Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Judge Resigns from Cambodia Tribunal

A second judge has resigned from the Cambodia genocide tribunal after stating that he is being prevented from “properly and freely” carrying out his duties.  According to a news release from the United Nations, Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet submitted his resignation, effective from 4 May, from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).  The ECCC had been set up as an independent court using a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel.

Judge Kasper-Ansermet has served as reserve international co-investigating judge since 30 November 2011, when his predecessor, Judge Siegfried Blunk, resigned, citing attempted interference by Government officials in the court’s proceedings. Judge Kasper-Ansermet’s duties included judicial investigations into cases 003 and 004, both of which involve former senior members of the Khmer Rouge military suspected of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.

According to a news release issued today, Judge Kasper-Ansermet’s authority to investigate cases 003 and 004 has been constantly contested by the national co-investigating judge, You Bunleng, whose “active opposition” to investigations into cases 003 and 004 has led to a “dysfunctional” situation within the ECCC.   “In view of the victims’ right to have investigations conducted in a proper manner and despite his determination to do so, Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet considers that the present circumstances no longer allow him to properly and freely perform his duties,” the news release stated.  He “strongly reiterates his hope that, in the interests of the Cambodian people and international justice, a solution enabling the ECCC to properly fulfil its important mandate will be found.”

The ECCC is designated to try those deemed most responsible for mass killings and other crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge three decades ago, when as many as two million people are thought to have died.

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

March 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The King of Tonga Has Died

We learn from the East-West Center in Honolulu that the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Tonga has reportedly confirmed that King George Tupou the Fifth has died at the age of 63.  He brought democracy to the nation and was considered to be a progressive leader.  The King died in Hong Kong on Sunday, in the company of his younger brother, the Crown Prince, who is heir to the throne.


March 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

More Than 8,000 Now Dead in Syria

The United Nations now estimates that more than 8,000 people -- mostly civilians -- have been killed in Syria in the past year.  The U.N. also estimates that tens of thousands of people have been displaced since anti-government demonstrations began there a year ago as part of the Arab Spring.



March 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Conference on Human Trafficking

Southern Utah University will hold a conference on Human Trafficking from April 12-13, 2012.  Contact Teresa McNeel at 435-586-1992 for more information.


March 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 16, 2012

College Consortium for International Studies

If you're going to be in Washington for the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law, you might also want to stop over to visit the Annual Conference of the College Consortium for International Studies, which is also taking place in Washington D.C. over some of the same days as the ASIL conference.  Click here for more information.  You can also call them at 202-223-0330.


March 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

American Society of International Law

The American Society of International Law (ASIL) holds its 106th annual meeting at the end of the month.  This year the theme is "Confronting Complexity."  The conference will be held March 28-31, 2012 in Washington, D.C.  Click here for more information (and I'll see you all there!).


March 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prosecuting Human Rights Abuses in Brazil

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a statement welcoming the prosecution of a retired Brazilian army colonel for disappearances during the country’s military dictatorship as a “first and crucial step” in fighting the impunity that surrounds that period.  Prosecutors in Brazil had announced earlier this week that they will charge Sebastião Curió Rodrigues de Moura with aggravated kidnapping in relation to the disappearance of five members of the Araguaia guerrilla movement who were detained in 1974. The charges must still be approved by a judge in Brazil before the case can go to trial.

“This is a long-awaited development towards accountability for the hundreds of people who disappeared during the 21-year dictatorship and who remain unaccounted for,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva. “We are hopeful that the Brazilian judiciary will uphold the fundamental rights of the victims to truth and justice by allowing this very important criminal prosecution to go forward,” he added.

This is the first time that Brazil is prosecuting human rights violations committed during the military dictatorship period, according to OHCHR. Previous attempts have been blocked by interpretations of the 1979 amnesty law.   That law was struck down in 2010 by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which ruled that it is invalid and that criminal investigations and prosecutions must proceed.

