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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.

July 2013

Dear subscribers, International Justice in the News will take a break in August and resume in September 2013. Look for our next issue at that time with news items covering the intervening period.  Enjoy your summer!

People in the News

OrozcoThe General Assembly of the Organization of American States has elected three commissioners to the Inter-American Commission on Human rights: José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez (Mexico), who is completing his first term and is the current Commission chair; James Cavallaro (United States); and Paulo de Tarso Vannuchi (Brazil).  Read about the voting and thebackgrounds of the commissioners here.

     King and Ayoola

(l-r): Justice george gelaga king, 
         prof linda carter, and 
justice emmanuel ayoola biij 2012

Justice George Gelaga King of Sierra Leone (Brandeis Institute for International Judges 2007 & 2012) has been elected Presiding Judge of the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL), which also makes him court President. He succeeds Justice Shireen Avis Fisher of the United States (BIIJ 2013). Justice Emmanuel Ayoola of Nigeria (BIIJ 2004 & 2012) was re-elected to a fourth term as Vice President, and Justice Renate Winter of Austria (BIIJ 2004) was elected as Staff Appeals Judge. Justices King, Ayoola and Winter were among the first set of judges appointed to the Special Court at its inception in 2002, and they will serve in these posts until the Court completes its mandate. Read more in an SCSL press release

Charles Adeogun-Phillips


Two former legal experts at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have represented the first applicant in an admissible case before the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). Charles A. Adeogun-Phillips of Nigeria was an ICTR Senior Trial Attorney and Roland S. Adjovi of Benin was a Senior Legal Officer within the tribunal’s Registry.  

The two men represented the applicant in the matter of The Right Rev. Christopher Mtikila versus The United Republic of Tanzania. The ACHPR found that the prohibition in the Tanzanian constitution on unaffiliated candidates presenting themselves as candidates for elective public office violates the provisions enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, in particular those related to the rights to non-discrimination, to freedom of association, and to participate in public affairs. It has been noted that the judgment clearly has serious implications for numerous African countries where independent candidature for elective office is prohibited. Read more about the case and judgment from FIDH. 

Thomas Mensah
 thomas a. mensah

Mr. Thomas A. Mensah (Ghana) has been appointed by the president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) as arbitrator and president in the arbitral proceedings instituted by the Republic of the Philippines against the People’s Republic of China. Mr. Mensah served on the ITLOS bench from 1996 to 2005. He will join three sitting ITLOS judges –Jean-Pierre Cot (France), Stanislaw Pawlak (Poland), and Rüdiger Wolfrum (Germany) – and legal expert Alfred Soons (The Netherlands). The original president of the arbitral panel, Chris Pinto (Sri Lanka), resigned in early June when it was disclosed that his wife is a Philippine national. Read more here

The Philippines filed the case against China in hopes of halting its incursions into established Philippine maritime borders in the West Philippine Sea. China has rejected the proceedings, citing “indisputable sovereignty” over the potentially resource-rich territories. The process will continue even without the participation of China, as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

The Registrar of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has commissioned an independent external review of the allegations of sexual assault of four individuals under the ICC’s protection programme by a former staff member working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This decision follows the completion of an initial internal inquiry. According to the ICC, the Court "is determined to address the serious allegations concerned with great rigor and transparency." President Tiina Intelmann of the Assembly of States Parties welcomed the announcement, expressing hope that the outcome of the external review would include tangible steps to ensure that the Court’s policy of zero tolerance of any type of misconduct of such a nature is strictly enforced. Read more in an ICC press release

Developments in International Justice

European Convention on Human RightsThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recently issued its judgment in Nencheva and Others v. Bulgaria, a case involving a State-run facility for children with disabilities. The Court held that Bulgarian authorities knew or should have known that the lives of children in the facility were at grave risk and failed to take action to protect them, thereby violating Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life. Read more about the case, and related jurisprudence from other international courts and treaty bodies, at the International Justice Resource Center. Access the ECHR press release here.


Judge Frederik Harhoff

The 20th anniversary celebration of the International Criminal Tribunal (ICTY) for the former Yugoslavia reported on last month was quickly followed by more controversial news. ICTY Judge Frederik Harhoff (Denmark) recently sent a letter to 56 colleagues where he accused ICTY President Theodor Meron (USA, BIIJ 2006, 2010 & 2012) of submitting to pressure from the governments of the US and Israel to acquit high-ranking military leaders of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Judge Harhoff contends that a well-established standard for convicting leaders for “command responsibility” is being eroded through such acquittals. This view is echoed in a Boston Globe op-ed by John Shattuck, President of Central European University. The content of Judge Harhoff’s letter was first leaked to the Danish press and then spread to The New York Times and other major English language newspapers.

