Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Belize and Guatemala to Hold Referenda on How to Solve a Territorial Dispute

Under the auspices of the Organization of American States, Belize and Guatemala will see if they can use peaceful means of resolving a territorial dispute by holding simultaneous referenda on whether they should refer the matter to the International Court of Justice.

A spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says that Mr. Ban “welcomes their decision to hold simultaneous referenda on 6 October 2013 to consult their populations on referring the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).”  Click here to see the text of the statement.  The spokesperson noted that Belize and Guatemala have requested financial support from the international community for the referenda and possible eventual legal proceedings.  He also added that the "Secretary-General believes that this process is in line with the objective of pacific settlement of disputes enshrined in the United Nations Charter and merits international support."

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The City of Goma Has Fallen (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

I've seen very moving television images from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where thousands of people are fleeing from the city of Goma. Here is a UN Press Release issued yesterday on the situation in Goma:

Rebel fighters with the 23 March Movement (M23) have entered the city of Goma, a provincial capital in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has suffered mass upheaval over recent days due to the advance of the rebels and their clashes with national army troops, according to a UN spokesperson.

“The situation in and around Goma has reached a critical stage,” added the spokesperson, Eduardo Del Buey. “The M23 military advances have continued despite the demands of the Security Council, the Secretary-General, the African Union and others including countries in the region, for the M23 to immediately stop their attacks.” 

Addressing a news briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, he added, “Reports indicate that the M23 has wounded civilians, continued abductions of children and women, destroyed and looted property, and intimidated journalists and those who have attempted to resist their control.”

Mr. Del Buey noted that the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) is closely monitoring the situation, with its peacekeepers in control of Goma’s airport, and conducing patrols. 

“MONUSCO troops will remain actively present in Goma and will continue all efforts within their capabilities to protect civilians from imminent threat,” the spokesperson said.

The M23 – composed of soldiers who mutinied from the DRC national army in April – launched new attacks over the weekend in North Kivu province, of which Goma is the capital, uprooting some 60,0000 civilians and prompting MONUSCO to deploy attack helicopters in aid of the national army, known by the French acronym FARDC. 

Mr. del Buey said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterates his strong condemnation of the M23’s violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that have accompanied its military advance. 

“The Secretary-General underlines that those who commit violations will be held responsible for their actions,” he added.

Earlier Tuesday, UN humanitarian agencies expressed concern over the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected areas in eastern DRC, while the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, voiced concern over reported human rights violations against civilians there.

(mew) (UN Press Release)


November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Concern Over the Rights of Gay and Lesbian Persons in Cameroon

The United Nations human rights office has expressed its concern over reports of people in Cameroon being harassed, intimidated, arrested and imprisoned because they were suspected of being lesbian or gay – and called for an end to such practices.

Article 347 of the current penal code in the country criminalizes ‘sexual relations with a person of the same sex’ and provides for a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a fine, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Addressing a news conference in Geneva, an OHCHR spokesperson, Rupert Colville, said that the law breaches Cameroon’s international human rights commitments and violates rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination. “While the penal code relates specifically to sexual conduct, we are seriously concerned that it is being applied in a broad-brush way to prosecute many individuals on the basis of their appearance, their mannerisms, style of speech or general conduct,” Mr. Colville said.

He noted that OHCHR calls for an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of all persons suspected of homosexual behaviour, as well as access to justice for those already detained. In 2011, according to OHCHR, Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé was convicted of suspected homosexual conduct after the authorities discovered he sent a text message to another man that read ‘I am very much in love with you.’ 

In addition, Jonas Singa Kumie and Franky Djome were convicted last month on the basis of their appearance, which was perceived as effeminate, and the fact that they had been seen drinking Bailey's Irish Cream. All three have an appeal hearing next week.

