Saturday, February 27, 2016
The principle of “responsibility to protect,” a call for putting into action legal commitments to protect populations from atrocity crimes, has seen mixed results since its inception in 2005, the United Nations deputy chief said yesterday, urging the international community to make the protection of populations from such heinous acts “a living reality.”
Addressing a UN General Assembly panel discussion, titled “from commitment to implementation: ten years of the responsibility to protect,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson recalled that Member States back then identified the need to bridge the gap between legal commitments to protect populations from genocide and crimes against humanity and the continuing failures of protection on the ground.
As President of the General Assembly in 2005, Mr. Eliasson said he had witnessed the birth of the principle of responsibility to protect, or 'R2P, as it is often called, which was not designed to be a comfortable rhetorical restatement of common values, but a call to action. At the beginning of its second decade, the international community must unequivocally reaffirm the principle, he urged.
The last decade has seen mixed results, he noted. Developments in Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea and Kenya count as successes. But the global response to the Syrian crisis has been a catastrophic failure. And the situation in South Sudan is deeply troubling. Other crisis areas are still the subject of debate.
“Impunity is pervasive, and accountability is distant,” he said, noting that too many Member States are failing to live up to fundamental rules of international humanitarian and human rights law. And too many have yet to become Parties to the international conventions which set out the framework for preventing and punishing the crimes identified by the principle of the responsibility to protect.
On the positive note, the responsibility to protect has helped to generate a growing political understanding among Member States on how to prevent and respond to atrocity crimes.
Through successive General Assembly dialogues since 2009, Governments have agreed that prevention is at the core of the UN agenda. The responsibility to protect has also led to the development of new political commitment and new institutional capacities.
The Global R2P Focal Point Network, the Regional Committee at the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, the Latin American Network on Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, and the Global Action against Mass Atrocity Crimes all aim to prevent a downward spiral towards systematic violence. They help identify ways to assist States to better protect their populations.
Mr. Eliasson outlined three priorities going forward. First is prevention, he said, stressing the need to act early instead of waiting for disaster to occur. The Human Rights Up Front Initiative is an important step in this direction. Second, when crimes against humanity occur, the international community must respond faster and more decisively. Third, a stronger emphasis must be placed on peacebuilding – financially and politically, he said, noting how South Sudan's gains have been reversed.
This year, Special Advisers Adama Dieng and Jennifer Welsh are launching a research project to draw conclusions about the combination of tools likely to make the most difference in protecting populations at risk, Mr Eliasson said. The results of this research can guide the development and use of the different instruments at disposal.
“We must work collectively to make the protection from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity a living reality,” he concluded.
(adapted from a UN press release)
Friday, February 26, 2016
The Intellectual Property Law Conference taking place today at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago featured a luncheon speaker on the Intellectual Property issues of the Trans-Pacific Pacific Partnership. The speaker was Probir J. Mehta, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Intellectual Property and Innovation. [In the photo, left to right, are Professor Daryl Lim, Director of the John Marshall Center for Intellectual Property Law, Dean John Corkery of The John Marshall Law School, Mr. Mehta, and Professor Mark Wojcik of The John Marshall Law School). Mr. Mehta gave a broad overview of the intellectual property issues covered in the TPP, including matters affecting trademarks, copyright, patents, pharmaceuticals, data protection, and enforcement. As the protection of intellectual property rights is essential to global business and investment, these are each important issues.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries to establish "a comprehensive regional agreement that promotes economic integration to liberalise trade and investment, bring economic growth and social benefits, create new opportunities for workers and businesses, contribute to raising living standards, benefit consumers, reduce poverty and promote sustainable growth." It is also intended to make businesses more competitive in global markets, support the development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and promote "efficient and transparent customs procedures that reduce costs and ensure predictability for their importers and exporters." And a whole lot more.
The TPP was signed on February 4, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand after seven years of negotiation. Here are the 12 countries that signed the TPP. Each nation must now undergo its own process of ratification.
- New Zealand
- United States
- Viet Nam
These countries represent an astounding 40 percent of the world's GDP.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has a tremendous amount of information about TPP on its website, including the text of the TPP agreement. We urge readers of this blog to visit the USTR website for more information about the TPP. And we welcome your guest commentary posts here on the International Law Prof Blog, whether you support or oppose the agreement.
The 60th Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference opens today at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago to discuss hot topics in patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets law. The conference is sponsored by the Center for Intellectual Property, Information, and Privacy Law at The John Marshall Law School. (The Director, Professor Daryl Lim, is pictured at left.) It's a packed room with attendees from around the world, including countries as far away as China and Egypt.
