Friday 30 November 2007

The Prohibition of Propaganda for War in International Law

Dr Michael G. Kearney has just published The Prohibition of Propaganda for War in International Law with Oxford University Press. At a time when the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court is about to undertake a serious debate on the definition of the crime of aggression in the Rome Statute, it provides a very helpful reminder of the anti-war content in international human rights law. There are some in the international human rights community who prefer to avoid the discussion on the grounds that this is so-called jus ad bellum, but Michael Kearney has the better view. Dr Kearney's study addresses a long-neglected but important provision of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The manuscript is based on Dr Kearney's thesis at the Irish Centre for Human Rights. Michael Kearney also completed an LLM in international human rights at the Irish Centre. Judge Richard Goldstone, who was the external examiner for the thesis, has written the book's preface. Michael Kearney is now a lecturer at University of York, in the United Kingdom. For more information on the book:

Thursday 29 November 2007

Research associate position

Reykjavik University School of Law invites applications for a Research Associate position starting 1 February 2008 for a period of 36 months. The research project, funded by the European Commission under its 7th Framework Programme, deals with the Impact of International Criminal Procedures on Domestic Criminal Procedures in Mass Atrocity Cases. Applicants must hold an advanced university degree in law, preferably with specialization in public international and/or international criminal law. Applications should be sent by email to Thordis Ingadottir ( and should include a CV, a list of contacts for references and other relevant information. Copies of two publications and/or papers should also be included in the application. Interested candidates are encouraged to contact Thordis Ingadottir for further information.

Diplomacy and human rights

On Friday 7 December, the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris will host a conference on 'Human Rights Diplomacy', cosponsored by the Irish Centre for Human Rights and the Human Rights Centre at the University of Paris II. For more information: The Irish Cultural Centre is a lovely building, now restored to its former glory (it was previously the Irish College), Paris is beautiful anytime, and we have a great lineup of speakers.

The slowest international criminal tribunal?

Does the pace of the International Criminal Court justify the charge that it is the slowest international criminal tribunal in history?
Earlier this month, the Trial Chamber in the Lubanga case announced that the trial will begin on 31 March 2008. It is the first case at the International Criminal Court to come to trial. Lubanga first appeared before the Court on 20 March 2006, after being transferred from the Democratic Republic of Congo where he had already been in detention for some time. Delay from initial appearance to the start of trial: 741 days.
How does this compare with the other international criminal tribunals? The first trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, of Dusko Tadic, began on 7 May 1996. Tadic was arrested in Germany in February 1994, but proceedings before the International Tribunal only began on 12 October 1994. His initial appearance in the Hague took place on 26 April 1995. Delay from initial appearance to the start of trial: 376 days.
The first trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, of Jean-Paul Akayesu, began on 9 January 1997. Akayesu had been arrested in Zambia on 10 October 1995, he was indicted on 13 February 1996, and he first appeared in Arusha before the Tribunal on 26 May 1996. Delay from initial appearance to the start of trial: 225 days.
The first trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone began on 3 June 2004. The accused were arrested on or about 7 March 2003, and appeared in Court shortly afterward for the first time. Delay from initial appearance to the start of trial: 453 days.
To recapitulate: ICC: 741; ICTY: 376; ICTR: 225; SCSL: 453.
To be fair to the ICC, it is burdened with an additional procedural step, the ‘confirmation hearing’, which is provided for by article 61 of the Rome Statute. But that hearing ended on 28 November 2006 (the decision wasn’t delivered until late January). By 31 March 2008, when the Lubanga trial begins, it will be 487 days since the end of the ‘confirmation hearing’, which is still longer than any of the other tribunals has taken from initial appearance to start of trial.
The ‘confirmation hearing’ looks to be an unnecessary and superfluous business that adds little or nothing to the proceedings, except additional cost and delay. Perhaps the Review Conference, in 2010, will see fit to abolish it. But even when we factor in the delay for the ‘confirmation hearing’, the ICC stills takes the cake as the slowest international criminal tribunal in history.
As a general observation, modern international criminal trials take much too long. One might have hoped that the International Criminal Court would be trying to correct this weakness in the system. But right now it looks as if the problem is getting worse, not better.

