Thursday, October 2, 2014
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) held a swearing-in ceremony for two new members yesterday (Oct. 1, 2014). Mr. Alonso Gomez-Robledo Verduzco (Mexico) and Mr. Tomas Heidar (Iceland) were elected at the twenty-fourth Meeting of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to serve nine-year terms. More information, including the curricula vitae for these gentlemen, may be found on the ITLOS website.
In other news yesterday, the members of the Tribunal elected Judge Golitsyn (Russian Federation) as the new President of the Tribunal and Judge Gouguetaia (Algeria) as the Vice President for the term 2014-2017. More information about these elections may be found here.
While congratulations are certainly due to these gentlemen, it also must be noted that out of 21 members of the Tribunal, there is currently only one woman (Elsa Kelly of Argentina). The States Parties should be encouraged to do a better job of identifying qualified women and ensuring gender diversity on the Tribunal.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
The Republic of Palau (Belau) became an independent country on October 1, 1994. Palau had previously been a Strategic Trust Territory of the United Nations administered by the United States. I had the honor of serving as Court Counsel for the Republic of Palau during the year that it became an independent country. In many ways, it was the best year of my life. Thank you, Palau, and happy national day.
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)
Monday, September 29, 2014
The new sustainable development agenda should advance people’s wellbeing, promote inclusivity and ensure implementation, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the United Nations General Assembly, delivering his country’s annual address to the world body. One of the top priorities for China and the 192 other Member States will be to define a new roadmap that will guide development work staring in January 2016, after the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “The international community should, building on past progress and breaking new ground, adopt more effective plans and take more robust actions to advance the common development of mankind,” Mr. Wang said.
He noted also that the agenda should aim to enhance global partnerships on development and improve implementation tools and mechanisms. One of the priority areas of the current MDGs is environment, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted with his Climate Summit earlier in the week at which China was represented by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.
In his address last week, Mr. Wang voiced optimism that the political momentum generated by the Summit will translate into “effective actions to step up international cooperation” on climate change leading to talks next year on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Among other issues raised in his remarks, Mr. Wang called for renewed efforts to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula in an “objective and impartial way.”
“The Six Party Talks remain the only viable and effective way to resolve the nuclear issue,” the Foreign Minister said in reference to talks involving also the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Republic of Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States. “The pressing task now is to restart the talks as soon as possible,” Mr. Wang said.
He is one of 196 world representatives addressing the UN body this month under the theme of “Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda” as well as urgent crises ranging from the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and South Sudan.
(adapted from a UN press release)
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Ashraf Ghani has been sworn in as the new president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, following the 13-year term of Hamid Karzai. In a power sharing agreement, Abdullah Abdullah has also been sworn in as the Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Dignataries from various countries are in Kabul attending the ceremony.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Telling the United Nations General Assembly that his country knows what terrorism is; “not merely in words but in practice,” Arseniy Yatsenuk, Prime Minister of Ukraine, reiterated his Government’s commitment to restore law and order and urged Russia to adhere to its international obligations and seek a diplomatic path out of the current crisis.
The conflict in Ukraine was not domestic; its origin had been an “invasion” by the Russian Federation. “A P-5 member violated the United Nations Charter,” he said, underscoring that such actions are “absolutely and entirely unacceptable.” Twenty years ago Ukraine abandoned its nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world at the time.
In return, it had been guaranteed territorial integrity and sovereignty. Russia signed the memorandum to that effect, yet it had since broken that promise. “We are committed to our nuclear non-proliferation programme but we need guarantees of territorial integrity, security and independence,” Mr. Yatsenuk said.
A few months ago, Russia had “annexed” Crimea, he said, commending those Member States that supported the General Assembly resolution supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and condemning Russia’s actions. Yet today, Russian troops were deployed in eastern Ukraine. In addition, Russia violated several multilateral and bilateral agreements. He urged Russia to pull out its forces and to start real talks. “We are the country that needs peace. It’s difficult to hammer out any kind of peace deal at the barrel of a gun made in Russia,” he said.
Mourning the victims of the Malaysian Airliner that he said had been downed a few months ago by Russia, Mr. Yatsenuk urged everyone to help Ukraine bring to justice those responsible for “this despicable crime against humanity”. Every day, despite the ceasefire, Ukraine was losing soldiers and civilians. Ukraine needs peace. The military option is not the best option, he said, calling for a comprehensive diplomatic and political solution.