“It is especially worrying to receive reports of anonymous threats being made against human rights defenders working to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons,” Mr. Colville said, citing the case of a prominent Cameroonian lawyer, Alice Nkom, who has received multiple threats to her life and the well-being of her family because of her work speaking out for LGBT people. “The Government of Cameroon has a duty to end these abuses. It should provide adequate protection to human rights defenders working to protect the rights of LGBT persons,” Mr. Colville said.  He added that Cameroon should also use the ongoing review of its penal code to amend article 347 of the current penal code so that it complies with the country’s international treaty obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

At the moment, according to the UN human rights office, the draft of the revised code would go in the opposite direction: it would strengthen penalties for same-sex relations and conflate homosexuality with non-consensual sexual practices and paedophilia.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fighting Pirates

The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, has stressed the need to address the causes of piracy with a “multi-dimensional approach” to ensure the safety of seafarers, fishermen and passengers and avoid damage to the fishing and tourism industries.

“Piracy and armed robbery against ships is a global concern,” Mr. Eliasson told the Security Council at UN Headquarters in New York, on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during a debate on maritime piracy as a threat to international peace and security. “It affects the freedom of shipping and the safety of shipping lanes that carry about 90 per cent of the world’s trade.”

According to the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO), there were 291 attacks against ships in the first ten months of 2012 and pirates are still holding 293 seafarers hostage. The areas most affected are East Africa, West Africa and the Far East. 

Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on piracy off the coast of Somalia to the Council, Mr. Eliasson noted that although there was a sharp decline in pirate attacks in waters off the coast of East Africa this year, compared to 2011, this trend could easily be reversed if the causes of piracy such as instability, lawlessness and ineffective governance are not addressed. “Combating piracy requires a multi-dimensional approach,” Mr. Eliasson said. “In Somalia, this has meant stabilizing the country through a Somali-owned process. The new President of Somalia has made an impressive start, but challenges remain significant. We need to move swiftly to support the Government so that it finally can provide the security and peace dividends that Somalis deserve.”

Measures that are needed in the Horn of Africa country to end piracy include focussing on modernizing counter-piracy laws, strengthening capacities for maritime law enforcement and crime investigation, supporting regional networks, as well as knowledge sharing. To do this, the Deputy Secretary-General stated, Member States, international and regional organizations must continue to build consensus on a joint response. “Piracy is a problem the international community can address successfully if we continue to work together,” Mr. Eliasson said. “The UN remains committed to working with its partners to consolidate international assistance, coordinate our activities, and deliver a comprehensive response to this threat.” The world body is helping States in different capacities, such as through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) piracy programme, the UN official added.

Last week, UNODC’s Executive Director, Yuri Fedotov, began a ten-day visit counter-piracy mission to the region. In Seychelles on Friday, he stressed the impact of piracy on countries’ economies. “Piracy is immensely damaging to local economies and to local livelihoods,” Mr. Fedotov said. “In the Seychelles, it has prevented ships from fishing; between Kenya and Uganda it is raising transport costs; and from Somalia, some 1,200 fit and able young men have been detained and imprisoned across the world.” 

During his visit, the UNODC chief met with top Government officials to discuss the country’s commitment to addressing piracy and ensuring those suspected of committing the crime are given fair trials according to international standards. 

The mission to East Africa is part of UNODC’s $55 million counter-piracy programme operating in five different locations, and designed to support efforts to detain and prosecute piracy suspects in accordance with human rights and the rule of law.

(adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Civilian Death Toll in Gaza Continues to Rise

The civilian death toll in Gaza has continued to rise since the new wave of violence between the territory and Israel intensified last week, the UN agency assisting Palestinian refugees warned today, reiterating its call for all sides to stop the violence.  

The situation [for civilians] is bad,” said the spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Christopher Gunness. “This is a very densely populated place. There are many, many civilians. More than half of Gaza’s 1.7 million people are children, and what we are seeing are rockets flying out of this area, populated largely by civilians, and airstrikes coming in.”

“The civilian death toll is rising and it will continue to rise, unless the words of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are heeded by the parties on the ground,” Mr. Gunness added.

The recent wave of violence – which includes rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza, and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza – have reportedly resulted in more than 90 Palestinians and three Israelis having been killed, with many others wounded.

UNRWA has 1.2 million beneficiaries in Gaza, where, last week, one of its staff members was killed in an Israeli airstrike. “We are echoing the call of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in appealing to all sides to exercise utmost restraint, to de-escalate so that peace can begin to take hold,” Mr. Gunness said. “All sides must honour their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians.”

