Friday, November 25, 2016
Warning that Egypt's travel bans and other restrictions on the free speech of human rights defenders appear politically motivated to “choke legitimate and democratic debate, both within and outside,” the country, a United Nations rights expert today, strongly advised the Government to repeal the existing travel bans and refrain from imposing further restrictions.
“Restrictions imposed on defenders' freedom of movement have regrettably become routine in what is seen as a broader crackdown against Egyptian civil society that has continued unabated since 2011,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst in a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The restrictions are often based on investigations relating to a controversial foreign funding case, also known as 'Case No. 173,' which reportedly led to the leaders and staff of at least 37 Egyptian rights organizations being charged with receiving 'illegal foreign funding' and 'working without permission.'
“It is seriously concerning to observe that travel bans, along with other restrictions on fundamental freedoms to free speech, association and assembly, seem to have become politically motivated means to stifle civil society movement in the country, and to choke legitimate and democratic debate, both within and outside Egypt,” said the UN expert, adding that the growing use of travel bans as a method of preventing the legitimate exercise of rights has a “chilling effect on human rights defenders and general society.”
Mr. Forst also warned that stopping people participating in rights activities abroad could violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and breach the spirit of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which gives people the right to promote human rights “at the national and international levels.”
Despite reassurances by the Government that the travel bans are in line with the principle of criminal justice, Mr. Forst highlighted a series of procedural concerns. For example, he said, the activists were not being notified of the bans before they attempted to travel, and were often not told the legal basis or how to appeal, resulting in their inability to challenge the decision.
“I strongly advise the Egyptian State to repeal the existing travel bans and refrain from imposing further restrictions against human rights defenders, to ensure that it does not contravene international human rights norms and standards,” said Mr. Forst. “The Government should consider dedicating its legal, administrative and financial resources to empowering civil society, rather than obstructing its activities and undermining fundamental freedoms, which the State is charged to respect and protect,” he said.
Independent experts and Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based U.N. 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.
(UN Press Release)
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
The 13th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law will take place in Naples, Italy, on 7-9 September 2017. The conference will be hosted by the University of Naples Federico II, the oldest public university in the world.
The theme of the conference is ''Global Public Goods, Global Commons and Fundamental Values: The Responses of International Law."
The Call for Papers is now open. Deadline for submission of abstracts: 31 January 2017.
Further information is available on ESIL website.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Michael Flynn Reported to National Security AAG for Possible Violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act
President-Elect Donald Trump's national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has been reported to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Mary McCord, yesterday for possibly breaking the law by failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), according to a press release issued by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump.
On September 15, 2016, Lt. Gen. Flynn and his company, The Flynn Intel Group, signed a contract with Dutch company Inovo BV, an apparent arm of Inovo Turkije which has contracts with the Turkish government, to lobby on appropriations bills, and to keep the company informed about the transition between President Obama and President-elect Trump. Inovo BV’s founder, Kamil Ekim Alptekin, is known for having a close relationship with President Erdogan of Turkey. On Election Day, Flynn published an op-ed in The Hill, advocating for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish exile who is blamed for inciting the military coup last summer. The op-ed is in line with the goals of Erdogan’s government.
While foreign agents who disclose lobbying activity for foreign principals under the Lobbying Disclosure Act are exempt from registering under FARA, lobbying for foreign governments or political parties is never exempted, and it is unclear whether or not Flynn's activities qualifies for this exemption. Neither Flynn nor his company ever registered under FARA.
“Lieutenant General Flynn, who now holds the top national security position in the White House, has years of questionable relationships working with foreign governments,” said Scott Dworkin, Senior Advisor to the Coalition. “If we can’t trust him to be transparent by filling out a simple form, how can we trust him to secure our country at the highest level,” Dworkin asked.
(Adapted from a DCAT Press Release)
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Equatorial Guinea and the Gabonese Republic Sign an Agreement on the Mbanié, Cocotiers, and Congas Islands
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hosted today a signing ceremony in Morocco with President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea and President Bongo Ondimba of the Gabonese Republic. He congratulated the two presidents "for demonstrating true political leadership, courage and wisdom in reaching this mutually acceptable agreement, in accordance with the spirit and letter of the United Nations Charter,” Mr. Ban said in his opening remarks at the signing ceremony for an agreement that marked the successful conclusion of a UN mediation, which started in 2008, aimed at finding a mutually acceptable solution of the border dispute between the two countries for submission to the International Court of Justice.
