Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Commission of Inquiry on Libya

The Commission of Inquiry on Libya is a three-member panel tasked by the United Nations with probing human rights violations committed during the Libyan conflict.  The Commission was set up by the UN Human Rights Council in February to probe serious violations committed in Libya, where pro-Government forces and rebels had fought for months after a pro-democracy movement emerged at the start of the year.

Judge Philippe Kirsch, a former president of the International Criminal Court, serves as the commission’s chairperson.  He said that the Commission was “pleased to receive assurances of the Government’s continued commitment to human rights," and "encouraged by the initial steps the Government is taking to address the human rights violations that occurred during the recent conflict.”  The team had just concluded the first part of its investigations, having visited the capital, Tripoli, from 31 November to 16 December.

During the visit, the panel met with the Chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC) and other senior officials in the Government, as well as with representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and interviewed detainees at Matiga detention facility.  The panel and investigators also visited a site where alleged extrajudicial killings were committed by forces loyal to former leader Muammar al-Qadhafi in Tripoli and received testimony about other serious violations.  The commission will return to Libya next month to continue its investigations in Ajdabiya, Benghazi, Bani Walid, Brega, Misratah, Nalut, Sirte, Yefren and Zintan.

The panel, which also comprises Egyptian jurist and war crimes expert Professor Cherif Bassiouni (a law professor at the DePaul Univeristy College of Law in Chicago) and Jordanian-Palestinian lawyer Asma Khader, is scheduled to present its final report to the Geneva-based Council in March 2012.  In a report presented in June, the commission said that both Government forces and the opposition have committed war crimes during the weeks of fighting following the uprising.

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

Monday, December 19, 2011

UN General Assembly Adopts Resolution on Human Rights Abuses in Iran

United Nations Member States today expressed deep concern at reports of human rights violations in Iran, including torture, the use of cruel punishments such as flogging and amputations and “pervasive gender inequality and violence against women,” and called on Tehran to strengthen its national human rights institutions.

In a resolution adopted in the General Assembly, Member States voiced deep concern at Iran’s “serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations,” including a dramatic increase in the use of the death penalty, particularly for crimes “lacking a precise and explicit definition,” and the “ongoing, systemic, and serious restrictions” of freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression.  The resolution received 89 votes in favour and 30 votes against. Sixty-four countries abstained.

The death penalty drew particular concern, with the General Assembly noting “the absence of internationally recognized safeguards,” the continued practice of public executions, the carrying out of secret group executions and the imposition of capital punishment against minors.

Member States also voiced deep concern at the practice of suspension strangulation as a method of execution, and the fact that prisoners continue to face sentences of execution by stoning, even though there has been a national directive against it.

In the resolution, Member States also called on the Government to immediately and unconditionally release any prisoners who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained “for simply exercising their right to peaceful assembly and participating in peaceful protests.”   They also strongly encouraged Iran to discontinue the “systemic targeting” of human rights defenders and review the country’s “pervasive gender inequality.”  

The text also noted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent report highlighting the deteriorating rights situation in the country as well as the concern expressed by Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, over the alleged targeting of minority groups by the Government. Arabs, Azeris, Baluchis and Kurds and their defenders have all faced rights violations that at times amount to persecution, according to the resolution, with religious minorities such as Christians, Jews, Sufis, Sunni Muslims, Zoroastrians and Bahá’ís.

The resolution expressed particular concern at Tehran’s failure to launch an investigation into the suspected electoral violations after the 2009 presidential vote and strongly urged the Government “to ensure free, fair, transparent and inclusive parliamentary elections in 2012 that reflect the will of the people.”  Member States further called on Iran to consider ratifying or acceding to the international human rights treaties to which it is not already party while effectively implementing those human rights treaties which it has already ratified.

(UN Press Release)

December 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICTR Affirms Referral of Case to National Court System in Rwanda

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has dismissed an appeal by a former pastor accused of inciting attacks against Tutsi civilians, reaffirming its decision to refer him for trial in the national court system.  The pastor is accused of inciting attacks against Tutsi civilians.  The ICTR reaffirmed the decision to refer him for trial in the national court system.

On 28 June, the ICTR referred Mr. Uwinkindi’s case to Rwanda, marking the first time in the tribunal’s history it has done so.

