Monday, June 29, 2015
Millions of people celebrated gay pride this past weekend on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, where police raided a gay bar and the patrons fought back. This weekend in Istanbul, Turkey a planned gay pride march was called off minutes before it was set to begin, claiming that that celebration could not be held during Ramadan. Police used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets to attack the demonstrators. Photos and videos from the event are still emerging, but you can click here for a sample. You can also click on the links below this story.
This is a serious stain on human rights in Turkey and the actions are indefensible under international human rights law. News reports state that the parade has previously taken place without incident for the past 10 years.
Shame on Istanbul.
The United States Supreme Court on Friday ruled in favor of marriage equality for the United States, finding that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court also ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment also requires U.S. states to recognize lawful same-sex marriages performed in other states: "[T]he Court also must hold—and it now does hold—that there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character." Without saying so expressly, however, the decision also requires recognition of valid same-sex marriages performed in other countries as well as other states within the United States.
Although many other countries (including, most recently, Ireland and Mexico) now recognize same-sex marriage, the opinion by Justice Kennedy does not mention the legal developments in other countries. In past decisions where the Supreme Court noted that its decision under the U.S. Constitution and U.S. law was in conformity with decisions of foreign or international law, or even the obligations of a treaty entered into by the United States, there was a great outcry against the Supreme Court by those wrongfully asserting that the U.S. decision was reached under foreign law rather than U.S. law. Critics of the holdings of particular cases twisted the reasoning actually used in the court decisions, making wrongful claims of foreign influence on U.S. court decisions.
For the record, we here at the International Law Prof Blog support the use of international law in resolving disputes. There's no surprise there to regular readers of this blog. And we support amicus briefs and other means of communicating with courts as to what foreign and international tribunals have done with similar legal problems that appear before the court. In the same-sex marriage case just decided, we want to give a special shout of thanks to Professor Noah B. Novogrodsky of the University of Wyoming College of Law and to Ruth N. Borenstein and Marc C. Hearron of Morrison and Foerster LLP. Those three lawyers authored the Amicus Brief for Foreign and Comparative Law Experts Harold Hongju Koh (Yale Law School and former Legal Advisor at the U.S. State Department), former ICJ Judge Thomas Buergenthal (George Washington University Law School), Sarah H. Cleveland (Columbia Law School), Laurence R. Helfer (Duke University School of Law), Ryan Goodman (New York University School of Law), and Dean Sujit Choudhry (University of California at Berkeley) as amici curiae in support of the same-sex couples seeking marriage equality. Their amicus brief -- one among many -- stood out for its welcome presentation of international developments.
We're still analyzing the foreign and international law applications of the Supreme Court decision and the dissenting opinions. Who knew we would have to research Aztec marriage law?
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
We are sorry to share the sad news that Professor Michael W. Lewis of the Ohio Northern University College of Law passed away Sunday. Mike lost a fierce battle with an aggressive cancer he was diagnosed with last December. Mike was a prolific scholar, beloved processor, and leading voice in the law of war and the debate over the legality of the use of drones in international law. Here is a message from Dean Rick Bales about Mike's Passing:
Message from Dean Bales:
It is with profound regret and overwhelming sorrow that I write today to inform you of the death of Professor Michael Lewis. Professor Lewis came to the College of Law in 2006 after a successful career with McKinsey & Company and McGuire Woods. Before entering law school, Professor Lewis proudly served his country with a distinguished career in the Navy as a pilot and graduate of the Top Gun School. Professor Lewis taught Commercial Law, Torts, International Law and the Law of War Seminar. His receipt of the Faculty Teaching Award in 2008 demonstrated his skill as a teacher. Professor Lewis was a prolific scholar and speaker, taking the name of Ohio Northern to readers and listeners throughout the United States and throughout the world.
