Friday, August 17, 2012

World Humanitarian Day

The United Nations has declared August 19 World Humanitarian Day to honor those who face danger and adversity in order to help others. The date was chosen to correspond to the 2003 bombing of the United Nations building in Iraq in memory and honor of humanitarian aid workers around the world. This year’s campaign "I Was Here" is about making your mark by doing something good, somewhere, for someone else.


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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ecuador To Grant Asylum to Julian Assange

News reports this morning state that Ecuador has announced that it will grant political asylum today to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.   Assange has been taking refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London since June 19. He is hoping to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning in connection with alleged sex crimes.  Assange also potentially faces extradition to the United States, where Ecuadorian Foreign Miniser Patino believes Assange will not receive a fair trial in connection with his release of thousands of secret documents and diplomatic cables relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as to U.S. foreign relations.  It is unclear whether Britian will allow Assange to leave the United Kingdom for Ecuador. Thus far, the British government has taken the position that it has a legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden.


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

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

UN Finds Both Sides Guilty of War Crimes in Syrian Conflict

Not surprisingly, the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry (CoI) in Syria has determined that both the Syrian Government and opposition forces have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity during the ongoing conflict in Syria.

The CoI on Syria issued its report under a mandate from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. According to a UN press release, "the report states that war crimes, including murder, extrajudicial killings and torture, and gross violations of international human rights, including unlawful killing, attacks against civilians and acts of sexual violence, have been committed in line with State policy, with indications of the involvement at the highest levels of the Government, as well as security and armed forces."

The report further "notes that more “brutal tactics” and new military capabilities have been employed in recent months by both sides to the conflict. It updates earlier findings on the events that took place in the town of Houla on 25 May, concluding that Government forces and Shabiha fighters (the government-controlled militia) were responsible for the killings there of more than 100 civilians – nearly half of whom were children.

While the report states that opposition forces also committed war crimes, it concludes that their violations and abuses were not of the same gravity, frequency and scale as those committed by Government forces and the Shabiha.

The report also "reiterates the need for international consensus to end the violence and pave the way for a political transition process that reflects the aspirations of all segments of Syrian society."

In a news release issued by Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Commission emphasized that its lack of access inside Syria significantly hindered its ability to carry out its work. Most of its information is derived from firsthand accounts of the situation on the ground from people who left the country.

The CoI has conducted over 1,000 interviews since February. Its full report is scheduled to be presented at the 21st session of the Human Rights Council on 17 September.

(cgb) (adapted from a UN press release)

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

When Cats Interrupt Class

A 19-second video from the University for Peace in Costa RIca shows what happens when cats interrupt class.



Hat tip (meow) to Rex Wockner


August 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New Representative for the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the appointment of the Ambassador of Nepal to the United Nations as his top aide dealing with some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. Gyan Chandra Acharya of Nepal will serve as Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, replacing Cheick Sidi Diarra of Mali, who has served in that post since 2007. 

According to a media note announcing the appointment, Mr. Acharya’s nearly three decades of diplomatic service have regularly placed him in the frontlines of bilateral, regional and global issues, where he has consistently highlighted and advocated for the interests and concerns of least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states. Most recently, Mr. Acharya, 52, served as Chair of the Global Coordination Bureau of the Group of Least Developed Countries and was closely involved in the recent UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June.

(UN Press Release)

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

Anton's Digest of International Law

The latest edition of Professor Donald Anton's Weekly Digest of International Law has just been published.  It's a great resource. Have a look by clicking here.


August 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Violence Increasing in Syria

Violence and the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons by the Government as well as targeted attacks by the opposition are increasing in Syria, the head of the United Nations observer force said today, adding that this is taking a heavy toll on innocent civilians. “It is clear that violence is increasing in many parts of Syria,” said the UN Military Adviser, Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, who is currently serving as the head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). “Our patrols are monitoring the impact of this violence, visiting internally displaced people and hospitals.”

Syria has been wracked by violence, with an estimated 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago. In the previous two weeks, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, with the latter reportedly the centre of intense combat between Government and opposition forces, involving both aerial bombardments and heavy weaponry.