Mr. Ban, who is currently in Cairo, Egypt, renewed his appeal for an end to the ongoing violence, and strongly urged the parties to achieve an immediate ceasefire.  During a briefing to reporters this afternoon, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said Mr. Ban will meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil El-Araby, and, later this week, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr. Gunness said that UNRWA, which distributes food, provides health services, and operates schools, would continue to carry out its work. He added that while UNRWA’s schools have been forced to close, teachers have been able to establish a distance learning television channel with classes in Arabic, English and mathematics lessons. “Children who cannot make it to UNRWA’s schools have been able to tune in and carry on with their education as best they can under these terrible circumstances,” Mr. Gunness added.

(adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 20, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CFP: Asia-Pacific Research Forum

The Chinese (Taiwan) Society of International Law will hold the International Law Association (ILA) American Society of International Law (ASIL) Asia-Pacific Research Forum on May 15-16, 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan.

The title of the Research Forum is “International Law and Dispute Resolution: Challenges in the Asia Pacific.” The organizing committee welcomes proposals on any topic relating to international law with a focus on the Asia Pacific.

Paper proposals must be submitted electronically by January 20, 2013 to [email protected]. The call for papers is available by clicking here.


November 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 19, 2012

ICJ Determines Caribbean Islands Belong to Colombia

ICJThe International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a decision today in the case concerning the Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia).  The ICJ unanimously found that Colombia has sovereignty over the Caribbean islands at Alburquerque, Bajo Nuevo, East-Southeast Cays, Quitasueno, Roncador, Serrana and Serranilla.  The ICJ also set a single maritime boundary delimiting the continental shelf and exclusive economic zones of Nicaragua and Colombia and rejected Nicaragua's claim for an extended continental shelf.  In addition, the ICJ rejected Nicaragua's claims that Colombia had violated international law.  This decision must come as a disappointment to Nicaragua, which initiated the dispute and had argued for greater sovereignty and control over both the land and sea areas.  More information may be found in this ICJ press release.



November 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

ASEAN Adopts Human Rights Declaration

ASEANThe Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has adopted its first ever Declaration on Human Rights.  While reaffirming the Member States' commitment to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, the new ASEAN Declaration tends to emphasize a balance of rights and duties and to allow more room for a state to argue that it is necessary to curtail certain rights in the public interest as compared to other international human rights documents.  For this reason, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern (here) that the ASEAN Declaration may not fully comply with international standards.

The Member States of ASEAN include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.  The adoption of the Declaration coincides with a visit to several of these nations by U.S. President Barak Obama, including the first visit ever of a sitting U.S. President to Myanmar.




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

New Books Noted: International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Heritage

Graber Book PhotoThree years of thoughtful work have finally culminated in a new book on "International Trade in Idigenous Cultural Hertiage: Legal and Policy Issues."  The book is about to be published by Edward Elgar Publishing (United Kingdom).  The book examines how international law can better contribute to promoting trade and development in indigenous cultural heritage while at the same time respecting indigenous people's values, traditions, and rights. 

The book is edited by Christoph B. Graber, Karolina Kuprecht, and Jessica C. Lai, all members of i-call, the Research Centre for Communication and Art Law at the University of Lucerne (Switzerland). Authors include Christoph Antons, Francesco Bandarin, Catherine Bell, Kathey Bowrey, Duane Champagne, Paul L.A.H. Chartrand, Rosemary Coombe, Susy Frankel, Martin Girsberger, Carole Goldberg, Christoph Graber, Karolina Kuprecht, Jessica C. Lai, Federico Lenzerini, Fiona Macmillan, Benny Müller, John Scott, Kurt Siehr, Rebecca Tsosie, Joseph Turcotte, and Brigtte Vézina. 

Because I have had the chance to hear Professor Graber lecture on the topic, and because of my own personal interest in the protection of traditional knowledge and culture, I have very high expectations for the quality of the book.  And I'm not disappointed with what I've been able to see so far -- this is an outstanding piece of work that is both a useful reference work as well as providing thoughtful commentary on the global difficulties with protecting traditional knowledge.  And it is rare to find a book so deeply devoted to transdisciplinary research methodology.