“Sanctions are the way to start real talks and hammer out a peace deal,” he said, urging those States that had imposed such measures not to lift them until Russia fully withdrew from eastern Ukraine, including Crimea. “Mr. Putin, you can win the fight against the troops. But you will never win the fight against the nation, the united Ukrainian nation.”
(adapted from a UN press release)
The world must come together to form a comprehensive plan to defeat the ideology of extremism that is the root cause of terrorism in order to win the battle of ideas and not just the battle of military might, said British Prime Minister David Cameron as he took to the General Assembly podium on Wednesday evening.
“Of course it is absolutely right that we should learn the lessons of the past, especially of what happened in Iraq a decade ago,” he said. “But we have to learn the right lessons. Yes to careful preparation; no to rushing to join a conflict without a clear plan.”
Yet, Mr. Cameron continued, “We must not allow past mistakes to become an excuse for indifference or inaction,” he said, adding that the right lesson is that “we should act – but act different.”
The poisonous ideology spewed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has nothing to do with Islam, which is peaceful religion that inspired countless acts of generosity every day. To defeat ideology of extremism, world leaders must deal with all forms of extremism, not just violent extremism, he said.
“For Governments, there are some obvious ways we can do this. We must ban preachers of hate from coming to our countries. We must proscribe organisations that incite terrorism against people at home and abroad. And we must work together to take down illegal online material like the recent videos of ISIL murdering hostages,” said Mr. Cameron.
He acknowledged that some will argue this is not compatible with free speech but people should ask themselves: “Would we sit back and allow right-wing extremists, Nazis or Klu Klux Klansmen to recruit on our university campuses?” Muslims around the world must reclaim their religion from “these sick terrorists.”
Governments are responsible with showing young people the path to a better, more open and democratic future. The failure to meet people’s aspirations can create a breeding ground where extremist and even terrorist insurgency can take root.
In Iraq, this means supporting the creative of a new and genuinely inclusive Government capable of uniting all Iraqis – Sunni and Shia, Kurds, Christians and others. In Syria, it must mean a political transition and an end to Assad’s brutality through a democratic government that looks after the interests of all its people.
Recalling his meeting earlier today with Iranian President Rouhani, Mr. Cameron said that while there are some “severe disagreements,” Iran’s leaders could help in defeating the threat of ISIL. For its part, the United Kingdom is strengthening its ability to seize passports and strip British identity from dual nationals and enabling security services to apply strong constraints on those who pose a risk.
(adapted from a UN press release)
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
U.N. Security Council Adopts Resolution to Improve Response to Threats Posed by Foreign Terrorist Fighters
Responding to an unprecedented flow of foreign terrorist fighters and the growth of facilitation networks fuelling conflicts around the world, the United Nations Security Council today adopted a resolution to resolutely address this growing threat to international peace and security.
During a high-level summit chaired by Barack Obama, President of the United States, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month, the 15-member body voted unanimously to adopt the text, which calls on Member States to cooperate in efforts to address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.
The resolution decided that Member States shall “prevent and suppress the recruiting, organizing, transporting or equipping of individuals who travel to a State other than their State of residence or nationality for the purpose of the perpetration, planning or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts or the providing or receiving of terrorist training, and the financing of their travel and of their activities…”
It underscored “the particular and urgent need to implement this resolution with respect to those foreign terrorist fighters who are associated with ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], ANF [Al-Nusrah Front] and other cells, affiliates, splinter groups or derivatives of Al-Qaida…”
Among its other provisions, the text urged Member States to intensify and accelerate the exchange of operational information regarding actions or movements of terrorists or terrorist networks, including foreign terrorist fighters.
Opening the meeting, which was scheduled to hear from around 50 speakers, many of them represented at the level of head of State or government, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called those who carry out terrorist attacks “enemies of the faith.”
“As Muslim leaders around the world have said, groups like ISIL – or Da’ish – have nothing to do with Islam, and they certainly do not represent a state,” he stated. “They should more fittingly be called the ‘Un-Islamic Non-State.’”
He added that the growing phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters is a consequence – not a cause – of the conflict in Syria.
