Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Each Car Comes with an Authentic Italian Family

This video is making us laugh.  A lot.  Enjoy!  Thanks "Funny or Die."



November 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

IACHR Takes Extradition Case Against Peru to Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Inter Am Commn Human RtsThe Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 12.794, involving Wong Ho Wing, a Chinese national who was taken into custody in Peru. 

Peru took Mr. Wong Ho Wing into custody on October 27, 2008 pursuant to an extradition request from China. The extradition process is still ongoing. In its Report on the Merits of the case, the IACHR concluded that Mr. Wong Ho Wing has been and continues to be subjected to an arbitrary and excessive deprivation of liberty that has no procedural basis and that has been extended for more than five years under the concept of “provisional arrest,” without a final determination having been made as to his legal situation. 

The IACHR concluded that at the different stages of the extradition proceedings, domestic authorities committed a series of omissions and irregularities in the processing of the case and in procuring and weighing the reported assurances offered by China. The IACHR determined that these omissions and irregularities constituted not only violations of several aspects of due process, but a failure to comply with the obligation to guarantee Mr. Wong Ho Wing’s right to life and to humane treatment, given the risk that the death penalty or possible acts of torture could be applied. 

The IACHR also concluded that since May 24, 2011, when the Peruvian Constitutional Court ordered the executive branch to refrain from extraditing Mr. Wong Ho Wing, the Peruvian State authorities have failed to fully comply with this court ruling, which is incompatible with the right to judicial protection. 

The case was sent to the Inter-American Court because the IACHR determined that Peru has not complied with the recommendations contained in the IACHR's Report on the Merits of the case. After concluding that Mr. Wong Ho Wing's right have been violated, the IACHR recommended that Peru bring the extradition process to a conclusion as soon as possible. The IACHR also recommended that the State order an ex officio review of Wong Ho Wing’s provisional arrest, and make full reparations to him for the violations established in the merits report. Finally, the IACHR recommended that Peru adopt measures to ensure that the procedures established in the Code of Criminal Procedure are followed to the letter in future extradition processes and that the necessary safeguards are in place to ensure that any diplomatic or other assurances offered by the requesting State are procured and weighed in accordance with relevant international standards. 

This case offers the Inter-American Court it first opporunity to develop case law on the standards to be applied to extradition requests so that States do not violate their obligations under the American Convention on Human Rights.


November 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Upcoming U.S. Supreme Court Argument on the Hague Convention on Child Abduction

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Decmeber 11, 2013 in a case concerning international child abduction.  The issue is whether the one-year filing deadline for a petition under the Hague Convention to return an abducted child is tolled when the abducting parent conceals the whereabouts of the child from the other parent.


November 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

WTO Panel Finds EC Ban on Seal Products Unlawful

WTOYesterday, a dispute resolution panel of the World Trade Organization (WTO) found the European Community (EC) ban on the the importation and marketing of seal products to be contrary to WTO rules.  Canada initiated the dispute resolution proceeding in 2009, complaining that the EC Seal Regime violates the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994.  The WTO dispute resolution panel agreed.

The EC Seal Regime contained two exceptions to the general ban: one for seal products that resulted from hunts by indigenous communities (IC exception) and one for seal products that resulted from marine resource managment purposes (MRM exception).  The panel found that the EC Seal Regime is a technical regulation and that the exceptions violate Article 2.1 of the TBT Agreement because they treat imported seal products less well than domestic and other foreign products (e.g., products from Greenland) without legitimate regulatory reason.  The panel also found that the EC Seal Regime violates the GATT 1994.   The EC now has 60 days in which to determine whether to bring its EC Seal Regime into conformity with the WTO rules or lodge an appeal.

More information on this WTO dispute (DS400) may be found on the WTO website.


November 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Security Council Condemns War Crimes Committed by the Lord's Resistance Army

Reiterating its strong condemnation of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its use of children in armed conflict, the Security Council today demanded that the group immediately cease all hostilities, release all abductees, and disarm and demobilize.

Issuing presidential statement the Council urged the United Nations Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), the UN political and peacekeeping missions in the region, and the Organization’s other relevant presences, to enhance their support for the implementation of the UN Regional Strategy to address the threat and impact of the activities of the LRA. It called on the international community to support the implementation of the Strategy where possible.

