Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gay Rights Activist Murdered in Cameroon

The United Nations human rights office has requested authorities in Cameroon to properly investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the death of gay activist and journalist Eric Lembembe. “Our office in Cameroon has approached the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms and requested that the Commission takes necessary steps to ensure that the case is properly investigated by the police so that Mr. Lembembe’s murderers are brought to justice,” the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, told journalists in Geneva

Mr. Lembembe was reportedly found dead in his apartment in the capital of Yaoundé on 15 July, soon after he wrote about attacks in the country on organizations that support homosexuals. According to OHCHR, his body reportedly showed evidence of physical mistreatment possibly amounting to torture.

The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) also decried the killing, calling Mr. Lembembe, the Executive Director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS, “an important partner in the AIDS response.” UNAIDS also called on the Cameroonian Government to thoroughly investigate the death.

“This case is taking place amid a general climate of fear amongst Cameroonian human rights defenders,” Mr. Colville said, adding that some activists have received death threats by phone or email for defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

In June, Human Rights Watch and three local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) launched a report on human rights violations linked to arbitrary arrests and detentions on the grounds of homosexuality in Cameroon. 

On a visit to the country earlier this month, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay highlighted the need to ensure human rights for all and to respect the principles of non-discrimination, including for people belonging to sexual minorities.

Ms. Pillay had told journalists in Yaoundé that Cameroon has ratified six key human rights treaties, giving it a strong framework to guide the development and amendment of national laws and policies relating to human rights, but needs to implement them.
The Universal Periodic Review conducted in May by the UN Human Rights Council – which subjects each country’s human rights record to a State-led peer review – highlighted a number of concerns such as violence against women, harassment of journalists, criminalization of homosexuality, and the vulnerability of indigenous peoples.

Click here for an earlier post on the situation of gay and lesbian persons in Cameroon.

(adapted from a UN press release) (mew)

July 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Italy Illegaly Deports a Mother and Child

A group of independent United Nations human rights experts have called on Italian authorities to facilitate the return to Italy of Alma Shalabayeva, a Kazakh national, and her six-year-old daughter who were unlawfully deported to Kazakhstan in May.

Ms. Shalabayeva is married to former political prisoner Mukhtar Ablyazov, who is an opponent of Kazakhstan's President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, according to a news release issued by the experts. He was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom in 2011 but fled after UK police warned him his life was in danger.  Ms. Shalabayeva and her daughter were legal residents in the European Union and living in Italy when they were expelled on May 31, 2013. 

François Crépeau, Juan E. Méndez and Gabriela Knaul, the UN experts on the rights of migrants, torture and independence of the judiciary, respectively, said the actions of the Italian authorities had violated guarantees of due process and deprived Ms. Shalabayeva of her right to appeal against deportation and to apply for asylum.  "The circumstances of the deportation give rise to the appearance that this was in fact an extraordinary rendition which is of great concern to us," they stated. The authorities also appeared to have ignored concerns that Ms. Shalabayeva might be at risk of being persecuted, tortured or subjected to other forms of ill-treatment upon her forcible return to Kazakhstan due to her husband's political activities.

"We are encouraged to see that Italy has now publicly recognized that the deportation of Ms. Shalabayeva and her daughter was unlawful and unacceptable," said the UN experts on the rights of migrants, torture and independence of the judiciary," the experts said.  They welcomed the decision to officially revoke the deportation order and the announcement that investigations were under way to determine responsibility for the illegal expulsion. "We appreciate the Italian authorities' commitment to carry out thorough investigations on the case and welcome the developments thus far," the experts said. "We urge both Italy and Kazakhstan to continue to investigate and hold those responsible accountable."   

Italy is a State party to many international treaties which prohibit the expulsion, refoulement or extradition of a person to a State where it is feared he or she would be at risk of persecution and/or torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. "Given the possible serious implications of this case, we call upon both the Italian and Kazakh authorities to cooperate and reach a diplomatic agreement to facilitate the rapid return of the deportees," the experts said. 

(adapted from a UN press release)

July 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

20 Journalists Have Been Murdered in Honduras Since 2010

The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has condemned the recent murder of a Honduran broadcaster and called on the authorities to bring those responsible to justice. Anibal Barrow, the former host of a popular morning talk show on Globo TV was kidnapped on 24 June in the city of San Pedro Sula as he was travelling by car with a driver and members of his family. His body was found on 11 July near the city.

