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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.

March 2010

People in the News
  • OcampoLuis Moreno Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), is the new face to be found on the public transport vehicles – locally called matatu – of Kenya. A Christian Science Monitor article suggests that by emblazoning their vehicles with Moreno Ocampo’s face, drivers are endorsing the criminal investigation proposed by the ICC Prosecutor of top Kenyan politicians who allegedly organized ethnic violence in the wake of the December 2007 elections. In the meantime, ICC pre-trial judges have asked Moreno Ocampo to provide clarification and additional information so that they can assess whether or not to authorize the Kenyan investigation. Read more in the ICC press release.
  • O'BrienUnited Nations Legal Counsel Patricia O’Brien was recently in The Hague where she met with the presidents and other high-ranking officials of the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, International Criminal Court, and Special Tribunal for Lebanon. She also met with members of the trial chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone who are trying former Liberian president Charles Taylor in The Hague. O’Brien’s talks focused on how to improve cooperation between the UN and the tribunals set up to deal with war crimes and other grave violations of international law. Read more here.
  • special courtBrenda Hollis (United States) has been named Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). Ms. Hollis has a long experience in international law and criminal procedure and previously worked for both the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court. Read more in the press release. Binta Mansaray (Sierra Leone) has been named Registrar of the SCSL. She is a human rights advocate who joined the court in 2003, serving first as Outreach Coordinator, then Deputy Registrar and Acting Registrar. Read more here.
  • supreme courtA delegation from the United States Supreme Court recently visited the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer took part in working sessions on “Relations with other judicial bodies”, “Methodology and interpretation” and “Impact of the Treaty of Lisbon.” Read more in the ECJ press release.
Developments in International Justice
  • clusterA ban on cluster bombs has now received the 30 ratifications it needs to become binding international law. The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions comprehensively prohibits the use, production, and transfer of cluster munitions, provides strict deadlines for clearing affected areas and destroying stockpiled cluster munitions, and requires assistance to victims of the weapons. Burkina Faso and Moldova provided the final two ratifications. The convention will enter into force on 1 August 2010. Read more in a press release by Human Rights Watch.
  • council of EuropeThe accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights can now move forward following the Russian Federation’s ratification of Protocol 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council of Europe Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, declared, “By accepting the same rules which are valid for everyone else in Europe, [the European Union] will gain in legitimacy and in its power of persuasion." Protocol 14 will also reinforce the Convention and make the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) more effective and efficient, thereby strengthening its crucial role in the protection of human rights in Europe. Read a summary of Protocol 14 and a joint declaration by the Court and members of the Council of Europe, made at the recent Interlaken Conference on the future of the ECHR, that outlines changes to take place in the court’s procedures. Click here for an opinion piece on the current state of the ECHR from the Harvard Law Record.
  • End
    photo by minority rights
    group international
    The African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has issued a landmark ruling that calls for the Kenyan government to compensate an indigenous group, the Endorois, for seizure of their land in the 1970’s. As explained on the website of the NGO Cultural Survival, this decision recognizes both the “right to development,” included in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the concept of indigenous peoples. The decision was adopted by the African Commission in May 2009 and approved by the African Union at its January 2010 meeting in Addis Ababa. Read more at the website of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and in an article from the Kenyan Daily Nation. Download a summary of the ACHPR ruling from the Centre for Minority Rights Development here
  • women farmingThe Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched a new website that puts the spotlight on one of the major stumbling blocks to rural development - widespread inequalities between men and women in their access to land. 

The Gender and Land Rights Database, produced in consultation with national statistics authorities, universities, civil society organizations and other sources worldwide, offers up-to-date information on how men and women in 78 countries differ in their legal rights and access to land. The FAO website provides information about both national and international law pertaining to land tenure, as well as the customary norms, religious beliefs and social practices that may influence gender-differentiated land rights. One of the key patterns seen in the database is the great gulf between formal rights and practice. In many cases, national constitutions acknowledge men and women have equal rights to land, but the day-to-day reality is very different. Read more in an article from The Guardian. Access the FAO database here.
  • ECJ logoThe European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that migrant families can stay in the United Kingdom and claim benefits if they have a child receiving education there, even if the principal migrant worker has left the country. According to a BBC article, “The judgement could lead to more foreign nationals claiming the right to remain, even if they are not working and have no ties here other than children in education.” This decision was arrived at through two cases, London Borough of Harrow v Nimco Hassan Ibrahim and Maria Teixeira v London Borough of Lambeth.  Read more in the ECJ press release.
  • BashirThe Appeals chamber judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have reversed a decision by Pre-Trial judges that prosecutors had not provided sufficient evidence to charge Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with genocide. "The decision by the pre-trial chamber not to issue a warrant in the respect of the charge of genocide was materially affected by an error of law and it is for this reason the appeals chamber has decided to reverse the decision," ICC judge Erkki Kourula said in reading the appeal’s ruling. Read the ICC press release and the African Union communiqué suggesting that the ruling will jeopardize peace efforts in Sudan.
  • yoo
    john C. yoo
    After years of debate, the US Justice Department has concluded that John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee, legal advisors to former President George W. Bush and authors of the so-called “torture memos,” are not guilty of professional misconduct. This decision is not supported, however, by all Justice Department staff. Ethics lawyers in the Office of Professional Responsibility assert that Yoo and Bybee gave advice to the president about “enhanced interrogation tactics” that violated both international and federal law. Read more from a New York Times article and from Access the Department of Justice report here.

Articles and Publications of Interest

  • The International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life of Brandeis University, in collaboration with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), has just published a report of the Symposium on the Legacy of International Criminal Courts and Tribunals in Africa. This November 2007 event brought together judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and legal experts from the ICTR and from around Africa and the globe to reflect on the Tribunal's jurisprudence and its impact on African legal thinking.
  • burqa
    Jessica Berns, Director of Coexistence International at Brandeis University, recently published an op-ed in Global Post on the proposed partial ban of the burqa in France. “Democratic processes and institutions need to effectively safeguard equality, embrace diversity and foster interdependence, all of which contribute to coexistence at the national and communal levels,” she writes. “France can be a leader in creating a cohesive society shared by all its citizens, one in which there is appreciation and respect for the diversity within the country, or it can run from the difference and reject meaningful coexistence.” Some lawyers have suggested that this issue may well end up before the European Court of Human Rights.
  • decolonizationProfessor Roland Burke of La Trobe University has published a book challenging traditional accounts of the Third World's contribution to international human rights. Decolonization and the Evolution of International Human Rights (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010) demonstrates that diplomats from Third World countries helped to both radicalize the UN human rights agenda in the heyday of decolonization and to undermine that agenda by advancing cultural relativism as an excuse for abuses in the 1970s. Read more here.

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