The LRA, notorious for carrying out massacres in villages, mutilating its victims and abducting boys for use as child soldiers and forcing girls into sexual slavery, was formed in the 1980s in Uganda and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces, which in 2002 dislodged it. It then exported its activities to Uganda’s neighbours, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan.

The 15-member body reiterated its strong support for the African Union Regional Cooperation Initiative against the LRA, commending the “significant” progress by the African Union Regional Task Force. It urged all regional Governments to fulfil their commitments under the Initiative and provide basic provisions for their security forces.

Welcoming steps taken to deliver an enhanced, comprehensive and “more regional” approach to the humanitarian situation, the Council underlined the primary responsibility of States in the LRA-affected region to protect civilians.  In that context, it welcomed efforts by the DRC, South Sudan, Uganda and the CAR, in coordination with the African Union, to end the LRA threat, urging additional efforts from those countries, as well as others in the region.

Further, the Council expressed serious concern that the increased security vacuum in the CAR continued to negatively affect counter-LRA operations. As LRA attacks have reportedly taken place outside the Task Force’s principal area of operations, it emphasized the need for strong coordination among the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), the Task Force, and the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) in the context of protecting civilian activities and counter-LRA operations.

Regionally, the Council encouraged the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) to reinforce efforts to address the LRA through improved responsiveness to imminent civilian threats, training and capacity-building of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and implementation of the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration, and resettlement programme to encourage further LRA defections.

In addition, the Council urged MONUSCO and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to enhance their cooperation with the Regional Task Force to coordinate operations, patrols and protection of civilians strategies, and to provide logistical support within their existing mandates and resources.  It took note of reports of an LRA base in the disputed enclave of Kafia Kinga, on the border of the Central African Republic, and between South Sudan and Sudan.  

(UN Press Release)

November 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Malaysian Government Urged to Reverse Decision to Ban Catholic Publication from using the Word "Allah" to Refer to God

Several independent United Nations human rights experts today urged the Malaysian Government to reverse its decision to ban a Catholic publication from using the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God, warning that the case may have far-reaching implications for religious minorities in the country.  “Freedom of religion or belief is a right of human beings, not a right of the State,” the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, stressed in a news release. “It cannot be the business of the State to shape or reshape religious traditions, nor can the State claim any binding authority in the interpretation of religious sources or in the definition of the tenets of faith.” 

The Bahasa Malaysia, or standard Malay, translation for one God is ‘Allah’, which entered the language from Arabic and has been used by Christians in the region for many centuries, according to the press release. In January 2009, the Ministry of Home Affairs ordered the newspaper Herald-The Catholic Weekly to stop using the word ‘Allah’ or face losing its publication permit. The newspaper argued the ban was unconstitutional and won an appeal in the Malaysian High Court.  

However, last month, the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that non-Muslims cannot use ‘Allah’ to refer to God. It stated that the usage of the name ‘Allah’ is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity.  “Such usage, if allowed, would inevitably cause confusion within the community,” the appeal court judges ruled. The case is currently pending consideration at the Federal Court level. Mr. Bielefeldt cautioned that “the current case may affect the right of all non-Muslims in Malaysia to use the word ‘Allah’ while referring to God.” 

Also speaking out is Rita Izsák, the Independent Expert on minority issues, who said discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and in this instance is a breach of the rights of a religious minority to freely practice and express their faith.  “Such actions may present an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations between faith communities,” she warned. 
The Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, called on the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Malaysian Government to take steps to immediately secure the right to freedom of opinion and expression of the newspaper and withdraw unconditionally from further litigation on this issue.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

(adapted from a UN press release)

November 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

International Criminal Court: Four People Arrested for Witness Tampering

International Criminal CourtFour people have been arrested for alleged witness tampering in the war crimes trial of former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced yesterday. The four men are accused of "corruptly influencing witnesses before the ICC and presenting evidence that they knew to be false or forged," according to a news release  from The Hague-based Court. It is alleged that the suspects were part of a network for the purposes of presenting false or forged documents and bribing certain persons to give false testimony in the case against Mr. Bemba, whose trial started in November 2010.

The four men, arrested this week following a warrant issued on 20 November by Judge Cuno Tarfusser, include Mr. Bemba's Lead Counsel Aimé Kilolo Musamba taken into custody by Belgian authorities, and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, a member of Mr Bemba's defence team and case manager, who was arrested in the Netherlands.

