies, prejudice and fear” the Special Advisers stated.

(UN Press Release)

December 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN Security Council Extends Security Force in Abyei

UNISFAThe United Nations Security Council today extended for another five months its interim peacekeeping force in Abyei, a resource-rich area contested by Sudan and South Sudan, calling on both sides to swiftly resume regular meetings to resolve the oil-rich territory’s final status.

“Continued cooperation between the Government of Sudan and Government of South Sudan is also critical for peace, security and stability and the future relations between them,” the 15-member body said in a resolution, authorizing until 15 may, 2016, the 4,500-strong UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

The force, set up by the Council in June 2011 after the outbreak of violence when Sudanese troops took control of the area shortly before South Sudan became independent, is entrusted with overseeing demilitarization and maintaining security, and the Council today called for a resumption of border demarcation discussions.

Noting that some 90,000 people still depend on humanitarian aid, it stressed the urgency of facilitating aid delivery to all affected populations, and demanded that all parties allow all humanitarian personnel full, safe and unhindered access to civilians.

It underscored that UNISFA’s protection of civilians mandate includes taking necessary actions to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, irrespective of the source of such violence.

It condemned the intermittent presence of security forces from both sides in Abyei and reaffirmed that UNISFA may undertake weapons confiscation and destruction, voicing “grave concern at the threat to peace and security in Abyei arising from the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons.”

(UN Press Release)

Photo: UN peacekeepers on patrol in Abyei. UN Photo/Stuart Price

December 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

All U.N. Member States Will Have Input in Selecting the Next Secretary General

The 193 Member States of the United Nations will for the first time be included "totally" in the selection of the next UN Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly said today, pledging to make the process as transparent and inclusive as possible.

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft highlighted a joint letter with the President of the Security Council that was sent out to all UN Member States today and which, he said, officially "starts" the process of soliciting candidates leading to the selection and appointment of the next UN chief.

According to the UN Charter, the Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly following the recommendation of the Security Council.

The letter issued today acknowledges the importance of transparency and inclusivity in the process. It also encourages Member States “to consider presenting women, as well as men, as candidates for the position of Secretary-General.”

In a new development, the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council “will offer candidates opportunities for informal dialogues or meetings with the members of their respective bodies…these can take place before the Council begins its selection by the end of July 2016 and may continue throughout the process of selection,” according to the letter.

“The process is started and the wish is that the membership, for the first time in UN history, is included totally in the discussion of the next Secretary-General," Mr. Lykketoft said, adding that he thinks “this is a watershed in the way that we are doing things.”

“Until [today], the selection process of the Secretary-General has been very secretive and involving mostly – or only – the permanent five members of the Security Council,” he said, referring to China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Of course, he continued, the permanent Council members “still have a very strong position in selecting proposals for the General Assembly, but I think if, out of this new process we are now embarking on, comes an imminent candidate supported by a majority of the membership, it will actually give the general membership an increased, de facto power in selecting the Secretary-General.”

Mr. Lykketoft went on to explain that the presentation of candidates would also give Member States the opportunity to ask questions about their position on UN priorities, such as the Sustainable Development Agenda, peace and security, and other issues.

“But I would also say it would give the opportunity of candidates to answer questions about how should the UN system…possibly be made better to deal with a more holistic view of the world challenges expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals,” he noted, expressing the hope that such consultations would illuminate prospective candidates’ political and organizational priorities.

To a question on the format of such consultations with prospective candidates, he said: “We are foreseeing open meetings with the membership of the United Nations, where you gentlemen and ladies of the press can follow the presentations and questions and answers [to and from] the candidates…that is my plan.”

The next Secretary-General will assume the role in January 2017 and will serve a five year term, which can be renewed by Member States for an additional five years.

(UN Press Release)

December 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 14, 2015

AALS Day at the United Nations

UN General AssemblyThe Association of American Law Schools Section on International Law has organized an impressive lineup of presenters for its one-day field trip to the United Nations on Thursday, January 7, 2016. The event is part of the AALS Annual Meeting and is open to all law professors attending the AALS Annual Meeting. You need not be a member of the AALS Section on International Law (although if you're a U.S. law professor reading this blog, why wouldn't you be a member of that section?).

The day-long program includes a briefing, a luncheon, a tour of the United Nations, and time to visit the U.N. bookstore and gift shop. Tickets are still available, and participants can also purchase extra tickets for interested family members.

