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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
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, has named a new international investigating judge. Siegfried Blunk of Germany will replace Marcel Lemond, who resigned in September following the end of the investigation stage in a case against four Khmer Rouge leaders. Blunk, who was appointed by order of King Norodom Sihamoni, will be facing tough questions at the tribunal, which is to decide on two more cases for indictments, something the Cambodian side of the court opposes. Read more from VOA Khmer.
On the occasion of Human Rights Day 2010, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on governments around the globe “to acknowledge that criticism is not a crime, and to release all those people who have been detained for peacefully exercising their fundamental freedoms to defend democratic principles and human rights.” Read the full comments of Commissioner Pillay and those of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon here.
On the same day, 10 December, imprisoned Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia, amid protests and condemnation from China. Read more from CNN.
Retired Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, recently spoke out in favor of U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, stated:
“CEDAW currently has 186 countries which have ratified, including our closest allies. The United States is the only country to have signed, but not ratified, the Convention. Our non-ratification leaves us in the company of the few remaining non-party countries, including Iran and the Sudan. This is not the company we normally keep ... I support CEDAW not because I think it would require changes in women's rights within the United States. Rather, ratification of CEDAW would enhance the authority of the United States to advocate on behalf of women's rights in countries… that do not respect women's rights to the same extent that the United States does.”
Read more from IntLawGrrls blog.
The International Criminal Court’s new case, Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, is breaking new ground. For the first time in the history of international justice, a bench is composed entirely of women judges. Furthermore, the case is focused almost exclusively on crimes of sexual violence. Bemba is presided by Sylvia Steiner from Brazil, who has expertise and training in women's rights. Her colleagues are Judge Kuniko Ozaki from Japan and Judge Joyce Aluoch from Kenya. For more information, read a commentary about the case in The Guardian by Kelly Askin of the Open Society Institute. Access the ICC’s page about the Bemba case here.
The Republic of Costa Rica has instituted proceedings against the Republic of Nicaragua before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the so-called “Isla Calero dispute.” The proceedings concern an alleged “incursion into, occupation of and use by Nicaragua’s Army of Costa Rican territory as well as breaches of Nicaragua’s obligations towards Costa Rica” under a number of international treaties and conventions. On the basis of its allegations, Costa Rica has requested the ICJ to declare Nicaragua in breach of its international obligations, inter alia, its obligations under the 1858 Treaty of Limits and the fundamental principles of territorial integrity and the prohibition of use of force under the Charter of the United Nations. Costa Rica has requested that the ICJ determine reparations to be made by Nicaragua. Access the ICJ press release here. Read about the 150 year-long dispute between the parties at the website of the Americas Society.
Developments in International Justice
The ICJ also recently delivered its judgment in the case of Republic of Guinea v. Democratic Republic of the Congo, a dispute concerning alleged violations of international law relating to diplomatic protection and the treatment of foreign nationals. The Court has concluded that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has breached various provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. It furthermore calls for sufficient reparations to be made by Congo to "wipe out all the consequences of the illegal act and reestablish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed." Read highlights of the judgment and access the full decision at the Law-in-Perspective blog.
A museum chronicling the trial of major war criminals of the Nazi regime has been opened in Nuremburg. Memorium Nürnberger Prozesse was inaugurated in a ceremony that included representatives of the four countries that comprised the International Military Tribunal – Britain, France, Russia, and the United States – alongside those from Germany. Among the artifacts in the exhibition is the dock that held the former leaders of the Third Reich. Find more details about the museum here. Read background about the trials and investigations preceding them, and view some images of the new museum, at Deutsche Well.
The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006, has now entered into force after Iraq became the 20th State to ratify it. This landmark treaty aims to deter enforced disappearances, defined as the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State. United Nations experts have been tasked with assisting families to determine the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared and with urging States to ensure the eradication of the crime by bringing those responsible to justice. Read more details from the UN News Service.
The question of whether ex-Chadian dictator Hissène Habré will finally be tried for crimes against humanity and torture is still open. Multiple attempts have been made by both his victims and the international community to bring Habré to trial in Senegal, where he has resided since the 1990 coup that ousted him. The Senegalese government has dragged its feet, however, first claiming a lack of jurisdiction and then a shortage of funds. Senegal has also refused to extradite Habré to Belgium where he could be tried under the provisions of universal jurisdiction. An ongoing case at the International Court of Justice is seeking to clarify Senegal’s obligations in this matter. Recently, the European Union, African Union, and various States committed funds to make a trial in Senegal possible. This momentum has now been slowed, however, by a decision of the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States that claims that an international ad-hoc court is the proper venue for his trial. Read an account of the attempts to bring Habré to trial at Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
A number of publications focused on gender violence in times of conflict, and its treatment under international law, have recently become available.
Articles and Publications of Interest
1) Gender Report Card on the International Criminal Court 2010. This is the 6th annual report card prepared by Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, an international women’s rights organization advocating for the prosecution of gender-based crimes while working with the women most affected by armed conflicts under review and investigation by the International Criminal Court. The purpose of the report card is to assess the implementation by the International Criminal Court of the Rome Statute, Rules of Procedure and Evidence, and Elements of Crimes, and in particular the gender mandates they embody, in the more than eight years since the Rome Statute came into force. It reviews all major judicial developments, including the opening of investigations, announcements of arrest warrants, witness-protection issues, assistance to victims and outreach activities, among others. Read details from the report card’s press conference here.
2) Review of the Sexual Violence Elements of the Judgments of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Light of Security Council Resolution 1820. These tribunals were established to try alleged perpetrators of the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. According to the jurisprudence of these courts, sexual violence constitutes parts of these crimes, and can range from rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage to torture, outrages upon personal dignity, persecution, and serious bodily and mental harm. The report is based on desk research and all the judgments of the three courts completed by February 25, 2009. It is prepared mainly for a political and peacekeeping audience and it informed the first Progress Report of the Secretary-General on implementation of Security Council Resolution 1820.
3) Report of the Conference on Gender-Based Violence and Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict Areas. In March 2010, the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell University Law School brought together over 175 participants, including judges (from international tribunals and national courts), scholars, policymakers and practitioners to discuss advances and obstacles to securing justice for women and girls in conflict and post-conflict areas.
4) A growing concern about conflict-driven gender violence is also reflected by Resolution 1960 (2010), passed on 16 December 2010 by the U.N. Security Council, which condemns sexual violence in zones of conflict and political unrest. This new resolution on women and peace and security calls for, among other things, commanders in armed conflict to explicitly prohibit sexual violence by their subordinates. It also requests support of civil society groups to coordinate resources, information, and efforts relating to widespread sexual harm.
Anne Gallagher has recently published The International Law of Human Trafficking (Cambridge University Press 2010). Dr. Gallagher is Head of Operations for Equity International, a Geneva-based foundation that promotes ethical and lawful policing through technical and tactical training and other practical support to national police forces. She notes that the book “is not a specialist treatise in the usual sense. More accurately, it represents an attempt to apply the science and tools of international law to a specific, contemporary issue. From this perspective it is as much about sources of international legal obligation, the formation of international law, the doctrines of responsibility, and theories of compliance, as it is about trafficking.” Read more details here.
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