Although the ICTY has not responded publicly to this scandal, it has already affected other cases. The defense team of Rasim Delić has filed a motion to review his conviction on the grounds that Judge Harhoff, who served on the trial chamber that sentenced Delić, has a bias toward conviction. Read more from iLawyer.

A different set of issues, raised in a post on Opinio Juris, includes the ethical aspect of Judge Harhoff’s actions as well as other alleged improprieties committed by President Meron as revealed through WikiLeaks.

ECOWASCivil society organizations in West Africa have started a movement to bring regional states into compliance with judgments of the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Court of Justice was created pursuant to the Revised Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States of 1993, and is headquartered in Abuja, Nigeria. It has issued a number of ground-breaking judgments, such as a December 2012 one that ordered governments to punish oil companies over pollution. It is recognized that although the Court could be a major regional judicial mechanism, its effectiveness has been weakened by non-compliance with its judgments. Read more about the advocacy campaign here

WTOSerbia is in line to become the next new member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In a recent meeting with WTO officials, the Serbian delegation was encouraged to lead its government to adopt outstanding pieces of legislation and work closely with relevant members to conclude the remaining bilateral negotiations that could lead to its accession to the WTO in 2013. Learn more from the WTO website. European Union ministers have also decided to open accession talks with Serbia in the coming months.

WhalingThe International Court of Justice (ICJ) has begun public hearings in the case concerning Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening). In 2010, Australia commenced proceedings against Japan with respect to Japan's conduct of its whaling program in the Southern Ocean, which Australia considers a commercial rather than a scientific enterprise. Read details of the case in an article from The Guardian. Members of the public may watch the hearings on the Court’s website, where they will be broadcast live and in full under the heading “Multimedia,” or on the online television channel United Nations Web TV.  

BotswanaBotswana and Germany have ratified amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the crime of aggression and on Article 8 on war crimes. The amendments, adopted at the 2010 Review Conference of the Statute in Kampala, "define the crime of aggression and provide for the conditions for the exercise of jurisdiction over this crime." With Botswana and Germany, seven States have now ratified the amendments; thirty ratifications are required for the International Criminal Court to exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. Read more in an ICC press release.

It is notable that Botswana is the first African State to ratify the Rome Statute amendments. Botswana also recently distinguished itself by being the only member of the African Union to reject a resolution claiming that the ICC is unfairly targeting Africa.  Read more details on Botswana’s unique stance from Justice in Conflict.

Mau Mau ClaimantsThe British government has agreed to pay compensationof more than $30 million to 5,228 Kenyans who were abused during the so-called “Mau Mau rebellion” in the years leading up to Kenya’s independence in 1963. “The British government recognizes that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration,” said Foreign Secretary William Hague in a statement to Parliament. As reported in a New York Times article,  “Mr. Hague’s words seemed to rewrite a narrative of essentially benevolent colonial rule relayed to generations of Britons back home, raising the possibility that citizens of other outposts of an empire that once spanned much of the globe could seek compensation.”  Indeed, calls for acknowledgement quickly came for colonial abuses in disparate parts of the world, from Nigeria to Cyprus, Yemen and Malaysia.  

Publications and Resources of Interest

ImpunityA new report from Amnesty International, Time Passes, Impunity Remains, examines how Spanish authorities have refused to investigate tens of thousands of killings and disappearances committed during the Civil War by both parties to the conflict and under Francisco Franco’s rule (1936-1975). This sends the message, Amnesty International contends, that impunity for human rights abuses is allowed. 

 Spanish authorities are also not cooperating with other countries, such as Argentina, that have opened their own investigations into Spain’s historical abuses. Read background about attempts to prosecute the crimes in question here.

On 30 March 2012, the Parties to the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) adopted revisions that would explicitly require them to fight corruption in public purchasing activities. Once the necessary ratifications have been obtained, this agreement will be the first WTO legal instrument that has directly addressed a question hovering in the background of trade relations for years: what should WTO Members do about corruption in international trade regulation? Read an analysis of the GPA revisions and their significance in an ASIL Insight

AshgateThe Ashgate Research Companion to International Criminal Law, edited by William Schabas, Yvonne McDermott and Niamh Hayes, discusses a wide variety of theoretical, practical, legal and policy issues surrounding international law and how it applies to international criminal tribunals. The contributors raise issues that are likely to be the most significant challenges and most promising opportunities for the continuing trajectory of this field. Read more about the book here.

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

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