Tuesday, June 22, 2010
If you are a member of the American Bar Association Section of International Law, and if you happen to also have a professional profile on LinkedIn, you can join the LinkedIn group for the ABA Section of International Law.
You can also join a number of committee subgroups on the ABA International LinkedIn. The latest subgroup (created a few minutes ago) is for International Human Rights Law.
The UN Human Rights Council has appointed several new special rapporteurs who will focus on monitoring human rights as they relate to certain issues or countries.
- Christof Heyns becomes the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, succeeding Philip Alston;
- Heiner Bielefeldt replaces Asma Jahangir as the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief;
- Kishore Singh takes over from Vernor Muñoz Villalobos as the Special Rapporteur on the right to education.
- Calin Georgescu is now Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, succeeding Okechukwu Ibeanu;
- Fatsah Ouguergouz replaces Akich Okola as the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi; and
- Marzuki Darusman is the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), taking over from Vitit Muntarbhorn.
Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts report to the Human Rights Council and serve in both an independent and unpaid capacity.
(adapted from a UN Press Release)
Monday, June 21, 2010
Radio Australia reported that Vanuatu’s parliament has unanimously passed a motion calling for the International Court of Justice to investigate the legality of West Papua becoming part of Indonesia. According to Radio Australia, the motion was jointly sponsored by Prime Minister Edward Natapei and opposition leader Maxime Carlot Korman.
The resolution will ask the U.N. General Assembly to ask the international court to look into the manner in which the mainly Melanesian and Christian western half of New Guinea island was incorporated into the Asian and Islamic country of Indonesia in the 1960s. The U.N. General Assembly would make such a request under the ICJ's advisory jurisdiction.
The passage of the motion by all Vanuatu members of parliament has been welcomed by the diplomatic representative of the Free Papua Movement in Port Vila, Andy Ayamiseba, who said that he hopes that other Melanesian countries follow Vanuatu's example.
Hat tip to the East-West Center in Honolulu
Iceland deserves credit for eliminating barriers to same-sex marriage, which will become legal in the Nordic country this weekend, the United Nations human rights chief says.
Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, wrapped up her official visit to Iceland with a statement on Friday commending Iceland “for the significant progress it has achieved through recent legislation removing legal impediments to same-sex marriages.”
Iceland will become the ninth country to legalize same-sex marriage following legislation that passed the country’s parliament earlier this month. Same-sex marriage is already legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden, as well as in some areas of the United States and Mexico.
In her statement Ms. Pillay also praised Iceland for strengthening the independence of its judiciary and freedom of expression, and she welcomed efforts to set up an independent human rights institution.
During her visit – the first ever trip to Iceland by a UN human rights chief – Ms. Pillay met Foreign Minister Össur Skarphédinsson, Justice and Human Rights Minister Ragna Árnadóttir and other senior Government officials, as well as representatives of civil society and academia. She also addressed the University of Iceland in the capital, Reykjavik.
(from a UN Press Release)
Delegates gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York today to explore ways of improving the implementation of a global treaty aimed at protecting oceans and the resources they hold from a range of threats, including pollution, climate change, illegal fishing and crimes.
Experts attending the five-day meeting of the UN Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea will assess the needs for national and regional capacity-building as they seek to come up with the appropriate knowledge to help States protect Oceans in accordance with the provisions of the UN Law of the Sea Convention.
In his report to the General Assembly on oceans and the law of the sea, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon points out that because seas are interconnected, assistance intended to strengthen capacities to manage ocean-related activities can ultimately benefit all States.
He notes that effective protection of oceans continued to be hampered by capacity limitations, especially in developing countries.
“These limitations and challenges may constrain the potential for States, in particular developing countries, especially the least developed among them and the small island developing States, to benefit from oceans and seas and their resources pursuant to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the Secretary-General said in his report.
(from a UN Press Release)
Sihasak Phuangketkeow becomes the fifth president of the 47-member Council, which replaced the earlier UN Commission on Human Rights that was scrapped amid concerns about its effectiveness. He was the candidate of the panel’s Asian members.
Mr. Phuangketkeow told the Council today in Geneva that he wanted to concentrate over the next year on how members can use their “rich diversity” to forge a more united agenda on key human rights issues. Council members “need to draw synergy from such diversity, recognizing that human rights are indeed universal, indivisible and interdependent, and recognizing… that we all share a common stake in the credibility and effectiveness of the Council as a whole,” he said.
Mr. Phuangketkeow succeeds Alex van Meeuwen of Belgium as the Council’s President.
(from a UN Press Release)
The United Nations and its partners in the search for Middle East peace today welcomed Israel’s decision to allow more civilian goods into the Gaza Strip, saying that implementation of the new policy will help meet the needs of the territory’s inhabitants and address Israel’s security concerns. “Full and effective implementation will comprise a significant shift in strategy towards meeting the needs of Gaza’s population for humanitarian and commercial goods, civilian reconstruction and infrastructure, and legitimate economic activity as well as the security needs of Israel,” the Quartet – made up of the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States – said in a statement.
