Friday, September 30, 2016
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
The International Criminal Court (ICC) this week found a Malian Islamist accused of destroying historical and religious monuments in the fabled city of Timbuktu guilty in a prosecution of the destruction of cultural heritage as a war crime. [An earlier version of this post said this was a first-ever prosecution of the destruction of cultural heritage as a war crime, but a thoughtful blog reader correctly reminded us that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and some of the post WWII trials had also prosecuted such acts as war crimes. See the comments for more information]
The judges sentenced Ahmad Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi, a member of a jihadist group linked to Al Qaeda, to nine years in prison for committing a war crime by deliberately destructing in 2012 nine mausoleums and the secret gate of the Sidi Yahia mosque in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site of Timbuktu in Mali, the ICC said in a press release.
“The decision of the International Criminal Court is a landmark in gaining recognition for the importance of heritage for humanity as a whole and for the communities that have preserved it over the centuries. It also supports UNESCO’s conviction that heritage has a major role to play in reconstruction and peace building,” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO.
This past month, Mr. Al-Mahdi pleaded guilty to the charges, which consisted in attacking 10 historic and religious monuments in Timbuktu between around 30 June 2012 and 11 July 2012. All sites but one are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The case comes amid growing concern about attacks by Islamists on cultural and religious monuments in the Middle East and North Africa, including, among others, in the ancient cities of Bosra and Palmyra in Syria, and in Nimrud and Nineveh in Iraq.
UNESCO highlighted today that the “historic” decision, a first under the ICC’s founding Rome Statute, is a “crucial step to end impunity for the destruction of cultural heritage.”
It confirms earlier decisions taken by international jurisdictions and it amplifies them in a judgment entirely devoted to the destruction of cultural heritage. This is a major step for the strengthening of international justice and towards peace and reconciliation in Mali,” UNESCO added.
The agency also pointed out that the case “reminds us all of how heritage protection has become a major security issue, which cannot be delinked from the protection of human lives.”
“Deliberate attacks on culture have become weapons of war in a global strategy of cultural cleansing seeking to destroy people as well as the monuments bearing their identities, institutions of knowledge and free thought,” UNESCO said.
According to Ms. Bokova, immediately after the destruction in 2012, UNESCO alerted the international community and seized the ICC to ensure that such crimes do not go unpunished.
“In the context of repeated violence against people and their heritage, this sentence of the International Criminal Court is a key element in the broader response to violent extremism,” the Director-General said.
UNESCO added that it takes the judgment as an encouragement to continue the work engaged over the past few years to protect and rehabilitate heritage in Mali, in close cooperation with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and to preserve cultural diversity and human rights as a “lasting foundation for peace, not only in Mali but also across the world.”
The Malian Government has been seeking to restore stability and rebuild following a series of setbacks since early 2012, including a military coup d'état, renewed fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the seizure of its northern territory by radical extremists. The country has also been wracked by a series of humanitarian crises. MINUSMA was established in 2013 to support the political process and carry out a number of security-related stabilization tasks.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
Palau Underscores Dangers of Climate Change, Global Conflict, Violent Extremism, and Nuclear Weapons
Addressing the General Assembly, Palau’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations underlined this week the urgency of addressing challenges such as threats from climate change, global conflict, issues of migrants and refugees, violent extremism, antimicrobial resistance and nuclear weapons.
Making particular reference to the impacts of climate change, Caleb Otto said the country participated actively at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and was the second country in the world to have ratified the Paris Agreement.
“We are encouraged by the 127 other nations who have signed the Agreement and are confident that by the end of the year, the Agreement will being to work for all of us,” Mr. Otto said in his address.
Noting that 14 years, the time from now until 2030, is a short period within which to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he stressed an urgent need implement the global development agenda to transform the world.
He also informed the General Assembly of steps taken at the national level to implement the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda, as well as underlined the importance of genuine and durable partnerships for their global success.
Mr. Otto further expressed particular appreciation for the leadership of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his support of and focus towards the Pacific small island developing States and his stewardship of the Paris Agreement, the 2030 Agenda and other achievements of the UN.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release. Photo: Caleb Otto, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Palau to the United Nations, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-first session. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)
Senior United Nations officials have called for those responsible for human rights violations and crimes associated with human trafficking and forced migration to be held accountable, noting that some of the crimes committed in this respect may amount to atrocity crimes.
“During their journey to Europe and other locations, many migrants and refugees have witnessed or been victims of crimes and human rights violations, including murder and enforced disappearance, slavery and extortion, sexual violence, torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment,” said Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide.
