Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sochi -- The Music Video Parody

A group called Potpourri of Pearls has created a music video to comment on Russia's anti-gay laws.  There is no plot to this video, and some of its images are, well, rather rude.   Its aim is to draw attention to Russia's anti-gay law by turning the word "Sochi" into neologism for gay sex.  Here's the video (below) and here's a link to more background about the video and how it was made.   



January 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kuwait Gets Another Billion Dollars from Iraq's Invasion in 1990 -- Payments Now Total $44.5 Billion

The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), which settles the damage claims of those who suffered losses due to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, today made $1.03 billion available to the Government of Kuwait.  The latest round of payments brings the total amount of compensation disbursed by the Commission to $44.5 billion for more than 1.5 million successful claims of individuals, corporations, Governments and international organizations, leaving some $7.8 billion remaining to be paid to the only outstanding claim.  

The claim by the Kuwaiti Government was submitted on behalf of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and awarded $14.7 billion in 2000 for oil production and sales losses as a result of damages to Kuwait’s oil field assets. It represents the largest award by the Commission. 

The Geneva-based UNCC’s Governing Council has identified six categories of claims: four are for individuals’ claims, one for corporations and one for governments and international organizations, which also includes claims for environmental damage.  Successful claims are paid monies drawn from the UN Compensation Fund, which is financed by a percentage of the proceeds generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and related products. 

The Commission was established in 1991 as a subsidiary organ of the UN Security Council. It has received nearly three million claims, including from nearly 100 governments for themselves, their nationals or their corporations. 

(UN press release)

January 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Join the Historic Joint Meeting Between ASIL and ILA in Washington, DC

For the first time in its history, the American Society of International Law (ASIL) is partnering with the American Branch of the International Law Association (ILA) to combine each organization's major conference into an extraordinary joint event.  This unprecedented ASIL Annual Meeting and ILA Biennial Conference will take place April 7-12, 2014, in Washington, DC, and will represent a unique and historic gathering of the international law community. 

2014 JOINT CONFERENCE PROGRAM THEME:The Effectiveness of International Law

"International law today touches on nearly every aspect of our lives, from the price of practically everything we purchase, to the health of the environment that surrounds us, to our ability to communicate seamlessly worldwide.  These encounters serve as daily reminders that, as Louis Henkin famously put it, "almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time."

Yet at the same time, there are regular reminders that not all nations, groups, or individuals observe all principles of international law or all of their obligations all of the time. International law violations such as human rights abuses, trade law breaches, and law of armed conflict violations remain all too common.

When, how, and why is international law most effective?  Are there greater challenges to effectiveness in some areas of international law practice than in others?  If so, what are they, and how can they be addressed?  What role do domestic and international courts play in enforcing international law and thus enhancing its effectiveness?  Does the increasingly intertwined transnational economy offer tools that may be used to enforce international law against states and individuals, or does it instead make international law more vulnerable by making evasion of national authority simpler? Do the challenges facing international law vary in different parts of the world, and, if so, how might those challenges be met?  What role do non-state actors—non-governmental organizations and corporations chief among them—play in making international law more or less effective?  And what role should they play?

The 2014 joint ASIL Annual Meeting and ILA Biennial Conference will address these questions."

More information and registration may be found on the ASIL website.


January 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Russian Teenager Has More Courage than the International Olympic Committee

Pavel Lebedev, a Russian teenager attending the Olympic torch relay in his hometown of Voronezh, was detained by police -- and Olympic officials -- after holding up a small rainbow flag to protest Russian's new anti-gay laws.  Activists now hail him as having more courage than the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  Here's the video of the incident.


Click here for more information about this story.

January 22, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Meanwhile, in Russia . . .

Vigilante groups are attacking gay men.  See this report from CNN, which reports about increased violence against gay men following a Russian anti-gay law.


January 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dozens Being Arrested, Tortured in Nigeria

Nigeria enacted legislation that makes any expression of support for same-sex relationships a crime punishable by many years in prison.  Horrific stories are emerging from Nigeria about the witchhunt for gay persons.  Many are being rounded up and reportedly tortured to divulge the names of other gay persons.  Not since the Nazis has the world seen such an event where gays are rounded up.  The legislation violates international human rights law as well as protections under the Nigerian Constitution.

Click here for a link to one (of many) reports about the latest, sad developments in Nigeria.


