Thursday, June 17, 2010

Israel to Ease Blockade of Gaza

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he hopes Israel’s announcement that it will ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip to allow more civilian goods to enter the territory will lead to an improvement in the lives of the 1.5 million Palestinians living there.  “The Secretary-General is encouraged that the Israeli Government is reviewing its policy towards Gaza, and he hopes that today’s decision by the Israeli security cabinet is a real step towards meeting needs in Gaza,” his spokesperson said in a statement. Mr. Ban has asked Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordination for the Middle East Peace Process, to immediately engage the Israeli Government to learn more about the decision and the additional measures needed to implement it.

The UN chief has repeatedly called for ending the blockade, which Israel imposed on Gaza for what it called security reasons after Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, ousted the Fatah movement in the Strip in 2007.  He did so most recently in the wake of the 31 May incident in which Israel raided a six-ship convoy that was carrying humanitarian goods and activists and heading for Gaza. The operation resulted in the deaths of nine civilians and the wounding of at least 30 others, and prompted renewed calls for Israel to end the blockade.

The UN, according to today’s statement, continues to seek “a fundamental change in policy” so that humanitarian assistance, commercial goods and people are able to flow through functioning open crossings, and reconstruction can take place.

Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, reacted to Israel’s announcement by noting that anything that eases the humanitarian suffering in Gaza is a step in the right direction. for the West Bank and Gaza.

(from a UN Press Release)

June 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Joan Donoghue Rumored to Fill Buergenthal's Seat at ICJ

According to Roger Alford over at Opinio Juris (, the US National Group has tapped Joan Donoghue, the Principal Deputy Legal Adviser in the Department of State, as its nominee to the ICJ.

The vacancy was created in May by the retirement of ICJ Judge Thomas Buergenthal.  Donoghue would serve out the remaining five years of Buergenthal's term.

As we reported earlier, the General Assembly and the Security Council will vote to fill the vacancy in early September.

According to Prof. Alford's brief biographical sketch:

Donoghue is a relative unknown outside government circles, but is very respected within the State Department. Indeed, in 2009 she was Acting Legal Adviser prior to Koh’s confirmation. In the early 1990s Donoghue wrote a handful of articles, most of them dealing with sovereign immunity, that have received some scholarly attention, but not much. She graduated from Berkeley Law School in 1981 and has been at the State Department since the early 1980s.


June 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Professor Peter Erlinder Freed from Prison in Rwanda

Erlinder, Peter Professor Peter Erlinder, a member of the faculty of William Mitchell College and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, was freed from prison in Rwanda today based on medical needs.

Click here to read more.

Hat tip to Hazel Weiser of the Society of American Law Teachers


June 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Honduras Becomes First Nation to Ratify U.N. Convention on the Use of Electronic Commincations in International Contracts

The United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts was aopted by the General Assembly in November 2005.  The Convention aims to enhance legal certainty and commercial predictability where electronic communications are used in relation to international contracts. It addresses issues such as:

  • the determination of a party's location in an electronic environment;
  • the time and place of dispatch and receipt of electronic communications;
  • the use of automated message systems for contract formation; and
  • the criteria to be used for establishing functional equivalence between electronic communications and paper documents -- including "original" paper documents -- as well as between electronic authentication methods and hand-written signatures.

The Convention will enter into effect when three nations ratify it.  So far 18 countries have signed it, including the People's Republic of China, South Korea, and Russia.  This week, Honduras became the first nation to ratify the convention.  Only two more nations need ratify it before it enters into effect.  UNCITRAL has not even sent out a press release on this yet, so you heard about this here first!

Click here for a copy of the convention

Click here to see the list of signatories and updates on the status of ratification.


June 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bloody Sunday Inquiry verdict: 1972 killings "unjustifiable"

After twelve years of investigation, the UK Bloody Sunday Inquiry today concluded that the killing of fourteen people by the British Army in 1972 was "unjustifiable."

The three-judge Panel of Inquiry, led by Lord Saville of Newdigate, first convened in April 1998.  The panel was proposed by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to review the findings of the original Panel of Inquiry, delivered in the Spring of 1972 after only eleven weeks of investigation.