Mr. Uwinkindi’s appeal was overturned on Friday as the tribunal judges said they were convinced that Rwanda possesses the ability to accept and prosecute the case. According to a news release issued by the tribunal, the ICTR dismissed the appeal “in all respects and affirmed the impugned decision.” But it placed Mr. Uwinkindi’s transfer to Rwanda on hold until the trial chamber accepts a corrected indictment, recalling that in a separate decision it had ordered one of the ICTR’s trial chambers to direct prosecutors to file a corrected indictment in the case to remedy several defects which had been identified.

The ICTR’s referral chamber expressed “its solemn hope that the Republic of Rwanda would actualize in practice the commitments it made in its filings about its good faith, capacity and willingness to enforce the highest standards of international justice.”  It also requested that the registrar appoint representatives of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to monitor Mr. Uwinkindi’s trial in Rwanda and determined that the commission should bring to the ICTR’s attention any potential issues that may arise during the proceedings.

Mr. Uwinkindi was a former Pentecostal pastor in the Kigali Rural prefecture. He is accused of being responsible for attacks against Tutsis at Kayenzi church, in the Biyimana and Rwankeli administrative areas, and in Cyugaro’s swamps. He was arrested in Uganda in June 2010 and transferred to the UN detention facility in the city of Arusha, Tanzania, the following month.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

North Korea's "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-Il is Dead

Kim Jong-il died this past weekend.  The DPRK leader reportedly died of a heart attack on December 17 at the age of 69 while travelling by train outside Pyongyang, the country’s capital. He had been in office since 1994, following the death of his father and former DPRK leader Kim Il-sung.  The New York Times described Kim Jong-il as "the reclusive dictator who kept North Korea at the edge of starvation and collapse." 

Here is a link to North Korean television footage of the reaction to his death in North Korea.


h/t Rex Wockner


December 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

WTO Approves New Members

WTOOver the weekend, the World Trade Organization (WTO) approved the terms of entry for two new members: Montenegro and Samoa.  Samoa will have until 15 June 2012 to ratify its accession package and Montenegro will have until 31 March 2012.  Both countries will become full members of the WTO 30 days after they notify ratification of their respective accession packages to the organization. 

Russia's membership in the WTO was approved last Friday, Dec. 16. Russia now has 220 days to ratify the accession package and will become a full member 30 days after that event.

There are currently 153 members of the WTO, so these three countries will bring the membership to 157.  For more information regarding Montenegro and Serbia's accession to the WTO, visit the WTO website here.


December 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Five Stages of Grading

Some years ago, when I was a fairly new law professor, I wrote a short essay on the Five Stages of Grading, which was published by The Law Teacher.  If you are in the midst of grading, I thought you might enjoy taking a short break and reading the essay.


December 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vaclav Havel

The New York Times reports that Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright who later became the hero of Czechoslovakia's "Velvet Revolution" and then the country's president, has died at the age of 75.   He oversaw the country's transition to democracy and its peaceful transition in 1993 into the nations of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. 


December 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Controversy over "All-American Muslim"

There's a current controversy in the United States this week about advertisers who withdrew ads vrom a television show called "All-American Muslim" in response to an organization claiming the show "falsely humanized Muslims in America.”  We received a noted from the "My Fellow American Project," asking us to remind readers of this blog that the telelvision advertising controversy has exposed more Islamophobia in America.  Readers are asked to visit www.myfellowamerican.us to share views about this controversy.  The website hopes to spread the message of tolerance to fight back against intolerance and fear-mongering. They have just posted a host of new content from various entertainers and faith leaders on the topic.

Hat tip to Elizabeth Potter, Unity Productions Foundation


December 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor-Elect of the International Criminal Court

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met today with Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor-elect of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and pledged his continued support for her and the United Nations’ cooperation to assist the court in fully achieving its great potential.  According to a statement issued by his spokesperson, during their meeting Mr. Ban warmly congratulated Ms. Bensouda on her election and wished her the best of success in her important new role. He also underscored the vital significance of the court as “the indispensable centrepiece of our system of international criminal justice and our best hope for ending impunity for international crimes.”

Ms. Bensouda, a Gambian lawyer who has served as ICC Deputy Prosecutor since 2004, will start her term in June next year, replacing the current ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo from Argentina.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)

December 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICTY Charges Contempt of Court Against Witness in Karadžic Trial

ICTYInternational Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has charged a former Serb municipal official with contempt of court for failing to comply with orders to testify in the trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžic who faces multiple genocide charges.  Milan Tupajic, former chief of the crisis staff and president of the Serb municipality of Sokolac, was charged with contempt of court for failing to comply or show good cause as to why he should not testify in Mr. Karadžic’s trial.

