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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
Both appointees have a long experience in and have reflected deeply on issues of international criminal justice. See Judge Meron’s recently published volume, The Making of International Criminal Justice. Read the Distinguished Lecture in International Justice and Human Rights delivered by Prosecutor Jallow at Brandeis University in 2009, "International Criminal Justice: Developments and Reflections on the Future."
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has sworn in a new Prosecutor, Mr. Norman Farrell (Canada), and a new Appeals Judge, Mr. Daniel Nsereko (Uganda), who recently served on the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court. Access their biographies here. Judge Sir David Baragwanath (New Zealand) and Judge Ralph Riachi (Lebanon) have also been re-elected as STL President and Vice-President respectively. Read the STL press release.
The STL was established to hold trials for the people accused of carrying out the attack of 14 February 2005 which killed 23 people, including the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, and injured many others. Since the four individuals indicted for the attack are still at large, the STL will try them in absentia. This will be the first absentia proceeding before an international tribunal since Nuremburg. Read details about the trial and those charged at the IntLawGrrls blog.
Judges of European Court of Human Rights and the United States Supreme Court recently came together for their first official meeting and exchange of views. The event, hosted by the George Washington University Law School, was attended by four judges from each court as well as other institutional representatives. Read summaries of the event from GW Law and the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, whose Director of Programs in International Justice and Society Leigh Swigart attended the historic event.
Developments in International Justice
The international justice community is abuzz with talk about the first verdict of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Trial Chamber I decided unanimously that Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is guilty, as a co-perpetrator, of the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lubanga’s sentence and reparations for the victims remain to be announced. Read more details in an ICC press release.
While many observers hail the verdict as an important advance for international criminal justice, the Lubanga trial is not without its critics. In particular, as reported by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, “[t]he trial has been sharply criticised for the conduct of its prosecutor and accused of weak investigative procedures, insufficient charges and questionable ethics and loyalties.” Read more about the alleged shortcomings of the trial.
Other legal analysts have weighed in on the Lubanga trial and verdict as well. The Lubanga Decision Roundtable at Opinio Juris has featured a series of commentaries on issues such as the legacies of the Lubanga verdict, deterrence, co-perpetration, the participation of children in hostilities, and sexual violence and the recharacterization of facts. The latest issue of the American Society of International Law’s Insight also provides analysis on “War Crimes Conviction in the First Case at the International Criminal Court.”
What are people saying about the verdict in the Ituri Region of the DRC where Lubanga’s crimes were carried out? Olivia Bueno of the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) writes that opinion is divided depending upon one’s view of Lubanga and the ICC. A recent IRRI report – Steps Towards Justice, Frustrated Hopes: Some Reflections on the Experience of International Criminal Court in Ituri – explores in depth local perceptions of international justice and the social, political and legal impact of its mechanisms.
The United States, European Union and Japan have filed complaints at the World Trade Organization against China for limiting its export of rare earth minerals, which are vital to the production of high-tech goods. China accounts for more than 90 percent of global production of 17 rare earth minerals that are used to make goods including hybrid cars, weapons, flat-screen TVs, mobile phones, mercury-vapor lights, and camera lenses. Read more from CBS News.
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has rendered its judgment in the Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh/Myanmar). The dispute concerned the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal with respect to the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. It is the first case of the Tribunal relating to the delimitation of maritime boundaries. Read full details in the ITLOS press release and an analysis of the judgment’s most significant elements from International Law Observer.
Public hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case concerning Questions relating to the Obligation to Prosecute or Extradite (Belgium v. Senegal) have concluded and the Court has begun its deliberation. The case concerns the obligation of Senegal to either try former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré in its own courts or to extradite him to Belgium, whose judicial system will try him on the basis of universal jurisdiction. Habré, who is accused of thousands of political killings and torture while head of state, has been living in Senegal since he fled Chad after being forced out of office in 1990. Read background on the case and details of the hearings from Human Rights Watch. Download the ICJ press release here.
The Senegalese government has long been accused of political interference in the Habré case. The impact on the case of last week's presidential elections in Senegal, where long-time President Abdoulaye Wade was voted out of office in a democratic transition rare for Africa, will only become clear in the months to come.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has ruled that Chile must pay damages to a judge who was denied custody of her three daughters by the Supreme Court in 2004 because of her sexual orientation. The IACHR has ordered Chile’s government to pay the judge, Karen Atala, $50,000 in addition to $12,000 in court costs. The ruling is the latest development in a multiyear legal battle waged by Judge Atala, a lesbian who had lost custody of her daughters to her ex-husband, also a judge. This is a landmark ruling for Chile’s legal system. Read more from the International Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission.
Articles and Publications of Interest
Dr. Mark Ellis of International Bar Association has published “The ECCC – A Failure of Credibility” (IBA, February 2012), a report outlining the numerous problems of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The report comes as a second investigating judge at the ECCC, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet (Switzerland) has resigned, claiming that he is being prevented from “properly and freely” carrying out his duties.
Kasper-Ansermet has served as reserve international co-investigating judge since November 2011, when his predecessor, Judge Siegfried Blunk (Germany), also resigned, citing attempted interference by Government officials in the court’s proceedings.
A new article by Oona A. Hathaway, Sabria McElroy, and Sara Aronchick Solow examines the status of treaties in U.S. courts and how the international legal commitments expressed in these treaties play out at home. In “International Law at home: Enforcing Treaties in U.S. Courts” (Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 37, Issue 1), the authors suggest how treaties might be more effectively implemented, provided that the United States has an interest in abiding by the international legal commitments it makes.
Countries that want to prosecute atrocity crimes can learn from Bosnia’s experience with its War Crimes Chamber, Human Rights Watch claims in its new report, “Justice for Atrocity Crimes: Lessons of International Support for Trials before the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” The report highlights key lessons from the involvement of international judges and prosecutors to boost national staff capacity to try sensitive and complex cases stemming from the 1992-1995 war in the Balkans. In the seven years since the State Court began operations, its chamber and the Special Department for War Crimes in the Prosecutor’s Office have completed more than 200 cases. Read more about the report here.
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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