Friday, June 20, 2014

Myanmar Urged to Dump Proposed Legislation on Religious Conversion

A group of independent United Nations human rights experts today called on the Government of Myanmar to do away with a draft bill imposing restrictions on religious conversion, stressing the right of every individual to freely choose or to change their faith. The experts – on freedom of religion, minority issues and human rights in Myanmar – warned that the draft bill, made public on 27 May inviting comments from monks and the public, sets out a cumbersome application and approval process for conversion while purporting to make it easier for individuals to freely convert. It also provides for disproportionate criminal sanctions on offenders, according to a news release issued by the three experts. In addition, some provisions are “vague and subject to interpretation that may lead to discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities or the poor.”

The experts noted that seeking comments from the public on draft legislation is commendable in promoting political participation of the people. “But in this instance,” they added, “this process appears partial to the interest of one particular group and simply propagates the spread of incitement of racial and religious hatred, which the Government must do more to address.”

The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, noted that State interferences into the right to change one’s religion or belief are “illegitimate and incompatible with international human rights standards.”

“Freedom of religion or belief is a human right, irrespective of State approval, and respect for freedom of religion or belief does not depend on administrative registration procedures,” he stressed. “I am very disturbed by the attempt to regulate religious conversion.”

Rita Izsák, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, highlighted the potential for the bill to impact negatively on religious freedoms and the rights of religious and ethnic minorities. “I urge Myanmar to strengthen its protections in line with international standards not to create obstacles to the enjoyment of religious identity, minority rights, and the right of every individual to freely choose or to change their faith,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, noted some “worrying backtracking” on Myanmar’s progress towards a more democratic nation in the last six months, including through the arbitrary arrest and the prosecution of activists and journalists deemed anti-establishment. Ms. Lee warned the draft bill – one of four composing a legislative package on the protection of race and religion – “signals the risk of Myanmar going off-track on its path to being a responsible member of the international community that respects and protects human rights.”

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the 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)

June 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day is commemorated every year on June 20.  It is a day to reflect on the plight of persons who are forcibly displaced from their homes and communities, to recognize their resilience, and to find ways to help refugees rebuild their lives.

The most recent statistics available from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees show that more than 42 million persons were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2012, the highest number in 20 years. In 2013, asylum claims increased by 28%, indicating that the trend continues. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is conducting a "1 Campaign" meaning that one family torn apart by war is too many.  If you are a lawyer or a law student reading this blog, you can help a refugee by providing pro bono legal services.


June 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Anniversary of the Adoption of the International Declaration of Human Rights

On this day, June 18, in 1948, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted its International Declaration of Human Rights, creating "a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations."  The vote was 12-0 in favor, with an abstention from the Soviet bloc. A New York Times article describing the action and containing the text of the Declaration may be found here.  This act led to the subsequent adoption of the UN Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948.  That Declaration has now largely made its way into customary international law and inspired many subsequent international human rights treaties.


June 18, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Libel Tourism

Professor Mark Wojcik of The John Marshall Law School will give a lecture on "Libel Tourism" at the University of Denver on Tuesday, August 26, 2014.

June 18, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

IBA and ILSA Conference in London (September 2014)

Save the date! The International Law Students Association (ILSA) and the International Bar Association (IBA) will hold a conference in London (United Kingdom) on September 5-6, 2014.

The conference will offer student participants:

  • A chance to meet fellow law students from around the world 
  • A range of educational and vocational panels
  • A Jessup Compromis Panel Discussion with experts considering the issues raised by the newly released 2015 Jessup Compromis 
  • A complementary drinks and canapé reception, as well as catered lunches and breaks for all delegates.
  • A chance to explore one of the world’s most iconic cities

Registration for the conference is available by clicking here.


June 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 16, 2014

AALS Annual Meeting in Washington DC

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.


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

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Uganda's Foreign Minister Elected as Next U.N. General Assembly President

Sam Kutesa, the foreign minister of Uganda, was unanimously elected to be President of the U.N. General Assembly at the start of the 69th Session of the General Assembly.  Kutesa will follow current Assembly President John Ashe of Antigua at the start of the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly in September.

Kutesa's election is controversial because Uganda recently passed extreme anti-gay legislation.  There are also allegations that he abused his office and accepted bribes from foreign companies.


