Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The so-called ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament not only violates the fundamental human rights of Ugandans, but will also impede efforts to combat HIV, a United Nations independent expert warned.
“Uganda is in great danger of taking a step backwards – away from realizing human rights for its people and away from an effective, evidence and rights-based HIV response,” stressed Anand Grover, the Special Rapporteur on health.
Lessons from the past three decades of the HIV epidemic have shown that recognizing the rights of people with different sexual identities is a crucial element of efforts to respond to the virus, he said.
In many nations where sex between men is not criminalized and where both stigma and discrimination have been eased, men who have sex with men are more likely to pursue HIV prevention, care, support and treatment services, Mr. Anand emphasized.
“I urge the Ugandan Parliament to build on its past successes in responding to HIV and to refrain from passing this bill,” he said, noting that several UN human rights conventions ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual identity or orientation.
Further, laws criminalizing homosexual acts between consenting adults also infringes on the right to privacy, the expert pointed out.
Homosexuality is already criminalized through Uganda’s existing penal code, but the new bill – which was tabled by a Parliament member and is due to be put before the entire legislative body later this month – prohibits any form of sexual relations between people of the same sex, as well as the promotion or recognition of homosexual relations as a healthy or acceptable lifestyle in public institutions.
Since the bill would also include the publication of materials which ‘promote or abet homosexuality,’ Mr. Anand cautioned that it could impact the work of civil society actors and human rights defenders working on issues of sexual orientation or gender identity, which are essential to addressing vulnerability to HIV.
The new legislation also criminalizes failure to report relevant offenses, in effect compelling citizens, including health workers and civil society organizations, to report anyone they suspect of being homosexual to the authorities.
Those deemed to be ‘serial offenders’ and those living with HIV could receive the death penalty, the Special Rapporteur said.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also spoken out against the bill. “It is extraordinary to find legislation like this being proposed more than 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – as well as many subsequent international laws and standards – made it clear this type of discrimination is unacceptable,” Navi Pillay said. Describing the bill as “blatantly discriminatory,” she said that, if passed, it would have “a tremendously negative impact on the enjoyment of a range of fundamental human rights by homosexuals, lesbians and transgendered individuals, as well as on parents, teachers, landlords, human rights defenders, medical professionals and HIV workers.”
The High Commissioner added that she was “encouraged” by the fact that a number of Ugandan civil society groups were actively opposing the bill, and by the recent statement by President Museveni, reported in the Ugandan press, which appeared to suggest the Government would intervene to prevent the draft bill from becoming law.
(adapted from a UN Press Release)
“This is the only responsible course of action for a government to take in such circumstances,” she said, while also urging the Government repeal existing Ugandan laws that criminalize homosexuality, albeit with less severe punishments.
Legislation introduced in Uganda (and condemned by human rights activists around the world) would impose the death penalty on gay people. Here is a link to the legislation and here is a video that explains how the bill would also bring the death penalty upon anyone who befriends a gay person in Uganda. Here's the video:
Hat tip to Rex Wockner
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The Stetson Internation Environmental Moot Court Competition is the world’s largest moot that is devoted solely to global environmental challenges. Regional competitions are being held in Africa, Brazil, North India, South India, Ireland, North America (California and Maryland), Southeast Asia, and Ukraine. The top two teams from each region are then invited to the International Finals, which will be held at Stetson’s Gulfport campus from March 11-14, 2010. If a particular area does not have a regional moot, Stetson invites select schools directly to the International Finals with the aim of encouraging them to establish regional rounds in the future. (For example, China University of Political Science and Law will be participating as a direct invite this year.)
The 2010 problem focuses on noise pollution associated with marine seismic surveys and their effect on beaked whales. Students must engage with international custom, treaties, and policy to produce a memorial. The complete record and rules are available at by clicking here.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
The tensions between the judiciary and the presidency in Pakistan continue with the rejection by the Pakistani Supreme Court of two judicial nominees by President Asif Ali Zardari. The Supreme Court deferred the appointments because the President had not consulted with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as required by the Pakistani Constitution. Some news reports suggest that the President did in fact consult with the Chief Justice, but went ahead with the appointments despite the Chief Justice's objections, prompting an emergency order from the Court postponing the nominations.
Many readers of this blog will recall that in 2007, former Pakistani President Musharraf dismissed all the judges on the Supreme Court and High Court. Public protest led to the reinstatement of many of the judges. This latest episode demonstrates that tense relations between the judiciary and the executive branch continue. Last month, the Pakistani Supreme Court issued a decision declaring unconstitutional an ordinance that provided immunity from suit for the president and thousands of other government officials on corruption, money laundering, embezzlement and other charges. President Zardari can now be charged, but cannot be prosecuted while in office.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
You can copy those links and share them with others. Here is the video:
Friday, February 12, 2010
ILW 2010 will address the role of international law and institutions in reducing conflict, promoting security, fostering human rights, protecting the environment, facilitating trade and investment, and resolving public and private international disputes. Panels will examine subjects such as the extent to which treaties currently under negotiation or consideration would further these objectives, and the operation and effect of international organizations, international courts, and arbitral institutions on the global legal order.
