Friday, June 14, 2013

Special UN Rapporteur for Belarus is Unable to Visit Belarus

An independent United Nations expert today urged the Government of Belarus to grant his request for an official visit the country and to engage with his mandate to improve its human rights situation. “Human rights are systematically restricted in Belarus through different measures: decrees, policies and practice,” said Special Rapporteur on Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, speaking after his mandate was renewed by the Human Rights Council for another year.  “The fulfilment of human rights remains purposefully blocked by a governance system that is devoid of any checks and balances.”

The Special Rapporteur said he was unable to visit Belarus and talk to officials during his first mandate, having received no response to his requests from the Government. He had gathered facts by talking to a great variety of Belarusian sources during several trips to neighbouring countries.

An urgent issue to be addressed was the unconditional release of human rights activists and political opponents imprisoned on spurious criminal charges, the UN expert said. 

“Rule of law is not identical with ruling by law,” Mr. Haraszti said. “True stability and economic prosperity for a country rest on full respect for human rights. In my life, I have seen many times that if there is political will in these areas, progress can be mutually rewarding for Government and society.” 

Mr. Haraszti said other particular concerns included: enforced disappearances; arbitrary arrests and detention; harassment of imprisoned political opponents and human rights defenders; the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and the death penalty, Belarus being the only country in Europe that executes people.  “This is the situation where the Council, through this mandate, needs to support the promotion and protection of human rights in Belarus.” 

Among his recommendations for sustainable improvement to the human rights situation in the country, Mr. Haraszti cited guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and bar associations; establishing judicial procedural safeguards; abolishing the system of arbitrary arrest and detention, among others. 

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.

(UN Press Release)

June 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ICTR Prosecutor Urgers Cooperation to Catch Remaining Fugitives

With nine men linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda still on the run, the Prosecutor who would help to try them is today urging Member States to cooperate with the United Nations war crimes tribunal and its successor body to track down and arrest the fugitives. At a press conference at the UN Headquarters in New York, Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribumal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunal reiterated the UN’s call on Member States “to live up to their obligations to cooperate with the [residual mechanism], and the tracking and the arrest of these fugitives.”

As for the fugitives, Mr. Jallow urged them to turn themselves in and stand trial in “very transparent and impartial” judicial processes. “There is no time limit to the prosecution of these cases. Your hiding does not pay off. The mechanism will not relent,” Mr. Jallow said. 

Based in Arusha, Tanzania, the ICTR was set up after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed during a span of three months beginning in April 1994.

The Security Council has urged both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to conclude their work by the end of 2014. It set up the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) in December 2010 and mandated it to take over and finish the remaining tasks of the two courts when they are closed after their mandates expire. The ICTR branch of the Residual Mechanism began its functions on 1 July 2012 in Arusha, while the branch for ICTY will start this coming July in The Hague. 

Members of the Security Council had emphasized that establishing the Residual Mechanism was essential to ensure that the closure of ICTR and the ICTY “does not leave the door open to impunity for the remaining fugitives and for those whose appeals have not been completed.”

“The ICTR has concluded the trial phase of its work and is currently focused on management of appeals, and legacy and closing issues,” Mr. Jallow has said. 

During its operations, it indicted some 93 people, all of whom were arrested with the exception of nine men. Augustin Bizimana, the Minister of Defence of the interim Government during the time of the atrocities; Félicien Kabuga, who is believed to have financed the genocide; Protais Mpiranya, who as Commander of the Presidential Guard Battalion in the Rwandan Army allegedly oversaw all the units in the battalion; as well as Fulgence Kayishema, Pheneas Munyarugarama, Charles Sikubwabo, Aloys Ndimbati, Ladislas Ntaganzwa and Charles Ryandikayo. 

The Office of Global Criminal Justice – headed by Stephen J. Rapp, Ambassador-At-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice who also attended the press conference – is offering up to a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any of the nine men. 

“We are still very optimistic that we will track and find and bring them to justice,” Mr. Jallow said. “It is not an easy task to track.” 

The Prosecutor noted that the men on the run make every effort to evade the trackers by changing their identities, relocating to different terrains and sometimes assisted by slow cooperation of Member States.  “There is nonetheless intense activity ongoing,” he added.

Given that there is no time limit to be prosecuted, the residual mechanism can be activated at any time to try the men. In addition, precautions have been taken to secure evidence against the accused and preserve testimony, if witnesses are no longer available to participate in person at future trials.

