Sunday, October 14, 2012

UN Can Help Countries Establish the Rule of Law

With its many years of experience and its entrenched neutrality, the United Nations is ideally placed to help countries establish the rule of law, a vital factor in post-conflict reconstruction, overall development and enforcing fundamental rights, a top UN official said last week. “Newly-constituted governments are looking to the United Nations for advice and assistance in constitution-making processes, reforming justice and security institutions and dealing with legacies of atrocities,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the General Assembly committee that deals with international legal matters, also known as the Sixth Committee.

“The United Nations has a comparative advantage in providing this assistance,” Mr. Eliasson stressed, noting that it is currently helping 150 Member States on various aspects of the rule of law. “We have a broad range of experience dating back many years. The UN brings neutrality and the weight of the international community to the work. We are also using out convening power to advance the issues and the debate.”

The committee is following up on the Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on the Rule of Law that was held last month, when world leaders stressed the universality of humanitarian law and the importance of the system of international courts in enforcing fundamental human rights.

Mr. Eliasson highlighted the crucial role played by the network of international tribunals such as the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal UN judicial organ set up in 1945 to settle legal disputes submitted by States, and the more recent Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent international body that is not part of the UN and tries those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. 

Other UN-backed country-specific international courts deal or have dealt with such crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Cambodia. Mr. Eliasson reiterated the call Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made at last month’s meeting for all States to accept the jurisdiction of the (ICJ).

“The International Court of Justice plays a particularly important role,” he said. “It is the only judicial forum to which Member States can bring virtually any legal dispute concerning international law. No other forum’s jurisdiction is as far-reaching. Yet the court is only competent to hear a case if the States concerned have accepted its jurisdiction.”

Only 67 of the UN’s 193 Member States, or 34 per cent, including only one permanent member of the Security Council, currently accept the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction. That compares with 59 per cent in 1948, when 34 of the then 58 UN Member States, including four of the five permanent members of the Security Council, recognized its jurisdiction.

Mr. Eliasson highlighted the crucial role played by the UN-backed international criminal tribunals, noting that the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) last year sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison for planning and abetting crimes committed by Sierra Leonean rebel forces during that country’s civil war, finding him guilty of acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery and enlisting child soldiers.

Meanwhile, the ICC earlier this year found Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of conscripting child soldiers under the age of 15 into his militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and jailed him for 14 years. 

Looking forward, Mr. Eliasson called for strengthening the linkages between the rule of law and all three pillars of the UN’s mission – peace and security; development; and human rights. This includes strengthening peace and security in post-conflict countries; establishing the necessary framework for commerce and international trade, including the sanctity of contracts and labour safeguards; and the need for governments to ratify international rights treaties and promulgate national laws that uphold these obligations.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

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

Saturday, October 13, 2012

UN Security Council Extends Mission in Haiti for Another Year

The Security Council has extended the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti for another year, and decided to reduce the overall force levels as responsibility for security is gradually handed over to the national police. Acting unanimously, the 15-member Council extended the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) until 15 October 2013 so that it can continue to help restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti’s Government institutions and rule-of-law-structures, as well as to promote and to protect human rights. It also decided that MINUSTAH’s overall force levels will consist of up to 6,270 troops – reduced from the authorized military strength of 7,340 – of all ranks through “a balanced withdrawal” of infantry and engineering personnel, and of a police component of up to 2,601 personnel, consistent with the proposals in Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s most recent report 

In the report, Mr. Ban stated that the Mission’s consolidation proposals assume that its military component will gradually hand over responsibility for security to formed police units and, ultimately, to the national police as the latter’s numbers and capacity grow. 

The transfer from military to formed police units is already completed in four of the ten departments – South, Grand-Anse, Nippes and North-West – he noted. By July 2013, MINUSTAH intends to concentrate its military presence into five security hubs in Port-au-Prince, Léogâne, Gonaïves, Cap-Haïtien and Ouanaminthe. 

“This gradual concentration of the military presence would be balanced by the deployment of formed police units to the vacated departments, a transition model that has already proved effective,” he wrote. 