The Co-Chairs of ILW 20010 are Professor Elizabeth Burleson of the University of South Dakota Law School, Elizabeth.Burleson [at] usd.edu, Hanna Dreifeldt Lainé of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, dreifeldt [at] un.org, Vincent J. Vitkowsky, Partner, Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP, vvitkowsky [at]@eapdlaw.com, and Jill Schmieder Hereau, Program Coordinator at the International Law Students Association, jshereau [at] ilsa.org.
The Co-Chairs invite proposals for panels for ILW 2010. Please submit proposals by email to each of the Co-Chairs no later than Friday, April 9, 2010. The proposals should be structured for 90-minute panels, and should include a formal title, a brief description of the subjects to be covered (no more than 75 words), and the names, titles, and affiliations of the panel chair and three or four likely speakers. The proposals should also describe the format envisaged (point-counterpoint, roundtable, or other). One of the objectives of ILW 2010 is to promote a dialogue among scholars and practitioners from across the legal spectrum, so whenever possible, panels should include presentations of divergent views.
Save the ILW dates now in your day planner too! State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh has agreed to be the keynote speaker at the annual luncheon on Saturday, October 23.
Hat tips to ABILA and to Jill Schmieder Hereau
Thursday, February 11, 2010
In more news on the future expansion of the European Union, the EU Parliament yesterday urged the EU to open membership negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The new EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fuele, also is in favor of beginning accession talks with Macedonia. Thus far, Greece has delayed membership talks with Macedonia due to objections to Macedonia's name, which corresponds to a historial Greek region. The MEPs urged the EU to make the decision to open accession talks at the March 2010 summit. Greek, Cypriot and Spanish MEPs have been somewhat cool to the suggestion, with the Spanish EU Affairs Secretary, Diego Lopez Garcia, suggesting that Macedonia has work to do on issues of corruption, gender inequality, and minority rights.
In other EU accession news, negotiations on Croatia's joinder may be completed by the end of the year. Turkish progress towards membership has been described as "piecemeal" due to ongoing issues regarding relations with Cyprus and protections for Kurds.
We reported last month about the untimely death of Sir Ian Brownlie, one fo the world's leading international lawyers. He and one of his daughters (Rebecca) had been killed in a car accident in Egypt. The Sydney Morning Herald has now published an obituary for him, noting his important role in the Pinochet case in 1998 and 1999, when the House of Lords ruled that the former Chilean President was not entitled to claim immunity as a former head of state where the crime of torture was alleged.
The obituary in the Sydney Morning Heraldwas authored by Philippe Sands, who notes that Sir Ian Brownlie had appeared before the International Court of Justice in more than 40 contentious cases -- a number that represents well more than half of the court's docket in cases brought by one country against another. He also served for 11 years as a member of the International Law Commission, and was its president in 2007 The article also notes that his book, Principles of Public International Law, is now in its seventh edition and is one of the most widely-read treatises on international law. article
The article also notes that "Brownlie enjoyed life and believed that a decent lunch was always necessary, even in the heat of litigation." Ian Brownlie (1932-2010): Formidable Lawyer Took on a Host of Unfashionable Clients, Sydney Morning Herald, Feb. 10, 2010, at 26.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The Niagara Internatoinal Moot Court Competition between law schools in the United States and Canada will be held on February 25-27, 2010 in Washington D.C. Click here for more information about the competition.
This year's problem involves a former child soldier who is accused of crimes against humanity and who is lured by the United States from Canada to be surrendered to a foreign government for trial. Click here to view the compromis.
Hat tip to the Canada-U.S. Law Institute.
The leadership of the American Bar Association Section of International Law travels today from Sydney Australia to our next stop, Auckland, New Zealand. We're on an ILEX briefing delegation with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Yesterday we held a standing room only moot court demonstration with Justice Scalia at the new campus of the University of Sydney School of Law, comparing advocacy styles of Australian and U.S. lawyers.
PS Click here for more information about the section's Spring meeting in New York. The meeting is April 13-17, 2010.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Click here to see the program for the 104th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law. It is usually a not-to-be-missed event for those of us who teach international law. It is March 24-27, 2010 in Washington DC.
Not sure you have time to attend? Click here to see the meeting schedule. You'll make the time.
Monday, February 8, 2010
International Criminal Court Declines to Confirm Charges Against the First Defendant Who Voluntarily Appeared Before It
The International Criminal Court has just declined to confirm charges against a rebel leader accused of directing the September 2007 attack that killed a dozen African Union peacekeepers in Darfur. The Court’s pre-trial chamber “was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Bahar Idriss Abu Garda could be held criminally responsible either as a direct or as an indirect co-perpetrator for the commission of the crimes,” according to a news release issued by the ICC.