The speakers for the program are an impressive lineup organized by Dean Claudio Grossman of the Washington College of Law at American University. The speakers are:

  • His Excellency Cristian Barros, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations, speaking on challenges facing the U.N. Security Council.
  • Andrew Gilmour (to be confirmed), Director of the Political, Peacekeeping, Humanitarian, and Human Rights Unit of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General (EOSG). Topic: “Peace, Security, and the Secretary General’s Human Rights Up Front Initiative to Prevent and Respond to Serious Human Rights Violations.”
  • Claudio Grossman (confirmed), Chair, United Nations Committee Against Torture and Dean of the American University Washington College of Law. Topic: “The Human Rights Treaty Bodies of the United Nations – Challenges for the Future”
  • Katarina Mansson (confirmed), Human Rights Treaties Division, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Topic: “Partnering for Peace and Rights: The Evolving Relationship Between the United Nations and Regional Organizations.”
  • Craig Mokhiber (confirmed), Research and Right to Development Division, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Topic: “Development and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.”
  • Salil Shetty (to be confirmed), Secretary-General, Amnesty International. Topic: “Amnesty International’s Efforts”
  • Moderator: Prof. Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School--Chicago)

When you register for the AALS annual meeting, you can select the field trip as a separate option. The cost for the day-long event is $90.00, which includes the luncheon and tour. If you have already registered for the meeting, you can still add a ticket to this event to your registration.

(mew)

December 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Chicago Bar Association Customs and U.S. International Trade Committee

The Chicago Bar Association Customs and U.S. International Trade Committee will meet on Thursday, December 17, 2015 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 321 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago, Illinois. The topic will be "FWS: The Process for Importing/Exporting Your Commercial Shipment of Wildlife" and the speaker will be Jennifer Roth, Wildlife Inspector, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement.

(mew)

December 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Chicago Bar Association Immigration and Nationality Law Committee

The Chicago Bar Association Immigration and Nationality Law Committee will meet on Thursday, December 17th, 2015, from  12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 321 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago. The topic will be "Immigration for Entrepreneurs: I-526 Petition Preparation and Source of Funds" and the speaker will be Taiyyeba S. Skomra, Attorney at Law -  Stone Grzegorek & Gonzalez LLP, Los Angeles, California.

(mew)

December 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mongolia Ends Use of the Death Penalty

Flag of MongoliaHailing Mongolia’s recent abolition of the death penalty, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, commended the move as a “welcome step in the fight for the human rights of all.”

“This development is very encouraging and a clear example of positive progress in the fight for human rights for all – including people convicted of terrible crimes,” Mr. Zeid said in a statement, in which he added: “We must not allow even the most atrocious acts to strip us of our fundamental humanity.” According to the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR), Mongolia’s passage of the law to end the death penalty, which is the result of strong and sustained leadership on the issue, has reaffirmed this essential truth.

Last week, Mongolia became the 105th country to abolish the death penalty in law. Another 60 States have moratoria, or have not carried out executions in the last 10 years, says OHCHR.

(UN Press Release)

December 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Human Rights Watch Urges the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Release Political Prisoners

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo should mark International Human Rights Day on December 10, by releasing everyone detained for their political views or for participating in peaceful political activities, Human Rights Watch said today.

“Congolese officials’ recent attempts to intimidate and silence peaceful activists and political opponents should end immediately,” said Ida Sawyer, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “International Human Rights Day is an opportune moment for the Congolese government to reverse this troubling trend and release everyone who has been locked up for peaceful political activities.”

In one of the most recent incidents, on November 28 in the eastern city of Goma, police fired teargas and live bullets in the air when about 100 people were attending a peaceful protest against the government’s failure to halt massacres in Beni territory. A 14-year-old girl was shot and wounded. Authorities arrested 12 people, including two youth activists, three teenagers, and other demonstrators and bystanders. The teenagers were released after four days, but the others remain in detention on trumped-up charges.

Later that day, when an activist from the youth movement Struggle for Change (La Lutte pour le Changement, LUCHA), which had organized the protest, went to the police station to bring food to the detainees, police interrogated him for 45 minutes, slapped him, and tore his shirt.

On November 30, Goma’s mayor, Dieudonné Malere, and senior city and security officials met with three LUCHA members. Meeting participants told Human Rights Watch that the vice mayor, Juvénal Ndabereye Senzige, told a LUCHA activist that he was “the instigator of trouble in Goma using the cover of the LUCHA movement” and that, “if there are deaths in a future demonstration, it’s you who we will take and make disappear. We will take you to a place where no one will be able to find you.” In a meeting with Human Rights Watch on December 9, the vice mayor denied saying this.