Last November High Commissioner Navi Pillay welcomed the creation of a Truth Commission to investigate human rights abuses committed during military rule, calling it “an essential and welcome first step towards healing the country’s wounds and clarifying past wrongs.” She had also encouraged Brazil to take measures to facilitate prosecutions and repeal the amnesty law.  “In general, there is a positive trend in the region towards justice for crimes against humanity committed during military regimes,” Mr. Colville noted. Examples include Guatemala, which recently announced it will try a former military ruler and, just this week, sentenced a former special forces soldier to prison for murder and crimes against humanity committed in 1982.  Uruguay has also overturned a de facto amnesty law and Argentina has handed down hundreds of rulings to perpetrators of gross human rights violations.

(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)

March 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

WTO Launches New Database for Preferential & Regional Trade Arrangements

The World Trade Organization (WTO) launched a new database this week to increase transparency regarding preferential trade arrangements (PTAs) and regional trade agreements. Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) permits Member States to deviate from the cardinal principle of Most Favored Nation (MFN) through these arrangements if the WTO is notified and if certain requirements are met. Over the years, little has been done to monitor or enforce those requirements. The database is intended to provide more information about these regional or bilateral arrangements and may lead to more discipline in this area. The new PTA database may be found at:

It is searchable by agreement or country and includes the texts of the agreements among other information.


March 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

First Verdict Ever from the International Criminal Court Finds Warlord Guilty of Recruiting Child Soliders

The International Criminal Court (ICC) yesterday found Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of recruiting child soldiers, in a landmark ruling hailed by United Nations officials as an important step in the fight against impunity.  The verdict is the first ever to be issued by the ICC, the first permanent international court set up to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression, since it was set up a decade ago.

The Court’s trial chamber found Mr. Lubanga Dyilo guilty of the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, and using them to participate actively in hostilities in Ituri in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from September 2002 to August 2003.

“A common plan was agreed by Mr. Lubanga Dyilo and his co-perpetrators to build an army for the purpose of establishing and maintaining political and military control over Ituri. This resulted in boys and girls under the age of 15 being conscripted and enlisted, and used to participate actively in hostilities,” stated a news release issued by the Court.

The verdict was hailed by senior UN officials as a victory for the protection of children in conflict and a major milestone in the fight against impunity.

“Today, impunity ends for Thomas Lubanga and those who recruit and use children in armed conflict,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy. “In this age of global media, today’s verdict will reach warlords and commanders across the world and serve as a strong deterrent,” she added.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) applauded the decision, which makes Mr. Lubanga Dyilo the first warlord to face international justice for using children as weapons of war.  “This is a pivotal victory for the protection of children in conflict,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, adding that the conviction of Mr. Lubanga Dyilo “sends a clear message to all armed groups that enslave and brutalize children: impunity will not be tolerated.”  Noting that tens of thousands of children are still victims of these grave violations in at least 15 armed conflicts around the world, the agency said it will continue efforts to rescue these children and rehabilitate them.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the decision is “a great step forward” for international justice. “For many years, and on a daily basis, we have been documenting gross violations of human rights of the sort perpetrated by Lubanga against the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” she said.  “The Lubanga verdict sends a strong signal against impunity for such grave breaches of international law that will reverberate well beyond the DRC.”

Also welcoming the decision was the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO), who stressed that sends “a powerful message to the individuals responsible for grave human rights violations that they will be held accountable for their actions.”  Roger Meece, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in DRC, strongly urged national authorities to pursue actively investigations and hold to account all who have committed human rights violations.

A separate sentencing hearing for Mr. Lubanga Dyilo will be held at a date to be announced.

The ICC can try cases involving individuals charged with war crimes committed since July 2002. The DRC is one of seven situations under investigation by the Court, along with Central African Republic (CAR), Côte d’Ivoire, the Darfur region of western Sudan, Libya, Uganda and Kenya.

(mew) (adapted from a UN press release)

March 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Report from the Global Legal Skills Conference

Today is the last day of the Global Legal Skills Conference in San Jose, Costa Rica. Our plenary session was held last night at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law. Our speakers included a Justice from the Costa Rica Supreme Court, the President of the Colegio de Abogados y Abogadas, and professors from Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Russia, Singapore, and Switzerland. Together with the law students, we had more than 100 participants from around the world.

We're making plans to return next year for another conference in Costa Rica (around this same time of year).  We're also hoping to hold a GLS conference in Europe in late May or Early June.