Mr. Ban also thanked the leaders for coming to a mutually acceptable solution as well as for trust in the UN.
Recalling the tireless efforts of the two countries, Secretary-General Ban expressed hope that the peaceful resolution of the dispute will be a source of inspiration for countries around the world facing similar challenges. “The UN and the international community stand proud of your accomplishment,” he said.
The agreement resolves a longstanding dispute between the two countries regarding the Mbanié, Cocotiers and Congas islands, and common boundaries and which dated back to the early 1970’s.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program invites applications for its Visiting Fellows Program in the 2017-2018 academic year. The Visiting Fellows Program gives individuals with a demonstrated commitment to human rights an opportunity to step back and conduct a serious inquiry in the human rights field. Visiting Fellows are usually scholars with a substantial background in human rights, experienced activists, or members of the judiciary or other branches of government.
Typically, fellows come from outside the U.S., and spend from one semester to a full academic year in residence at Harvard Law School, where they devote the majority of their time to research and writing on a human rights topic. The Program currently has a preference for fellows working on the United Nations Treaty Bodies in their research, though applications are not limited in this regard. The fellows form an essential part of the human rights community at Harvard Law School, and participate in the Human Rights Program’s bi-monthly Visiting Fellows Colloquium, as well as a number of other activities.
The Human Rights Program provides approximately four fellows annually with a shared office space, access to computers, and use of the Harvard library system. As a general matter, the Human Rights Program does not fund fellows. However, applicants who are nationals of low or middle income countries are eligible for the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellowship, which offers a stipend to help defray the cost of living. In order to profit from the fellowship, fluent spoken English is essential. The deadline to submit applications is February 1, 2017. Click here for more information on how to apply.
Hat tip to the American Bar Association Section of International Law International Human Rights Committee.
Monday, November 14, 2016
The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning has issued a Call for Proposals for its Summer 2017 Conference entitled: “Teaching Cultural Competency and Other Professional Skills Suggested by ABA Standard 302.” The conference will take place July 7-8, 2017 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.
The Institute invites proposals for workshop sessions addressing how law schools are responding to ABA Standard 302’s call to establish learning outcomes related to “other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession,” such as “interviewing, counseling, negotiation, fact development and analysis, trial practice, document drafting, conflict resolution, organization and management of legal work, collaboration, cultural competency and self-evaluation.” The conference will focus on how law schools are incorporating these skills, particularly the skills of cultural competency, conflict resolution, collaboration, self-evaluation, and other relational skills, into their institutional outcomes, designing courses to encompass these skills, and teaching and assessing these skills.
The deadline to submit a proposal is February 1, 2017. Proposals should be sent to Kelly Terry, Co-Director of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning. More information can be found here.
The ILO Forced Labour Protocol Enters Into Force for Nine Countries; Additional Ratifications Sought for Treaty to End Modern Slavery
An international protocol on forced labour has entered into force, a major milestone in the fight to end the practice, which the United Nations labour agency estimates victimizes 21 million people worldwide.
The International Labour Organization Forced Labour Protocol “requires countries to take effective measures to prevent and eliminate forced labour, and to protect and provide access to justice for victims,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in a joint statement with the heads of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
According to a news release from ILO, the Protocol, adopted by the International Labour Conference in 2014, entered into force a year after it gained its second ratification.
It means that all countries that have ratified – Niger, Norway, United Kingdom, Mauritania, Mali, France, Czech Republic, Panama and Argentina – now have to meet the obligations outlined in the Protocol.
Argentina signified their commitment to ending modern slavery by becoming the ninth country to ratify the Protocol. Argentina will also host the upcoming IV Global Conference on child labour and forced labour in November 2017 in Buenos Aires.
An estimated 21 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour. They include farm workers, migrants, domestic workers, seafarers, women and girls forced into prostitution and others who are also abused, exploited and paid little or nothing.
The ILO estimates that forced labour generates $150 billion in illegal profits every year.
“We all have a role to play, and if we join forces, the end of forced labour is within reach,” said IOE Secretary-General, Linda Kromjong.