According to the summary in today's Irish Times:

  • “Despite the contrary evidence given by soldiers, we have concluded that none of them fired in response to attacks or threatened attacks by nail or petrol bombers.”
  • The accounts of soldiers to the inquiry were rejected, with a number said to have “knowingly put forward false accounts”.
  • Five soldiers fired in the belief that no-one in the area they were firing at posed a threat.

. . .

  • “We consider it likely that Martin McGuinness was armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun on Bloody Sunday and we cannot eliminate the possibility that he fired this weapon after the soldiers had come into the Bogside”.
  • Report concludes: “He did not engage in any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire”.

Source:  Main Findings of Bloody Sunday inquiry,, June 15, 2010.

Bloody Sunday is the common name for the events of January 30, 1972, during which the British Army shot into a crowd of civil rights demonstrators in Derry (Londonderry), killing 13 and injuring another 13 (one of whom died later). 

The ten-volume, 5000+ page report is available online at  The Panel's website, which contains a large amount of primary source material as well as commentary, is available at


June 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

One Year Anniversary of the Elections in Iran

The U.S. Senate passed S Res 551 to mark the one year anniversary of the June 12, 2009 presidential election in Iran, and condemning ongoing human rights abuses in Iran.

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office


June 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Papers for December Conference in India

There will be an International and Interdisciplinary conference in Kolkata, India from December 28 to 30, 2010 on the theme of "Meaning, Identity, and Culture: East and West."  Abstracts of 150 words are requested to be sent by email to chandanachak [at] and chakrabartic [at]

Subtopics on the theme include Cognitive Meaning, Emotive Meaning, Suggestive Meaning, Myth and Metaphor, Meaning as Universal, Meaning as Form, Universal and Particular, Structure and Identity, Personal Identity, Ethnic Identity and Culture, Cultural Anthropology, Culture and Consumption, Politicizing Consumer Culture ,Archaeological Approaches to Culture, Social Identification, Dynamics of Group Culture, Ethnic Boundaries, Constructing and Deconstructing Ethnic Identity, Evolution of Culture, Encountering Different Cultures, Indian Civilization and Culture, Cultural shock, Civilization and Effect of Colonization, Deconstruction, Indo-European Languages and Contacts of Civilizations, India and Europe, Death of a Civilization, Media and Culture, Pop culture and MTV, Cultural Transformation, Role of Culture and Religion, and Cultural Meaning.  And I suppose anything else that you might think of that comes close to any of that (hey, it's a conference).

For more information, contact Dr. Chandana Chakrabarti,Dean of International Programs and
Director of the Center for Spirituality, Ethics and Global Awareness at Davis and Elkins College, Elkins, West Virginia 26241, USA (Tel. 304-637-1293).

June 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Uighurs Lose Again in Their Quest to Be Released Into United States

The Chinese Uighurs who have been detained at Guantanamo Bay these past several years have lost another court case in their quest to be released from Gitmo into the United States.  These Uighurs are pursuing habeas claims in U.S. courts and are seeking the right to enter the United States because they claim they would be persecuted or even tortured if returned to China and their continued detention constitutes unlawful indefinite executive detention. 

Readers of this blog will likely recall that in March 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider whether further proceedings are warranted in light of the fact that five of the Uighurs had been offered resettlement in third countries, but had rejected those offers (12 others accepted offers of resettlement).  See Kiyemba v. Obama, 130 S.Ct. 1235 (March 1, 2010).  The Uighurs claim a further remand to the trial court is necessary to determine whether the offers of settlement are "appropriate." 

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Uighurs are not entitled to any further hearings, nor are they entitled to be released into the United States. See Kiyemba v. Obama, No. 08-5424 (May 28, 2010).  The Court stated that it is for the political branches of government to control the borders of the United States and to decide who to admit to the country and who to exclude, as well as to determine whether any resettlement offers are appropriate.  The Court pointed out that since its first opinion in Kiyemba in 2009, Congress had enacted seven different statutes prohibiting the expenditure of funds to bring persons to the United States from Gitmo.  These statutes provide the Court with evidence of Congressional views on the matter. The Uighurs have no right to be admitted to the U.S. and their release from detention is within their control since they have the ability to accept an offer of resettlement.

