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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 publications and resources 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.

October 2012

People in the News

sThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has a new president, Dean Spielmann of Luxembourg. Judge Spielmann, who has served on the ECHR bench since 2004, will take over from current President Sir Nicolas Bratza (UK) on 1 November 2012.  During his term, he will undoubtedly be called upon to answer critics of the Court and to underscore the ECHR's important role in protecting human rights in the region. Click here for more details.

      sophia akuffo
The African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has also elected a new president, Sophia Akuffo of Ghana (Brandeis Institute for International Judges 2012). Judge Akuffo is the first woman to hold this leadership position at the ACHPR. Her election might serve to mollify those who criticize the court for the lack of gender parity on the bench. Read more about her election here. Judge Fatsah Ouguergouz of Algeria (Brandeis Institute for International Judges 2007 & 2010) will serve as Vice President of the Court.

sIsraeli expert in international law Yuval Shany has been selected to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Committee. He is currently dean of the Faculty of Law at Hebrew University. Shany is the second Israeli to be elected to the Committee, whose job it is to oversee the implementation of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Times of Israel reports on the appointment here.

george gelaga king
George Gelaga King (Brandeis Institute for International Judges 2007 & 2012), Appeals Judge at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, has objected to the Court’s disciplinary proceeding against El Hadji Malick Sow. Judge Sow made headlines last spring when, as alternate Trial Judge in the Charles Taylor case, he attempted to state after delivery of the guilty verdict that guilt had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Read excerpts from Judge King’s dissent and an analysis of internal SCSL dynamics in a post by Prof. William Schabas.

Developments in International Justice

cThe creation of a new interdisciplinary research center focused on international courts and tribunals, iCourts, was marked by an inaugural conference on 14 & 15 September in Denmark. Based at the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, iCourts is funded by the Danish National Research Foundation. Its mandate is to study the increasingly important role of international courts and tribunals in the global legal order as well as in society and politics at large. Visit the iCourts website to learn more about its research agenda.

uThe United Nations conducted a high-level meeting on the future of the rule of law on 24 September 2012. During the meeting, world leaders and civil society representatives discussed for the first time the status of the rule of law at both national and international levels. It was agreed that the rule of law applies equally to all States and international organizations, including the United Nations itself. Various speakers spoke about the challenges of implementing the rule of law, stressing the need for accepted norms to be non-ambiguous and cautioning states to avoid selectivity in their adherence. The meeting concluded with 250 states pledging to take concrete steps to further the rule of law. For more details about the meeting, read the UN press release.

           desmond tutu
Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, has called for Tony Blair and George Bush to be brought to the ICC for their involvement in the Iraq invasion of 2003. Archbishop Tutu wrote in a letter to The Observer that the former leaders must “answer for their actions,” namely lying about weapons of mass destruction possessed by Iraq, and deciding to take military action that left the world more destabilized “than any other conflict in history.” Tutu added that, “in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague.”  Read the full text of Tutu’s letter as well as Tony Blair’s response.

In a joint statement, the Council of Europe and the European Commission have admonished Bosnia and Herzegovina for failing to implement the “Road Map” for their membership in the European Union.  They were reminded that until the government executes the 2009 Sejdić and Finci judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be admitted to the EU. The judgment concerned the barring of Roma and Jewish individuals from standing as candidates in a national election. The joint statement
 declared, “The European Union and the Council of Europe call on the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to uphold their responsibilities and work together to implement the judgment… Faced with a number of disparate proposals, we regret that it appears that these issues are given a lower priority by Bosnia and Herzegovina's leaders than political rivalries. The citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve better."

sSpace Law is a rapidly expanding field, dealing with issues such as the regulation of space litter, interstellar arbitration, and even space militarization. This year, the United States, the European Union and other nations began negotiations toward a non-binding International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. The Code will be helpful in regulating issues such as galactic property rights and defense space activities. Last December, the Permanent Court of Arbitration adopted the Optional Rules for the Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Outer Space Activities, after noting the rise of a global space industry worth $300 billion. For more information on Space Law, read an IntLawGrrls post.

Venezuela has withdrawn from the American Convention on Human Rights, issuing its denunciation in a notice sent to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS). It has been a member of the OAS since 1948, and its withdrawal means the Inter-American Court will no longer be able to review cases of alleged human rights violations in Venezuela. “This move is an affront to the victims of human rights violations and to future generations of Venezuelans who will no longer be able to access this regional body when their rights are not respected in their own country,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Americas Program Director at Amnesty International. More details can be found in the OAS press release.

iA former Khmer Rouge leader has been released after the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) ruled that she was unfit to stand trial. Ieng Thirith, 80, was the social affairs minister during the 1970’s when the Khmer Rouge was blamed for the deaths of up to two million people. Her release was granted after the Court imposed measures to prevent her from fleeing the country or interfering with other trials at the ECCC.  She is thought to be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  Read more from the BBC.

            Senussi (l) with gaddafi
Muammar Gaddafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, has been extradited to Libya.  He was apprehended in Mauritania six months ago, in disguise and in possession of a fake passport, after fleeing Libya in the wake of last year’s uprising. The ICC and France both wish to prosecute Senussi on various charges. Libya has promised, however, to give Senussi a fair trial on home soil. Read more about the jurisdictional tug-of-war here. Learn more about ICC jurisdiction and the implications of complementarity with national courts here.

Publications and Resources of Interest

vFrans Viljoen, Professor of International Human Rights Law and Director of the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, has recently published International Human Rights Law in Africa (Oxford University Press 2012). The volume explores the interplay between international, regional, and national human rights bodies in African states, and examines the challenges raised by modern post-colonial statehood, national identity, and poverty. For more about the book, read the publisher’s description

In The Law of Targeting (Oxford University Press 2012), William H. Boothby, former Deputy Director of Legal Services for the Royal Air Force, addresses a timely topic. Targeting is the “primary method for securing strategic objectives in an armed conflict.”  The book comprehensively covers the controversial topic, and includes contemporary evidence examining the legality of drone strikes and cyber warfare. The guide may be of interest to government and military officials, as well as scholars and students of the law of armed conflict. Read more here

wA new report from the Open Society Justice Initiative discusses the mobile courts set up in the Democratic Republic of Congo to try rape cases in a region dominated by widespread gender crimes and impunity. It has been said that the eastern areas of the DRC are among the "worst areas in the world to be a woman or child." Download the report here. For an on-the-ground description of a mobile gender court, read a blog by Karen Naimer, Director of the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones at Physicians for Human Rights.

International Justice in the News is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society, with the assistance of Kochava Ayoun '14.

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