An order in lieu of indictment for contempt was made confidentially by the trial chamber on 30 November. It set out that Mr. Tupajic was informed on 5 October and 8 November of the contents of two subpoenas, and of his obligation to appear before the chamber or give a valid explanation for his refusal to appear.  Mr. Tupajic is accused of having “knowingly and wilfully interfered with the administration of justice by refusing to comply with the chamber’s subpoenas,” the ICTY said in a news release. A warrant for his arrest and an order for surrender were also issued on 30 November. Mr. Tupajic was arrested by Bosnian authorities on Tuesday and will be transferred to the Detention Unit shortly. His initial appearance in court is scheduled for tomorrow.

Mr. Karadžic is charged with two counts of genocide and a series of other crimes, including murder, extermination, persecution, deportation and hostage taking, related to actions against Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serb civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. His trial began in October 2009.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)

December 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More Rulings from the ICTR Appellate Chamber

The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has reduced the sentences of two former senior officials found guilty in 2008 after a number of their convictions were overturned on appeal.

The appellate chamber reduced jail terms handed down in December 2008 to Théoneste Bagosora and Anatole Nsengiyumva from life in prison to 35 years and 15 years, respectively. Mr. Nsengiyumva was immediately set free following today’s ruling after receiving credit for time already served.  The trial chamber had found Mr. Bagosora and Mr. Nsengiyumva guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions as well as for other crimes committed in April and June 1994 in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, and in the western prefectures of Gisenyi and Kibuye.

The appeals chamber affirmed Mr. Bagosora’s convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of some aspects of the Geneva Conventions. However, it reversed his convictions for the killing of Augustin Maharangari and Alphonse Kabiligi and the murder of international peacekeepers. He was also absolved of the killings in Gisenyi town, at Mudende University, and at Nyundo Parish.

The appeals chamber also set aside the trial court’s contention that Mr. Bagosora was responsible for ordering crimes committed at Kigali area roadblocks, but found him liable as a superior instead. It also reversed a number of Mr. Bagosora’s convictions for murder as a crime against humanity and for other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity for the defilement of the body of then Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana after she was murdered.

Judges in the appeals chamber reversed Mr. Nsengiyumva’s convictions for the killing of Alphonse Kabiligi, as well as for the murders at Mudende University, Nyundo Parish, and Bisesero. It also overturned his convictions for murder as a crime against humanity.

The appeal judges affirmed Mr. Nsengiyumva’s convictions for genocide and crimes against humanity in relation to the killings in Gisenyi town on 7 April 1994.

Mr. Bagosora was head of department in the Rwandan defence ministry at the time of the genocide. He was arrested in Cameroon on 9 March 1996 and will remain in the UN Detention Facility in Arusha, Tanzania, where the ICTR is based, pending transfer to another country to serve the rest of his term.

Mr. Nsengiyumva served as commander of the Gisenyi operational sector of the Rwandan army at the time. He was also arrested in Cameroon on 27 March 1996.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICTR Appellate Hearing Begins

An appellate hearing at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) began this week for Gaspard Kanyarukiga, a businessman convicted of genocide and other war crimes for his role in the destruction of the Nyange Church on April 16, 1994.  The attack led to the deaths of about 2,000 Tutsi civilians.  He had been sentenced to 30 years in jail.  Both the defense and prosecutors have appealed against decisions on convictions and sentencing.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release) (mew)

December 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICTR Appeals Chamber Reduces Prison Sentence

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has reduced the jail sentence of a former local official who was convicted last year of his role in a notorious massacre in which thousands of ethnic Tutsi civilians died.

The ICTR Appeals Chamber ruled that Dominique Ntawukulilyayo, a former sub-prefect in Rwanda’s southern prefecture of Butare, will now serve 20 years in prison instead of 25 years.  The Appeals Chamber found that the Trial Chamber had erred when it convicted Mr. Ntawukulilyayo of ordering genocide for the killings at Kabuye hill on 23 April 1994, just weeks after the genocide began. But the five-member appeal panel upheld Mr. Ntawukulilyayo’s conviction for aiding and abetting genocide over the same incident.