The two other men are Fidèle Babala Wandu, a member of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Parliament and Deputy Secretary General of the Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo - who was taken into custody in the DRC - and Narcisse Arido, a Defence witness, who was arrested by French authorities.

"On behalf of the Court, the Registrar of the ICC, Herman von Hebel, expressed his gratitude to the States' authorities for their cooperation," the ICC said, adding that these are the first arrests made in relation to such charges before the Court.

Mr. Bemba is the alleged President and Commander-in-Chief of the Mouvement de libération du Congo being tried for two counts of crimes against humanity (rape and murder) and three counts of war crimes (rape, murder and pillaging) allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR).

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Republic of Suriname

SurinameWe wish a happy national day to the Republic of Suriname.

The Republiek Suriname (in Dutch) is located on the northeast coast of South America. It sits between French Guiana and Guyana with Brazil to the south. Suriname was colonized by the English and the Dutch in the 17th century.  Read more here about Suriname.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued the following statement to recognize the day:

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of the Republic of Suriname as you celebrate 38 years of independence on November 25.

The United States and Suriname share common interests in protecting the environment, preserving our cultural heritage, and celebrating the rich diversity of our nations’ citizens.

The participation of a Suriname–South Dakota National Guard Color Guard in this year’s national day festivities underscores the ties of friendship between the people of Suriname and the United States.

As you mark this jubilee and celebrate the accomplishments of the Surinamese people, I send best wishes for a bright and prosperous future.


November 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Proposed Convention on Crimes Against Humanity

Sadat at JMLS PhotoLeila Nadya Sadat is a professor at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, where she directs the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute.  She also a special advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on the important subject of Crimes Against Humanity

Professor Sadat came to Chicago this week to speak at The John Marshall Law School, where she discussed her work as editor of a new book on "Forging a Convention for Crimes Against Humanity," being published this month by Cambridge University Press.  Here's a blurb about the book:

Crimes against humanity were one of the three categories of crimes elaborated in the Nuremberg Charter. However, unlike genocide and war crimes, they were never set out in a comprehensive international convention. This book represents an effort to complete the Nuremberg legacy by filling this gap. It contains a complete text of a proposed convention on crimes against humanity in English and in French, a comprehensive history of the proposed convention, and fifteen original papers written by leading experts on international criminal law. The papers contain reflections on various aspects of crimes against humanity, including gender crimes, universal jurisdiction, the history of codification efforts, the responsibility to protect, ethnic cleansing, peace and justice dilemmas, amnesties and immunities, the jurisprudence of the ad hoc tribunals, the definition of the crime in customary international law, the ICC definition, the architecture of international criminal justice, modes of criminal participation, crimes against humanity and terrorism, and the inter-state enforcement regime.

And here's the impressive list of contributing authors (in addition to Professor Sadat): Sir Richard Goldstone, Gareth Evans, Roger S. Clark, Payam Akhavan, M. Cherif Bassiouni, David Crane, Valerie Oosterveld, Göran Sluiter, Guénaël Mettraux, John Hagan, Todd J. Haugh, Diane Orentlicher, Elies van Sliedregt, Michael P. Scharf, Michael A. Newton, Kai Ambos, Ambassador David Scheffer, Laura M. Olson, and Gregory H. Stanton.  These are names well known to those of us who work in the field of international criminal law.

The book can be ordered online from Cambridge University Press by clicking here. Enter the discount code "SADAT13" at checkout to save a few bucks.

Pictured in the photo with Professor Sadat are Professors Mark E. Wojcik, William B.T. Mock, and Shahram Dana, all of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

The next international law faculty roundtable scheduled at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago is on the subject "National Security and International Law," a presentation by Assistant Professor Vijay Padmanabhan of the Vanderbilt Law School on February 13, 2014.  


November 23, 2013 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UNAIDS Urges End to Gender-Based Violence to Reduce Risk of HIV Infection

The United Nations agency leading the response to the AIDS epidemic is calling for an end to gender-based violence, which is not only a serious human rights violation but also increases the risk of HIV infection. Recent research has established a clear association between intimate partner violence and HIV, with women experiencing such violence facing a 50 per cent increased risk of acquiring the virus, according to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

“Every hour 50 young women become newly infected with HIV,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said in a message ahead of Monday’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. “Women and girls have the right to live free of violence and inequities and to protect themselves against HIV,” he said.

