Saturday, December 31, 2011

Egyptian Military Raids NGO Offices in Cairo

The United Nations human rights office voiced alarm at reports that the Egyptian military has carried out raids against the offices of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in what would be the first documented incidents of their kind in the country’s recent history. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Egyptian soldiers attacked the offices of several NGOs yesterday in Cairo, the capital. The soldiers forced their way in, blocking entrances and exits, and seized computers and files. In some cases, employees had their mobile telephones confiscated.

Frej Fenniche, chief of OHCHR’s of the Middle Eastern and North Africa office, said it was the first time his office had heard of a similar raid being carried out against NGOs, noting that such events had not occurred even under the regime of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. “Such behaviour on the part of the authorities appears to be clearly designed to intimidate human rights defenders who have long been critical of human rights violations in Egypt, including under the previous regime,” said Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for OHCHR, from Geneva yesterday.  “The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights calls on the Government to cease the use of such unnecessarily heavy-handed measures and to ensure that civil society organisations can carry out their important work without undue interference,” she added.

Egyptian authorities have reportedly blamed foreign-funded groups, including NGOs, for some of the political unrest which has rippled through Cairo and other cities since the ousting of Mr. Mubarak in February.

Mr. Fenniche noted that the local authorities had expressed concerns regarding the origins of the NGOs’ funds as well as information about their relationships with foreigners.  “But this can be done according to the law,” he stated.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

China Convicts Another Human RIghts Activist

The United Nations human rights chief voiced her deep concern this week about the verdict and extremely harsh sentencing in the trial of leading activist Chen Wei, adding that it represents a serious setback for the protection and promotion of human rights in China.  The verdict comes just one week after Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng was sentenced to three year's in prison just before the end of his suspended sentence.

"The conviction and extremely harsh sentencing of Chen Wei indicates a further tightening of the severe restrictions on the scope of freedom of expression in China that has been seen over the last two years," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, adding that this verdict, along with that of Mr. Gao, are the latest examples of an escalating clamp-down on the activities of human rights defenders in China.  "I call upon Chinese authorities to release any person detained for peacefully exercising his or her right to freedom of expression," Ms. Pillay said.

Mr. Chen was sentenced to nine years of prison for inciting subversion against the State because of his writings on various overseas websites for the defense of human rights.  Mr. Chen, who was one of the student leaders in the 1989 Democracy Movement, has already spent more than five years in prison as a result of his peaceful activities as a dissident.

On Friday, UN human rights experts denounced the secret detention of Mr. Gao, who was first arrested in 2006 for his advocacy work against violations of human rights in the country. He was accused of subversion against State power but this has never been proven in a court of law.  Mr. Gao has been secretly detained several times, and for the past 20 months has been detained in an unknown location. The UN human rights experts expressed their concern about Mr. Gao's health condition and urged Chinese authorities to release him immediately.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Protecting Civilians in South Sudan

South Sudan, the world's newest country, was urged this week to take all necessary measures to protect civilians in Jonglei state after reports identified thousands of armed youth preparing to attack a rival community.  "I am deeply concerned to learn of reports of this imminent large-scale attack on civilians in Jonglei State," said Special Representative for the Secretary-General to South Sudan, Hilde F. Johnson. "The Government must act now if we are to avert a major tragedy."

Over the weekend, air patrols of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) identified thousands of armed Lou Nuer youth preparing to attack Murle communities near Likuangole in Jonglei state.

Ms. Johnson stressed that the primary responsibility for protecting civilians lies with the Government and added that UNMISS has reinforced its peacekeepers in key areas of Jonglei and is conducting continuous patrols to deter potential violence.  "Time is now running out and the Government needs to redouble its efforts to prevent a tragedy and avert large-scale violence," Ms. Johnson said. "All South Sudanese people must now put peace and stability in their new and independent country above any other concerns and interests."

Over the past months UNMISS has consistently called for an end to ethnic violence in the region, and has deployed resources to prevent and mitigate conflict in the Lou Nuer, Murle and Dinka communities. The Mission has also facilitated a reconciliation process between various communities, particularly the inclusive peace process led by the Sudan Council of Churches.  UNMISS called on all communities in Jonglei State to put an end to the inter-communal violence and to actively and immediately engage in a reconciliatory peace process.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UNICEF Employee From Kenya is Killed in Nigeria

Another United Nations staff member died this week as a result of the suicide bombing that struck the world body’s offices in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, four months ago.  Fred Simiyu Willis, an employee of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), died on 23 December in South Africa, where he had been on medical evacuation after the blast, the agency confirmed today.  The Kenyan national had worked for the agency in Abuja since September 2004, serving as a health specialist focused on vaccine security, supply and logistics.