Mr. Dieng was speaking at an event held on the fringes of the General Assembly, today, to consider how States, intergovernmental organizations and faith-based organizations can together be agents of change in addressing the growing problem of trafficking and forced migration. Also at the event was Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict, who spoke about the scourge of conflict-related sexual violence in the context of displacement –particularly forced displacement – and trafficking.
“This is a fact. Sexual violence has become both a push for displacement and a consequence of displacement,” she began. “Women and children remain extremely vulnerable to sexual violence – including rape, survival sex, and trafficking – not only when they flee, but in places where they are seeking refuge.”
Speaking about forced displacement and related crimes, Mr. Dieng noted that people fleeing their countries are in many cases escaping armed conflict, serious human rights violations or persecution that in some cases may constitute atrocity crimes, “if they violate international humanitarian law or are carried out in a widespread or systematic manner,” adding, “I will personally support efforts to pursue accountability for serious crimes linked to human trafficking and forced migration.”
“I also believe,” he continued “that there is considerable overlap between the risk factors for atrocity crimes and the drivers of forced migration, including situations of armed conflict; widespread human rights violations and targeted discrimination based on identity; poverty, structural inequality and lack of socio-economic opportunities; and humanitarian crises.
The Special Adviser stressed that while many actors help migrants and refugees during their passage to Europe and other countries, faith-based organisations deserved special mention, as “faith is what moves many to offer support and aid along the migration route – from origin to host countries.”
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Monday, September 26, 2016
Donald Trump failed to list one of his European companies on the Public Financial Disclosure Report submitted at the start of his campaign to the United States Office of Government Ethics, according to the Democratic Coalition Against Trump (DCAT). The company that Trump failed to list is DT Connect Europe Limited, which is registered in Turnberry, Scotland and co-owned by Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. The paperwork for the company can be found through the United Kingdom’s official government business register by clicking here.
According to the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, “the Attorney General may bring a civil action against any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies or who knowingly and willfully fails to file or report any information that such individual is required to report,” on the Public Financial Disclosure Report. Additionally, the individual may be fined or may be imprisoned for up to one year.
“At this point, Trump has to release his tax returns to give the American public a full overview of his business dealings, both foreign and domestic,” said Scott Dworkin, Senior Advisor of the Democratic Coalition Against Trump. “But Trump obviously doesn’t have an issue lying on government documents, so who knows if we'll be able to to trust what’s in the returns when he does release them. It only makes sense that the Attorney General’s office open up an investigation into the matter.”
(Adapted from a DCAT Press Release)
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Since Texas A&M University School of Law acquired the law school from Texas Wesleyan University in August of 2013, the law school has embarked on a program of investment that increased its entering class credentials and financial aid budgets, while shrinking the class size; hired nineteen new faculty members, including thirteen prominent lateral hires; improved its physical facility; and substantially increased its career services, admissions, and student services staff.
The school is again hiring additional faculty. Texas A&M University School of Law now seeks to expand its academic program and its strong commitment to scholarship by hiring multiple exceptional faculty candidates for contract, tenure-track, or tenured positions, with rank dependent on qualifications and experience. Candidates must have a J.D. degree or its equivalent. Preference will be given to those with demonstrated outstanding scholarly achievement and strong classroom teaching skills. Successful candidates will be expected to teach and engage in research and service. Although the law school welcomes applications in all subject areas, it particularly invites applications from:
1) Candidates who are interested in expanding and building on our innovative Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic (with concentrations in both trademarks and patents), or in one of our other acclaimed clinical areas, including Family Law and Benefits Clinic, Employment Mediation Clinic, Wills & Estates Clinic, Innocence Clinic, and Immigration Law Clinic; and
2) Candidates with an oil and gas law and/or energy law background, either domestic U.S. or international, who are interested in interdisciplinary research, teaching, and programmatic activities.
3) Candidates with strong classroom skills and scholarly achievement interested in teaching in its Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing Program.
Although the law school is primarily interested in entry-level candidates for the above positions, more experienced candidates may be considered to the extent that their qualifications respond to the law school’s needs and interests.
In addition, the law school welcomes lateral and highly experienced professionals for the following positions:
1) Candidates with experience in IP licensing and technology transfers, with relevant academic and/or professional science background, and who are interested in working and building synergies with the Texas A&M University’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
2) Candidates in the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution with a national or international reputation and stellar credentials in scholarship, teaching, and service, and with an interest in building our nationally ranked dispute resolution program;
3) Candidates in any field with a national or international reputation and stellar credentials in scholarship, teaching, and service;
Texas A&M University is a tier one research institution and American Association of Universities member. The university consists of 16 colleges and schools that collectively rank among the top 20 higher education institutions nationwide in terms of research and development expenditures.