Also by today’s resolution, MINUSTAH’s police component – currently authorized at 3,241 – will be reduced to 2,601. 

“The strengthening of the national police remains a key prerequisite for the Mission’s eventual withdrawal from Haiti,” Mr. Ban stated, adding that recent steps by the Government, with the Mission’s assistance, to increase the numbers of police recruits, in particular female recruits, are encouraging and should help to accelerate the currently insufficient intake of new police cadets.

The Security Council established MINUSTAH in June 2004. In addition to its mandated tasks, it has been helping support Haiti’s authorities with recovery efforts in the wake of massive earthquake which struck in January 2010.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

UN Police Peacekeepers Help Uphold the Rule of Law

Police peacekeepers play in upholding the rule of law and helping countries achieve lasting progress, noted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon earlier this week.  He called on countries to boost support for their work. “United Nations police work in some of the toughest environments in the world. They serve communities. They bring stability. They inspire trust,” he said in a video message to a high-level conference on international police peacekeeping, held in Berlin, Germany.  “UN Police are adapting to meet emerging threats, and they train local officers so that positive change takes deep root in society,” he said. 

Some 13,500 police officers from nearly 90 countries serve under the UN flag, and Mr. Ban stressed that as they grow in numbers, so do their responsibilities. In response, the UN is developing a strategic guidance framework for police peacekeeping, he said.  “I appreciate the support of Member States, but we need to do more. We especially need more female police. Women police can more easily earn the trust of local women. That means more victims come forward and we can stop more crime.” The conference was jointly organized by the German Government and the UN, with more than 200 participants in attendance.

(mew) (adapted from a UN press release)

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

Establishing a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Middle East Zone

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has this week reaffirmed his strong commitment to convene a United Nations-sponsored Conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction in Helsinki, Finland, in mid-December. Mr. Ban met earlier this week with the Finnish Under-Secretary of State, Jaako Laajava, the Conference Facilitator, who briefed him on the preparations and prospects for convening the meeting after his talks this week in Cairo with senior representatives from the UN, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the League of Arab States.

“The Secretary-General reaffirms his strong support for Mr. Laajava and welcomes his intensive efforts,” a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said. “He underlined the importance of the Conference, which is a unique opportunity for all States of the region to collectively enhance their security. He urges all States of the region to participate in and contribute to a successful Conference.”  Click here to read a copy of the statement.

The May 2010 review meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – which takes place every five years – called for a UN-sponsored conference in 2012 to establish a nuclear-free Middle East to be attended by all States in the region. Ahead of the 2010 meeting, Mr. Ban had called for the number of nuclear-weapon-free zones to multiply and ultimately span the globe. “My goal – our goal – is to make the whole world a nuclear-weapon-free zone,” he stated, calling such zones the “success stories of the disarmament movement.”

There are currently five nuclear-weapon-free zones in the world:

  • Latin America and the Caribbean;
  • the South Pacific;
  • South-East Asia;
  • Central Asia; and
  • Africa.

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

Implementing ICJ Decisions: Cameroon and Nigeria Border Dispute

One of the difficult issues in international law is how it can be enforced.  Fortunately, some countries honor the spirit of international dispute resolution and implement decisions affecting them. This week, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended Cameroon and Nigeria for their commitment in honoring the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over their shared border, marking the tenth anniversary of this decision and stressing that both countries are a positive example of settling disputes peacefully.  

“[Mr. Ban] congratulates the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission for the commendable efforts it has made in implementing the ICJ ruling. The success of the Commission is an embodiment of an innovative approach to conflict resolution,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement issued on Wednesday night.  He added that "[b]y peacefully resolving their border dispute, Cameroon and Nigeria have provided a positive example for countries around the world facing similar challenges."  Click here to see a copy of the statement.

The border had been the subject of intense and sometimes violent disputes between the West African neighbors for decades until they agreed to a United Nations-backed process to settle the matter.  The ICJ resolved the issue with a ruling in 2002. The verdict was followed by the 2006 Greentree Agreement -- signed under the auspices of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- under which Nigeria recognized Cameroonian sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula, one part of the border.  

