Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Arrivederci Roma, Arrivederci Via Rasella


Since early January, Penelope and I have been living in Rome on the Via Rasella. I’ve been a visiting lecturer at the LUISS Guido Carli University, introducing a fine group of masters students to international criminal law. Our apartment is in a marvellous location in Rome’s centro storico, a few blocks from the Trevi fountain or, in the other direction, the Spanish steps and the apartment where Keats died. Almost every evening, we take a stroll, stopping literally around the corner for gelato at San Crispino. It is said to serve the best ice cream in Rome, which makes it the best ice cream in the known universe. My favourite flavours are pignoli and Sicilian honey. We leave Rome at the end of the week for the next sabbatical destination, All Souls College in Oxford.
Via Rasella is perhaps 150 metres long and quite narrow, climbing the slope of Quirinal hill to the Barberini Palace. I can see the entire length of the street from my apartment window. Romans know the Via Rasella as the site of a spectacular attack by partisans on Nazi troops, on 23 March 1944. A heavily armed column of the 11th Company of the 3rd Bozen SS Battalion, which had been formed to fight the partisans, was marching up the street. One of the partisans, disguised as a street sweeper, set a bomb in a rubbish bin that initially killed twenty-four people. His comrades fired upon what was left of the column, killing another nine.
From his ‘wolf’s lair’ in Poland, Hitler learned immediately of the attack, perhaps the most dramatic and ambitious challenge by anti-nazi partisans anywhere, and he ordered revenge that ‘would make the world tremble’. The nazis resolved to kill ten men for every victim of the attack. The following day, 335 men and adolescent boys, none of whom had any connection with the attack, were taken to the fosse ardeatine, a cave on the outskirts of the city, and murdered. Today, there is a very touching memorial that I have visited. There are hundreds of distinct tombstones indicating the names of the victims, and people still lay flowers on them. An important precedent about the illegality of reprisals was set in the trial of SS Lt. Col. Herbert Kappler, who was the nazi police chief in Rome and the man in charge of the summary executions (In re Kappler, (1948) 15 ILM 471). Much more recently, Italian courts prosecuted one of the main executioners, Erik Priebke, who had evaded justice for several decades. Priebke had fled to Argentina, but was extradited to Italy in 1996 after being exposed by American television.
Bullet holes from the attack are still quite visible on the building at the corner of Via Rasella and Via Boccaccio, as my photograph shows. They are most visible in the middle of the photo, towards the top, next to the sign of the Hotel Petris. If you click on the photo, it should enlarge, and you will see this better. Our apartment is next to the corner building with the bullet holes, slightly down the hill beside the Japanese restaurant. I suppose the SS company marched right by my front door, a minute or two before the bloodshed. Apparently the authorities won’t let the owner plaster over the bullet holes, for they are part of the city’s heritage. But there is nothing else to indicate the terrible history of that street corner, nor could I find anything about this in any guidebook.
Like many atrocities, the historiography of the Via Rasella attack and the ensuing massacre at the fosse ardeatine is as interesting as the narrative of the events themselves. There have been charges that the Pope knew of the executions ahead of time but did little or nothing to intervene with the nazi authorities. In 1996, a newspaper connected to the Berlusconi family published a revisionist account of the bombing that depicted the partisans a ‘terrorists’. In a trial that resulted, the Court of Cassation described the Via Rasella attack as a ‘legitimate act of war against a foreign occupying army directed at a military target’.
One of the mysteries of the reprisals was the odd number of victims. The Nazis claimed they killed ten Italians for every one who died on Via Rasella, but 335 were massacred at the fosse ardeatine, not 330. This was only explained in the Priebke trial. Kappler’s intelligence chief, SS Major Karl Hass, was believed dead, but Chief Military Prosecutor Antonino Intelisano tracked him to his retirement home, near Milan, and brought him back to Rome. When Hass testified, this exchange took place:
INTELISANO: It was discovered that the number of people killed was more than intended, five extra. Can you explain that to us?
HASS: [At the ardeatine,] Priebke was there with the copy of the list. He got the people down [off the trucks] and canceled out their names. At a certain point, one of the prisoners was not on Priebke’s list. At the end, in fact, there were five extra men. That was when Kappler said, ‘What do I do with these five? They’ve seen it all …’

