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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.

August 2012

People in the News

Nkosazana Dlamini-ZumaDr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (South Africa) has been elected as head of the African Union, the first woman to hold this position. A veteran of the fight against apartheid and a medical doctor by training, Dlamini-Zuma has served in the cabinet of every South African president since Nelson Mandela. She is also the former third wife of current President Jacob Zuma. Read more about Dlamini-Zuma here. Some dismay has been expressed about Dlamini-Zuma’s election, however, due to her complicity in South Africa’s counter-productive approach to its serious HIV/AIDS epidemic. Read a commentary on this issue from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Mark Harmon sitting with four other judgesMark Harmon (USA), a former prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, has been appointed as investigating judge at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). He will be the third judge to occupy this position in nine months, following the resignations of Judge Siegfried Blunk in October last year, and Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet in May this year. Together with his Cambodian colleague, You Bunleng, Judge Harmon will be responsible for the investigation and, as appropriate, indictment of individuals referred to him by the ECCC’s Office of the Co-Prosecutors. Observers hope that he will be allowed to carry out his duties without undue interference. Cambodia has approved the UN decision to hire Judge Harmon, the court said in a statement, in stark contrast to the previous judge who held the role but was never recognised by Phnom Penh. See more from the Bangkok Post.

Adama DiengAdama Dieng (Senegal), Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, has been appointed as UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. The Office of the Special Adviser is tasked by the Security Council, among other duties, with collecting and assessing information on situations that might lead to genocide. Read more details about Dieng’s background in international law and human rights, as well as his new role at the UN, from Africa Legal Aid

Developments in International Justice

Skyline view of HaifaThe International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life of Brandeis University recently concluded the Global Judicial Colloquium in Haifa, Israel. Organized in collaboration with the University of Haifa Law Faculty, the event brought together domestic and international judges to discuss topics relevant to the intersection of their respective legal spheres. Read more about the Global Judicial Colloquium here.

Three men sitting with glasses of water on the table
   senegalese delegation to the icj
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled in the Hissène Habré case (Belgium v. Senegal) that Senegal should either prosecute the former Chadian dictator in its own courts or extradite him for prosecution under universal jurisdiction to Belgium. Habré has lived in Senegal since the fall of his brutal regime in 1990. The ICJ ruled that Senegal had breached the UN's torture convention by failing to prosecute Habré. The decision adds legal weight to the international torture convention, as the case marked the first time it had been tested in the United Nations' highest judicial organ since the convention came into force in 1987. Human rights organizations are hailing the decision as a long-awaited victory for Habré’s victims. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle. Download the ICJ press release here.

Map of MaineThe government of the state of Maine in the United States has joined chiefs from the state's five Indian tribes to sign an agreement creating the Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission will examine the child welfare practices that acted to forcibly assimilate Indian children in the 1950’s and 60’s and seek to address the lasting impact of the practice on Maine’s communities. Read more about the Commission at the official website.

Drawing of a passport crossed out in a red circleThe issue of statelessness has been much in the news:

The UN Human Rights Council has adopted its first ever resolution on the right to a nationality. This decision reaffirms essential protections for the five million children around the world who have no citizenship anywhere. The resolution passed unanimously after being championed by the United States and supported by another 46 countries from all regions of the world. Read more on the resolution and the situation it aims to address from the Open Society Foundations.

The European Court of Human Rights recently ruled in Kuric and Others v. Slovenia that Slovenia must compensate thousands of people who were “erased” from the list of permanent residents after the country’s separation from Yugoslavia two decades ago. The ECHR Grand Chamber upheld a 2010 ruling by a lower trial chamber that Slovenia had unlawfully deprived many former Yugoslav citizens of their legal status in the aftermath of succession. The Grand Chamber judgment found that this disproportionately affected Roma and other minorities, left many stateless, and made it impossible to maintain meaningful family and community ties, in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Logo of a dolphin with the words "U.S. Department of Commerce Dolphin Safe"The World Trade Organization has ruled that U.S. regulations about the labeling of "dolphin safe" tuna unfairly discriminate against Mexico. The dispute centered on the technique of using dolphins to round up tuna, which the United States says disqualifies some Mexican tuna products from being "dolphin safe." The ruling raises the possibility of sanctions on U.S. goods if the regulations are not modified or dropped. Learn more about the situation from Forbes. Read an analysis of the tuna case as well as other recent WTO rulings that concern environmental issues in an ASIL Insight.

Dag HammarskjoldA group of international jurists has been commissioned to reinvestigate the 1961 death of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold. He was the victim of a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) but the cause of the crash has never been satisfactorily determined. It has been alleged that the UN leader's death was deliberate, given that it occurred en route to cease-fire negotiations in The Congo. Read more about the circumstances of Hammarskjold’s death and the inquiry here. The Committee of Inquiry includes Richard Goldstone (South Africa) and Hans Corell (Sweden), both members of the International Advisory Board of Brandeis University’s International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.

A tree and a structure made out of sandThe International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened up yet another investigation in Africa. The Republic of Mali has requested that the court examine the killings, abductions, rapes and conscription of children that have been reported since the West African nation was plunged into turmoil earlier this year by a Tuareg rebellion and a political coup. The ICC will also consider whether the deliberate destruction of the shrines of Muslim saints in the city of Timbuktu may constitute a war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute. Read a statement by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda here.

Publications and Resources of Interest

Screenshot of the video, with bubbles that say the following: 1. Initial Evaluation 2. Admissibility 3. Merits 4. Court 1 Week to Several Months"The International Justice Resource Center recently released an animated video that explains the Inter-American human rights system in five parts. The goal of the Center is to provide victims, activists and attorneys with the practical information they need to educate themselves and protect their own and others’ rights under international law. The video serves as a guide to those wishing to engage with human rights monitoring bodies in the Americas. Learn more about the video and download it free of charge here.

Three commentaries reflect on recent happenings in the world of international criminal justice:

UN Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs Patricia O’Brien published an op-ed in The Irish Times that lays out the accomplishments of the International Criminal Court over its first 10 years. “The tide has finally turned. Today, those responsible for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are being held accountable. Heads of state and senior officials can no longer hide from justice.” Read the full text here.

James Goldston, Executive Director of the Open Society Institute Justice Initiative, offered his own opinion on justice after heinous crimes in The New York Times, emphasizing that it is ideally enacted close to home. He provides examples of where this has worked, most notably in Latin America. “Over the past decade, the I.C.C. has emerged as a beacon of hope for those who seek justice for such atrocities. It is time for governments to make sure that light can be mirrored and magnified in countries all around the world.” Read his full commentary here.

Book cover of "Even a 'Big Man' Must Face Justice"Human Rights Watch has issued a report - “Even a ‘Big Man’ Must Face Justice: Lessons from the Trial of Charles Taylor” - about the recently concluded high-profile trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The report attempts to analyze both the successes and shortcomings of the proceedings. “The trial benefitted from a high-quality defense, sound handling of witnesses, and dynamic outreach to communities affected by the crimes. At the same time, Human Rights Watch’s analysis identified areas in which practice should be improved for future trials of the highest-level suspects before domestic, international, and hybrid war crimes tribunals.” Click here to read the press release and download the full report.

International Justice in the News is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society.

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