About one in three women globally experience physical or sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence by a non-partner, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has said.  Around 150 million girls under the age of 18 have experienced some form of sexual violence, according to agency, with many never disclosing their traumatic experience.

Responding to gender-based violence and HIV is “a matter of shared global responsibility for social justice,” UNAIDS said in its news release.  In the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, UN Member States pledged to eliminate gender inequalities, gender-based abuse and violence, and to protect women from the risk of HIV infection.

Yet gender-based violence is a pervasive reality across the globe, noted UNAIDS. It affects women and men around the world. In particular, women who inject drugs, female sex workers and transgender people are most affected.

(adapted from a UN press release)

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

U.S. Court of International Trade Lecture in Chicago

DiCarlo Lecture 2013The John Marshall Law School in Chicago hosts an annual Dominick L. DiCarlo Lecture series on the U.S. Court of International Trade.  The lecture series invites judges from the U.S. Court of International Trade to talk about the court and its work in the field of customs and international trade law.  It is sponsored by the International Law Center at The John Marshall Law School.  The annual lecture series honoring Judge DiCarlo and the U.S. Court of International Trade has been held now for the past 12 years.

This year's lecture was held on November 14, 2014 with one of the newer judges on the Court of International Trade, Judge Claire R. Kelly.  Before joining the Court, Judge Kelly was a Professor and Associate Director of the Dennis Block Center for the Study of International Business Law at Brooklyn Law School, where she had also taught international trade law and legal writing.

Judge Kelly was interviewed by Adjunct Professor Larry Friedman, a customs and international trade law attorney and partner in the Chicago offices of Barnes Richardson.  He and Judge Kelly recalled their work together (before she became a judge) with the Customs and International Trade Bar Association (CITBA).  They also spoke at length about the changing landscape of trade adjustment assistance cases before the U.S. Court of International Trade, including reasons for the dramatic decline in the number of cases now before the Court.

Pictured here (from left to right) are Judge Claire Kelly of the U.S. Court of International Trade, Professor Mark E. Wojcik (former law clerk to Judge Dominick L. DiCarlo of the U.S. Court of International Trade), John Marshall Law School Dean John Corkery, and Larry Friedman (another former law clerk to Judge Dominick L. DiCarlo).  Not pictured are Cole Kain and Francis Hadfield, two other John Marshall alumni who have clerked for the U.S. Court of International Trade, Professor Stephen Schwinn who has organized groups of students to work with the U.S. Court of International Trade on pro bono projects on Trade Adjustment Assistance, Professor Paul Lewis and Virginia Russell of the John Mashall International Law Center (which sponsored the program), and Professor William Mock (a former trade attorney whose scholarship includes work on cumulation statistics by the United States International Trade Commission).

The event was well attended by law students, faculty, representatives of the U.S. Customs Service, and members of the customs and international trade bar in Chicago.

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

ITLOS Tribunal Orders Release of Greenpeace Activists Being Held on Charges of Hooliganism

ITLOSThe United Nations-backed International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea today ordered that Russia release the Greenpeace ship and its crew that it seized in September following a protest over oil drilling off its coast, once the Netherlands posts a bond of 3.6 million euros.

The Arctic Sunrise – an icebreaker operated by the environmental group and which flies the flag of the Netherlands – was boarded by Russian officials on 19 September, brought to the port of Murmansk Oblast and detained.

Last month, the Netherlands instituted arbitral proceedings against Russia under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, claiming that that the arrest and detention of the vessel and its crew by Russia violated the treaty.  It also requested that the Tribunal, based in the German city of Hamburg, prescribe provisional measures pending the arbitral proceedings.  By a vote of 19 to 2, the Tribunal’s judges today ordered that, pending arbitration, Russia “shall immediately release the vessel Arctic Sunrise and all persons who have been detained, upon the posting of a bond or other financial security by the Netherlands which shall be in the amount of 3,600,000 euros . . . .”

The Arctic Sunrise was used by Greenpeace International, a non-governmental organization, to stage a protest against the offshore ice-resistant fixed platform ‘Prirazlomnaya’ in the Barents Sea.

