Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Naomi Campbell Testimony Authorised by Charles Taylor Trial Chamber

Judges have authorised the Prosecutor to reopen her case in the Charles Taylor trial, so as to call new evidence concerning whether the accused gave a rough diamond to model Naomi Campbell while visiting Nelson Mandela in South Africa, according to a decision issued yesterday. The idea, it seems, is to prove that Charles Taylor lied when he said he never was in possession of rough diamonds. Naomi Campbell has a volatile personality, and it should be interesting to see her testify. If she clams up, maybe the Prosecutor will call Mia Farrow to say that Campbell is a lier. Then they can call Woody Allen to say that Farrow is a lier. This trial ain't over yet!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Positions with Interdisciplinary Journal of Human Rights Law

The Interdisciplinary Journal of Human Rights Law a peer-reviewed academic journal on international human rights and international humanitarian law, is now accepting applications for the position of Managing Editor. Interested candidates must be graduate students or young professionals, available to work online from their present location, part-time, with a commitment through January 2011.
Qualifications: A successful candidate should have a strong background in a field related to the subject of human rights and a keen understanding of academic publishing, including peer review procedures and journalistic ethics. Impeccable writing skills and familiarity with various style guides–especially the Harvard Blue Book and Chicago Manual of Style–are essential.
Duties: Under direction and supervision of the Editor-in-Chief, the Managing Editor is responsible for helping produce all aspects of the journal, which will be published in late December/early January. Submissions come in through an electronic submission service as well as through e-mail. The Managing Editor is responsible for responding to submissions, corresponding with staff regarding assignments, updating staff and submission database tables, distributing a Call For Papers, securing additional submissions, and setting all internal deadlines in consultation with the Editor-in-Chief. The Managing Editor enacts the vision of the Editor-in-Chief, serving as a bridge between the EIC and other editorial and review staff, and keeps all projects on schedule.
Address inquiries to

Lumumba’s Son to File Criminal Prosecution in Belgian Courts

The son of Patrice Lumumba, who was the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s first democratically elected president, and who was murdered in 1961, plans to launch criminal proceedings in Belgian courts against the alleged perpetrators. According to a Reuters report: ‘The complaint will assert that the Belgian government and military officials were involved in the transfer of Lumumba from the capital to the region of Katanga, and that they failed to prevent him being tortured and killed.’ A Belgian parliamentary inquiry in 2001 concluded Belgium was ‘morally responsible’ for the murder of Lumumba, and since then Belgium has officially apologised.
Lumumba's son has apparently not directly implicated the United States, but according to Wikipedia, in a declassified interview the then National Security Council minute-keeper Robert Johnson said that President Eisenhower had told CIA chief Allen Dulles ‘something to the effect that Lumumba should be eliminated’. Dulles himself described the murder of Lumumba as ‘an urgent and prime objective’. The Senate intelligence committee’s inquiry on covert action found that the CIA had conspired to murder Lumumba, but that it was not actually involved in the assassination. Recently released CIA records confirm the plan.
Thanks to Hilde Laeremans.

Banking as a Human Right

An interesting article about banking as a human right, from the OECD blog.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Extraterritorial Use of Force Against Non-State Actors, by Noam Lubell

Last week at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, in conjunction with our annual summer course on the International Criminal Court, we launched Dr Noam Lubell's book Extraterritorial Use of Force Against Non-State Actors, which is published by Oxford University Press.
Noam has been a member of our faculty for three years. The book is based on the doctoral thesis he defended at the University of Essex.
It is divided into three parts, each devoted to a distinct body of law: the law of the use of force, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law. It explains how each area of law contributes its own perspective and its own solutions to this issue, which is of great contemporary significance. As Noam explains, the issue goes right back to the famous Caroline case, which involved Canadian rebels (today we would call them non-state actors) who were fighting the British colonists from the American side of the Niagara River. As I told Noam at the launch, I went to high school literally around the corner from where the rebels actually met to organize their struggle, at Montgomery's Tavern in North Toronto.
Today, the manifestations of this complex problem include the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Gaza flotilla and the Lord's Resistance Army in Sudan and the DRC, to mention only a few examples. Hat's off to Noam, for this very significant book. It immediately takes its place as the standard work on the subject.