The conference focuses on the many challenges to intellectual property rights in a global economy. In addition to updates on recent cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and other developments in patents, trademarks, copyright, and trade secrets, the conference includes significant international content, including a panel on protecting international property law in China and a keynote address from Probir Mehta, the Acting U.S. Trade Representative for Intellectual Property and Innovation, who negotiated the IP provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
If you are missing today's program, there are upcoming events of interest to readers of this blog include a presentation on March 23, 2016 at The John Marshall Law School by Kenneth Adamo on Recent Changes in Law and Practice before the United States International Trade Commission.
Congratulations to Professor Daryl Lim, the Center for Intellectual Property, Information, and Privacy Law, and the conference organizers.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
U.S. President Obama announced a new plan today to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay before he leaves office. However, his proposal cannot go forward unless Congress agrees to lift legal restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the continental United States.
At its peak, Guantanamo Bay housed nearly 800 detainees. That number has been reduced to 91. Some of those detainees may be eligible for transfer to third countries (35 of the 91 have been deemed eligible already); others are involved in pending military commission proceedings; and a third group may continue to be held indefinitely in other facilities.
Although the Obama Administration estimates that this plan could save money and enhance national security by eliminating a propaganda tool for terrorists, the likelihood of its success is in doubt. The Republican-controlled Congress has not indicated significant interest in allowing detainees to be transferred into the United States due to security concerns.
Monday, February 22, 2016
The U.S. House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations will hold a hearing on the World Intellectual Property Organization on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.
(US State Department Press Release)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement announced today by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) Ceasefire Taskforce, on the terms of a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria scheduled to come into effect on Saturday.
Noting the “lengthy and detailed discussions” that preceded the announcement, Mr. Ban, in a statement attributable to his spokesperson said he believes the agreement, if respected, would constitute a significant step forward in the implementation of Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), which gave the UN an enhanced role in shepherding the opposing sides to talks for a political transition, endorsing a timetable for a ceasefire, a new constitution and elections.
“It demonstrates the commitment of the ISSG to exert influence on the warring parties to bring about an immediate reduction in violence as a first step towards a more durable ceasefire,” Mr. Ban stressed, adding that the agreement “further contributes to creating an environment conducive for the resumption of political negotiations.”
“Above all, it is a long-awaited signal of hope to the Syrian people that after five years of conflict there may be an end to their suffering in sight,” Mr. Ban said.
Urging the parties to abide by the terms of the agreement, the Secretary-General said the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria stands ready to support implementation, both on the ground in Damascus and in Geneva. The UN will also count on the cooperation of ISSG members – the Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations, and 17 countries, including the US and Russia – as all stakeholders jointly set the implementation mechanism in motion.
“Much work now lies ahead to ensure its implementation, and the international community, the ISSG and the Syrian parties must remain steadfast in their resolve,” Mr. Ban emphasized.
Earlier, the UN chief condemned the multiple bombings yesterday in Damascus and Homs, Syria, which reportedly killed at least 155 people, mainly civilians, and injured several hundred more.
“Those responsible for these atrocious and deliberate attacks on civilians must be held accountable,” said Mr. Ban in a statement attributable to his spokesperson.
The Secretary-General extended his deepest condolences to the bereaved families affected by the bombings, which were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL/Da’esh, and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
Yesterday, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, strongly condemned the bombings as well.
In a statement attributable to his spokesperson, Mr. de Mistura, condemned “yet another set of car bomb and suicide explosions in Damascus and Homs cities.”
(UN Press Release; Photo of heavily damaged buildings in Homs, Syria. UNICEF/Juliette Touma)
U.S State Department Press Statement
Secretary of State
On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I congratulate the people of Saint Lucia on 37 years of independence.
Defined by its welcoming population, lively music, and beautiful beaches, St. Lucia is a major tourist attraction for travelers from around the world – and it is a key partner to the United States on a wide range of critical issues in the Caribbean and across the Western Hemisphere.
Together, our nations work to promote citizen security, good governance, respect for the rule of law, and human rights. Our countries support energy diversification through the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative. And our peoples are connected through programs implemented by the State Department, by the efforts of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and by the steady stream of Peace Corps volunteers who have served in St. Lucia since 1961.
On this special day, as the people of St. Lucia celebrate another year of independence, I offer my best wishes and express confidence that our friendship will grow and prosper for decades to come.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
In Resolution A/RES/62/10, the UN General Assembly has declared February 20 to be the World Day of Social Justice. It is a day when the United Nations and other organizations focus on issues of social justice such as poverty, exclusion and unemployment.
