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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.

June 2013


People in the News

Brammertz, Meron, and Hocking standing with arms crossed
(l-r): Brammertz, Meron, hocking

Happy Birthday to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia! On 27 May 2013, the tribunal marked the 20th anniversary of its establishment with public statements by President Theodor Meron (USA), Prosecutor Serge Brammertz (Belgium), andRegistrar John Hocking(Australia). Their comments were largely celebratory, although references were made to the many challenges faced by the ICTY over its lifetime and the need for continued support by the international community.

Joseph Kony
                  joseph kony

The US government is offering a reward of $5 million for information leading to the "arrest, transfer or conviction" of three top leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), including its leader, Joseph Kony. All three are accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Uganda. This deal is part of a program called the War Crimes Rewards Program, explained US Secretary of State John Kerry in a Huffington Post op-ed. He claims that inclusion in this program is what prompted ICC accused Bosco Ntaganda to give himself up recently at the US embassy in Rwanda. Mr. Ntaganda is now in detention in The Hague.

Religious and cultural leaders of the Acholi ethnic group in northern Uganda warn, however, that the bounty will heighten LRA hostility and put more innocent victims at risk. They continue to call for a peaceful solution to the ongoing situation. Read more from The Daily Monitor.

Rios MonttThe conviction in early May of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt for genocide and war crimes under national law was annulled ten days later based on alleged violations of his due process rights. The case has now been sent back to the trial court. Mr. Montt had been the first former head of state ever to be convicted of these crimes in a national court, but the final outcome of the case is now unclear. However, as written in a detailed account of the case in an ASIL Insight, “the verdict cannot be un-issued, and the testimonies cannot be unsaid. Their reverberations will continue to push Guatemalan society to confront its demons.”

Fatou BensoudaInternational Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has rejected demands by the Kenyan government that the case against their newly elected president and deputy president be terminated. Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto are facing charges of crimes against humanity for planning and funding violence that followed the national elections in Kenya in 2007-2008 and that killed 1,133 people.

Meanwhile, other African leaders have condemned the ICC while noting its ongoing focus on African cases. South Sudan President Salva Kiir declared that the ICC incriminates African leaders as an act of humiliation. Rwandan President Paul Kigame, during an address at the 21st Ordinary Session of the African Union, stated "We cannot support an ICC that condemns crimes committed by some and not others or imposes itself on democratic processes or the will of sovereign people.” Read more from AllAfrica.

Developments in International Justice

A pile of euros wrapped together with a rubber bandThe European Commission recently referred Spain to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for discriminatory real estate tax rules that prevent non-residents from enjoying the same tax benefits as residents. According to Spanish legislation, capital gains from the sale of a permanent residence are exempt from tax if the money is used to buy another permanent residence. However, this provision only applies to Spanish residents, therefore discriminating against non-residents who can end up paying much higher taxes. The Commission considered that this creates an obstacle to free movement of persons, workers and self-employed persons and therefore breaches the EU Treaties.

In Commission v. Spain, the ECJ has taken the view that the measures adopted by Spain to safeguard its powers in fiscal matters are disproportionate and go beyond what is necessary. Spain could preserve its powers in taxation matters by means of measures that are less harmful to the freedom of establishment. The ECJ ruled that the right to the freedom of establishment does not preclude capital gains generated in a territory from being taxed, even if they have not yet been realized. By contrast, it does preclude a requirement that that tax be paid immediately. Read the ECJ press release here.

A logo of a wreath with a scale and a tree in between. The words below says "Special Tribunal for Lebanon Tribunal Special Pour Le Liban"The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has announced that it will appoint a special investigator to probe three incidents that could potentially be considered interference with the administration of justice. The move follows the publication in Lebanon of a list of 167 alleged witnesses for the STL, along with photographs and details of their professions and addresses. The publication was claimed by a previously unknown group identified as “Journalists for the Truth” who said they sought to “unveil the corruption” of the court. After the list was published, the Tribunal insisted it was not complete but warned that those behind the publication were “potentially endangering the lives of Lebanese citizens.”

