Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Posters for the AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco

Aalslogo The Association of American Law Schools Section on International Law is sponsoring posters this year to be displayed at the AALS annual conference in San Francisco this coming January.  Posters provide a great opportunity for authors to present their research or innovative teaching ideas in an informal manner.

The deadline for poster proposals for the 2011 AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco is September 3, 2010. By this date you must submit a short description of the poster and an actual copy of the proposed poster. The submission guidelines are available on the AALS website by clicking here.  


August 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

US State Dept. Releases Fifth Annual Water for the Poor Report

The U.S. Department of State recently released the fifth annual Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor 2010 Report describing U.S. efforts to expand access to safe drinking water and sanitation, improve water resources management and increase water productivity in developing countries.  The following is taken from a U.S. State Department Press Release:

"The Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 requires the Secretary of State, in consultation with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, to submit an annual report to Congress outlining the U.S. Government’s strategy and progress in achieving the objectives of the Act.  "Key Results: In FY 2009, the United States (primarily through USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation) invested about $774 million for all water sector and sanitation-related activities in 62 developing countries. Of that amount, USAID invested more than $481 million in drinking water and sanitation-related activities. As a result of USAID investments, some 5.7 million people received improved access to safe drinking water and 1.3 million received improved access to sanitation during FY 2009. Other U.S. Government agencies made unique contributions to water and sanitation that greatly magnify our overall effectiveness. In many cases these agencies made both programmatic and non-financial contributions. From 2005 to 2009, the United States invested more than $3.4 billion for all water sector and sanitation related activities."

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 2.6 billion people lack an adequate latrine and approximately 1.1 billion people have no access to any type of improved source for drinking water. According to WHO, the direct consequences of this lack of access include:

  • 1.6 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera) attributable to lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation and 90% of these are children under 5, mostly in developing countries;
  • 160 million people are infected with schistosomiasis causing tens of thousands of deaths yearly; 500 million people are at risk of trachoma from which 146 million are threatened by blindness and 6 million are visually impaired;
  • intestinal helminths (ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm infection) are plaguing the developing world due to inadequate drinking water, sanitation and hygiene with 133 million suffering from high intensity intestinal helminths infections; there are around 1.5 million cases of clinical hepatitis A every year.

United Nations Millennium Development Goal 7 aims at halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.  Between 1990 when the Millennium Development Goals were adopted and 2002, the number of persons who have access to safe drinking water has increased from 77% of the world's population to 83%.  But to meet Millennium Development Goal 7, the number must be increased by another 5% to 88.5%.  The U.S. efforts outlined in the Report above are certainly to be lauded, but much more remains to be done.  For more information, visit the WHO website.


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

Monday, August 16, 2010

OP To Treaty on Protection of UN Staff To Take Effect August 19

Un_symbol_sm[1] The new Optional Protocol (OP) to the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel is scheduled to become legally effective on Thursday of this week, August 19, 2010.  The OP will take effect after achieving 22 ratifications, with the United Kingdom being the most recent country to ratify the OP last month.  As its name suggests, the Convention is designed to provide protection to UN staff who are carrying out their work worldwide.  The new OP expands the protection of the 1994 Convention to cover a wider range of employees who have been the subject of attacks, namely those delivering humanitarian assistance and those providing political and development assistance in peacebuilding situations. The 1994 Convention originally only applied to personnel engaged in peacekeeping operations. According to a UN Press Release, the OP is necessary because: "Last year alone, 28 civilian UN staff members were killed, according to the UN Staff Union, and at least 97 aid workers were killed, while 60 others were wounded and 92 more were abducted."


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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

UN Group Calls for End to Discrimination Against Persons Affected By Leprosy

The United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee issued a press release on Friday calling for an end to laws that discriminate against persons affected by leprosy.  The HRC Advisory Committee has also issued a draft set of principles and guidelines which recommend that States enact legislation to ensure people affected by leprosy and their family members do not suffer discrimination in employment, education, health, marriage, religion, use of public utilities and public places.  This draft will be submitted to the HRC at its next meeting in September.