(UN press release)(mew)

November 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Review: International Law Legal Research

We're pleased to share a Guest Blog Post from Anne Abramson, the Foreign and International Law Librarian at the Louis L. Biro Law Library of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  She's written the first review of a new legal research book for international law.  The book launches a new series of international legal research texts being published by Carolina Academic Press. 

International Law Legal Research

Winer Book CoverBook Review of International Law Legal Research by Anthony S. Winer, Mary Anne E. Archer and Lyonette Louis-Jacques (Carolina Academic Press 2013).

Reviewed by Anne Abramson

When I first learned that there would be a new print textbook on international legal research, I wondered just how useful it could be. So much international legal research is done electronically these days, how could a print text keep up with the incessant changes in the electronic environment? 

Then I took a look at the just-published book on International Law Legal Research and realized why this new text is essential even if it cannot record every new database development.  In fact, the best format for a text such as this one is indeed print.  This title is not a brief "one off" taste of the subject but rather a comprehensive, detailed treatment. The quality of the content will stand the test of time.

This book on International Law Legal Research launches a new International Legal Research Series being published by Carolina Academic Press.  The series is edited by Professor Mark E. Wojcik of The John Marshall Law School.  This inaugural title in the Winer Photoseries was authored by Professor Anthony S. Winer of the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mary Ann E. Archer (who served for ten years as the Associate Director for Public Services of the Warren E. Burger Law Library at William Mitchell), and Lyonette Louis-Jacques, the Foreign and International Law Librarian at the D’Angelo Law Library of the University of Chicago Law School.

Professor Winer and his colleagues delve into the historical origins of the international legal system and key organizations like the United Nations.  Their thorough discussion of treaties and their resemblance to legislation and contracts is enlightening and useful.  Their chapters on judicial and arbitral decisions, UN resolutions, customary international law, and international organizations and bodies such as the International Law Commission are similarly comprehensive and eye opening.  The text provides an excellent framework for new students to learn international legal research and for more seasoned legal researchers to hone their skills or fill gaps where necessary. I appreciate, for example, the clarification of that most confusing term “private international law” under both modern and traditional interpretations.  

Louis-Jacques PhotoThe reader will want to pay special attention to Lyonette Louis-Jacques’ Additional Resources and General Bibliographic References at the conclusion of each chapter.  Her concise lists of sources should be part of every international legal researcher’s toolkit.  In addition, most librarians like myself are obsessed with “information literacy.” We are constantly called upon to articulate reasons as to why Google is not enough.  Thus, I quite like the authors' emphasis on accuracy, currency, and authenticity as well as the adherence to proper Bluebook citation formats.  In my view, solid citation skills are part and parcel of good research skills and are necessary for scholars, advocates, and even moot court teams competing in international law moot court competitions.  Knowledge of which sources to cite and how to cite to them signals a true understanding of the subject matter in contrast to the tendency to cut and paste from a website.

Professor Winer and his colleagues have even gone where angels fear to tread by explaining Bluebook citation of UN records and reports, a complicated area which, in the current electronic era, has only become more mysterious.  Researchers who do not wish to tear out their hair will appreciate his helpful explanations of the Bluebook’s often enigmatic pronouncements  

Most valuable of all, this text will give students the necessary context to understand what they are researching and why.  This context is all too often lost in today’s world of instant information.  

Many thanks to the authors for this excellent contribution to the field and to Carolina Academic Press for launching this promising new series on international law legal research.  The book will be a useful one for individual researchers, international law moot court teams, international law review journal staff, and for law schools looking to offer courses in international legal research.  

Anthony S. Winer, Mary Ann E. Archer & Lyonette Louis-Jacques, International Law Legal Research (Carolina Academic Press 2013).  Paperback, 308 pages including bibliographical references and index.  ISBN 978-1-61163-068-8.  LCCN 2012038569.  $35.00.  Available from Carolina Academic Press   Click here for more information.

Anne Abramson is the Foreign and International Law Librarian at the Louis L. Biro Law Library of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  She can be reached at

November 19, 2013 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S.-China Legal Exchange -- Coming Soon to a City Near You?

In early December, the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of General Counsel will host the U.S.-China Legal Exchange, a forum that allows the U.S. business, legal, and academic communities in three U.S. cities to hear directly from MOFCOM, NPC, and State Council officials about important developments in China's commercial legal and regulatory landscape.