Monday, 25 February 2008

Lancet article on health care personnel in Africa

Ed Mills is the principal author of this article published in the current Lancet dealing with recruitment of medical personnel in Africa, and the human rights implications. I am pleased to be listed as a co-author. This is my first appearance in academic medical literature: www.mediafire.com/?1myyv3dkkxb.

Irish Centre delegation to Iran

The Irish Centre for Human Rights is sending a delegation to Iran later this week. We will be visiting various universities and academic institutions, delivering talks and lectures on a range of human rights issues. Next Monday and Tuesday we hold a public conference in Tehran: http://www.mediafire.com/?yomytrfbt9l. It's probably a bit late for any of you to get visas, but I thought readers of the blog would be interested in the range of some of our activities. I visited Tehran two and a half years ago, and lectured on such subjects as the abolition of capital punishment and the International Criminal Court.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Cambodia Prosecutor's Opening Statement

Robert Petit, who is the international prosecutor at the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, has sent me a copy of his opening statement. I was inquiring as part of research for the second edition of my book, Genocide in International Law, which will be published by Cambridge University Press at the end of this year. Many sources speak of the 'Cambodian genocide' but it has never been very clear that genocide is the appropriate description of the atrocities committed during the 1970s. Crimes against humanity seems closer to reality. So any signals from the prosecutors and judges on this issue are of interest. In fact, Robert's statement doesn't appear to clarify this point. I suspect that they are still reflecting on the matter. There will be enormous pressure to charge genocide, even if the prosecutors and judges come to the conclusion, based on rigorous legal analysis, that it is not appropriate under the circumstances.
Apparently Prosecutor Petit's statement. is not even available on the website of the Chambers, and Robert tells me it is an exclusive to this blog: http://www.mediafire.com/?7jtjkgqzbje

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Shootout at Heathrow over universal jurisdiction

As a frequent tenant of Heathrow airport, I couldn't not be interested in a story in today's Haaretz about a possible shootout at the airport.
Apparently an Israel Defense Forces general escaped arrest for alleged war crimes at London's Heathrow airport in 2005 because British police feared an arrest would spark a shootout with Israeli security officials. Haaretz cites the BBC on this.
Major General (res.) Doron Almog, planning to visit Jewish communities in the U.K., refused to deplane for two hours, after receiving a warning from the Israeli embassy of the imminent arrest. He then returned to Israel.
Palestinian groups had pressed U.K. authorities to arrest Almog over his alleged role in the destruction of more than 50 homes in the Gaza Strip in 2002, prompting a British judge to issue an arrest warrant.
Almog commanded the IDF southern command between 2000 and 2003.
Police waiting to arrest the Israeli general on the ground did not board the plane due to concerns that a clash with Israeli air marshals or armed personal security would erupt on board.
The British judge issued the warrant based on suspicion that Almog had violated the Geneva Conventions. The judge decided to issue a warrant based on one such violation - the destruction of a home in Rafah - in order to allow the police to question Almog over three other incidents: the killing of a nine-month pregnant woman in March 2003; the firing of a "Flechette" antipersonnel shells at three Gaza youths and killing them in December 2001; and dropping a missile on a house in Gaza in July 2002, killing a senior Hamas man along with 14 Palestinian civilians. When Major General Almog returned to Israel, the British foreign secretary issued an apology for the incident.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Job in Kabul

Some of you may be interested in a job teaching public international law and acting as a programme assistant in Kabul. They need someone almost immediately, for a 5-6 month contract. They want someone at the PhD student or postdoc level. For information: www.idlo.int

Human Rights and the Environment

On 8 March 2008, the University of Nottingham Human Rights Centre holds its annual student conference. The theme this year is human rights and the environment. Here is the poster: http://www.mediafire.com/?9jmm7kdqfuc.