The group said that it will continue to work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and other concerned parties to ensure that the new arrangements are implemented as quickly as possible. The Quartet also pledged to actively explore additional ways to improve the situation in Gaza, encourage involvement of the PA at the crossings and promote greater commerce between the West Bank and Gaza, the statement added. Acknowledging that Israel has legitimate security concerns that must continue to be safeguarded, the Quarter said it believed that efforts to maintain security while enabling movement and access for Palestinian people and goods are critical.
It pledged to work with Israel and the international community to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into Gaza, and urged all those wishing to deliver goods to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings into Gaza. The Quartet deplored the continuing detention of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and called for his release ahead of the fourth anniversary of his capture on 25 June. It condemned what it said was a violation by Hamas of its international obligation to provide the International Committee of the Red Cross access to Mr. Shalit, and demanded the Palestinian group does so immediately. Members also reiterated their support for proximity talks toward the resumption, without pre-conditions, of direct bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues as previously agreed by the parties.
(adapted from a UN Press Release)
Members of the Security Council arrived today in Kabul to review progress made by the Afghan Government with assistance from the international community, and to demonstrate their continued support for the country’s efforts to ensure a sustainable peace. The visit by the 15-member body is led by Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan of Turkey, and it comes ahead of the conference to be held in the capital on 20 July and co-chaired by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan ("UNAMA").
Next month’s gathering is a follow-up to the London Conference held in January, during which the Government and its international partners jointly endorsed a strategy of transition to greater Afghan responsibility for the affairs of the country. The visit is also taking place just weeks after the holding of the Consultative Peace Jirga – which brought together 1,600 delegates from across the country to discuss the way forward in the peace process – and as the country prepares for the parliamentary elections scheduled for 18 September.
While in Afghanistan, the Council members will meet with President Hamid Karzai, senior members of the Government and other Afghan authorities and institutions, as well as with members of civil society. They will also meet members of the international community and with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
A United States national with extensive experience in organizational ethics and compliance has been appointed Director of the United Nations Ethics Office. Joan Elise Dubinsky was Chief Ethics Officer of the International Monetary Fund ("IMF") from October 2004 through June last year, and served more recently as the Director of Ethics for BAE Systems. Within the private sector, Ms. Dubinsky has also led the Rosentreter Group, a management consultancy specializing in ethics, compliance and organizational development. She succeeds Robert Benson of Canada, who has served as UN Ethics Director since May 2007.
The UN Ethics Office administers financial disclosure and whistleblower policies mandated by the General Assembly during its 2005 World Summit. It also provides confidential advice to staff to help them avert conflict of interest problems.
(adapted from a UN Press Release)
Sunday, June 20, 2010
As readers of this blog know, Justice Tom Buergenthal has announced his retirement from the International Court of Justice. Our friends at the Intlawgrrls Blog have just posted news that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has confirmed that the U.S. will nominate Joan E. Donoghue, Principal Deputy Legal Adviser at the Department of State, to replace him.
Although the nomination has been described as one to "fill the U.S. seat on the court," there is no such thing. While there is technically no U.S. seat on the Court, each of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council traditionally has been able to nominate a judge to the court.
Justice Buergenthal will return to George Washington University when he leaves the ICJ.
One of my colleagues at the Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Law, Assistant Professor Lucian Dervan, recently returned from Israel where he completed a Foundation for Defense of Democracies Academic Fellowship to study counterterrorism issues. The Fellowship gave Professor Dervan a glimpse into Israel’s counterterrorism apparatus as well as access to academics, diplomats and military personnel who provided insights into that country’s daily struggle with terror. During his time in Israel, Professor Dervan traveled to military bases, border zones, and security installations where he watched several military and police units in action. He heard of rocket attacks occuring while he was there and observed the aftermath of many other attacks. He came away believing that Israel's multi-layered approach is largely successful in thwarting potential terrorist attacks. Below right is a memorial at the site of a suicide bombing.
With the United States engaged in its own fight against terrorism, Dervan believes it could learn much from Israel’s experience as a democratic nation that has struggled for decades to balance security with protecting individual freedoms. “The numerous attempted terrorist attacks in the United States since Sept. 11 show us that counterterrorism and national security will continue to become ever more important issues for our country,” said Dervan. “Israel perceives this as a long-term battle that requires multiple fronts for success, including the use of extensive intelligence-gathering networks to avert attacks and mechanisms by which to quickly respond to and alleviate imminent threats,” Dervan said. “As America continues to battle terrorism, we should be aware of the unrelenting nature of the threat and prepare ourselves as terrorists continue in their quest to again strike us on the home front.” (Note: some of these comments are taken from an SIU press release regarding Dervan's visit to Israel.)