Most importantly, Mike Lewis was a wonderful husband, father, and friend. Everyone who knew him knew of his deep love for his family. His daughter Sarah was the light of his life, and I ask that you keep her and his wife Danya in your thoughts and prayers. I am confident that Professor Lewis would like to be remembered as the friend and mentor that he was. For students, he was the role model of all role models, and your affection for him is well known. For the faculty, Mike Lewis was a star – someone who did everything well. Most importantly, however, Professor Lewis was a humble, thoughtful, and caring colleague who everyone respected. He will be profoundly missed.
Professor Lewis loved sports, loved his country, loved his family, and loved his work. We can all draw lessons from his life. I am sure that he knew how much the ONU law community cared for him, as we all know how much Professor Michael Lewis meant to all of us.Hat tip to Prof. Brian D. Anderson. (mew)
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Sunday, June 21, 2015
The first International Day of Yoga is being celebrated around the world on Sunday following recognition by the U.N. General Assembly that the holistic benefits of the ancient Indian practice and its inherent compatibility with the principles and values of the United Nations.
The inaugural Day has been be marked this morning with an outdoor event at UN Headquarters in New York that was webcast to thousands in New York's Times Square. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has praised yoga for promoting respect for one's fellow human beings and for the planet we share, spoke this morning at the event, which also featured a yoga demonstration. “I am hoping that if yoga promotes physical dexterity, it can also promote diplomatic dexterity. In my job as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have to be agile all of the time!” he said in front of the crowd. Quoting Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, he stressed that “yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness, with yourself, the world and nature”.
Also attending the UN event was the President of the 69th session of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa.
In a message issued in advance of the International Day, Mr. Ban recalled how he had had the opportunity to practice yoga during a visit to India this year. His first 'asana', or pose, he said was the tree pose, “suited to beginners.”
“It took a moment for me to gain my balance but once I did, I appreciated the simple sense of satisfaction that yoga can bring,” the Secretary-General said. “Yoga offers a simple, accessible and inclusive means to promote physical and spiritual health and well-being,” he said. “It promotes respect for one's fellow human beings and for the planet we share. And yoga does not discriminate; to varying degrees, all people can practice, regardless of their relative strength, age or ability.”
“On this first-ever International Day of Yoga, let us see the benefits of this practice in terms of individual well-being as well as our collective efforts to improve public health, promote peaceful relations and usher in a life of dignity for all,” the UN chief said.
The annual day was established in 2014 by the UN General Assembly, which recognized “that yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being.” The draft resolution establishing the day world was proposed by India and endorsed by a record 175 member states. The proposal was first introduced by Prime Minister Modi in his address during the opening of the 69th session of the General Assembly.
The resolution notes “the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health.”
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Saturday, June 20, 2015
June 20 is World Refugee Day. The day is particularly important this year as 2015 has witnessed the highest number of refugees since World War II. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is using World Refugee Day 2015 to commemorates the strength and resilience of the more than 50 million people around the world forced to flee their homes due to war or human rights abuses.
The 2015 theme is "Ordinary people living through extraordinary times." The UNHCR's website contains stories of hope and resilience from displaced people and features stories from refugees who describe in their own words their own passions and interests; cooking, music, poetry, or sports. Through their testimonials, UNHCR aims to show our commonality and that these are ordinary people living through extraordinary times.
Scribes--The American Society of Legal Writers--will hold an award luncheon on August 1, 2105 in Chicago during the ABA Annual Meeting. Awards will be presented for the best new book in legal writing and for the best student-written briefs from moot court competitions.
The luncheon will feature a special presentation of the Scribes Lifetime-Achievement Award to The Right Honorable, the Lord Woolf, with comments by Lord Woolf. Lord Woolf was Master of the Rolls from 1996 until 2000 and Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales from 2000 until 2005. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 made him the first Lord Chief Justice to be President of the Courts of England and Wales. He has also been a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong since 2003.
Also during the luncheon keynote speaker Bryan A. Garner will share The Biggest Secret for Clear and Persuasive Writing. Bryan Garner has written several books about English usage and style, including Garner's Modern American Usage and Elements of Legal Style. He is the editor-in-chief of Black's Law Dictionary and he has coauthored two books with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (2008) and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (2012). He is the Founder and president of LawProse, Inc. and serves as Distinguished Research Professor of Law at Southern Methodist University School of Law.