Progress report on the International Criminal Court

The Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court will begin its session in New York City at the end of the week. A few days ago, I delivered the Read Memorial Lecture at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, on current developments at the International Criminal Court. I would describe the assessment as positive, but critical:

Cases and materials

This is a 450-page book of cases and materials in international criminal law that I have prepared for teaching purposes. It is a work in progress, and I will be adding new material to it from time to time. Feel free to use the material. Here is the current version, in three pdf files:;;

Sunday 25 November 2007

November Bulletin of Irish Centre for Human Rights

The latest bulletin of the Irish Centre for Human Rights is available:
Please circulate this far and wide.

Thursday 22 November 2007

Nottingham student human rights conference

Many of our students have participated in the past at the Annual Student Human Rights Conference, convened by the Human Rights Law Centre, University of Nottingham. This year's conference is titled ‘International Human Rights and the Environment’ and aims to stimulate multi-disciplinary dialogue on an issue that both links and divides North from South, rich to poor, to discover the synergy between the two issues. The deadline for the submission of papers is Monday 7 January 2008. See:

Council of Europe blasts Canada for death penalty stance

A short time ago, I reported on Canada's rightward shift on the subject of capital punishment, and Louise Arbour's public criticism of the new stance.
Now, according to the Ottawa Citizen (21 November 2007), the secretary general of the Council of Europe, Terry Davies has likened the government of Prime Minister Steven Harper to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who "washed his hands" of the decision to crucify Jesus Christ because a mob demanded Christ's execution. Davies said Canada is effectively 'subcontracting' the death penalty, just as the US government has dispatched suspected terrorists to Third World countries, where they can be interrogated under torture.
He urged the federal government to press US authorities to return Albertan Ronald Smith, the murderer at the centre of the controversy, from his Montana prison cell to serve the rest of his life behind bars in Canada.
'I'm very disappointed to learn that the Canadian government is not taking some action to get this man returned to Canada, where he should serve a life sentence. We certainly don't want a man like that walking the streets', Mr. Davies said. 'But to execute him is degrading. It's reducing authorities to the same level as people who kill people. Killing people is wrong. And the European view is we won't get down in the gutter with the people who commit murders. I'm just amazed that the Canadian government would wash its hands, just like Pontius Pilate.'

Funny blackout in China

It has been several days since I logged on to the blog. I have been in China since Saturday, where I was unable to get access to my blog. I can't be sure that the Chinese authorities have blacked it out. Should I be suspicious? Should I be flattered?
The photo is of a lecture I delivered on capital punishment at the Beijing Normal University.

Saturday 17 November 2007

United Nations Security Council and European Union blacklists

Dick Marty, rapporteur of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, has issued a report calling for targeted sanctions against individuals or specific groups (“blacklists”) in preference to general sanctions imposed on states. It says the latter often have dire consequences for vulnerable population groups whilst targeted sanctions such as travel restrictions and freezing of assets hurt only those found personally responsible. But targeted sanctions must respect minimum standards of procedural protection and legal certainty, says the report. The procedures currently in use at the UN and at the EU fall far short of these standards:

Friday 16 November 2007

Right to education in religious schools

Niamh Hayes, one of our PhD students, has published an article in the Law Society Gazette on the subject of the right to education in religious schools: Niamh is researching a thesis on the presumption of innocence, and is also working on the Oxford Reports on International Criminal Law project at the Irish Centre for Human Rights.