Leprosy is a disease that affects the nerves, nose and upper respiratory tract.  It is best known by its unsightly skin lesions.  It is estimated that between 2 to 3 million persons worldwide have been permanently disfigured because of the disease.  Today, It is curable and, as a result of better treatment, the number of new cases has declined dramatically in the last decade.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , most new cases are found in Angola, Brazil, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal and United Republic of Tanzania.  Despite recent progress in reducing the number of new cases, there is still discrimination against persons with leprosy based on outdated beliefs regarding how the disease is spread.  Accordingly, the UN HRC Advisory Committee hopes to bring attention to the issue to end to such discrimination.


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

Friday, August 13, 2010

Human Rights: Uganda Becomes 24th Country to Ratify the Maputo Protocol

Uganda Uganda became the 24th country to ratify the "Maputo Protocol" to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.  The protocol was adopted by the Heads of State and Government at a session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) convened in Maputo on July 11, 2003.  Uganda signed the protocol in 2004 and this year ratified it.

The other state parties are Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Seychelles, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Among other measures, the Maputo Protocol calls for the prohibition of female genital mutilation (FGM).  Click here to see the Maputo Protocol.  

Hat tip to East Africa Business Week and the Public International Law and Policy Group


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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

ICJ Sets Briefing Schedule for "Whaling in the Antarctic" Case (Australia v. Japan)

ICJ The International Court of Justice has fixed time-limits for the filing of the initial pleadings in the case concerning Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan). The Court fixed May 9, 2011 as the time-limit for the filing of a Memorial by Australia and March 9, 2012 as the time-limit for the filing of a Counter-Memorial by Japan.

Click here for more information.


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

Ideas for Teaching the ICJ Advisory Opinion regarding Kosovo Independence

As we international law professors start preparing for the fast-approaching new school year, I would like to encourage a sharing of ideas about how we may be incorporating the ICJ's 22 July 2010 Advisory Opinion on the legality of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence in our courses on international law.  Readers of this blog will likely recall that the exact question posed by the UN General Assemby in its request for the advisory opinion was:  ‘Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?’”  The succinct answer of the Court to this question was: "yes."

Arguably this opinion is an important one because it sanctions unilateral declarations of independence, reaffirming the concept of declatoratory statehood endorsed by the Montevideo Convention.  In response to the argument that the declaration is contrary to Article 2.4 of the UN Charter, the Court opines that the scope of the principle of territorial integrity only applies in relations between states.  This opinion thus has the potential to unnerve other states with minority populations that have secessionist tendencies.

On the other hand, it may be argued that the ICJ's decision does little to advance the law.  The Court's opinion is only an advisory opinion and is not binding on parties to a contentious dispute.  In addition, the Court specifically avoids resolving any debates regarding the scope and application of the concept of self-determination.  The Court states that it is not asked to opine on the legal consequences of its decision; in particular, whether Kosovo has reached statehood. The Court simply took a positivist view of international law by declaring that nothing in international law prohibits the actions taken by Kosovo (as it did in The Lotus Case).  The Court further states that its opinion does not address whether Kosovo has a positive right to secede.

On a related note, will you teach the jurisdictional parts of the decision, e.g., the Court's decision that it has jurisdiction over the General Assembly's request despite the fact that the UN Security Council was seized of the matter in Kosovo?  Or its decision to exercise jurisdiction despite the arguments of some of the parties that the question presented is really a political one intended to serve the interests of particular states, not a legal one?  If you use the Certain Expenses or the Western Sahara advisory opinions to teach these points now, will you substitute?

Please consider sharing your thoughts and ideas using the comment feature on this blog.