Addressing a press conference in the Syrian capital, Damascus, Lieutenant General Gaye said that UNSMIS had reoriented its activities to monitor the level of violence and the use of heavy weapons, and had also intensified efforts to facilitate “local pauses” to enable assistance to civilians. The Mission had suspended its regular patrolling and monitoring activities in mid-June due to the escalating violence. 

“The fighting continues and I continue to remind the parties of their obligations to respect international humanitarian law and to protect civilians. The conflict has gone on too long and far too many people are suffering,” Lieutenant General Gaye said.  “Concerning the future, UNSMIS has six days to go. We will continue to the last minute of our mandate to urge the Parties to move from confrontation to dialogue,” he added.

In separate meetings with Government officials and members of the opposition, UNSMIS officials appealed to the parties to cease military operations and come to the negotiation table, Lieutenant General Gaye said, adding that the UN is ready to support political dialogue among Syrians. Initially set up in April for 90 days, in late July, the Council adopted resolution 2059, which extended the mission’s mandate for another 30 days. The resolution also indicated that further renewals to UNSMIS’ mandate would be possible only if it can be confirmed that the use of heavy weapons has ceased and a reduction in violence by all sides was sufficient to allow the Mission to implement its mandate. With the 30-day extension, the mission’s mandate is set to expire on Sunday.

Meanwhile, various UN agencies continue to provide relief supplies to the three million people in the country who are in need of humanitarian aid. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) today reported that it had sent a convoy of food and medical aid to Damascus for the 2,400 Palestinian refugee families that have been affected by the conflict. The 17-truck convoy carried 360 tons of flour, rice, sugar, lentils, chickpeas, pasta and medicines, worth $650,000. The aid was donated by Palestinian companies, businesspeople, and other individuals, and the shipment was coordinated by the Palestinian Authority with Jordanian and Syrian authorities.

(UN Press Release)

August 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Against a Broader Reading of "Refugees"

Matthew J. Lister, a former law clerk at the U.S. Court of International Trade and now a visiting assistant professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, has a new paper on refugees.  He argues against a more expansive reading of the word, arguing that a narrower reading will help focus resources and assistance to those most in need.  Click here to see his paper on SSRN.  Professor Lister presented an earlier version of the paper at a "New Voices in Human Rights" Panel at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools.


August 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

International Review of Law Journal Call for Papers

The International Review of Law Journal is seeking articles for a special issue on domestic violence to be published in Spring 2013. The journal's goal is to showcase papers that address practical and theoretical accomplishments and challenges worldwide in the area of domestic violence. Provided that the focus of the article is law-related, the definition of domestic violence will be construed broadly.

The International Review of Law Journal is a peer-reviewed, bi-lingual (Arabic and English) international law journal at Qatar University College of Law. All content in the journal is 'open access,’ meaning articles are free-to-read on the web and authors retain copyright on the print and electronic versions of their work. From its base in the Middle East, the journal aims to bring perspectives from around the world to developments in the law. Submissions are accepted in both English and Arabic.

The domestic violence special issue will be edited by Professor Mary Pat Treuthart, Gonzaga University School of Law. A section of this issue will be reserved for student submissions. Selected authors will be invited to Qatar University College of Law in Doha to conduct a guest lecture
on their area of research.

Contributors are requested to submit manuscripts of no more than 30 double-spaced pages including footnotes. Shorter pieces are welcome. Manuscripts will be accepted on a rolling basis; however, the final deadline for submissions is December 1, 2012. For more complete information on submission guidelines, please see the journal website.


August 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

US Sanctions News

Last week, the United States Treasury Department announced that it has designated Hezbollah for its support of the Assad regime in Syria in connection with its violent crackdown against protestors. The designation has little practical impact, however. Hezbollah was already on the designated terrorist list, so its assets have been frozen for many years already.