“A long period of upheaval and, until recently, unresponsive leadership in Iraq – coupled with outrageous human rights abuses in Syria – have created a hothouse of horrors,” he said, as he highlighted the need for a “creative and comprehensive” political strategy in Syria and beyond to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.
“Terrorists must be defeated, but we must do so in a way that avoids the deliberate acts of provocation that they set for us – victimization, further radicalization and more civilian deaths.”
While immediate security issues must be addressed, said the Secretary-General, the biggest threat to terrorists over the longer term is not the power of missiles, but the politics of inclusion.
“It’s peaceful societies and respect for human rights. It’s education, jobs and real opportunity. It’s leaders who listen to their people and uphold the rule of law. Missiles may kill terrorists. But good governance kills terrorism. Free and independent societies – free from suffering, oppression and occupation – this is what will kill terrorism.”
Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. Obama said that the tactic of terrorism is not new. “So many nations represented here today, including my own, have seen our citizens killed by terrorists who target innocents,” he said, while also noting the murder today of French citizen Hervé Gourdel by terrorists in Algeria.
“Resolutions alone will not be enough,” he added. “Promises on paper cannot keep us safe. Lofty rhetoric and good intentions will not stop a single terrorist attack.
“The words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action, into deeds – concrete action, within nations and between them, not just in the days ahead, but for years to come. For if there was ever a challenge in our interconnected world that cannot be met by any one nation alone, it is this: terrorists crossing borders and threatening to unleash unspeakable violence.
“These terrorists believe our countries will be unable to stop them. The safety of our citizens demands that we do.”
In a statement issued to the press, the Council strongly condemned the “heinous and cowardly murder” Mr. Gourdel, saying the killing once again demonstrates the barbaric brutality of those who declare themselves affiliated to ISIL.
Council members stressed that those responsible for the killing must be held accountable, and demanded the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all those who are kept hostage by ISIL, Al-Nusrah Front and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaida.
With the world at a crossroads “between war and peace, disorder and integration”, United States President Barack Obama today urged cooperation at the United Nations to tackle “two defining questions at the root of many of our challenges”: rebuilding the fractured multilateral system on which the UN is based and “rejecting the cancer of violent extremism” spread by groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“There is a pervasive unease in our world – a sense that the very forces that have brought us together have created new dangers, and made it difficult for any single nation to insulate itself from global forces,” Mr. Obama said, noting that right now, “an outbreak of Ebola overwhelms public health systems in West Africa; Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition; and the brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness.”
“We come together with a choice to make – we can renew the international system that has brought so much progress or allow ourselves to be pulled back by more and more outbreaks of instability. For America, the choice is clear. We choose hope over fear,” said Mr. Obama, urging a world shaped through collective effort, rejecting fatalism or cynicism.
With “much to be done to meet the text of this moment” he said, firstly, all nations must observe and enforce international norms. In that regard, he flagged Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a challenge to post-war order. “Against the will of the Government in Kiev, Crimea was annexed. Russia poured arms into Eastern Ukraine, fuelling violent separatists and a conflict that has killed thousands…this is a vision of the world in which might makes right.”
Rejecting that vision, he said the US would “reinforce our NATO allies, and uphold our commitment to collective defence. We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth. We call upon others to join us on the right side of history.” He also suggested the path of diplomacy and peace and the ideals the UN is designed to uphold.
Turning to today’s other main challenge, Mr. Obama said: "As we look to the future, one issue risks a cycle of conflict that could derail such progress…and that is the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world." Collectively, the world must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by “religiously motivated fanatics, and the trends that fuel their recruitment.”
“The terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) must be degraded, and ultimately destroyed,” he said, emphasizing that the group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria ¬– women and girls had been subjected to rape as a weapon of war; children had been gunned down; religious minorities had been starved to death; and innocent human beings had been beheaded on video.
“No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death,” the President declared.
Emphasizing that the United States would not act alone in that effort or send troops to occupy foreign, he said that instead, his Government would support Iraqis and Syrians fighting to reclaim their communities. “We will use our military might in a campaign of air strikes to roll back ISIL,” he declared, noting that already, over 40 nations have offered to join his country’s coalition against the extremist group.