August 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Seychelles is Latest Country to Join the Intenational Criminal Court

International Criminal Court Flag Seychelles The Indian Ocean archipelago of Seychelles has become the latest country to ratify the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court ("ICC").  It ratified the 1998 Rome Statute yesterday.  The Statute will enter into force for Seychelles on November 1, 2010. 

The ICC was set up in 2002 after more than the required number of 60 nations ratified the Rome Statute.  With Seychelles’ ratification, there will be 112 States Parties to the International Criminal Court.   

The ICC is currently investigating events in five countries or regions:

  • Uganda,
  • the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),
  • Sudan’s Darfur region,
  • the Central African Republic (CAR) and
  • Kenya.


August 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

WTO Public Hearings on Country of Origin Labeling Requirements

WTO 80 percent At the request of the parties in the dispute U.S.—Cool (DS384/DS386), the World Trade Organization Panel has agreed to open its meeting with the parties on September 14, 15, and 16, 2010 with a session open to public.

The meeting will be held at the International Conference Centre (CICG) in Geneva.  Click here for more information.


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

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

The prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon set up to try suspects in the murders of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others has asked the country’s authorities to hand over all information allegedly held by Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah pertaining to the 2005 attack.   Mr. Nasrallah held a press conference on 9 August during which he offered information to assist the investigation, and showed a video that he claimed implicates Israel in the attack.  

“In line with its mandate, the Office of the Prosecutor has requested the Lebanese authorities to provide all the information in possession of Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah,” the Special Tribunal for Lebanon stated in a news release.   “This request includes the video material that was shown on television during the press conference, as well any other material that would be of assistance to the Office of the Prosecutor in unveiling the truth,” it added.  The Office of the Prosecutor also invited Mr. Nasrallah to “use his authority to facilitate its investigation.”  

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is an independent body that was set up in The Hague in the Netherlands, following a probe by an independent international commission after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry into the massive car bombing in February 2005 was seriously flawed and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack.   The investigation of the murders continues under the guidance of the Tribunal’s Prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, who reported in December that the probe “is making progress and proceeding at full pace.”   He stressed that the ultimate goal of the Tribunal, beyond finding out the truth and ensuring that justice is done, is to help Lebanon and its people in their continued efforts to further promote the rule of law and fight impunity.   

(from a UN Press Release)

August 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Reminder: Deadline to Submit Presentation Proposals to CSLSA Annual Conference Fast Approaching

The Central States Law Schools Association (CSLSA) is hosting its annual conference September 24-25, 2010 and is actively soliciting law faculty to present papers and works in progress.  This year's conference will be held at the University of North Dakota School of Law in Grand Forks, ND.  (Having been to a conference there before, I can attest to the beauty of the campus and the ease of getting in and out of the area.)  The CSLSA conference is a wonderful, informal environment in which to receive interdisciplinary feedback on a work in progress.  The deadline to submit proposals is August 31, 2010.  An abstract of no more than 500 words should be sent to Professor Wes Oliver at Widener.  More details and contact information can be found at the CSLSA website.

There is no registration fee.  If your school is a member of CSLSA, the conference will pay for one night's lodging.  Several meals are also included.  So in this time of tight budgets, the CSLSA is also a great deal!


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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Avoiding the Rule of Law

In disappointing news for a country that prides itself on following and promoting the rule of law, the Associated Press reported over the weekend that the United States government transferred detainees in the war on terror into and out of Guantanamo Bay earlier than previously acknowleged to avoid the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts and the application of the rule of law. 

According to the Associated Press, four of the most highly valued prisoners in the war on terror were brought to Guantanamo Bay in September 2003, three years earlier than the U.S. government had previously disclosed.  They were then removed from Guantanamo Bay within months when it appeared that the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to give detainees access to U.S. courts and lawyers in the case of Rasul v. Bush.  The March 2004 transfer to CIA "black sites" allowed the continued interrogation of the detainees without access to lawyers or human rights observers, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross. The detainees were then transferred back to Guantanamo Bay two years later when the Bush Administration came under domestic and international pressure for its extraordinary rendition program.  A European investigation established that 14 European countries participated in the program, including Poland, Romania and Lithuania, who hosted prisons.  President Obama ordered the secret prisons closed shortly after taking office.