June 12, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The U.S.-Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council

The U.S.-Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council was created in 2004 to provide a forum for member governments to discuss issues of common interest and improve opportunties for mutual trade and investment. A press release from the U.S. Trade Representative describes the U.S.-Central Asia TIFA as "the key vehicle for trade and investment discussions between the United States and the countries of Central Asia."
Members of the U.S.-Central Asia TIFA include Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the United States. Afghanistan has observer status at the moment, but its membership in TIFA was discussed during a TIFA Meeting this week in Washington D.C. The next meeting of the U.S.-Central Asia TIFA Council will be held somewhere in central Asia at a date to be determined.

June 12, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Book on the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

I am pleased to share that my colleague at Southern Illinois University School of Law, Michael Koehler (aka the FCPA Professor) has published a new book, “The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a New Era" (Edward Elgar Publishing).  The book dissects the FCPA’s new era and places the FCPA’s new era in context, providing a practical and provocative analysis of the FCPA, its enforcement, and related topics.

The book contains excerpts from the FCPA’s statutory text, legislative history, judicial decisions and enforcement agency guidance.  In addition, over seventy FCPA enforcement actions are discussed and useful tables and charts concerning a variety of FCPA enforcement topics are included.  The book places an emphasis on learning FCPA issues incrementally in the belief that foundational knowledge introduced early will best enhance understanding and comprehension of specific FCPA topics.

The book contains compliance pointers and risk-assessment strategies that can lessen the likelihood of FCPA violations from occurring when doing business in the global marketplace.  In this way, the book provides a toolkit that readers can use to better understand the FCPA, its enforcement, and the many legal and policy issues present in this new era.

For more information about the book, or to order a hard copy, click here.  Professors interested in receiving a review copy can e-mail (with details of the class the book will be used for).  Professor Koehler uses the book as a foundation his Foreign Corrupt Practices Act class at Southern Illinois University School of Law.


June 10, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

German International Law Professor and President of Bucerius Law School Elected to German Constitutional Court

The Judges Election Committee of the German Federal Parliament has elected Prof. Dr. Doris König, President of the Bucerius Law School and holder of the ‘Clausen-Simon-Foundation Chair for International Law,’ as a judge of the German Federal Constitutional Court. Judges to that court are elected for a 12-year term and cannot be re-elected.


June 10, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Call for Papers: ASIL Research Forum in Chicago this November

ASIL Forum ChicagoThe American Society of International Law (ASIL) is calling for submissions of scholarly papers for the Fourth Annual ASIL Research Forum to be held at the organization's  Mid-Year Meeting in Chicago, Illinois on November 6-8, 2014.  

The Research Forum is a Society initiative that aims to provide a setting for the presentation and focused discussion of works-in-progress.  Papers can be on any topic related to international and transnational law and should be unpublished.  The deadline for submission of proposals has been extended to June 15.  Additional details may be found here.

The Chicago Research Forum will also include an international career event to be held at The John Marshall Law School from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. on November 6, 2014

(cgb and mew)

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

World Environment Day

World Environment DayJune 5 is World Environment Day.  The United Nations General Assembly created World Environment Day in 1972 to encourage worldwide awareness and action on the environment.

The United Nations General Assembly also declared 2014 the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).  Accordingly, this year's World Environment Day theme, "Raise Your Voice, Not  the Sea Level", focuses on the effects of global warming on rising water levels for SIDS.

For more information, visit the website of the United Nations Environmental Program.


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

Lithuania to Join Euro in 2015

The European Commission issued a report yesterday stating that Lithuania is ready to join the eurozone as of January 1, 2015.  The Commission's recommendation now goes to the other Euopean member states for their approval, which is expected in July.  

Lithuania is the only state to have been previously rejected for euro membership in 2006 when it could not hit target inflation rates.  Lithuania has hit all its targets this time around. The other two Baltic states, Lavtia and Estonia, are already members of the eurozone.

Lithuania is likely the last new member of the eurozone for several years.  Romania has begun the process, but is unlikely to meet membership targets and join the eurozone until at least 2019.


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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Update on U.S. Legislation and Legislative Hearings

Bills Introduced

H Res 600 (Grayson, D-FL), urging the government of Afghanistan, following a successful first round of the presidential election on 4/5/14, to pursue a transparent, credible, and inclusive run-off presidential election on 6/14/14, while ensuring the safety of voters, candidates, poll workers, and election observers; to Foreign Affairs, and Armed Services. Congressional Record 5/28/14, H4909. 


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on developments in Ukraine. 6/5/14, 10 am, 419 Dirksen. 

Floor Action 

On 5/28/14, the House passed HR 4587, to impose targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for carrying out or ordering human rights abuses against the citizens of Venezuela.