“I condemn this killing,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a news release. “I trust that the authorities will be able to bring to justice those responsible for this crime which undermines freedom of expression in Honduras and journalists’ ability to exercise their profession. “Letting crimes against journalists go unpunished seriously undermines press freedom,” she stressed. 

UNESCO added that Mr. Barrow is the 20th journalist to be assassinated in Honduras since 2010.

(adapted from a UN press release)

July 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nigeria Was Asked to Arrest Omar Al-Bashir

The International Criminal Court (ICC) requested Nigeria to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who is wanted for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, while he was on a visit to Abuja and surrender him to the Court. In March 2009, ICC judges issued arrest warrants against Mr. Al-Bashir for crimes allegedly committed in the Sudanese region of Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have died since 2003 due to fighting between rebel groups and Government forces and their allies, militiamen known as the Janjaweed. Mr. Al-Bashir was reportedly in Nigeria for an African health summit that concluded last week. 

Nigeria is a State party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, and has the obligation to execute the Court's orders, according to a news release issued by the Court. Under the Rome Statute, States that fail to comply with a request to cooperate with the Court may be referred to the Assembly of States Parties or to the Security Council.

Since the arrest warrants were issued, Mr. Al-Bashir has travelled to a number of African countries that are parties to the Rome Statute, all of whom have failed to arrest the Sudanese leader and surrender him to the Court. 

(adapted from a UN press release)

July 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Three Dutch Citizens Arrested in Russia for Violating Gay Propaganda Law

We have received a report that police have detained three citizens from the Netherlands in Murmansk (North Russia) on charges of violating the new Russian law of the "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors."  The court hearing was scheduled for 9 a.m. (Moscow time) this morning, July 22, 2013.

Get more information from the Facebook page of the Russian LGBT Network, which said it is providing legal assistance to the Dutch citizens.

An editorial in the New York Times notes that Vladimir Putin "has declared war on homosexuals" but that the world has been "mostly silent."  The New York Times reports that Mr. Putin signed a law on July 3 "banning the adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form."  The editorial calls on world leaders to speak out against Russia's antigay agenda, noting that Russia will be the host of the Winter Olympics.  Here is an excerpt from the editorial:

Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians. Last week a young gay man was murdered in the city of Volgograd. He was beaten, his body violated with beer bottles, his clothing set on fire, his head crushed with a rock. This is most likely just the beginning.

Nevertheless, the rest of the world remains almost completely ignorant of Mr. Putin’s agenda. His adoption restrictions have received some attention, but it has been largely limited to people involved in international adoptions.

This must change. With Russia about to hold the Winter Games in Sochi, the country is open to pressure. American and world leaders must speak out against Mr. Putin’s attacks and the violence they foster. The Olympic Committee must demand the retraction of these laws under threat of boycott.

Click here to see the full New York Times editorial.

h/t rw


July 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pens Are Powerful Weapons: "One Teacher, One Book, One Pen, Can Change the World"

"Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world," Ms. Yousafzai said, in an impassioned address to the UN Youth Assembly. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has dubbed today -- Ms. Yousafzai's 16th birthday -- 'Malala Day' in honour of her heroic stand to ensure education for all. 

Ms. Yousafzai told the gathering that the Taliban's attack nine months ago changed nothing in her life, except that "weakness, fear and hopelessness died." "The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens," she said. "The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women."  Urging worldwide action against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, she said: "Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons." 

This call to action was delivered just as the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO) Education for All Global Monitoring Report, launched a new policy paper spotlighting that globally, the number of children out of school has fallen from 60 million in 2008 to 57 million in 2011. However, 28 million children out of school live in the world's conflict zones, and more than half of those are women and girls. "So here I stand," Ms. Yousafzai declared before the Assembly, "one girl among many. I speak -- not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice -- not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.

Describing the terrible October 2012 incident that only strengthened her resolve, she said the Taliban shot her on the left side of her forehead. "They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed," she said, adding that the incident instead gave birth to "thousands of voices." 

"The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.  I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same." Telling the Assembly that she was focusing on women's rights and girls' education because they were suffering the most, Ms. Yousafzai called upon world leaders to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity.  "We call upon all Governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child all over the world," she said, also calling on Governments to fight against terrorism and violence, to protect children from brutality and harm.