During his trial, the court heard how Mr. Ntawukulilyayo instructed many Tutsi families who had gathered at Gisagara market over four days to move to nearby Kabuye hill, promising them they would be protected and fed.  But he later transported soldiers to the hill, and the soldiers joined with other assailants to attack the Tutsis, killing thousands.

(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Executing Arrest Warrants Will End the Crimes in Darfur

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has renewed his call for the arrest and transfer of those alleged to have committed genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, citing the need to protect millions of lives in the troubled Sudanese region.  Since it took up the situation in Darfur in 2005, the court has issued arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as then government minister Ahmed Harun and Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb.

“The execution of the arrest warrants will end the crimes in Darfur,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in his briefing this week to the Security Council. “The individuals sought by the court are still allegedly committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo noted that the Sudanese Government has repeatedly failed to carry out the arrest warrants. He also noted that Malawi, a State party to the ICC, recently refused to arrest Mr. al-Bashir when he visited the country.  “The world knows where the fugitives of the court are,” he stated. “They are in official positions, controlling the Government of the Sudan, commanding military operations in different parts of the Sudan.”

Meanwhile, civilians in Darfur continue to be subject to indiscriminate aerial bombardment and the Janjaweed militiamen have still not been disarmed, “despite numerous injunctions by this Council,” said the prosecutor.  “The people of Darfur need the leadership of the Security Council,” he stressed.  “The arrest warrants shall be implemented. The Security Council resolutions shall be implemented. Millions of civilians in Darfur shall be protected.”

Earlier this month the prosecutor requested an arrest warrant against Sudanese Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, saying there was evidence that he is one of those who bears the greatest criminal responsibility for the same crimes and incidents presented in the arrest warrants for Mr. Harun and Mr. Kushayb.  In addition, the ICC has issued summonses to appear for Abdallah Banda and Saleh Jerbo, two rebel leaders who stand accused of orchestrating the 2007 attack that resulted in the death of 12 African Union peacekeepers in the Haskanita area of Darfur. Both men have committed to surrender voluntarily to the ICC for trial.

The Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC six years ago after a UN inquiry found serious violations of international human rights law in the region, where fighting has raged since 2003.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lebanon Tribunal Prosecutor Calles One Term Enough

The Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), created to try those alleged responsible for the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, has informed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that he will not seek a second term for health reasons, the tribunal reported today.  “While this long and difficult journey is far from over, solid foundations have been laid to achieve justice and accountability for the attack of 14 February 2005 and connected cases, through the rule of law,” said Daniel Bellemare, the Prosecutor of the UN-backed tribunal, announcing his decision not to seek reappointment when his term expires at the end of February next year.  “I am proud to leave behind a strong team of committed professionals who have assisted me in the past three years in carrying out our challenging mandate and will continue to ensure that justice is achieved for the people of Lebanon,” he added. 

Mr. Ban told a news conference at UN Headquarters today that he will seek Mr. Bellemare’s replacement in consultation with the UN Legal Counsel, Patricia O’Brien.  The tribunal is an independent court created at the request of the Lebanese Government, with a mandate issued by the Security Council. It is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.  It was set up following a probe by the International Independent Investigation Commission after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry into the massive car bomb in Beirut that killed Mr. Hariri and 21 other people was seriously flawed, and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack.

The President of STL, David Baragwanath, said Mr. Bellemare had undertaken a difficult job with “vigour and determination.” The tribunal’s registrar, Herman von Hebel, praised Mr. Bellemare’s commitment to his duties, saying it had led to the submission and confirmation of an indictment earlier this year.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release(

December 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN Issues its First Report on Rights of LGBT Persons

The first ever United Nations report on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people details how around the world people are killed or endure hate-motivated violence, torture, detention, criminalization and discrimination in jobs, health care and education because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  The report, released this week by the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, outlines “a pattern of human rights violations emerges that demands a response,” and says governments have too often overlooked violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Homophobic and transphobic violence has been recorded in every region of the world, the report finds, and ranges from murder, kidnappings, assaults and rapes to psychological threats and arbitrary deprivations of liberty.  LGBT people are often targets of organized abuse from religious extremists, paramilitary groups, neo-Nazis, extreme nationalists and others, as well as family and community violence, with lesbians and transgender women at particular risk.

“Violence against LGBT persons tends to be especially vicious compared to other bias-motivated crimes,” the report notes, citing data indicating that homophobic hate crimes often include “a high degree of cruelty and brutality.”  Violent incidents or acts of discrimination frequently go unreported because victims do not trust police, are afraid of reprisals or are unwilling to identify themselves as LGBT.

