Friday, March 7, 2014
The U.S. Southern Regional Jessup Competition is being hosted at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. If you're able to attend, the semifinal rounds start at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday and the final rounds at 1:00 p.m.
Further to our post earlier this week on a court decision calling into question a US$9.5 billion judgment from Ecuador, we're happy to share this link to analysis on the FCPA Blog by Professor Mike Koehler.
In honor of International Women's Day, March 8, here is a Washington Post article and map of where in the world women work. As the author points out, when women work, they have more economic independence, which is often linked to greater human rights.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
The Onion is not a real newspaper. It's stories are not real. But every now and then their stories get confused with real stories. This is NOT one of those moments.
Here is the Onion's story about the actress Jennifer Lawrence and the 1986 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties Between States and International Organizations. Enjoy. Scroll through the nine pictures to read the captions.
Hat tip to Rusty.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
The Daily Star of Lebanon is reporting today (on page 4) that in January, Judge Naji al-Dahdah dismissed a case against a transsexual woman who had been charged with having a same-sex relationship with a man, a criminal act under article 534 of Lebanon's Penal Code. The article cites the quarterly magazine The Legal Agenda as its source for the report.
The Daily Star reports:
Dahdah ruled that Article 534, which criminalizes “unnatural sexual intercourse,” did not provide a clear interpretation of what was considered unnatural.
The verdict relied in large part on a December 2009 ruling by Judge Mounir Suleiman that consensual homosexual relations were not against nature and could therefore not be prosecuted under Article 534.
Suleiman said: “Man is part of nature and is one of its elements, so it cannot be said that any one of his practices or any one of his behaviors goes against nature, even if it is criminal behavior, because it is nature’s ruling.”
The February case is thought to be the first ever involving a transsexual, and although Dahdah initially referred to the defendant as male, he later switched to using “he/she.” This demonstrates “the matter’s complexity and depth,” wrote the author of the Agenda article, trainee lawyer Youmna Makhlouf.
In his final ruling, Dahdah said that a person’s gender should not simply be based on their personal status registry document, but also on their outward physical appearance and self-perception.
Federal Court Rules that $9.5 Billion (!) Damage Award from Ecuador is Tainted by Misdeeds of Lawyer
The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that a federal judge has ruled that a $9.5 billion environmental damage award from Ecuador against Chevron is tainted by the misdeeds of the lawyer suing Chevron.
U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan found that attorney Steven Donziger and his litigation team had fabricated evidence, promised $500,000 to an Ecuadorian judge, ghost-wrote much of t he final verdict, and took other actions that tainted the award. Jennifer Smith & Daniel Gilbert, Judge Rips Lawyer, Hands Win to Chevron, Wall St. J., Mar. 5, 2014, at 1.
In February 2011, a provincial rainforest tribunal (Lago Agrio) in Ecuador imposed a verdict of $19 billion against Chevron. The Supreme Court of Ecuador cut the award in half. The case in New York arose as part of efforts to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment against the California-based company.
In the opinon issued yesterday, Chevron Corp. v. Donziger, 2014 WL 81553 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 2014), the court wrote about this "extraordinary" case involving "things that normally come only out of Hollywood" that the lawyer corrupted the Lago Agrio case against Chevron:
Upon consideration of all of the evidence, including the credibility of the witnesses—though several of the most important declined to testify—the Court finds that Donziger began his involvement in this controversy with a desire to improve conditions in the area in which his Ecuadorian clients live. To be sure, he sought also to do well for himself while doing good for others, but there was nothing wrong with that. In the end, however, he and the Ecuadorian lawyers he led corrupted the Lago Agrio case. They submitted fraudulent evidence. They coerced one judge, first to use a court-appointed, supposedly impartial, “global expert” to make an overall damages assessment and, then, to appoint to that important role a man whom Donziger hand-picked and paid to “totally play ball” with the LAPs. They then paid a Colorado consulting firm secretly to write all or most of the global expert's report, falsely presented the report as the work of the court-appointed and supposedly impartial expert, and told half-truths or worse to U.S. courts in attempts to prevent exposure of that and other wrongdoing. Ultimately, the LAP team wrote the Lago Agrio court's Judgment themselves and promised $500,000 to the Ecuadorian judge to rule in their favor and sign their judgment. If ever there were a case warranting equitable relief with respect to a judgment procured by fraud, this is it.