In addition to the award presentations and keynote speaker, the event will mark the installation of the new officers for Scribes. The current Scribes president, completing her term on August 1st, is Darby Dickerson, Dean at Texas Tech University School of Law and the W. Frank Newton Endowed Professor of Law. She will be replaced by incoming president Justice Michael Hyman of the Illinois Supreme Court, a former president of the Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois Judges Association.
Here is the information about the luncheon:
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
The Utrecht Journal of International and European Law will publish its next Special Issue on 'Intellectual Property in International and European Law'. It invites submissions of papers on legal issues relating to intellectual property from an international or European law perspective. Submissions are due October 15, 2015. Utrecht Journal is an academic, peer-review, student-led journal affiliated with Utrecht University in the Netherlands. For more information about the call for papers, visit the journal website here.
Here's a reminder that the 5th Biennial Conference of the Asian Society of International Law 2015 will be held at the Plaza Athénée Bangkok, A Royal Méridien Hotel, in November 2015. <a href="http://asiansil.org/conference/5thBiennial2015/">Click here for more information about the conference.</a> The website includes the call for papers to be presented at the conference.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Addressing delegates immediately after his election today at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Lykketoft, who has served both as Denmark’s Foreign and Finance Ministers, declared that his Presidency would be marked by a “commitment to action” towards building “a more fair and stable world” in line with the objectives set out by the UN Millennium Development Goals.
“What is now in front of Member States is the final stretch towards adopting a universal, people-centred, transformative development agenda that addresses the struggle of our lifetime,” he affirmed. “When implemented, it will enable us to eradicate poverty while keeping climate change at bay, building resilience, and creating inclusive and sustainable economic growth.”
Mr. Lykketoft, who will celebrate his 70th birthday this year just as the UN marks its 70th anniversary, took care to point out the three priorities that, he said, would define his mandate, including a commitment to action, a surge in UN efforts to cement international peace and security, and a clear effort to support further progress for human rights.
“My goal is to seek pragmatic and action-oriented outcomes that can provide guidance on how to proceed with timely and effective implementation for all actors – the UN system, Member States, civil society, and private sector,” he continued, adding that his intention was to conduct the Presidency in “a transparent, inclusive and open manner.”
The President-elect further noted that he would take into consideration many Member States’ continuing interest in Security Council reform, particularly ahead of the selection process for the next Secretary-General.
Nonetheless, he stated, the focus must remain on rebooting the UN’s unique form of multilateralism which, in turn, fosters trust and hope in global solutions.
“Today’s decision-makers must acknowledge that 2015 is the time to make a new commitment to action for the sake of generations to come,” Mr. Lykketoft stated. “We will have to find ways to achieve sustainable growth, where the distance between rich and poor nations and peoples does not become larger but smaller. Where we not only create development and eradicate extreme poverty but also deliver a more equitable access to and distribution of global goods.”
Congratulating Mr. Lykketoft on his new role, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon celebrated the former Danish politician for his “outstanding commitment” to development and his “great understanding of the major challenges of our times.”
Such aptitude, he noted, will prove to be critical as the UN and international community are propelled towards a series of target dates for the Millennium Development Goals, sustainable development initiatives and for the fight against climate change.
“This election is an annual event on the United Nations calendar – but this year offers an extraordinary opportunity to shape history,” Mr. Ban continued. “We could not have a better leader in His Excellency Mr. Lykketoft.”
The Secretary-General added that he counted on the new General Assembly President to celebrate the upcoming UN milestones – including the Organization’s 70th anniversary – with “an even stronger commitment” to multilateralism, international cooperation and global solidarity.
“Together,” he concluded, “we can act so the United Nations lives up to its historic ambitions for this year and helps secure the long-term future of our world.”