In his remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Ms. Yousafzai, praising her courage and determination. "Malala chose to mark her 16th birthday with the world," Mr. Ban said, noting the strong support she has received from millions of people all over the world is a clear sign saying: "Malala, you are not alone. We are all with you, standing behind you." Mr. Ban reiterated the UN's commitment to give access to quality education to every girl and boy through its Global Education First Initiative which has three priorities: to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship. "No child should have to die for going to school. Nowhere should teachers fear to teach or children fear to learn. Together, we can change the picture," he said.

Mr. Ban also encouraged the students gathered at the Youth Assembly, to continue to voice their concerns on issues that matter to them. "I urge you to keep speaking out.  Keep raising the pressure.  Keep making a difference," Mr. Ban said. "You are sending a message -- a message of hope and empowerment … a message of dignity and opportunity. All of you are on the frontlines."

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

July 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

World Population Day 2103

July 11 is World Population Day.  More than 7 billion people now live on the Earth.  World Population Day focuses on issues relating to our growing population.  The United Nations Population Agency (UNPA) has chosen the issue of adolescent pregnancies as the focus for World Population Day 2013.

According to the UNPA, approximately 16 million girls under age 18 give birth each year. 19 out of every 100 girls give birth under the age of 18; 3 of those 19 are under the age of 15. Another 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions.

Ninety percent of pregnant adolescents in the developing world are married. But for many of these girls, pregnancy is a consequence of discrimination, rights violations (including child marriage), inadequate education or sexual coercion.  Thus, it is a human rights issue.  Adolescent pregnancy often means an abrupt end of childhood, a curtailed education and lost opportunities.

Adolescent pregnancy also is a health issue: the youngest mothers face a heightened risk of maternal complications, death and disability, including obstetric fistula. Their children face higher risks as well.

On World Population Day 2013, UNPA wants to raise awareness about the issues surrounding adolescent pregnancies "in the hopes of delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled."


July 11, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Global Legal Skills Conference in Verona Italy (May 21-23, 2014)

Save the dates!  The next Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in Italy at the University of Verona Faculty of Law.  The conference will begin with an opening reception on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 and continue with two full days of programs on May 22 and 23, 2014.

This will be the ninth time that the Global Legal Skills Conference is being held, and the first time in Europe.  Previous conferences were held in Chicago, Washington DC, San Jose Costa Rica, and Monterrey Mexico.  The conference began at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  Attendees come from all over the world.

Persons traveling to Verona can fly directly into Verona (VRN) or to other airports in Milan or Venice.  Train transportation to Verona is easy.  Post-conference activities are being planned for Venice and Vicenza.

Mark E. Wojcik

July 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scholarships for Polish Lawyers at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law

The Lauterpacht Centre for International Law is pleased to announce the opening of a competition for two scholarships, funded by the Embassy of the Repoublic of Poland in London. The scholarships have been named after the Polish Judge and international lawyer, Bohdan Winiarski. The scholarships are primarily aimed at younger Polish scholars in the early years of their career and are intended to cover a research visit at the Lauterpacht Centre in 2014.

Each scholarship is worth £3000 (GBP) and is intended to cover the cost of bench fees, accommodation, maintenance and travel incurred during an 8-12 week research visit at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law.  Any additional costs incurred are the responsibility of the candidate. Scholarships must be used during the 2014 calendar year.

Candidates must comply with the following:

  • have Polish citizenship;
  • be fluent in Polish and English;
  • be a graduate of a Polish university (candidates should already hold a degree, applications from students will not be accepted);
  • be associated on a permanent basis with a Polish university or another institution in Poland dealing with international law;
  • specify a project on some aspect of international law (not including European law) on which they will work while resident at the Lauterpacht Centre. Preferably, the project should be published as a result of the visit;
  • produce a report of their work in English at the end of the scholarship period.

Applications should consist of the following documents:

  • the candidate's CV (curriculum vitae);
  • a sufficiently detailed (2-4 page) description of the project they intend to work on whilst at the Centre;
  • two letters of reference.

