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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 African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) will soon swear in a new judge. Justice Aba Kimelabalou of Togo has been appointed to finish out the term of ACHPR Judge Joseph Mulenga of Uganda, who died last year. Read more here.
Former general and Guatemalan head of state Jose Efrain Rios Montt, 86, will stand trial for the crime of genocide and other crimes against humanity committed during Guatemala's 36-year civil war. In particular, he will be prosecuted in connection with the killing of indigenous Ixil Mayans during his rule from 1982-1983. Despite a series of international inquiries finding him responsible for war crimes, Ríos Montt served as a Guatemalan congressman for 15 years until he lost a re-election race late last year. He had held immunity from prosecution while a member of Congress and was only put under house arrest after losing his post. Read more from The Guardian.
Developments in International Justice
The country of Haiti has been much in the news in relation to international organizations. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has reminded Haiti – a state party to the American Convention on Human Rights – of its international obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish serious human rights violations committed in that country, including those committed during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier. Read more from the Organization of American States here.
In the meantime, more than 15 months after the United Nations received a legal claim seeking to hold its peacekeeping troops in Haiti responsible for setting off a cholera epidemic there, its lawyers declared the claim “not receivable,” citing diplomatic immunity. More than 8,000 Haitians died and 646,000 fell ill from cholera after the disease struck the earthquake-ravaged country, allegedly carried there by Nepalese peacekeepers. The rejected demand, filed in an internal United Nations claims unit, had sought $100,000 for each bereaved family and $50,000 for each cholera survivor. Learn more in a New York Times article and at the website of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Read an op-ed supporting the UN's decision in The Boston Globe.
The UN’s response to the wrongdoing of its peacekeepers will be discussed in an upcoming event at Brandeis University, “The Rule of Law Comes Home: Can the UN Live up to its Own High Standards?”
Could a head of state lead a country while on trial at the ICC? This was the question posed during a recent debate among Kenyan presidential candidates, referring to the fact that a front-runner, Uhuru Kenyatta, has been indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity. “I know that it will pose serious challenges to run a government by Skype from The Hague,” remarked Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is also in the race. The Kenyan elections will take place on March 4th. Read more about the debate and view footage here.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in the case of X and Others v. Austria that there was a violation of the European Convention concerning the inability of a woman in a same-sex relationship to adopt her partner’s son without severing the mother’s legal ties with the child. The Court held that the difference in treatment between the applicants and an unmarried heterosexual couple was based on the applicants’ sexual orientation. However, the Court emphasized that the Convention did not oblige States to extend the right of second-parent adoption to unmarried couples. For more details, read the ECHR press release.
A new court in Dakar, Senegal, the Extraordinary African Chambers, will prepare a case against former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre. The recently inaugurated court was created after a decision by the International Court of Justice ordered Senegal to prosecute Habré “without further delay” or to extradite him. The accusations against Habré include thousands of political killings and systematic torture during his presidency from 1982 to 1990. He has been living in exile in Senegal for more than 22 years. Read more from Human Rights Watch.
The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has delivered the judgment in the case of Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza v. The Prosecutor, acquitting them and ordering their immediate release from the United Nations Detention Facility in Arusha, Tanzania. Judge Liu Daqun dissented on the reversal of the convictions for conspiracy to commit genocide. The remaining caseload of the ICTR Appeals Chamber consists of six cases concerning 15 persons. Read more here.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, applauds the upcoming entry into force of a key Protocol to an international treaty which will, for the first time, enable individual complaints on economic, social and cultural rights, thereby helping place all human rights on an equal footing. After crossing the required threshold of state ratifications, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will enter into force on 5 May 2013. The High Commissioner strongly encouraged other States among the 160 that are already party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as possible. The equivalent Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights came into force 37 years ago (in March 1976), and has been ratified by 114 States. Read a press release from the Office of the High Commissioner here.
The Open Society Justice Initiative recently published a report on human rights abuses associated with the US Central Intelligence Agency’s post-911 activities. Globalizing Terror: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition is presented as the most comprehensive account yet assembled of the human rights abuses associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations. Read more details and download the report here.
Publications and Resources of Interest
On the occasion of the Opening of the Judicial Year at the European Court of Human Rights, Theodor Meron (Brandeis Institute for International Judges 2006, 2010 & 2012), president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, delivered a speech on the historical and contemporary interplay between international criminal justice and human rights law, and the mutual efforts of jurists working in both fields to create “a world in which human dignity and human rights are respected without normative gaps.” Read a transcript of his speech here.
A new volume edited by Nigel Bankes and Timo Koivurova explores the indigenous property rights of the Saami people of Norway, Sweden and Finland. The Proposed Nordic Saami Convention: National and International Dimensions of Indigenous Property Rights (Hart Publishing 2013) provides a multi-faceted analysis of these rights, addressing multiple aspects of the convention and its underpinnings, including conceptualizations of the relationship between indigenous peoples and settler societies, gender issues in relation to indigenous property rights, and a comparison with how these rights are viewed in other regions of the world. Read more about the book from the publisher.
Last month we reported that the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) awarded $1.3 billion in damages to Kuwait in reparation for Iraq’s 1991 invasion. To clarify, the payment of awards rather than the making of awards occurred recently; the UNCC concluded its mission in 2005 and is no longer taking claims.
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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