 On 5/28/14, the House passed H Res 599, to urge the government of the People’s Republic of China to respect the freedom of assembly, expression, and religion and all fundamental human rights and the rule of law for all its citizens and to stop censoring discussion of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations and their violent suppression, by a vote of 379 to 1.

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office 


June 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

US Supreme Court Declines to Address Scope of Treaty Power in Bond

The United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Bond v United States yesterday, a closely watched case involving the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC materials) that potentially could have restricted the federal government's treaty powers. 

Carol Bond stole a toxic chemical substance at work and used it to harm  her husband's lover. She was charged criminally under a federal statute that implements the CWC in US law. She defended in part on the grounds that the implementing statute exceeds Congress' powers in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution because it intruded into areas of criminal law traditionally regulated by the states, not the federal government.

The Supreme Court refused to reach the constitutional issue regarding the scope of Congress' treaty power, employing the doctrine known as avoidance of constitutional questions.  Instead, the Court focused on the language of the implementing statute and found that Congress did not intend to reach purely local crimes such as Bond's under that statute.

The Court's decision is good news for those who were concerned that the Court would take this opportunity to revisit Missouri v Holland and narrow the understanding of the federal government's treaty powers.


June 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

International Courts Committee of the ABA Section of International Law to Discuss What Happens When International Criminal Courts Close Down

Save the Date!  The International Courts Committee of the American Bar Association Section of International Law will present a panel in the section's fall meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the topic of "Closing Courts Down: Residual Mechanisms and the After-Life of International Criminal Courts." The program will be held on Thursday, October 23, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. during the section's fall meeting.

Program Description

A variety of criminal courts established over the past 25 years adjudicated violations of international law. These courts include the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and 'hybrid courts' such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Criminal Panels of the District Court of Dili, the 'Regulation 64' Panels in Kosovo, and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. In 2013, the Special Court for Sierra Leone completed its judicial mandate following the appeals judgment in the Charles Taylor case. With the primary work of the court done, issues remain including (a) preservation of evidence and archival of materials, (b) potential requests for pardon or commutation of sentences, and (c) ongoing issues of witness protection. This panel will discuss these residual issues and see what lessons may be applied to other criminal tribunals as they complete their mandates. The panel will also consider ethical issues regarding the temporary nature of the courts, the long-term legacy of international justice, and ethical obligations of attorneys appearing before courts that disappear.

Confirmed Committee Sponsors of the ABA Section of International Law

Primary Sponsor: International Courts Committee

Co-Sponsors:  Africa Committee, International Criminal Law Committee, International Judicial Affairs Committee, UN and International Institutions Coordinating Committee

Members of the ABA Section of International Law are invited to join the International Courts Committee. Visit the committee webpage on the Section website for more information.


May 31, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

GLS Award Winners Announced at Conference in Verona, Italy

Verona BridgeMore than 180 persons from over 20 countries around the world participated in the ninth Global Legal Skills Conference, which was held from May 21-23, 2014 at the University of Verona Faculty of Law (Italy).  The conference included presentation of GLS Awards in the following categories: (1) individuals; (2) books; and (3) institutions. 

Announcement of the 2014 GLS Award Winners

Individual Winners

  • Prof. Heidi Brown, New York Law School (New York, USA), nominated and recognized for her work with students to reduce extreme fear of public speaking and increase performance in classrooms, oral arguments, and client-centered legal skills activities.
  • Prof. Juli Campagna, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University (New York, USA) and Adjunct Professor of Law, Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey (Mexico), recognized for developing English Immersion Training Programs and for exceptional devotion to meeting the needs of international students around the world.
  • Dean Marion Dent, ANO Pericles, (Moscow, Russian Federation), recognized for her work in higher education in Russia and for her work to bring the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition to Russia.

Book Awards

  • Deborah B. McGregor and Cynthia M. AdamsThe International Lawyer's Guide to Legal Analysis and Communication in the United States (Wolters Kluwer 2008).
  • Anthony S. Winer, Mary Ann E. Archer, and Lyonette Louis-JacquesInternational Law Legal Research (Carolina Academic Press 2013), a book designed to enrich international law courses by showing students how to research sources of international law, and to help law schools create stand-alone courses in international law legal research.

Institutional Winner

  • BarWrite and BarWrite Press, New York, USA (Dr. Mary Campbell Gallagher), for its early and thoughtful recognition of the special bar exam preparation needs needs of lawyers and law students from other countries.

Congratulations to all of the winners.  GLS Awards will be presented again next year in Chicago at the tenth Global Legal Skills Conference, which will be co-hosted by The John Marshall Law School-Chicago and the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey (Mexico).

Photo of Verona by Professor David Austin (California Western School of Law).