March 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 12, 2012

WTO Appellate Body Issues Decision in US-Boeing Dispute

The Appellate Body (AB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a 500+ page decision today in the long-running dispute between the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) over subsidies allegedly provided by the US to aircraft manufacturer, Boeing.  The AB disagreed with the panel's reasoning in a number of areas.  However, the AB ultimately concluded that the US did, in fact, provide subsidies with the meaning of the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement and those subsidies had adverse effects.  Accordingly, it recommended that the US take measures remove the adverse effects or withdraw the subsidies. 

The details of the decision in United States - Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft (DS353), may be found here.


March 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

South Sudan's Army Signs Agreement to Release Child Soldiers

The Sudanese People’s Liberation Army of South Sudan (SPLA) today signed an agreement with the United Nations renewing its commitment to release all children within its ranks.  It had previously agreed orally to release the child soldiers in 2009, but is now putting its commitment in writing. The agreement also requires that all militias that are being incorporated into the SPLA are child-free.  It creates a transparent system for disciplinary action against those in command who recruit children within the SPLA and creates improved communication among commanders to make sure that the practice of child recruitment is halted and responsibility for child protection is understood on all levels.

At the signing ceremony in Juba, South Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, commented:  

“This is an important day for South Sudan – the world’s newest country. Not only does this action plan ensure the Government’s commitment that the SPLA will have no children within its ranks, but all armed groups who have accepted amnesty with the Government must also release their children."  However, "For this agreement to make a real difference for children, implementation is a must.” 

The agreement was also signed by the Ministry of Defense, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), UNICEF and Ms. Coomaraswamy.

(cgb) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)

March 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New ICC Judges Sworn In

Five new judges of the International Criminal Court were sworn in following their election last December at the last session of the assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute.

Judges Howard Morrison of United Kingdom, Anthony T. Carmona of Trinidad and Tobago, Olga Herrera Carbuccia of Dominican Republic, Robert Fremr of Czech Republic and Chile Eboe-Osuji of Nigeria will serve nine-year terms in the International Criminal Court.  Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago of the Philippines, who was also elected in December, was not available to take the oath of office this week and will be sworn in at a later date.

(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)

March 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

One Year Ago Today in Japan . . .

We remember with sadness the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan one year ago today, killing an estimated 20,000 people.  Our hearts go out to the people of Japan and all those affected by that tragedy.

The Blog Editors

March 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day

Today, March 8, 2012, is International Women's Day. Unfortunately, the international human rights of women too often continue to be violated around the world.  Whether it is the horrific rape of a women in a conflict zone, or the less obvious, but still insidious, unequal pay for women in the workplace, women still have a long way to go to achieve full realization of their human rights.  Today is a day to prioritize gender equality and empowerment for women.

To learn more about United Nations events commemorating this day, or to hear the speech of Michele Bachelet, UN Women Executive Director, in honor of the day, go to UN Women.



March 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Global Legal Skills Conference in Costa Rica

Pura Vida!  Flag-GlobeGran Hotel Costa RicaThe seventh Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in San Jose, Costa Rica, from Monday, March 12 to Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

Lawyers and law professors from around the world will gather to discuss the latest ideas in legal skills education, Legal English, Legal Spanish, continuing legal education, skills for mediation and arbitration, contract drafting, publishing, and other topics.  Confirmed participants include presenters from Costa Rica, Mexico, the United States, Japan, Russia, Singapore, and other countries.  Participants include the leading experts on international skills education. 

In addition to the sessions on legal skills, other essions will include discussions of international legal research, international courts and tribunals, and sessions for Costa Rican law students about international moot court competitions and on how to pursue an LL.M. degree in the United States.

Costa-rica-national-theaterOn Monday and Wednesday the conference sessions will be held at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica. 

On Tuesday morning there will be an optional walking tour of San Jose.

On Tuesday afternoon the conference sessions will be held at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law.  One track of programs at the University of Costa Rica will be held in Spanish.  The plenary program speakers include the President of the Costa Rican Bar Association, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica, the Dean of the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law, and updates on global legal skills around the world.  The first Global Legal Skills Awards will also be presented at the Plenary session.

Click here for the Global Legal Skills website.  There is information there about the conference program, conference hotels, registration, and tips on travel to Costa Rica.  

