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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.
People in the News
Two new judges have been sworn in at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. Ms. Xue Hanqin (China) and Ms. Joan E. Donoghue (United States) are only the second and third women to have been elected to the Court since its establishment after WWII. Read the ICJ press release and an article from Radio Netherlands Worldwide about the novelty of having more female representation on the ICJ bench.
At the opening ceremony of the 18th Ordinary Session of the African Court, Mr. Gérard Niyungeko (Burundi, BIIJ 2010) was also elected President for a term of two years. Judge Niyungeko served previously as the first President of the Court, from 2006 to 2008. For more details, click here.
Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet has been appointed to head United Nations Women (UN Women), a newly created entity to oversee all of the world body’s programs aimed at promoting women’s rights and full participation in global affairs. The new body – which will receive a large boost in funding and become operational in January 2011 – merges four UN agencies and offices: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW). Read more details at the UN Women website.
Developments in International Justice
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) have indicted Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, who will now face trial before the Trial Chamber. The four were charged with crimes against humanity committed under the Democratic Kampuchea regime, between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979. They also are accused of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, genocide of the Cham Muslims and of the Vietnamese under the Pol Pot regime, and offences under the Cambodian Criminal Code 1956, in particular murder, torture and religious persecution.
These indictments follow the conviction in July of the regime’s chief jailer, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, and murder. Read the ECCC press release.
Some members of the international community wonder whether the measures taken by China to support its clean energy industry are in violation of its international trade obligations. World Trade Organization rules allow countries to subsidize goods and services in their home markets, as long as those subsidies do not discriminate against imports. But the rules prohibit export subsidies, to prevent governments from trying to help their companies gain in world markets. According to WTO policy, the country providing subsidies must remove them or other countries can retaliate by imposing steep tariffs on imports from that country. Read more from The New York Times.
Russia and Canada have agreed to resolve a dispute over the Lomonosov Ridge in the Arctic Ocean using the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Lomonosov Ridge stretches some 1,800 kilometers from the New Siberian Islands over the central part of the ocean to Ellesmere Island of the Canadian Arctic islands. The vast hydrocarbon deposits that will become more accessible as rising global temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice have brought the Arctic to the center of geopolitical wrangling between the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark. Read more about the dispute from NetNewsPublisher.
Many European companies that publicly embrace workers' rights under global labor standards nevertheless undermine workers' rights in their US operations, says Human Rights Watch. The 128-page report, "A Strange Case: Violations of Workers' Freedom of Association in the United States by European Multinational Corporations," looks at companies from across Europe, including German T-Mobile and DHL, and British supermarket chain Tesco. The report recommends stronger oversight by European headquarters of US managers' practices; stronger standards-setting and complaint mechanisms by international organizations such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); and stronger action by European governments and the European Union to require adherence to international standards by European firms. Read more from The Independent.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe has presented to the Committee of Ministers an initiative to help overcome the immediate and long-term challenges related to the rights and obligations of Roma communities throughout Europe. France has, in particular, angered its European neighbors by dismantling Roma camps and forcibly expelling Bulgarian and Romanian nationals in recent weeks. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding declared these actions scandalous and called for legal action against France.
“We can not do what was done by the Nazis and simply stigmatise a group of human beings; this is unacceptable and I say ‘Stop.’”
Read a series of articles about recent events regarding the Roma at EuroNews.
Amnesty International declares that Rwanda's new government must urgently review vague "genocide ideology" and "sectarianism" laws that are being used to suppress political dissent and stifle freedom of speech. In a report entitled Safer to Stay Silent: The Chilling Effect of Rwanda's Laws on 'Genocide Ideology' and 'Sectarianism', the organization details how the vague wording of these laws is misused to criminalize criticism of the government and legitimate dissent by opposition politicians, human rights activists and journalists. The report argues that although prohibiting hate speech is a legitimate aim, the Rwandan government’s approach and vague wording of the laws they employed violated international human rights law and the country’s obligations on freedom of expression. Read more from The Independent.
Activists are applauding the arrest and conviction in a Senegalese court of seven Quranic teachers who forced boys in their care to beg on the streets. The prosecution was part of an effort by Senegalese authorities to combat the widespread practice of exploitation and forced labor endured by tens of thousands of boys – known as talibés – entrusted to men like the accused for the supposed purpose of learning the Quran. This marks the first application of a 2005 law making illegal a practice that has long been decried by children’s rights groups.