In his remarks, Sam Kutesa, current General Assembly President, said the world body’s 70th anniversary session will be historic, as member States are expected to adopt an ambitious and transformative post-2015 development agenda, as well as work towards a universal climate change agreement in December, under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“With these important milestones approaching, we still have important preparatory work during this 69th session,” he said, noting in particular, the negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda and the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held next month in Addis Ababa, have reached a critical stage. “We have to redouble our efforts in order to ensure successful outcomes,” he said.
Mr. Lykketoft will kick-off his Presidency in September at the commencement of the 70th General Assembly session.
Made up of all the 193 Member States of the United Nations, the General Assembly provides a forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the UN Charter. It meets in regular session intensively from September to December each year, and thereafter as required.
(UN Press Release)
Photo: Sam Kutesa (right), President of the 69th session of the General Assembly, meets with Mogens Lykketoft, Speaker of the Parliament of Denmark and President-designate of the General Assembly’s 70th session. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Today, June 15, 2015, is the 800th anniversary of the first Magna Carta. The original Magna Carta was agreed between King John and his barons to settle disputes between them. It originally contained 63 articles, many of them pertaining to particular grievances against King John. Only three clauses are still part of British law today, the most famous being the right to a fair trial. The original Magna Carta has thus been edited and reissued over the years, but it is still credited with establishing the idea that no one is above the law.
Professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University will deliver the Fred Herzog Memorial Lecture on the subject of "The Changing Face of Holocaust Denial in the 21st Centure" at noon on Thursday, September 24, 2015 at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
Professor Lipstadt is an American historian and author of books including Denying the Holocaust (1993) and The Eichmann Trial (2011). She is currently the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BA from the City College of New York and her MA and PhD from Brandeis University.
Her book History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2005) is the story of her libel trial in London against David Irving, who sued her for calling him a Holocaust denier and right wing extremist. The book has been described as a “fascinating and meritorious work of legal—and moral—history” (Kirkus, November 2004). It won the National Jewish Book Award and was a finalist for the Koret Book Award. It was ranked by the editors at Amazon.com as number four on its list of top ten history books of 2005.
The Daily Telegraph ( London) declared that Lipstadt's trial had “done for the new century what the Nuremberg tribunals or the Eichmann trial did for earlier generations.” The Times (London) described it as “history has had its day in court and scored a crushing victory.” The judge found David Irving to be a Holocaust denier, a falsifier of history, a racist, an antisemite, and a liar. Her legal battle with Irving lasted approximately six years. According to the New York Times, the trial “put an end to the pretense that Mr. Irving is anything but a self-promoting apologist for Hitler.”
Sunday, June 14, 2015
The first-ever day for International Albinism Awareness is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of people with albinism and join the struggle against the difficulties they face, senior United Nations officials said. The event was held yesterday, June 13, 2015.
Due to a recessive gene that is carried by both parents, babies in every society are born with albinism. Across the world, these children are likely to face bullying, prejudice and even violence because of stereotypes based on their colouring. Additionally, the common lack of melanin pigment in hair, skin and eyes causes their vulnerability to sun exposure, which can lead to skin cancer and severe visual impairment.
“They frequently cannot access adequate healthcare,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement commemorating the Day. “Failure to accommodate this visual impairment, as well as mockery and abuse, may force them to drop out of school; compounded by widespread social rejection, this can result in unemployment, isolation and life-long poverty.
In some parts of the world, people with albinism may also suffer horrific, and even lethal, atrocities.
The High Commissioner elaborated, “civil society activists have reported that hundreds of people with albinism – a majority of them children – have been killed, mutilated or otherwise attacked in at least 25 African countries, because of the belief that their body parts confer magical powers. More cases remain undocumented because of the isolation of the victims, the secrecy surrounding ritual practices, and indifference. Shockingly, such crimes have seldom been investigated or prosecuted.”
Recently, discrimination and violence against individuals with albinism have been highlighted by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, as well as by the High Commissioner's Office (OHCHR).
“In coming weeks, a UN Independent Expert will be appointed to give an international voice to the concerns of people with albinism, and to contribute to protecting their rights,” said the top UN human rights official.