A New York Times article notes that “[i]nternational criminal tribunals have been confronted by threats to witnesses and the disclosure of confidential materials before, and a number of lawyers and journalists have been prosecuted for contempt of court. But until now, international courts have not faced a cyberattack of this scale…”

Map of South America with Bolivia and Chile colored inBolivia has instituted proceedings against Chile at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).  The case concerns a dispute in relation to “Chile’s obligation to negotiate in good faith and effectively with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean”. Read more details in an ICJ press release.

Poster that says "Housing is a Human Right Evictions Violate Human Rights." An attached word box reads "Together, we can make systemic change to ensure people's basic rights"The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights officially came into force on 5 May 2013 after its tenth ratification several months earlier. The Optional Protocol allows citizens of a member state to apply to the United Nations (UN) Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights when their rights to food, adequate housing, health, or education have been violated. The states that have now ratified the Optional Protocol are Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mongolia, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Uruguay. Read more about the Optional Protocol here.

A man holding a megaphone and a sign that says "I'm GAY, NIGERIAN AND REAL!"Nigerian lawmakers have passed a bill that bans gay marriage, threatens AIDS and HIV outreach programs, removes protections for gay organizations, and criminalizes gay couples that appear in public together. The bill mandates harsh prison terms of up to 14 years for offenders, and up to 10 years for witnesses or those who help gay couples marry. The bill will have to be signed by President Goodluck Jonathan before it becomes an actual law. Chidi Odinkalu, the chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, noted that if the bill were passed into law, it would likely be challenged in court. Read more from The Washington Post.

A person with a bag over their head holding a poster that says "Human Rights US-style"The United States is currently in the hot seat for a number of human rights issues:

As the hunger strike by detainees at Guantánamo continues, several human rights entities – including the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment – call on the US government to free or prosecute detainees in accordance with international law. Read more from the International Justice Resource Center.

A group of independent experts has warned that although the US Government has committed to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, there are too many loopholes remaining to adequately protect human rights from adverse business practices. The Guiding Principles outline how States and businesses should implement the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework to better manage business and human rights challenges. “With a few exceptions, most [US] companies still struggle to understand the implications of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. Those that do have policies in place, in turn face the challenge of turning such policies into effective practices,” said one of the experts. Find details about the exploratory visit here.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has expressed its concern that the United States Department of Justice has requested the telephone records of journalists from the news agency The Associated Press (AP). The Commission contends that this type of practice could affect the free exercise of journalism by putting the confidentiality of journalistic sources at risk. Read the Commission press release for background to the situation and more information on the freedom of expression.

Publications and Resources of Interest

Book cover of "Beyond Nuremberg"The text of “Beyond Nuremberg: the Future of International Criminal Justice,” a lecture recently delivered at Brandeis University by Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan, is now available in pdf format. Prince Zeid delves deeply into the question of how men and women seek to restore their humanity in the wake of genocide and other atrocities, and questions whether contemporary international criminal justice is satisfactory for those who have suffered. His talk was part of the Distinguished Lectures in International Justice and Human Rights series, funded by the Planethood Foundation. Read more about the lecture event here.

Mario JosephIn this season of graduation addresses at US institutions of higher learning, one stands out for those interested in human rights. It was delivered by Mario Joseph, president of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti, at the McKinney School of Law at Indiana University. Mr. Joseph underscored the importance of human rights as a legal contract. He told the law graduates and their families:

“You probably have not thought of today’s graduation as the culmination of years of rights enforcement. But you would not have even had the opportunity to deploy your hard work and intelligence without that enforcement. Like you, and me, my siblings and friends growing up in the village of Verrettes had the universally recognized human right to free, universal public education. But unlike you or me, their education rights were not enforced, so they did not go to school and today most of them cannot read. They are excluded, for life, from the immense economic, social and political advantages of literacy.”

Read Mr. Joseph’s full remarks here.

Book cover of "International Judicial Integration and Fragmentation"Philippa Webb, Lecturer in Law at King’s College London, has just published International Judicial Integration and Fragmentation (Oxford University Press 2013). According to the publisher, her book:

  • addresses the controversial issue of whether different international courts arrive at different conclusions when faced with the same issues;
  • assesses judicial fragmentation by focusing on three areas of law – genocide, immunities, and the use of force; and
  • provides detailed analysis of the jurisprudence of four key courts: the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Read more about the book from the iLawyer blog.

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

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