“Today, I ask the world to join in this effort. Those who have joined ISIL should leave the battlefield while they can. Those who continue to fight for a hateful cause will find they are increasingly alone. For we will not succumb to threats; and we will demonstrate that the future belongs to those who build – not those who destroy."
(UN Press Release)
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced that she is opening a second investigation into the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) with respect to crimes allegedly committed since 2012.
Fatou Bensouda recalled in a statement issued to the press that in February of this year, following an escalation of violence in CAR, she opened a new preliminary examination to assess whether or not to proceed with an investigation into what was a “dire” situation in the country.
Thousands of people are estimated to have been killed in CAR in a conflict which erupted when mainly Muslim Séléka rebels launched attacks in December 2012 and then took on increasingly sectarian overtones as mainly Christian militias known as anti-Balaka (anti-machete) took up arms.
“My Office has gathered and scrupulously analysed relevant information from multiple reliable sources. Based on this independent and comprehensive analysis, I have concluded that an investigation is warranted,” said Ms. Bensouda.
“The information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that both the Séléka and the anti-Balaka groups have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, rape, forced displacement, persecution, pillaging, attacks against humanitarian missions and the use of children under 15 in combat.
“The list of atrocities is endless. I cannot ignore these alleged crimes.”
CAR – specifically the events relating to the events of 2002-2003 – was already one of eight situations already under investigation by the Court, along with the Darfur region of Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali and northern Uganda.
The transitional government of CAR decided to refer the situation to the Prosecutor’s Office on 30 May 2014, requesting the investigation into alleged crimes falling within the ICC’s jurisdiction committed in the country since 1 August 2012.
“The 30 May 2014 referral by the CAR authorities demonstrates a commitment to fight impunity for mass crimes and to bring justice to the victims. We look forward to their full cooperation as we conduct our investigation into these crimes,” said Ms. Bensouda.
“As the investigation moves forward, we will continue to record any new crime against civilians that might be committed in CAR,” she added.
“Mass crimes shock the conscience of humanity and tear at the social fabric of society. Let this be a message to would-be perpetrators in CAR and beyond: such crimes will not be tolerated and will be met with the full force of the law.”
(UN Press Release)
The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, opened the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York today with an appeal to member states to seize this "unprecedented historic opportunity" to improve the livelihoods of all people and set them on a path to achieving sustainable development. "The world today is vastly different from what it was in 1945," he said, "but one thing remains constant the need to work together to harness opportunities for prosperity and to find solutions to the global challenges confronting humanity."
His speech comes with less than 470 days left to achieve the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's). Since 2000, the world reached targets on reducing poverty, increasing access to improved drinking water sources, improving the lives of slum dwellers and achieving gender parity in primary school. Yet the sanitation target lags behind, maternal health is still low, and inequalities within and among countries remain high, and employment levels particularly among youth remain high, Mr. Kutesa said.
The international community is also formulating a post-2015 development agenda which should be "ambitious, transformative and produce tangible benefits and improved livelihoods."
"The new agenda should promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, safeguard the future of our planet, and lead to the achievement of sustainable development," articulated Mr. Kutesa, who will lead the effort to finalize the new agenda in September of next year.
The theme of this year's General Assembly is "Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda."
Mr. Kutesa also noted the importance of recognizing climate change as a dangerous reality that must be urgently addressed. World leaders, as well as representatives of business and civil society, yesterday took part in Secretary-'eneral Ban Ki-moons Climate Summit which drew attention to progress towards a universal and meaningful climate agreement in 2015.
He will convene a high-level event on combatting climate change in June.
The General Assembly will also have a high-level thematic debate on strengthening cooperation between the UN and regional organizations.
Among other topics in his speech, Mr. Kutesa called for revitalisation of the 'eneral Assembly and reform of the Security Council to more effectively reflect the current membership of the UN bodies.
(adapted from a UN press release) (mew)
Thursday, September 18, 2014
The International Law Student Association (ILSA) Journal of International and Comparative Law, housed at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center, is seeking submissions for its next issue. It is interested in articles from academics writing about international and comparative law, as well as from practitioners in international law. For more information, please visit the journal's website here.
