Friday, May 13, 2011

Arctic Council Signs First Legally Binding International Agreement

Arctic Council logo The 15-year-old Arctic Council, composed of eight States with legal claims to territory in the Arctic region, signed its first legally binding international agreement yesterday on aeronautical and maritime search and rescue.  The signing occurred at a ministerial meeting in Nuuk Greeland yesterday, Thursday, May 12.  The eight States that comprise the Arctic Council are: Canada, Denmark [including the Faroe Islands and Greenland], Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the US. In addition, six organisations representing Arctic indigenous peoples have status as 'permanent participants'.

Sweden took over the two-year position as chair at yesterday's meeting.  Sweden's chairmanship will be assisted by the Council's decision to create a new permanent secretariat which will based in Norway.  Sweden is expected to use its position as chair to push for an agreement on the prevention and coordinated response to future oil spills in the region.  The Council also works on issues such as climate change, pollution monitoring and prevention, biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of resources. 

More information and the new Search and Rescue Agreement may be found here.


May 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Disability Treaty Now Has 100 Parties

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hailed Colombia’s signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as an “important milestone,” emphasizing the treaty’s role in providing inclusion and development for persons with disabilities worldwide.
On 10 May, the South American nation became the 100th country to ratify the Convention which supports greater access for the disabled to participate in their communities. It is widely regarded as the first international human rights treaty of the twenty-first century.
“This is an important milestone for Colombia and for the global community,” Mr. Ban said, commenting on the signing. “The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a powerful tool for inclusion and development. Let us use it to make concrete improvements in the lives of persons with disabilities,” he added.
About 10 per cent of the global population, or 650 million people, live with a disability, with many excluded from fully participating in the economic, social, and political lives of their communities.
An estimated 386 million people of working age suffer from some form of disability, with unemployment rates in this category soaring as high as 80 per cent in some countries.
Mr. Ban’s remarks were echoed by Sha Zukang, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), who said he was greatly encouraged by the ratification. DESA is the UN department which serves as Secretariat for the Convention.
“This is a great achievement by the international community in working towards a just and equitable society, based on equality and equal opportunity for all, including persons with disabilities,” Mr. Sha said.
The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly in 2006 in an effort to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same human rights as everyone else. Eighty-two countries immediately ratified it – the highest number for a UN treaty in history.
(UN Press Release)

May 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Legislative Update

The ABA Office of Governmental Affairs advises us of the following international law developments:

Bills Introduced  
S 954 (Lugar, R-IN), to promote the strengthening of the Haitian private sector; to Foreign Relations. CR 5/11/11, S2874.
S Res 180 (Lieberman, I-CT), to express support for peaceful demonstrations and universal freedoms in Syria and condemning the human rights violations by the Assad regime; to Foreign Relations. CR 5/11/11, S2875.
HR 1856 (Wolf, R-VA), to amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to strengthen the promotion of religious freedom in United States foreign policy and to reauthorize the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and for other purposes; to Foreign Affairs. CR 5/11/11, H3218.
H Res 266 (Kelly, R-PA), to express the sense of the House of Representatives that the President should, without any further delay, submit the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement to Congress for its consideration and immediate approval under fast track procedures pursuant to the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority of 2002; to Ways and Means. CR 5/11/11, H3219.  
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled “Next Steps in Cote d’Ivore.” 5/19/11, 2:30 pm, 419 Dirksen.  
Committee Action  
The State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee, House Appropriations Committee, will mark up draft legislation that would make fiscal 2012 appropriations for State-Foreign Operations. 7/27/11, Time TBA, HT-2 Capitol.
The House Appropriations Committee will mark up draft legislation that would make fiscal 2012 appropriations for State-Foreign Operations. 8/3/11, Time TBA, 2359 Rayburn.

May 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


It is turning out to be a busy week on the corruption front this week.  Yesterday, a U.S. District Court in California allowed a case to go foward under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) against five former executives of Control Components, Inc, a valve manufacturing company.  The judge rejected the defendants' argument that an executive of a state-owned corporation is not a "foreign official"  within the meaning of the FCPA.  The judge held that whether the state-owned corporation is an instrumentality of a foreign government is an issue of fact for the jury.  The former executives are accused of paying bribes to foreign officials in China, Malaysia and the United Arab Emerates.  Three Control Components employees have already pled guilty to violations of the FCPA.