January 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nigeria's "Jail the Gays" Law

The United Nations human rights chief has voiced her alarm at a “draconian” new law in Nigeria that further criminalizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, organizations and activities, as well as people who support them.  “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. “Rights to privacy and non-discrimination, rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, rights to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention:  this law undermines all of them.”
Nigeria’s Senate approved a revised version of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill in December, and President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Act into law earlier this month, according to a news release issued by the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR).

The Act includes a provision for a 14-year prison term for anyone who enters into a same sex union, and a 10-year prison term for anyone who ‘administers, witnesses, abets or aids’ a same sex marriage or civil union ceremony. 

The law states that ‘a person or group of persons who . . . supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.’ 

“Even before this Act was signed into law, consensual same sex relationships were already criminalized in Nigeria – violating rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination, both of which are protected by the Nigerian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nigeria has ratified,” Ms. Pillay stated. 

“This draconian new law makes an already bad situation much worse,” she said. “It purports to ban same-sex marriage ceremonies but in reality does much more.  

“It turns anyone who takes part in, witnesses or helps organize a same sex marriage into a criminal. It punishes people for displaying any affection in public towards someone of the same sex. And in banning gay organizations it puts at risk the vital work of human rights defenders who speak up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.” 

The High Commissioner warned that the law also risks reinforcing existing prejudices towards members of the LGBT community, and may provoke an upsurge in violence and discrimination. She expressed hope that the Supreme Court of Nigeria would review the constitutionality of the new law as soon as possible.  

Voicing similar concerns was the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, both of which feared that the new law could prevent access to essential HIV services for LGBT people who may be at high risk of infection.

According to UNAIDS, Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic globally – in 2012, there were an estimated 3.4 million people living with HIV in Nigeria. In 2010, national HIV prevalence in the country was estimated at 4 per cent among the general population and 17 per cent among men who have sex with men.

“The provisions of the new law in Nigeria could lead to increased homophobia, discrimination, denial of HIV services and violence based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity,” noted UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “It could also be used against organizations working to provide HIV prevention and treatment services to LGBT people.”

UNAIDS and the Global Fund urged Nigeria to put comprehensive measures in place to protect the ongoing delivery of HIV services to LGBT people in Nigeria without fear of arrest or other reprisals.

(Adapted from a UN press release)(mew)

January 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Including Women in Mediation and Negotiations

Senator Barbara Boxer (Democrat of California) has introduced S1942 to ensure that the United States promotes women’s meaningful inclusion and participation in mediation and negotiation processes undertaken to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict and implement the United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.  The legislation was referred to the Foreign Relations Committee. Congressional Record S439 (Jan. 16, 2014).

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office


January 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cambodia Urged to Negotiate Political Reconciliation

A United Nations independent human rights expert today urged Government and opposition parties in Cambodia to immediately negotiate an end to the ongoing impasse, saying political reconciliation is the “only way forward” for the country. Wrapping up week-long visit to Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country, stressed that the ongoing political and social tensions have a direct impact on the enjoyment of human rights by all Cambodians. 

In a statement issued by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), he said that “flexibility on both sides to reach a political compromise is needed.”  The country, he noted, “has to begin its reform agenda, including judicial, electoral and parliamentary reforms” as outlined in his previous reports. The UN expert said his meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen was “frank, cordial and informative”. He praised the political leader for sending “an important signal to the international community that he is ready and willing to seriously address the human rights issues in the country by extending full cooperation during this visit and engaging in meaningful dialogue.”  He noted, however, that there has been a “worrying change from a tolerant to a repressive response of the Government to public protests.”

Earlier this month, military police opened fire on striking garment workers in Phnom Penh, reportedly killing at least four people. According to OHCHR, the strikes by garment workers pressing for higher wages added fuel to the political demonstrations organized since July by the opposition party to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister and a re-run of the election.
Mr. Subedi reiterated today his call on the Government to ensure a “thorough, credible and independent investigation” into the shootings, including who issued them and who carried them out.

The Special Rapporteur, who condemned the violence exercised by some demonstrations, also reiterated that any use of force by the Government must meet the tests of “necessity, legality and proportionality.”  He also urged the Government to overturn the current ban on demonstrations in force since 4 January, stressing that the legal basis and justification for such a ban was lacking.  Among other issues raised during his visit, and in meetings with officials, human rights experts, citizens and others, Mr. Subedi emphasized that the Government must work to ensure that the national minimum wage is set at a sufficient level to provide workers and their families with a decent standard of living, to be reviewed periodically, based on data, analysis and participation, not repression. 