Texas A&M School of Law is located in the heart of downtown Fort Worth, one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the country. The Fort Worth/Dallas area, with a total population in excess of six million people, offers a low cost of living, a strong economy, and access to world-class museums, restaurants, entertainment, and outdoor activities.
As an Equal Opportunity Employer, Texas A&M welcomes applications from a broad spectrum of qualified individuals who will enhance the rich diversity of the university’s academic community. Applicants should email a résumé and cover letter indicating research and teaching interests to Professor Gabriel Eckstein, Chair of the Faculty Appointments Committee, at email@example.com. Alternatively, résumés can be mailed to Professor Eckstein at Texas A&M University School of Law, 1515 Commerce Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102-6509.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Security Council Adopts Resolution 2309 on Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts
The global aviation system is of vital importance to economic development and prosperity, and all States must strengthen, both individually and collectively, aviation security measures, in order to secure a stable and peaceful global environment, the United Nations Security Council declared today.
Adopting resolution 2309 (2016) at a meeting, this morning, on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, the Council called on States to work within the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to ensure that its international security standards are reviewed and adapted to effectively address the threat posed by terrorist targeting of civil aviation.
Expressing particular concern that terrorist groups are actively seeking ways to defeat or circumvent aviation security, the 15-member body also called on all States to strengthen and promote the effective application of ICAO standards and recommended practices, and to assist ICAO in continuing to enhance audit, capacity development and training programmes in order to support their implementation.
In the resolution, the Council noted with concern that the “terrorism threat has become more diffuse,” with an increase, in various regions of the world, of terrorist acts including those motivated by intolerance or violent extremism. The Council expressed its determination to combat that threat, and also expressed grave concern over terrorist attacks against civil aviation and over the fact that civil aviation may be used as a transportation means by foreign terrorist fighters.
Further to the text of the resolution, the Council called on all States to, among other action, ensure that effective, risk-based measures are in place at the airports within their jurisdiction; take all necessary steps to ensure that such measures are effectively implemented on the ground on a continuing and sustainable basis; ensure that such measures take into account the potential role of those with privileged access to areas, knowledge or information that may assist terrorists in planning or conducting attacks; and urgently address any gaps or vulnerabilities that may be highlighted by ICAO or national self-risk assessment or audit processes.
In addition, all States should strengthen security screening procedures and maximize the promotion, utilization and sharing of new technologies and innovative techniques that maximize the capability to detect explosives and other threats.
Specifically, under the terms of the resolution, States that are able to do so are urged to assist in the delivery of effective and targeted capacity development, training and other necessary resources, technical assistance, technology transfers and programmes.
Furthermore, the Council called on all States to strengthen their international and regional cooperation to boost information-sharing, border control, law enforcement and criminal justice to better counter the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters and returnees.
By the terms of the resolution, the Security Council also encouraged continued cooperation between ICAO and the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate on identifying gaps and vulnerabilities relevant to aviation security.
In addition, the Council requested that its Counter-Terrorism Committee hold a special meeting within 12 months, in cooperation with ICAO, on the issue of terrorist threats to civil aviation.
In July 2014, following the crash of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine that killed 298 people on board, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2166 calling for an international investigation into the incident, and demanded at the time that armed groups allow unfettered access to the crash site and ensure that its integrity was maintained. Later that month, ICAO convened a special Task Force on Risks to Civil Aviation arising from Conflict Zones.
In September 2014, the Security Council adopted resolution 2178 in response to an unprecedented flow of foreign terrorist fighters and the growth of facilitation networks fuelling conflicts around the world. Under the terms of that resolution, the Council called on Member States to require that airlines operating in their territories provide advance passenger information to the appropriate national authorities in order to detect the departure, from their territories, of individuals designated by the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee.
(UN Press Release; UN Security Council Photo/Rick Bajorna)
The University of Idaho College of Law announced the promotion of Professor Anastasia Telesetsky to Professor of Law. She holds a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and an LL.M. from the University of British Columbia. She is the current co-chair of the International Environmental Law Committee of the American Bar Association Section of International Law and an active member of the American Society of International Law. She has also served as part of a legal team representing the IUCN before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.
Congratulations, Professor Telesetsky!
As much as social media offers a digital platform to improve exchange of information and enhance popular participation, its attendant negative impacts simply cannot be ignored, Hailemariam Dessalegn, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday.