More details may be found in this Washington Post story.


August 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 9, 2010

WTO Panel Issues Report on Apples

WTO 80 percent The World Trade Organization issued a panel report on New Zealand's complaint against Australia regarding measures affecting the importantion of apples from New Zealand.  Click here to read the report.  The WTO panel concluded that certain measures taken by Australia to protect applies from pests violate the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement and have nullified and impaired benefits to New Zealand under the WTO Agreements.  The panel has recommended that the WTO Dispute Settlement Body request that Australia bring its measures into conformity with the SPS Agreement. 


UPDATE:  Australia announced in September that it was appealing the panel's report

August 9, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judicial Conference for the U.S. Court of International Trade

Save the Date!  The 16th Judicial Conference of the U.S. Court of International Trade will be held on Thursday, November 18, 2010 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Trump Soho, located at 248 Spring Street in New York City.

Mark E. Wojcik (former law clerk at the U.S. Court of International Trade)

August 9, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICJ Schedules Public Hearings in Georgia v. Russian Federation

ICJ The International Court of Justice will hold public hearings in the case concerning Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Georgia v. Russian Federation) from Monday, September 13 to Friday, September 17, 2010, at the Peace Palace in The Hague. The hearings will concern solely the preliminary objections to jurisdiction raised by the Russian Federation.

Click here for more information.


August 9, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICTY Donates Books to Law School in Kosovo

ICTY The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, announced last week that it is donating law journals law books to the Law Faculty and Human Rights Centre of Pristina University in Kosovo.  In a press release, the ICTY said it “is committed to promoting respect for the rule of law,” and hoped that “the donated books will greatly benefit the students of law in Kosovo.”


August 9, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

US State Department Suspends Certain Adoptions from Nepal

Nepal Effective immediately, the U.S. government is suspending new adoption petitions and related visa issuances for children from Nepal who allegedly were abandoned by their parents.  After investigation, the State Department has determined that documents presented to prove the abandonment of children in Nepal are unreliable.  According to the State Department's investigation:

"Civil documents, such as the children’s birth certificates often include data that has been changed or fabricated. Investigations of children reported to be found abandoned are routinely hindered by the unavailability of officials named in reports of abandonment. Police and orphanage officials often refuse to cooperate with consular officers’ efforts to confirm information by comparing it with official police and orphanage records. In one case, the birth parents were actively searching for a child who had been matched with an American family for adoption."

The U.S. State Department has therefore concluded that it can no longer reasonably determine whether a child documented as abandoned qualifies as an orphan.  Without reliable documentation, the U.S.  government cannot process an orphan petition to completion.

The U.S. is not alone in taking this action.  It appears that all other countries that had been processing adoption cases from Nepal have stopped accepting new cases due to a lack of confidence that children presented as orphans are actually eligible for intercountry adoption.


August 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Actress Mia Farrow to Testify at Special Court for Sierra Leone

The actress and humanitarian activist Mia Farrow is set to give evidence on Monday about blood diamonds that are the current focus of testimony at the ongoing trial of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).  Judges on that court will hear from Ms. Farrow and agent Carole White following evidence given yesterday by the high-profile British model Naomi Campbell.

Ms. Campbell told the SCSL that she was given a pouch of “very small, dirty-looking stones” by two unidentified men while she was staying at the home of the former South African president Nelson Mandela in 1997.

Mr. Taylor, who is on trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, has long been accused of using blood diamonds to fuel conflict in Sierra Leone while he served as leader of neighbouring Liberia.  A blood diamond is a diamond that is mined in a war zone and then sold to finance the activities of an army, insurgency or warlord, and they have been a feature of many African conflicts in the past two decades.