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. Mr. Subedi will present his next report to the Council at its September 2014 session.

(UN Press Release)

January 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Executions in Syria May Be War Crimes

The United Nations human rights chief today warned armed opposition groups in Syria that executions and unlawful killings violate international law and may amount to war crimes, as reports continue to emerge of mass executions in the northern part of the strife-torn nation. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a news release that it has received reports in the past two weeks of a succession of mass executions of civilians and fighters who were no longer participating in hostilities in Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqa by hardline armed opposition groups in Syria, in particular by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  “While exact numbers are difficult to verify, reliable eyewitness testimony that we have gathered suggests that many civilians and fighters in the custody of extremist armed opposition groups have been executed since the beginning of this year,” said High Commissioner Navi Pillay.

Reports suggest that in the first week of January, numerous individuals were executed in Idlib by armed opposition groups. On 6 January, in Aleppo, three individuals who had reportedly been held by ISIS at its base in Makhfar al-Saleheen were found dead, handcuffed, with bullet wounds in their heads. 

On 8 January, in Aleppo, numerous bodies, again mostly handcuffed and blindfolded, were found in a Children’s Hospital which had been used as a base by ISIS until it was forced to withdraw after a raid by other armed opposition groups. An eyewitness interviewed by OHCHR identified at least four local media activists among the dead, as well as captured fighters affiliated with various armed opposition groups. 

“Information from Raqqa has been more difficult to verify, but there are deeply disturbing reports emerging of mass executions by ISIS when the group withdrew from Raqqa at the beginning of this month, and when it regained control earlier this week,” Ms. Pillay said. 

The High Commissioner reminded all parties to the conflict that international law prohibits violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture at any time and under all circumstances. “The execution of civilians and individuals no longer participating in hostilities is a clear violation of international human rights and international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes,” she stated.

“These reports are particularly alarming, given the large numbers of people, including civilians, that armed opposition groups in Syria are believed to be holding in custody. The taking of hostages is prohibited under international humanitarian law and may also constitute a war crime.” 

The High Commissioner reiterated her call on all parties to the conflict to treat individuals held in their custody with humanity and to immediately release all those who are deprived of their liberty in violation of international law. 

“I further urge all parties to the conflict to strictly respect their obligations under international law and remind them that everyone involved in serious crimes must be held accountable.”

The conflict in Syria, which will soon enter its fourth year, has led to more than 100,000 deaths and left over 9 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. It has also been marked by grave human rights violations committed by both pro- and anti-Government forces, including enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detentions.

(UN Press Release)

January 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Be a Jessup Judge!

The International Law Students Association (ILSA) invites you to register to be a judge for the 2014 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.  Visit the ILSA homepage  and click on "2014 Jessup Judge Registration" for registration information.  Judges are needed now to grade written memorials and over the next months to judge oral rounds in regional, national, and international competitions.  The ILSA website also has a link for donations, should you be in a position to contribute a few bucks to support this worthy organization.  If you're a past Jessup participant (in any capacity), please consider donating your time to judge and a few bucks to help keep the organization going.

The ILSA website also has a great deal of additional information for international law organizations at law schools around the world.

Mark E. Wojcik (mew), Board Member, International Law Students Association

January 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nigeria's President Signs the "Jail the Gays" Law

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today spoke out about a new anti-homosexuality law in Nigeria, saying he feared it may fuel prejudice and violence, as he voiced the strong hope that the constitutionality of the legislation can be reviewed.  The Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, signed into law earlier this month, introduces a wide range of offences, including 14-year jail terms for same-sex couples who live together or attempt to solemnize their union with a ceremony. 

The law has already drawn strong opposition from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for violating a wide range of human rights and for jeopardizing effective responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“The Secretary-General fears that the law may fuel prejudice and violence, and notes with alarm reports that police in northern Nigeria have arrested individuals believed by the authorities to be homosexuals, and may even have tortured them,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.   “The Secretary-General reiterates that everyone is entitled to enjoy the same basic rights and live a life of worth and dignity without discrimination,” the spokesperson stated, adding that Mr. Ban strongly hopes that the constitutionality of the law can be reviewed.   “The United Nations stands ready to assist Nigeria in any way to bring about constructive dialogue and change on this matter.”

Mr. Ban has repeatedly appealed for the complete and universal decriminalization of homosexuality, still a criminal offence in some 76 countries, and called on countries to ensure the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from violence and discrimination.

