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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.

June 2011

People in the News

               ratko mladic
International justice may be slow but it has a long memory. This is one conclusion that can be drawn from the recent arrest of Serbian war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic after more than 15 years spent as a fugitive.  But does Mladic’s arrest send the message to other leaders charged with war crimes – like Omar al Bashir of Sudan and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya – that impunity is a thing of the past? Or does it encourage them to hang on to power as long as they can, hoping to avoid prosecution? Read a range of views by experts in the field of international justice in a Reuters article.

bThe United States opted for a different strategy in dealing with another suspected war criminal who had long evaded justice, Osama bin Laden. Instead of being arrested and brought to trial he was killed in a maneuver by the US military. There are different opinions about the legality of this action, under both domestic and international law. Read the following for an analysis of different aspects of the killing: 1) an Insight article from the American Society for International Law, “Pakistan's Sovereignty and the Killing of Osama bin Laden”; 2) an Opinio Juris blog post, “The U.S. Perspective on the Legal Basis for the bin Laden Operation”; 3) an IntLawGrrls blog post, “Assassination under International & Domestic Law”; and 4) an article from Radio Netherlands Worldwide, “Bin Laden is Innocent from a Legal Point of View”.

iJudge Khalida Rachid Khan (Pakistan, BIIJ 2007) has been elected President of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), effective for a period of two years. Judge Khan, who served as Vice-President of the Tribunal from 2007 to 2011, has also been assigned to the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR, along with three other trial judges: William Sekule (Tanzania), Arlette Ramaroson (Madagascar) and Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov (Russia, BIIJ 2010). Read more in ICTR press releases.

oThe United Nations independent expert on human rights in Burundi, Fatsah Ouguergouz, has announced positive developments in that country, including the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms and the start of investigations into extrajudicial killings. Read more in a UN press release. Mr. Ouguergouz (BIIJ 2007 and 2010) also serves as a judge on the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Developments in International Justice

pThe Cambodian government has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an emergency order to Thailand to withdraw its troops from a disputed region around the Temple of Preah Vihear, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Cambodia also seeks clarification from the court of its 1962 decision awarding the 800 year-old temple to the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh. The clashes around the temple, which have left at least 18 people dead and made thousands homeless, have arisen because both Phnom Penh and Bangkok claim ownership of the 4.6-square-kilometer surrounding area. Read more from Al Jazeera.

Public hearings on the matter have now been concluded at the ICJ’s seat in The Hague and the court will begin deliberations. Download the court’s press release here.

eThe European Court of Justice has issued a decision in Hassen El Dridi alias Soufi Karim, ruling that the Italian law that punishes migrants who remain in Italy after being ordered to depart is precluded by European Union Directive 2008/115. This 2008 directive called for the establishment of an effective removal and repatriation policy, based on common standards, for undocumented persons to be returned home in a humane manner and with full respect for their fundamental rights and dignity. Read more from the Migrants at Sea blog.

Colombia is the 100th country to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a symbolic step towards achieving universal respect for the rights of more than 670 million people with disabilities worldwide. The convention reached the milestone of 100 state ratifications only three years after the treaty entered into force, second in speed only to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Read more about the Convention, and the need to back up ratification with action, from Human Rights Watch

dThe Council of Europe’s new Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (CETS n° 210) was opened for signature on the occasion of the 121st Session of the Committee of Ministers taking place in Istanbul, gathering Ministers of Foreign Affairs from 47 Member States. The Convention is also open to accession by non-European countries and by the European Union.

This new landmark Council of Europe treaty is the first legally binding instrument in the world creating a comprehensive legal framework to protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence. The Convention also establishes an international mechanism to monitor its implementation at national level.

The following countries signed the Convention during a ceremony in early May: Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. 

                   Christof heyns
Video footage that allegedly shows Tamils being executed by members of the Sri Lanka army during the civil war that ended in 2009 has been deemed credible. The footage, which was originally broadcast last year in Britain, has been carefully studied by Christof Heyns, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.  "I conclude on the basis of the extensive technical evidence we obtained from independent experts that what is depicted in the video indeed happened," Heyns told the Human Rights Council in Geneva. "I believe that a prima facie case of serious international crimes has been made." Read more from Yahoo News. The Sri Lankan government rejects Heyns’ finding, as reported in ColomboPage.

Grenada has become the 115th state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Now, nearly 60% of the membership of the United Nations has joined the ICC. Read more from Spice Grenada.

Articles and Publications of Interest

bA recent article written by one international judge highlights the accomplishments of another. Kenneth Keith, Judge of the International Court of Justice, pays tribute to his recently retired colleague in “Thomas Buergenthal: Judge of the International Court of Justice (2000–10)” (Leiden Journal of International Law, 24 (2011), pp. 163–171).

As Judge Keith explains in the article’s abstract, “This tribute to a member of the Court who arrived with outstanding and formidable scholarly qualifications, especially but not only in the field of international human rights, also draws on his earlier tragic, harrowing, and ‘lucky’ years. On the basis of the public record, for much of the work of the Judges as members of a collegial body is not public, the article emphasizes Thomas Buergenthal’s commitment to the independence of judicial office, as demonstrated particularly in cases brought against his own country; to the sound administration of justice; to the indispensability of courts in any system of ordered government, national or international; and more generally to principle.” Thomas Buergenthal also serves as a member of the International Advisory Board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University.

Access the entire text of the article here.

bAs reported in last month’s International Justice in the News, we have just published our report on the Brandeis Institute for International Judges (BIIJ) 2010. 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 – “What is the International Rule of Law?” – click here. To download the entire report, and to find details on BIIJ 2010 participants, go to the BIIJ website.

gThe Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights has recently published Compilation of Risk Factors and Legal Norms for the Prevention of Genocide. Francis Deng, Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, writes the following in the publication’s foreword:

“The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, by preparing the Compilation of Risk Factors and Legal Norms for the Prevention of Genocide, has provided us with a guiding tool for engaging governments in fulfilling their international obligations to prevent and punish the crime of genocide. The risk factors, clustered under systematic discrimination and life integrity violations, combined with a list of special circumstances that can encourage genocidal behavior, identify essential elements for constructively managing diversity. In many respects, they complement the Framework of Analysis which my office has developed for assessing the risk of genocide in a given situation.”

Download the publication here.

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