In a separate case, Lindsey Manufacturing of California and two of its executives were found guilty of violations of the FCPA in a federal trial in California yesterday in connection with the payment of bribes to an electric utility owned by the government of Mexico.  Once again, one of the main issues was what constitutes an "instrumentality" of the government within the meaning of the FCPA.  This was one of the few FCPA cases to go to trial; most settle out of court.  More information and analyses of these cases can be found at the FCPA Blog.


May 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Human Rights Topics

We received a message about an online list of human rights topics.  We think it might be helpful for those of you who are still looking for summer research topics but would rather hit the blogs than the books.  There is a lot of interesting stuff here -- this would also count as a legitimate grading distraction for colleagues who should otherwise be grading final exams!

Hat tip to Carl Andrews.


May 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Budget Travel Tools for Students in Summer Study Abroad Classes

I'm sure someone will find this to be helpful!  The link here has more than 50 great resources for students going on study abroad programs.  These budget travel tools are not specific to law students but they are all helpful nonetheless.


May 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Law Professors Doing Great Work

It was clear from the ASIL Teaching International Law Interest Group conference last Friday that there are lots of law professors out there doing important work with law students.  Pictured below and to the right are Professor ASIL TILIG 5-11 004Sital Kalantry of Cornell, who spoke about her work in Columbia with a human rights clinic, Professor Sean O'Brien of Notre Dame, who discussed his work in Peru and Guatemala and, most recently representing one of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Professor Raquel Aldana of Pacific McGeorge, who directs a summer externship program that places students with NGOs in Guatemala, and Ambassador Robert Van Lierop, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Pace Law School and places students in externships with permanent missions at the United Nations, particularly with island nations and least developed countries.  Professor Vanessa Merton of Pace moderated the panel discussion.

Pictured below and to the left are Professor Beth Simmons of Harvard University, who spoke about her quantitative empirical work in international law and her conclusion that international human rights treaties do positively influence state behavior.  More information can be found in her award-winning book, ASIL TILIG 5-11 001 "Mobilizing for Human Rights" (Cambridge Univ. Press 2010).  To her right is Professor Laura Dickinson, of Arizona State University, who spoke about her qualitative empirical research comparing compliance with international humanitarian law between the U.S. military and private contractors.  Professor Tom McDonnell of Pace Law School was the moderator and primary organizer of the conference.

Other speakers described important historical research with respect to U.S. Foreign Relations Law (Professor Julian Ku of Hofstra), the Alien Tort Statute and the Prize Cases (Professor Tom Lee of Fordham), the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the Nottebohm Case (Professor Cindy Buys of Southern Illinois) and the history and use of international law by U.S. courts (Professor Jordan Paust of Houston).  That panel was moderated by Professor Mark Shulman of Pace Law School.

Professor Peggy McGuiness of St. John's described the growing readership and influence of the Opinio Juris blog and Professor Vikki Rogers of Pace Law School similarly described the importance of the Albert H. Kritzer CISG Database (Convention on the International Sale of Goods).   Professor Anthony VanDuzer of the University of Ottawa desribed an innovative NAFTA course taught jointly by law professors in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.  Professor Sasha Greenawalt of Pace was the moderator of that panel.

Finally, the conference also featured an interesting and thoughtful debate regarding the legality of the U.S. actions in Pakistan last week, including the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  News reports of the discussion can be found here and here.

Many thanks to Professor McDonnell and the faculty and staff of Pace Law School for a well-run, interesting and informative conference!


May 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Global Legal Skills Conference

The sixth Global Legal Skills Conference finished this afternoon at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  More than 200 participants came from around the world to discuss international legal education with a special focus on legal writing and skills education.  Participants attended from Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries.  Legal writing professors,  ESL professors, business professors, judges, and practicing attorneys mixed for three days of highly-interactive discussions.  It was a great conference and we are already making plans for the next one, which we expect to be in Central America this Spring.

Special thanks to Anthony Niedwiecki, Lurene Contento, Kim Chanbonpin, William Mock, and David Austin for all of their help.

Mark E. Wojcik
Conference Co-Chair

May 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spain is really serious about piracy!

Earlier this year, I blogged about life sentences imposed on convicted pirates in federal courts in the United States.  The U.S. court imposed the lengthy sentence in part as a deterrent measure.  However, this week, the Spanish National Court imposed a 439-year sentence on two Somali pirates who were involved in the 2009 hijacking of a Spanish fishing boat off the coast of Somalia.  Spain is really serious!