The Court's opinion is consistent with precedent such as Mezei which also denied a noncitizen detained on Ellis Island entry to the United States.  See Shaughnessy v. United States ex rel. Mezei, 345 U.S. 206 (1953).  Mezei's case was perhaps more compelling in that he had been a lawful permanent resident of the United States most of his life and was returning from a visit to Eastern Europe when he was detained.  He was willing to go to another country, but could not find one that would take him.  By contrast, the Uighurs have never lived in the United States and have had offers of resettlement from stable democratic countries such as Switzerland and Palau, which makes their demand to be resettled in the U.S. less sympathetic or pressing than it was prior to those offers of resettlement.


June 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S.-Cuba Immigration Talks Scheduled for Later this Week

US Flag The United States and Cuba are scheduled to resume immigration talks on Friday, June 18 in Washington, D.C. for the first time since February.  Fornally, these talks are intended to monitor the 16-year-old agreement between the U.S. and Cuba pursuant to which the U.S. issues 20,000 visas per year to Cubans.  However, in the past, these talks have often been an opportunity to raise other topics besides immigration.  Other informal talks between the U.S. and Cuba in the past few months have dealt with aid to Haiti and the Gulf oil spill.  Cuba flag

In a positive sign, the Cuban government released Alan Sigler, an ailing political prisoner, last week after talks with the Catholic Church and transferred six other political prisoners to jails closer to their homes and families.  From the U.S. side, one continuing sticking point is Cuba's detention since December of American contrator Alan Gross, whom the Cubans accuse of spying.   


June 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New International Criminal Law Search Tool Available

ICC Flag According to a press release from the International Criminal Court, a new search engine is now available, focusing on the work of the ICC, the ad hoc international criminal tribunals, and international criminal law at the national and transnational level.

The ICC Legal Tools Project ( is a project of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor to develop a comprehensive, indexed, and easily-searchable database of primary and secondary source material in international (and internationalized) criminal law.  This announcement marks the second generation of the Legal Tools project, which contains a robust amount of caselaw, statutory information, and commentary.

Institutional interest disclaimer - Two teams of WU Law students are among the corps of students and young lawyers doing the "grunt work" on this project.  I'm receiving -- and WU is receiving -- no consideration for this shameless plug.  All the same, I do think this is a neat and useful resource.


June 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 14, 2010

ICC Conference Adopts Definition of Crime of Aggression

International Criminal Court Flag Just before the close of the Review Conference on the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday, the Review Conference voted to adopt an amendment to the Rome Statute defining the crime of aggression and identifying the jurisdictional requirements for prosecution of the crime.  The crime of aggression has been part of Article 5 of the ICC Statute since its inception in 1998, but no one could be charged with the crime because the parties were unable to agree on its definitional and jurisdictional elements. 

Under the new definition, the crime of aggression means "the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression, which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of of the Charter of the United Nations. . .  An "act of aggression" means the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of  another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations."  The definition then goes on to list several specific acts that qualify as aggressive acts.

Under the new definition, the United Nations Security Council has the primary role in determining when a crime of aggression has occcured.  This role for the UNSC is appropriate given that it is the body charged with maintaining and restoring international peace and security under the UN Charter.  However, if the UNSC fails to act, the ICC prosecutor is authorized to commence an investigation on his or her own initiative or at the request of a State Party.  The prosecutor must have the approval of a trial chamber.  The UNSC can still block the investigation by passing a resolution, but the resolution must be renewed  annually.  In addition, the crime may only be pursued against states that have accepted the ICC's jurisdiction, a significant limitation.  Some international scholars  are already criticizing the amendment because the difficulty of charging a state with an action of aggression makes it unlikely such jurisdiction will ever be exercised.

The ICC will not have jurisdiction over any crimes of aggression until at least 2017.  In addition, the amendment must first be adopted by the States Parties to the ICC.


June 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Japan Lobbies Palau on Whaling Issue

Japan Palau The Palau Horizon reports that the Japanese government will sending an envoy to Palau this month to hold talks and explain to Palau government its current hunts of whale for research. Palau's President Johnson Toribiong had previously stated that his government wants to be consistent with its policies on the marine resources of the country and is reconsidering its position on whaling.