The first World Day of Social Justice was recognized in 2009.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, veteran Egyptian diplomat and the first United Nations Secretary-General from Africa, passed away today at the age of 93. He is being praised for guiding the Organization through the tumultuous early 1990s and for helping shape the UN's response to post-Cold War realities, drafting a seminal report on preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping.
Over four decades, Mr. Boutros-Ghali participated in numerous meetings dealing with international law, human rights, economic and social development, decolonization, the Middle East question, international humanitarian law, the rights of ethnic and other minorities, non-alignment, development in the Mediterranean region and Afro-Arab cooperation.
In September 1978, Mr. Boutros-Ghali attended the Camp David Summit Conference and had a role in negotiating the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel, which were signed in 1979.
(Excerpts from a UN press release)
The top United Nations human rights official announced this week that he has sought clarifications from the Chinese authorities about the recent arrests of lawyers, and intimidation of Government critics and workers of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), describing these incidents as “a very worrying pattern” that has serious implications for the activities of civil society in China. “Civil society actors, from lawyers and journalists to NGO workers, have the right to carry out their work, and it is the States’ duty to support and protect them,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.
He raised such cases with Chinese officials in Geneva, and acknowledged their efforts to clarify the matters at issue. However, their responses indicate that the authorities “too often reflexively confuse the legitimate role of lawyers and activists with threats to public order and security,” he said.
Police have detained about 250 human rights lawyers, legal assistants, and activists across the country since a nationwide crackdown began last July, although many were subsequently released. Last month, 15 additional human rights lawyers were formally arrested, 10 of them for the crime of ‘subversion of State power,’ which carries a sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Among those facing that particular charge are leading human rights lawyers Li Heping and Wang Yu.
Lawyers should never have to suffer prosecution or any other kind of sanctions or intimidation for discharging their professional duties as they play an essential role in protecting human rights and the rule of law, Mr. Zeid said, urging China to release all immediately and without conditions.
At the same time, he welcomed news of the release of two labour activists detained in Guangdong in December 2015, but noted some of their colleagues remain in detention.
Disappearances of Booksellers
Mr Zeid said he was also concerned by recent cases of disappearances of booksellers from Hong Kong. Five people from Causeway Bay Books – a shop that publishes books critical of the Chinese Government – have gone missing since last October, including Lee Bo, a British national, who, according to the Hong Kong police, told his wife that he was assisting with an investigation. Gui Minhai, a Swedish national, reappeared last month when he was presented on China state television. Gui, who went missing while in Thailand last October, “confessed” to a crime in the city of Ningbo in 2003.
Chinese authorities confirmed this month that the three other booksellers were also being held and investigated for “illegal activities” in China.
The human rights chief urged China to ensure a fair and transparent procedure for these cases.
He also expressed concern about the case of Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen and co-founder of the legal-aid NGO “Chinese Urgent Action Working Group.” He was detained in early January and was the first foreigner to be held on charges of “endangering state security.”
Method of ‘Confession’
Dahlin, who was expelled from China in January, was also presented on state television, where he “confessed” to having breached Chinese law, Mr. Zeid said, stressing that he finds this method of “confession”, extracted during incommunicado detention and publicized on national television, very worrying as it clearly violates the right to fair trial.
As part of a series of new laws governing national security in China, the Government is currently drafting new legislation which, if adopted, may have far-reaching implications for NGOs.
More and more Governments worldwide are using national security measures to restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and as a tool to target human rights defenders and silence critics, Mr. Zeid noted, emphasizing that security and human rights do not contradict each other, but rather complement and reinforce each other.
At the same time, the human rights chief welcomed the recent enactment of a nation-wide law on domestic violence as an important step in strengthening legal protections for women in accordance with China’s international commitments.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
The Secretary-General of the United Nations condemned the explosion in the Turkish capital, Ankara, today, which reportedly killed more than two-dozen people. “The explosion, which occurred at rush hour in the heart of the city, claimed the lives of at least 28 people and injured dozens more,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson. “The Secretary-General hopes the perpetrators of this terrorist attack will be swiftly brought to justice,” said the statement, adding that Mr. Ban sends his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, and that the United Nations stands in solidarity with the people and the Government of Turkey at this tragic time.
(adapted from a UN press release)
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
The first round of acceptance letters is now going out for proposals to present at the upcoming Global Legal Skills Conference, May 24-26, 2016 at the University of Verona Department of Law. The conference is followed by a day trip to Padua.
Professors from at least 15 countries submitted proposals for the conference, which is co-sponsored by The John Marshall Law School of Chicago where it was first held. This year marks the 11th time that the conference has been held. Previous conferences have also been held in Mexico, Costa Rica, Italy, and Washington, D.C.