The US Treasury Dept. also announced that it is imposing sanctions on the Syrian state-run oil company Sytrol under the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), as amended by the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA), for conducting business with Iran’s energy sector. According to the US government, in April of this year, Syria and Iran engaged in two-way trade in the energy sector, in which Syria sent 33,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran. The United States has determined that the value of the gasoline delivered by Sytrol to Iran in April was over $36 million, significantly exceeding the monetary thresholds for triggering sanctions under this law ($1 million threshold for individual transactions and the $5 million threshold for multiple transactions within a twelve-month period under U.S. law). The US government believes that this kind of trade allows Iran to continue developing its nuclear program while providing the Syrian government with resources to oppress its own people.


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

Thursday, August 9, 2012

March 20 is Named "International Day of Happiness"

Perhaps the world needs more holidays like this one, the "International Day of Happiness."  The United Nations General Assembly designated March 20th as the Happiness Day.  Click here to read the U.N. Resolution.


August 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA)

The Security Council has voiced its support for the role that preventive diplomacy and early warning mechanisms play in settling disputes peacefully, and praised the work carried out by a United Nations centre in Central Asia to strengthen this practice in the region.  “The members of the Council reaffirmed the importance of preventive diplomacy and early warning mechanisms in the peaceful settlement of disputes and underlined the overriding political, humanitarian and moral imperatives, as well as the economic advantages, of preventing the outbreak, escalation or relapse of conflicts,” according to a press statement issued on Wednesday night by Ambassador Gérard Araud of France, which holds the Council’s presidency for this month.    

The Council’s statement came in the wake of a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Miroslav Jenca, on the work of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) – which Mr. Jenca also heads.     

Established in 2007 at the initiative of the governments of the five Central Asian countries and based in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, UNRCCA is a special political mission which works to promote dialogue between the region’s governments in finding solutions for emerging problems and eliminating potential threats.    

The Council members emphasized the need to increase cooperation and coordination among governments in Central Asia, and welcomed UNRCCA’s work over the past seven months to achieve this goal. “In this regard, they welcomed the role of the Regional Centre as an example of preventive diplomacy mechanisms available to the United Nations and acknowledged the role played by UNRCCA in assisting Central Asian countries to respond, in accordance with its mandate and through regional cooperation, to domestic and trans-national threats to peace and sustainable development of the region,” Ambassador Araud said.    

Council members also commended the Centre’s focus on supporting efforts by the region’s governments to ensure stability and create a more conducive environment for bilateral and multilateral cooperation, as well as to find sustainable solutions to challenges in Central Asia, including the management of water and energy resources and the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. They encouraged continued cooperation and coordination between governments in the region, UNRCCA and relevant regional organizations, and, in addition, they noted that the regional centre can play an important part by assisting Central Asian countries to normalize the situation in Afghanistan, which affects the entire region.

(UN Press Release)

August 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Peaceful Transfer of Authority in Libya

The United Nations today welcomed Libya’s peaceful transfer of authority from the National Transitional Council to the newly elected National Congress, and reiterated its continuous support to assist the North African country in its democratic transition. “I warmly congratulate the Libyans on this peaceful and democratic transfer of power, which is not only a first for this country but an inspiration for others,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Ian Martin. “It reflects the people’s confidence in their political process. It is a profound break with the past and a great leap forward on the road to a democratic and accountable State.”

On 7 July, some 2.7 million Libyans headed to the polls to vote for members of the new National Congress. Over 3,000 candidates ran for office, including more than 600 women. The election was conducted in a largely peaceful manner, receiving praise from international observers and the Security Council.  The polls were the first free elections in decades in Libya, where Muammar al-Qadhafi ruled for more than 40 years until a pro-democracy uprising last year – similar to the protests in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa – led to civil war and the end of his regime.

The National Congress will decide on the composition of a constitutional commission that will draft the North African country’s new constitution. “Much work lies ahead to consolidate and build on what has been accomplished. This requires all Libyans, political leaders and civil society, to join hands to chart the future of their country,” Mr. Martin said, adding that the UN looks forward to working with the new members of the National Congress, and with the new Government that the Congress will appoint.

Mr. Martin, who also heads the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), reiterated the readiness of the United Nations to continue to assist Libyans in their democratic transition as well as in building a security sector under democratic control and protecting human rights through the rule of law. “At this moment of peaceful, democratic transition to new authorities, Libyans can take huge pride in what has been accomplished,” he said.