(UN press release) (mew)

January 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

News from the AALS Section on International Law

Following a very successful program last weekend on international law-making at the United Nations, the International Law Section of the American Association of Law Schools elected its new officers and Executive Board.  The officers include:

Cindy G. Buys, Southern Illinois University (Chair) (pictured below right)

Matthew Charity, Western New England (Chair-Elect)

Shalanda Baker, University of San Francisco (Secretary)

Anastasia Telesetsky, Idaho (Treasurer)

Stephanie and Cindy

The Executive Committee includes the following individuals:

Rebecca Bratspies, City University of New York

Stacy-Ann Elvy, New York Law School

Stephanie Farrior, Vermont (Ex-Chair) (pictured on left)

Bob Lutz, Southwestern

Tom McDonnell, Pace

Milena Sterio, Cleveland State

Andy Strauss, Widener

Mark Wojcik, John Marshall

Congratulations to everyone involved in the section on a fantastic program in 2014 and best wishes for a great year ahead!



January 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 13, 2014

International Law-Making at the United Nations

The International Law Section, under the leadership of Professor Stephanie Farrior (Vermont) put on a very informative program at the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) last weekend.  Despite the winter weather, all four invited panelists made their presentations on international law-making at the United Nations (UN).

Mahnoush Arsanjani of the UN's Office of Legal Affairs led off the panel with an overview of UN law-making.  She addressed the somewhat ambiguous legal status of drafts by the International Law Commission and how other expert groups and international tribunals are helping to fill gaps in international law. She also discussed the evolution of UN Security Council Resolutions which originally targeted single states, but which have progressed to addressing issue areas such as terrorism and which tend to have a more legislative aspect to them today.  Finally, she talked about the fact that while the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is not expressly given power to make law in the UN Charter, it's decisions have contributed to the progressive development of international law.  Panel

Pablo Castillo-Diaz from UN Women picked up on the idea that the UNSC is addressing issue areas and pointed out  that the UNSC has adopted more resolutions addressing women's issues (7) than it has in any other issue area.  The best known is UNSC Res. 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  He raised questions regarding whether the resolutions have been useful and whether a certain level of fatigue had set in.  He suggested that while the resolutions have helped to bring attention to women's issues, there has been a lack of funding and enforcement at times. He concluded that the resolutions have changed the normative landscape and practices at the UN and have resulted in some tangible actions, such as rape prosecutions, increased funding for peacebuilding efforts and more women serving on important commissions at the UN. However, he also pointed out areas where much more work needs to be done.

Kimberly Prost, UN Ombudsperson for the Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee was the third speaker and spoke of the three "T's" where law-making is happening at the UN: Tribunals, Terrorism and Targeted Sanctions.  She pointed to the creation of international criminal tribunals as one example. Some of the tribunals were created by UNSC resolutions that were legislative in character and the resulting judgments of those tribunals have contributed to the development of international criminal law.  She called UNSC Res. 1373 following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 a "remarkable precedent" because the UNSC legislated national law as well as international law by mandating that every Member States create an offense for terrorist financing.  Finally, she described the evolution of targeted sanctions by the UN, which she described as a good concept, but one that initially lacked checks and balances.  Her Ombudsperson office was created to address that deficiency.  She ultimately concluded that much law making at the UN is created during crises and driven by necessity rather than being methodical and well thought out.

Kristen Boon, a law professor from Seton Hall who won a call for papers, was the final speaker on the panel.  She has examined UNSC law-making especially as it relates to the use of sanctions to bolster peace agreements and create new norms.  She also described the evolution of UNSC resolutions, which have become more detailed over time.  She stated that some of the new norms from these resolutions have been adopted into national constitutions as part of the nation-building process (using Liberia as an example).  She suggested that students of international law should understand that UNSC resolutions are unlike statutes in at least three ways - they are often not drafted by lawyers, there is often little legislative history and the final language is often vague as a result of compromises in the negotiation process, which allows states to interpret the language differently.

We were glad to see a good audience turnout for the event despite the weather and the early hour.  We hope to see all of you and more at the International Law program at next year's annual AALS meeting in Washington, DC.


January 13, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Protecting the Rights of Indigenous People Facing Eviction in Kenya

An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged the Kenyan Government to protect the rights of the Sengwer indigenous people who have lived in the Embobut Forest for centuries and are now facing eviction.  “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly relocated from their lands or territories,” said the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya. “No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement of fair and just compensation and, where possible, the option of return,” he added in a news release.