Id. at *1.
The court also wrote that there was no "Robin Hood" defense to the attorneys' wrongful conduct:
Justice is not served by inflicting injustice. The ends do not justify the means. There is no “Robin Hood” defense to illegal and wrongful conduct. And the defendants' “this-is-the-wayit-is-done-in-Ecuador” excuses—actually a remarkable insult to the people of Ecuador—do not help them. The wrongful actions of Donziger and his Ecuadorian legal team would be offensive to the laws of any nation that aspires to the rule of law, including Ecuador—and they knew it. Indeed, one Ecuadorian legal team member, in a moment of panicky candor, admitted that if documents exposing just part of what they had done were to come to light, “apart from destroying the proceeding, all of us, your attorneys, might go to jail.” It is time to face the facts.
There's a lot more to be said about this court decision, which is 485 pages long. We welcome your comments on this story.
CNN news and other media outlets are reporting that legislators in Russia are now drafting legislation to authorize the siezure of U.S. and European assets if economic sanctions are imposed against Russia for sending troops into Ukraine.
Monday, March 3, 2014
ICJ Orders Provisional Measures in Questions Relating to the Seizure of Certain Documents and Data (Timor-Leste v. Australia)
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an Order today granting certain Provisional Measures requested by Timor-Leste in connection with certain documents and seized by Australia that contain communications between Timor-Leste and its attorney concerning a pending arbitration under the Timor Sea Treaty. In its Order, the ICJ stated that Australia must ensure the documents and data are not used to the disadvantage of Timor-Leste; that the documents and data be kept under seal; and that Australia not interfere in any way in communications between Timor-Leste and its legal counsel or in any future bilateral negotiations relating to maritime delineation.
For more informaton, visit the ICJ website here.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Each year, the U.S. State Department releases human rights reports on most of the countries around the world. These reports assess the progress made by countries with respect to meeting their human rights commitments, as well as their failures (as determined by the U.S. State Dept.). This year's reports highlight "egregious human rights violations" in Syria, a lack of judicial independence in China, targeting of the LGBT community in Russia, and repression of freedom of assembly in Egypt, among other human rights concerns. The reports may be found on the State Deparment website here.
Friday, February 28, 2014
The United Nations Security Council held Friday what its President described as an "urgent" meeting on the situation in Ukraine, with the body's members noting that it is important for all political actors in the strife-torn country to exercise maximum restraint and pursue inclusive dialogue. "The Security Council…reviewed with concern the recent developments in Ukraine," said Raimonda Murmokaité, Permanent Representative of Lithuania, which holds the rotating presidency of the 15-nation body for February.
The Council held closed-door consultations at the request of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN, which appealed in a letter on Friday to the Council President for an urgent meeting "due to the deterioration of the situation in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, Ukraine, which threatens the territorial integrity of Ukraine."
On Saturday, 22 February, Members of the Parliament of Ukraine -- which had been witnessing mass protests since last November -- voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych, and an arrest warrant has reportedly been issued for his arrest. The move came after more than 100 people were killed last week in the latest wave of deadly clashes in the capital, Kiev.
Speaking to the press after the consultations, Ambassador Murmokaité said the Council had been briefed by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco.
"Support was expressed for the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. The Council agreed that it was important that all political actors in Ukraine exercise maximum restraint and called for an inclusive dialogue recognizing the diversity of the Ukrainian society," said the Council President.
Amid the rapidly unfolding events in Ukraine, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an inclusive political process to enable the country to emerge from the crisis, one which reflects the aspirations of its people and preserves its unity and territorial integrity.
"He reiterates his call for non-violence and urges all Ukrainians to express their differences peacefully and through dialogue, and to seek a durable solution through compromise," Mr. Ban's spokesperson said in a statement issued in New York earlier this week.
In addition, this past Tuesday, the Secretary-General dispatched Robert Serry to Kiev as his Senior Advisor to assure all citizens of Ukraine of the UN's support and also convey that he expects all key international actors to work collaboratively to help the country during the crisis.