President Toribiong said that the Japanese Ambassador to Palau, Yoshiyuki Sadaoka, has informed him that a special envoy will be visiting Palau “to educate me on the Japanese policies and scientific research.” Earlier the president said that his government will review its current position on whaling to ensure the country does not contribute to the depletion and extinction of whales.

Palau is a member of the International Whaling Commission since 2002 and is one of the pro-whaling nations that supports Japan’s research program.

Palau Bai Australia, a donor country to Palau, has lodged a legal action in the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands to protest Japan’s whaling.  Click here to read more about that case. 

Japan is the largest donor to Palau after the United States.  Palau had been a mandate to Japan under the League of Nations.  The two countries have had a special relationship -- you might guess that just by looking at their two flags.

President Toribiong recently declared Palau as a shark sanctuary before the United Nations General Assembly. He says the country also needs to protect other marine species in Palau.

Hat tip to the East West Center


June 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estimated $1 Trillion (!!!) in Mineral Deposits Discovered in Afghanistan

The New York Times reports that the United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan.  These deposits show mineral resources far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials interviewed by the New York Times.

The mineral deposits include huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold, lithium and other minerals essential to modern industry.  U.S. officials believe that with this discovery, Afghanistan could become one of the most important mining centers in the world.


June 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Japan Starts Hunting 260 Whales

Radio Australia reports that Japan has already started its summer whaling hunt in the northwest Pacific Ocean less than 10 days before the annual whaling commission meets. The Japanese whaling fleet reportedly left port yesterday to hunt 260 whales before it will return in August.  


June 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Congratulations to Ethan Burger

Australia Ethan Burger has accepted a three-year Senior Lectureship at University of Wollongong Faculty of Law in New South Wales, Australia.  He will be attached to the University's Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention.  He is an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.


June 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

East Asia Law Review

The latest issue of the East Asia Law Review is available by clicking here.  Articles of interest to readers of this blog include Korean Legal Education for the Age of Professionalism: Suggestions for More Concerted Curricula by Young-Cheol Jeong.

To see past issues of the East Asia Law Review, click here and you will see a list on the left hand column.  There does not appear to be a comprehensive index of the volumes published, but all of the articles seem to be there and can be easily downloaded.

The East Asia Law Review is published by the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.  It functions both as an independent, student-edited journal and as a group for Penn Law students interested in comparative legal issues in East Asia. It was previously called the China Law & Policy Review.


June 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. State Department Certifies Serbian Cooperation with ICTY

The U.S. State Department certified that the government of Serbia is cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), taking steps that are consistent with the Dayton Accords to end Serbian financial, political, security and other support which has served to maintain separate Republika Srpska institutions.  It also certified that Serbia is taking steps to implement policies that reflect a respect for minority rights and the rule of law. See Fed. Reg. 33,376 for more details.

(Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office)


June 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More Lies from the Fiji Military Government

Fiji The leader of the military regime that seized power in Fiji claimed this week that the Fijian people are urging him to delay his plans for elections by 2014.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama claims that the people are "happy" with the regime’s focus on infrastructure development, agriculture, tourism, health, and education.   

The Commodore says instead of condemning him, foreign leaders and former Fiji residents who oppose his government should talk with the people on the ground. He told Auckland-based Radio Tarana that he doesn’t understand why Pacific Islands Forum ministers say things are getting worse in Fiji.

Commodore, perhaps it is because those ministers respect the rule of law?


June 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Law School Deans Call for Rwanda to Release Prof. Peter Erlinder

Erlinder, Peter Law school deans across the United States have called on Rwanda to release Professor Peter Erlinder, who was arrested there for defending an opposition presidential candidate.  Click here to read more.


June 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 11, 2010

And Now Iceland Also Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

And following our news on same-sex marriage in Portugal, we can also report that Iceland's parliament, the Alþingi (Althingi), has just legalized same-sex marriage by a vote of 49-0.  The Prime Minister of Iceland, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, is openly lesbian.

Hat tip to Rex Wockner


June 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)