Past Editions

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 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.

March 2012

People in the News

     peter tomka
Peter Tomka of Slovakia (BIIJ 2007) has been elected by his peers as President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Judge Tomka has served on the court since 2003 and and as Vice-President since 2009. The new Vice-President of the Court is Judge Bernardo Sepúlveda-Amor of Mexico. Each will serve in his respective position for three years. Read more in an ICJ press release.

  vagn joensen

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) also has new leadership. Judge Vagn Joensen of Denmark has been elected as President and Judge Florence Rita Arrey of Cameroon as Vice-President. This is the first time that ad litem judges have been eligible to stand for, and vote in, elections for the Tribunal’s presidency and vice presidency. Both Judges Joensen and Arrey joined the tribunal on an ad litem basis. Read more in an ICTR press release.

    "baby doc" duvalier

Haitian Investigative Judge Carvès Jean has ruled that former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier should not stand trial for murder, assassination, and torture, or for extreme corruption under his rule. Jean ruled, however, that Duvalier could stand trial for misappropriation of public funds. Human rights advocates have condemned the ruling as a violation of Haiti’s international obligations.

An op-ed in the Jamaica Observer exhorts the Caribbean Community to follow the case closely and to “let the citizens of Caricom know that they do not subscribe to such a judicial position as surfaced in Haiti which makes a mockery of institutionalised commitment to observance of international conventions governing crimes against humanity.” Read the full text here

cPrincess Caroline of Monaco has been back at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in her quest for the right to privacy. In 2004, she won a landmark ruling by the European Court that protected her, and by extension other celebrities without official functions, from the publication of photographs taken of their private activities by relentless paparazzi. The ruling raised many questions about how and where to balance the need for the protection of celebrities’ private lives against the freedom of expression, which is also guaranteed under the European Convention of Human Rights.

A second case was filed by Princess Caroline in 2008 in regard to the publication of photos taken of her with her ailing father, Prince Rainier of Monaco. A recent ECHR Grand Chamber judgment found, in this situation, that there was a legitimate public interest given the subject of the photos and that the media was justified in its use of the images. This ruling is being watched particularly closely in Britain, where a parliamentary committee on privacy is looking into such media issues. Read more from The New York Times.

For background on the case and details of the judgment, read the ECHR press release.

gSpanish Judge Baltasar Garzón has been acquitted of the charge of overstepping his authority by ordering an investigation of crimes committed in his country during the Franco era. Although Garzón claimed that any crimes against humanity were not subject to a 1977 amnesty law, the panel of judges deciding his case based their decision on another technicality of the law. They voted 6 to 1 that Garzón had committed an error when he opened the investigation but that it did not constitute a crime.  Read more from Expatica.

Developments in International Justice

bThe International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life recently concluded the eighth session of the Brandeis Institute for International Judges in Carmona, Spain. Organized around the theme of “Coordination and Collaboration in Global Justice,” the Institute hosted 17 judges from 12 international courts and tribunals. Read a summary of the event here. A full report of the proceedings will be available in Spring 2012.

iThe International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued a judgment in the case of “Jurisdictional Immunities of the State” (Germany v. Italy, Greece Intervening). A central issue in the case was whether Italy had failed to respect the jurisdictional immunity enjoyed by Germany under international law by allowing civil claims to be brought against it in the Italian courts, seeking reparation for injuries caused by violations of international humanitarian law committed by the German Reich during the Second World War. Read the ICJ press release. Learn more about the issues involved and the court’s findings in an issue of the American Society of International Law’s Insights.

The Superior Council of the Judiciary in Rwanda has established a Special Chamber at the High Court to try individuals accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Persons appearing before the court will be transferred from foreign countries and from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is nearing the end of its mandate. The first person expected to appear before the new chamber is Léon Mugesera, wanted for inciting genocide and recently extradited from Canada. Read more from the Hirondelle News Agency.

aThe European Court of Justice has been asked to rule on the legality of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a controversial anti-piracy agreement that some fear will impede freedom of expression on the internet. So far, 22 countries in Europe have signed ACTA, as well as Canada, Japan, and the US. Its backers say that it will promote the creative economy and protect intellectual property rights. There have been protests across Europe over ACTA, which is considered by many to be incompatible with Europe’s fundamental rights and freedoms. Read more from the BBC.

cThe Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has handed down its judgment in the matter of Hummingbird Rice Mills Ltd v. Suriname and the Caribbean Community. This original jurisdiction matter was the first of its kind involving The Republic of Suriname. The Court found that Suriname breached its obligations under Article 82 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to establish and maintain the Common External Tariff between 2006 and 2010. Access the judgment here.

gThe United States Supreme Court recently ruled, in United States v. Jones, that the use of global positioning technology (a GPS) is illegal without a court order. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, on the other hand, GPS surveillance is not considered unduly intrusive, a view that is backed up by a 2010 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.  Read a comparative analysis of how these jurisdictions deal with the issue of GPS surveillance by Liz Campbell (University of Aberdeen Law School). 

sHuman Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the International Olympic Committee to make the end of discrimination against women in athletics a condition for Saudi Arabia’s participation in the 2012 London Games. Saudi Arabia has never sent a female athlete to the Olympic Games.  Click here to read more and access the HRW report, “Steps of the Devil: Denial of Women’s and Girls’ Right to Sport in Saudi Arabia.”

Articles and Publications of Interest

wA new book by Mary Dudziak (University of Southern California Law School) explores the nature of contemporary war. InWar Time: an Idea, Its History, Its Consequences (Oxford University Press 2012), Dudziak suggests that wartime is not as discrete a time period as we like to think, and that it is no longer easy to distinguish between wartime and peacetime. Learn more about the book, and read comments by the author. Access a review of the book in The New Republic by Eric Posner.

eTwo recent articles explore the impact of judgments delivered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

In “Do European Court of Human Rights Judgments Promote Legal and Policy Change?,” Laurence R. Helfer (Duke University School of Law) and Erik Voeten (Georgetown University) ask the following questions in the context of ECHR judgments on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues: Do the rulings of international courts set precedents that influence actors other than the parties to the dispute? Are international courts agents of change or do their judgments merely reflect ongoing social and political trends? Read an abstract of the article and access the full text here.

Nikolaos Sitaropoulos (Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights), similarly questions the impact of ECHR judgments on issues concerning national minorities. “Implementation of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgments concerning national minorities or why declaratory adjudication does not help,” looks at cases involving Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. The author suggests that even though the ECHR has attached an undeniable importance to the protection of national minorities through its case law, its judgments have fallen short of shaping member states’ law, policy and practice. Access the abstract and full text of the article here.

International Justice in the News is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society, with the assistance of Katherine Alexander '12.

To comment, or to receive our monthly “International Justice in the News” e-letter, send a message here.