Hague Conference on International Criminal Law

The Grotius Centre, in The Hague, is hosting a conference on international criminal law, on 15 March 2008: http://www.mediafire.com/?3nymzl0xrid. I know that some of you will probably be in The Hague earlier in the week, as part of our annual student field trip to the international justice institutions. So why not stay on for another day?

Irish Court Judgment on Rights of Transgendered

On 14 February 2008, the Irish High Court made an order declaring that sections of the Civil Registration Act, 2004 were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights because they do not make any provision for recognising the new gender identity of transgendered persons. The ruling was in the case of transgendered woman Lydia Foy, who began her legal battle for gender recognition and a new passport in her female identity in 1997.
This is the first declaration of incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights to be made by an Irish court since the Convention was made part of Irish law in 2003. The Court had indicated its intention of making the declaration in October 2007 but the written judgment has only recently become available and the formal declaration was made on 14th February.
The High Court judge, Mr Justice McKechnie, was very critical of the failure of the Irish Government to take any steps to recognise the position of transgendered persons following the Goodwin decision in the European Court of Human Rights in 2002 and following a warning by Judge McKechnie himself in an earlier ruling in the Lydia Foy case, also in 2002. He said that Ireland had become very isolated among Council of Europe member states on this issue.
A stay has been put on the implementation of the judgment for two months while the Government decides whether to appeal the decision. If there is no appeal, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) will be required to report the court's decision to the Oireachtas (parliament) within 21 days.
Thanks to Michael Farrell for this.

Kosovo Independence Revives Secession Debate

Kosovo’s declaration of independence revives an ongoing debate in international human rights law about the right of peoples to self determination. Of course, the right is set out in common article 1 of the two International Covenants, but the real quarrel is about whether it includes a right to secede. As the former Yugoslavia was breaking up, the European Union established an Arbitration Commission to rule on the various claims of independence. Chaired by French judge Robert Badinter, it issued a series of opinions: http://www.ejil.org/journal/Vol3/No1/art13.html. Although the Commission did not pronounce on independence for Kosovo, the logic of its rulings would suggest opposition to Kosovo’s claim to statehood. The Badinter Commissions aid that the Republika Srpska, that is, the Serb portion of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had no right to secede. Serbs are going to have difficulty seeing any meaningful distinction between the denial of a right to secede of the Bosnian Serbs and an acceptance of a right to secede of Muslims in Kosovo, and they will have a point. A useful contribution to the debate about secession was delivered by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1998: http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/1998/1998rcs2-217/1998rcs2-217.html. Not only does the issue risk reviving conflict in the Balkans, it also contributes to other secessionist claims elsewhere in the world, which explains why states like Spain, Greece and Cyprus are at odds with other EU states on whether to recognize an independent Kosovo.
Thanks to John Ackerman for the url of the Badinter opinions.

Kosovo Independence Revives Secession Debate

Kosovo’s declaration of independence revives an ongoing debate in international human rights law about the right of peoples to self determination. Of course, the right is set out in common article 1 of the two International Covenants, but the real quarrel is about whether it includes a right to secede. As the former Yugoslavia was breaking up, the European Union established an Arbitration Commission to rule on the various claims of independence. Chaired by French judge Robert Badinter, it issued a series of opinions. I looked for these on the internet and couldn’t find them, although they must be out there somewhere. Although the Commission did not pronounce on independence for Kosovo, the logic of its rulings would suggest opposition to Kosovo’s claim to statehood. The Badinter Commissions aid that the Republika Srpska, that is, the Serb portion of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had no right to secede. Serbs are going to have difficulty seeing any meaningful distinction between the denial of a right to secede of the Bosnian Serbs and an acceptance of a right to secede of Muslims in Kosovo, and they will have a point. A useful contribution to the debate about secession was delivered by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1998: http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/1998/1998rcs2-217/1998rcs2-217.html. Not only does the issue risk reviving conflict in the Balkans, it also contributes to other secessionist claims elsewhere in the world, which explains why states like Spain, Greece and Cyprus are at odds with other EU states on whether to recognize an independent Kosovo.