The report – prepared in response to a request from the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year – draws from information included in past UN reporting, official statistics on hate crimes where there are available, and reporting by regional organizations and some non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  In the report, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calls on countries to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality, abolish the death penalty for offences involving consensual sexual relations, harmonize the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual conduct, and enact comprehensive anti-discrimination laws.  In 76 countries it remains illegal to engage in same-sex conduct and in at least five countries – Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen – the death penalty prevails.

Ms. Pillay recommends that Member States also promptly investigate all killings or serious violent incidents perpetrated because of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and to establish systems to record such incidents.  The High Commissioner also calls on countries to ensure that no one fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is returned to a territory where their life or freedom is at threat, and that asylum laws recognize that sexual orientation or gender identity is a valid basis for claiming persecution.  Public information campaigns should be introduced, especially in schools, to counter homophobia, and police and law enforcement officials should also receive training to ensure LGBT people are treated appropriately and fairly. 

Charles Radcliffe, the report’s lead author and chief of OHCHR’s global issues section, told UN Radio that “one of the things we found is if the law essentially reflects homophobic sentiment, then it legitimizes homophobia in society at large. If the State treats people as second class or second rate or, worse, as criminals, then it’s inviting people to do the same thing.”  He stressed that all UN Member States have an obligation under international human rights law to decriminalize homosexuality, adding it was important to persuade rather than lecture States to change their laws.  “I think we have seen the balance of opinion amongst States really shifting significantly in recent years. Some 30 countries have decriminalized homosexuality in the last two decades or so.”

Mr. Radcliffe said that while all people have freedom of religion, “no religious belief or prevailing cultural values can justify stripping people of their basic rights.”  The report, which will be discussed by Council members at a meeting in March next year, has been released as top UN officials have increasingly raised concerns about human rights violations against LGBT people.  Last year, in a speech marking Human Rights Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that “as men and women of conscience, we reject discrimination in general, and in particular discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”  Ms. Pillay, during a public conversation last week on social media, also called for an end to bullying and other forms of persecution of LGBT people.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

US DOJ Indicts Siemens Executives and Agents in Largest Ever FCPA Case

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) charged eight former executives and agents of Siemens AG of Germany and its subsidiaries with paying $100 million in bribes to officials in Argentina to get a $1 billion government contract to make national identity cards. This case is the largest one ever filed under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  In addition, this case involves the first-ever indictment under the FCPA of a board member of a global Fortune 500 company, Mr. Uriel Sharef, a former member of Siemen's central executive committee.  Although the relevant actors are not U.S. persons and the alleged illegal actions took place aboard, the U.S. government asserts jurisdiction over the matter because Siemens is registered on the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission and its shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  The Siemens executives also allegedly laundered $25 million through New York banks.

Three years ago, the Siemens company settled a related FCPA case brought by the US DOJ for $800 million as well as a separate corruption case brought by German authorities for $800 million.  The US DOJ is now going after the responsible individuals. 


December 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

International Law Events at AALS in January 2012

For our readers who will be attending the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) in January in Washington, DC, we want to bring your attention to a couple of events of interest to international law professors.

First, on Thursday, January 5, there is an all-day program on "North American Legal Developments - 2011 and Beyond."  The program features discussions of issues concerning the Northwest Passage, the Arctic Ocean and the North American Free Trade Agreeement (NAFTA).  The first two topics will include a focus on US ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty.  The NAFTA panel will focus on trade issues, as well as the intersection between trade and labor and environmental issues.  The program is being co-sponsored by the International Law Section and the North American Cooperation Section.  The program is scheduled to be held in Delaware Suite B, Lobby Level, Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

Second, on Saturday morning, January 7, the Pacific McGeorge School of Law is continuing is tradition of hosting a breakfast for international law professors and members of the American Society of International Law Teaching Interest Group.  The breakfast is 7-8:30 am in Nathan Hale, Wardman Tower at the same hotel.  Contact Frank Gevurtz at Pacific McGeorge to RSVP or for more information.


December 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cambodia Tribunal Will Not Release Defendant

The United Nations-backed genocide tribunal in Cambodia has ruled that Ieng Thirith, a 79-year-old former senior member of the Khmer Rouge who was found unfit to stand trial, will not be released as ordered last month but remain in detention.

