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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.
Fausto Pocar, professor at the University of Milan and judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia since 2000, discusses the inspiration for the recently published International Criminal Procedure: The Interface of Civil Law and Common Law Legal Systems (Edward Elgar Publishing 2013), co-edited with Linda Carter, professor at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. Judge Pocar has been a regular participant in the Brandeis Institute for International Judges since its inaugural session in 2002. Professor Carter has served as co-director of the BIIJ since 2006. Read Judge Pocar’s remarks about their co-edited volume here.
People in the News
Judge Vagn Joensen of Denmark (BIIJ 2013) has been re-elected president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Judge Joensen has served on the Tribunal since May 2007 as an ad litem judge and member of Trial Chamber III. Before joining the Tribunal, Judge Joensen served as a judge at the Danish High Court, Eastern Division, in Copenhagen and also served as an international judge in Kosovo for the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo from 2001 to 2002. Read more in an ICTR press release.
Christine Van den Wyngaert of Belgium, Trial Chamber Judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has asked to be withdrawn from the cases involving Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, respectively the President and Deputy President of Kenya. Although she has explained her request in relation to her heavy caseload, Judge Van den Wyngaert recently reprimanded the Office of the Prosecutor regarding its handling of the Kenya investigation. She will be replaced by Robert Fremr of the Czech Republic, who will join Presiding Judge Kuniko Ozaki of Japan and Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji of Nigeria in trying the Kenyan cases. Read more in an ilawyer blog post.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced the death of Mr. Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus, an accused in one of the Court’s Sudan cases. Mr. Jerbo was killed in North Darfur, allegedly by a faction of the Justice and Equality Movement, an organization with which he was himself connected. Mr. Jerbo had been charged by the ICC Prosecutor as a co-perpetrator with Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain with three war crimes: violence to life; intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission; and pillaging. Mr. Jerbo made his first appearance before the Court voluntarily on 17 June 2010. His trial was scheduled to start on 4 May 2014. The co-accused, Mr. Banda, is still alive. Read more from the BBC.
Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and a regular past participant of the BIIJ, was recently awarded the Prize for the Promotion, Dissemination and Teaching of International Humanitarian Law for the year 2012 by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy. Commissioner Pillay received the prize for her "outstanding commitment in the fields of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights as the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and as a Judge of the International Criminal Court, as well as for the position taken on the application of international humanitarian law in recent armed conflicts, also taking into account her significant contribution to the consideration of gender issues in armed conflict situations.” Read more about the prize and award ceremony here.
Developments in International Justice
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that the detention of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is not permissible by law and that “her right to liberty had been restricted for other reasons.” Ms. Tymoshenko alleges that these reasons are political. In Tymoshenko v. Urkraine, the ECHR ruled unanimously that Ukraine had violated sections of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to liberty and security, speedy review of the lawfulness of detention, right to compensation for unlawful detention, and a limitation on restricting rights. A majority also ruled that Ukraine had not violated a prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as Ms. Tymoshenko had alleged. This decision is not final and can be appealed to the ECHR Grand Chamber by either party. Read full details of the case in an ECHR press release.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) recently concluded public hearings in the request for interpretation of its 1962 Judgment in the case of Cambodia v. Thailand. The dispute concerns ownership of the territory surrounding the 11th century Temple of Preah Vihear, located on the border between the two countries and now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area has been a site of active conflict for many years. As reported by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Preah Vihear and the land in question are geographically small and remote but the clash over them has represented larger internal struggles of nationalism and domestic political posturing. For both Thailand and Cambodia, the question of the land surrounding Preah Vihear represents critical issues of sovereignty and national pride.” Read the ICJ press release here.
The U.S. recently boycotted a United Nations session organized by Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić, currently serving as president of the UN General Assembly. The aim of the session was to discuss international justice and whether it can advance the cause of national reconciliation, but many nations believe it was a thinly veiled attempt to attack the international war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Jordan and Canada joined the United States in boycotting the debate. According to Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the UN, "The United States strongly disagrees with the decision of the president of the General Assembly to hold an unbalanced, inflammatory thematic debate today on the role of international criminal justice in reconciliation and will not participate." Jordan's U.N. ambassador, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein (who recently delivered a distinguished lecture at Brandeis University) concurred, saying Serbia’s approach to the session was "almost an impeachable offense.”
Read more on the incident from Swiss Info. Read a commentary on the capacity of international justice processes to contribute to reconciliation in post-conflict situations by David Tolbert, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice.
The United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted to adopt an Arms Trade Treaty that would restrict the sale of arms that may be used for human rights violations. At the final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in New York, Member States referred the treaty to the General Assembly for a vote, which adopted the text with 154 votes in favor, 3 votes against from North Korea, Syria, and Iran, and 23 abstentions. This marks a victory for civil society groups that have worked for over a decade to achieve such an international agreement. Read more from the International Justice Resource Center.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently sent two cases concerning indigenous peoples to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The first case deals with Honduras’ failure to act to protect the ancestral territory of the Triunfo de la Cruz community from occupation and dispossession by third parties. The sale of communal lands by public authorities has led to a conflict resulting in pressure, threats, and even murders or arrests of community leaders and authorities. Read more here.
The second case concerns the Kuna Indigenous People of Madungandí and Emberá Indigenous People of Bayano, both in Panama. This case similarly deals with the government’s failure to provide the indigenous groups with adequate and effective procedures for gaining access to their ancestral territories and failure to respond to complaints of third-party interference in their territories and natural resources. The application also deals with Panama's failure to pay economic compensation stemming from the dispossession and flooding of the victims' ancestral territories that began in 1969. Read the press release here.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that Nigerian activists cannot sue Shell Oil Corporation in a US court for allegedly aiding in the torture and murder of protesters in the Ogoni region. The unanimous decision affirmed a lower court ruling that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), written in 1789, cannot be used to sue foreign entities for alleged violations of international law on foreign soil. "Nothing in the ATS's text evinces a clear indication of extraterritorial reach," the court found. The decision was met with satisfaction by business interests and dismay by human rights activists. Read more in The Guardian.
Publications and Resources of Interest
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has released a new publication entitled “Human Rights Indicators: A Guide to Measurement and Implementation.” The Guide, which supports the identification of objective indicators for measuring countries’ progress in realizing human rights, came about in response to requests from UN treaty bodies for “assistance in analyzing and making use of the statistical information in the State parties’ reports so as to assess their compliance with the human rights treaties they have ratified.” For more information on the publication, and to download the English or Spanish language version, click here.
Judge Theodor Meron, President of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, recently appeared on BBC’s HARDtalk to discuss issues of international law, including the legality of Israeli settlements, the deterrence effect of international justice, and the selectivity of international tribunals. Most notably, Mr. Meron discussed the issues of whether Syria’s Bashar al-Assad should be granted amnesty in order to persuade him to step down. To view the HARDTalk segment, click here.
Human Rights Watch has released a 73-page report, “Turning Rhetoric Into Reality: Accountability for Serious International Crimes in Côte d'Ivoire." It suggests that the government of Cote d’Ivoire has yet to deliver on its promises of impartial accountability for the serious crimes committed during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis. The report recommends that the government step up its support to judges and prosecutors handling these cases so that victims from both sides can finally see justice. Of the 150 people charged by prosecutors, all come from just one side of the conflict, raising the question of impartiality for international observers. Read a press release and download the report 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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