The Sengwer people, also known as the Cherangany indigenous people, have lived, hunted and gathered in the Embobut Forest area in Kenya’s Rift Valley for hundreds of years. Today, many of them still live in or near the Forest and continue to engage in cultural and subsistence practices in the area. According to reports, police forces have been amassing in the area in preparation for evictions ordered by the Government in pursuit of its forest and water conservation objectives. Since the 1970s, Kenyan authorities have made repeated efforts to forcibly evict the Sengwer from the forest for resettlement in other areas. 

“Any removal of Sengwer people from their traditional lands should not take place without adequate consultations and agreement with them, under just terms that are fully protective of their rights,” Mr. Anaya stressed.  He urged the Government to ensure that the human rights of the Sengwer indigenous people are fully respected, in strict compliance with international standards, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

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.

(UN press release)

January 13, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Professor Jordan Paust Says U.S. No Longer Has Any Excuse for Not Joining the International Criminal Court

More than fourteen years after its creation and twelve years after it began to function, the International Criminal Court (ICC) still does not have direct support from the United States as a party to the Rome Statute that created the court.  Professor Jordan Paust of the University of Houston Law Center notes in a new article that excuses for not ratifying the Rome Statute of the ICC are no longer valid given these developments:

  • the articulation of core crimes prosecutable before the ICC in Articles 6-8 of the Rome Statute and creation of the Elements of Crimes,
  • the ten-year record of ICC practice,
  • the creation of the Kampala definition of aggression that requires a manifest violation of the U.N. Charter, and
  • creation of an opt out provision with respect to the crime of aggression that the U.S. can take advantage of.

With these developments, prior excuses for not joining the court are no longer valid.  Professor Paust also notes that because there are now 121 parties to the Rome Statute, and because Article 12(2)(a) assures that there is no immunity of U.S. nationals from ICC jurisdiction over crimes covered in Articles 6-8 that occur at least partly in the territory of one or more of those 121 countries, a desire to protect U.S. nationals from ICC prosecution is not a valid reason for not becoming a party to the treaty.  There are no longer any meaningful excuses for the United States not to be a party to the Rome Statute.

His paper appears in 12 Washington University Global Studies Law Review 563 (2013) and you can download a copy here from SSRN.


January 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Russia Files First Trade Dispute at WTO

On Monday, Russia requested consulations with the European Union (EU) at the World Trade Organization, the first step in the dispute resolution process.  Russia alleges that several EU administrative procedures, methodologies or practices for the calculation of the dumping margin in anti-dumping investigations and  reviews do not conform to WTO rules.  Russia's request for consultations includes several products including ammonium nitrate, certain welded tubes and pipes of iron or non-alloy steel,  and certain seamless steel pipes of iron or steel.  If the consultations do not resolve the dispute within 60 days, Russia may request the establishment of a dispute resolution panel. The matter has been assigned case number WT/DS474/1.

This is the first dispute originated by Russia at the Dispute Settlement Mechanism of the WTO since it  became a full member on 22 August 2012. Russia is already a respondent on two  disputes: DS462, initiated by the European Union, and DS463, initiated by  Japan, both on recycling fees for motor vehicles.


January 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Special Court for Sierra Leone Closes and is Replaced by the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone

On the last day of 2013, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the staff of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) on their important achievements over the past 11 years in ensuring accountability for crimes committed during the country’s decade-long civil war.  The court closed down its operations on December 31, 2013.

The SCSL, an independent tribunal set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN, was mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the country since 1996. Based in the capital city of Freetown, the Special Court carried out numerous trials since its establishment in 2002, including those of various leaders in the country as well as of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. The trials saw first-ever convictions for attacks against UN peacekeepers, forced marriage as a crime against humanity, and for the use of child soldiers.

“The United Nations is proud of its partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone in establishing the Special Court, which ensured accountability for the unspeakable crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s over a decade-long civil war, and thereby greatly contributed towards establishing peace and stability and in laying the ground for Sierra Leone’s long-term development,” said a statement issued by the spokesperson for the Secretary-General.  “Of the impressive legacy and the many lessons that the work of the Special Court leaves behind as we move forward in truly establishing an age of accountability, one lesson stands out above all: justice is an indispensable element for peace to be sustainable in post-conflict societies,” it added. 