May 31, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Global Legal Skills Conference in Verona Italy Concludes; Next GLS Conference Will Be Held in Chicago

Verona BridgeThe ninth Global Legal Skills Conference had more than 180 participants from over 20 countries around the world. The conference was held at the University of Verona Faculty of Law (Italy) and organized by The John Marshall Law School of Chicago.

A number of professional associations were co-sponsors of the GLS Conference, including:

  • American Bar Association Section of International Law (ABA-SIL)
  • International Bar Association (IBA)
  • Law Society of England and Wales (International Division)
  • International Law Students Association (ILSA)
  • Scribes—The American Society of Legal Writers
  • Teaching International Law Committee of the American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA)

The next GLS Conference--an important 10th anniversary--will be held in May 2015 in Chicago at The John Marshall Law School, where the conference was founded by Professor Mark E. Wojcik (a co-editor of this blog). The 2015 Conference will be jointly sponsored by The John Marshall Law School and the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey (Mexico), which was the host of the third and fifth editions of the Global Legal Skills Conference.

The call for papers and presenations will be issued by September 2014. The conference will include sessions on teaching international law as well as incorporating legal skills educaiton into international law classes.


(Photo of Verona by Professor David W. Austin of the California Western School of Law)

May 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Yemen to Become 160th Member of WTO

Yemen filed its "Instrument of Acceptance" with the World Trade Organization (WTO) today and is about to become the 160th member of the trade organization.  Its membership is expected to be effective June 26, 2014.

Yemen applied for membership in 2000 and completed the accession process in 2013.  It is one of the  least developed countries to join the WTO. Yemen hopes to benefit from technical assistance and capacity building from the WTO Secretariat.

For more information, visit the WTO website.



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

Monday, May 26, 2014

Successful Global Legal Skills Conference Comes to a Close

GLS closingThe 9th annual Global Legal Skills (GLS) Conference held in for the first time in Verona, Italy has come to a close. It was the largest GLS conference to date with more than 180 participants from over 20 countries.  

Verona Photo 1GLS-9 was held on May 21-23, 2014 at the University of Verona Faculty of Law, with an additional day (May 24) as an excursion to Vicenza, Italy, where participants heard presentations from a member of the City Council of Vicenza, the President of the Bar Association of Vicenza, and from three Italian lawyers who described various aspects of the Italian legal system and Italian legal education. Professor David Austin of California Western School of Law in San Diego, California was an additional commentator and translator for some of those presentations. 

The conference opened on the evening of Wednesday, May 21, with a reception across from the Roman Arena in Verona, a complex built in the 1st Century A.D.  Family members and friends joined the conference participants that evening for an enjoyable and memorable evening.

The opening plenary session included the Conference Founder and Co-Chair, Professor Mark Wojcik of The John Marshall Law School (a co-editor of this blog, pictured below left with Professor Cindy Buys of Southern Illinois University School of Law, who is also a co-editor of this blog). Also speaking on the opening Plenary were other Conference Co-Chairs Professor Stefano Troiano of the University of Verona Faculty of Law, Professor Kimberly Holst (Chair-Elect of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research), Professor William B.T. Mock, Jr. (Secretary of the American Bar Association Section of International Law, one of the co-sponsoring organizations), Mr. Leonard Amari (President of the Board of Trustees of The John Marshall Law School), Gerardo Puertas Gomez (Presidente del Consejo, Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey, Mexico, the institution that hosted GLS-3 and GLS-5), and the other GLS-9 Conference Co-Chairs Professor David Austin (California Western School of Law), Lurene Contento (The John Marshall Law School-Chicago), and Paolo Butturini (University of Verona). 

GLS Mark and Cindy

Professors Contento, Butturini, and Wojcik presided over the GLS "Parade of Nations," which introduced national delegations from the following countries participating in GLS-9: 

  • Australia
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • China
  • Egypt
  • France
  • Republic of Georgia
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Kuwait
  • Latvia
  • Mexico
  • Norway
  • Romania
  • Qatar
  • Russia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Delegates expected from other countries including Japan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and the Islamic Republic of Iran were unable to attend.

Many great presentations and ideas for improving teaching students from around the globe were shared, including one session of international law professors from around the world who exchanged information on teaching opportunities and on cutting-edge issues in international law. As many as six concurrent panels were held in nine different session time slots over the two days that the conference presentations were made at the University of Verona Faculty of Law.  

Mark Wojcik deserves a huge amount of praise for the great work he and his planning team did to make the conference such a great success.  And many thanks for the University of Verona Law School for hosting!



May 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)