The 17 chapters in the book includes international law perspectives, methodology, and social context, as well as country reports on the protection of cultural heritage in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  I'm looking forward to spending some significant time with the book.  The publication launch date is set for January 30, 2013 for the United States and a bit earlier (November 30, 2012) for the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.  You can, of course, pre-order a copy now for your personal or institutional library.  It is 509 pages (including the index).  

Mark E. Wojcik (mew)

November 19, 2012 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gender and the Law

Gender Conf PhotoThe University of Lucerne Faculty of Law in Switzerland hosted the second workshop on "Global Approaches to Gender and Law" last week.  The workshop was well organized (but really, what else would you expect from Switzerland) and brought together professors and scholars from around the world.  

The workshop organizers were Lauren Fielder, Assistant Director of the Transnational Legal Studies Program, and Dr. Kyriaki Topidi, Assistant Director of the Center for Comparative Law and Religion.  Both are at the University of Lucerne Faculty of Law.  They also were the organizer's of last year's workshop on Religion and the Law.  Alexander Morawa, Professor of Comparative and Anglo-American Law at the University of Lucerne, also gave welcoming remarks to the participants in this year's workshop.  

Speakers and presenters included:

  • Dr. Werner Menski, a Professor of South Asian Laws at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London
  • Atieno Mboya Samandari (Kenya), currently at Emory University School of Law
  • Sharon Bassan (Tel Aviv University, Israel)
  • Dr. Waheeda Amien (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
  • Agustina Ramon Michel (Palermo University, Argentina)
  • Silava Andrea del Valle Bustos (a J.S.D. candidate at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis)
  • Renee Cochard (University of British Columbia, Canada)
  • Prof. Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School-Chicago and Permanent Guest Professor, University of Lucerne Faculty of Law)
  • Prof. Sha-Shana Crichton (Howard University, Washington, D.C.)
  • Busingye Kabumba (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
  • Sourav Kargupta (Jadavpur University, India)
  • Maia Araviashvili (Ilia State University, Republic of Georgia)
  • Chadni Basu (India, now at the Univeristy of Freigburg, Germany)

There were also other attendees from South America, Asia, and Europe at the Workshop.  Very few workshops or conferences have the the depth and diversity as these workshops held at the Univeristy of Lucerne.  Papers from the workshops are expected to be published in an edited volume.  (Scholars who write in the areas of gender or religion can contact the conference organizers to discuss publication opportunities.)

Congratulations to the workshop organizers Lauren and Kyriaki.  Your careful work and prepration reflects quite well on the University of Lucerne Faculty of Law.



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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Protecting Judges in Sri Lanka

A United Nations independent expert has voiced serious concerns about reported intimidation and attacks against judges and judicial officers in Sri Lanka, and warned that they might form part of a pattern of attacks, threats, reprisals and interference in the independence of the justice system in the Asian country.   “I urge the Sri Lanka Government to take immediate and adequate measures to ensure the physical and mental integrity of members of the judiciary and to allow them to perform their professional duties without any restrictions, improper influences, pressures, threats or interferences, in line with the country’s international human rights obligations,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, said this week in a news release.  Click here to see a copy of the news release.

According to reports she has received, most cases of attacks and interference against the judiciary in Sri Lanka are not genuinely investigated, and perpetrators are not held to account.  “The irremovability of judges is one of the main pillars guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and only in exceptional circumstances may this principle be transgressed,” Ms. Knaul said, while also expressing her uneasiness with the procedure of impeachment of the Chief Justice of the country’s Supreme Court, Dr. Bandaranayake, launched before the Parliament on 1 November.  “Judges may be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence, after a procedure that complies with due process and fair trial guarantees and that also provides for an independent review of the decision,” she said. “The misuse of disciplinary proceedings as a reprisals mechanism against independent judges is unacceptable.”   

According to media reports, on Wednesday Sri Lanka's Parliament appointed 11 lawmakers to investigate an impeachment motion accusing Chief Justice Bandaranayake of misusing power and having unexplained wealth. She denies wrongdoing, and opposition parties and independent analysts reportedly say the impeachment attempt is aimed at stifling judiciary independence and concentrating power with Sri Lanka's President.    