“The Secretary-General stresses the importance of addressing the socio-economic, humanitarian and security needs of the populations affected by the demarcation process, including in the Bakassi area,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said. “He also highlights the importance of implementing confidence-building measures and fostering cross-border cooperation.”  

The UN Secretary-General also encouraged Cameroon and Nigeria to reach an agreement on the remaining 200 kilometres of land boundary so the demarcation process can come to an end, and reiterated the UN’s commitment to continue supporting both countries in implementing the ICJ ruling through the Commission and the Follow-up Committee on the Greentree Agreement, both of which are chaired by the UN. 

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

Special Court for Sierra Leone Imposes Sentences for Witness Tampering

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) has sentenced three senior members of the country’s former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council to jail terms ranging from 18 months to two years for contempt in tampering with a former prosecution witness.  Two of those sentenced are already serving long prison terms for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the civil wars that plagued the West African country, starting in 1996, while a fourth person convicted last month with the other three received a suspended sentence.

Santigie Borbor Kanu (aka Five-Five) and Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara were sentenced to two years in prison on each of two counts of interfering with the administration of justice by offering a bribe to a witness, and for otherwise attempting to induce a witness to recant testimony he gave before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). The terms are to be served concurrently.

Hassan Papa Bangura (aka Bomblast) was sentenced to two 18-month prison terms, to run concurrently, after being convicted on similar charges. Mr. Kamara and Mr. Kanu are currently serving 45 and 50-year terms, respectively, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

A fourth accused, Samuel Kargbo (aka Sammy Ragga), pleaded guilty at his initial appearance in July 2011, subsequently testified for the prosecution, and today received two 18-month suspended sentences, meaning that he will serve no jail time as long as he remains of good behaviour for the next two years.  

During the four-month trial, the court held proceedings at the SCSL’s premises in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, where Mr. Bangura and Mr. Kargbo attended, and in a courtroom in Kigali, Rwanda, where Mr. Kamara and Mr. Kanu have been sent to serve their sentences. The two courtrooms were connected by video link. 

Based in Freetown, the SCSL was set up in 2002 to try those most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in the civil wars that plagued the country, starting in 1996.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

European Union Wins the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize

European Union Map
Nobel Peace PrizeThe Nobel Peace Prize 2012 was awarded to European Union (EU).  The award notes that "for over six decades," the EU has "contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."  

Click here if you would like to post a message of congratulation to the European Union on the Nobel Prize Committee Website.


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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Event for Faculty Candidates to Develop Their International Credentials During AALS Recruitment Conference

On Thursday, October 11, 2012, internationally-focused registrants of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Faculty Recruitment Conference are invited to attend this American Society of International Law (ASIL) panel discussion and reception, cosponsored by the ASIL Teaching International Law Interest Group and the AALS Section on International Law. AALS registrants will have the chance to hear recommendations from international law faculty members and the chair of a faculty appointments committee regarding methods for improving one’s hiring prospects in the academic field. Recent faculty hires will also be on hand to have informal conversations with attendees about their personal experiences in obtaining a faculty position during a reception following the panel discussion. The event will be held from 6:30-8:30 pm at the ASIL Headquarters, Tillar House, 2223 Massachusetts Ave, Washington, DC. There is no charge for the event, but registration is required (click here).


October 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

France Launches Initiative to End the Death Penalty

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed a new global initiative launched by the French Government to curb the use of the death penalty around the world.   In a video message for the French Foreign Ministry’s meeting on the death penalty, Mr. Ban applauded the French plan and expressed hope that it would help reinforce the emerging consensus on abolition.  “The message for abolition is heard across legal systems, traditions, customs and religious backgrounds. It is heard in all regions,” the Secretary-General stated.   