Even if you're not able to attend this upcoming GLS conference, you can still visit the website to join the international community interested in Legal English and other aspects of global legal skills education. 



March 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

US Initiates WTO Dispute Against India

WTOEarlier today, the United States formally initiated dispute settlement proceedings against India at the World Trade Organization (WTO) by requesting consultations regarding India's restrictions on imports of agricultural products from the United States.  News reports indicate that India has been restricting the importation of certain poultry products from the U.S. since 2007 allegedly to prevent the spread of the avian influenza.  The United States believes India's concerns are unjustified.

The WTO's Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures ("SPS Agreement") explicitly recognises that WTO Members have the right to adopt regulations to protect human, animal, or plant life or health.  However, the SPS Agreement also requires that if WTO members impose trade restrictions for safety reasons, they must have scientific evidence or a valid risk assessment to support their actions.  The U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has stated that India has not provided such scientifc evidence.

If consultations fail to resolve the matter within 60 days, the United States may request that a dispute settlement panel be established.


March 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 2, 2012

No Amnesty for Former Guatemalan Dictator

A judge in Guatemala has rejected the claim that former dictator Efrain Rios Montt is protected under an amnesty law from being tried on charges of genocide.

Rios Montt, 85, was in power from 1982 to 1983 when some of the country’s worst civil war atrocities occurred, including the murder, torture and displacement of thousands of indigenous Mayans.  For the past 12 years, Mr. Rios Montt served as a congressman and enjoyed immunity from prosecution. However, this immunity was lifted on 14 January 2012, when he lost a re-election race last year.

A news release from the United Nations states that Judge Miguel Angel Galvez ruled the amnesty law is invalid because of a 1949 international treaty against genocide that Guatemala signed long before the amnesty was declared. 

This ruling “appears to open the door to striking down amnesty for anyone accused of genocide related to the country’s 36-year civil war, in which around 200,000 people are believe to have been killed,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  Speaking to reporters in Geneva, he reiterated OHCHR’s position regarding amnesties, affirming that they should never be granted for serious international crimes.

(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)

March 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The World Bank Owes Me Money? I Don't Think So, Mr./Mrs. Scammer

It's often outrageous to see e-mail scams promising payments from some foreign inheritance, winnings from foreign lottery tickets that I have never purchased, or advice on how to help some widow whose husband received $10 million from the former government, and that she's willing to share part of that with me if I only will give her my bank account information.

Some of these are funny, as this one, received from "WORLD BANK AUDIT [[email protected]]" that suggests that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund owe me some money:

Attn: Sir,
Please reconfirm urgently to avoid transfer in error. Did you authorize any person by power of attorney to have your long outstanding payment with us?
Note that the WORLD BANK in conjunction with IMF has taken responsibility after auditing of some banks in Africa and Europe to settle all inheritance, contracts and lotto payments. We discovered your file among those unpaid.
Do contact the officer in charge with his contact email below:
Phil Cox.
World Bank/IMF (Auditor)
Email:[email protected]
Thanks and anticipating to hearing from you urgently.
Mrs. Marcy Achibong
We'll I won't be contacting them or sharing my banking information or reconfirming my password.  It's sad when I see these scams in general, but sadder still when they try to bring in organizations like the United Nations, the World Bank, or the International Monetary Fund.  Our international civil servants have enough to do without having to track down these fraudsters abusing the good name of their organizations.

March 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

EU Grants Serbia Candidate Status

SerbiaAt its meeting in Brussels yesterday, the European Council agreed to grant Serbia the status of a candidate country.  The next step is the opening of accession talks.  These talks could begin before the year is out if Serbia continues to make progress on issues of corruption and improving day-to-day relations with Kosovo. However, the final step of entry in the European Union (EU) will depend on resolution of difficult issues involving the status of Kosovo and the status of Kosovar Serbs in north Kosovo.  It is likely to be at least a few years before Serbia reaches the stage of entry.

In other EU news, Romania was unable to make progress on its bid to join the EU's passport-free Schengen zone.  Some EU states believe Romania has fulfilled technical criteria for Schengen entry. However, one stumbling block is the Netherlands, whose representative stated that the Netherlands would only vote in favor of Romania's entry after the European Commission reports that Romania has done enough to fight corruption.



March 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)