“In fact, we are seeing how misinformation could easily go viral via social media and mislead many people, especially the youth,” he said in his address to the annual general debate, adding: “Social media has certainly empowered populists and other extremists to exploit people's genuine concerns and spread their message of hate and bigotry without any inhibition."
On other global challenges, he said international peace and stability is facing greater risks with the rise of geo-political tensions and the growing threats posed by “all shades” of terrorist groups. Moreover, the global economy has not yet rebounded from the financial crisis.
Further, “it is critical to underline one critical matter which is usually given short shrift, both by the media and others. It is simply hypocritical to deny that some of our countries have been targets for destabilization activities carried out with no accountability by people and groups who have been given shelters by states with whom we have absolutely no problems,” he stressed.
It is under these challenging circumstances that countries are striving to implement the new UN transformational agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals, and, obviously, he said, there are no easy solutions to these complex issues. “The situation is much more pronounced specially for least developed countries like us which are making every possible effort to […] escape from the poverty trap.”
“We believe our vision is right and we are determined to get there. Whatever challenges and shortcomings we may have, we don't have difficulty owning up to them and we will make every- possible effort to deal with them in close consultation, cooperation and participation of our people,” Prime Minister Dessalegn said, noting that there is no better testimony for the resolve Ethiopia had shown in this regard than the way it had handled this past year’s devastating El-Nino.
At the same time, he said Ethiopia could not simply “wish away” the challenges it is facing. Indeed, they need collective and coordinated responses “and we are always ready willing to continue to contribute positively in close partnership with others in our region and beyond in tackling these challenges.”
(Adapted from a UN press release)
Small island Pacific States threatened with disappearing under the flood of rising oceans took the podium at the General Assembly yesterday to warn that the United Nations remains their last best hope as climate change outpaces efforts to counter it.
“Twenty-five years ago, the small island developing States cried out for action against human-induced climate change, stressing that we literally face extinction as nations and as oceanic cultures due to surging sea level rise and related consequences,” President Peter Christian of the Federated States of Micronesia told the Assembly’s annual general debate.
“I must concede, Mr. President, that our voices have not been entirely unheard. We stand today, at last, many nations united to confront this dark, glaring reality,” he said, in a reference to last December’s global accord in Paris to reduce global warming emissions, appealing for greater mitigation efforts and financing.
“However, even in the relatively short span of 25 years the relentless advance of climate change has outdistanced the pace of our effort to deal with it, so that today, while all countries must count themselves as vulnerable, the small island developing States are dealing with an already clear and present danger, the result of adverse climate change impacts.”
Mr. Christian turned to other issues, both regional and global, including the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's “ongoing provocative actions and rhetoric, which he condemned, and the need for Russia and the United States to enforce a viable ceasefire in Syria.
But he again returned to the existential threat climate change posed for the small island states. “This United Nations remains our last best hope to galvanize the political will and the necessary commitment for our global agenda on climate change,” he stressed.
“Here, from this podium and elsewhere, leaders from small island developing States, like many others, have called upon those Member States of our Organization, and especially those in position of world leadership to step up and take charge in raising the urgency of greater mitigation and finance ambition to implement agreements addressing climate change.”
Nauru President Baron Divavesi Waqa said full implementation of international commitments such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Agenda 2030 takes on much greater urgency in the face of climate change.
“That is why Nauru was among the first countries in the world to ratify the Paris Agreement. It is encouraging to hear we are on track for entry into force this year. However, it is far too early to celebrate. The Paris Agreement is not the end of our climate work. It is only the beginning,” he said.
”And while Nauru will be among the first to experience the worst impacts, climate change will be your humanitarian challenge as well. The Paris Agreement notwithstanding, these dangerous climate impacts will continue to grow worse over the coming decades. We have little understanding of how our human systems will hold up under climate stress,” he stated.
He cited threats to global supply chains, finance and insurance markets, food and water distribution that form the foundation of modern civilization, with question marks having over such issues as the ability to feed a planet of nine billion people when crop yields are projected to fall or share declining freshwater resources as glaciers disappear.
“Will we be able to protect the millions who are rendered homeless when low-lying coastal areas are inundated?” He asked. “And can these and many other challenges be managed effectively so that we avoid a proliferation of failed states? We are simply not prepared,” he emphasized.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged the international community to continue working for equal rights and fair treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, reiterating the UN’s commitment to securing their human rights.
“I will always fight for the equality of the LGBT members of our human family,” the UN chief said at a high-level side event of the UN’s LGBT Core Group, entitled “#Path2Equality: Global leaders discuss progress towards LGBT equality,” held at UN Headquarters in New York this afternoon. “This work will not leave me when I leave office – and it must not leave the office of the Secretary-General after I depart,” he said.