June 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

50th Anniversary of the VCCR - Call for Papers

To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), the Southern Illinois University Law Journal is pursuing a Fall 2013 "paper" symposium related to the topic.  For the symposium, the Journal is soliciting articles from experts in the field regarding the past and/or future of the VCCR and consular relations law.  Final drafts of approximately 20 pages are requested by the end of August 2013.  Authors interested in submitting an article for publication should contact the Journal for more information.

June 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

World Day Against Child Labor

Every year, millions of children work in jobs that violate their human rights.  For the past decade, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has sponsored the World Day Against Child Labor on June 12 to bring international attention and action to this problem.  Child labor deprives these children of an adequate education and health, as well as leisure time, among other human rights violations.  According to the ILO, more than half of working children are exposed to the worst forms of child labour such as work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.  The ILO has addressed these issues in part through two widely ratified conventions: ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour (174 ratifications) and ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment (161 ratifications).


June 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

43rd General Assembly of the OAS

Inter Am Commn Human RtsThis week, Guatemala hosted the 43rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS).  At the Assembly, the parties adopted by consensus the Declaration of Antigua, Guatemala, “For a Comprehensive Policy Against the World Drug Problem in the Americas.” This declaration reaffirms the commitment of the OAS Members to work in partnership to strengthen the rule of law, stem the flow of illegal drugs, and engage in best practices with regard to prevention, rehabilitation, and treatment of our citizens affected by drug addiction and abuse.  Also this week, the OAS General Assembly adopted the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

In addition, the Members of the OAS elected new Commissioners to the the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  Commissioner Jose de Jesus Orozco Henriquez, from Mexico, current Chair of the IACHR, was reelected. In addition, James L. Cavallaro, a Professor at Stanford Law School in the United States of America, and Paulo De Tarso Vannuchi, from Brazil, were elected. The period for which they were elected runs from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2017.  They will take the place of Dinah Shelton of the United States and Rodrigo Escobar Gil of Columbia, whose terms end December 31, 2013. The other members of the IACHR include Tracy Robinson (Jamaica), who is currently First Vice Chair; Rosa Maria Ortiz (Paraguay), who is the Second Vice Chair; Felipe Gonzalez (Chile); and Rose-Marie Antoine (dual citizen of Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago).

June 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 7, 2013

EU-China Trade Dispute Over Solar Panels

Eu-flagEarlier this week, the European Commission imposed 20 billion euros worth of anti-dumping tariffs on solar panels from China.  (Dumping involves selling a product a less than fair market value.) News reports indicate that the average initial AD duties are 11.8%, but will increase to 47% in two months if Chinese exporters do not raise prices and reduce the volume of sales in the EU. The European Commission is also investigating subsidies provided by the Chinese government to its solar panel industry and may impose additional duties to offset those subsidies later this summer.  The European authorities  found that the dumped goods are causing injury to the domestic solar panel industry.  China

On Wednesday, China retaliated by initiating anti-dumping and subsidy investigations of wine imports from France, Spain and Italy.  No tariffs have yet been imposed and the European Commission takes the position that there is no dumping or unlawful subsidization of wine exports.  It is likely this trade war will be resolved by a combination of legal actions and negotiations between these two large trading powers.


June 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ireland's EU Presidency

Irish EU PresI am spending some time in Dublin again this summer, which has made me more aware of Ireland's Presidency of the Council of European Union (EU). The EU Presidency rotates among the 27 Member States every six months.  This is Ireland's 7th time holding the Presidency and it comes at a time when Ireland is celebrating 40 years a member of the EU.  During Ireland's Presidency, many of the relevant meetings are being held at the historic and beautiful Dublin Castle, which means that the Castle is not as available for tourists.  The Irish Presidency covers a wide variety of issues, including justice, business expansion, immigration, environmental protection, fisheries policy and the fight against terrorism. Dublin Castle

For example, yesterday, Ireland announced agreement on a key reform to the Common Fisheries Policy.  Today, Ireland announced that an agreement had been reached among the appropriate EU bodies to expand the ban of mercury and cadmium in batteries.  This now complete ban will reduce the amount of cadmium and mercury that is extracted, transported and released into the environment with attendant health benefits.

Lithuania will take on the rotating Presidency post for the first time as of July 1. It is expected to inherit a record number of legislative measures to be considered.  Lithuania's President has said that economic matters will be the main priority.  Lithuania is expected to bring an "Eastern" focus to the EU, with a focus on closer relations with the EU's Eastern neighbors, including the conclusion of an association agreement between the EU and the Ukraine and efforts to improve the situation with Belarus. 

For more informaton about Ireland's Presidency of the EU, click here.