Wikipedia Admitted in Evidence at the Yugoslavia Tribunal

Some time ago, the Wikipedia entry on 'Ustasha' was admittted in evidence before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Gotovina trial. According to the transcript of 25 April 2008, pp. 2271-2274, the defence produced the entry without objection from the Prosecutor, who said only: 'Wikipedia is the freeencyclopedia from which sources can be uploaded from anywhere. We do not consider it in general to be a reliable source of information.' It is exhibit D142 in the case.
Thanks to Yvonne McDermott.

Same-Sex Marriage Claim Rejected by European Court of Human Rights

In Schalk and Kopf v. Austria, the European Court of Human Rights has rejected an application seeking a right to same-sex marriage within the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 12 of the Convention, which is derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states: 'Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.' The applicants argued that under a dynamic interpretation, this provision should now be read as protecting a right to same-sex marriage. The Chamber said that 'the institution of marriage has undergone major social changes since the adoption of the Convention, the Court notes that there is no European consensus regarding same-sex marriage' (para. 58). Three of the seven judges dissented. According to Judges Rozakis, Spielmann and Jebens, same-sex relationships are accepted by society, and require an adequate legal framework. The absence of such a framework constitutes a violation of articles 8 (right to privacy, family, etc.) and 14 (non-discrimination).
Thanks to Christopher Ryan, who has written about this on his own blog.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Lisbon Treaty and Human Rights

My colleague Laurent Pech, with Prof. Goussot de l’Université de Lund, has produced a policy paper on the protection of fundamental rights following entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Human rights positions in Bosnia and Herzegovina

There are several vacancies at the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the human rights and rule of law sphere.
Human Rights Officers
Legal Adviser, Judicial and Legal Reform  (this one has a deadline of end of the week).
Thanks to Stephanie Barbour.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Cinema, Human Rights and Advocacy Summer School

We've still a few places left in the summer course on Cinema, Human Rights and Advocacy being delivered here by the Irish Centre for Human Rights and the Huston Film School, at the end of August. The course is essentially the same as the one delivered in Venice for several years. The only thing missing here are the gondolas, but we make up for that in other ways. The programme is directed by Nick Danziger, and has an experienced team of filmmakers, academics and activists to deliver a very stimulating course. Here are the details.
Please help us by spreading the word to others.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The Kampala Review Conference: A Brief Assessment

NB. For the past two weeks, I have been operating a separate blog on the Kampala Review Conference, with very detailed commentary, documents and photos. It was always a temporary proposition, and with this article, which I have posted on both of my blogs, I bring the ICC Review Conference blog to a close.

The Kampala Review Conference of the Rome Statute provides a much-needed shot of legal adrenaline to the International Criminal Court. Several of the achievements at Kampala were relatively minor and inconsequential. Fortunately, they are dwarfed by the stunning accomplishment of the amendments of aggression, adopted in extremis early Saturday morning. Until about 1030 PM Friday night, I could not find anybody prepared to wager a significant sum of money on the likelihood of a positive outcome.

While much credit is due to the impressive diplomatic skills, and determination, of Christian Wenaweser, Prince Zeid and Stefan Barriga, who were the architects of the negotiations, personalities alone do not account for the result. At the Rome Conference, and for some years afterwards, I used to say that the Court was protected by a guardian angel. But this was just a metaphor for the fact that the Court, and international criminal justice, is – to paraphrase Victor Hugo – ‘an idea whose time has come’. And nothing can stop it. For some years, with the Court’s activity in the doldrums, I had lost sight of the guardian angel. But he/she was certainly in evidence last Friday and Saturday.

This time, though, the idea is a narrow one, and it is built around the crime of aggression. One striking difference with the Rome Conference was the relative absence of the NGOs at Kampala. They were there in a formal sense, especially at the beginning of the Conference, when the proceedings looked more like an academic seminar or a political meeting than a treaty negotiation. But many of them were quite indifferent to the incorporation of aggression into the Statute. I am struck by the resemblance of their attitude to the American position, which treats aggression as a bit tangential from the core mission of the Court, which is to promote human rights through the prosecution of the other core crimes, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Even the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who actually attended part of the Kampala Conference, has yet to issue a statement signaling the achievement of incorporating the crime of aggression in the Rome Statute.