On December 3, Mayor Malere issued a statement saying that LUCHA did not have the correct legal administrative documents and that it operates in “total illegality.” The mayor said that “all LUCHA members and those who support them, from near or far, [should] cease all activities aimed at disturbing public order.” Congolese law permits people to peacefully protest without being registered as an association, Human Rights Watch said.

Following the LUCHA protest, on December 3, a coalition of 33 Congolese human rights organizations, known as the Coalition for the Respect of the Constitution, published a declaration urging the Congolese government to respect the right to hold peaceful meetings and demonstrations. The coalition also expressed concern that the government’s announced national dialogue to discuss elections could lead to electoral delays, which it said would violate Congo’s constitution. Two days later, Congo’s communications minister announced that the government had opened an “administrative investigation” into the 33 coalition member groups.

Over the past year, government officials and security forces have clamped down on those who have opposed attempts to delay the scheduled November 2016 presidential elections and extend President Joseph Kabila’s term in office.

Under Congo’s constitution, President Kabila is due to step down in December 2016, at the end of his second term. Preparations for the November 2016 elections have yet to begin. Kabila and members of his majority coalition have indicated that the elections might be delayed, citing the flawed voter list and the high cost of elections.

The police and Republican Guard fatally shot more than 40 people during demonstrations in the capital, Kinshasa, and in Goma in January against proposed changes to the electoral law. Authorities have sought to ban political demonstrations in cities across the country, and dozens of youth activists, students, musicians, journalists, political party leaders, and supporters have been jailed. The National Intelligence Agency (Agence Nationale de Renseignements, ANR) held many of those arrested for weeks or months without charge and without access to their families or lawyers. Some have been put on trial on politically motivated charges.

In the southeastern city of Lubumbashi on December 1, police fired teargas to block supporters of the TP Mazembe soccer team from entering a private stadium to attend a meeting with the team’s president, Moise Katumbi. The former governor of Katanga province, Katumbi resigned from Kabila’s political party in September, citing concerns about delays in organizing elections.

On November 4 and 5, three members of the opposition political party Innovative Forces for Union and Solidarity (Forces Novatrices pour l’Union et la Solidarité, FONUS), including a 78-year-old woman with a disability, were arrested in Kinshasa following a news conference by the party’s president, Joseph Olengankoyi, opposing delays in national elections. Those arrested were taken to a detention facility run by Congo’s intelligence services. The elderly woman was released after 26 days, while the other two were transferred to the prosecutor’s office after 33 days and charged with attacking state security. They are now in Kinshasa’s central prison.

The extension of Kabila’s term in office, referred to by his political opponents as glissement, or “sliding,” has met with widespread opposition, including by the Catholic Church, civil society groups, youth activists, and former members of Kabila’s majority coalition who have formed a group called the “G7.” Many have called for protests in early 2016 if the government does not start carrying out clear plans for timely elections.

Congo’s national prosecutor said during a news conference in Kinshasa on December 2, 2015, that public calls for people to go to the streets and demonstrate “are undoubtedly a very clear way of cranking up the engine or pushing the trigger and putting peace at risk.”

On November 28, Kabila announced he wished to hold a national dialogue to prepare the way for elections, though he did not say when it would start. Many opposition leaders have refused to participate, saying they believe it is another attempt to delay elections or to propose constitutional changes that would extend Kabila’s term in office.

Kabila also said that he would grant individual pardons to some political prisoners to help “restore calm.” Any initiative to pardon prisoners should be part of a broader program to release all prisoners held in violation of their basic rights, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Congolese government should release all political prisoners as a critical step in the right direction,” Sawyer said. “This step should be accompanied by measures to prevent such abuses in the future, including by halting arbitrary detentions and prosecuting officials responsible for rights violations.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the Democratic Republic of Congo, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/africa/democratic-republic-congo

(mew)

 

December 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

National Immigrant Justice Center Statement: America Welcomes All Faiths

The National Immigrant Justice Center issued the following statement in response to hateful rhetoric about Muslims and refugees in the United States.

WE ARE AMERICAN BECAUSE WE WELCOME ALL FAITHS

Statement of Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center

CHICAGO (December 10, 2015) — As a human rights organization that has been entrenched in the U.S. immigrant rights movement for 30 years, we’ve seen both the best and the worst of America’s treatment of immigrants. Every year, thanks to America’s history as a country that was founded by and welcomes immigrants and refugees fleeing persecution, we are able to provide legal services to more than 10,000 men, women, and children who have come here seeking more secure lives, who are drawn by America’s promise as a place that welcomes people of all faiths and backgrounds, and who dream about pursuing education, building businesses, working, and raising families in peace. They strive for the day they can give back to the society that has welcomed them. While there are many ways in which the U.S. immigration system must be improved to be more fair and humane, it is not lost on us that the reason we can do this work, and represent these aspiring Americans, is that our country has a strong historical and legal foundation to do so.