In Tanzania and Malawi, efforts are underway to develop nation-wide strategies to combat the violence and discrimination that they suffer. Meanwhile, civil society activists around the world continue their essential and inspiring work to fight stigma, combat harmful superstition and ensure that victims have access to justice, care and redress.
“There is no room in this 21st century for erroneous and harmful beliefs, or for discrimination on any grounds. People with albinism are just as deserving of dignity as every other human being. They have the right to live free from discrimination, deprivation and fear,” Mr. Zeid underscored.
He called on States to step up education to: counteract albinism ignorance; provide appropriate care; investigate cases of discrimination and violence against people with albinism; and enforce the law. Mr. Zeid also encouraged civil society activists and human rights institutions to continue reporting on the human rights of people with albinism around the world.
“Awareness is the groundwork for action, and this first International Albinism Awareness Day is a beacon of hope for people with albinism everywhere,” the High Commissioner concluded.
In a separate statement, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, said the lives of children with albinism are surrounded by marginalization, discrimination, prejudice, superstitions and misconceptions simply because of their genetic condition and because they look different. Discrimination condemns these children to a position of extreme vulnerability, and to tolerance of violence against them in many countries in the world.
“The serious violations of the rights of children with albinism to survival and development, to protection from discrimination and to freedom from violence remain a priority concern for my mandate” said Ms. Santos Pais.
She stressed that the International Awareness Day is a unique opportunity to promote laws and policies to better protect children with albinism from all forms of violence and to overcome social conventions that lead to stigmatization and to the extreme social and structural discrimination.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Friday, June 12, 2015
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR or Commission) has filed two new cases with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights - one against Brazil and one against Venezuela. The following information is taken from press releases issued by the Commission.
The case against Brazil is Cosme Rosa Genoveva, Evandro de Oliveira et al. (Favela Nova Brasília), Case 11.566. It involves the extrajudicial executions of 26 individuals—including six children—in the context of police raids carried out by the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police on October 18, 1994, and May 8, 1995, in the shantytown of Nova Brasília. The police authorities justified these deaths by means of affidavits alleging “resistance to arrest.” In addition, in the context of the raid on October 18, 1994, three victims—C.S.S. (15 years old), L.R.J. (19 years old), and J.F.C. (16 years old)—were victims of torture and acts of sexual violence at the hands of police officers. The IACHR established that these events occurred within a context and pattern of excessive use of force and extrajudicial executions carried out by police in Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro. Moreover, the Commission found that the context in which the events in this case took place has been tolerated and even fostered by State institutions. The Commission also established that this context includes a lack of accountability mechanisms and a situation of impunity surrounding these violations. Both the deaths of the 26 individuals and the acts of torture and sexual violence have remained unpunished, and to date the criminal actions related to the majority of the incidents of the case—the acts of torture and sexual violence in the 1994 raid and the deaths in the 1995 raid—are barred by statute of limitations in domestic law.
In its Merits Report, the Commission recommended that Brazil conduct—by means of judicial authorities independent from the police—an exhaustive, impartial, and effective investigation into the violations that were found, in order to determine the truth and punish those responsible, taking into account the pattern of excessive use of lethal force by the police and the possible omissions, delays, acts of negligence, and obstructions of justice caused by agents of the State. It also recommended that the State guarantee proper and full compensation; immediately eliminate the practice of automatically recording deaths perpetrated by the police as “resistance to arrest”; and put an end to impunity with regard to police violence in general, adapting its domestic laws, administrative regulations, and operational plans and procedures. The IACHR also recommended that the State establish internal and external oversight and accountability systems to enforce the obligation to investigate, within a gender and ethnic-racial perspective, all cases in which law enforcement agents use lethal force and/or sexual violence; that it implement plans to modernize and professionalize police forces; regulate police procedures involving legitimate use of force; and train police personnel on how to effectively deal with people from the most vulnerable segments of society, including, children, women, and residents of shantytowns, in order to overcome the stigma that all poor people are criminals.