Drexel University School of Law announced this week that Thomas R. Kline, a trial lawyer in Philadelphia, would give the law school $50 million to help it reach the top ranks of legal education. Drexel was established only eight years ago. Click here to read more.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
September 17 is U.S. Constitution Day. On this day, educational and other institutions around the country engage in activities to commemorate and celebrate our Constitution and to educate the public about its provisions.
The U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in the world at 227 years old. It is also the shortest constitution, containing only 4,440 words. It has been amended only 27 times in its history.
The U.S. Constitution has also been an inspiration for many other constitutions around the world. Concepts such as the rule of law, judicial review, separation of powers, federalism, and individual rights have all found expression in other constitutions, although today, many more modern constitutions have longer and more express provisions for the protection of human rights.
The University of Baltimore School of Law will host a symposium on "Legitimacy and International Courts" on September 18-19, 2014 at the Angelos Law Center in Baltimore.
Symposium participants include Professor Andrea Bjorkland (McGill), Allen Buchanan (Duke), Harlan Cohen (Georgia), Margaret de Guzman (Temple), Andreas Follesdal (Oslo), Nienke Grossman (Baltimore), Chiara Giorgetti (Richmond), Alexandra Huneeus (Wisconsin), Matthias Kumm (New York University), Molly Land (Connecticut), Joost Pauwelyn (The Graduate Institute, Geneva), Mark Pollack (Temple), Mortimer Sellers (Baltimore), Yuval Shany (Hebrew University), Anastasia Telestsky (Idaho), Geir Ulfstein (Oslo), and Erik Voeten (Georgetown).
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
The tenth edition of the Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in Chicago, Illinois on May 20-22, 2015.
GLS-10 will be co-hosted by The John Marshall Law School (where the conference originated) and Northwestern University School of Law. It will also be co-sponsored by a law school in Mexico, the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey (which twice hosted the conference in the past).
The Global Legal Skills Conference is a unique, international conference that brings together professors who teach skills, professors who teach substantive law (and especially international law), practicing attorneys, judges, and law students from around the world. At the last GLS conference (held in Verona, Italy) there were 180 participants from more than 20 countries. The conference has also been held in Costa Rica and in Washington D.C.
The Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing on terror threats in Europe on September 19, 2014 at 10 am, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C. If you go, tell us how it went.
h/t ABA GAO
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a press release yesterday annoucing that Guyana had become the 150th state to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention took effect in 2008 and has experienced one of the fastest rates of ratification of any human rights treaty. It has served to raise awareness about disabilities and helps to promote fair treatment of persons with disabilities.
Unfortunately, the United States is not a member of the treaty. The United States signed the treaty in 2009, but has not yet ratified it. The first time the Senate voted on the treaty in 2012, it fell 5 votes short of the number needed for ratification. The US Sentate Foreign Relations Committee recommended ratification to the full Senate again on July 22, 2014, but the Senate has not yet taken another vote.
Monday, September 15, 2014
As many persons who follow international law are likely aware, this Thursday, September 18, Scottish voters will vote on whether to remain part of the United Kingdom (UK) or whether to secede and form an independent state. Pollsters currently report that the voting public is almost evenly divided. If the vote is in favor of independence, the Scottish National Party (SNP) will then begin negotiations for independence with the UK government. While the UK government is not necessarily bound by the referendum results, the UK government has indicated that it will recognize the vote and engage in independence negotiations. Even if the vote for independence is negative, the UK government has indicated that it is willing to discuss a greater measure of autonomy for Scotland.
The push for independence is driven largely by economic concerns. In particular, the Scots desire greater control of Scotland's offshore oil and gas reserves and some want to use that revenue to fund education and welfare spending in Scotland.
Independence would raise many tricky legal questions. For example, the Scots currently use the Bristish pound as their currency. It is not clear what currency they will use if they secede. Scotland is part of the European Union (EU) through its membership in the United Kingdom. If it forms an independent state, it may have to apply for membership to the EU and meet the EU's economic and other criteria for membership. Scotish residents participate in national health care and pensions systems that are run by the UK, which will also likely change with independence.
The Scottish independence referendum may have implications for other secessionist movements in Europe and elsewhere. Many point to the quest of the Catalons in Spain for independence, for example. However, many legal scholars also point out that the UK's acquiesence in the Scottish referendum sets it apart from many other independence movements where the mother country has not consented to any groups breaking away.