In the Special Rapporteur’s view, according to the news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the procedure for the removal of judges of Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court, set out in article 107 of the country’s constitution, allows the Parliament to exercise considerable control over the judiciary – and is therefore incompatible with both the principle of separation of power and article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.   

“I urge the authorities to reconsider the impeachment of Chief Justice Bandaranayake and ensure that any disciplinary procedure that she might have to undergo is in full compliance with the fundamental principles of due process and fair trial,” the Special Rapporteur added.  

(Adapted from a UN Press Release) 

November 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 16, 2012

ICTY Overturns Convictions of Two Former Croatian Generals

A United Nations war crimes tribunal today overturned the convictions of two former Croatian generals who were found guilty last year of various crimes against humanity during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, and ordered that they be released immediately. 

Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač were convicted in April 2011 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which sits in The Hague. They were found guilty by the trial chamber of committing crimes against humanity – including murder, persecutions, deportation and plunder – and violations of the laws or customs of war, from July to September 1995, by participating in a joint criminal enterprise to permanently and forcibly remove the Serb civilian population from the Krajina region of Croatia.  Mr. Gotovina, who commanded the Split military district of the Croatian army from 1992 to 1996, was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Mr. Markac, who served as the Assistant Interior Minister in charge of Special Police matters after 1994, was jailed for 18 years.

In today’s ruling, the Tribunal’s appeals chamber found that the trial chamber erred in concluding that all artillery impact sites located more than 200 metres from a target deemed legitimate served as evidence of unlawful attacks against towns in the Krajina region of Croatia.  “A majority of the appeals chamber further concluded that the trial chamber erred in finding that artillery attacks ordered by Mr. Gotovina and Mr. Markač were unlawful,” stated a news release issued by the Tribunal.

“The majority also held that the trial chamber erred in finding the existence of a joint criminal enterprise whose purpose was the permanent and forcible removal of Serb civilians from the Krajina region,” it added.  As a result, the court reversed all of the convictions of the two men, and ordered their immediate release.

The ICTY was tasked by the Security Council with trying those responsible for the worst war crimes and other breaches of international humanitarian law committed during the various conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Since its inception 19 years ago, the Tribunal has indicted 161 persons.

In other action today, the court upheld the conviction of Jelena Rašic, who was found guilty in February of this year of having knowingly and wilfully interfered with the administration of justice by procuring false witness statements in exchange for money.

The court also upheld the 12-month prison sentence for Ms. Rašic, a member of the legal team of Milan Lukic, a Bosnian Serb who was sentenced in 2010 by the trial chamber to life imprisonment for crimes committed in the eastern Bosnian town of Višegrad.

(UN Press Release)

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Businesses Must Monitor and Help Prevent Human Trafficking

Businesses must help prevent and monitor the use of trafficked labour in their supply chains, a United Nations independent expert stressed this week, urging enterprises to do their part to protect human rights. “Trafficking in persons is a global phenomenon which crosses borders, markets and industries,” the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, said at an international expert meeting in Ankara, Turkey. “In today’s globalized world,” she added, “the risks of human trafficking in supply chains are significant throughout economic sectors and affect all States, whether as source, transit or destination countries.”

Over 20 specialists on human trafficking, business and human rights from international organizations, trade unions and non-governmental organizations gathered at the international meeting – which was convened by Ms. Ezeilo – to share information on trends and good practices to address trafficking and reach concrete proposals to protect the human rights of trafficked persons.

According to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Ms. Ezeilo noted that supply chains in the global economy are often complex and involve multiple layers of sub-contractors, which hampers the monitoring and reporting process. However, she emphasized that both governments and businesses must increase their efforts to ensure human rights are respected.  Click here to see a copy of the news release.

“States have the primary obligation to protect against human rights violations, such as trafficking, committed by third parties including business enterprises, but businesses must also respect human rights,” she said, recalling the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity.