On May 19, 2015, after granting multiple extensions and making a number of efforts, the Commission determined that the State of Brazil had not complied with the recommendations contained in the Merits Report. Consequently, the Commission submitted to matter to the Inter-American Court. The Commission believes the case offers the Court the opportunity to expand its case law concerning the obligation to properly investigate violent deaths as a result of the use of lethal force by State agents.
The second case against Venezuela is that of Johan Alexis Ortiz, (Case 12.270), and involves the death of Mr. Ortiz on February 15, 1998, on the premises of the Caño Negro Rural Commandos (Comandos Rurales). Johan Alexis Ortiz was a student at the National Guard Training School of Cordero (Escuela de Formación de Guardias Nacionales de Cordero, ESGUARNAC), and he died after being shot during simulation exercises with real bullets. The exercises, held on the premises of the military facility, were a requirement to complete his officer training at the institution.
The Commission established that the Venezuelan military authorities created the risk by failing to put proper controls in place related to operations and emergency plans as well as to the use of weapons and ammunition. The Commission also established that the State had not provided a satisfactory explanation for the use of live ammunition and failed to comply with safety measures. The Commission also concluded that the State had not responded properly or on a timely basis to the injuries suffered by Mr. Ortiz, as it did not have specialized medical personnel or an ambulance on site that would enable him to receive medical care while he was being transferred to a medical center. The Commission further determined that there were multiple irregularities in the domestic proceedings relating to the matter, violating the principles of independence and impartiality, the requirement of due diligence and the guarantee of a reasonable time period.
In its Report on the Merits, the Commission recommended that the State carry out a complete, impartial, and effective investigation into the established violations of human rights, in order to determine and punish anyone who masterminded and perpetrated the acts described; order any appropriate administrative, disciplinary, or criminal measures in response to State officials’ actions or omissions that contributed to the denial of justice and the impunity surrounding the facts in this case; and provide adequate reparation, both material and moral, for the human rights violations stated in the report. The Commission also recommended that the necessary measures be developed to ensure that the human rights of students at the National Guard Training School are properly protected in the training and educational courses and practices. The State of Venezuela made no response at all to the notification of the Merits Report.
The Commission believes Mr. Ortiz's case will enable the Inter-American Court to delve deeper into the use of lethal force in the context of training carried out by a State security force. Specifically, the Court is being asked for its opinion concerning precautionary and response mechanisms States should put into practice to prevent violations of the right to life and physical integrity of individuals who are members or students of a State security service. The case will also enable the Court to rule on the specifics of the duty to investigate with due diligence any deaths that occur under such circumstances.
The International Labor Organization has designated June 12 as the World Day Against Child Labor to raise awareness about the extent of the problem and efforts to combat it. This year's theme focuses on free, compulsory and quality education for all children, at least up to the age of lawful employment. For more information about this observance, click here.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Call for Papers: French Association of Law Professors in Business Schools will meet in Toulouse France in December
The French Association of Law Professors in Business Schools – the Association des Professeurs de Droit des Grandes Ecoles (“APDGE”) -- will hold its Third Conference in December. It will be held at the Toulouse Business School in Southwestern France on December 3-4, 2015.
The theme of the conference is “Governance and Compliance in Companies: Constraints or Opportunities.”
Papers submitted will be reviewed double-blind and the authors of the best papers will be asked to present their papers in Toulouse, with a later publication anticipated. Participants or their institutions must bear their own travel expenses unfortunately, but then again you do end up in Southwestern France so just find a way to make that happen if your proposal is selected.
Proposals: June 30, 2015
Full Text: September 1, 2015
Author Notification by the Scientific Committee: October 12, 2015
Hat tip to Greg Voss
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
According to a WTO news release, earlier today Kazakhstan finalized 20 years of negotiations of its terms of accession to World Trade Organization (WTO) with WTO members. The draft WTO Accession Package will be submitted to members for formal approval when the meeting reconvenes on 22 June. Kazakhstan’s Accession Package will then be forwarded to the General Council for formal adoption by all 161 WTO members.