May 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

EU Gains New Role at UN

After several months of lobbying, the United Nations (UN) has granted greater powers to the European Union (EU).  The  EU used to only have observer status at the UN.  But the UN General Assembly voted 180-0 (with 2 abstentions) in favor of a resolution on Tuesday that gives the EU almost all the same rights as a Member State, including the right to speak, the right to make proposals and submit amendments, the right of reply, the right to raise points of order and the right to circulate documents.  The resolution also paves the way for other regional blocs with observer status to request similar rights.  The regional representatives will not have voting rights and will not be able to put forward candidates for UN offices.  Additional seats will be added to the General Assembly to accomodate the regional representatives.


May 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

OAS Says Honduras Can Come Back as a Member

Here's the press statement from  Mark C. Toner, Acting Deputy Spokesman at the U.S. State Department, who today had this to say about the membership of Honduras in the Organization of American States:

We welcome the announcement by the Organization of American States (OAS) that the Principal condition for the return of Honduras to the OAS has now been met. The Honduran Supreme Court, on May 2, resolved the criminal cases against former President Zelaya in accordance with Honduran law. While the United States Government did not take a position on how these cases should be decided, we hope that their resolution will promote continued national reconciliation in Honduras.

The United States, together with all OAS Member States, suspended Honduras’ participation in the OAS in July 2009. President Lobo was democratically elected in November 2009 and took office in January 2010 helping restore democratic and constitutional order in Honduras. Since his inauguration, President Lobo has moved swiftly to pursue national reconciliation, strengthen governance, stabilize the economy, and improve human rights conditions.
The United States believes the suspension of Honduras should be immediately lifted and supports OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza’s intention to initiate consultations with member states on this issue. Full participation in the OAS would enable Honduras to benefit fully from the OAS capacity to promote human rights and good governance.

May 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Updated Program Schedule for the Global Legal Skills Conference

Chicago (Photo by Mike Jarecki) The sixth Global Legal Skills Conference is being held this Thursday to Saturday at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  Attendees and speakers come from countries all around the world to discuss issues in international legal education.

Click here to see the the program schedule.  Download GLS Schedule (FINAL) 

Click here for registration information.

See you in Chicago!

Mark E. Wojcik, Conference Co-Chair



May 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 2, 2011

ASIL TILIG Change in Leadership

As many of you know, this Friday, May 6, the Teaching International Law Interest Group (TILIG) of the American Society of International Law (ASIL) is hosting a conference at Pace Law School in New York on "Teaching Inernational Law Beyond the Classroom."  (For last minute registration and information, click here.)

This conference will mark my last event as an officer of the group.  My term, along with that of my fantastic co-chairs, Tom McDonnell and Sang-Myon Rhee, is at an end.  However, we are leaving the group in very capable hands. 

The incoming Co-Chairs are Karen Bravo from Indiana University and Mark Shulman from Pace.  They will be assisted by Co-Vice-Chairs Norm Printer from Seattle University and Sonia Rolland from Northeastern.  Please lend them your support and ideas.

Thank you to all of you who have helped make the TILIG one of the largest and most active groups in ASIL.  And congratulations to the new officers!


May 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Syrian Sanctions

New sanctions and condemnation of Syria are coming from many directions - the United Nations (UN), the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) - in response to the Syrian government's violent repression of anti-government protesters.

On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) issued a statement condemning Syria's actions.  However, the statement barely garnered the support of a majority of the 47-member council.   Members expressing opposition included Russia and China, both of whom indicated concerns about the Syrian situation turning into another Libyan conflict.  The UNHRC also decided to send a fact-finding mission to Syria to investigate the killing of the protesters and possible violations of international law, including hindering access to medical treatment and represssion of freedom of speech and press.  It is not yet clear whether these actions will become a bar to Syria's admission to the UN Human Rights Council (Syria was running unopposed for the seat).  In other action, the UN Development Program has decided to postpone an aid package slated for Syria. 

The latest US sanctions are targeted at three senior Syrian officials who are members of the security apparatus and Syria's intelligence service more generally.  The three officials include Ali Mamluk, director of the security service, Maher al-Assad, the Syrian President's brother and a brigade commander, and Atif Najib, the Syrian President's cousin and a political operator. The US government has also revoked certain commercial export licenses for aircraft used to transport senior Libyan officials. The US already had sanctions in place that barred most trade with Syria as a result of labeling Syria as a state sponsor of terror.

EU officials met on Friday and also agreed on broad sanctions against Syria.  The EU sanctions include a travel ban and asset freeze on members of President Bashar al-Assad's regime considered responsible for the crackdown on protesters, but not the president's family.  The EU will freeze any direct payments going to the al-Assad regime from a 40 million euro aid programe and will freeze negotiations on the EU-Syria political "association" agreement.   EU officials are still working on the details of the sanctions.


May 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)