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation stressed the legally binding nature of the Protocol. “That means the more governments that ratify and ensure it is implemented, the closer we’ll be to eliminating slavery once and for all,” she said.
The ILO, together with the ITUC and IOE, is leading the 50 for Freedom campaign with the aim of raising awareness about the issue and encouraging at least 50 countries to ratify the Protocol by 2018.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Côte d'Ivoire announced that it had adopted a new Constitution following constitutional referendum held last month.
A statement issued by a spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary General noted with satisfaction that the new Constitution addresses of some long-standing causes or tension and divisions in Côte d’Ivoire. Further to the statement, all Ivorian parties, including political leaders and their supporters, were encouraged to reject violence and refrain from the use of inflammatory language.
The Secretary-General also assured, through his Special Representative and Head of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), that the UN is highly committed to maintaining peace and stability in Côte d’Ivoire.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
Thursday, November 10, 2016
The 19th Judicial Conference of the U.S. Court of International Trade will be held in New York on Monday, November 21, 2016. Registration for the conference has been extended to November 11, 2016. Click here for the registration form and more information.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
The following is a guest post from Clint Rudd, a third-year law student at SIU School of Law:
This past Friday, October 28, 2016, the United Nations General Assembly elected, by secret ballot, 14 Member States to serve on the Human Rights Council. As a result of this election, Russia, and 13 other States lost their seat. Of the 14 Members leaving the Human Rights Council, only Maldives was ineligible for another term because it had already served two consecutive terms.
The Human Rights Council was created in March, 2006, by General Assembly Resolution 60/251, for the purpose of “strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and mak[ing] recommendations on them.” More specifically, the Council “serves as the main United Nations forum for intergovernmental cooperation and dialogue on human rights issues,” by helping States meet their human rights obligations; making recommendations to the General Assembly for international law development; and periodically reviewing compliance of Member States. The Council is comprised of 47 Member States elected by the General Assembly. Each Member serves a three-year term and is not eligible for re-election after serving two consecutive terms. Council seats are allocated based on geographical distribution as follows: 13 African States; 13 Asia-Pacific States; 6 Eastern European States; 8 Latin American and Caribbean States; and 7 Western European and Other States.
Because of the role the Human Rights Council is purported to play, most individuals believe that States represented at the Council should conduct themselves in accordance with human rights. Human rights organizations believe that countries sitting on the Human Rights Council, like Russia, China, Rwanda, and Saudi Arabia, undermine the Council’s credibility and prevent the Council from acting effectively. Russia and Saudi Arabia are among two States that have been accused of war crimes due to actions in Syria. Because of this, groups such as Human Rights Watch and others (including more than 80 human rights and international aid organizations) attempted to block Russia’s election to the Council. For Eastern European States, two seats were open. Russia lost to Hungary and Croatia. For the Asia-Pacific States, however, four seats were open. China, Japan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia were elected over Malaysia, Fiji, and Iran.
According to the United Nations Director at Human Rights Watch, Louis Charbonneau, “The UN Human Rights Council’s ability to successfully expose and hold violators to account is under threat because a number of countries use it to thwart attempts to expose their own crimes and abuses . . . Saudi Arabia and Russia don’t honor the ideals that underpin the UN Human Rights Council.” For the past year, Russia has carried out airstrikes in support of the Syrian government. These airstrikes are not confined to military installations, and wound and kill civilians. Furthermore, Russia uses internationally banned cluster munitions and incendiary weapons in populated areas of Syria. Russia also sought a veto to a cease-fire after the siege in Aleppo, Syria.
Paragraph 9 of the UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251 Human Rights Council states “that members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, [and] shall fully cooperate with the Council.” The initial premise of most that Council Members should conduct themselves accordingly is valid. As long as Russia continues targeting indiscriminately and opting for military action in lieu of negotiation, it is very difficult for Russia to claim, as a Human Rights Council Member, that they “uphold the highest standards in the promotion of human rights.”
Charbonneau is asking UN Member States to “raise the bar” on Council membership. He states, “If the council is to be a credible instrument for exposing and ending human rights abuses worldwide, regional groups need to ensure healthy competition and qualified candidates for every seat, instead of cutting backroom deals. Otherwise, the council risks becoming a rogues’ gallery for the worst rights violators.” Maybe the General Assembly is starting to listen.