But Mr. Taylor denies the blood diamond allegations and has pleaded not guilty before the SCSL to 11 charges, including pillage, slavery for forced marriage purposes, collective punishment and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The charges relate to his alleged support for two rebel groups in Sierra Leone – the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and the Revolutionary United Front.

Ms. Campbell said yesterday that the men did not introduce themselves when they gave her the pouch while she was trying to sleep at the presidential home following a dinner party held by Mr. Mandela.  Discussing the matter the next morning at breakfast with Ms. Farrow and Ms. White, Ms. Campbell said she was told the stones were likely to be diamonds and from Mr. Taylor, another guest at the dinner party.

The model said she later gave the stones to a representative of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund because she wanted them to go to charity. She said she was unaware of Mr. Taylor before the dinner party or the term ‘blood diamond.’

The SCSL was set up jointly by the Sierra Leonean Government and the UN in 2002 and is headquartered in Freetown, the capital. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and national law committed on Sierra Leonean territory since the end of November 1996.

(From a UN Press Release)

August 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 6, 2010

International Human Rights Lawyer Award Presented to Gao Zhisheng

The International Human Rights Lawyer Award recognized human rights contributions of lawyers around the world. The 2010 award was presented today in San Francisco during the annual meeting of the American Bar Association.  It was presented at the Section Council meeting of the ABA Section of International Law. 

Penny Wakefield, speaking on behalf of the International Human Rights Law Committee of the ABA Section of International Law, spoke about concern for lawyers and human rights defenders around the world and, in connection with this award, with the People's Republic of China.

Gao Zhisheng was a lawyer working to support the rights of home owners, business owners, and coal workers.  He had a difficult childhood and witnessed a great deal of injustice while growing up.  When China announced that it would increase the number of lawyers he jumped at the chance to go to school and become a lawyer.  He passed the bar exam in 1994 at a time when only 1 in 100 applicants passed the bar.  He became a prominent lawyer and in 2001 was named by the Department of Justice as a prominent lawyer.  His work started to include defending the rights of home owners, business owners, workers, and eventually even practitioners of Falun Gong.  Because of that work, his law license was taken from him in 2005.  In 2006, he was charged with subversion and sentenced to house arrest.  In 2007, just before the Olympics, he wrote a letter to the US Congress to explain the human rights situation.  He was arrested and reportedly tortured for a period of almost 60 days.  He told a journalist about that experience and said that the loss of dignity made him feel as if he was nothing but an animal.  His family was also arrested and allegedly tortured.  His wife and two children were able to escape from China and arrived in the United States last year.

Gao Zhisheng was not present to receive the award -- he is missing.  It is not known whether he is in hiding or whether he has disappeared.  His teenage daughter accepted the award on his behalf and wrote a short note (which was read in translation) about how happy her father would have been to accept the award and how much she misses him.

ABA Section Chair Glenn Herring told Gao's daughter that he hoped her father would be able to one day hold the award and that he would be reunited with his family.  He noted that the ABA Section of International Law had worked on a rule of law letter to urge greater protection for lawyers in China.  Gao's daughter received extended applause on behalf of her father.

How sad that a well respected lawyer cannot protect himself from the kinds of abuses inflicted here.  Gao was persecuted for defending clients, the essential work of attorneys around the world.  The International Human Rights Lawyer Award given today raises awareness of his case and of the plight of international human rights lawyers around the world.


August 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mary Rasmusen Award Presented to Prof. Diane Marie Amann

The American Bar Association Section of International Law has just presented the Mayre Rasmusen Award for the Advancement of Women in International Law to Professor Diane Marie Amann of the University of California at Davis.  She was recognized for advancing opportunities for women in international law, including creating the Intlawgrrls Blog.  Professor Amann is also the immediate past chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on International Law.  The award was presented today at the Council Meeting of the ABA Section of International Law.

Congratulations Diane!


August 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)