Go to the current edition.
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
Motoo Noguchi of Japan (Brandeis Institute for International Judges 2010) has been elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Mr. Noguchi formerly served as a judge in the Supreme Court Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Read more in an ICC press release. One of Mr. Noguchi’s first activities was to accept a donation of $50,000 to the Trust Fund from the Planethood Foundation, established by Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz and his son Donald Ferencz. The latter recently spoke at Brandeis University about the crime of aggression and its status before the ICC. View a video of his remarks here.
The ICC also welcomes a new registrar with wide experience in international criminal justice. Herman von Hebel of The Netherlands has been registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon since December 2010. He previously served as deputy registrar and then registrar of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. From 2001 until 2006, he was senior legal officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Click here for more details.
Three arbitrators have been appointed by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to settle the dispute between the Argentine Republic and the Republic of Ghana concerning the vessel ARA Libertad. In October 2012, the vessel was impounded in the port of Tema, Ghana, by a court ruling in favor of NML Capital, which claimed that it was owed $370 million as a consequence of Argentina’s debt defaults of 2002. ITLOS directed Ghana to release the vessel under provisional measures in December 2012. The arbitrators are Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh (Jordan), Bernard Oxman (USA), and Bruno Simma (Germany), who will also act as president of the arbitral tribunal. Mr. Al-Khasawneh and Mr. Simma both served until recently as judges of the International Court of Justice. Read more in an ITLOS press release.
Ieng Sary, 87, former Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979, has died, and the charges against him in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) subsequently terminated. Mr. Sary was on trial for genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions for his role in the mass atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 70’s. For more on the case, visit the ECCC website.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, reacted to this news by urging the ECCC, the Royal Government of Cambodia, international donors and the UN to expedite the remaining Khmer Rouge trials. Mr. Subedi stated, “We owe it to the surviving victims of the Khmer Rouge, the families of the victims, and the whole of Cambodian society that continues to suffer from the impact of the Khmer Rouge to this day.” Read more from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
A Dutch court has sentenced Yvonne Besabya to more than six years in jail for her incitement to genocide almost 20 years ago in her native Rwanda. Ms. Besabya is now a Dutch citizen. This is the first conviction for genocide secured under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction in The Netherlands since World War II. An increasing number of cases have been brought in European courts against Rwandan genocide suspects now living on their soil. Read a report from Reuters here.
Developments in International Justice
For a discussion of the challenges surrounding indigenous rights in another part of the world, view the summary and video of an event recently held at Brandeis University: Brazil's Balancing Act: Reconciling the Demands of Economic Development, Environmental Protection, and Indigenous Rights.
The United States has filed a challenge with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over elements of India’s national solar program, which it said discriminates against foreign solar products in violation of a core global trade rule. The case comes as a number of governments, including the United States, are supporting development of clean energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to cut greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global climate change. Read more in a WTO press release.
There have been exciting developments at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has dropped charges against Francis Muthaura, who was accused of crimes against humanity and other offences allegedly committed following Kenya’s general elections in late 2007. Ms. Bensouda has reiterated, however, that charges remain against Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, who was recently confirmed as the new president of Kenya. Mr. Kenyatta won despite his indictment at the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity including murder, rape and deportation. He has stated that he will stand trial by video-conferencing if necessary. Read more from The Independent.
Meanwhile, Bosco Ntaganda, against whom the ICC had issued two arrest warrants, surrendered himself voluntarily to the US embassy in Rwanda and has now been transferred to The Hague. The former alleged Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo made his initial appearance in court shortly afterward. The Court established 23 September 2013 as the date when Mr. Ntaganda’s confirmation of charges hearing will begin. For more on the hearing and charges that Mr. Ntaganda is facing, see the ICC press release.
An appeals judgment has been delivered by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the case of Momčilo Perišić, the former Chief of General Staff of the Yugoslav Army. Mr. Perišić, who was initially sentenced to 27 years of imprisonment for his role in the conflict, has now been acquitted on the grounds that the evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had specifically directed assistance towards crimes committed by the Army of the Republika Srpska in Sarajevo and Srebrenica. Read the ICTY press release here.
The 57th session of the United Nations Commission for Women (UCW) recently concluded with an agreement by 131 states to eliminate all forms of violence against women as well as review the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care-giving in the context of HIV/AIDS. The agreement prioritizes the “need to establish multi-sectoral services for survivors of violence, including for health, psychological support and counseling, as well as the need to protect the right to sexual and reproductive health.” Welcoming the agreement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement that, “violence against women is a heinous human rights violation, global menace, a public health threat and a moral outrage.” Read more here.
The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit recently delved into what constitutes piracy under international law. In Cetacean v. Sea Shepherds, it held that Sea Shepherds, a marine wildlife conservation organization using aggressive dissuasion tactics, could not come within 500 meters of any Japanese whaling vessels. The court held that Sea Shepherds satisfied the “private ends” requirement of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and that they could accordingly be considered pirates under international law, regardless of their political and non-pecuniary motivation. The ruling noted:
“You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be.”
Read more details about the case here.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has adjourned 2,354 cases against the United Kingdom concerning the voting rights of prisoners. The ECHR ruled in 2005 and again in 2010 that a blanket ban on prisoner voting rights was a violation of the right to free elections (Article 3 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights). It has adjourned the pending cases until September 2013 in order to give the UK time to make its voting laws compatible with the Convention. Read more in an ECHR press release.
The General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) has approved a resolution making recommendations to OAS Member States and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The resolution was aimed at strengthening the regional human rights system, and it closes a contentious two-year process of reflection on the Inter-American human rights organs. However, it requires the OAS Permanent Council to continue the dialogue on additional proposals for change, which are likely to be controversial. Read more from the International Justice Resource Center.
Publications and Resources of Interest
The Secretariat of the Permanent Review Tribunal of the Common Market of the South (Tribunal Permanente de Revisión del Mercosur) has launched an on-line journal focusing on regional law. The first issue includes articles (exclusively in Spanish and Portuguese) on the legal landscape in Brazil and Bolivia, customs law, and lessons to be drawn from the European crisis for the Mercosur region. Access the full issue and learn how to submit an article for a future issue here.
The Gender Jurisprudence and International Criminal Law Project, a collaborative project between the War Crimes Research Office and the Women and International Law Program at American University Washington College of Law, has announced the launch of a new website. The centerpiece of the website is the Gender Jurisprudence Collections, a database containing judgments, decisions, orders, and other documents issued by international criminal courts and tribunals. The documents are easily searchable for issues relating to sexual and gender-based violence. The website also features a blog and commentaries on select issues or cases critical to understanding developments in this area of the law by a variety of experts. Learn more in a press release and visit the website here.
The Oñati International Series in Law and Society has just published Making Human Rights Intelligible: Towards a Sociology of Human Rights (Hart Publishing 2013). The volume editors are Mikael Rask Madsen (Director of iCourts, Centre of Excellence for International Courts and a Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen) and Gert Verschraegen (Professor of Sociology at the University of Antwerp). The volume shows how sociology can develop our understanding of human rights and how the emergence of human rights relates to classical sociological questions such as social change, modernization or state formation. Read more from the publisher 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.
To comment, or to receive our monthly “International Justice in the News” e-letter, send a message here.