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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 who work in 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.

June 2009

People in the News

  • Federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor was nominated on 26 May 2009 by President Obama to serve as justice of the United States Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor called on U.S. judges to learn from their peers on international courts and tribunals in her foreword to The International Judge, a recent book coauthored by International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life director Daniel Terris and Leigh Swigart, director of the center’s Programs in International Justice and Society (a third coauthor, Cesare P.R. Romano, is associate professor of law at Loyola Law School Los Angeles). To read more about the foreword and the book, click here.
  • On 25 May 2009, Richard Goldstone, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, retired Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and director of the Brandeis Institute for International Judges (BIIJ), was awarded the MacArthur Award for International Justice. Read the MacArthur Foundation press release. Goldstone was also recently appointed by the United Nations to lead an investigation into possible war crimes committed during the January 2009 offensive by Israel in the Gaza Strip. Read the UN press release for more information. His investigation team is now preparing their first trip to Gaza but is encountering obstacles on the Israeli side, as reported in this article from the BBC.
  • On 11 March 2009, judges of the International Criminal Court elected Judge Sang-Hyun Song (Republic of Korea) as president, Judge Fatouma Dembele Diarra (Mali, BIIJ 2006 participant) as first vice-president, and Judge Hans-Peter Kaul (Germany) as second vice-president. They will serve in their respective positions for three years. See the court’s press release. The same day, the court held a swearing-in ceremony for four new judges – Joyce Aluoch (Kenya), Sanji Mmasenono Monageng (Botswana, BIIJ 2004 participant), Cuno Tarfusser (Italy), and Christine van den Wyngaert (Belgium). They were each elected to serve a term of nine years. See the court’s press release. Judge Fumiko Saiga of Japan was also reelected at this time but has tragically since passed away. See the court’s press release.
  • On 6 February 2009, the International Court of Justice elected Judge Hisashi Owada (Japan, BIIJ 2007 participant) and Judge Peter Tomka (Slovakia, BIIJ 2007 participant) to the positions of president and vice-president of the Court respectively. Each will serve a three-year term and will be eligible for reelection in 2012. See the court’s press release.
  • Antonio Cassese, former president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, has been elected president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. This international tribunal, which was established to try terrorist crimes in Lebanon, including the murder of President Rafik Hariri, opened its doors on 1 March 2009. For more information, read this article from Ya Libnan.

Developments in international justice

  • The first trial of the International Criminal Court began in early 2009, after long delays. Thomas Lubanga is charged with conscripting, enlisting, and using children under the age of 15 in his militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After a rocky start, the trial resumed in early May. Read an article from Radio Netherlands Worldwide for an account of how the trial is proceeding.
  • Three rebel leaders have been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor by the SCSL continues in The Hague, where the prosecution has now rested its case. Read an article from CNN News.
  • Prosecutors have started outlining the case against “Comrade Duch,” former Khmer Rouge leader, at the first trial to be carried out by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. This court was created to try serious crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. Read an article from the BBC for more information.
  • Justice James O’Reilly of the Federal Court of Canada, a participant in Brandeis’ recent North American Judicial Colloquium, recently issued a judgment in the case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who has been held in Guantánamo Bay since 2002. Khadr was arrested at the age of 15 and is awaiting trial on charges of murder, conspiracy, and support of terrorism. Before the Federal Court of Canada, Khadr challenged the ongoing refusal of the Canadian government to seek his repatriation to Canada. The Khadr judgment, which references various international human rights norms, orders the Government of Canada to “present a request to the United States for Mr. Khadr’s repatriation to Canada as soon as practicable.” Read an article from The New York Times for more information.
  • Spain is feeling pressure to limit investigations by its courts, under the provision of universal jurisdiction, into alleged violations of human rights in other parts of the world. Read a commentary by Human Rights Watch.

Articles and publications of interest

  • We are happy to announce the online publication of our report on the North American Judicial Colloquium, which took place at Brandeis University from 6 to 8 November 2008. The colloquium hosted eight judges from the United States, seven from Canada, and three from international courts. Sessions focused on the various ways that international law can influence the work of domestic judges and, conversely, how domestic jurisprudence can serve to strengthen international law.
  • United States Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg comments on the citation of foreign law in her court. “I frankly don’t understand all the brouhaha lately from Congress and even from some of my colleagues about referring to foreign law,” she said. Read more in the New York Times article.

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