Mr. Abu Garda, who commands a splinter group of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), was the first person to appear voluntarily before the Court in response to a summons. He was charged with three war crimes – murder, attacks against a peacekeeping mission and pillaging – allegedly committed when 1,000 rebels attacked the Haskanita camp in South Darfur state on 29 September 2007. The attack killed 12 peacekeepers serving with the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and wounded eight others.
Today’s decision does not preclude the prosecution from subsequently requesting the confirmation of the charges against Mr. Abu Garda “if such request is supported by additional evidence,” or appealing the decision on the confirmation of charges.
The ICC is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes individuals accused of the most serious crimes of international concerns, such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. ICC Prosecutors are currently probing events in four regions or countries: Darfur, northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).
(adapted from a UN Press Release)
According to the Rule of Law Index created by the World Justice Project, the United States scored a 0.39 on a 1.0 scale in its respect for the rule of law in 2009. By comparison, its 10 closest peer countries averaged 0.66. The Index takes into account 16 factors and 68 sub-factors in evaluating a country's respect for the rule of law, including accountability of government officials, transparency of laws, procedural fairness for the enactment of laws, and access to independent attorneys and other representatives in the judicial system. Of most relevance to this blog, Factor 5 describes the role of international law in holding governments to their commitments, including treaties and customary international law. Sadly, the United States' score on compliance with international law was by far its lowest score on the Index. The United States' next lowest score was a 0.60. On most other factors, the United States scored fairly similar to its peer countries, outscoring them only on access to the legal system and protection of property rights. The Index tends to demonstrate that while the United States observes the rule of law in general, there is much work to be done in increasing respect for and observance of international law in particular. More information can be found at the World Justice Project website.
White & Case Sponsors Nine National Rounds and One U.S. Regional Round of the Jessup International Law Moot Court
White & Case LLP announced that it is sponsoring ten rounds of the 10 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competitions. The sponsorship includes nine national rounds (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Georgia, Poland, Russia, South Africa and the United Kingdom) and the US regional round in Washington, DC.
This is the third straight year White & Case has sponsored multiple competitions as the sole Global Partner of the International Law Students Association (ILSA), which administers the Jessup, and the first year the Firm is sponsoring the International Rounds and the Jessup Cup.
Jessup is the world’s largest moot court competition, with more than 2,000 law students participating each year, representing over 500 law schools from more than 80 countries. Students present oral and written arguments on a hypothetical international law case to a simulated International Court of Justice. In 2010, the Jessup Problem addresses “the right to self-determination and the lawfulness of measures taken to protect the economic resources of a state.”
For more information, click here.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
ICC Appellate Chamber Orders Pre-Trial Chamber to Consider Adding Genocide Charge Against Sudan's President
The Appellate Chamber of the International Criminal Court has ordered the pretrial chamber to reconsider adding the charge of genocide to the arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Mr. al-Bashir became the first sitting head of State to be indicted by the Court, which charged him last year with two counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity.
Last year the ICC Trial Chamber rejected Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s application to charge the Sudanese leader with genocide, ruling that there was insufficient evidence. The ICC’s appeals chamber this week found the standard of proof set by the pre-trial chamber to be too demanding at the arrest warrant stage, amounting to an “error of law,” according to a news release issued by the court, which is based in The Hague. The pre-trial chamber has been directed to decide anew whether or not Mr. al-Bashir should be charged with genocide.
The United Nations estimates that an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million forced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003 in Darfur, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.
In December, the ICC Prosecutor told the Security Council that indiscriminate bombings, rape and other crimes are continuing in Darfur, with the Government of Sudan still refusing to cooperate with his office and its indicted President and other suspects remaining at large.
Soon after the arrest warrant for Mr. al-Bashir was issued, authorities expelled 13 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and revoked the permits of three local groups, dealing a blow to humanitarian efforts in the region.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Saturday, February 6, 2010
The American Bar Association Section of International Law has an ILEX Briefing Trip this week in Australia and New Zealand. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife are joining us as part of the delegation. It should be an exciting week, with great Australian (and New Zealand) hospitality.
One event I'm looking forward to tomorrow is a meeting with Australian aboriginal lawyer Noel Pearson, who was described by the Australian Literary Review as "the most influential intellecutal in Australia." He's written much but just published his first book, Up From the Mission. It's a collection of his major writings, which focus on improving the situation of indigenous peoples. His writings consider identity, culture, tradition, history, law, language, education, and responsibility.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Many of the world's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide filed plans for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 with the United Nations this past week in compliance with the January 31 deadline set by the Copenhagan Accord. 55 nations filed such plans, representing 78% of the worlds' emissions. The United States was among those nations who submitted a plan. The United States has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020 as compared to 2005 levels. (President Obama also ordered federal agencies to cut their emissions by 28%). The European Union pledged a 20% reduction, as did India, while China committed to reduce its emissions by 40%. The plans are purely voluntary and no enforcement mechanisms are built into the Copenhagen Accord, but it is at least a step in the right direction.