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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.
People in the News
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) also has some new blood, having recently been joined by Judge José Luís da Cruz Vilaça (Portugal) and Judge Christopher Vajda (United Kingdom), as well as Advocate General Melchior Wathelet (Belgium) and Advocate General Nils Wahl (Sweden), who previously served as ECJ judge. Read more from the ECJ website.
The United Nations Security Council has extended the terms of five judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) until 31 December 2014 or the completion of their cases. They are Mehmet Güney (Turkey), Khalida Rachid Khan (Pakistan), Arlette Ramaroson (Madagascar), Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov (Russia), and Andrésia Vaz (Senegal). In December 2010, the Council set up the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals to take over and finish the remaining tasks of the two tribunals when they are closed after their mandates expire. The ICTR branch of the Residual Mechanism began its functions on 1 July 2012, while the branch for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia will start on 1 July 2013.
Visit the UN News Centre for more information.
The International Criminal Court has acquitted former Congolese militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in a 2003 village massacre. Human rights groups are calling the verdict a hard blow to the victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where violence continues to this day. The Prosecutor has appealed the verdict. Read the ICC press release here.
In the wake of the acquittal, defense counsel in the ICC’s Kenya case questioned the charges against her own client, deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, given that he is charged with the same mode of criminal responsibility, “indirect co-perpetration,” that was deemed unconvincing in the case of Ngudjolo. Read more from allafrica.com.
The International Bar Association (IBA), in the meantime, is defending Ngudjolo’s acquittal as “consistent with the well-established principles of due process and the rule of law.” Richard Goldstone, Honorary President of the IBA’s Human Rights Institute, commented: “The fairness of a criminal justice system is measured not by convictions but rather by acquittals. The integrity of the entire criminal justice process, whether at the national or international level, rests on an important tenet: that the prosecution bears the burden to produce sufficient credible evidence to establish the guilt of the accused. If this criterion is not met then the accused must be acquitted.” Read more from the IBA website.
Developments in International Justice
A judgment by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been called a defining decision "holding governments and companies to account for pollution," according to Amnesty International and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). In the case, SERAP v. Nigeria, the Court unanimously found the Nigerian government responsible for abuses by oil companies, asserting that the government must hold the companies and other perpetrators accountable. The court ruled that Nigeria violated the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights by failing to protect the Niger Delta and its people from the operations of oil companies that for many years devastated the region. Read an Amnesty International press release here.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has delivered a landmark judgment in the case of el-Masri v. Macedonia. It concerned a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, who was the mistaken victim nine years ago of an extraordinary rendition to Macedonia by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Open Society Justice Initiative filed the case on El-Masri's behalf before the court in September 2009. In its ruling, the ECHR "offered the most comprehensive condemnation to date by any court of what it termed ‘torture’ by the CIA during the campaign of extraordinary rendition of terrorism suspects launched after the September 11 attacks on the United States.” To learn more, visit the Open Society Foundation website and read a New Yorker blog post.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has expressed deep sadness at the death of a 23-year-old woman whose gang rape in India has sparked nationwide protests there. Pillay has called for “urgent and rational debate” aimed at ending violence against women in the country. “What is needed is a new public consciousness and more effective and sensitive enforcement of the law in the interests of women,” said Pillay, amidst media reports that India remained in mourning two days after the woman, a physiotherapy student whose name has not been publicly released, died in a Singapore hospital of internal injuries inflicted by her attackers. Read more about reaction to the crime in India from CBC News.
In a landmark legal request, the African Court on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) has been asked to use its advisory powers to decide if the suspension last August of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal by the region's leaders was legal. The request for an advisory opinion was submitted by the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) to the ACHPR in late November. The groups maintain that the decisions taken by SADC heads of state and government to suspend the SADC Tribunal were unlawful, violating judicial independence, access to justice, the right to effective remedies and the rule of law. Nicole Fritz, Executive Director of SALC, said, "A positive ruling from the African Court is one of the last remaining avenues to securing a revival of the SADC Tribunal and preserving the rule of law in southern Africa...without the Tribunal, most of the region's inhabitants - who cannot access credible domestic courts - have no real prospect of securing justice and redress." Read more about the situation here.
Last month IJIN reported that the ARA “Libertad” Case between Argentina and Ghana was to be heard in mid-Demember. Indeed, judges of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) have ordered that the Argentine ship be resupplied and returned to its country of origin at the earliest possible time. Read the ITLOS press release here.
Two recent publications focus on the crime of piracy, past and present:
Publications and Resources of Interest
Piracy in Comparative Perspective: Problems, Strategies, Law (A. Pedone and Hart 2012) presents a comprehensive historical view on many of the norms proscribing piratical acts, connecting contemporary laws to those codified in ancient Greece, Persia, the first Indian Empire, the Han Dynasty of China and the early European maritime powers. Yet the complexity of modern maritime piracy is also recognized. This book presents perspectives on the problem by contributors from four continents and diverse legal cultures. It appraises piracy from the comparative perspectives of multiple disciplines and from the standpoint of key participants in the social processes that are plagued by piracy – mariners, navies, ship owners and operators, policy makers and lawyers. For more information, visit the publisher's website.
Piracy and International Maritime Crimes in ASEAN (Elgar 2012), is edited by two leading scholars of international maritime law, Robert C. Beckman and J.A. Roach. The book analyzes the legal dimension of piracy in Southeast Asia and is meant to inform research and policy, as well as be useful for government and treaty officials, academics, and international and regional organizations concerned with piracy and other related maritime crimes, ocean affairs and the law of the sea. Find the publisher’s information here.
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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