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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.

November 2011

People in the News

CAntonio Cassese, a pre-eminent international humanitarian law expert, has passed away at the age of 74 after battling cancer. Cassese served as the first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and later as president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). He was serving as an appeals judge at the STL at the time of his death. Cassese died peacefully at his home in Florence, Italy. Read his full orbituary here.

bThe resignation of co-investigating Judge Siegfried Blunk from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (aka Khmer Rouge tribunal) has prompted questions of political interference in the court. When announcing his resignation, Blunk complained that explicit statements made by the Cambodian government opposing court cases have compromised the independence of the judges. Read an op-ed on this matter by Open Society Justice Initiative Executive Director James Goldston. More recently, United Nations Legal Counsel Patricia O’Brien has urged the Cambodian government to stop interfering in the work of the court. Read more here.   

aFormer UN Secretary General Kofi Annan recently offered insights into the search for a new International Criminal Court Prosecutor, recognizing the difficulties and responsibilities of this critical position. The final four candidates are current ICC Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (Gambia), Khmer Rouge Tribunal Co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley (UK), Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman (Tanzania), and former prosecuting trial attorney at the Special Court for Sierra Leone Robert Petit (Canada). Bensouda is currently thought to be the frontrunner, although all candidates have a wealth of experience in international criminal law. Read Annan’s opinion piece here. Learn more about the final candidates from Global Memo.

bAnother opportunity for the arrest of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has come and passed. Bashir’s attendance at a regional trade summit in Malawi without threat of arrest has the International Criminal Court asking Malawi to explain why it failed to arrest the indicted Head-of-State. Bashir, who is wanted for genocide, attended a meeting of the 19-member Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, despite calls from the European Union and international rights groups for his arrest. Read more from the BBC.

              senator wyden
Several United States senators have been praised by human rights organizations for their efforts to halt a Bahrain arms sale. Senator Cardin (Maryland), Senator Casey, Jr. (Pennsylvania), Senator Durbin (Illinois), Senator Menendez (New Jersey), and Senator Wyden (Oregon), all of the Democratic party, recently sent a joint letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging the delay of a proposed US arms sale to Bahrain due to the country’s ongoing repression of peaceful demonstrations. Read more here.

Developments in International Justice

sThe European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered a judgment on when and how patents can be issued for retrieving stem cells from human embryos. In its decision, the ECJ determined that a process for removing stem cells from human embryos that destroys the embryos cannot be patented. The judgment also ruled that the use of human embryos for scientific research cannot be patented, although patents are possible for embryos used for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes applied to the embryo. Read more from European Voice.

                 augusto pinochet
In a court versus court maneouver, an order from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights was defeated in Chile’s Supreme Court. The order came from the 2006 Almonacid v. Chile case and called on Chile to investigate the extrajudicial killing of Luis Almonacid in 1973 and to prosecute all cases of Pinochet-era human rights violations that had been closed under the 1978 Amnesty Decree. Chile’s former President Michelle Bachelet vowed to comply with this order, but two days after Bachelet’s declaration, the president of the Chilean Supreme Court stated that the ruling was not binding. Bachelet’s term ended over a year ago and Chilean courts have yet to prosecute any of the cases closed under the Amnesty Decree. Read more at the IntLawGrrls blog.

uThe United States has deployed a small force of 100 military advisers to Uganda to help find Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA has waged a decade-long civil war in Uganda and has more recently spread its warfare into neighboring States. Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the forced conscription of children as soldiers and sexual enslavement. Read about varied reactions to this intervention at the Justice in Conflict blog.

cThe World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body has upheld the Dispute Panel’s earlier finding that United States measures affecting the Chinese tire market do not violate US obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. China originally filed a 5-part complaint to the WTO about the imposition of these measures, claiming that the US had misinterpreted its right to impose safeguard measures on imports from China alone when such imports are “increasing rapidly” so as to be a “significant cause” of material injury to the domestic industry. Read a summary of the case at the WTO website.

sThe UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, has called for the prohibition of solitary confinement. Mendez describes solitary confinement as an inhuman practice that should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique. Mendez told the UN General Assembly that solitary confinement is contrary to rehabilitation, the aim of the penitentiary system. Read more here.

iTwo transitional justice mechanisms are being implemented in the Ivory Coast in response to violence that took place after its 2010 presidential election. The Ivory Coast has launched a Truth, Reconciliation and Dialogue Commission to forge unity amongst Ivorians. Internationally famous footballer Didier Drogba has been appointed to represent the Ivorian diaspora on the Commission. Additionally, the International Criminal Court has authorized the Prosecutor to investigate the post-election violence in which 3,000 people were killed and 500,000 people displaced. Learn more about both the Truth Commission and the ICC investigation.

Articles and Publications of Interest

In “An Emerging Mandate for the International Courts: Restorative and Victim-Centered Justice” (Stanford Journal of International Law, Vol. 47, p. 279, 2011), Thomas M. Antkowiak (Seattle University School of Law) considers the development of the victim-centered approach in international law, tests its feasibility, and then urges its application by both the European Court and nascent human rights bodies searching for adequate remedial principles. To demonstrate the viability of this model, Prof. Antkowiak presents a detailed analysis of state compliance with remedies of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

jProf. Antkowiak will participate in the upcoming symposium at Brandeis University, “Just Performance: Enacting Justice in the Wake of Violence” (1-2 December 2011). During this symposium, practitioners and scholars will examine the performative aspects and effectiveness of various strategies for seeking justice after periods of conflict and human rights violations, including criminal trials, truth commissions, theater, and public ritual. Read more about “Just Performance” here.

The Gender Jurisprudence Collections (GJC) have been launched by the War Crimes Research Office and Women and International Law Program at American University. The GJC is an online research tool that allows judges, lawyers, and researchers to search the jurisprudence of eleven internationalized criminal courts and tribunals for documents containing information regarding the prosecution of crimes involving sexual and gender-based violence.

For access to the Gender Jurisprudence Collections, click here

Two recent publications examine the role of law in conflict and post-conflict situations.

hIn Humanity’s Law (OUP 2011), New York Law School Professor Ruti Teitel offers a powerful account of one of the central transformations of the post-Cold War era: the profound normative shift in the international legal order from prioritizing state security to protecting human security. As she demonstrates, courts, tribunals, and other international bodies now rely on a humanity-based framework to assess the rights and wrongs of conflict; to determine whether and how to intervene; and to impose accountability and responsibility.

In “Power, Paradigms and Legal Prescriptions: The Rule of Law as a Necessary but Not Sufficient Condition for Transitional Justice” (University of Alabama Public Law Research Paper No. 1890688), Meredith Render considers the various ways that law functions to sometimes perpetuate and sometimes prevent genocide and other mass catastrophes in transitional societies. In particular, the essay examines three conceptually distinct aspects of law within a given society -- the concept of law, the "rule of law" and the role (or function) of law - and posits that only by considering the interplay of these three aspects of law within transitional societies can we fully appreciate the necessity of a robust commitment to the rule of law as a bulwark against mass atrocity within transitional societies.

International Justice in the News is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society, with the assistance of Katherine Alexander '12.

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