Monday, June 8, 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry today, involving a conflict between Congress and the President as to which branch may give signals of recognition to foreign states. The Court held, by a 6-3 vote, that the President has the power to determine whether and when to recognize foreign states without Congressional interference. Although more a case involving U.S. foreign policy than international law, Zivotofsky does have international implications.
By way of background, the US State Department, under the direction of US presidents, normally issues passports that identify a person's place of birth. In this case, Menachem Zivotofsky was born in Jerusalem in 2002. His US citizen parents asked the State Department to list his place of birth as Israel. The US State Department refused, because the US does not take an official position as to whether Jerusalem belongs to Israel. However, the US Congress passed a statute that would allow a person person born in Jerusalem to have Israel listed as the place of birth on a US passport. The President contended that the law unconstitutionally interfered with his power to determine whether and when to recognize foreign states or any part thereof.
The majority of the Supreme Court agreed with the President, finding that the statute does unconstitutionally interfere with the President's exclusive power to recognize foreign sovereigns. The Court based its decision on the text and structure of the US Constitution as well as historical practice. This case is noteworthy as a matter of US law because the President has few powers that are considered "exclusive" to the executive branch such as the President may oppose Congress. It is also noteworthy in that it avoids a potentially embarrassing situation wherein the US government could be divided as to its foreign policy respecting Jerusalem and Israel, a particularly delicate matter of negotiation in Middle Eastern politics.
Amid “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations,” the human rights situation in Eritrea has degenerated into a climate of fear in which dissent is stifled and large swathes of the population are subjected to forced labour and imprisonment, a new United Nations report has found.
The report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea cites a raft of violations – some, it says, which may constitute crimes against humanity – of “a scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere,” according to a press release issued today.
“With the end of the Commission’s investigations and the publication of this report detailing our findings on human rights violations in Eritrea, I look forward to a renewed commitment by the international community to address the justice deficit and to support our call for a restoration of the rule of law,” affirmed Sheila B. Keetharuth, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, who also serves on the Commission.
“Rule by fear – fear of indefinite conscription, of arbitrary and incommunicado detention, of torture and other human rights violations – must end.”
The Commission’s report details numerous incidences in which Eritrea’s “initial promise of democracy and rule of law” following its independence in 1991 has been “extinguished” by the Government under the pretext of national defence. Examples, it notes, include the severe curtailing of rights and freedoms as well as violations in the areas of extrajudicial executions, torture, national service and forced labour.
In addition, a system of mass surveillance, a “completely deficient” administration of justice, and “ubiquitous” arbitrary detention contribute to the pervasive terror encountered by Eritreans on a daily basis.
“The commission finds that the use of torture is so widespread that it can only conclude it is a policy of the Government to encourage its use for the punishment of individuals perceived as opponents to its rule and for the extraction of confessions,” the report continues. “Monitoring of detention centres is non-existent and perpetrators are never brought to justice.”
The widespread abuses allegedly faced by many in the Horn of Africa nation have prompted hundreds of Eritreans to flee their home country in search of asylum in Europe. According to the latest estimates produced by Italian authorities, 32,000 Eritreans were rescued in 2014 as they attempted to traverse the Mediterranean – the majority of all migrants rescued by Italy’s comprehensive Mare Nostrum operation. Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency has placed the number of Eritreans under its concern outside the country at more than 357,400.
“In desperation, they resort to deadly escape routes through deserts and neighbouring war-torn countries and across dangerous seas in search of safety. They risk capture, torture and death at the hands of ruthless human traffickers,” adds the Commission’s report. “To ascribe their decision to leave solely to economic reasons is to ignore the dire situation of human rights in Eritrea and the very real suffering of its people. Eritreans are fleeing severe human rights violations in their country and are in need of international protection.”
The Commission – appointed last September by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in what the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) then described as a “historic moment”– is composed of Mike Smith of Australia and Victor Dankwa of Ghana, as well as Ms. Keetharuth.
As independent experts or special rapporteurs, they are appointed by the Geneva-based 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.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)