According to the French Government, the aim of the campaign is to step up the action taken in recent years to raise awareness of the abolition of the death penalty ahead of the upcoming fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty, to be held in June 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  

France is a strong opponent of capital punishment and abolished the death penalty in 1981. In addition, some 150 States have either abolished the death penalty or have instituted a moratorium, either in law or in practice. Moreover, in 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted its first ever resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on its use.   

Mr. Ban emphasized that the application of capital punishment invariably entails cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and is rarely meted out across society in an equitable manner.  “Application of the death penalty tends to be discriminatory,” he said. “The poor, the powerless and persons belonging to minority communities are executed in disproportionate numbers,” he added.   

The overall global trend on the use of the death penalty has seen the number of executions worldwide decline. Nevertheless, there has been a recent spate of executions in Gambia as well as in Iraq, where 96 people have had their death sentences carried out since the beginning of 2012. During the month of August alone, 26 people have reportedly been executed by the Iraqi authorities, including 21 in a single day.  

(Excerpt from a UN Press Release)

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

Special Court for Sierra Leone

The United Nations today praised the “historic” work done by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) to prosecute sexual and gender-based crimes committed during conflicts, and called for increased support for the Court’s work from the international community.  “War harms women in multiple ways. From mass rapes to mass displacements, women are on the frontlines of conflict and they are demanding justice. This includes effective prosecutions of war crimes and adequate redress for women,” said Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).  

“The Special Court for Sierra Leone has served justice and contributed to peace consolidation and reconciliation within a country destroyed by a devastating civil war […] It is now essential that the Court be given the means to complete its mandate and to document and share lessons learned in strengthening women’s access to justice,” she said.   

The SCSL is an independent tribunal set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the country since 30 November 1996.  In May, the Court sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison for planning and for aiding and abetting crimes committed by Sierra Leonean rebel forces during the country’s civil war. Mr. Taylor was found guilty of acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery and enlisting child soldiers, among other charges.  

The Court’s work “represents a critical landmark for international justice in prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes committed during conflicts,” UN Women said in a news release, adding that the Court’s jurisprudence played an essential role in advancing recognition in law of such crimes.  

During a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, Ms. Bachelet also highlighted that the Court has laid the foundation in international humanitarian law, for the recognition of acts such as forced marriages as crimes against humanity.  

The SCSL is currently completing the trial phase of its mandate, with operational funding secured only through the end of November. The Court’s leadership addressed the Security Council today, calling for increased funds and support from the international community to establish a Residual Special Court.  “The Court continues to face crucial funding gaps very critical to the completion of its judicial mandate and its residual mechanism,” the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, Ebun A. Jusu, said during the meeting.   The Court also faces other challenges including not having enough staff, establishing communication with hundreds of witnesses in a safe environment, and developing indictments when there have been a multitude of crimes across a wide geographical area, said the Court’s Prosecutor, Brenda J. Hollis.  

“We must keep in mind how fragile our accomplishment will be if we fail to keep faith with the people in the region who put their trust in you and in us,” the Court’s President, Shireen Avis Fisher, told the Council. “Our responsibility to these people will not cease. It must be taken up and advanced by the Residual Special Court of Sierra Leone.”  

In a presidential statement, the Council reiterated its strong support for the SCSL and praised the progress it has achieved in bringing stability to the country and bringing an end to impunity.  The Council also urged the international community to continue to support the Court as it moves into its final stage of work.   “The Security Council emphasized the vital need for further pledges of voluntary contributions in order to allow the Special Court to complete its mandate in a timely manner,” said Ambassador Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala, which holds the Council’s Presidency this month.  The 15-member body also recognized the need to address residual matters after the closure of the Court and welcomed the Agreement between the UN and Sierra Leone’s Government on the Establishment of a Residual Special Court.   

(UN Press Release)

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

Syrian Government Should Declare an Immediate Unilateral Ceasefire

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the Syrian Government to take the initiative in declaring an immediate unilateral ceasefire, and on the opposition to then accede to it, in a renewed bid to end what he called a “regional catastrophe with global ramifications.”