The topics for the full-day program are:

  • China's Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Laws; and
  • Legal Aspects of Entrepreneurship in China, including Private Equity and Venture Capital.

The Legal Exchange will be held in the following cities:

  • Washington, DC on December 4, 2013
  • Boston on December 6, 2013, and
  • Orange County, California on December 9, 2013.

Click here for additional information and to register for the U.S.-China Legal Exchange.


November 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Chinese Reforms Deserve Praise; More to be Done

The Chinese government has announced a number of important economic, social and legal reforms that should improve several human rights issues, including a relaxation of China's one-child policy and the abolition of prison labor camps.  With respect to the one-child policy, the Chinese government will allow a couple to have two children if either member of the couple is an only child, a common situation in China.  China has committed to abolish "re-education" through labor camps and will reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.  China will also give rural farmers more property rights, making it easier for rural famers to sell their land and resettle in cities, a much-needed recognition of the migrant worker problem.  In addition, the reforms aim to create a more independent judiciary that will enjoy greater separation from local government.  While China is certainly to be commended on these important steps, improvement in other important areas is still needed, such as access to the Internet and tolerance for political dissent.


November 16, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 15, 2013

First Human Rights Resolution on People with Albinism

Welcoming the adoption of the first-ever resolution on people with albinism by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations human rights office today urged all African States to take action to protect and ensure the rights these routinely mistreated people. The resolution is “very positive and much-needed step forward,” as it came “shortly after the UN Human Rights Council adopting a second resolution on people with albinism on 24 September 2013,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told journalists in Geneva today

While applauded the resolution, he said that OHCHR “remains deeply concerned about the overall situation of people with albinism,” stressing that the office continues to receive alarming reports on attacks and discrimination against them in several African countries. 

In its resolution, the African Commission urges State Parties to take all measures necessary to ensure the effective protection of persons with albinism, to eliminate all forms of discrimination against persons them, and to increase awareness through education and public activities. 

Concerning reports of systematic attacks against people with albinism, the text also calls on States to ensure accountability through impartial, speedy and effective investigations, prosecution of perpetrators and access to appropriate remedies for victims. 

Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council is conducting a study on the situation of persons living with albinism, which aims to report during the Council’s twenty-eighth session. 

Albinism is a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition occurring in both genders regardless of ethnicity, in all countries of the world. It results in a lack of pigmentation in the hair, skin and eyes, causing vulnerability to sun exposure and bright light. Almost all people with albinism are visually impaired; they may have a shortened life span by lung disease or may develop life-threatening skin cancers.

(UN Press Release)

November 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.N. Security Council Denies Request for Delay International Criminal Court Prosecution of Crimes During Election in Kenya

UN Security CouncilThe United Nations Security Council today rejected a proposal for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to delay trials of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.  The proposed resolution failed to pass when only seven of the Council’s 15 members voted in favor of the resolution on the postponement of the trials while eight others abstained.

Security Council resolutions need nine votes in favour and no vetoes by any of the five permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – to be approved.

Today’s text would have requested the ICC, which is based in The Hague, to delay for one year the trials of Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto, who are accused of crimes against humanity and other offences allegedly committed following general elections in late 2007. More than 1,100 people were killed, 3,500 injured and up to 600,000 forcibly displaced in the violence that followed those polls. 

Backers of the draft resolution reportedly sought the deferral so that Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto can deal with the aftermath of the terrorist attack in September at a mall in Nairobi that left over 60 people dead.

(UN Press Release)

November 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

United Nations Urges Investigation into Excessive Use of Force by Security Forces in Cambodia

Recent clashes in Cambodia, in which police were seen beating individuals with truncheons and shooting live ammunition and rubber bullets from close range, must be urgently investigated to ensure full accountability for the use of excessive force, the United Nations human rights office said today. Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), voiced serious concern about the violent clashes which took place in the Stung Meanchey district of the capital, Phnom Penh, on 12 November. 

The clashes started after striking garment workers were prevented from walking to the Prime Minister’s residence, where they were planning to stage a demonstration, Mr. Colville said. “One bystander was shot dead and many others seriously injured during the clashes that followed involving demonstrators, civilians who were not initially taking part in the protest, and armed municipal police and gendarmerie forces,” he stated.