Acknowledging that when he first became Secretary-General, he did not know much about the challenges faced by LGBT people, Mr. Ban said that he learned by listening. “Everyone who lacks understanding should listen closely,” he stressed. “The facts are disturbing. Every year, hundreds are killed, thousands are badly hurt, and millions live their lives under a shadow of discrimination and disapproval. That is an outrage.”
Moreover, many governments refuse to acknowledge human rights abuses against LGBT people – or accept responsibility for ending them, Mr. Ban said. Noting that several countries are “bucking the tide of history with draconian new punishments for being gay – or even just talking about being gay,” the Secretary-General said that he is particularly worried for children and youth who are bullied at school, thrown out of their homes or living on the streets.
Those abuses will only end when countries take concrete steps to protect people, including instituting new laws, policies and programmes, he said, adding that such action requires leadership and a commitment to work with affected communities.
“I ask those who use religious or cultural arguments to deprive LGBT people of their human rights: what do you gain by making others less equal? Is your religion or culture so weak that the only way you can sustain it is by denying others their basic rights? There is no room in our 21st century for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Mr. Ban said.
Progress, however, is being seen at the UN Nations Human Rights Council, where more than 100 countries have accepted recommendations aimed at protecting LGBT people from discrimination, he said. In addition, next month, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will release a study on more than 200 initiatives in 65 countries.
Decriminalize gay relationships as starting point
In some cases, the starting point has been to decriminalize gay relationships, the UN chief explained. Over the past year, three more countries have abandoned criminal sanctions following UN recommendations: Mozambique, the Seychelles and Nauru, Mr. Ban said, commending their leadership.
In addition, he highlighted that many countries have new laws to stop discrimination, punish hate crimes and restrict hate speech, while almost 40 countries now legally recognize same-sex couples and some are looking at making it easier for transgender people to have their gender legally recognized. “These major advances happened thanks to brave individuals who stood up for what is right,” the Secretary-General stressed.
For its part, the UN is “committed to action,” Mr. Ban said, citing as an example the Human Rights Council’s recent decision to appoint the first-ever UN independent expert to monitor and report on violations against LGBT people. “The UN system is moving forward together. This progress was hard-fought and hard-won,” Mr. Ban said. “The LGBT Core Group is our great ally – but we have many adversaries. There is a [political] cost to speaking up – one which I am proud to pay,” he added.
The Secretary-General also noted that he himself has been criticized by many people around the world, including by many Member States. “You may not know how much I have been fighting and been criticized by certain Member States,” he said. “When I made an administrative action to give equal pay and same allowances for those gay couples, even though their home countries do not recognize it, the United Nations for the first time has recognized that, regardless of what their home countries are doing, the UN has recognized it.”
Emphasizing that many human rights defenders have “paid a far higher price,” the Secretary-General told participants that “lacking unanimity should never stop us.”
“All countries have accepted the principle – enshrined in international law – that human rights are universal. Consensus is ours. Let’s insist on action,” he said.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Saudi Arabia Calls for UN Reform; Also Denounces U.S. Legislation that Would Allow Lawsuits for 9/11
The United Nations needs urgent reform to confront the challenges now facing the world, from the Palestinian-Israel conflict and the bloody wars in Syria and Yemen to countering terrorism and tackling the refugee crisis, Saudi Arabia warned the General Assembly’s annual general debate today.
“We are at a pivotal stage,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz A1-Saud declared on the debate’s second day. “We either join together in a collective effort to address the difficult challenges and disasters we are confronted with in the world or fail and in doing so history will not be on our side,” he stated.
“The type and scale of the challenges we confront require us to work hard toward the reform of the United Nations system, increase the effectiveness of the Security Council, and revitalize the role of the General Assembly and all the relevant bodies of the United Nations,” he added, calling for a new impetus to enable the UN to cope with the aspirations of the 21st century.
Such reforms have proposed increasing the numbers of the 15-member Council, whose resolutions have binding legal force, and enhancing the powers of the Assembly, whose decisions currently lack this.
Turning to individual crises, the Prince called for an end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab land, condemning Israel’s “terrorist practices and acts of aggression.”
“Achieving any progress in ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict seems impossible in light of the continuation of the Israeli settlement policy, the tampering with the holy city of Jerusalem ruining the Arab, the Islamic and Christian identity of the city, and the heartless policy of repression practiced against the Palestinian people,” he said.
Calling for a transition in Syria by supporting the moderate opposition, he faulted the world community for failing to “to take concerted decisions to save the Syrian people from the crimes that take place there, murders, destruction and displacement all of which is made by President Bashar al-Assad.”