Mr. Serry has held meetings with, among others, the new Speaker of Parliament, the Vice Prime Minister, the acting Minister of Finance, and the acting Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss the situation and concerted efforts to bring about a stable and prosperous future.
(adapted from a UN press release)
The United Nations human rights chief today condemned the recent violence in Venezuela, and urged the Government to ensure respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. “The inflammatory rhetoric from all sides is utterly unhelpful and risks escalating the tense situation in the country,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed. “It is time for all sides to move beyond verbal aggression and towards meaningful dialogue. This crisis will only be resolved if the human rights of all Venezuelans are respected.”
In a news release issued by her office (OHCHR), Ms. Pillay also voiced deep concern at the reported excessive use of force by the authorities in response to protests, including yesterday in the capital, Caracas. She unequivocally condemned the violence leading to death and injuries, irrespective of the perpetrators, and called on all sides to renounce violence.
At least 140 people have been injured and 13 people have died since the beginning of the unrest, according to the General Public Prosecutor. Noting that 11 police and intelligence officers have been arrested in connection with violence during the protests, Ms. Pillay urged an impartial, full and independent investigation into every case of death and injury, and for those responsible to be brought to justice. OHCHR said that, according to the latest known official figures, 579 people have been arrested since the unrest in the country began earlier this month.
“I am concerned that a very large number of people have been arrested and we have reports indicating that some of them are being held incommunicado. I urge the authorities to ensure that people are not penalised for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression,” said the High Commissioner. “Those who are being detained merely for exercising these rights must be promptly released. All cases must be handled according to international standards of due process.” She added that concrete action by the authorities, including through full and independent investigations, releasing peaceful protestors who have been detained, as well as disarming armed groups, will go a long way towards defusing tensions and paving the way for resolving the crisis.
Earlier this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his sadness at continuing reports of violence and loss of life amid protests in the South American nation, and urged that all efforts be made to lower the tensions and prevent further violence.“He hopes for concrete gestures by all parties to reduce polarization and create the necessary conditions to engage in a meaningful dialogue so that calm can be fully restored in the country as soon as possible,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
(UN press release)
First, the DSB established a panel at the request of Denmark, on behalf of the Faroe Islands, to consider economic measures regarding Atlanto-Scandian herring and Northeast Atlantic mackerel imposed by the European Union (EU) against the Faroe Islands. The Faroe Islands is a self-governing territory forming an integral part of Denmark and covered territorially by Danish WTO membership. In Denmark's view, the EU measures are inconsistent with basic provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994 and have no justification under WTO law. WTO members reserving third-party rights include Turkey, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, China, United States, Japan, Australia, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand, Iceland, Russia and India. For more information, see WTO case no. DS469.
The second panel established by the WTO DSB this week is a compliance panel under Article 21. 5 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU). In this case, the WTO DSB established the panel at the request of the United States to examine China's compliance with a 2103 arbitrator's decision establishing a reasonable time for compliance with the WTO Appellate Body Report in the case of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties on Grain-Oriented and Flat-Rolled Electrical Steel from the United States. Members reserving third-party rights were Japan, the European Union, Russia and India. For more information on this dispute, see WTO case no. DS414.
Costa Rica also notified the WTO Safeguard Committee this week that it has initiated a safeguard investigation on pounded rice to determine whether an increase in imports of the pounded rice are causing or threatening to case serious injury to a domestic industry.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Zero Discrimination Day,” to be marked on 1 March, is a worldwide call to promote and celebrate everyone’s right to a full life with dignity – no matter what they look like, where they come from or whom they love, declared the United Nations agency leading the world’s HIV/AIDS response, as it kicked off celebrations with a major event in Beijing. With strong calls for tolerance, unity and compassion, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), launched Zero Discrimination Day at an event supported by the China Red Ribbon Foundation, Hanergy Holding Group, Chinese Government, civil society and celebrities.
“The AIDS response itself has taught the world tremendous lessons in tolerance and compassion. We know that both the right to health and the right to dignity belong to everyone,” Mr. Sidibé told participants at the event, which wrapped up with more than 30 business leaders signing a pledge to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. “Working together, we can transform ourselves, our communities and our world to reach zero discrimination,” he added, in remarks that evoked the symbol for the UNAIDS Zero Discrimination campaign – the butterfly – widely recognized as a sign of transformation.