On November 17, the trial chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) said it found that Ms. Thirith suffers from “a progressive, degenerative condition.” It ordered her unconditional release and that the proceedings against her be stayed.  However, the tribunal’s Supreme Court chamber today granted an appeal from the prosecution and set aside the release order, adding that the trial chamber must exhaust all available measures
potentially capable of helping the accused to become fit to stand trial.

“Such decision was adopted in the light of the possibility, albeit slight, of a meaningful improvement in the mental health of the accused which was foreseen by the medical experts appointed by the trial chamber,” stated a news release issued by the ECCC.  In a situation where the stay of proceedings may be lifted, the Supreme Court chamber found that unconditional release of an accused is not required. It concluded that the original ground for keeping the accused in provisional detention, namely to ensure her presence during the proceedings, remains valid and relevant.

Four expert psychiatrists who examined Ms. Thirith in September diagnosed her with clinical dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s, which would hinder her participation in court hearings.  The Supreme Court chamber today directed the trial chamber to request additional treatment for the accused “which may help improve her mental health to such extent that she becomes fit to stand trial.” Such treatment is to be carried out in a hospital or other appropriate facility in Cambodia.

Six months after the start of this treatment, the accused shall undergo a medial, psychiatric and/or psychological expert examination, after which the trial chamber shall determine her fitness to stand trial without delay.  Ms. Thirith, former Social Affairs Minister for the Democratic Kampuchea, was on trial for genocide and other crimes against humanity along with her husband and former foreign minister Ieng Sary, former so-called Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, and former head of State Khieu Samphan, all leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime during the late 1970s.

The ECCC is tasked with trying those deemed most responsible for crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge. It is an independent court set up under an agreement signed in 2003 by the UN and the Government, and uses a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

December 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kyrgyzstan Must Do More to Prevent Torture

An independent United Nations human rights expert has urged the Kyrgyz Government to prevent abuses, torture and ill-treatment, and to end impunity by ensuring that alleged perpetrators are held responsible.  Juan E. Méndez voiced concern that there is “a serious lack of sufficiently speedy, meaningful, thorough and impartial investigations” into allegations of torture and ill-treatment, as well as lack of effective prosecution of law enforcement officials.  “I heard multiple allegations of corruption in the administration of justice which demonstrates how deeply ingrained it is in the criminal law system,” he said in a statement to the press in Bishkek, the capital, at the end of his visit, which began on 5 December and ended yesterday.

A key element of his fact-finding mission was interviewing people held in various types of detention facilities as well as victims of torture and ill-treatment in Bishkek, Osh and Jalalabad.  “The use of torture and ill-treatment is a widespread phenomenon, usually committed by the operative investigative officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs during the first hours of apprehension and interrogation for the purpose of extracting confessions,” said Mr. Méndez, who is the Special Rapporteur on torture. “I have received multiple allegations of torture that share the same pattern of being subjected to asphyxiation through plastic bags and gas masks, punched, beaten with police truncheons and applied electric shock committed by police officers during arrest and first hours of informal interrogation,” he stated.

“The use of torture by the criminal investigation police is exacerbated by the reliance placed on confessions in the judicial system,” added the expert, who also met with senior State officials, representatives of civil society, lawyers and human rights advocates.  He stressed that Kyrgyzstan needs to revamp the framework of procedural safeguards against torture, including by creating a meaningful and transparent system of access to assistance of counsel from the moment of arrest, and to ensure that it is implemented in good faith. “Almost all detainees indicated that they were subjected to mistreatment or beating since the moment of apprehension and delivery to a police station for the purpose of extraction of confessions by means of torture,” said the expert.

“Other allegations were that the judicial system is slow, inefficient and corrupt, which leads to a situation where many persons are deprived of their liberty in places of detention that are completely inadequate for long-term detention and held in pre-trial detention for up to a year.”  Mr. Méndez said the conditions in detention centres he visited ranged from adequate to dreadful, with unsanitary conditions, almost no ventilation, no windows or daylight. 

“I recognize that many of the problems observed are caused by a lack of resources and I encourage international donors to support the Government in its attempts to improve prison conditions,” he stated.  “However, some important steps could be taken that are not resource-dependent, such as establishing stronger legal and procedural safeguards. In addition, greater use of non-custodial measures for accused persons, particularly those accused of petty crimes, would significantly contribute to more humane conditions of detention.”

The expert reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

December 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)