Saudi Arabia is keen to provide assistance to Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries through direct aid to campaigns to collect donations for their relief, he said, noting in another part of his speech that his country has received more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees and two million from Yemen and is facilitating free access to education, health care and employment for them.
As for Yemen, the Prince stressed that Saudi Arabia’s intervention there with its Gulf Cooperation Council allies “has received a great international acceptance” and has helped launch a national dialogue.
Turning to Iran, he condemned its support to “terrorist militias' groups” in Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere, as well as it dissemination of sectarian speech.
“The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calls upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to desist from all of the policies of discrimination, racism and sectarianism and to begin to build positive relations with its neighbours on the basis of the principles of good-neighbourliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States,” he said.
He also denounced recent United States congressional action to allow Americans to sue Saudis in connection with the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001, as “a serious threat to the sovereign rights,” reaffirmed his country’s priority in fighting extremist speech and ideologies that feed terrorism and pledged full Saudi cooperation with the UN to tackle the refugee crisis.
(UN Press Release)
Same-Sex Marriage for the Island of Guernsey; Now Only Northern Island is Without Marriage Equality in the British Isles
Northern Ireland is now the only part of the British Isles without marriage equality, after Guernsey approved the introduction of same-sex marriage by 33 votes to five.
What Africa needs is not development assistance from developed countries but “a fair chance” to trade with the rest of the world, the President of Ghana today told the United Nations General Assembly.
“Africa does not need your sympathy or overseas development assistance,” said President John Dramani Mahama during the general debate. “Africa needs a fair chance to trade with the rest of the world and amongst ourselves. The progress towards the creation of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is commendable and must be fast tracked.”
He said that raising intra-African trade alone from the paltry average of 15 per cent will create better opportunities for Africa's youth.
Recently he took the decision to allow citizens of other African countries travelling to Ghana to obtain visas on arrival. This would stimulate trade and investment if it were replicated across the continent, he explained.
He said that Africa is a continent of 54 countries at different stages of progress and development, and has the potential to be the next continent on the rise. Democracy is not a one size fits all system.
“The mistake with Africa is that we are seen as a homogenous unit and treated as such, not taking cognizance that we are a whole continent with different aspirations, cultures, democracies and economic development,” he said.
Ghana is a part of Africa’s success story as the “model of democracy” or the “beacon of democracy” in the region, the President said, explaining that since the adoption of the 1992 Constitution, successive elections – with power occasionally swinging between opposing political forces – has established Ghana’s democratic credentials in the world.
A strict two-term limit for the President means that every eight years it is guaranteed that there would be a new person in charge, and Ghana has a fiercely independent media with hundreds of newspapers and radio stations, he added.
The people of Ghana will go to the polls this December and the processes before, during and after will mark a further consolidation of Ghana’s credentials as a leading world democracy, he said.
Ghana’s economy, in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), has been chugging along at a pace of about six per cent over the last decade. With the structural reforms undertaken in collaboration with partners, and new developments in offshore oil and gas prospects, Ghana is looking at a respectable eight per cent annual GDP growth from next year.
As for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said that Ghana has begun its work on the targets in earnest, and has put into place the necessary national structures to ensure that the policies and measures taken fall in line with the 40-year development plan the country is currently formulating.
The President said he has also signed the ratification instrument of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and would be part of the event today to deposit Ghana’s instrument with the UN.
While Africa accounts for close to one third of the UN membership and nearly two-thirds of the work of the UN Security Council, “it remains woefully under-represented in the permanent and non-permanent category” of the Council, he said, calling for an equitable reform.
(UN Press Release)
Closing out the first day of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual general debate, Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, echoed the earlier statement of the United States President, highlighting how the world has become divided into one of fear and another of courage; between anger and opportunity.
Terrorism menaces cities and everyday life, threatening not just conventional targets but a theatre, a museum, a stadium, a restaurant, he told the Assembly. Pandemics and environmental risks are also very real. All of that makes the future look like a moment of concern rather than hope, and the problems are not theoretical but very real, in the faces of the victims and survivors. Those challenges no longer have borders.
Italy, he continued, contributed its voice through the actions of its military and coast guard, who saved thousands and thousands of lives in the Mediterranean every day. It contributed its voice through its leadership in culture and scientific research. But it also gave through its history and values, including those of The Aeneid, in which Aeneas travelled not to return to his home but to a new land to create a new civilization.
“Without compassion for others, we are not worthy of being called a community,” said the Prime Minister.