Working with Nobel Peace Prize winner and UNAIDS Global Advocate for Zero Discrimination Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the agency launched the #zerodiscrimination campaign in December 2013 on World AIDS Day. “People who discriminate narrow the world of others as well as their own,” she said. “I believe in a world where everyone can flower and blossom.” Events similar to the Beijing launch are planned in countries around the world for the days leading up to Saturday.
Many international celebrities have joined the call for zero discrimination, recording video messages and taking photographs with the butterfly sign. The personalities include UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Annie Lennox, international football star David Luiz, actress and activist Michelle Yeoh and Princess Stephanie of Monaco.
The private sector is also playing an important part in commemorating Zero Discrimination Day in South Africa, where as part of a longstanding partnership with UNAIDS, the Standard Bank is conducting a social media drive around the day. In addition, the almost 3.5 million subscribers of Airtel, the largest mobile telephone service provider in Malawi, will receive a message promoting “zero discrimination” on 1 March.
Elsewhere, in Myanmar, two major football teams in collaboration with the Myanmar National Football League and Federation will make a pledge supporting zero discrimination during a match at the national football stadium in Yangon.
In Minsk, Belarus, an interactive dialogue on promoting zero discrimination in the region will take place with young people; participants will include pop singer Teo. A similar event organized by people living with HIV as well as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people will take place in a central park in the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
(UN press release)
The United Nations human rights office said today that the publication by a Ugandan newspaper of the names and photos of people it claims are homosexual violates basic rights to privacy and dignity, and called on media outlets to refrain from actions that fuel hatred and violence.
A Ugandan tabloid on Tuesday named the country’s “200 top homosexuals,” a day after President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law, criminalizing and imposing life imprisonment for homosexuality, same-sex marriage and “aggravated homosexuality.”
“The publication by a newspaper in Uganda of the names and photos of people it claims are homosexual not only violates the right to privacy, it also demonstrates the very real danger that the new anti-homosexuality law will encourage acts of violence and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Cécile Pouilly recalled that the High Court of Uganda has previously ruled that publishing such lists amounts to a violation of the rights to dignity and privacy protected by the Ugandan Constitution. “We reiterate that media organisations should refrain from fuelling hatred and attacks on the basis of sexual orientation,” stated Ms. Pouilly. “We further reiterate our call upon the Ugandan authorities to take urgent steps to protect all persons from discrimination and violence regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
OHCHR urged the authorities to review the criminal legal provisions targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and make sure that attacks against them are investigated, and alleged perpetrators prosecuted. Both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay spoken out against the new law and urged Uganda to repeal it.
(UN press release)
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
The Global Legal Skills Conference in Verona Italy will include award presentations to individuals, institutions, publishers, and organizations that have advanced global legal skills education around the world. The 2014 awards follow similar awards presented at University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law during the 2012 GLS Conference in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica and Nicaragua know how to keep the International Court of Justice busy.
In addition to earlier cases between these two countries, we have the case filed in 2011 of Certain Activities carried out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua). And we have a counter-claim that Nicaragua brought against Costa Rica, Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica). Those two cases were consolidated in April 2013, and we saw a couple of rulings on the indication of preliminary measures.
The latest case added yesterday to the ICJ docket is Costa Rica's action against Nicaragua with regard to a "[d]ispute concerning maritime delimitation in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean." Click here for the ICJ press release.
We're happy to see that these nations are choosing to bring their disputes to the ICJ. It's so much better than going to war, and it shows faith in the quality of justice delivered by the International Court of Justice.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged Ugandan authorities to revise or repeal the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, one day after he said it violates basic human rights and endangers lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the country. “The Secretary-General reiterates that everyone is entitled to enjoy the same basic rights and live a life of worth and dignity without discrimination,” his spokesperson said, adding that this concept is embedded in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Ugandan Constitution.
President Yoweri Museveni yesterday signed into law the bill which calls for a 14-year jail term for a first conviction and imprisonment for life for the offence of “aggravated homosexuality.”