Mr. Willis’ passing takes the UN death toll from the terrorist attack on 26 August to 13, with 12 non-UN staff also killed.

Kate Donovan, a spokesperson for UNICEF, said the agency was deeply saddened by the death of Mr. Willis.  “It’s a loss for the children of Nigeria and for all of us,” she said, noting that Mr. Willis’ efforts had helped to ensure immunization campaigns across the large African country.  “Our deepest condolences go out to his family and to his colleagues. . . . He was a very highly valued member of the staff.”

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Human Rights Abuses in Côte d’Ivoire

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire today voiced deep concern about reports of numerous human rights violations by members of the country’s armed forces. 

Members of the armed forces, known as FRCI, are accused of carrying out rapes, acts of torture, armed robberies and other abuses in several locations in recent weeks, according to Kenneth Blackman, a spokesperson for the mission (UNOCI). FRCI elements clashed earlier this week with locals in the southern town of Sikensi, and media reports indicate that four people were killed there, in part as a result of inter-ethnic tensions.  Mr. Blackman told journalists in Abidjan that the mission noted that Ivorian authorities are taking additional steps to improve the security sector and to improve discipline within the FRCI.  A military police unit has also been set up and a fund has been created to buy weapons, establish a reserve corps and renovate barracks and military camps.

He stressed that UNOCI will help authorities contribute to greater social cohesion and national reconciliation in the wake of the protracted crisis that followed the then incumbent Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to step down after he lost a presidential run-off election to Alassane Ouattara late last year.  Mr. Gbagbo was subsequently captured by Ivorian forces and has since been transferred to The Hague to stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), while Mr. Ouattara has become President and legislative elections have been held.

UNOCI is assisting in a disarmament drive, with youths encouraged to hand over their weapons voluntarily a centre in the Abidjan neighbourhood of Attécoubé.  Joint patrols involving UNOCI and the FRCI have also been stepped up after the recent clashes in Sikensi and Vavoua, as well as Abidjan, the country’s largest city and commercial capital.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN General Assembly President's End-of-Year Message

UN HeadquartersThe General Assembly President today used his end-of-year message to urge greater consensus among United Nations Member States on issues ranging from UN reform and revitalization to sustainable development and global prosperity.

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser commended the international community’s collective responses to the various global challenges faced throughout 2011, including the ongoing global financial crisis, the wave of popular protests that engulfed the Arab world and the impact of natural and man-made disasters on populations around the globe.  “These developments in 2011 reinforce the relevance of the four key pillars we have identified to help us focus and channel our attention appropriately during the three remaining quarters of the Sixty-Sixth Session of the General Assembly,” Mr. Al-Nasser said in his message.  The four key pillars are: the peaceful settlement of disputes; UN reform and revitalization; improving disaster prevention and response; and promoting sustainable development and global prosperity.

“I urge all Member States to demonstrate the necessary will to generate utmost convergence and compromise that can lead to consensus in support of our common interests,” he added, noting that a full assessment of past challenges would better motivate the General Assembly’s deliberations and decisions in the New Year. In his statement, Mr. Al-Nasser emphasized that UN reform and revitalization were needed “now more than ever before” to reflect the ever-changing realities of the 21st century. At the same time, he called on States “to intensify efforts in the area of improving disaster preparedness and response” after the lessons learned from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, floods in Thailand and the Philippines, and the famine in the Horn of Africa.  Pointing to the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June next year, he also stressed the need to implement measures to deal effectively with sustainable development issues. 

Mr. Al-Nasser applauded the “hard, diligent, and collective work” already conducted by Member States during the current session and called on them to renew their efforts in 2012. “I urge all Member States to continue to support the work of the United Nations, including the General Assembly,” said Mr. Al-Nasser.

(UN Press Release)

December 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guantanamo Commander Proposes Restrictions on Attorney Client Communications

The Associated Press reported today that the Commander at Guantanamo Bay, Navy rear Admiral David Woods, recently gave a draft order to the detainees' lawyers setting forth new rules for attorney client communications. Pursuant to the draft order, a "privilege team" consisting of federal law enforcement officials would conduct a security review of all communications from the lawyers to their detainee clients before the clients would receive any communications. The detainees' lawyers have reportedly objected to this new rule because they say it is unnecessary since they already have security clearances and the practice would violate the attorney-client privilege. The detainees' lawyers have a very good argument that this proposed rule violates several legal principles.