“I have conveyed my strong message to the Syrian Government that they should immediately declare a unilateral ceasefire,” he told a news conference in Paris, after holding talks with French President François Hollande on the 19-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Government in which more than 20,000 people have already been killed.  “Of course their reaction was that, what would happen if they do it, because the opposition forces might continue. That is exactly what I have discussed, and I am in the process of discussing with the key Member States of the Security Council and the countries in the region,” he added, stressing that Joint UN-Arab League Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi will continue to discuss this matter with regional leaders, including Mr. Assad.  “I am getting very positive support from the key countries. It is important that opposition forces are united in a more coherent way, and instead of pursuing a military option, I urge the opposition forces to agree to this unilateral ceasefire, when and if the Syrian Government declares it. That, I am going to continue to discuss so that it will happen.”  

Mr. Ban noted that the Syrian people are divided into two and the Security Council has not been able to be united, while there are even differences on the crisis among countries in the region. “All these deadlocked situations must be broken,” he declared.  “At this time, I would urge again those countries who are providing arms to both sides should stop providing military equipment, and also further militarization will put the Syrian people only in a more miserable situation. This is not an option. The only option available is political resolution through political dialogue, led by the Syrian people.”  

Mr. Ban and Mr. Hollande reviewed the “extremely dangerous” impact of the crisis, which has seen an escalation of the conflict on the Syrian-Turkish border and a flood of hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring into neighbouring countries.    

As the fighting continued to rage today, a UN spokesperson voiced “extreme concern” at reports of the use of medical facilities and vehicles to carry out violence related to the conflict. According to media reports, an Islamist group said a suicide bomber drove an explosives-packed ambulance in an attack in the town of Harasta, northeast of Damascus, last night.  The spokesperson stressed that medical facilities, equipment and personnel must not be targeted or used for military purposes and that all parties involved in the conflict must respect international humanitarian law and ensure that civilians are not targeted.  

In a related development, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced today that it is expanding its operation within Syria and in countries affected by the crisis to cope with the growing needs of children and families as winter approaches, such as providing heating, children’s clothes and prefabricated classrooms. Next month it plans to support a vaccination campaign to protect up to 1 million children against measles and other diseases.  

“There is a perception that things are so bad in Syria that nothing can be done and that is simply not the case,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in Jordan during a visit to the Za’atari refugee camp near the Syrian border.  “We have been on the ground before and throughout the crisis, we have already reached hundreds of thousands of children and there are now more opportunities in Syria to reach even more children than we have the resources to support,” he added, noting that the agency works with health and education officials, the Syrian Red Crescent and dozens of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local associations across Syria.  
Around 1 million children are affected by the conflict inside Syria, and more than 100,000 Syrian children have been displaced to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. UNICEF is urgently scaling up its emergency response to reach hundreds of thousands of children with child protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and nutrition, and education initiatives. But a lack of funds is inhibiting what can be achieved. UNICEF has appealed for $91 million for its operations.  
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

ICJ Doubles Workload Since 1990

When the President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Peter Tomka addressed the High Level Meeting on the Rule of Law at the United Nations General Assembly, he emphasized that the work pace of the Court has doubled since 1990. In the last 22 years, the ICJ has issued twice as many judgments as it did in its first 44 years (a rate of 2.72 per year). He also pointed out that approximately one-third of the States in the international community have accepted the Court's compulsory jurisdiction while more than 300 treaties call for dispute resolution to be performed by the Court.


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

International Estate Planning

James Duggan of Duggan Bertsch LLC in CHicago gave a highly informative presentation today on International Estate and Wealth Planning, a complex issue because of different inheritance and tax laws as well as various International Asset Protection Trusts.  Congratulations to him as the speaker and to Lynne Ostfeld, Chair of the Chicago Bar Association International and Foreign Law Committee, which hosted the event.


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

"International law is an intellectual creation of the civilized world, which all states must respect and abide by in good faith."

In his address to UN General Assembly, Viet Nam’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pham Quang Vinh, said his country also believed in the need to “uphold international law and strengthen its compliance.” 