Nothing could be more mistaken, however. The wise judges at Nuremberg described aggressive war as the supreme crime, encompassing the evil of all the others. What Kampala does is refocus our attention onto the importance of the prohibition of war – on the jus ad bellum. This is an important and helpful correction, and it is to be hoped that the message of Kampala will slowly percolate through the human rights discourse.

Those who are keen on the aggression issue are very troubled by the seven-year delayed entry into force. It would be a mistake to exaggerate the significance of this. Entry into force of amendments to treaties always takes time. The amending procedure is quite arcane, and even without the seven-year rule this would take a long time in any case. Although the amendment requires thirty ratifications and a positive decision by the States parties, this should not pose a serious problem, and both conditions should be fulfilled by 1 January 2017 or shortly thereafter.

Then, the result will be much better than had the Conference to what many thought was the appropriate amending process. Because the amendment will apply to all States parties, and not just those who have ratified it, provided of course they have not made an opt-out declaration. There may be some of these, but there is no cause for pessimism here. There will be a high political price to pay for any government that considers making an opt-out declaration. It is a price that many will prefer not to pay.

Nor should we lose sight of the incentive that the amendments create for States that have not joined the Court. According to article 15bis, a non-party State is immune from the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. The Court cannot punish crimes committed by its nationals or on its territory. Some States will welcome this because it will insulate their nationals, but many will realize that they are being deprived of the deterrent power of the Rome Statute, in that aggression committed on their territory and against them totally escapes the jurisdiction. Hopefully, some of them will appreciate the interest in joining the Court because of this added layer of protection.

I am reminded of the importance that the first President of the Court, Philippe Kirsch, attached to the work on the crime of aggression. My recollection is that he felt it was important not only to show to States that the reference to aggression in article 5(1) had some substance behind it. He also explained that incorporating aggression in the Statute would help convince some States to join the institution. He was right at the time, and his vision has now borne fruit.

Those who are unhappy with the Court’s new mandate will try to pick holes in the legality of the amendments. It is true that they reflect some creative approaches, but everything passes what Roger Clark calls the ‘straight face test of advocacy’. Legal academics who support the Court, and the amendments, can assist judges in the future with reassurances that the amendments actually work. The Statute as adopted in Rome had its share of ambiguities. The Kampala Conference was able to find a workable way forward.

Beyond the adoption of the aggression amendments, there is really not much else to say about the Kampala Conference. It is of course positive to have repaired an oversight in the war crimes provisions. However, the amendment to article 8 is symbolic, and it is doubtful that it will ever lead to prosecutions. There have, to date, never been any international prosecutions for the use of such weapons. It is occasionally pointed out that Saddam Hussein used poison gas at Halabja, but it is absurd to suggest that the failure to recognize the use of such weapons as an international crime means that there is an impunity gap for such atrocities. They can be prosecuted as crimes against humanity and even genocide. Years from now, people will point the prohibited weapons issue at Kampala with irony, noting that the States Parties were able to address the prohibition of relatively archaic weapons that are rarely if ever used in modern combat, but that they could not deal with the important issues: anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions, depleted uranium weapons and, of course, nuclear weapons.

The Conference agreed to leave article 124 alone. The importance of this provision was always exaggerated, especially by the human rights NGOs. Amnesty International called it a ‘licence to kill’, but never attempted to provide evidence that could back up such a hyperbolic claim. Arguably, article 124 helped smooth the ratification of two States parties. If it can do this trick again over the next five years, then it will be worth leaving it in the Statute. And if it cannot prompt further ratifications, then how can it be claimed that any harm was done?

What the Conference failed to do was talk about the Court and its performance. There may have been good policy reasons for doing so. Perhaps Kampala was not the right place for a stocktaking on the activities, results and operations of the Court. But this subject cannot be avoided forever.