Monday, 11 February 2008

UN Treaty Series available on line

Our library has just obtained a subscription to the UN Treaty Series. All registered students can access it at www.library.nuigalway.ie.
Apparently by coincidence, just as we made inquiries to subscribe, this service has been made free. Check: http://treaties.un.org/.

EJ Phelan Fellowship in International Law

The National University of Ireland has announced it is seeking applications for the EJ Phelan Fellowship in International Law. This is a very prestigious, and very generous, fellowship, worth 51,000 euro over two years. One of our students, Niamh Walsh, was awarded it the first year it was offered, in 2002.
Here are the regulations: http://www.mediafire.com/?5lgdjhygt2i. I sure hope that one or more of our students will apply. The first rule is that you have to be a graduate of the National University of Ireland. After that, it's all on merit. Good luck.

Friday, 8 February 2008

ICC news: another arrest, and a conference

A third suspect has been taken into custody by the International Criminal Court, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. A Congolese national and alleged former leader of the National integrationist Front (FNI) and currently a Colonel in the National Army of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo [Forces armées de la RDC/ Armed Forces of the DRC ] (FARDC), he arrives today in The Hague. He is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. For more details, see the website of the ICC: http://www.icc-cpi.int/press/pressreleases/329.html
Also, I was just sent an anouncement of an important conference on the ICC being held in Florence in May: http://www.mediafire.com/?1tepbmzjylb

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Miskolc Journal of International Law

Several interesting articles appear in the latest editino of the Milskolc Journal of International Law, available at: http://www.uni-miskolc.hu/~wwwdrint/mjilarticles.htm. These include: Péter KOVÁCS, ‘A propos de la légitimité des relations directes entre l'Etat-parent et la minorité voisine’; Kamrul HOSSAIN, ‘Status of Indigenous Peoples in International Law’; Károly VÉGH, ‘Warriors for Hire?’ – Private military contractors and the international law of armed conflicts’, Csaba PÁKOZDY, ‘Tendencies of Minority Protection in the Law of the European Union’; Eszter KIRS, ‘Introduction and critical remarks regarding the gacaca system in Rwanda'.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Conference on economic and social rights

Announcement of a conference on economic and social rights, in Lisbon: http://www.mediafire.com/?dzydn2pp2bm

Mireille Delmas-Marty

If you don’t yet know the writings of Mireille Delmas-Marty, you should. She is one of the great thinkers of our time on issues concerning law and society. Some of the works of Professor Delmas-Marty are available in English, including a book with Cambridge University Press and a recent article in the Journal of International Criminal Justice. She has a great website, and is disseminating her courses at the Collège de France on the internet. See: http://www.college-de-france.fr/default/EN/all/int_dro/index.htm

Conference on R2P

Cardozo University is holding a conference on R2P ('responsibility to protect'). See: www.cardozo.yu.edu/R2PConference

Research scholarships in post-conflict justice

The Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences has just announced research scholarships described as being in the field of 'conflict resolution'. They are funded through the Conflict Resolution Unit of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. On closer examination, the subjects include post-conflict justice, reconciliation and rule of law. I would be most interested in supervising a PhD student who develops a subject in this area, and who applies for the fellowship. first, check; http://www.irchss.ie/schemes/index.html. For details, see:
http://www.irchss.ie/schemes/scheme01/DFA/Statement%20of%20Themes%20for%20DFA%20Scholarships.pdf