Muslim clerics in Senegal have watched this first conviction with trepidation, wondering what it means for their future. Meanwhile, a local organization of women lawyers, l’Association des Juristes Sénégalaises (AJS) has issued a statement denouncing the small fine and suspended sentence handed down by the court, as well as Senegal’s lack of respect of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and other human rights instruments to which it is a signatory.
Read more from The New York Times and a recent Human Rights Watch report about the plight of talibés, “Off the Backs of Children.” Click here to download the statement of the AJS (in French).
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is seeking legal advice on a Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission report that recommends she be banned from occupying public office for 30 years. The Commission was set up after a succession of bloody civil conflicts that ended in 2003, in which over 200,000 people were killed. Sirleaf's name was among those on a list of people the TRC accused of having been the financiers and supporters of the different warring factions in Liberia between 1989 and 2003.
This is the first time Sirleaf has discussed the Commission recommendation concerning herself. She has already announced that she will seek a second term in power in the 2011 elections. Sirleaf was elected in the first post-war poll in 2005. Read more from Agence France Presse.
A new publication, Selecting International Judges: Principle, Process, and Politics, is now available at Oxford University Press. Based on a 3-year study carried out by the authors – Ruth Mackenzie, Kate Malleson, Penny Martin, and Philippe Sands QC – this book examines the way international court judges are chosen. Focusing principally on the judicial selection procedures of the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court, it provides the first detailed examination of how the selection process works in practice at national and international levels. The authors found that the selection of international judges is marked by a high degree of inconsistency and politicization.
Articles and Publications of Interest
“Although our findings indicate that merit is often a secondary factor in the selection processes, this does not mean that successful candidates necessarily lack quality,” said Professor Malleson in a piece by Radio Netherlands Worldwide. “Nevertheless, urgent steps need to be taken to limit the growing and pervasive role of extraneous political factors, particularly at the nomination stage, in order to ensure that politics does not overwhelm the prospects for selecting the very best judges for the international courts.”
Geoffrey Robertson, QC, (BIIJ 2003) former judge and president of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, has just published The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse (Penguin 2010). This book delivers a devastating indictment of the way the Vatican has run a secret legal system that shields paedophile priests from criminal trial around the world. Robertson argues that the Vatican and Pope Benedict are hiding behind a weak claim to statehood to dodge responsibility for failing to act against thousands of priests worldwide who have abused children. The author contends that unless the Pope can divest himself of the beguilements of statehood and devotion to obsolescent canon law, the Vatican will remain a serious enemy to the advance of human rights.
Read comments from Robertson as published in The Guardian and The Irish Times.
The International Review of the Red Cross has recently made available in electronic format an entire volume focused on women in armed conflict. Over the centuries, our perception of the main actors in warfare has been shaped by stereotypes of men as the aggressors and women as peace-loving and passive bystanders. However, the reality is women also take an active role in armed conflicts and in their aftermath; as politicians, combatants, leaders of non-governmental organisations, social and political groups and peace campaigners. Appropriate action requires a greater understanding of the impact of armed conflict on women and the particular vulnerabilities they face.
The volume includes the following articles, all available in pdf format:
• Editorial, Toni Pfanner.
• Interview with Mary Robinson.
• "Between Amazons and Sabines: a historical approach to women and war," Irène Herrmann and Daniel Palmieri.
• "The dialogue of difference: gender perspectives on international humanitarian law," Helen Durham and Katie O'Byrne.
• "Women fighters and the ‘beautiful soul’ narrative," Laura Sjoberg.
• "Women's participation in the Rwandan genocide: mothers or monsters?," Nicole Hogg.
• "From helplessness to agency: examining the plurality of women's experiences in armed conflict," Medina Haeri and Nadine Puechguirbal.
• "Women in detention," Julie Ashdown and Mel James.
• "Women, armed conflict and language – Gender, violence and discourse," Laura J. Shepherd.
• "Women, economy, war," Carolyn Nordstrom.
• "‘They came with two guns’: the consequences of sexual violence for the mental health of women in armed conflicts," Evelyne Josse.
• "The Security Council on women in war: between peacebuilding and humanitarian protection," Alain-Guy Tachou-Sipowo.
• "UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820: constructing gender in armed conflict and international humanitarian law," Amy Barrow.
• "Between rhetoric and reality: exploring the impact of military humanitarian intervention upon sexual violence – post-conflict sex trafficking in Kosovo," Samantha T. Godec.
• "Lost in translation: UN responses to sexual violence against men and boys in situations of armed conflict," Sandesh Sivakumaran.
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