The SCSL will be succeeded on 1 January 2014 by the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, which will deal with matters arising from the ongoing legal obligations of the tribunal which could include the review of applications by convicts for early release or the judicial review of their convictions. Judges may also be called on to preside over any contempt of court proceedings.

At a formal ceremony held in Freetown earlier this month, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and UN Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares hailed the closing of the SCSL as “a landmark, not only for the Special Court, but also for international criminal justice in general.”  He said that the Special Court’s legacy would benefit both national courts in the region and around the world in dealing with vital issues, and paid tribute to the witnesses who stepped forward and allowed the Court “to inscribe their experiences in the history of this country.”  

(adapted from a UN press release)

January 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Evidence of Human Rights Abuses in South Sudan

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has voiced grave concern over mounting evidence of gross human rights abuses in the strife-torn country, including extra-judicial killings of civilians and captured soldiers, massive displacements and arbitrary detentions, often on ethnic grounds.  “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the atrocities committed against innocent civilians of different communities by elements from both sides during the crisis,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and head of UNMISS, Hilde Johnson, said. “There is no excuse for these terrible acts of violence. All perpetrators must be held accountable.”

UNMISS cited the discovery of large numbers of bodies in Juba, the capital, and the Upper Nile and Jonglei state capitals of Malakal and Bor. The conflict erupted in the world’s youngest country, which only gained independence in 2011 after seceding from Sudan, when President Salva Kiir said soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, dismissed in July, launched an attempted coup.  Mr. Kiir belongs to the Dinka ethnic group and Mr. Machar to the Lou Nuer, and UNMISS said it sees evidence of the apparent targeting of South Sudanese citizens on ethnic grounds. “This can lead to a perpetual cycle of violence that can destroy the fabric of the new nation,” it warned in a statement.

The Mission has several times previously called for an end to the serious human rights violations. “Available evidence indicates that atrocities are continuing to occur in various parts of South Sudan,” it said.   “Many of these violations appear to be ethnically targeted. Most of the more brutal atrocities are reported to have been carried out by people wearing uniformUNMISS has been collecting information every day since the crisis began and pledged to continue “this priority task of investigating all reports of serious human rights violations and collecting evidence and eyewitness testimony in order to document such allegations.”It reminded all parties of their obligation to protect civilians and act in accordance with human rights and humanitarian law, and called on key leaders to send strong public messages to their respective constituencies insisting that the violence must stop, and that anyone disobeying these orders will be punished severely.  

Ms. Johnson welcomed last week's decision of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council to establish a commission to investigate human rights violations and other abuses and recommend ways and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all communities“The UN stands together with all the people of South Sudan and demands that all parties halt the violence with immediate effect,” UNMISS stated, calling on all sides to open talks for a peaceful resolution of their differences.  “The leaders of all sides have a historic responsibility to the future and people of this young country.”

(Adapted from a UN press release)

January 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nepal Supreme Court Rules Against Amnesty for Human Rights Violations

The Supreme Court of Nepal has ruled against granting amnesty for serious human rights violations committed during a decade-long civil war.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay welcomed the decision and called upon the Nepalese government to implement the decision "in the spirit of working towards genuine and lasting peace, and to respect the demand of the Nepalese people for justice." 

The 2006 peace accord that ended the conflict in Nepal had agreed to establish a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate human rights violations that occurred from 1996 to 2006, during which at least 13,000 people were killed and 1,300 went missing.  In March 2013, the Nepalese Government passed an Ordinance to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and sought to provide it with the power to grant amnesties for serious human rights violations. 

The Nepal Supreme Court ruled last week that the provisions of the Ordinance concerning amnesties, limitations on criminal prosecution and a 35-day limit for filing cases contravene fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Nepal, its justice system and international law. It also ordered the Commission to meet international standards, including with regard to guarantees of autonomy and impartiality, and ensure the involvement and protection of victims and witnesses.

"The Supreme Court's decision to block amnesties is the first step towards ensuring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will not be used to avoid or delay criminal investigations and prosecutions of conflict-related cases," said the High Commissioner in the statement.

Ms. Pillay also stressed that further work is needed to reinforce criminal justice in Nepal as many serious human rights violations, including torture, sexual violence and enforced disappearances are still not properly sanctioned by domestic law.  The senior official said that her office (OHCHR) stands ready to provide support and advice to the Government throughout this process.

(adapted from a UN press release) (mew)

January 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)