The Mediterranean is the sea which thousands of people cross to escape war, poverty and hunger. It is essential that Europe and the international community unite to deal with the issues of that part of the world, he said.
The threat of terrorism has come not just from war zones but also from the abandoned and forgotten outskirts of cities, and investing in human capital is essential to defeating this scourge, he said. Italy has, in response, approved a law matching every euro for security and policing with one euro for culture and education.
Italy will tackle the challenges of 2017 by participating in the Security Council, in a year that will also see a new Secretary-General, he said. Italy will also host, on 25 March 2017, the countries of the European Union at the sixtieth anniversary of the signature of the treaty that formed the bloc. And Italy will also host the Group of 7 in Sicily, a place noted for its culture and values and history.
Italy plans to use the Group of 7 meeting to reflect on cultural values and to highlight the challenges of food – both food insecurity and health awareness. Many of the issues facing the Security Council, Europe and the Group of 7, emanate from the same matrix, he said, stressing that it is essential to create a world based on hope, not resentment, hatred and fear.
(UN Press Release)
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
With the world facing a massive immigration crisis, multiple armed conflicts and economic disruption, a strong United Nations is more necessary than ever, Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann told the General Assembly today on the opening day of its General Debate.
“Since the start of the 20th century our generation is the first not to have lived through a world war. The UN has largely contributed to this result, even if it must be agreed that there are too many regional conflicts and this produce too many victims,” he said.
He cited the UN’s “tireless efforts” in mobilizing international efforts in numerous fields from cutting poverty in half to increasing life expectancy to improving global education. “I am firmly convinced that the only viable responses to contemporary challenges are collective solutions effected in solidarity,” Mr. Schneider-Ammann said.
“To bring these about, the international community needs a strong, modern and efficient UN. The path is thus set before us. It is now up to us together to accompany this Organization with foresight and determination.
(UN Press Release)
Friday, September 9, 2016
U.S. House Passes Bill Removing Sovereign Immunity for Saudi Arabia in Connection with the 9/11 Attacks
A few days before the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the U.S. House of Representatives has just passed legislation that would waive Saudi sovereign immunity in connection with litigation by families of those killed in the attacks. President Obama is expected to veto that legislation but there is speculation that the House would have enough votes to override the veto.
Monday, September 5, 2016
We share the profoundly sad news that Professor Stephen Thomas Zamora of the University of Houston Law Center has died at the age of 72. He died suddenly from a heart attack early July in Mexico. He had been spending time in Mexico with his wife and college sweetheart of almost 50 years, Lois Parkinson Zamora.
Professor Zamora had joined the Houston Law Center faculty in 1978, and served as the Law Center's Dean from 1995 to 2000. He earned a B.A. degree from Stanford University in 1966 and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall) in 1972, where he graduated first in his class and served as Chief Articles Editor of the California Law Review. At the Law Center, Professor Zamora directs the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law, and also serves as Director of the North American Consortium on Legal Education. Before joining the faculty of the University of Houston Law Center in 1978, he practiced international law in Washington, D.C., first as an associate in the law firm of Clearly, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton, and then as an attorney with the World Bank. He was a Senior Fulbright Lecturer in Mexico, and had been a visiting professor at Yale Law School and Fordham Law School. An expert on NAFTA, in 1996, Zamora served as a member of a NAFTA dispute resolution panel that decided the first government-to-government dispute under NAFTA (U.S. v. Canada -- Dairy, Poultry and Eggs from the United States).
Professor Zamora was a member of the American Law Institute, of the American Society of International Law, and of the American Society of Comparative Law. In 2006, he received the highest distinction awarded by the Mexican government to a foreign national, the Order of the Aztec Eagle, in recognition of his work in promoting U.S. - Mexican understanding. He was the lead author of the book Mexican Law, published in 2004 by Oxford University Press, and he authored numerous articles and book chapters on international economic law, international banking law, international trade law (NAFTA), international monetary law, and Mexican law. Professor Zamora's areas of expertise included contracts, international trade law, conflicts of law, Mexican Law, and NAFTA.
He was deeply respected and admired in the legal academy, particularly among all those professors who knew his work with Mexico. A charming, gentle soul, he will be greatly missed. We extend our condolences to his family, friends, students, and colleagues.
Sunday, September 4, 2016
The United Nations Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, has expressed concern at inflammatory statements concerning the genocide in Rwanda that were made by a senior official of the ruling party in Burundi and cautioned that such statements could constitute incitement to violence.
On 16 August, Pascal Nyabenda, at that time the President of the ruling Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) party and President of the National Assembly suggested that the genocide in Rwanda was a “fabrication of the international community” and that it was used to remove the Hutu government that was in place at the time.
