Tuesday, August 23, 2016
This past week, Costa Rica became the first country to ratify the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, which was approved by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in June 2013.
According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance "reaffirms the States’ commitment to the elimination of racial discrimination and the effective realization of the principle of equality in the region. This instrument reinforces international standards established in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and takes a step forward in the legal definition of contemporary forms of racism. In addition, the text recognizes as discriminatory actions that take place in both the public and private sphere, and specifies that common discriminatory practices should be prohibited, such as the restriction of access to public places and the limitation of access to or sustainable use of natural resources, ecosystems, and ecological services."
“The racial disparities that persist in the region are not anywhere near the threshold of equality. Discrimination and discriminatory practices often degenerate into patterns in which human rights are violated, especially the rights to equality and dignity. The Convention represents an opportunity to combat the manifestations of discrimination and promote egalitarian societies,” said Margarette Macaulay, the IACHR Rapporteur for the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination, during the ratification ceremony.
Eleven states have signed the Inter-American Convention Against Racism. The Inter-American Commission urges the other States in the region to take the necessary measures to ratify the Convention, to demonstrate their commitment to combat racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance and to ensure its the Convention's entry into force in the near future. Only two ratifications are necessary for the Convention to take effect.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
A question for our blog readers: Do any of you know if any U.S. law schools offer a joint degree program with a law school in Europe that would allow graduates to have a Juris Doctor as well as the foreign equivalent, making them potentially eligible to practice in the United States (after taking the bar exam), the other country, and the whole of the EU? Please let us know in the comment section!
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Concerned over increased criminalization of expression, a United Nations human rights expert this week expressed serious concern about the upcoming trial of a 17-year old Singaporean for Facebook posts and blog comments that wounded the religious feelings of Muslims and Christians.
The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, warned in a press release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), that: “First, the trial concerns an expression that is lawful under international human rights law, and second, the person being tried is considered a child under international human rights law.”
The blogger’s trial is scheduled for 17 August. If convicted, he may face up to three years in jail. Last year, this same blogger was sentenced to four weeks in prison for posting a video that caricatured Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
“Tolerance and the rights of others are legitimate aims for any State to pursue,” the UN expert said. “However, the criminalization of a broad range of legitimate, even if offensive, expression is not the right tool for this purpose, and may well have the opposite effect.”
Noting that the teenager’s trial was one of several cases in Singapore, he pointed out that it reflected a widening crackdown – not only on controversial expression but also political criticism and dissent.
“International human rights law allows only serious and extreme instances of incitement to hatred to be prohibited as criminal offences, not other forms of expression, even if they are offensive, disturbing or shocking,” Mr. Kaye stressed.
In May, human rights lawyer Teo Soh Lung and blogger Roy Ngerng were investigated for allegedly breaching the Parliamentary Elections Act by posting, on their private Facebook pages, comments regarding government transparency and accountability.
While the Act prohibits campaigning in the last 24 hours prior to elections, it explicitly exempts the online expression of a private individual’s political views. The press release indicated that this was the first time individuals were investigated under such provisions.
“Threats of criminal action and lawsuits contribute to a culture of self-censorship, and hinder the development of an open and pluralistic environment where all forms of ideas and opinions should be debated and rebutted openly,” emphasized the UN expert.
Despite invoking the Parliamentary Elections Act to investigate, search and confiscate the personal belongings of Teo Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng, no charges have, to date, been brought against them.
“States are under an obligation not only to respect and protect, but also to promote freedom of expression. Increased criminalization of expression is in breach of this obligation,” concluded Mr. Kaye.
Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Attack on Grieving Lawyers and Mourners in Pakistan, Following the Murder of a Former President of the Baluchistan Bar Association
The Union Internationale des Avocats (International Association of Lawyers - UIA) issued a statement deploring the targeted bombing attack on August 8, 2016 at a hospital in Quetta, in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan, which killed at least 70 people and wounded at least 112 others. The attack, for which a Taliban faction has claimed responsibility, targeted a grieving crowd that had gathered to mourn the loss of Bilal Anwar Kasi, the former President of the Baluchistan Bar Association, who had been shot and killed earlier in the day.
The UIA is deeply shocked by this atrocious attack and extends its sincere condolences to all the victims and their families. The UIA wishes to express its solidarity with the entire Pakistani legal community and, in particular, the Baluchistan Bar Association.