Mr. Ban convoyed his concerns yesterday about the bill, which was not yet signed at the time, to Ambassador Richard Nduhuura, Permanent Representative of Uganda to the UN, and has expressed the UN’s support “to achieve change on this matter.” Both he and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay have decried the principles of the law which “could fuel prejudice as well as encourage harassment and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.”
In today’s statement, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson noted that Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), also spoke out against the law saying it may obstruct effective responses to the virus.
Mr. Ban has appealed for the complete and universal decriminalization of homosexuality, still a criminal offence in some 76 countries, stressing that human rights must always trump cultural attitudes and societal strictures.
(UN press release)
Stressing that the rule of law is at the heart of the work of the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council last week that it is vital to ensure that the Organization makes the most of its assistance in this area to help post-conflict countries build the foundations for long-term peace and stability. “When public institutions fail to deliver justice or protect the people’s rights, insecurity and conflict prevail,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks to an open debate on strengthening the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security. Nearly 70 delegations were expected to take part in the debate, which will culminate in a Presidential Statement from Council members.
He noted that, at the national level, reconciliation and enduring peace require strong rule of law through responsive and inclusive institutions. “People must be able to trust that their institutions can resolve disputes promptly and fairly, and provide equitable access to basic services, including justice and security. “At the international level,” he continued, “adherence to the rule of law is critical for conflict prevention and the peaceful resolution of disputes. Mechanisms to combat impunity and ensure accountability – including UN-assisted criminal tribunals – reinforce the primacy of law.” That is why strengthening the rule of law is now an integral part of the mandates of peacekeeping operations and special political missions, said Mr. Ban, noting that 18 UN missions worldwide currently mandate rule of law support.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
Monday, February 24, 2014
The President of Uganda today signed a law that imposes a sentence of up to life imprisonment for being gay.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay have spoken out against the anti-homosexuality law signed into force today in Uganda, saying it violates basic human rights and endangers lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the country.
The law criminalizes and imposes life imprisonment for homosexuality, same-sex marriage and “aggravated homosexuality,” according to a news release issued by the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR).
“Disapproval of homosexuality by some can never justify violating the fundamental human rights of others,” Ms. Pillay said. “This law will institutionalize discrimination and is likely to encourage harassment and violence against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. “It is formulated so broadly that it may lead to abuse of power and accusations against anyone, not just LGBT people,” she warned.
Ms. Pillay stressed that Uganda is obliged, both by its own Constitution and by international law, to respect the rights of all individuals and to protect them from discrimination and violence. “This law violates a host of fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom from discrimination, to privacy, freedom of association, peaceful assembly, opinion and expression and equality before the law – all of which are enshrined in Uganda’s own Constitution and in the international treaties it has ratified.”
The High Commissioner expressed deep concern that the law could also threaten the critically important work of human rights defenders in the country, urging the Government to take immediate steps to ensure that they are not prosecuted for their advocacy.
Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said the Secretary-General is “seriously concerned” about the negative impact of the new law and shares the High Commissioner’s view that it violates human rights. “It will institutionalize discrimination, restrict the vital work of human rights activists, and could trigger violence. It will also hamper potentially life-saving efforts to stop the spread of HIV,” Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York.
Mr. Ban has appealed for the complete and universal decriminalization of homosexuality, still a criminal offence in some 76 countries, stressing that human rights must always trump cultural attitudes and societal strictures.
Mr. Nesirky added that the Secretary-General intends to raise the anti-homosexuality law in his meeting today with the Permanent Representative of Uganda to the UN, Richard Nduhuura.
(mew)(adapted from a UN press release)
The Olympic Games are over but Russia's Anti-Gay-Propaganda Law still remains. This video shows Russia winning the Gold Medal for anti-gay hate. Uganda, which today enacted a law providing for a sentence of 14 years to life imprisonment for consensual homosexual activity, could easily tie for Gold in Discrimination. Pay special attention to the end of the video, which lists criminal penalities in different countries for being gay.
The vidoe was release two days before the Sochi Winter Olympics began and it quickly went viral with more than million views. The video was produced by Berserk, and released in partnership with the Russia Freedom Fund, Athlete Alley, and CoPilot.