Businesses are uniquely positioned to prevent or mitigate any risk of trafficking in the supply chains, the Special Rapporteur noted, adding that the connections between these two are often not well understood. “Businesses cannot shy away from tackling this issue not only because it amounts to human rights violations, but also because it creates reputational and financial risks to their operations,” she said. “However, the solution to the problem of human trafficking in supply chains lies beyond the reach of any single stakeholder.”

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

Tenth Anniversary of the International Criminal Court

As the International Criminal Court (ICC) celebrates its 10th anniversary, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on States to “do what it takes” to enable the body to carry out its vital work to advance justice and accountability for the worst crimes.  “As we celebrate the Court’s significant accomplishments, we must also acknowledge that there are still many forces that seek to undermine the edifice we have all striven so hard to create,” Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by the UN Legal Counsel, Patricia O’Brien, to the opening of the 11th session of the Assembly of States Parties, taking place in The Hague. 

“In addition, the ICC confronts a task more challenging than any faced by other previous international criminal tribunals: contending with situations of active conflict,” he continued. “This is why it is important to ensure that governments are committed to doing what it takes to enable the Court to carry out its work – from capturing and transferring to the Court those who are the subject of arrest warrants to supporting the Court’s proceedings by making information and evidence available to the Prosecutor, the Defence and the legal representatives of victims.”

The ICC, based in The Hague, is the first permanent international court set up to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, entered into force on 1 July 2002.  The Court can try cases involving individuals charged with war crimes committed since July 2002. The Security Council, the ICC Prosecutor or a State Party can initiate any proceedings, and the ICC only acts when countries themselves are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute.

There are seven situations currently under ICC investigation:

  • Central African Republic (CAR),
  • Côte d’Ivoire,
  • the Darfur region of western Sudan,
  • the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),
  • Kenya,
  • Libya and
  • Uganda.

Mr. Ban noted, in a separate video message for the anniversary, that the entry into force of the Rome Statute 10 years ago heralded “the dawn of an age of accountability,” noting that leaders and warlords can no longer perpetrate atrocities, safe in the knowledge that they will never be brought to justice for their heinous crimes. “Where once impunity prevailed, today there is an ever-growing emphasis on the responsibility of States to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” he stated.

More than 500 high-level officials attended the ceremony to celebrate the Court’s anniversary, including Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and the President of the ICC, Judge Sang-Hyun Song. 

“As we embark on the ICC’s second decade, let us celebrate our achievements and be prepared for the many challenges ahead of us. We all have different roles, mandates and backgrounds, but we have the same goal. Impunity for atrocity crimes must end. Accountability must prevail. Always and everywhere. To succeed, we must remain determined and united,” said Judge Song.  Click here to see his statement.

The ICC’s activities, he added, are having an enormous impact, not just on individuals prosecuted before the Court, but on the tens of thousands of direct victims, millions of people in the affected communities and societies, and several billion people under the legal protection of the Rome Statute system. 

The 11th session of the Assembly of States Parties, which meets until 22 November, is set to tackle a number of issues critical to the Court’s work, including the adoption of its budget and the elections of some of its officials.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

Blogger is Dead After Being Arrested in Iran

The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom today called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of an Iranian blogger.  “I am deeply concerned about the death in prison of Sattar Beheshti,” said the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova. “I urge the authorities to investigate Mr. Beheshti's case and the exact circumstances of his death.  

Mr. Beheshti, 35, wrote about politics and human rights in his blog, Magalh 91, according to the UN agency. He was arrested last month, and died while in detention on 6 November – his body was retrieved by his family for burial, and is said to have shown signs of violence.  

“It is essential to respect the right of citizen and professional journalists to speak and write without fearing for their lives,” Ms. Bokova added. “Freedom of expression is a basic human right and essential component of democracy, good governance and rule of law.”

(UN Press Release)

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

Argentina Files for Provisional Measures Against Ghana at ITLOS

Yesterday, Argentina requested that the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) issue provisional measures against Ghana with respect to a dispute over the frigate ARA Libertad being detained by Ghana. Argentina brought the proceedings under article 290 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

According to Argentina, Ghana has illegally detained the ARA Libertad at the port of Tema since the second day of October. Argentina states that the ARA Libertad is a warship and a flagship of Argentina's Navy and, as such, is entitled to certain immunities. Argentina further claims that the ship was on an official visit to Ghana pursuant to an agreement between the two countries at the time it was detained.