Professor Dervan was in Israel during the confrontation between the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and persons aboard the Mavi Marmara, one of the Turkish ships that was part of the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid that attempted to run the blockade of Gaza. Dervan said he received a briefing from a high-ranking Israeli military officer that included video taken by the Mavi Marmara's onboard security cameras throughout its voyage, including footage taken during the confrontation. Dervan stated that the video showed that the IDF initially boarded the ship without deadly weapons drawn, not anticipating armed resistance. However, when some of the passengers put up armed resistance, the situation turned more deadly. (On a related note, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced last Thursday that the Security Cabinet had agreed to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip.)
Congratulations to Professor Dervan on his Fellowship and best wishes for his future academic success!
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar used the the sixty-fifth birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi to call for her release from house arrest by the government of Myanmar, along with the release of other prisoners of conscience. (The UK Foreign Office also called for her immediate release on Friday.) Ms. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for approximately 14 of the past 20 years for her leadership of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar. She has been recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize for her work. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found Ms. Suu Kyi's detention to be arbitrary and has repeatedly called on the government of Myanmar to comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which prohibits arbitrary arrests and detentions. The government of Myanmar has reportedly said that she will be released in November, after the next elections in October.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
Several law students created what promises to be a very entertaining and informative blog for law students and pre-law students. Click here to visit the Law Street Journal. They welcome contributions from law professors as well -- see the blog for more information. Articles cover a wide range of topics from advice to personal experiences to current law news -- there is a great link there now about a law student whose efforts freed a woman who had wrongfully been in prison for almost 30 years.
Congratulations and welcome to the blogosphere!
Hat tip to the blog's creator, Allie Neil DeYoung
Armenian authorities must take steps to protect human rights defenders, who are often physically attacked, harassed or stigmatized as they try to carry out their work in the Caucasus nation, an independent United Nations expert said today.
Margaret Sekaggya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, also voiced concern about restraints on freedom of assembly in Armenia as she wrapped up a five-day fact-finding visit – the first visit to the country by a UN human rights envoy since 2000.
“I am worried by documented cases of ongoing violence, assaults, intimidation, harassment and stigmatization of defenders, in particular journalists,” she said in a statement issued in Yerevan, the capital.
“These cases would seem to illustrate an apparent culture of impunity in Armenia which impinges upon the work of human rights defenders. This impunity appears to be closely related to the deep-rooted problems within the police system as well as with the shortcomings of the justice system.”
She recommended that the Government implement a comprehensive reform of the police service, immediately take steps to tackle the problems in the justice system and set out an anti-corruption strategy for government.
Ms. Sekaggya, who met Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan during her visit, urged Armenian authorities to “undertake prompt, thorough and transparent investigations of all human rights violations, in particular attacks against journalists, in order to create a safe and enabling environment in which human rights defenders can carry out their activities.”
She also called on Mr. Sargsyan to publicly acknowledge the important role that human rights defenders play in a pluralistic and democratic society.
Human rights defenders and civil society groups should be consulted and included in decision-making processes, Ms. Sekaggya said, adding the specific needs of women defenders and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender defenders must also be addressed.
In addition the Special Rapporteur spoke out against what she described as “significant constraints” on freedom of assembly within Armenia, nothing that the right to peaceful, open and public demonstrations should be available to all.
“I also add my voice to those who have already expressed serious concerns about the amendments to the Law on Television and Radio. If signed into law by the President of Armenia, these amendments will further restrict and seriously hamper the plurality of voices and opinions available to Armenian society.”
Ms. Sekaggya serves in an independent and unpaid capacity and reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Her full report on the visit to Armenia will be presented to the Council in March next year.
(from a UN Press Release)
Dennis Byron, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda ("ICTR"), told the U.N. Security Council that he welcomed the release of Professor Peter Erlinder, a United States citizen who was arrested when he went to Rwanda in late May to take up the case of an opposition politician taken into custody. Professor Erlinder was reportedly accused of denying the genocide.
Hassan Jallow, the ICTR prosecutor, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York that Mr. Erlinder was released on health grounds.
In his address to the U.N. Security Council today Mr. Byron singled out staff departure to seek employment elsewhere as one of the main challenges to the tribunal’s efforts to complete its work on schedule. He also urged Member States to continue to cooperate with the ICTR as it sought fugitive genocide suspects, and singled out Kenya as a country that “continuously fails to comply with its cooperation obligations.”
Mr. Jallow later told reporters that Kenya had today invited him to visit the country in connection with continuing efforts to track and bring to justice fugitive genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga, whom the court has alleged is likely to be still hiding in Kenya.
He urged Member States to resettle those who had been acquitted by the tribunal, saying that three of those set free continued to live in the safe houses in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, where the ICTR is based, after their acquittal.