(UN Press Release)

August 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Save the Date: ABA Section of International Law 2013 Retreat

The American Bar Association Section of International Law held a successful retreat last week at the Union League Club of Chicago.  More than 150 attorneys attended from all over the world.  The section's next retreat will be July 30 to August 1, 2013 at the Cavallo Point in Sausalito, California.


August 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mali: U.N. Secretary General Urges More Action, Including Targeted Sanctions

Addressing the “deeply troubling situation” in Mali, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today encouraged the Security Council to consider taking more action – such as travel and financial sanctions – against those responsible for some of the West African country’s current instability.  “I encourage the Security Council to give serious consideration to the imposition of targeted travel and financial sanctions against individuals or groups in Mali engaged in terrorist, religious extremist or criminal activities,” Mr. Ban told a Security Council meeting on peace and security in Africa.

In January, fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels resumed in northern Mali. The instability and insecurity resulting from the renewed clashes, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region and political instability in the wake of a coup d’état in March, have led over 250,000 Malians to flee to neighbouring countries. Some 174,000 Malians are estimated to be internally displaced. “Since the start of the crisis earlier this year, we have seen the situation take one alarming turn after another, reaching seemingly new depths with every passing week,” Mr. Ban said. “These grave developments have brought enormous suffering to the people of Mali. They also pose a widening threat to international peace and security.” He added, “I am also extremely concerned about reports that armed groups in the north are committing serious human rights violations, including summary executions of civilians, rapes and torture.”

In addition to international engagement, the UN chief stated that the crisis in Mali will require a holistic and comprehensive approach, rather than partial and disconnected measures, given its complex and multidimensional nature. “I strongly encourage the Government of Mali to develop an over-arching political strategy to return the country to constitutional order and reestablish state authority in the north,” Mr. Ban said. “The strategy should clearly spell out responses to genuine socio-economic and political grievances, the modalities for political dialogue and negotiations, and the aims of eventual military action against extremist forces in the north.” 

“Looking ahead, it is essential for Malians to take ownership and show leadership,” he noted, adding that the regional grouping known as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the European Union, key regional countries and bilateral partners should all assist in this endeavour.

In a unanimously adopted resolution in early July, and acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council condemned the forcible seizure of power in Mali, and demanded the immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities by rebel groups in the country’s north. It also indicated its willingness to consider the deployment of a stabilization force in the troubled West African country, and expressed serious concern about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation and the increased terrorist threat due to the presence of members of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the country.

“With last month’s adoption of resolution 2056, this Council has expressed its concern,” Mr. Ban said. “Today, as we consider the latest developments, it is clear that more may be required of you.”

In June, ECOWAS and the AU requested a Security Council mandate authorizing the deployment of an ECOWAS stabilization force to ensure the protection of Malian state institutions, and assist in upholding the country’s territorial integrity and in combating terrorism.  In resolution 2056, Council members expressed their readiness to further examine this request and encouraged close cooperation between the Malian transitional authorities, ECOWAS, the AU and other countries, to prepare detailed options in regard to any such force’s mandate.

Turning to the political situation, the Secretary-General noted that limited progress had been made in restoring constitutional order.  “Mali’s socio-political forces remain divided over support for the transitional arrangements and, more broadly, over future prospects for the country,” he said. “The military junta reportedly maintains a strong influence on the transitional process. It has retained control over the security and defence forces, and continues to violently repress fellow soldiers suspected of having supported the attempted counter-coup of 30 April.”

Heads of State and Government from ECOWAS have called for a more inclusive Government, and mandated the ECOWAS Mediator – President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso – to urgently engage in consultations with Malian stakeholders. In addition, the regional grouping decided to deploy an ECOWAS Standby Force to Mali and to send a Technical Assessment Mission to the capital, Bamako, to prepare for its deployment. 

In his remarks to the Council meeting, Secretary-General Ban welcomed the return of President Dioncounda Traoré to Bamako as a “positive development,” with his presence enhancing the constitutional legitimacy of the transitional arrangements. “I commend the steps the President is taking to ensure the formation of a government of national unity,” Mr. Ban said. “I also welcome his announcement of the creation of the National Transition Committee, the National Dialogue Committee, and the High Council of State, which he plans to chair.”

