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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.

November 2014

People in the News

dThe WTO Dispute Resolution Body has appointed Mr. Shree Baboo Chekitan Servansing of Mauritius to the seven-member Appellate Body for four years. Mr. Servansing will replace Mr. David Unterhalter of South Africa (BIIJ 2012).  Mr. Servansing was chosen after a thorough search and interview process produced seven candidates for the position. Read about his appointment and background in a WTO press release.

      Vladimir Golitsyn

Judge Vladimir Vladimirovich Golitsyn (Russian Federation) has been elected as President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and Judge Boualem Bouguetaia (Algeria) as Vice-President. Both have been members of ITLOS since 2008 and will serve three-year terms in their respective positions. The President of ITLOS is tasked with presiding over all tribunal meetings, directing its activities, and representing ITLOS to other States and entities. The Vice-President assumes the role of the President if there is a vacancy in that office or if the President is incapable of performing his/her duties. Learn more about the new leadership and access their curricula vitae here.

dNina Vajić, Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Zagreb Law Faculty, has been appointed Chairperson of the Commission for the Control of Files (CCF) of INTERPOL. Ms. Vajić served as Judge of the European Court of Human Rights from 1998 to 2012 in respect of Croatia, during which time she attended four sessions of the BIIJ (2007, 2009, 2010, and 2012). Her new post will involve oversight of the independent CCF, which monitors all information stored by INTERPOL, processes requests for INTERPOL files, and provides advice to INTERPOL on questions regarding personal information. Read more about Judge Vajić’s appointment and access her biography here.

          Prime Minister Abbott

A member of the Australian Parliament has requested that the International Criminal Court investigate Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his cabinet for alleged crimes against humanity. The MP, Andrew Wilkie of Tasmania, claims that the Abbott administration has violated several international treaties and conventions to which Australia is a party – including the Refugee Convention and Convention on the Rights of the Child – in implementing its policy of relocating asylum seekers to other countries. Read more from The Guardian. In a blog post, international law lecturer Amy Maguire of the University of Newcastle notes, “the ICC is unlikely to initiate a prosecution against Abbott and his cabinet. Should it do so, the Australian government would surely reject the ICC’s claim of jurisdiction and refuse to volunteer its officials for trial in The Hague.” Read her full blog post.  

dTwelve Nobel Peace Prize laureates have signed a letter imploring President Obama to release a long-awaited report detailing the extent and nature of the use of torture by the CIA during the interrogation of suspects connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The joint letter was organized by two of the laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former President José Ramos-Horta of East Timor. The letter furthermore urges President Obama to recommit the United States to the Geneva Convention and the U.N. Convention Against Torture. The White House, along with certain Members of Congress, are concerned that if the report is not redacted carefully enough, the identities of individuals involved in the controversial programs might be discovered and their lives be put in danger. Read more about the letter and the debate over U.S. policies on torture from The New York Times

Developments in International Justice

dA pattern of government-perpetrated violence against women in Nigeria has been highlighted in a legal suit brought by four Nigerian women at the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Directed against the Abuja Environment Protection Board, the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army and other government security agencies working in Abuja, the suit alleges that these women were repeatedly picked up by government officials and law enforcement officers at varying places, and on varying dates, in Abuja. They were psychologically, physically, and sexually harassed based upon the assumption that they were prostitutes. Citing international law, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the plaintiffs hope this suit will reverse the course of gender-based violence in Nigeria and benefit the hundreds of other women facing similar discrimination and harassment. Read more from Nigeria’s Premium Times.

dAn interesting development has recently come out of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). The Appeals Panel decided by majority that the tribunal can hear cases regarding obstruction of justice against legal persons. In this particular instance, “legal person” refers to a corporate entity: New TV S.A.L., a Lebanese television network that is accused of releasing information relating to confidential witnesses on several programs in August 2012. The Panel decided that “the ordinary meaning of the word ‘person’ in a legal context can include both natural human beings and legal entities.” Proceedings against the network will now run parallel to the trial of Ms. Karma Al Khayat, an executive for Al Jadeed TV (the name New TV S.A.L. operates under), accused of the same crimes. Read more in an STL press release.

dDamages have been awarded in the first inter-state case to appear before the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) seeking monetary compensation under the “just satisfaction” provision of the European Convention on Human Rights. Cyprus brought a suit against Turkey for human rights violations perpetrated against Cypriots living in the Turkish occupied northern section of Cyprus. The ECHR awarded 90,000,000 euros to Cyprus as “just satisfaction” for the numerous violations by Turkey of Cypriots’ right to life, freedom from torture, and right to liberty and security during the 1980s social unrest in Cyprus. See ASIL Insights for the historical context and a rich discussion of the legal issues in this landmark ECHR case.

dIn early October the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a visit to the southern border of the United States in response to the mass movement there of families and unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico. This situation has generated significant concern for the human rights of those involved. According to the Commission, it carried out this visit “to oversee compliance with the international human rights obligations of the United States of America under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, which constitutes a source of international legal obligation for all Member States of the Organization of American States.” Read more in an IACHR press release.