June 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Latvia to Become the 18th Member of the Eurozone

LatviaFlagYesterday, the European Commission approved Latvia's application to join the eurozone, making it the 18th Member State to adopt the common currency. The decision must still be approved by the EU Finance Ministers next month, which experts predict will not be a problem.  Assuming the approval is received, Latvia is expected to join the euro in 2014.  For more details, read this report from the EU Observer.


June 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

World Environment Day

June 5 is World Environment Day - a day for positive environmental action.  World Environment Day is sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and has been celebrated every year since the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment.  UNEP uses the day as a call for political attention and action on environmental issues of concern. This year, the focus is on reducing food waste.  For more informaton and resources, visit the UNEP website.

And the Pope has described throwing away food is like stealing from the poor and the hungry.


June 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Arms Trade Treaty Opened for Signature

The first international treaty regulating the global arms trade opened for signature at United Nations Headquarters this morning, culminating a decades-long push to halt illegal shipments of weapons such as missiles, combat aircraft and attack helicopters. Approved overwhelmingly two months ago in the UN General Assembly by a vote of 154 to three – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Iran and Syria – with 23 abstentions, the treaty, according to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), “will foster peace and security by putting a stop to destabilizing arms flows to conflict regions.”

Angela Kane, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, opened this morning’s special event, saying that the day opens “a new chapter in which States will sign up to an international contract bringing responsibility and transparency to the global arms trade.”  While the treaty is “not perfect,” she said it is certainly “robust.”  Some 30 countries are listed to take part in today’s events, which will be capped by a Ministerial segment this even, which will be opened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and is expected to feature a keynote address by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

The Treaty will come into force 90 days after it has been signed by 50 nations. Though it will not control the domestic weapons use, once ratified, it will require States to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms and regulate arms brokers, among other objectives.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

June 3, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Protests in Turkey

Sunday, June 2, 2013

US Imposes Sanctions on Companies Doing Business with Iran

In a continuing effort to hinder Iran's nuclear program, the U.S. government recently took action against companies helping Iran to evade U.S. sanctions and doing illicit business with Iran.
Pursuant to Executive Orders (E.O.) 13622 and 13599, the Obama Administration imposed sanctions on a series of companies related to Iran’s petrochemical industry. These actions were taken to cut off funds from the Iranian petrochemical sector as the second largest revenue source for Iran’s illicit nuclear program.
More specifically, the U.S. Department of State imposed sanctions on Jam Petrochemical Company and Niksima Food and Beverage JLT pursuant to E.O. 13622 for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction for the purchase or acquisition of petrochemical products from Iran. Jam Petrochemical Company is an Iranian manufacturer and seller of petrochemicals. Niksima Food and Beverage JLT received payments on behalf of Jam Petrochemical Company. The sanctions selected for both companies prohibit: financial transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction, transactions with respect to property and interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction, and foreign exchange transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
In addition to these entities, the Department of the Treasury also identified eight Iranian petrochemical companies as owned or controlled by the Government of Iran.
The U.S. Departments of State and Treasury also took actions to impose sanctions, including a visa ban on corporate officers, on Ferland Company Limited (Ferland) under both the Iran Sanctions Act, as amended by the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (TRA), and Executive Order 13608 for efforts to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.
According to the U.S. government, in March 2013, Ferland and the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) cooperated in a scheme to sell Iranian crude oil deceptively in order to help Iran evade international sanctions. This operation involved a vessel owned by Dimitris Cambis, a Greek national sanctioned by the Department of State. The details of the ship-to-ship operations were arranged by a NITC manager and a representative of Ferland. Ferland later furnished a falsified certificate of origin as part of its cargo documentation, claiming that the crude oil loaded onto the Aldawha was a “product of Iraq.”
The sanctions imposed by the Department of State against Ferland prohibit: U.S. visas for corporate officers, loans from U.S. financial institutions, financial transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction, transactions with respect to property and interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction, and foreign exchange transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Separately, the sanctions imposed by the Department of the Treasury on Ferland generally prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in any
transactions with that entity.

June 2, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

OECD Begins Accession Talks with Colombia and Latvia; Lithuania and Costa Rica are Also to Be Considered

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced that it will enter into accession discussions with Colombia and Latvia this year.  The OECD also announced its intention to begin accession talks with Costa Rica and Lithuania in 2015. Countries seeking OECD membership must demonstrate like-mindedness, or compatibility, with OECD principles, as well as complete technical reviews of various aspects of their economies.
According to the OECD website, its mission is to promote policies that improve the economic and social situation of people around the world. The OECD is an international organization that provides a forum for its member states to come together and share common problems and solutions. It currently has 34 member states, all of which are democracies with market economies from the Americas, Europe and the Pacific Rim.

June 1, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)