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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 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.

December 2009

People in the News

  • ICC logoTwo new judges were elected to the bench of the International Criminal Court at the recently held eighth meeting of the Assembly of States Parties. They are Kuniko Ozaki of Japan and Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi of Argentina. Click here for the curricula vitae of the judges and more information on the election process.
  • HigginsDame Rosalyn Higgins, former Judge and President of the International Court of Justice, has been appointed as an advisor on international law to the UK Iraq Commission. The aim of the commission, in the words of its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, is to consider “the UK's involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learned.” Find more information about the Commission at the Iraq Inquiry website. Some observers do not believe, however, that simply having a judge as advisor will provide enough expertise for the Commission to determine the legality of the UK’s involvement in Iraq. Read more in an article from The Guardian.
  • court logoCommissioner Bahame Tom Nyanduga (participant of the Brandeis Institute for International Judges 2004), acting Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, has urged all African Union member States to ratify the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Read more. The African Court was established in July 2002 and is currently working on its first case. For more information, visit the African Court’s official website.
  • MunyanezaDésiré Munyaneza, a Rwandan national convicted of war crimes by the Superior Court of Quebec, has been sentenced to life with no prospect of parole for 25 years. Munyaneza, who applied for asylum in Canada but was later identified by authorities as an alleged perpetrator of war crimes, was accused of being a leader of a militia that had raped and killed several Tutsis and also massacred more than 300 Tutsis in a church. Munyaneza was the first person found guilty under Canada’s 2000 War Crimes Act. Read more from BBC News here.
  • demThe trial of John Demjanjuk, a retired American autoworker accused of Nazi-era war crimes, has officially begun in Munich. Read more details about the case from the New York Times and a comparison of European and US approaches to prosecuting Nazi-era war crimes from Ha’aretz. However, Demjanjuk’s ill health obliged the court to postpone the proceedings on the third day of hearings. Read more here.

Developments in International Justice

  • A poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org finds that most people in 17 of 21 nations surveyed say their government should abide by international law and reject the view that governments are not obliged to follow such laws when they conflict with the national interest. Most respondents polled are also confident that their country would be treated fairly by the International Court of Justice. Learn more and see a graph comparing the different countries’ reactions here
  • South AmericaBrandeis recently concluded the South American Judicial Colloquium, the fourth in its ongoing series of programs that bring together international and domestic judges to discuss interconnections between national and international law. Read a summary of the event and learn more about Brandeis Judicial Colloquia here
  • The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has overturned the conviction of Protais Zigiranyirazo, who had been sentenced by the tribunal’s trial chamber to 20 years for organizing a massacre that left about 1,000 dead during the 1994 genocide. Many people also consider Mr. Zigiranyirazo responsible for the 1985 murder of American primatologist Dian Fossey. Read more and access the appeals judgment from the International Law Bureau. Read an opinion piece from The Huffington Post on the ICTR acquittal and what it might imply for the US trial of suspected 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed here.
  • crucifixThe European Court of Human Rights has held, in Lautsi v. Italy, that the display of a religious symbol in a school violates Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) and Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The applicant, a mother of two school-age children, sued an Italian school for displaying crucifixes in its classrooms. She found the presence of such symbols “contrary to the principle of secularism” that she wanted to instill into her children. Read the ECHR press release and an Irish Times article describing the reaction from Ireland, another majority Catholic country. The full decision, in French, may be downloaded here.
  • The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution endorsing the Human Rights Council report considering the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict Report (the Goldstone Report). According to a General Assembly press release, 114 members voted in favor and eighteen against the resolution (with forty-four abstentions). At the same time, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a non-binding resolution “Calling on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the ‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict' in multilateral fora.” Read news reports on the House’s condemnation from the New York Times and Ha’aretz. To watch a video of Richard Goldstone's public forum on the Gaza report at Brandeis University, with former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dore Gold, click here.
  • childThe Council of Europe is calling on all of its 47 member States to adopt and implement a blanket national scheme to protect the rights of the child and eradicate violence against children. 

The Council’s recommendations include the prohibition of all forms of violence towards children, the setting up of independent child protection institutions, and information campaigns on the rights of the child, beginning with the right to protection from all forms of violence. Information would cover the damaging consequences of violence against children, the principles of positive parenting and the need to guide children in their discovery of the Internet and limit the risks linked to new technologies. Click here to access the Council of Europe’s “Building Europe for and with Children” site.
  • The Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has issued a decision instructing the Registrar to appoint a counsel to represent Radovan Karadzic at trial. In October 2009, Karadzic refused to attend the opening of his trial, thereby obstructing the proceedings. The Chamber allotted the appointed counsel three and a half months to prepare for trial, meaning that Karadzic's trial will resume on March 1, 2010. Read the ICTY press release here.
  • The Prosecutors of all the international criminal courts and tribunals currently operating around the globe met recently in Kigali for the Fifth International Prosecutors Colloquium. Read a summary of their joint declaration here.
  • A first conference of international defense counsel was convened in The Hague in November 2009. Entitled “The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and its Legacy,” the conference raised many questions about the legitimacy of international criminal courts and tribunals and the possibility for accused persons to receive a fair trial before them. Read the news release here.
Articles and publications of interest
  • jallow posterHassan B. Jallow, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, delivered the inaugural Distinguished Lecture in International Justice and Human Rights at Brandeis University on 30 November 2009. Click here to read the text of his address, “International Criminal Justice: Developments and Reflections on the Future” and to link to his radio interview on National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation,” which was recorded during his visit to Brandeis.
  • Read a new article by Professor Jarrod Wong of McGeorge School of Law in the Tulane Law Review (Vol. 84, 2009). Entitled “Reconstructing the Responsibility to Protect in the Wake of Cyclones and Separatism,” the article argues that the “R2P” doctrine should apply in the case of a natural disaster when a state’s failure to alleviate the disaster’s effects constitutes a crime against humanity. Wong uses the case of Hurricane Nargis and Myanmar’s refusal to accept international assistance for its victims as a basis for his argument. Download the text of the article here (free subscription may be necessary).
  • A report from the November 2008 Accra conference on “The Role of the Judiciary in Promoting Gender Justice in Africa” is now available. Brandeis University partnered in the organization of this event with UNDP, UNIFEM, ILAC, the International Association of Women Judges, and the Judicial Service of Ghana. Click here and scroll down the right column for the report in either English or French.
  • najc coverJustice Kathryn Neilson of the British Columbia Court of Appeals recently delivered a lecture that was inspired by her participation in Brandeis’ 2008 North American Judicial Colloquium. Download “Judicial Globalization – What Impact on Canada?” as well as a report of the NAJC at this link.

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