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International Justice in the News

The International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life brings you a monthly selection of news about the people involved in the work of international courts and tribunals, significant developments in international justice, and articles and publications of interest. We hope that this brief selection will help you keep abreast of the field and lead you to sites where you can inform yourself further.

December 2010

People in the News

Mr. Jamil El Sayed
The Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has issued a unanimous opinion rejecting the Prosecutor’s appeal of the recent decision by the Pre-Trial Judge, Daniel Fransen (BIIJ 2010), relating to the request by Mr. Jamil El Sayed for access to documents about his detention by the Lebanese authorities. Sayed has claimed that he was wrongly detained by the Lebanese authorities on the basis of false testimony, which he alleges is now in the possession of the Tribunal's Prosecutor. Sayed has asked the Tribunal for access to this evidence so that he can pursue civil claims in national courts. Access the full decision here.

In the meantime, the STL is experiencing challenges as it carries out its investigations into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. Two of its investigators were recently attacked in Beirut, an event that has highlighted internal tensions in the country and also raised fears of a return to violence. Read more from Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Moreno OcampoLuis Moreno Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has opened two new preliminary investigations, one in Nigeria and the other in Honduras. The Honduran investigation, the first to be undertaken in a non-African country, pertains to events surrounding last year's coup when the Honduran military ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Details about the Nigerian case have not yet been released. According to the Rome Statute of the ICC, the Prosecutor must submit his findings to the pre-trial chamber, which will then authorize a formal investigation if there is a reasonable basis to proceed. Read more from Jurist Legal News and Research.

NiyungekoGérard Niyungeko (BIIJ 2010), President of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, has gone on the record saying that lack of political will is the major problem facing the enforcement of human rights on the continent. Speaking on the occasion of the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights at the 48th Ordinary Session of the Commission in The Gambia, Justice Niyungeko said, “We find ourselves in a paradoxical situation where member states of the [African Union] have set up an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights and provided it with the minimum resources necessary for operation, while significantly limiting access to the court by the main groups concerned which are individuals and non-governmental organisations.” Read more from Vanguard.

o and o
Judge Owada with Patricia O’Brien, UN Legal
Counsel, at BIIJ 2010
International Court of Justice (ICJ) President Hisashi Owada (BIIJ 2007 & 2010) stated in his annual address before the United Nations General Assembly that his court has a central role to play in the rule of law. He observed, “the rule of law now permeates every aspect of the activities of the United Nations, from the maintenance of peace and security to the protection of human rights, from the fight against poverty to the protection of the global environment, including the case of climate change.” Judge Owada added that “[b]y working to strengthen the rule of law, the [United Nations] can strengthen its moral fibres that are so essential to uniting an increasingly interconnected world.” Read the ICJ press release here.

Developments in International Justice

AfricaHuman rights groups have created an electronic collection of African human rights case law in a concerted attempt to circulate such legislations around the continent. The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and the Human Rights Documentation Systems launched the online case law tool, the African Human Rights Case Law Analyser, alongside the recent 48th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. Read more details from Afrique en Ligne. Access the on-line Analyser here.

itlosSt Vincent and the Grenadines has instituted proceedings against Spain at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The case involves the seizure by Spain in 2006 of a ship flying the flag of the applicant country in the Bay of Cadiz. While the crew was released after the incident, the ship is still being held without bond by the Spanish authorities. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is asking for damages of “not less than $10,000,000.” Read more details in the ITLOS press release.

applesMembers of the World Trade Organization Appellate Body have rejected an Australian appeal of a ruling that held its 89-year-old ban on New Zealand apple imports illegal. The decision may force Australia to open its market or face possible retaliation.  Read more from TVNZ, and access both a summary of the case and the full report at the WTO website.

feetThe United States has now signed the Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (“Child Protection Convention”). This convention was concluded in October 1996 and entered into force in January 2002. It is the third of the modern Hague Conventions on international family law, following in the footsteps of the Abduction Convention and the Adoption Convention. It is much broader in scope than the first two conventions and covers a wide range of civil measures related to the protection of children including: orders concerning parental responsibility and contact, public measures of protection or care, matters of legal representation and the protection of children's property. Read more from the US Department of State.

hrcThe United Nations Human Rights Council has issued a set of recommendations for the United States to bring its human rights policies and practices in line with international standards. The recommendations are the result of the first-ever participation by the U.S. in the Universal Periodic Review process, which involves a thorough assessment of a nation's human rights record. 

During the Review, a vast majority of United Nations member countries expressed their concern about the death penalty in the U.S. and called for a nationwide moratorium. Similarly, countries pointed out problems with mistreatment of migrants and racial disparities in education, access to health care, and the criminal justice system. Many called on the United States to follow through on its promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Read more from the American Civil Liberties Union.

BembaThe third trial of the International Criminal Court, The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, is now underway. Mr. Bemba, former vice-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and leader of the former Congolese rebel group, the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC), is charged with two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crime. The case was referred by the government of the Central African Republic, which alleges that the crimes were carried out on its territory. Read more about the Bemba case from The Hague Justice Portal

The Court has attempted to publicize the proceedings by screening the first two days of the trial in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. This was a unique opportunity for audiences in the region to familiarize themselves with the judicial proceedings before the International Criminal Court and to learn more about the principles governing a fair trial as well as the protective measures available to Court witnesses. Read the relevant ICC press releases.

Articles and Publications of Interest

najcLeigh Swigart of the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life has published an article about the Brandeis Judicial Colloquia series in the latest issue of the Counterbalance, the newsletter of the National Association of Women Judges. Download the article, “Promoting Judicial Dialogue across the National/International Divide: the Brandeis Approach,” and learn more about the colloquia series at the Center’s website.

remorseThierry Cruvellier’s Court of Remorse: Inside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, is now available in English. A journalist, Cruvellier covered trials at the tribunal and observed them closely, day after day. Gradually he gained the confidence of the victims, defendants, lawyers, and judges. Drawing on interviews with these protagonists and his close observations of their interactions, Cruvellier takes readers inside the courtroom to witness the motivations, mechanisms, and manipulations of justice as it unfolded on the stage of high-stakes, global politics. Cruvellier is the founder of International Justice Tribune, an online magazine covering international criminal justice. Cruvellier’s book was originally published in 2006 under the title Le Tribunal des vaincus. Un Nuremberg pour le Rwanda?.

warThe newly published The Law against War: the Prohibition on the Use of Force in Contemporary International Law, by Olivier Corten, is a translated and updated version of a book published in 2008 in French (Le droit contre la guerre: L’interdiction du recours à la force en droit international contemporain). The aim of this book is to study the prohibition of the use of armed force in contemporary positive international law. As Judge Bruno Simma of the International Court of Justice writes in his foreword, “Corten's book is weighty not just by its size, but above all through the depth and comprehensiveness with which it analyzes the entirety of what the author calls the law against war, the jus contra bellum… Corten tackles his immense task with a combination of methodical rigour, applying modern positivism and abstaining from constructions of a lex ferenda, and great sensibility for the political context and the ensuing possibilities and limitations of the legal regulation of force.”

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