“The police were seen beating individuals with truncheons, and shooting live ammunition and rubber bullets from close range.”  He added that while most of the 38 people arrested during the clashes have now been released, two minors – aged 14 and 17 – reportedly remain in custody. 

This latest incident follows previous clashes which took place in September near Phnom Penh’s Monivong Bridge, where police and gendarmerie forces fired into a crowd at a roadblock, resulting in one death and several injuries.  “We are following up with the concerned authorities and urging them to launch a prompt and thorough investigation into these clashes and to ensure full accountability for members of security forces found to have used disproportionate and excessive force,” said Mr. Colville. “We also urge them to ensure that the minors who have been arrested are treated in a manner appropriate to their age and in accordance with international human rights standards.” 

While urging protestors to ensure that the demonstrations remain peaceful, OHCHR also called on the authorities to ensure that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is fully respected.

(UN Press Release)

November 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

China, Cuba, Russia, and 11 others Elected to the UN Human Rights Council

The General Assembly today elected 14 countries to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) for a period of three years beginning on January 1, 2014.  The countries elected today are:

  • Algeria,
  • China,
  • Cuba,
  • France
  • Maldives,
  • Mexico,
  • Morocco,
  • Namibia,
  • Saudi Arabia,
  • South Africa,
  • the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,
  • Viet Nam,
  • Russia, and
  • the United Kingdom.

Members of the Council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.  The Council, composed of 47 members, is an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.  All of its members are elected by the world body’s General Assembly, and it has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office at Geneva. 

The Council’s membership is based on equitable geographical distribution and seats are distributed as follows:

  • 13 seats for African States,
  • 13 seats for Asian States,
  • 8 seats for Latin American and Caribbean States,
  • 7 seats for Western European and other States, and
  • 6 seats for Eastern European States.

The other members of the Council and the end of their terms are as follows:

  • Argentina (2015),
  • Austria (2014),
  • Benin (2014),
  • Botswana (2014),
  • Brazil (2015),
  • Burkina Faso (2014),
  • Chile (2014),
  • Congo (2014),
  • Costa Rica (2014),
  • Côte d’Ivoire (2015),
  • Czech Republic (2014),
  • Estonia (2015),
  • Ethiopia (2015),
  • Gabon (2015),
  • Germany (2015),
  • India (2014),
  • Indonesia (2014),
  • Ireland (2015),
  • Italy (2014), 
  • Japan (2015),
  • Kazakhstan (2015),
  • Kenya (2015), 
  • Kuwait (2014),
  • Montenegro (2015),
  • Pakistan (2015),
  • Peru (2014),
  • Philippines (2014),
  • Republic of Korea (2015),
  • Romania (2014),
  • Sierra Leone (2015),
  • United Arab Emirates (2015),
  • United States (2015), and
  • Venezuela (2015).

(mew) (adapted from a UN press release)

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

ICJ Rules that Cambodia Has Sovereignty Over Preah Vihear Temple

The United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) today ruled that Cambodia has sovereignty over the whole territory of the Preah Vihear temple, and that Thailand is obligated to withdraw its military personnel from the area. 

Following Cambodia’s independence, Thailand occupied the 900-year-old Hindu temple in 1954. The temple and its vicinity have long been a bone of contention between the neighbours and have in recent years led to deadly clashes between them.  In a June 1962 judgment, the ICJ found that the temple is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia, and that Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw any military or police forces, or other guards or keepers, stationed at the Temple or in its vicinity on Cambodian territory.

In April 2011, Cambodia requested the ICJ to interpret the 1962 Judgment, arguing that while Thailand recognizes Cambodia’s sovereignty over the temple itself, it does not appear to recognize the sovereignty of Cambodia over the vicinity of the temple.

In its decision today, the Court declared unanimously that the 1962 Judgement decided that Cambodia had sovereignty over the whole territory of the promontory of Preah Vihear, and that Thailand is obligated to withdraw its forces from that territory.  It also affirmed that the temple, which was inscribed in 2008 on the World Heritage List drawn up by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is a site of religious and cultural significance for the peoples of the region. In this respect, the Court recalled that Cambodia and Thailand – which are both parties to the World Heritage Convention – must cooperate in the protection of the site as a world heritage.  In addition, each State is under an obligation not to “take any deliberate measures which might damage directly or indirectly” such heritage.  

Click here to read a press release that summarizes the decision in more detail.

(adapted from a UN press release)

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