Thursday 15 November 2007

VICTORY in the UN on death penalty

About an hour ago, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty with the ultimate goal of eventually abolishing the practice despite fierce opposition from several members: The vote was 99 in favour, 52 against and 33 abstentions. The resolution will proceed to the General Assembly, in December, but given the result of the vote it is almost certain to be confirmed.
The resolution states that the death penalty 'undermines human dignity' and calls on all states which still maintain the death penalty 'to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty'. It also urges them 'to restrict its use and reduce the number of offenses for which the death penalty may be imposed' and to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing the protection of those facing execution.
For the past two days, a group of states (such as Malaysia, Singapore, Egypt, Barbados, Iran) who remain enthusiastic about capital punishment have tried to stop the resolution with some 15 so-called 'wrecking amendments'. Often using coded language or raising extraneous issues, they unsuccessfully attempted to split what is obviously a growing majority within the United Nations favouring abolition of the death penalty. For example, Egypt, supported by several Islamic countries and the United States, sought to insert a paragraph in the resolution upholding the right to protect the unborn child.
Today, some 133 countries of the 192 United Nations membership have abolished capital punishment in law and practice. Adoption of this important resolution is an historic stage towards total abolition. It is a great victory for the human rights movement.

Monday 12 November 2007

The Genocide Convention by Nehemiah Robinson

In 1960, Nehemiah Robinson published The Genocide Convention, a somewhat modified version of a monograph that he had first issued in 1949. It is one of the first works on the subject. The World Jewish Congress, which apparently holds the copyright, has authorised distribution of a pdf version the book:
With thanks to Don Ferencz, who organised this.

Recent publications by PhD students

Two of our PhD students have just sent along recent articles they have published, and that are of great interest. See: Roja Fazaeli, ‘Contemporary Iranian Feminism: Identity, Rights and Interpretations’, (2007) 4 Muslim World Journal of Human Rights (online journal), at; Katarina Månsson, ‘Reviving the "Spirit of San Francisco": The Lost Proposals on Human Rights, Justice and International Law to the UN Charter’, (2007) 76 Nordic Journal of International Law 217–239, Congratulations to both of you.

Defence work at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

One of our former students, Deirdre Montgomery, who has been working at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia since finishing her LLM at the Irish Centre for Human Rights more than two years ago, writes with news of employment opportunities in defence work. First, see:
Also, the Praljak defence team in Prosecutor v. Prlic et al is seeking a legal assistant. Please forward applications, including a cover letter and a CV, as soon as possible to Bozidar Kovacic- and Krystyna Grinberg- . Any enquiries can be emailed to Krystyna Grinberg.
Finally, Deirdre notes that the Association of Defence Counsel runs an internship programme for those interested in working for defence teams. Anyone interested in an internship can visit or email mo' for further information.

Dag Hammarskjöld and the fine arts

Katarina Månsson sends along some fascinating recent material on Dag Hammarskjöld: Hammarskjöld was the second Secretary General of the United Nations. There is a very nice tribute by Kofi Annan, and several interesting essays on Hammarskjöld’s engagement with the fine arts

Sunday 11 November 2007

Terrorism: Dick Marty questions fairness of UN Security Council and EU blacklists


Transnational and Non-state Armed Groups: Legal and Policy Responses

A new report entitled, "Empowered Groups, Tested Laws and Policy Options", examines and expands on themes addressed during the March 2007 Seminar on Transnational and Non-State Actors. Such themes include Armed Conflict and Change, Laws of War and New Actors, and Strategic Responses and International Security. It has been prepared in the context of the multidisciplinary project “Transnational and Non-state Armed Groups: Legal and Policy Responses."
The report is online, accessible at the portal on Transnational and Non-State Armed Groups, at

Saturday 10 November 2007

Louise Arbour takes Canada to task for reversal of its stance on capital punishment

Louise Arbour made a statement yesterday criticising a change in Canada's foreign policy with respect to capital punishment. Recently, Canada indicated that it would not campaign against the death penalty when it is imposed on Canadian nationals in, for example, the United States. Several years ago, Texas executed a Canadian national - Stanley Faulder - who had not been informed of his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, in violation of the treaty (as the International Court of Justice has confirmed in the LaGrand and Avena cases). At the time, Canada's government worked hard to prevent the execution. But Ottawa has changed. To add to this, the Canadian government has decided not to co-sponsor the resolution on capital punishment now working its way through the General Assembly. Louise Arbour also took issue with that shift in Canadian policy. See her statement:
Fortunately, even if some of the neo-cons in Ottawa are nostalgic for the noose, it will be pretty hard for them to set the clock back. In November 2005, Irwin Cotler, who was then Minister of Justice, pushed through Canadian accession to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Canada is bound, as a matter of international law, not to impose the death penalty, and not to reinstate it, and not to cooperate in its imposition in any way. As far as domestic law is concerned, the Supreme Court of Canada made it very clear in the Burns and Rafay case, in 2001, that the Canadian constitution forbids capital punishment ( Irwin Cotler and I were counsel for Amnesty International in that case. We submitted an amicus curiae brief. And guess who was one of the members of the Supreme Court of Canada when it issued the important ruling: Louise Arbour. She resigned from the Court in 2003 to take up her current job as High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Bravo Louise. Bravo Irwin. Shame on Canada.