Temperman Book on State-Religion Relationships

On Monday, we launched Jeroen Temperman's book State-Religion Relationships and Human Rights Law, Twoards a Right to Religiously Neutral Governance. The book is based on the thesis Jeroen completed at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, under the supervision of Prof. Joshua Castellino.
Upon graduation, Jeroen took up a position at the University of Amsterdam, but he has now moved on to the Erasmus University Rotterdam, where he is an associate professor. Jeroen was in Galway this week participating in our summer school on minority rights.
The book looks at the relationsip between the State and religions, and argues for the State to remain neutral in all respects in order to ensure compliance with fundamental rights.
Jeroen is the twelfth of our doctoral students to publish his thesis with an important international academic publishing house. understand that two more completed theses are also forthcoming with publishers.

Those who follow the blog will know that we recently graduated our 22nd doctoral student, the first having completed his degree only five years ago. Several more students are scheduled to defend their theses this year.
Congratulations, Jeroen, on this achievement.

Crimes Against Humanity in Burma: Irish Foreign Minister Launches Report by Irish Centre for Human Rights

Yesterday evening, in Dublin, Ireland's Foreign Minister Micheal Martin officially launched the report on Crimes Against Humanity in Western Burma: The Sitation of the Rohingyas, which has been prepared by the Irish Centre for Human Rights.
From left, myself, Minister Martin, Joe Powderly and Nancie Prud'homme.

Speaking at the launch of the Report, Minister Martin commended the work of the NUIG research team, stating that they have presented ‘compelling and credible evidence suggesting that crimes against humanity have indeed been committed by the Burmese authorities against the Rohingya minority group’. Noting the recommendation in the Report that the Security Council establish a Commission of Inquiry to determine whether there is a prima facie case that crimes against humanity have been committed, as well as similar recent comments by UN Special Rapporteur on Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, Minister Martin said that he fully supported these calls for all such alleged crimes to be formally investigated.
The Report is based on extensive open-source research and on a fact-finding mission to Burma, Thailand and Bangladesh conducted by experts in international criminal investigation. As well as interviewing organisations working in the region, investigators met with Rohingya victims in and around refugee camps in Bangladesh. The Rohingyas’ plight has been overlooked for years and the root causes of their situation still remain under-examined. The Irish Centre for Human Rights’ Report identifies and discusses some of these causes.

The team that prepared the report was headed by Nancie Prud'homme and Joe Powderly
Here is the press release.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Rwandan génocidaire convicted in Finland

Courts in Finland have convicted Francois Bazaramba for his role in the Rwandan genocide. Bazaramba has been sentenced to live imprisonment. Last year, Finland chose to prosecute under universal jurisdiction rather than extradite to Rwanda. See the story on BBC News.
Thanks to Maria Varaki.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Naomi Campbell at the Specail Court for Sierra Leone?

The Prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone has applied to reopen her case, which closed more than a year ago, in order to call model Naomi Campbell and actress Mia Farrow as witnesses. It is alleged that while in South Africa in 1997, where the three were guests of Nelson Mandela, Charles Taylor gave Naomi Campbell an uncut diamond. Campbell has denied this in the past, and recently punched a journalist who asked her about the matter. See the video (won't she be fun to cross-examine!). Mia Farrow claims she that Campbell told her about this at breakfast.
The Prosecutor says this will constitute 'direct evidence of the accused's possession of rough diamonds from a witness unrelated to the Liberian or Sierra Leone conflicts'.

Taylor's defence counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, is challenging the motion. 'For the prosecution to present such inferential evidence at this advanced stage, as part of an obvious publicity stunt, would bring the administration of justice into serious disrepute,' he said in his reply to the motion.
What I find quite astonishing is that the Prosecutor closed the case more than a year ago without adequate evidence that Charles Taylor was in possession of raw diamonds. After all, this is a big part of the lore about the Liberian conflict. Is the Prosecutor really so dependent upon last-minute evidence from a volatile super-model, who in the past has denied this, but whose credibility could then be attacked by a movie star.
And what did Campbell do with this famous diamond? She says she gave it away to a charity in South Africa. Really? But apparently the alleged charity denies it. The Prosecutor has an explanation: Campbell k new it would be illegal to take an uncut diamond out of the country, so she gave it away, but then the charity is afraid to admit having received it because of the legal consequences. And all of this not to prove an issue that is central to the case against Taylor, but a seriously tangential matter.
Maybe they should also subpoena Nelson Mandela ot see what he knows about the matter.