Argentina requests that Ghana allow the frigate to leave the port of Tema and the national waters of Ghana immediately.


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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Protocol to Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Approved

WHOOn Monday, the176 states parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control unanimously approved a new protocol to that Convention.  The new protocol is intended to better control the illicit trade in tobacco products.  The Framework Convention was done under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WTO) and has been one of the most rapidly ratified treaties in history.  More information regarding the Framework Convention may be found here.

The new protocol was thought necessary because the illicit trade in tobacco products is contributing to the spread of the tobacco epidemic, with serious public health consequences; is undermining price and tax measures designed to strengthen tobacco control; makes tobacco products more available to young people and other vulnerable groups; and has a disproportionate effect on developing countries.  The text of the new protocol may be found here.



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

Syrian Opposition Forms Coalition Government and Receives International Recognition

The groups opposed to the Assad regime in Syria formed a coalition government earlier this week and almost immediately received recognition from several states as the legitimate government of Syria.  Thus far, six Gulf Arab states and France have recognized the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces.  The coalition takes the place of the former Syrian National Council and is led by Damascus preacher Mouaz Alkhatib, who has appealed for international recognition. France's recognition in particular was quite fulsome.  It stated that it recognizes the new Syrian national coalition "as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people and as future government of a democratic Syria making it possible to bring an end to Bashar al-Assad's regime".

Other states were more reserved.  While Arab League and EU foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Tuesday welcomed the coalition's formation as an important step, they did not recognize it as Syria's sole authority.  Likewise, the United States is proceeding more cautiously and is waiting to see whether the coalition lasts and is effective.


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

ICC Prosecutor Calls on New Libyan Government to See Justice Done in Relation to Crimes Committed during the Overthrow of al-Qadhafi

Addressing the Security Council, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week called on Libya’s authorities to ensure that justice is served in relation to any crimes committed during the overthrow of the regime of former leader Muammar al-Qadhafi.  “I encourage the new Libyan government . . . to ensure that there is no amnesty for international crimes and no impunity for crimes, regardless of who the perpetrator is and who is the victim,” the ICC’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, told the Council during a meeting on Libya, at UN Headquarters in New York. She added that her office takes note of two Libyan laws in this regard – one that grants amnesty at the national level for ‘acts made necessary by the 17 February revolution,’ and another which aims to ensure that any act found to be in contravention of international laws and human rights covenants will not be exempt. 

Libya has been undergoing a transition toward a modern democratic State after decadesof autocratic rule and toppling of the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi. Colonel Qadhafi ruled the North African country 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.

In her remarks to the Council, Ms. Bensouda also provided an update on the case against Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi, son of the former leader, and Abdullah Al-Senussi, a former senior intelligence official, as well as her office’s ongoing investigation in Libya. Mr. Qadhafi has been indicted by the ICC – which is not part of the UN system – in relation to attacks against protesters and rebels during last year’s uprising.

The prosecutor noted that in 2011 the ICC’s judges had issued arrest warrants for Muammar al-Qadhafi, Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi and Abdullah Al-Sennussi, and how – according to Libya’s National Transitional Council – the arrest warrants played a crucial role in delegitimizing the three men. “No investigations of these crimes would conceivably have been undertaken by the Qadhafi regime and ICC intervention was, at that time, the only way to establish justice for victims of the Qadhafi regime’s crimes,” Ms. Bensouda said.

Since then, Colonel Qadhafi has perished, while the other two men have been arrested and are in detention. However, the prosecutor flagged the fact that the Libyan authorities have challenged the admissibility of the case against Mr. Qadhafi, and have indicated their intent to also challenge the admissibility of the case against Mr. Al-Senussi in the near future. 

In October, judges of the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber I convened a hearing to receive oral submissions on the Government of Libya’s admissibility challenge in relation to the case against Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi – centred on whether the case should be heard before the ICC or in Libya. At those hearings, the Libyan authorities asserted that they are investigating the same conduct as that investigated by Ms. Bensouda’s office and now before the ICC.