“International law is an intellectual creation of the civilized world, which all states must respect and abide by in good faith,” he said. “When international law is enforced, the risk of conflict will be minimized; a sustained peace will be secured.”

In his address, Mr. Vinh also touched upon issues that included the argument that ensuring sustainable development while eliminating inequality in international relations would “help resolve the root causes of conflicts and lay the foundation for a sustained peace.”

Click here to read a full copy of the statement.

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

Philippines Wants to Strengthen Global Laws

Noting that a tenth of the Filipino population lives overseas, the Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Albert F. Del Rosario, told delegates on the last day of the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, that his country’s concern for the well-being of migrant workers is an integral part of its “quest to strengthen” global laws.  Click here to read a full copy of his statement.

(From a UN Press release)

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

Monday, October 8, 2012

US President Accused of Exceeding Powers in Blocking Investment by Chinese

Last month, US President Obama issued an Executive Order blocking an investment in wind farms by Ralls, a US company owned by two Chinese investors. President Obama acted pursuant to section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended, which created the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), to monitor investments in the US that are controlled by foreigners and that have the potential to harm US national security.

Ralls sued in US District Court for the District of Columbia and filed an amended complaint last week alleging that the President had provided no reasons for his finding that the investment in wind farms threatened national security and the President lacked the authority to issue the Executive Order. Ralls claims that the decision process denied it due process of law and that Ralls has been treated differently than other foreign investors in violation of equal protection.

News reports indicate that the concern over the investment arises from the fact that the wind farms are located near a US Navy base in Oregon. The President has given Ralls 90 days to divest.

This decision by President Obama represents the first time in 22 years that a president has acted to block a foreign investment in the US. The last time an investment was blocked was in 1990 when then President Bush blocked an acquisition of the US company MAMCO in Washington State by another Chinese company.

A challenge to the president's authority to act in the area of foreign affairs and national security is always an uphill battle given the courts' traditional deference to the political branches. Thus, the likelihood of success in this lawsuit is in some doubt.


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

UN Will Only be as Strong as Its Members Allow

Addressing the close of the United Nations General Assembly’s high-level debate last week, the Assembly’s President, Vuk Jeremic, underscored that “as has been the case since its founding, this Organization will only be as strong as the membership chooses to make it.” “Let us now dedicate ourselves to the hard work ahead, which begins in earnest as early as tomorrow. Let us try to be more transparent and efficient in how we conduct our affairs, making the best use of our time and resources to advance common objectives,” Mr. Jeremic told the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York.  “Let us engage with a readiness to compromise and try hard to strengthen trust in each other – and in so doing, help to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the 193 Member States of the United Nations,” he added.  Click here to read a copy of his statement.

Established in 1945 and providing a forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the UN Charter, the General Assembly occupies a central position as the world body’s chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ. More than 100 Heads of State or Government and over 70 ministerial-level officials addressed the 67th General Debate, which ended last Monday, and for which the chosen over-arching theme was ‘bringing about adjustment of settlement of international disputes or situations by peace means.’

In his remarks, the General Assembly President noted the various thematic topics that had been brought up for discussion by the representatives of various countries, These included establishing respect for the rule of law, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of UN Member States, sustainable development, global economic governance, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, terrorism, equal rights and opportunities for women, human trafficking, the illicit trade in small arms, indigenous people’s rights, UN peacekeeping, intercultural dialogue and the need for the revitalization of the United Nations, including reform of the Security Council.

Among the specific issues of concern that were brought up at the General Debate, Mr. Jeremic cited the crisis in Syria, development needs in Africa, progress in Somalia and stability in Africa’s Great Lakes region, amongst others. “In reviewing the many statements that have been made, I have been struck by how much common ground exists on a wide range of issues. Obviously, significant differences of opinion remain to be overcome,” the Assembly’s President said. “Nevertheless, I believe there is room for optimism.”  He added that intends to continue consultations with UN Member States, the Assembly’s Main Committees, and regional as well as informal groups, on the proposed programme of work for the Assembly’s 67th session.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

Ecuador, Honduras, and Portugal Join International Conventions on Stateless Persons

PortugalAt a special event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s high-level debate held recently in New York, Ecuador became a party to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, Honduras to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and Portugal became party to both conventions.   