Although the first round of proposals has already closed, proposals are still being accepted on a space-available basis until March 31, 2016.
Nominations are also still open for the GLS Awards to be presented in Verona.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
"L" is the nickname for the Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State. Several years ago, the American Bar Association Section of International Law started a program called "Live from L" in which the Legal Adviser would discuss current international law issues. The program will next be held on Thursday, February 18, 2016, at the George Washington University School of Law. It will be co-sponsored by the American Society of International Law. You can attend the program in person or listen in online. The focus will be on the Iran Nuclear Deal, but of course events may bring additional topics for discussion or to be raised in the question and answer segment. The program will also be webcast, making it widely available to all of you.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Deems Detention of Julian Assange by the United Kingdom and Sweden to be Arbitrary
On 4 December 2015, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) adopted Opinion No. 54/2015, in which it considered that Mr. Julian Assange was arbitrarily detained by the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In that opinion, the Working Group recognized that Mr. Assange is entitled to his freedom of movement and to compensation.
The application was filed with the Working Group in September 2014. The Opinion 54/2015 was sent to the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on 22 January 2016 in accordance with the Working Group’s Methods of Work. Given that Mr. Assange is an Australian citizen, one of the members of the Working Group who shares his nationality recused herself from participating in the deliberations.
Another member of the Working Group disagreed with the position of the majority and considered that the situation of Mr. Assange is not one of detention and therefore falls outside the mandate of the Working Group.
In mid-2010, a Swedish Prosecutor commenced an investigation against Mr. Assange based on allegations of sexual misconduct. On 7 December 2010, pursuant to an international arrest warrant issued at the request of the Swedish Prosecutor, Mr. Assange was detained in Wandsworth Prison for 10 days in isolation. Thereafter, he was subjected to house arrest for 550 days. While under house arrest in the United Kingdom, Mr. Assange requested the Republic of Ecuador to grant him refugee status at its Embassy in London. The Republic of Ecuador granted asylum because of Mr. Assange’s fear that if he was extradited to Sweden, he would be further extradited to the United States where he would face serious criminal charges for the peaceful exercise of his freedoms.
Since August 2012, Mr. Assange has not been able to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy and is subject to extensive surveillance by the British police. The Working Group considered that Mr. Assange has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth prison which was followed by house arrest and his confinement at the Ecuadorian Embassy. Having concluded that there was a continuous deprivation of liberty, the Working Group also found that the detention was arbitrary because he was held in isolation during the first stage of detention and because of the lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor in its investigations, which resulted in the lengthy detention of Mr. Assange.
The Working Group found that this detention is in violation of Articles 9 and 10 of the UDHR and Articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the ICCPR, and falls within category III as defined in its Methods of Work. The Working Group therefore requested Sweden and the United Kingdom to assess the situation of Mr. Assange to ensure his safety and physical integrity, to facilitate the exercise of his right to freedom of movement in an expedient manner, and to ensure the full enjoyment of his rights guaranteed by the international norms on detention.
The Working Group also considered that the detention should be brought to an end and that Mr. Assange should be afforded the right to compensation.
The Working Group’s Opinion on Julian Assange’s case (No. 54/2015) is available at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/A.HRC.WGAD.2015.docx
Saturday, February 6, 2016
"The Sustainable Development Goals contain a specific target calling for an end to FGM. When this practice is fully abandoned, positive effects will reverberate across societies as girls and women reclaim their health, human rights and vast potential." Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General.
Pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/67/146, February 6 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM consists of all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. Despite this fact, it is estimated that 200 million women and girls have undergone some form of FGM.
According to a UN website, FGM "reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death." Most girls undergo the procedure before the age of 15.
For these reasons, the UN has included the elimination of FGM among its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Accordingly, the 2016 theme for this day is "Achieving the new Global Goals through the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation by 2030."
More information on this topic may be found here.
Thursday, February 4, 2016
Twelve nations with a collective population of 800 million persons signed a new trade deal today known as the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP. The twelve nations include the United States, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru. They account for 40% of world trade.
The TPP aims to broaden and deepen economic ties between these nations. The agreement will result in a reduction in 18,000 tariffs. Some tariffs will be eliminated immediately; others will be reduced or eliminated over time. The text of the agreement is available here.
The TPP will now require ratification by the various signatories before it will become effective, which is likely to take some time.
Monday, February 1, 2016
The U.S. Department of State will hold a public meeting of the Advisory Committee on Private International Law to discuss international parentage and surrogacy. The meeting will take place on February 9, 2016 from 1 pm until 4 pm, Room 9.04, State Department Annex 17, 600 19th Street NW, Washington, DC. FR3229
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.