All necessary and appropriate steps should be taken to bring those responsible to justice, in accordance with international legal standards, ensuring the full respect of the Rule of Law.
The UIA also urges the Pakistani authorities to ensure that the investigation into Mr. Anwar Kasi’s murder is conducted independently and impartially.
As the legal community appears to have been targeted, the UIA is deeply concerned about this serious threat to the practice of law. The UIA reminds the Pakistani authorities of their responsibility to ensure the safety of lawyers and legal professionals, who are essential for protecting Human Rights and upholding the Rule of Law in a democratic society.
Adapted from a UIA press release.
Monday, August 8, 2016
The Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Private International Law, U.S. Department of State, announced a public meeting to discuss ongoing work in the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on the enforcement of conciliated settlement agreements. The public meeting will take place on Wednesday, August 24, 2016 from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. EDT.
In 2014, the United States proposed that UNCITRAL develop a convention on the enforcement of conciliated settlement agreements that resolve international commercial disputes. See A/CN.9/822, available at http://www.uncitral.org/uncitral/commission/sessions/47th.html. In 2015, UNCITRAL decided that its Working Group II should begin work on the topic. The Working Group discussed the topic at its September 2015 and February 2016 sessions, and will do so again at its September 2016 session. Documents for Working Group II are available at http://www.uncitral.org/uncitral/en/commission/working_groups/2Arbitration.html.
The purpose of the public meeting is to obtain the views of concerned stakeholders on the instrument being
developed by UNCITRAL. Those who cannot attend but wish to comment are welcome to do so by email to Tim
Schnabel at SchnabelTR@state.gov.
The meeting will take place from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at 2430 E Street NW (South Building, SA–4A), Room 240, Washington, DC. Participants should arrive at the Navy Hill/Potomac Annex gate at 23rd and D Streets NW before 9:40 a.m. for visitor screening, and will be escorted to the South Building. If you cannot attend the public meeting and would like to participate from a remote location, teleconferencing will be available.
This meeting is open to the public, subject to the capacity of the meeting room. Access to the building is strictly controlled. For pre-clearance purposes, those planning to attend should email email@example.com, providing full name, address, date of birth, citizenship, driver’s license or passport number, and email address. This information will greatly facilitate entry into the building. A member of the public needing reasonable accommodation should email firstname.lastname@example.org not later than August 17, 2016.
Requests made after that date will be considered, but might not be able to be fulfilled.
If you would like to participate by telephone, please email email@example.com to obtain the call-in number and other information. We ask that each person who intends to participate by telephone notify us directly so that we may ensure that we have adequate dial-in capacity.
The Democratic Coalition Against Trump announced today that it is filing paperwork requesting an immediate and thorough investigation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to determine whether Melania Trump, wife of the Republican nominee for President of the United States, violated U.S. immigration laws. The move comes after numerous media stories have called into question whether Mrs. Trump entered the United States legally and whether she illegally held employment while in the United States on a visa for non-working visitors.
Last week, the Coalition announced that it would file a request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to bring the truth about Mrs. Trump’s immigration status into public view. This latest move is intended to ensure that the public can find out, before the November election, whether Mr. Trump and his wife have violated our nation’s immigration laws.
“Donald Trump has been very vocal about his proposal to forcefully deport more than 12 million undocumented immigrants from our country,” said Scott Dworkin, Senior Advisor to the super PAC. “But ever since serious questions first arose about whether his own wife may have been an illegal immigrant, the reality TV star has been uncharacteristically tight-lipped. We’re filing this complaint because we believe that the public has the right to know if the Republican presidential nominee is a complete hypocrite.”
Adapted from a DCAT Press Release
Friday, August 5, 2016
The United Nations human rights office said it was shocked by video footage that has emerged from Don Dale youth detention centre in the Northern Territory in Australia, showing children as young as 10 years old – many of whom are Aboriginal children – being held in inhumane conditions and treated cruelly. “Some children were held in isolation for extended periods, sometimes for several weeks, in hot and dark cells with no access to fresh air or running water. In one incident, six children were tear-gassed by prison guards,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN Higher Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The videos, from 2014, show another child hooded and strapped to a chair for several hours. Others are shown being repeatedly assaulted and stripped naked. According to the children’s testimony, the abuses took place over several years. Most of the children who were held at the detention facility are deeply traumatized, the spokesperson said.
Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that “every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age.”
“This important instrument focuses on the prevention of torture. Under the Protocol, Australia would establish a National Preventive Mechanism which conducts regular visits to all places of detention in the country,” Mr. Colville said.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
The United Nations human rights office has expressed concern over the three-year prison sentences handed down to 30 members of the main opposition party in Gambia, including its leader Ousainou Darboe, following their participation in peaceful protests in mid-April.
“We also remain deeply concerned that there has yet to be an impartial, independent and thorough investigation into allegations of excessive use of force in the context of the demonstrations, and into the arrest and death in State custody of the former secretary of the party,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
On 20 July, the Banjul High Court convicted 19 members of the United Democratic Party (UDP) for unlawful assembly, rioting, incitement to violence, “riotously interfering with vehicles,” holding a procession without a permit, disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession and conspiracy. On 21 July, the Mansakonko High Court convicted another 11 UDP members for the same offences. All those convicted were arrested either on 14 April during a protest for electoral reforms or on 16 April during a demonstration held after the arrest and alleged death in State custody of UDP Secretary Solo Sandeng two days earlier, Mr. Colville said.
“We have serious concerns about reported violations of the right to a fair trial. Defence lawyers have said that access to their clients was repeatedly hampered, that the arrests were politically motivated and that due process guarantees were not respected,” the spokesperson said.
On 8 June, defence lawyers walked out of the courtroom and decided not to take part in further proceedings as the court rejected their applications, including one requesting the Supreme Court to decide on the constitutionality of the proceedings. The trial continued with the accused unrepresented in court, according to Mr. Colville. “We urge the authorities to investigate all allegations of excessive use of force in the context of the April demonstrations, as well as allegations that some of those arrested were tortured and denied access to medical care,” he said.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
A new report by the United Nations human rights office released this month describes widespread killings that have taken place in Ukraine since January 2014, concluding that very limited accountability has taken place. The report, which was prepared by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, stated that the armed conflict in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, “accounts for the majority of violations of the right to life in Ukraine over the last two years,” claiming up to 2,000 civilian lives, with nearly 90 per cent of conflict-related civilian deaths resulting from indiscriminate shelling of residential areas.
More than 9,300 people have been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of the separatist conflict in eastern regions of the country in mid-April 2014. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission was deployed by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to the country in March 2014 upon the invitation of the Government of Ukraine.
Covering the period from January 2014 to May 2016, the report states that the killings are being According to the report, the killings are being “fuelled by the inflow of foreign fighters and weapons from the Russian Federation.” It concluded that no responsibility has been taken for any civilian deaths caused by the conduct of hostilities, and that some of the killings may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
An international agreement aimed at tackling illegal fishing “marks the dawn of a new era,” but rapid action is needed to ensure that its implementation is effective, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said. “Generations to come will recognize the importance of this achievement, your achievement,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva at an event held to celebrate the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which went into force on 5 June.
The treaty was adopted as an FAO agreement in 2009 after a years-long diplomatic effort, and is the first-ever binding international accord that focuses specifically on illicit fishing. More than 30 nations, as well the European Union on behalf of its 28 members, have acceded to the treaty. The treaty requires foreign vessels to submit to inspections at any port of call and for port states to share information on violations. An improvement on prior rules requiring countries to control the activities of their own fishing fleets, the new agreement is designed to raise the cost of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as it blocks improperly caught fish from being brought to land and entering markets.
At the event, the FAO Director-General acknowledged that implementation of the agreement may prove challenging for some nations – especially developing and small island States – due to resource and capacity constraints.
The agreement has an article that explicitly enjoins parties to the treaty and international organizations to provide assistance and funding. The Republic of Korea has already confirmed it will make a financial contribution, and other parties should follow suit, Mr. Graziano da Silva said. In addition, FAO has set up an inter-regional Technical Cooperation Programme and a Global Capacity Development Umbrella Programme to support logistical, legislative and legal aspects of translating the agreement into practice.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
During the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, you may see a team of ten refugees marching into the stadium as a team with no nation and no flag. This is the first time a team of refugees has been formed. We wish these brave athletes well in the coming days. Let's hope that this is not just a first time there's a need to form such a team, but the only time.