Prior to the Commission’s visit to the United States, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights had already issued an advisory opinion regarding the rights of migrant children. The decision laid down several issues that states should consider when evaluating their practices regarding migrant children. These include developing an understanding of the child’s situation (background, reason for coming, family situation, etc.), rigorous due process rights to guarantee that the child participates fully in his/her proceedings, and using detention as a “last resort” response to a migratory crisis.

dThe Pre-trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently deciding whether or not to confirm the charges leveled against Charles Blé Goudé. He was a youth leader during the post-election violence that occurred in Côte d’Ivoire in 2010-2011. Mr. Blé Goudé stands accused of four counts of crimes against humanity: murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution, and other inhuman acts. According to the ICC Prosecutor, he was a high-ranking leader in former President Laurent Gbagbo’s administration and was tasked with recruiting, training, and commanding youth supporters of Gbagbo during the post-election violence. Click here to learn more about the case and view video footage of the confirmation of charges hearing (in French).

dThe International Court of Justice (ICJ) has set the timeline for submissions of initial pleadings in the case of Somalia v. Kenya. The case was initiated by Somalia in August 2014 to resolve a disagreement “about the location of the maritime boundary in the area where [Somalia and Kenya’s] maritime entitlements overlap.” After diplomatic negotiations failed to resolve the issue, Somalia asked the Court to determine, as a matter of international law, where its maritime boundary with Kenya is to be fixed. Find more information on the background of the case in an ICJ press release.

dDoes the United States have an obligation to confront the Ebola crisis in West Africa? What about in preventing the horrors being perpetrated by ISIS? In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly recognized that states have a “responsibility to protect” (R2P) the basic human and humanitarian rights of individuals around the world. This paradigm holds that each state has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens and the global community has the responsibility to assist each state in its mission. Additionally, the United Nations has the responsibility to respond to humanitarian/human rights crises around the world and as a last resort measure, employ military force to do so. In a recent Oxford University Press blog post, University of New Mexico School of Law Professor Jennifer Moore argues that R2P obligates the United States to provide humanitarian aid to Ebola-stricken nations and people, but prohibits non-UN sanctioned military action in the Middle East to combat ISIS.

d"Governments are very lazy," says David Donat Cattin, secretary general of Parliamentarians for Global Action, a network of international lawmakers. "They are ready to support the court when there is an anniversary, but when they have to do concrete things, they are very reluctant." He is referring to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, slated to close next September, which is facing numerous questions and criticisms for failing to find a permanent solution to the problem of acquitted defendants. Many freed defendants have nowhere to go as returning home to Rwanda would put them at grave risk for attacks from those unsatisfied with the verdict; and foreign countries, although often times willing to take in their families, are reluctant to allow in accused war criminals. One stop-gap measure is a safe house in Tanzania, where 11 exonerated men currently reside in a political and social limbo. Find out more about this complex case of post-trial injustice in a Reuters article.

Publications and Resources of Interest

dHow does the "humanization" of international law affect the work of courts whose mandate is not specific to human rights, such as interstate dispute resolution bodies and international criminal courts and tribunals? Might the increased inclusion of human rights issues across all categories of international courts result in a fragmentation of norms? Read what international judges have to say about these issues in The Expanding Impact of Human Rights Law on International Courts and Tribunals, an excerpt of the published report of the Brandeis Institute for International Judges 2013.

dA new volume presents a critique of international criminal justice from the point of view of practicing criminal defense lawyers, jurists, investigators, and specialized journalists. Edited by John Philpot and Sébastien Chartrand, Justice Belied: The Unbalanced Scales of International Criminal Justice (Baraka Books 2014) is a collection of essays that highlights – among other issues – instances of inequality, miscarriage of justice, and discrimination in case selection at the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the International Criminal Court. For more information, and a preview of the book, click here.

dAfrica Legal Aid has released a report on its recent conference entitled “Africa and the International Criminal Court: Lessons Learned and Synergies Ahead.” The conference featured high-level participants from the ICC, the UN, and Africa, including: Honourable Mogoeng Mogoeng, Chief Justice and President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa; H.E.. Navanethem Pillay, Immediate Past United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Judge Sang-Hyun Song, President of the ICC; Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, President of the Assembly of State Parties to the ICC; ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda; Judge Florence Mumba, Former Vice President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); and Dr. Ahmed El Gehani, Libya Focal Point for ICC Requests. Download the full report

dHirad Abtahi, First Legal Adviser and Head of the Legal and Enforcement Unit of the Presidency of the International Criminal Court, recently published the “Introductory Note on the Joint Plan of Action on Iran’s Nuclear Program” (ASIL International Legal Materials 53:4). Abtahi notes, “Though much has been said about the Joint Plan of Action since its adoption, not enough attention has been paid to its historical context; such neglect risks the Joint Plan of Action being, at best, viewed in isolation. This note bridges that gap by providing an overview of the events that led the Islamic Republic of Iran, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and Germany (P5+1) to agree on the Joint Plan of Action.” Read the full note here

Special Opportunity

The journal International Organization and Northwestern University’s Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies invite applications for a workshop to be held on 12-13 June 2015 on “The Judicialization of International Relations.” Interested participants should submit a paper proposal of no more than 500 words by 1 December 2014 to

The following types of proposals are particularly welcomed:

  • Studies that examine whether states, international institutions, firms or other non-state actors act differently in the shadow of adjudication;

  • Studies comparing politics in non-judicialized to judicialized contexts
  • Studies of the impact of judicialization across countries, regions or issue areas;

  • Studies that analyze whether and when adjudicators are becoming consequential creators of international law;
  • Examinations of the potential counter-responses to the increased authority of judicial institutions. For example, how and when do state actors successfully seek to influence adjudicators or otherwise reduce their jurisdiction or authority?
  • Analyses of whether international law differentially influences states depending on how much authority domestic judicial bodies have to utilize international law;

  • Inquiries into the larger theoretical implications of the emergence of these judicial actors;
  • Studies that provide generalizable insight into the practices, processes, politics and decision-making of adjudicatory bodies that have an international or transnational jurisdiction;

For more information about the workshop, see:

International Justice in the News is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society, and Michael Abrams '15.

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