Referring to the situation in northern Mali, where the Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa – which are reportedly linked to AQIM – have taken control after pushing out the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (known by the French acronym MNLA), and have illegally imposed Sharia law on the residents, the UN chief said that with the influx of regional and international jihadists, there is reason to be concerned that the area is becoming a safe haven for terrorists and criminal elements.  “The ECOWAS Mediator, President Blaise Compaoré, has taken initial steps to meet with representatives of the MNLA and Ansar Dine,” Mr. Ban said. “But no meaningful dialogue has commenced between the Government of Mali and any of the groups in the north.”   He noted that with the establishment of President Traoré’s National Commission for Negotiations, it is expected that a Malian-owned dialogue process, with the assistance of ECOWAS and neighbouring countries, will commence shortly. 

The Secretary-General has been using his ‘good offices’ to help address the crisis, through his Special Representative for Africa, Said Djinnit, in addition to support from the UN Department of Political Affairs, which is consulting with ECOWAS Member States, and UN military planners, who have helped advise an ECOWAS technical assessment mission. “As the Malian transitional authorities prepare to initiate a national dialogue, the United Nations stands ready to offer its considerable expertise in designing such processes and facilitating such dialogue,” Mr. Ban said.

The Secretary-General also noted that the ongoing conflict has exacerbated a perilous humanitarian situation in Mali, with a severe food security and nutrition crisis already affecting 4.6 million people in Mali.  The food and nutrition situation in Mali is part of a wider crisis in the region. Humanitarian organizations estimate that there are currently some 18 million people facing food insecurity in the western part of African’s Sahel region, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

(UN Press Release) 

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

ICC Creates First Ever Compensation Plan for Victims

ICCThe International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced a plan to provide reparations for victims of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  This is the first ICC decision implementing its power to award reparations. Lubanga was convicted earlier this summer of war crimes for the use of child soldiers and sentenced to 14 years in prison.  Under the victims compensation plan, funds will be administered by the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV), an entity created by the Rome Statute to implement court-ordered reparations and to help rehabilitate victims.  The TFV will hold consultations with the victims and communities affected by the war crimes in the DRC to determine appropriate compensation. Payments will must be approved by the ICC.  Lubanga has been declared indigent, so the reparations will be paid by the TFV.  The TFV is funded through fines and forfeitures as well as donations by States and private donors.  For more information, click here.


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

Monday, August 6, 2012

Reminder of Recent ICJ Ruling in Belgium v. Senegal

In case you missed our earlier post on the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice, the Court ruled that Senegal must either prosecute former Chadian President Hissène Habré for war crimes or extradite him “without further delay.”  The decision by the Court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, is in response to a request by Belgium to prosecute Mr. Habré, who has been accused in a Senegalese court of massive human rights abuses committed by his regime during the 1980s. Belgium had also sought to have him extradited to face charges in Belgium, citing among other things procedural delays in Senegal’s handling of the case. Senegal had maintained that its judiciary is competent to carry out the prosecution.

In its judgment, the Court unanimously found that Senegal “must, without further delay, submit the case of Mr. Hissène Habré to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution, if it does not extradite him.”

He was charged in February 2000 by a lower court in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, but an appeals court later ruled that Senegalese courts did not have the legal competence to try such cases if they were perpetrated in another country.  In April 2008, however, Senegal’s National Assembly adopted an amendment to the constitution that together with previous changes allowed the country’s legal system to deal with such cases. 

Mr. Habré ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, when he was overthrown and went into exile in Senegal. It is alleged that during his rule thousands of Chadians were tortured and unlawful killings and other serious human rights violations took place. 

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

Violence Continues in Syria

The head of United Nations observers in Syria today spoke out about the ongoing fighting taking place in the Middle Eastern country, particularly in the city of Aleppo, and on its impact on civilians.  “I am extremely concerned about the continued violence in Syria, in particular the significant deterioration in Aleppo and its impact on the civilian population,” said the UN Military Adviser, Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, who is currently serving as the head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).  “I urge the parties to protect civilians and respect their obligations under international humanitarian law,” he added in an UNSMIS statement. “Civilians must not be subjected to shelling and use of heavy weapons.”   