All documents should be provided in English, except for the letters of reference, which may be in Polish or English.  The letters of reference should be sent by post, preferably directly by the referees (scanned copies may be sent earlier by email, with the originals following by post). Both the application and the references must be received by the deadline. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

Applications should be sent to Dr Joanna Gomula by email at [email protected] or by post to Dr Joanna Gomula, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, 5 Cranmer Road, Cambridge CB3 9BL, UK.


The deadline for applications, including the letters of reference, is 9 September 2013. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered. Receipt of applications will be acknowledged if sent by email but only successful candidates will be contacted.

Applications will be reviewed by a committee appointed by the Director of the Lauterpacht Centre. Successful candidates must use their scholarships in 2014.


July 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Escalation of the Political Crisis in Egypt

The United Nations human rights office said today it is alarmed at the sharp escalation of the political crisis in Egypt and deplored the fact that dozens of people have reportedly been killed or wounded amid the ouster of President Mohamed Morsy last week. On Friday alone, more than 30 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in various clashes across the country, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Yesterday, at least 51 people were reportedly killed and some 300 injured outside the Republican Guard compound. 

“We remind the Egyptian authorities that any incidents resulting in deaths and injuries require prompt, thorough and transparent investigation and those found to be guilty of wrong doing should be brought to justice,” said OHCHR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly. Welcoming the announcement by the interim head of State that an investigation into yesterday’s tragic incident has been ordered, Ms. Pouilly told reporters in Geneva that any such probe should be carried out by an independent and impartial body and its findings should be made public. 

The Egyptian military deposed Mr. Morsy on 3 July, suspended the Constitution and paved they way for an interim Government. Since then, Mr. Morsy’s foes and supporters have continued to face off in huge demonstrations, with security forces and police adding to the deepening chaos. “We call on all sides to refrain from resorting to violence and on protesters to maintain the peaceful nature of their demonstrations,” said Ms. Pouilly. “We also call on the military and law enforcement officials to show utmost restraint and make sure that they comply at all times with international human rights obligations and international standards on policing […]” 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay have spoken out several times on the need for all parties in Egypt – which has been undergoing a democratic transition since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two years ago – to exercise restraint, protect human rights and resort to dialogue to peacefully resolve differences. 

Yesterday the interim authority announced plans for the formation of a panel to amend the Constitution, the holding of a referendum on proposed constitutional changes, and the holding of parliamentary elections. The plans have been rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood, the party to which Mr. Morsy belongs. 

“We urge all parties to engage in a constructive dialogue and in a broad-based and inclusive process to move the country forward,” Ms. Pouilly stated, noting that OHCHR will continue to closely follow developments. “We reaffirm our readiness to assist the Egyptian people in all efforts to overcome the crisis and move towards strengthening human rights and building a legislative and institutional framework ensuring democracy and the rule of law,” she added.

(UN press release)

July 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Second Anniversary of Independence for South Sudan

South Sudan became independent from Sudan on 9 July 2011, six years after the signing of the peace agreement that ended decades of warfare between the north and the south.

The top United Nations envoy commended the progress made so far while also noting the many challenges facing South Sudan, such as tackling insecurity, addressing human rights violations, and strengthening public institutions.  Over the past two years, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has been assisting the country in consolidating peace and security and helping to establish conditions for development.

"Many of us witnessed the outpouring of euphoria that greeted the dawn of independence of South Sudan. The mood of that day now seems like a fading memory," Hilde F. Johnson, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of UNMISS, told the Security Council in a briefing via video-link from the capital, Juba. "We have since seen many setbacks and problems, and tensions with Sudan driving decisions that were challenged by many, including this Council," she added.

Progress to date includes improved relations with the Sudan, the internal dialogue with armed groups, and a renewed commitment to advancing the national reconciliation process. At the same time, a key challenge is the security situation in Jonglei state, where fighting between Government forces and armed groups has displaced thousands of civilians since January. 

"The deterioration in the security situation in parts of South Sudan has been accompanied by human rights violations by both armed groups and national security institutions. National and state authorities are struggling to translate their commitments to improve respect for human rights into action," she stated. "Cases of arbitrary arrest, detention, abuse and incidences of killings by security forces, as well as the inability of the authorities to hold those responsible to account, are cause for deep concern."

