Go to the current edition.
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
Seven Members of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) were recently elected at the twenty-first Meeting of the State Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Four Members have already served one or more terms: Judge Cot (France), Judge Gao (China), Judge Lucky (Trinidad and Tobago, BIIJ 2009) and Judge Ndiaye (Senegal, BIIJ 2006). Three members will be new to the bench: Mr. Attard (Malta), Mr. Kulyk (Ukraine), and Ms. Kelly (Argentina), who will also be the first female Member ever to be elected. Read more in an ITLOS press release.
|judge jon kamanda|
The first Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), Robin Vincent, has died. Mr. Vincent had formerly held the posts of Registrar of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, acting Deputy Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and adviser to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Read more in an STL press release.
|judge sanji monageng|
Developments in International Justice
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has expressed concern over the new immigration law enacted in the U.S. state of Alabama, known as H56B. This law establishes, among other things, that when any law enforcement officer makes a lawful stop, detention, or arrest and a "reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States," a reasonable attempt must be made to determine the person's citizenship and immigration status. The law does not define "reasonable suspicion," which could lead to the use of racial profiling by law enforcement officers.
The Commission notes, “International law recognizes that countries may establish mechanisms to control the entry and departure of foreigners to their territory. Likewise, international law establishes that a State’s actions in this context must be applied with strict regard for the rights of the people affected and with the observance of fundamental principles such as nondiscrimination and the rights to liberty and personal integrity, which may not be subordinated to the implementation of public policy objectives.” Read more in the Commission’s press release.
In the meantime, Alabama law enforcement officers are unsure of how they will carry out the provisions of the new law, as reported in the Montgomery Advertiser.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) recently adopted the International Convention on Domestic Workers, a landmark legal instrument aimed to protect the rights and improve the conditions of life of domestic workers, millions of whom are migrants.
“Migrant domestic workers are at heightened risk of certain forms of exploitation and abuse, due to the vulnerability, isolation and dependence in which most find themselves,” said human rights expert Abdelhamid El Jamri, who currently heads the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
“Women migrant domestic workers, in particular, face additional risks related to their gender, including gender-based violence,” Mr. El Jamri noted. “These risks and vulnerabilities are further aggravated for migrant domestic workers who are in an irregular situation, not least because they may fear deportation if they contact State authorities to seek protection from an abusive employer.”
Read more about the convention and the conditions it is meant to respond to from Voice of America News. Find the text of the convention, recommendations, and other information about the efforts to protect domestic workers at the ILO website.
The United Nations-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) continues to face many challenges in bringing to justice those allegedly responsible for crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge era. The Open Society Institute has issued a report reflecting “the deep concerns of both court officials and representatives of victims over the handling of accusations against a group of former Khmer Rouge officials who have yet to be charged.” An article from VOA Khmer relates that co-investigating judges Siegfried Blunk and You Bunleng have rejected a request from the UN prosecutor Andrew Cayley that they continue investigating a controversial third case at the court. Reuters reports that a number of foreign staff have resigned from the ECCC following this recent decision to reject the third case in the face of strong evidence of atrocities by two suspects. An Associated Press article comments more generally on the ECCC’s apparent dysfunctionality and political interference.
In the meantime, the ECCC’s second trial, in which four surviving leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge stand accused of mass atrocities, has just begun. And the first case, in which the Khmer Rouge’s chief jailer was convicted, is under appeal.
The United States recently hosted an indicted war criminal, who was visiting in his official capacity as a staff director at Rwanda's military academy. As reported by The Atlantic, Justus Majyambere, a major in the Rwandan Defense Forces, was indicted in absentia by Spain in 2008 for his alleged role in the killing of nine Spanish NGO workers in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. While Majyambere appears to have been briefly detained upon landing in the U.S. – when an Interpol “red notice” was discovered next to his name – he was later released.
According to The Atlantic, “That the U.S. government would choose not to object to an accused war criminal's official presence in the United States – tolerating his presence even after law enforcement learned of the red notice, and allowing him to return home unmolested – reveals the U.S.'s complicated relationship with the Rwandan government and with international law itself.”
Several weeks later, however, some U.S. leaders did not hesitate to criticize the Chinese government for inviting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for a visit, even though he is indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and war crimes. Once Bashir’s visit was confirmed, the U.S. government instead urged China to use its influence to press Sudan on stopping the violence and adhering to peace accords with Southern Sudan.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that France has not made sufficient efforts to protect the European Hamster in the region of Alsace, and has thus fallen short of its commitments to protect biodiversity. The Court has instructed France, among other measures, to ensure that crops encouraging the survival and multiplication of the hamster be grown in sufficient quantities. Read more in a New York Times article and the ECJ press release.
Articles and Publications of Interest
A powerful new critique of contemporary institutions of international justice is now available. In Mirages of International Justice: the Elusive Pursuit of a Transnational Legal Order, author Matthew Parish develops a constructivist account of international relations and applies it to the operation of international courts. Following is a brief description of Parish’s perspective:
“The purpose of most international law is for states to associate themselves with values. They do this to obtain domestic political cooperation. The international courts created as a result are dysfunctional by domestic standards, but this is deliberately so. Sovereigns have no interest in creating powerful international tribunals that might be used to enforce international law against them. Thus it should be no surprise that the courts created are ineffective or, in some cases, tools for powerful sovereigns or their commercial interests to dominate weaker ones.
International courts are creatures of political showmanship, intellectually expansive but politically weak. In their operations and their jurisprudence, observance of principle must yield to the hard realities of the balance of power. Despite their political constraints, within the space in which they operate they have become an industry to themselves, developing autonomous trajectories and suffering from unchecked bureaucratic growth.”
As 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 – “Fairness in International Judicial Institutions” – click here. To download the entire report, and to find details on BIIJ 2010 participants, go to the BIIJ website.
Two publications about the International Criminal Court (ICC) have recently become available:
1) The War Crimes Research Office’s 14th report in its ongoing series on early issues before the ICC. The new report, entitled Expediting Proceedings at the International Criminal Court, examines means of avoiding delays in proceedings before the ICC. To access this and all WCRO’s past ICC reports, click here.
2) The Open Society Institute’s report, Complementarity and the Assembly of State Parties (ASP): Opportunities for Impact, sets out a series of recommendations from the Open Society Justice Initiative aimed at strengthening the ability of national courts to support the ICC. The report may be downloaded here.
To comment, or to receive our monthly “International Justice in the News” e-letter, send a message here.