The proposed order has not yet been finalized and signed. Because it is still in draft form, the order has not been released so it is not clear what other new rules it contains. One hopes that the Commander will re-think the proposed rules before they are finalized.


December 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Samoa Has Cancelled Friday This Week

Talofa!  The nation of Samoa has decided to cancel Friday this week.  It says it is  going directly from Thursday to Saturday because of new economic realities that make it advantageous to be a few hours ahead of its major trading partners in New Zealand and Australia rather than many hours in back of them (a change made to accommodate San Francisco shipping back in 1892).

Oh yeah, they will now also be the first country in the world to celebrate new years.  Read more about it here.

Hat tips to Rex Wockner and Joe.My.God


December 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Investigating Killings and Torture in Haiti

United Nations human rights officials urged authorities in Haiti to properly investigate and prosecute local police officers suspected of carrying out unlawful killings and acts of torture in the capital, Port-au-Prince, since last year.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the human rights section of the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti (MINUSTAH) have issued two reports – one on a series of alleged killings by members of the Haitian National Police (known as HNP) and the other on the torture and murder of Serge Démosthène, who had been accused of a crime.  The reports indicated that about 20 HNP members are implicated in the deaths of at least nine Haitians, with police accused of using illegal force in all cases and, in some instance, carrying out extrajudicial or summary executions.

Stressing that these cases “represent only a sample of the total cases of reported deaths at the hands of HNP officers in the course of the past year,” OHCHR and MINUSTAH said they are currently investigating allegations that up to70 police officers are implicated in more than 20 other killings in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.  The report noted that while many police officers in Haiti “operate in what are sometimes very dangerous conditions,” the security of citizens and effective law enforcement depend on the appropriate behaviour of the HNP.

“It is urgent that the Government take action to prevent killings… by representatives of the HNP and ensure rapid and effective investigations where deaths do occur, with a view to punishing those police officers responsible or clearing their responsibility where the circumstances and legal justifications for lethal force exist,” the report stated.  “Such action is essential not only to ensure protection of the rights to life and physical integrity of Haitian citizens, but also to reinforce public confidence and trust in an essential institution, such as the HNP.”

OHCHR noted that while criminal justice investigations were launched in some cases and accused police were suspended or detained, there were no criminal convictions in any of the incidents.  In several cases, the suspended police officers resumed their functions even before the investigations into their actions were completed.

The other report dealt with the case of Mr. Démosthène, who was arrested along with Feckel Plaisimond on 15 June this year by police in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince.  Mr. Démosthène and Mr. Plaisimond were allegedly tortured by police, the report contended, to make them confess their guilt in the killing of a bank director three days earlier. Twelve hours after being arrested, Mr. Démosthène was taken unconscious to hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Mr. Plaisimond was released from detention several months later.  The report highlights the involvement of police officers based in Pétionville, the commissaire of that area, as well as the then public prosecutor of Port-au-Prince.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

US Decides to Allow Yemen's Leader to Enter US for Medical Treatment

In an eerie reminder of the events of 1979 when the US allowed the Shah of Iran to enter the US for cancer treatment despite misgivings regarding the consequences, the US has decided to allow the President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to enter the US for medical treatment for injuries arising out of a bombing earlier this year. The US is concerned that allowing President Saleh to enter the US will anger those who want him held accountable for the deaths of protesters. The US government has stated certain conditions, including an itinerary and the requirement that President Saleh not bring a large entourage. The US hopes that its move will help smooth the way for the elections in Yemen scheduled for February rather than inflaming the opposition as it did in Iran in 1979. Only time will tell.


December 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Iran Denies Involvement in September 11, 2011 Terror Attacks

Last Thursday, a U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a default judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran and other defendants in a lawsuit alleging, inter alia, that Iran assisted several of the 9/11 defendants in carrying out their terror attacks against the World Trade Center towers in New York and elsewhere. 

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are family members and legal representatives of the victims of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2011.  They alleged that Iran provided material support to terrorists, including facilitating the 9/11 al Qaeda's operatives travel  arrangements, and that Iran provided a safe haven for terrorists after 9/11.

