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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.

July 2012

People in the News

cMr. Seung Wha Chang (Republic of Korea) has been appointed to serve a four-year term with the World Trade Organization Appellate Body. Mr. Chang will replace Mr. Shotaro Oshima (Japan) who resigned earlier in 2012. Read about current Appellate Body members and access their bios here.

  justice shireen
      avis fisher
Justice Shireen Avis Fisher (United States) has been elected President of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). Justice Fisher was appointed to the SCSL in 2009 after serving for several years in the former Yugoslavia. She was an International Judge of the War Crimes Chamber in the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2005 to 2008 and then a Commissioner on the Kosovo Independent Judicial and Prosecutorial Commission.  Click here for more details.

Justice Emmanuel Ayoola of Nigeria (Brandeis Institute for International Judges 2004 and 2012) has also been re-elected to a third term as SCSL Vice President. Justice Ayoola previously served as President of the Special Court from 2004-2005.

eJudges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) have responded publicly to a recent critical opinion piece written by Margot Wallström, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Wallström claims that victims of crimes of sexual violence have not been given a voice at the court, and asserts that such crimes “must be given the full benefit of the court’s resources and attention, as afforded other crimes against humanity.” ECCC trial judges replied that the ECCC had “implemented measures to afford appropriate protection and support to victims of sexual violence, honour their courage in coming forward, and acknowledge the significance of their contribution to the ECCC’s work.” Read more about their response in an ECCC press release.

Developments in International Justice

iThe International Court of Justice (ICJ) has delivered its decision on the compensation to be paid in the case of Ahmadou Sadio Diallo (Republic of Guinea v. Democratic Republic of the Congo). Read details of the various phases of the case at the ICJ website. This is the first ICJ case to award compensation in six decades. The case is also atypical in that it centers on individual instead of state concerns. Learn more about these elements of the case at iLawyer.

lThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has held, in Tatár and Fáber v. Hungary, that the hanging of dirty laundry around the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest does not constitute an act of illegal assembly but instead an act of free speech. In 2007, the applicants carried out this “political performance” in protest at what they considered the country’s general political crisis. They were subsequently fined and prosecuted by Hungarian authorities. Read more in an ECHR press release.

lThe Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has expressed concern over the recent ousting of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo. Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to remove Lugo for failing to keep the peace after 17 police and peasant farmers died in clashes over a land eviction. The Commission states that the rapidity of the impeachment process “generates profound questions as to its integrity… Considering that it was a process for the removal of a Head of State, it is highly questionable that this could be done within 24 hours while still respecting the due process guarantees necessary for an impartial trial.” Read more in a Commission press release.

fThe African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has delivered its judgment in Femi Falana v. African Union. Falana is a Nigeria-based lawyer and human rights activist who alleged that the African Union was responsible for his inability to exercise the right of access to the African Court because it requires States to have signed a declaration for their citizens to be able to directly bring cases before the African Court. Since Nigeria has not signed the declaration, Falana and other Nigerians are denied access to the Court. The Court has ruled that the African Union cannot be sued before the Court because it is neither party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights nor to the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in spite of having a legal personality as an international organization. Read more details about the case in the Court’s press release.

rThe highly anticipated June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (nicknamed “Rio+20”) has ended, many observers feel, without a bang. While there was much reaffirming of environment-friendly policies, there were few commitments made to enact them, and it became clear during the conference that there exist profound divisions over how to tackle the world’s environmental and development problems. As noted in a Bloomberg article, the conference has not even resulted in a “declaration” but instead in an “outcomes document.” UN officials are declaring Rio+20 a success, however. Read more about the conference and download the outcomes document at the official conference website.

                      fatou bensouda
There is once again a flurry of activity around the International Criminal Court (ICC). The new ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has been sworn in, while her predecessor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, heads to FIFA where, if confirmed, he will investigate allegations of corruption. 

2012 marks the 10th year anniversary of the ICC. This has inspired a number of conferences and public events in diverse venues devoted to the Court’s first decade. In the United States, the anniversary has engendered both harsh criticism, as found in a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Prof. Eric Posner and cautious optimism, as reflected in a Washington Post op-ed by John Bellinger III. The widespread belief that the ICC is targeting Africa in its investigations has generated momentum toward the creation of an alternative African criminal court.

In the meantime, members of the defense team of Saif al Islam Gaddafi – who has been charged with war crimes by the ICC – have been detained while visiting their client in Libya. Calls for their release have come from multiple quarters. The situation is being closely monitored and emerging news is being collected at Justice in Conflict. A recent Guardian op-ed by Richard Goldstone declares that this crisis in Libya constitutes further proof that Gaddafi should be tried at the ICC instead of in his home country, which lacks the rule of law.

Articles and Publications of Interest

cA new book highlights how criminal procedure in the common law world is being recast in the image of human rights. Criminal Evidence and Human Rights: Reimagining Common Law Procedural Traditions (Hart Publishing 2012) was edited by Paul Roberts (University of Nottingham) and Jill Hunter (University of New South Wales). The contributors to this volume – hailing from common law countries across the globe – provide expert evaluations of their own domestic law and practice with frequent reference to comparative experiences in other jurisdictions. Some essays focus on specific topics, such as evidence obtained by torture, the presumption of innocence, hearsay, the privilege against self-incrimination, and 'rape shield' laws. Others seek to draw more general lessons about the context of law reform, the epistemic demands of the right to a fair trial, the domestic impact of supra-national legal standards (especially the ECHR), and the scope for reimagining common law procedures through the medium of human rights.

wTwo recent publications focus on the status of water under international law:

The Human Right to Water: Significance, Legal Status and Implications for Water Allocation (Hart Publishing 2012) was authored by Inga T. Winkler, Legal Adviser to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation. This work clarifies the legal status and meaning of the right to water through a detailed analysis of its legal foundations, legal nature, normative content and corresponding State obligations.

In L’eau et la guerre: elements pour un régime juridique (Bruylant, 2011, in French), Mara Tignino of the University of Geneva explores the relationship between water and war, and reviews how various branches of international law protect access to water during armed conflicts. Read more about the book from IntLawGrrls.

International Justice in the News is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society.

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