Echoing the call made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his latest report on South Sudan, Ms. Johnson urged the Government to establish effective, long-term strategies to address the underlying causes of perennial violence. She added that UNMISS continues to support the Government's efforts to seek political solutions to inter-communal conflict and peace initiatives aimed at bringing durable solutions to disputes over scarce natural resources. 

"The Mission is encouraging local authorities, community leaders and national figures to reinforce their efforts to foster reconciliation. It is also essential that national and state authorities, and the communities themselves, take the lead and assume full ownership of such processes."

The Government has also faced difficulties in implementing political reforms and strengthening public institutions, Ms. Johnson noted, adding that bodies crucial to a successful political transition require adequate budgetary support from the Government to advance their work. The key determinant for developments in South Sudan, said the envoy, remains its relations with Sudan. Noting setbacks such as counter-accusations by both sides of military support to rebel groups in each other's territories, and the threat by Sudan to shut down the oil pipeline, Ms. Johnson said both countries should strengthen their cooperation towards peaceful coexistence.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

July 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Investigating the Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remains seriously concerned about alleged chemical weapons use in Syria and welcomed yesterday the Government’s offer to continue discussions regarding the United Nations team he set up to carry out an on-the-ground investigation into the matter. “The Secretary-General welcomes the offer of the Government of Syria to continue discussions on the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesman. 

According to the statement, the head of the Mission, Åke Sellström, will travel to New York this week to update the Secretary-General on the status of his activities. “Pending its on-site access in Syria, the Mission has continued to monitor developments as well as to collect and analyze information made available by Member States,” said the statement, adding that the Mission has also conducted fact-finding activities in a neighbouring country.

Mr. Ban hopes that Syria will grant access to the Mission to conduct its on-site investigation, added the statement, which noted that cooperation from Damascus “will be essential for the Mission to establish facts in a credible manner regarding any use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

(Adapted from a UN press release)

July 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Gravely concerned by the intensifying violence in Egypt, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the reported killing of dozens of people at a mass protest site in Cairo and urged all sides to “do everything possible to avoid further escalation” of the political crisis that has gripped the country. 

A statement issued by his spokesman said the UN chief is “deeply disturbed” by the reported killings of more than 50 people at protests outside the Republican Guard headquarters in Egypt earlier today.  Mr. Ban conveys his sincere condolences to the families of the victims. “The Secretary-General condemns these killings and calls for them to be thoroughly investigated by independent and competent national bodies, and those responsible need to be brought to justice,” the statement says.  

Mr. Ban has raised these grave concerns as news media reports cite ongoing deadly clashes and mass arrests across Egypt. On Wednesday, 3 July, the Egyptian military deposed President Mohamed Morsy, suspended the Constitution and paved they way for an interim Government. Since then, Mr. Morsy’s foes and supporters have continued to face off in huge demonstrations, with security forces and police adding to the deepening chaos.   

Calling on all Egyptians to be mindful of the precarious path the country is now on and to do everything possible to avoid further escalation, Mr. Ban once again in his statement urges all sides to act with maximum restraint. “Protests must remain peaceful and the security forces must abide strictly by international standards,” it adds.

The Secretary-General goes on to urge all Egyptians and political parties to work constructively to forge a consensus on the way forward through peaceful means.  “He notes that, for such a process to succeed, all parties and communities must be included,” the statement says, adding that the United Nations stands ready to assist as necessary.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

July 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Inter-American Convention on Protection of the Human Rights of Older Persons

Further to our earlier posts on increasing efforts to promote the rights of older persons, we share with you here the Preliminary Draft of the Inter-American Convention on Protection of the Human Rights of Older Persons.  CAJP/GT/DHPM 37/12


July 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Congratulations to Dr. Laurent Pech

Laurent PechContibuting blog editor Dr. Laurent Pech has been named Professor of European Law and Head of the Law Department at Middlesex University London.  With 40,000 students and overseas campuses in Dubai, Mauritius, and Malta, Middlesex University is pursuing an ambitious development strategy.  We extend our congratulations and good wishes to him and to Middlesex University.

Dr. Pech was previously the Jean Monnet Lecturer in European Law at the National University of Ireland in Galway.