The lawsuit is brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 USC 1602, and more particularly, the exception to foreign sovereign immunity for states that provide material support to terrorists.  The Court determined that Iranian government has supported terrorism since its inception in the 1980s. 

None of the defendants appeared in the lawsuit.  The default judgment in Havlish v. Bin Laden (Dec. 22, 2011) may be found here and the findings of fact and conclusions of law may be found here (which lay out the relationship between Iran and various terrorist groups and persons, including Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and Hizballah). 

Yesterday, the Iranian government disputed the findings of the U.S. court.  Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, stated that the allegations were unfounded and without merit: "The United States has made repeated false claims about its illegitimate political goals to endanger international peace and security."  Damages owed by Iran and the other defedants will now be determined by a U.S. magistrate judge, although collection of any such damages is very uncertain.


December 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cuba to release 2,900 prisoners

Just in time for the holidays, Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Friday that that the Cuban government will grant amnesty to 2,900 prisoners. Many of the prisoners are over the age of 60, have health issues, or are women or juveniles. Those who have been convicted of serious crimes will not be released, including the American, Alan Gross. President Castro indicated that the move was taken in anticipation of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in April.


December 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Happy holidays

Best wishes to all our readers for a very happy holiday season and a wonderful new year!

Cindy Buys and Mark Wojcik

December 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Books We Like: A New Casebook on U.S. Customs Law

Carolina Academic Press seems to be the only major legal publisher in the United States that keeps its law school textbooks reasonably priced.  (OK, I am probably biased because they published one of my books, but that's the one of the main reasons that I picked them as a publisher.)  Carolina Academic Press is also aren't afraid to branch out into new courses not covered by other publishers.  We have a new example of that here with a new law school textbook on U.S. Customs law, authored by Damon Pike and Larry Friedman, two customs attorneys (both of whom, like me, were former law clerks at the U.S. Court of International Trade).  The subject is not yet taught at most U.S. law schools, in part because there hasn't been a book for professors to use.  Here's a description of this new customs law book from the Carolina Academic Press website:

As the world’s largest economy, the Unites States imports and exports more merchandise than any other country. Customs Law covers the “nuts and bolts” of laws administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), the agency charged with regulating imports into the U.S. and collecting duties, import fees, and related taxes. Those laws and regulations center on the tariff classification of merchandise under the Harmonized System (as set forth in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the U.S.), the valuation of goods under the GATT (now WTO) Valuation Agreement, and the rules (both preferential and non-preferential) for determining “country of origin.” The book also covers the entry and recordkeeping process for imports, intellectual property protection, CBP’s penalty regime, the use of preferential trade programs (specifically examining the North American Free Trade Agreement and its attendant Rules of Origin and Regional Value Content calculations), marking requirements, and the relationship of income tax transfer pricing rules in determining how inter-company pricing impacts declared customs values and, thus, global corporate income taxes. The system of judicial review by the U.S. Court of International Trade and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is also covered.  Finally, the book summarizes the requirements of 47 other federal agencies that CBP is charged with administering and enforcing with respect to imported merchandise.

Although this book was designed as a law school text, it is likely a useful title for customs and international trade attorneys to have (and not just attorneys in the United States).  And while other legal publishers have gone through the roof on pricing their books, this one is only $95.00 (and you can get a 10% discount off of that by going directly to the Carolina Academic Press website to order a copy).  And if you're doing any last minute cyber shopping, this is likely a good text to recommend to customs brokers and CBP import specialists too!

Congratulations to Damon, Larry, and CAP on the new book.  You can click here to see the table of contents.


December 24, 2011 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nicarague Files New ICJ Action Against Costa Rica

Nicaragua filed suit against Costa Rica at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), citing violations to national sovereignty and major environmental damages to its territory due to the construction of a new road along the banks of the San Juan River.  Nicaragua contends that the construction work by Costa Rica along most of the border area between the two countries is resulting in grave environmental consequences.

Nicaragua argues that “Costa Rica’s unilateral actions . . . threaten to destroy the San Juan de Nicaragua River and its fragile ecosystem, including the adjacent biosphere reserves and internationally protected wetlands that depend upon the clean and uninterrupted flow of the river for their survival.”  Among the damages listed by Nicaragua is the dumping of sediments in the river such as soil, uprooted vegetation and felled trees, which the Government says are a danger to water quality, aquatic life – including several endangered species – and to rare flora and fauna on both sides of the river bank.  Nicaragua also states that the sediments will degrade the soil already devastated by deforestation due to agricultural and industrial developments in Costa Rica’s territory, adding that the impact if these is already being felt.