The anti-Muslim rhetoric that has taken hold in our country’s political discourse in recent weeks is un-American and undermines the historical and moral foundation of our country. Proposals of state-sponsored discrimination and alienation of any group should alarm all Americans who value freedom of religion and speech. These are the types of policies the asylum seekers and refugees NIJC represents have fled – including Muslims who are fleeing the horrors of ISIS.

Our country’s immigration system has evolved through a constant negotiation of how we uphold our values of liberty and our legacy of providing refuge to those fleeing persecution, with the need to defend our own security. Promoting the categorical exclusion of any group based on their nationality or religion reveals a shameful ignorance of both U.S. immigration law and foreign policy, and neglects the disastrous cultural and security impacts that would be wrought by such policies. We are American because we welcome all faiths and backgrounds.

With offices in Chicago, Indiana, and Washington, D.C., Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. Visit immigrantjustice.org.

(mew)

 

December 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. Congressional Updates

On December 8, 2015, the U.S. Senate agreed to S Res 207, recognizing threats to freedom of the press and expression around the world and reaffirming freedom of the press as a priority in efforts of the United States Government to promote democracy and good governance.

On the same day, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 3766, the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015.

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.

(mew)

December 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

International Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day Dec 10Marking this year’s Human Rights Day amid extraordinary global challenges, the United Nations is calling on the world to recognize and guarantee fundamental freedoms – long recognized “as the birthright of all people” – freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

“In a year that marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we can draw inspiration from the history of the modern human rights movement, which emerged from the Second World War,” said Mr. Ban in a message to mark Human Rights Day, celebrated annually on 10 December.

Mr. Ban hailed the four basic freedoms identified by former United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt – freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear, and stressed that today's extraordinary challenges can be seen and addressed “through the lens of [those] four freedoms.”

The Secretary-General highlighted the condition of millions of people, who are denied freedom of expression and are living under threat and urged to defend, preserve and expand democratic practices and space for civil society for lasting stability.

Mr. Ban also noted that across the globe, terrorists have “hijacked religion, betraying its spirit by killing in its name,” or targeting minorities and exploring fears for political gain, thereby denying people their freedom of worship.

“In response, we must promote respect for diversity based on the fundamental equality of all people and the right to freedom of religion,” stressed the Secretary-General.

Speaking about freedom from want, UN chief said much of humankind is plagued by deprivation and called on world leaders to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the aim of ending poverty and enabling all people to live in dignity on a peaceful, healthy planet.

Mr. Ban also said that millions of refugees and internally displaced persons are a tragic product of the failure to fulfil the freedom from fear, adding that not since the Second World War have so many people been forced to flee their homes.

“They run from war, violence and injustice across continents and oceans, often risking their lives. In response, we must not close but open doors and guarantee the right of all to seek asylum, without any discrimination. Migrants seeking an escape from poverty and hopelessness should also enjoy their fundamental human rights,” said the Secretary-General.

Lastly, reaffirming UN’s commitment to protecting human rights as the foundation of the Organization’s work, Mr. Ban highlighted the features of the Human Rights Up Front initiative, which aims to prevent and respond to large-scale violations.

Echoing those sentiments, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein added that “freedom is the ideal that underpins what we now recognize as international human rights law, the norms and regulations that protect and guarantee our rights.”

In a video message, Mr. Zeid noted that Human Rights Day 2015 marks the launch of a year-long campaign to celebrate the 50th anniversary of two of the oldest international human rights treaties – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“These two documents, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, form the ‘International Bill of Human Rights,’ which together set out the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights which are the birth right of all human beings,” said Mr. Zeid.

He also stressed that freedoms set out in these documents are universal, applicable to everyone, everywhere and noted that traditional practices, cultural norms, cannot justify taking them away.

“The world has changed since the UN General Assembly adopted the Two Covenants in 1966.

The Covenants, together with the other human rights treaties, have played an important role in securing better respect and recognition during the past five, at times turbulent, decades,” added Mr. Zeid.

At the same time, the UN rights chief noted that the drafters of the Covenants could have had little idea of issues such as digital privacy, counter-terrorism measures and climate change, but respect for freedom continues to be the foundation for peace, security and development for all.

Lastly, echoing the theme of this year’s Day, he urged everyone to join the celebration of freedom, to help “spread the message the world over that our rights, our freedoms are inalienable and inherent – now, and always.”

(UN Press Release)

December 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)