“It is worth recalling and emphasizing that the Rome Statute gives primary responsibility to national institutions to investigate and prosecute such crimes, with the ICC intervening only if they are inactive or otherwise unwilling or unable to do so genuinely,” Ms. Bensouda told the Council, referring to the statute which establishes, amongst other matters, the ICC's functions and jurisdiction. She added, “Nonetheless, as the Appeals Chamber has previously held, a State challenging admissibility must provide the Court ‘evidence of a sufficient degree of specificity and probative value that demonstrate that it is indeed investigating the case.’”

The prosecutor’s office, Ms. Bensouda noted, promotes and encourages genuine national proceedings to combat impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern. “We await rulings of the Court on Libya’s challenge,” she said. “Should the challenge ultimately succeed, my office will monitor those proceedings and cooperate with Libya, to the extent my mandate allows, in order to ensure that they remain genuine. “If, on the other hand,” she continued, “the Court rules that the case should be heard before the ICC, I will count on Libya’s full support and cooperation to ensure that the ICC’s proceedings are both successful and are seen to be successful by the Libyan public, the first and most important audience for any such proceedings at the ICC.”

In her briefing, Ms. Bensouda encouraged the Libyan Government to redouble its commitment to working with the ICC, as well as its active engagement with the judicial process. “My office appreciates the challenges inherent in the historic political transition underway in Libya – I believe that all can agree that justice must remain a key element of this transition,” she noted. 

She called on the international community and, in particular, the Security Council to intensify their efforts to assist the Government of Libya in any way they can to combat impunity and reinforce a culture of the rule of law.  “I believe that by working together, we can help address threats to Libya’s security, both from within and outside, that have been created by past and ongoing criminality, and demonstrate to the Libyan people that the world is committed to assisting them in their efforts to secure justice and lasting peace,” she said, while also calling on Libya’ authorities to make public its comprehensive strategy to address all crimes and end impunity in Libya. 

The ICC prosecutor also flagged that her office continues to collect evidence in relation to a possible second case in Libya, noting that no decision has yet been taken as to the focus of that case.  “We continue to collect information on allegations of rapes and sexual violence, which targeted both men and women; allegations against other members of the Qadhafi government for crimes committed during the events of 2011; and allegations of crimes committed by rebel or revolutionary forces, including against the residents of Tawergha, against individuals hors de combat and against detainees,” she said. 

The ICC is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely.

Libya is one of seven situations currently under investigation by the ICC, which is based in The Hague. The others are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, the Central African Republic, Kenya, and Côte d’Ivoire.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

UN General Assembly Again Calls for End to US Embargo of Cuba

For the 21st consecutive year at the United Nations, the General Assembly today adopted a resolution calling for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba.  By a vote of 188 in favour to three against (Israel, Palau and the United States) with two abstentions (Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia), the Assembly reiterated its call to all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures not conforming with their obligations to reaffirm freedom of trade and navigation.  The 193-member Assembly “once again urges States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible,” the text added. 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, told the Assembly during the debate that preceded the vote that the last four years of US President Barack Obama’s administration has witnessed a “persistent tightening” of the blockade, which has been in place for over half a century. “There is no legitimate or moral reason to maintain this blockade,” he stated, adding that the use of “less strident and threatening rhetoric” and certain partial measures to relax the travel restrictions on residents of Cuban origin and others for academic, scientific or cultural purposes have failed to conceal the tightening of the blockade over the last four years. “The blockade is one of the main causes of the economic problems of our country and the major obstacle to its economic and social development,” he added. 

The US delegate, Ronald Godard, said that his country, like others, determined the conduct of its economic relationships with other States based on its best interest. With regards to Cuba, the priority of President Obama’s administration was to empower Cubans to determine their own future. Today’s resolution, he said, sought to “identify an external scapegoat” for Cuba’s economic problems, where in fact they were caused by the country’s policies over the last half a century. 

Irrespective of US policy, it was “unrealistic” to expect Cuba to thrive unless it opened its monopolies, respected international property rights and allowed unfettered access to the Internet, among other things, the representative added.

(UN Press Release)

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