In the photo (left), Portugese Ambassador Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral and Anne-Christine Eriksson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are shown with Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli of the UN Office of Legal Affairs.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, most of the millions of stateless people around the globe have no secure residence in the countries where they reside, are denied the legal right to work and have limited access to education and health care.  UNHCR launched a campaign to end statelessness in 2011. Since then, the refugee agency has recorded 22 accessions by 15 countries to either one or both of the 1954 and 1961 Conventions.  

The 1954 Convention establishes basic rights for stateless persons, while the 1961 Convention sets out safeguards to prevent statelessness from occurring and reduce the stateless population over time.  With the latest accessions, 76 countries are state parties to the 1954 Convention, up from 65 at beginning of 2011; while the 1961 Convention now has 48 parties, up from 37 at beginning of 2011.  Click here for more information about the Conventions.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

Ukraine Draft Law on Referring to Homosexuality Violates Ukraine's International Law Obligations

A new draft law criminalizing any reference to homosexuality in the media or public domain violates Ukraine’s  commitment to freedom of expression and information, the United Nations said last week, urging the country’s authorities to strengthen anti-discrimination laws  for all citizens.

Last Tuesday, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted, at first reading, a draft law, that introduces  anti-homosexuality amendments into four existing laws and into Ukraine’s criminal code. If adopted in its current form, references to homosexuality in the media could result in fines or prison sentences of up to five years, according to the  Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  Click here to see the OCHCR press briefing note.

Addressing  reporters in Geneva, an OHCHR spokesperson,  Rupert Colville, said the draft law “is clearly discriminatory and runs  counter to Ukraine’s international commitments to ensure freedom of expression and information.”  He added, “It may also undermine the rights to health and  equality before the law, and raises serious question marks over the country's  adherence to fundamental human rights values, as contained in the International Covenant on Civil and  Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human rights  and Fundamental Freedoms.”

The proposed law, Mr. Colville said, contradicts the  recently adopted anti-discrimination law in the country, and added that to  clear some of the contradictions Ukraine should strengthen its  anti-discrimination law by making explicit references to sexual orientation and  gender identity as possible grounds of discrimination.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated it expects Parliament to take into account Ukraine’s  international obligations to protect minority rights during the second reading  of the draft law, which will take place later this month.

“We  urge the Ukrainian authorities to take all necessary steps to strengthen  individual human rights guarantees against discrimination, and note that the  second reading of the draft law will provide an opportunity for the new  parliament, which will be elected at the end of October, to rectify the situation,” Mr. Colville said.  He added that OHCHR, in close partnership with international and regional organizations as well as national institutions and civil society organizations, is ready to assist Ukraine to “promote an inclusive  anti-discrimination agenda and legislation that will be protective of the rights of all without any distinction.”

(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

Security Council Condemns Car Bomb Attacks in Syria

United Nations Security Council LogoThe members of the United Nations Security Council have condemned “in the strongest terms” the terrorist attacks which took place last Wednesday in the Syrian city of Aleppo, causing dozens of deaths and leaving more than a hundred civilians injured.  The Council members "expressed their deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the families of the victims of these heinous acts and to the people of Syria,” added Ambassador Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala, which holds the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of October, in a statement he read out to the media at UN Headquarters in New York.  Click here to read a copy of the statement.

In the press statement, the Council noted that Jebhat al-Nusra – an Islamist militant group affiliated with the Al-Qaida terrorist group – had claimed responsibility for the attack. According to media reports, at least two car bombs reportedly exploded on Wednesday in Aleppo’s main Saadallah al-Jabiri Square and another bomb exploded a few hundred metres away, killing at least 48 people. 

“The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,” Ambassador Rosenthal said in the press statement.  In addition, the Council members reiterated their determination to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with its responsibilities under the UN Charter. They also reminded States that they must ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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