Legality of British Invasion of Iraq

The Chilcott Inquiry, which earlier this year heard riveting testimony from Elizabeth Wilmshurst, Michael Wood and others about the debating within the British Government about whether the invasion of Iraq would be legal, is inviting submissions from public international lawyers.
Thanks to Anthony Cullen.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Gaza Flotilla: What Crimes?

Several readers of the blog have written in response to a posting earlier this week about the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court with respect to the attack upon the humanitarian aid flotilla by Israel, asking what international crimes might be punishable.
Article 8(2)(b) of the Rome Statute lists several relevant provisions, including:
(i) Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities;
(ii) Intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, that is, objects which are not military objectives;
(iv) Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated...
Any of these might provide a basis for a prosecution involving the attack by armed forces upon an unarmed humanitarian assistance mission. Indeed, it would be astonishing if such an attack were not covered by one or other of the provisions.
Of course, there must be an armed conflict for war crimes law to apply. Such authoritative bodies as the Israeli Supreme Court and the Goldstone Commission have described the situation in the occupied territories, and Gaza in particular, as an armed conflict.

Ticking Bomb: European Court Says you Still Can't Torture

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has found that there was a violation of article 3 of the European Convention (prohibition of torture) in a case where law enforcement authorities used the threat of torture in an attempt to extract information from a suspect about someone whose life was believed to be in danger. It is about a close as we can get to the fabled 'ticking bomb' situation, used by some American law professors to justify the use of torture in certain circumstances. In Gafgen v. Germany, issued earlier this week, the Court in effect reversed a decision by a Chamber.
Thanks to Christopher Ryan.


Philip Alston, the outgoing special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, has released his report on the use of drones. According to the summary,
In recent years, a few States have adopted policies that permit the use of targeted killings, including in the territories of other States. Such policies are often justified as a necessary and legitimate response to “terrorism” and “asymmetric warfare”, but have had the very problematic effect of blurring and expanding the boundaries of the applicable legal frameworks. This report describes the new targeted killing policies and addresses the main legal issues that have arisen.
Thanks to Maria Varaki and Quincy Diep.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Gaza Flotilla: Can Israel be Brought to the International Criminal Court?

The attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla which took place in international waters has further enraged the world at Israel's behaviour. The Security Council has already addressed the issue, calling for an inquiry. Such an inquiry may consider possible outcomes, as previous inquiries have done. One question that will be asked is whether those who ordered or participated in the attack can be brought before the International Criminal Court.
Several ships were attacked. I am informed that the one central to the fighting bore a Turkish flag. It is therefore possible for Turkey to exercise jurisdiction with respect to crimes committed on or against the ship. An early ruling of the Permanent Court of International Justice, well known to students of public international law, makes this quite clear.

If Turkey can exercise jurisdiction over the ship, it can also assign jurisdiction to an international court. Article 12(2) of the Rome Statute is explicit in this respect. Accordingly, the Court ‘may exercise its jurisdiction’ over ‘The State on the territory of which the conduct in question occurred or, if the crime was committed on board a vessel or aircraft, the State of registration of that vessel or aircraft’.  But article 12(2) only applies to States parties. Alas, Turkey is not a State party to the Rome Statute.
Nevertheless, even without joining the Court, Turkey may give jurisdiction to the Court pursuant to article 12(3), with respect to the situation in question. This is the provision that was invoked by the Palestinian Authority last year. The Palestinian declaration remains under consideration by the Prosecutor. Unlike the Palestinian Authority, however, there is no debate as to whether Turkey is ‘a State’ within the meaning of article 12(3).
Briefly, then, Turkey should send a letter to the International Criminal Court giving jurisdiction over its ships in the Mediterranean with respect to the events of the past few days.