“Your government’s willingness to allow these lawfully acquitted men to settle in their territory would be a credible symbol of your countries’ commitment to international justice and rule of law,” Mr. Byron said.
For his part, the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ("ICTY"), Patrick Robinson, made an impassioned plea to the Council to help the tribunal retain experienced staff, saying they were leaving “in droves” after finding employment elsewhere because their contracts with ICTY, as currently structured, did not offer them the incentive to remain in the tribunal.
Mr. Byron also brought to the attention of the Council the need to provide victims of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia compensation to enable them rebuild their lives. “In order to contribute to lasting peace in the former Yugoslavia, justice must not only be retributive – it must be restorative,” he said.
Speaking to reporters, ICTY Prosecutor Serge Brammertz, said the arrest of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadžic, two suspects who remain at large, was the highest priority for his office.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Those of you in the Washington, D.C. area may be interested to know that on Monday, June 21, the George Washington University School of Law will be hosting the U.S. State Department's International Law Advisory Committee Meeting. The program will run all day from 9 am to 5:45 pm on the 5th Floor of the Michael K. Young Faculty Conference Center at 2000 H Street, Washington, D.C. Topics will include the recent International Criminal Court Review Conference and Ad Hoc Criminal Tribunals: Stock-Taking and Next Steps, Detention, Targeting, Prosecution and the Law of War: Reactions to Harold Koh's ASIL Speech, Current Topics in International Humanitarian Law: The Flotilla, International Responsibility of International Organizations: ILC Draft Articles, Nonproliferation: START, NPT Review Conference & Nuclear Security Summit, International Agreements vs. Non-Legally-Binding Arrangements: Examining Trends. There will be several speakers from the U.S. State Department, including the Legal Advisor, Harold Hongju Koh, attorneys from the Office of United Nations Affairs, and several academics.
In honor of World Refugee Day today, Friday, June 18, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres announced that the UNHCR had reached a milestone in referring 100,000 Irqai refugees for resettlement from Middle Eastern countries since 2007.
"UNHCR's 2009 Global Trends report, released Tuesday, highlights the fact that Iraqis are one of the largest refugee groups in the world, with an estimated 1.8 million seeking shelter overseas, primarily in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey. The Syrian government estimates there are 1 million refugees in the country, the majority from Iraq. Voluntary repatriation worldwide in 2009 was at its lowest point in 20 years, with around 251,500 returns, of which only 38,000 were Iraqi."
"The growing resilience of conflict results in a larger proportion of refugees who are unable to return to their homes," said Guterres, noting that major conflicts in Afghanistan, southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo show no signs of being resolved, while "conflicts that we had hoped were on their way to being resolved are stagnating."
More information about World Refugee Day may be found on the UNHCR website, which states that there are 40 million persons worldwide currently uprooted from their homes. Many of these refugees have spent years living in limbo. Lengthy security checks and the time it has taken for state processing mechanisms to be established have led to considerable delays in the departure of refugees to their new homes. Thus, much more remains to be done.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Governments, employers and workers meeting at the annual conference of the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) today adopted a new international standard on HIV and AIDS – the first international human rights instrument to focus specifically on the pandemic as a workplace issue.
Among its provisions, the new instrument stresses that measures to address HIV and AIDS in the workplace should be part of national development policies and programmes. It rejects discrimination against workers, job-seekers and applicants on the grounds of real or perceived HIV status, and accords “fundamental priority” to preventing all modes of HIV transmission.
The standard states that workers, their families and their dependents should enjoy protection of their privacy, including confidentiality related to HIV and AIDS, and that no workers should be required to undertake an HIV test or disclose their HIV status. The workplace is expected to facilitate the access, by workers, their families and dependants, to prevention, treatment, care and support.
Today’s action takes the form of an ILO Recommendation, which, unlike a Convention, does not require ratification. However, it must be communicated to national parliaments for discussion of how it might be implemented through national policies and legislation.
“With this new human rights instrument, we can harness the strength of the world of work and optimize workplace interventions to significantly improve access to prevention, treatment, care and support,” said Dr. Sophia Kisting, Director of ILO’s Programme on HIV and AIDS.
She added that the standard would provide “a major contribution to making the dream of an AIDS-free generation a reality.”
In support of the new standard, the ILO’s annual conference also adopted a resolution inviting the agency’s Governing Body to allocate greater resources to promoting it. It also asked that a global plan of action be established to achieve widespread implementation of the standard, including regular reporting from ILO member States on their actions to that end.
“We have no time to waste” in implementing this standard, said Thembi Nene-Shezi of South Africa, who chaired the debates leading to its adoption. “The engagement of those that have given birth to it – the governments, employers and workers – will be crucial to the development of national workplace policies anchored in human rights and directed at overcoming discrimination.”
(from a UN Press release)