“This irresponsible statement could be interpreted as genocide denial”, Mr. Dieng said in astatement issued by his Office. “[It] has the potential to inflame ethnic tensions, both within Burundi and outside its borders,” he warned.
A new head of the CNDD-FDD has been appointed by the party at its meeting on 20 August but Mr. Nyabenda continues in his role as President of the National Assembly.
The statement added that the situation in the African country continues to be marred by instability and serious human rights violations, including allegations of extra-judicial killings, disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention of members of the opposition, civil society and those suspected of opposing the Government continue to be reported.
Concerns at the situation in Burundi were also expressed by the Geneva-based UN Committee Against Torture in their concluding observations, issued on 11 August, following its review of a special report submitted at the request of the Committee.
Mr. Dieng’s statement noted that the Committee had urged the Government of Burundi to refrain from making any public statements that could exacerbate ethnic tensions or incite violence or hatred and to ensure that public and law enforcement officials do not accept or tolerate such acts.
The Committee Against Torture is a body of independent human rights experts who monitor the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by its State parties.
Mr. Dieng’s statement also noted that human rights defenders and journalists are among the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled the country since April 2015.
He further raised concern that the youth wing of the CNDD-FDD party, known as the Imbonerakure, continues to be associated with human rights abuses and is reported to have threatened ethnic violence.
According to the country’s Minister of the Interior, the Imbonakure formed part of the national security strategy, noted the statement.
Reminding the Government of its obligation to protect its populations, regardless of their ethnicity or political affiliation, and to refrain from any action or discourse that could inflame ethnic tensions, Mr. Dieng stressed:
“[It is important to] counter such messages with alternative speech to foster unity rather than further entrench divisions, and [I call] call on all parties to prioritize inclusive dialogue to bring about an end to the protracted crisis.”
Burundi was thrown into crisis more than a year ago when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a controversial third term that he went on to win. To date, it has been reported that hundreds of people have been killed, more than 240,000 have fled the nation, and thousands more have been arrested and possibly subjected to human rights violations.
(Adapted from a UN press release)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on the international community to establish an international, independent body to carry out comprehensive investigations of human rights violations in Yemen. “[Civilians in Yemen] continue to suffer, absent any form of accountability and justice, while those responsible for the violations and abuses against them enjoy impunity,” High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a news release issued by his office (OHCHR). “Such a manifestly, protractedly unjust situation must no longer be tolerated by the international community,” he added.
The UN human rights chief's call comes as his office (OHCHR) released a report on the situation of human rights in the country which outlines many serious allegations of violations and abuses committed by all sides to the conflict in Yemen and highlights in particular their impact on civilian lives, health and infrastructure. It contains examples of the kinds of possible violations that have occurred between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016, including attacks on residential areas, marketplaces, medical and educational facilities, and public and private infrastructure; the use of landmines and cluster bombs; sniper attacks against civilians; deprivation of liberty, targeted killings, the recruitment and use of children in hostilities, and forced evictions and displacement.
“The perpetuation of the conflict and its consequences on the population in Yemen are devastating,” the report stated, adding: “The international community […] has a legal and moral duty to take urgent steps to alleviate the appalling levels of human despair.” The report also noted that in several of the documented military attacks, OHCHR was unable to identify the presence of possible military objectives. “In numerous situations where military targets could be identified, there remain serious concerns as to whether the incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects that could be expected from the attack were not excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage apparently sought,” it added.
Furthermore, while a national commission of inquiry was established in September 2015 by the President of Yemen, the report found that the commission did not enjoy the cooperation of all concerned parties and could not operate in all parts of the country. “It was thus unable to implement its mandate in accordance with international standards,” said the news release. It further noted that the High Commissioner also urged all parties to the conflict to work towards a negotiated and durable solution to the conflict in the best interest of the Yemeni people and to ensure full respect for international humanitarian law.
According to the UN human rights arm, between March 2015 and 23 August 2016, an estimated 3,799 civilians have been killed and 6,711 injured as result of the war in Yemen. Furthermore, at least 7.6 million people, including three million women and children are currently suffering from malnutrition and at least three million people have been forced to flee their homes.
Following nearly 16 months of conflict in Yemen, the cessation of hostilities was declared on 10 April. While peace talks between a Yemeni Government delegation and a delegation of the General People's Congress and Ansar Allah continued, serious violations have occurred in Marib, al Jawf, Taiz and in the border areas with Saudi Arabia. Those UN-facilitated talks ended on 6 August.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)