Mark, Cindy, Cyndee, and Michael

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

Saturday, July 6, 2013

UK House of Commons Votes to Hold Referedum on EU Membership

The United Kingdom House of Commons voted unanimously on Friday to hold a referendum by 2017 on the question of whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union.  Although the vote was unanimous, the bill had the support of less than half of the members of the House of Commons because the vote was taken during a boycott by the Labor Party and the Liberal Democrats.  The bill must also pass the House of Lords before it will take effect.  Thus, the future of the referedum is still very much in doubt.


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

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Developments in Egypt

With Egypt's transition at "another delicate juncture," United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his appeals for non-violence and restraint, urging an inclusive approach to overcome the current "deep difficulties" and address the concerns of all Egyptians. "The Secretary-General is following closely and with continuing concern the fast-moving developments in Egypt.  He continues to stand with the aspirations of the Egyptian people," said a statement issued by a spokesperson for the UN chief.

In the wake of massive protests -- both for and against Egypt's current Government -- Mr. Ban noted the delicate nature of the situation following the army's announcement that it is suspending the Constitution and appointing the head of the constitutional court as interim head of state -- "decisions that have not been accepted by President [Mohamed] Morsy".  

Egypt has been undergoing a halting democratic transition following the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak two years ago in the wake of mass protests similar to those seen in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa as part of the "Arab Spring." Demonstrations have been taking place in Cairo and other cities across the country in recent days, with protesters reportedly calling for President Morsy's resignation. Media reports noted on Monday that Egypt's army had given the country's rival parties 48 hours to resolve the political crisis.

"At this moment of continued high tension and uncertainty in the country, the Secretary-General reiterates his appeals for calm, non-violence, dialogue and restraint," the statement said, adding that an inclusive approach is essential to addressing the needs and concerns of all Egyptians. "Preservation of fundamental rights, including freedom of speech and assembly remain of vital importance."  

Mr. Ban said that in their protests, many Egyptians have voiced deep frustrations and legitimate concerns.  At the same time, military interference in the affairs of any State is of concern. "Therefore, it will be crucial to quickly reinforce civilian rule in accordance with principles of democracy," he says in the statement.  

"The world is watching closely the next steps with the hope that Egyptians will remain on a peaceful course, overcome the deep difficulties they are facing today, and find the needed common ground to move forward in a transition for which so many fought so courageously," the statement concludes.

July 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Patton Boggs Ends Lobbying for Ecuador

The Washington DC based law firm Patton Boggs has ended an annual $780,000 lobbying contract with Ecuador, according to a report in the National Law Journal.  The NLJ reports that the firm has stopped lobbying for the country, according to a Foreign Agents Registration Act report the firm filed Friday with the U.S. Justice Department.

Justice Department records show that Ecuador hired Patton Boggs in 2009 to "improve its reputational image and bilateral relations with the United States."  The report filed last week with the Justice Department does not say why the lobbying ended, and a spokesman for the firm declined comment to the NLJ.  

The termination report came shortly after Ecuador pulled out of the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA), a trade preference system for favorable duty treatment for exports to the United States.  Ecuador pulled out of the ATPA in response to U.S. pressure not to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, the man who leaked news about a previously secret U.S. surveillance program. 


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

Vanuatu Diplomatic Passports

Radio New Zealand International reports that the Vanuatu Foreign Ministry is still trying to ascertain all the people who are traveling internationally using Vanuatu diplomatic passports.

Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Edward Natapei is reviewing diplomatic passport appointments made outside of proper procedure.  As many as 70 of the 99 overseas representatives may lose their jobs after the review and 12 appointments have been already been revoked. The Minister is reported to have said that “Some of the diplomatic passports were signed and issued by former ministers and therefore the department does not have records of all the diplomatic passports. We’re still in the process of trying to find out who is out there.”  Minister Natapei is currently Deputy Prime Minister and has served as Minister for Foreign Affairs since March 23, 2013.

Hat tip to the East-West Center and Radio New Zealand International


July 3, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Croatia Joins WTO Government Procurement Agreement

Following Croatia's accession to the European Union (EU), the EU has amended its schedules to the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) to bring Croatia under the auspices of that Agreement effective July 1.  Croatia's inclusion brings the number of WTO Member States covered by the GPA to 43.  Ten other WTO Member States have begun the accession process: Albania, China, Georgia,  Jordan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, New Zealand, Oman, Panama, and Ukraine.  The GPA commits Member States to behave in a manner that is transparent, non-discriminatory and procedurally fair when procuring goods, services and  public works.



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