Child soldiers at Guantanamo

Prof. David Crane, the first prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (and a regular visitor to the Irish Centre for Human Rights), has published a fine article on child soldiers in today's International Herald Tribune: David makes the link between the phenomenon of child soldiers, his own rich experience in Sierra Leone, and the pending trial of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo. Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen and has been detained at Guantanamo for five years. He was captured at the age of 15 in Afghanistan. He is represented by a very determined and competent US military lawyer, whom I had the pleasure to meet last month at the annual meeting of the Canadian Council of International Law, in Ottawa. Unfortunately, the Canadian government, which has taken a rather conservative turn, is not doing all it could to help Omar Khadr. The British and Australians, for example, have insisted on their own nationals at Guantanamo being repatriated. Fortunately, authoritative voices like that of David Crane are arguing that the trial should no be taking place, and that a 15-year-old combatant should be treated as a victim, not a perpetrator.

Friday 9 November 2007

Professor Takemura

One of my PhD students, Hitomi Takemura, has just signed a contract to be an assistant professor in international law at Kyushu International University, in Japan. Congratulations, Hitomi. She is almost finished her thesis, which is on conscientious objection and refusal of superior orders, with a defence scheduled for December.
We awarded the first PhD at the Irish Centre for Human Rights three years ago. By my count, nine of our PhDs are now employed as lecturers at universities, in Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, the US, and now Japan. The PhD is the degree par excellence for an academic career, and we are thrilled by the success of our students in finding teaching appointments. Other PhD graduates have found work as researchers at universities and think tanks, with NGOs, with international tribunals and with law firms.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Amicus curiae

An amicus curiae is a 'friend of the court'. The concept is related to, although possibly distinct from, the 'intervenor'. I think that an 'intervenor' argues for a position, and participates in the proceedings as a form of advocacy. The amicus curiae has a role that is perhaps more neutral, informing the court basaed upon expertise.
A recent development of some interest is the evolving practice of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in this area. Over the last few years, she has intervened in four cases, and more such initiatives can be expected in the future. The first intervention, I think, was before the Special Court for Sierra Leone in a matter of direct concern to her, namely, the compellability of a former official of the Office of the High Commissioner. Subsequently, she has intervened as amicus before the International Criminal Court, providing expertise on whether or not investigations could be conducted in Darfur. Her views were somewhat at odds with those of the Prosecutor, and he reacted to them somewhat negatively. She has intervened before the United States Supreme Court in a case concerning extraterritorial application of human rights norms, and before the Iraqi Tribunal in opposition to use of the death penalty.
The practice of intervention before the European Court of Human Rights is well established. A couple of zears ago, the Irish Centre for Human Rights submitted an amicus brief to the Interamerican Court of Human Rights. The judgment referred to our brief.
The various international criminal tribunals regularly receive amicus briefs. Most of them cross the line into advocacy, in my opinion.
I am currently in Geneva and checked with the human rights treaty bodies. They, apparently, have never authorised amicus briefs with respect to human rights petitions, although some have been submitted in the past by human rights NGOs.
This is a great subject for an article, and perhaps even a thesis.

Monday 5 November 2007

Apple Corps' new products

For a little entertainment on a grim subject, see:

Amnesty slide show on capital punishment

A slide show, and many other very useful materials on capital punishment, is available on the Amnesty International website:

Sunday 4 November 2007