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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.

August 2011

People in the News

bSir Nicolas Bratza (United Kingdom) has been elected as President of the European Court of Human Rights. Judge Bratza, who will assume his duties in November, has served as Vice-President of the Court since 2007. Read the full press release here.

hThe last remaining fugitive on the original list of suspected war criminals issued by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has been arrested in Serbia and transferred to The Hague. Goran Hadzic stands accused of the murder of hundreds of non-Serb citizens and the deportation of over 20,000 persons, torture and other crimes committed in the Serb-controlled regions of Croatia between 1991 and 1993. The indictment contends that, as president of the Serbian nationalist forces, Hadzic attempted to permanently and forcibly remove a majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from the disputed territory.

Obtain more information on Hadzic’s arrest, transfer, and first court appearance at the ICTY website. Read about the reactions of US and EU officials to his arrest from CNN.

Even before the long-anticipated arrest of Hadzic, the 8 permanent judges of the ICTY had had their terms extended by the Security Council. The judges will now serve to the end of 2012 or until the completion of the trials to which they are assigned. Read more from the UN News Centre.

cJudge Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade of the International Court of Justice has recently published a work addressing the role of law in fulfilling the needs and aspirations of humankind. In International Law for Humankind: Toward a New Jus Gentium,” the judge states:

“International Law itself, the new jus gentium of our days, has at last liberated itself from the chains of statism – there is a primacy of the raison d’humanité over the raison d’État – a humanization of International Law… in which human rights constitute the basic foundation of the legal order.”

View an interview with Judge Cançado Trindade discussing his new work.

Developments in International Justice

sThe Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has issued four arrest warrants in its investigations of the 2005 assassination of the country’s former prime minister, Rafiq Hariri.  All four suspects are members of Hezbollah. Find more details, including a flashy public service video encouraging victims of the incident to come forward, at the STL website.

STL President Antonio Cassese, in a New York Times op-ed, apologized to the Lebanese people for how long it has taken to issue these indictments. He also reminded the Lebanese government of “its international obligations, which are unambiguous. They include the arrest and detention of those named in the indictment; the continued protection of our judges, staff and counsel; and the financial contribution of Lebanon to our work, which is essential to allow independent and fair judicial proceedings to take place.”

iThe Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has issued a landmark judgment, Al-Skeini and Others v. the United Kingdom, on the extraterritorial application of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court ruled that because the United Kingdom was in charge of maintaining security in South East Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004, it was obligated to uphold the European Convention there, including its obligation to investigate under Article 2 (right to life). The Court concluded that the United Kingdom violated its procedural duty under Article 2 when it failed to carry out an independent and effective investigation into the death of five civilians killed during U.K. security operations in Basra during that period.

Read more about this important case in an Interrights press release. Access the detailed ECHR press release here.

lThe recent execution in Texas of Humberto Leal García, a Mexican national who was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death without ever being informed of his right to seek assistance from the Mexican consulate, has been criticized by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR).  The execution took place in defiance of the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR in Leal’s favor.  The execution also failed to comply with the 2004 Avena decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which found that the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) had been violated in the cases of many Mexican nationals on death row in the United States. The ICJ ruled that these cases should be reviewed and the sentences reconsidered accordingly.

The Obama administration appealed to the US Supreme Court to stay Leals’ execution, until Congress could consider a bill that would authorize hearings on the VCCR violations. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal in a 5 to 4 vote. Read more from The Guardian.

pThe High Court of The Netherlands has ruled that the Dutch State can be held responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian men in the 1995 Srebenica Massacre because Dutch troops working as United Nations peacekeepers did not protect them. The ruling of the High Court may open the door to many more compensation claims. Read more from the BBC.

sThe second trial of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia is now underway. Four elderly defendants are on trial, charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, homicide and torture and religious persecution. One of the defendants, Ieng Sary, has argued that he should not be tried again for genocide as he was already convicted of this crime by a Vietnamese-backed tribunal in 1979. Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk pardoned him in 1996. Read more from Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Articles and Publications of Interest

sTwo recently published books address the use of international law by domestic courts:

1. André Noellkaemper’s Domestic Courts and the International Rule of Law (Oxford 2011) examines what international law requires, expects, or aspires that domestic courts do. Against this backdrop, it seeks to map patterns of domestic practice in the actual or possible application of international law, and to determine what such patterns mean for the protection of the rule of international law.

2. In International Law in the U.S. Supreme Court (Cambridge 2011), editor David L. Sloss presents a comprehensive account of the Supreme Court's use of international law from the Court's inception to the present day. Addressing treaties, the direct application of customary international law and the use of international law as an interpretive tool, the book examines all the cases or lines of cases in which international law has played a material role, showing how the Court's treatment of international law both changed and remained consistent over the period.

aThe first volume of Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict, is now available. This volume explores the courageous work of leading socially engaged theater artists in contexts variously touched by ethnic conflict, human rights violation, war, and collective trauma – from Serbia to Sri-Lanka, from Israel and Palestine to Argentina, from India to the United States. The performances highlighted in this volume nourish and restore capacities for expression, communication, and transformative action, and creatively support communities in grappling with conflicting moral imperatives surrounding questions of justice, memory, resistance, and identity.

The editors of the volume are Cynthia E. Cohen (Brandeis University), Roberto Gutiérrez Varea (University of San Francisco), and Polly O. Walker (Partners in Peacebuilding). Read more about the contents of Acting Together here.

bAs announced recently, a report of the 2010 session of the Brandeis Institute for International Judges (BIIJ) is now available. Organized around the theme “Toward an International Rule of Law,” BIIJ 2010 hosted 16 judges from 13 international courts and tribunals last July in Salzburg, Austria.

To read an excerpt from the BIIJ 2010 report – “The Accessibility of International Courts and Tribunals” – click here. To download the entire report, and to find details on BIIJ 2010 participants, go to the BIIJ website.

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