The Nicaraguan Government is requesting the court to declare that Costa Rica has breached its territorial integrity, as well as its obligation under international law and several environmental conventions to protect the environment and biodiversity in the region.  It is also requesting that the court declare that Costa Rica must restore and pay for all the damages and not undertake any further developments in the area without a cross-border environmental impact assessment, which is presented to Nicaragua for analysis and reaction.

Nicaragua stated in its proceedings that Costa Rica has repeatedly refused to give it appropriate information on the construction work it is undertaking and has denied any obligation to prepare and provide it with an assessment of the environmental impact in the area, which would allow for an evaluation of the work.  Nicaragua stressed that producing an assessment and presenting it to both governments is of utmost importance and added that it reserves the right to request provisional measures.

The two countries have had disputes over their borders before. In July 2009, the ICJ issued a ruling over what navigational and related rights Costa Rica has in the section of the San Juan River close to its mouth at the Caribbean Sea.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

Click here for the ICJ Press Release.


December 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

U.N. General Assembly

UN HeadquartersFrom being increasing vocal on human rights to taking important decisions to tackle non-communicable diseases, the General Assembly has made great strides during its current session, its President said today, adding that efforts will continue on a range of vital issues next year.   “This has been an eventful and demanding year for the United Nations, with several significant developments since I assumed the Presidency of the General Assembly,” Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser told a year-end press conference at UN Headquarters.   “In fact, the last three months have been among the most exciting of my two-decade experience of diplomatic service here at the United Nations,” he said, adding that the 66th session that began in September has achieved some “great strides” with certain key issues.

He pointed to the uprisings and popular protest movements that engulfed North Africa and the Middle East this year and led to the toppling of long-term regimes in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, which he referred to as the Arab Awakening. “These popular protests have generated a lot of concern for the needs and demands of people in the affected countries, especially in the areas of human rights and the rights of women and the youth.  “The General Assembly is increasingly getting vocal on human rights issues,” he added. “There is growing consensus among Member States for the protection and promotion of human rights across the world, especially in the countries experiencing the Arab Awakening.” 

Mr. Al-Nasser said that under his presidency, the Assembly remains active in galvanizing the necessary global partnership to assist the governments and people undergoing the Arab Awakening.  The President also highlighted his close collaboration and joint initiatives with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with whom he embarked on two significant joint visits, to Libya in November and Somalia in December.  “We are demonstrating the UN working as one to achieve the best results for the benefit of groups and people in need around the world,” he stated.

Outlining some of the highlights of the Assembly session so far, Mr. Al-Nasser cited the political declaration adopted on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, which are now the biggest cause of death worldwide.  “Millions of people in developing countries are increasingly becoming victims of this crisis,” he noted. “And this major declaration by Member States should help to deal with this issue fully and quickly.”  The Assembly has also spoken with one voice against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, he said.

“Despite great gains made in the fight against racism too many people still suffer from racist attitudes and deep discrimination. We must do more to promote and ensure equality and non-discrimination across the world and for global prosperity and harmony.”  In addition, Member States worked to restore the legitimate representation of the Libyan people at the UN, and witnessed an historic development at the UN with the application for UN membership by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.

Looking ahead, he said efforts will continue on the four main areas of focus for the 66th session of the Assembly: the peaceful settlement of disputes; UN reform; improving disaster prevention and response; and sustainable development and global prosperity. The revitalization of the disarmament machinery is also a priority, he added.

High-level events and thematic debates on these issues are planned, as well as a retreat on Security Council reform, for next year.  “We have about nine more months to go… And we will continue to tackle all the topical important issues on the international agenda,” said Mr. Al-Nasser.

(UN Press Release)

December 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kyrgyzstan Court Convicts Human RIghts Defender Despite Allegations of Torture

Judges in Kyrgyzstan must ensure that the civil rights of defendants are protected, a top United Nations official stressed today, after the Supreme Court upheld the conviction and life sentence of an activist who reported being tortured in detention and whose right to a fair trial was violated.  

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay voiced deep regret at the decision taken on Tuesday by the Kyrgyz Supreme Court in the case of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov.   Mr. Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment and confiscation of his pivate property in November 2010 for the murder of a police officer, participation and organization of mass riots and incitement to inter-ethnic hatred.   