Syria has been wracked by violence, with more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago.  Over recent days, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, with the latter reportedly the centre of intense combat between Government and opposition forces, involving both aerial bombardments and heavy weaponry.   

Following reports of shortages of food, gas and electricity, the United Nations is preparing to deliver food assistance to some 28,000 people in Aleppo. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent estimate that some 200,000 people have fled the city and the surrounding areas because of the increase in fighting.   

“I call on all parties to take all necessary steps to open a dialogue as the only way to alleviate the suffering of civilians and bring this conflict to an end,” Lieutenant General Gaye said. 

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

When Is International Law Useful?

Alan O. Sykes, the Innagural Robert A. Kindler Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, will present a lecture on the topic “When is International Law Useful?” on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. in Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South. A reception will immediately follow the lecture. One CLE credit is available. The registration link is: . (mew)

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

Sunday, August 5, 2012

UN General Assembly Condemns Violence in Syria

Seeing no action from the U.N. Security Council, and following the resignation of Kofi Anan as a Special Envoy for the Syrian Crisis, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the increasing use of heavy weapons by authorities and urging all sides to immediately cease armed violence.   

The General Assembly Resolution, presented by the Arab Group, was adopted by a vote of 133 in favour to 12 against with 31 abstentions, and comes two weeks after the Security Council failed to agree on collective action to help stop the bloodshed.   It condemns “the increasing use by the Syrian authorities of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters, in population centres and the failure to withdraw its troops and the heavy weapons to their barracks . . . .” The General Assembly Resolution also condemned all violence, “irrespective of where it comes from,” and demanded that all parties implement the relevant Security Council resolutions to achieve a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties.   

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his regret over the divisions that have paralyzed action in the Security Council, adding that the immediate interests of the Syrian people must be paramount over any larger rivalries of influence.  “The conflict in Syria is a test of everything this Organization stands for,” he told the meeting. “I do not want today’s United Nations to fail that test.”  He warned that, despite repeated verbal acceptances of the six-point plan presented by the Joint Special Envoy for the UN and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan, both the Government and the opposition continue to rely on weapons, not diplomacy, in the belief that they will win through violence.   

The city of Aleppo is currently the epicentre of a “vicious” battle between the Syrian Government and those who wish to replace it, said the Secretary-General. “But there are no winners in Aleppo today, nor anywhere else in the country. The losers in this escalating battle are the people of Syria.”  Mr. Ban stressed that united international pressure can make a difference. “All of us have a responsibility to the people of Syria. We must use all of the peaceful means in the UN Charter to help them unite around a Syrian-led transition process that is based on dialogue and compromise, not bullets and arrests.”  He added that the primary responsibility for stopping the violence rests with those on the ground, particularly the Government. “But their refusal to lay down arms does not absolve the rest of us of the need to act. I urge all members of this Assembly to face up to the collective responsibilities we shoulder.”   
Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser also voiced deep regret that the Security Council had again been unable to unite and take collective action to put an end to the crisis, stating that the deadlock in the Council “sends the wrong signals to all parties in the Syrian conflict.”  Given that the six-point plan is not being implemented and that the violence is increasing, Member States have no choice but to take the necessary credible action, he said. “The credibility of the United Nations is at stake; regional stability in the Middle East is at stake. The lives of thousands of innocent people depend on our response.”   

Mr. Annan announced last week that he will not continue on as the Joint Special Envoy past the end of August. The Secretary-General said that while a successor is being sought to replace Mr. Annan, mediation can only succeed where there is a commitment to solving conflict through dialogue and real leverage to back it up.     

The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 16 months ago.    

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that more and more people are being forced to abandon their homes to seek safety as the violence continues, with hundreds of thousands having already fled to neighbouring countries.  “Those most difficult to aid – as many as 1.5 million – remain in Syria, uprooted and taking refuge in host families or makeshift shelters. Many others are trapped, fearing the risk of being caught up in fighting or targeted during escape,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a news conference in Geneva.  

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

August 5, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)