His arrest is believed to be related to his peaceful activities as a human rights defender, particularly his documentation of inter-ethnic violence in the Jalal-Abad region in June 2010, according to a news release issued by the High Commissioner’s office (OHCHR).  

Since their arrest, Mr. Askarov and some of his seven co- defendants have reportedly been subjected to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment by police on several occasions. Mr. Askarov reported having been repeatedly and severely ill-treated, including inside the court building. The torture allegations were raised at all stages of the criminal proceedings but no investigation was initiated.   

“It is particularly alarming that the judges failed to consider the defendants’ claims that confessions had been extracted under duress,” stated Ms. Pillay.  “Judges in Kyrgyzstan must ensure that the civil rights of defendants are protected, particularly when there are allegations of torture,” she stressed.   

Under international human rights law, allegations of torture must be promptly and impartially investigated by competent authorities, including judges and prosecutors. Evidence, including confessions, extracted through coercion, must be excluded by the court.  OHCHR noted that there are “strong indications” that a significant number of defendants in cases relating to the June 2010 inter-ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan were subjected to torture and ill-treatment to force confessions later admitted as evidence in court.   

“The Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan must ensure that in those cases where inadmissible evidence might have been used, verdicts rendered by lower courts are reversed and criminal cases are dismissed or sent for retrial,” said Ms. Pillay.  “Criminal investigations should be conducted to hold the perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment accountable, and victims should be provided with adequate compensation.”  

Mr. Askarov’s trial represents the serious problems with the administration of post-conflict justice in Kyrgyzstan following the June 2010 violence, OHCHR points out. More than 5,000 related criminal cases have been initiated, but most such trials monitored by the UN human rights office have failed to meet fair trial standards.  Defendants have had inadequate access to lawyers and family members, while defence lawyers have been denied access to documents, undermining their ability to defend their clients. In addition, appeals court hearings have been marred by intimidating statements, including ethnicity-based obscenities targeted at defendants. In some cases, judges have allowed such statements to go unchallenged.   

“Judges are the guarantors of the rule of law and I urge them to conduct their important work strictly in line with the Kyrgyz Constitution and applicable international human rights standards,” the High Commissioner stated.   

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Indiana University School of Law—Indianapolis is changing its name to the Robert H. McKinney School of Law.  Mr. McKinney gave $24 million to the law school, and matching funds brought the value of his gift to $31.5 million.


December 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Details on Memorial Service for Professor Jon M. Van Dyke

Van Dyke

We reported back in late November about the unfortunate death of Professor Jon M. Van Dyke of the University of Hawai'i.  Click here.

We have now received details about the public memorial service for Professor Van Dyke.  It will be held on January 14, 2012 at the Imin Center at the East-West Center, 1777 East-West Road, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96848.  Visitation will begin at 10:00 a.m. and the service will begin at 11:30 a.m.  Click here for more information

Hat tip to Jon's friend, Jordan Paust.


December 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gao Zhisheng - Human Rights Lawyer in China

The United Nations human rights office expressed concern today at reports that a Chinese court has replaced the period of probation given to a human rights lawyer with a three-year prison sentence, saying the move is indicative of a trend of secret detentions in the Asian nation.

Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told journalists in Geneva that the office was “very disturbed” by the reports in China’s State-run media about the treatment of Gao Zhisheng.  “Just a few days before the five-year probation period expired, the court decided that Gao must now serve his full suspended sentence for violating the probation rules, with no credit for the time he has already spent under the control of the authorities,” he said.

Mr. Colville noted that for the past 20 months Mr. Gao has been subject to strict monitoring measures imposed by China’s Public Security Bureau, “in what appears to be a form of house arrest in an unknown location.  “This case is illustrative of a trend of secret detention and disappearances of human rights defenders which the High Commissioner for Human Rights [Navi Pillay] and other UN human rights bodies have already criticized on several occasions in recent years.”  Mr. Colville said Ms. Pillay had raised Mr. Gao’s specific case, along with other cases, with Chinese authorities this year.

The spokesperson also voiced concern about proposed amendments to China’s criminal law procedure that are currently under consideration by the National People’s Congress. Saying the amendments would permit the legalization of secret detention, Mr. Colville said they would “represent a major setback, running counter to a number of important efforts made over the past decade by the Government of China towards the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).”

(UN Press Release)

December 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)