Wednesday 29 April 2009

European Court Upholds Claim Based on House in Occupied Territory

The European Court of Justice has confirmed the validity of a judgment by a court of the Republic of Cyprus ordering the demolition of a house built in the occupied territory of Northern Cyprus. The owner of the land, Meletis Apostolides, was forced to flee at the time of the Turkish invasion in 1974. Two United Kingdom nationals, subsequently acquired a dubious title to the land and build a villa there. Although the Turkish Cypriot courts may still refuse to enforce the judgment, the ruling in Luxembourg will enable the owners to proceed with a claim for compensation in the courts of the United Kingdom. For the decision, see:
Thanks to Maria Veraki.

Sunday 26 April 2009

Interdisciplinary Journal of Human Rights Law

The Interdisciplinary Journal of Human Rights Law is an annual, peer-reviewed journal published by the Council for American Students in International Negotiations. The journal invites quality submissions from scholars, jurists, and professionals in fields related to human rights and international humanitarian law. It also welcomes review essays, book reviews, and comments/notes.
Manuscripts must be computer generated in MS Word and submitted electronically, via e-mail or Berkeley Electronic Press's Expresso submission service, at Each submission should contain an abstract of no more than 150 words, a cover letter, a brief biographical sketch, and appropriate contact information. Manuscripts should be submitted to the Editor-in-Chief with assurance that they have not been published or accepted for publication elsewhere. Manuscripts should range from 3,000 to 10,000 words (approximately 15-25 pages) and be typed, double-spaced. Manuscripts exceeding the maximum length may not be considered. Book reviews may run from 1,000 to 2,500 words. Submissions must follow the style guidelines of either the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) 5th Edition or The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation 17th Edition. Upon receiving comments from referees, notification of acceptance, rejection or need for revision will be given within 4-6 weeks of receipt of manuscript.
Submissions and other editorial correspondence should be addressed to
Thanks to Carla De Ycaza

Wednesday 22 April 2009

How to Prosecute US Torture Cases

Today's news is full of the unfolding debate about prosecuting torture cases in the United States. There is not much controversy nowany more about whether or not torture took place. Dick Cheney is being quarrelsome, but his arguments seem based on the idea that the torture delivered results in the 'war on terror', not that it didn't happen.
Last Friday, I attended a conference at the new Rule of Law Centre at West Point, where the US Military Academy is located. I heard former counsel to the US Navy, Alberto J. Mora, denounce the torture practices of the previous administration. He explained that is was contrary to US law and to US interests. He was given a standing ovation by the military cadets in the audience. Very impressive.
Of course, torture is also contrary to international law. Two treaties ratified by the United States, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture, are of special relevance here.
Obama has his own political reasons for not wanting to prosecute the crimes that were committed. International law has an answer. Under the Torture Convention, if the US is not prepared to put those responsible on trial, it must extradite them to a State that will.
Who should seek their extradition? My suggestion is Belgium. Right now Belgium is suing Senegal at the International Court of Justice under the try or extradite provision of the Torture Convention. So its willingness to fulfil its international duty cannot be in doubt.
Africans have, perhaps with some justification, criticised various international justice initiatives as being one-sided and selective, in that they focus on only one continent. To date, Belgium's idea of universal jurisdiction has been directed mainly at Africa, perhaps because of its historic interest in the continent (as Mark Twain, Roger Casement and, more recently, Adam Hochschild have documented). Here is an opportunity for Belgium to show that its perspective on universal jurisdiction really is universal!
There are a couple of other possibilities here too. Among the locations where these crimes of torture took place are Bagram prison, in Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, in Cuba. Afghanistan is a member of the International Criminal Court. Why doesn't Belgium or one of the other NATO members who are such keen defenders of international justice refer the situation in Afghanistan involving torture committed by the US to the International Criminal Court, in accordance with aritcle 14 of the Rome Statute.
Cuba, unfortunately, is not a member of the International Criminal Court. But without even joining the Court, it can give jurisdiction over Guantanamo, retroactive to 1 July 2002, by making a declaration, pursuant to article 12(3). Then Belgium, or one of the other NATO states, can trigger the jurisdiction in accordance with article 14.
It'll never happen, you say? They said an African-American could never be elected president too. As Yogi Berra said, never say never.

Durban Review Conference

I've been in Geneva all week, and managed to spend some time at the Durban Review Conference on Monday. Much of this disaster could have been avoided. For starters, those countries that boycotted the Conference - Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Israel and the US - provoked an impossible situation. See the press conference that the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General delivered on Monday: As the High Commissioner explains, last Friday they agreed upon an outcome document, but then didn’t participate anyway. This must have seemed like a trick to those who made compromises on the final text. There was a quid pro quo: reach agreement on a final text in return for unanimous participation. So all of this set the stage for Ahmedinijad’s speech on Monday. The BBC have provided a full translation: It is vintage Ahmedinijad. I’ve heard many saying it is full of Holocaust denial and anti-semitism, so it is well worth reading the actual speech before making up one’s mind about what he actually said. The real pity here is that he was the only head of State who came to speak to such an important conference. Barack Obama should have been here. This was the opportunity for the United States to reclaim its position within the international human rights system. Unfortunately, on this issue at least, it seems to have simply continued a policy that was first developed by the Bush administration.

The outcome document was formally adopted yesterday:

Friday 17 April 2009

Revolutionary United Front Sentencing Judgment

The sentencing judgment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Revolutionary United Front case is now available: Late last year, I ran an item about the application for an arrest warrant directed against Sudanese rebels who had attacked peacekeepers. That application, by the way, is still pending. It included a discussion by the Prosecutor about the issue of gravity, given the relatively small number of victims. The Prosecutor said that there was something inherently serious about attacking peacekeeping troops. In this regard the assessment of gravity in the RUF judgment and the sentences are really interesting. The Trial Chamber has ruled that the inherent gravity of the criminal acts (attacks on UNAMSIL peacekeepers (none killed) ) are 'exceptionally high' (see paras. 188 – 202) and has imposed an accordingly harsh sentence. For intentionally directing an attack against peacekeepers, Sesay got 51 years, Kallon 40 years and Gbao 25 years.
I’ve been reading the RUF judgment on the merits and am struck by another issue. The narrative of the conflict in Sierra Leone has often been presented as a campaign driven by greedy diamond smugglers. Many have written that diamonds were the cause of the conflict. The Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission took the view that diamonds may have fueled the conflict, in that they provided a financial base for the combatant factions, but that they were not the cause of the conflict. I had always thought that this analysis was somewhat different from the approach taken by the Prosecutor. However, as I read the RUF judgment, it tends to confirm the analysis of the Truth Commission. It notes that diamonds were used by all combatant factions as a source of funding, and explains that the rebels tried to conquer the diamond mining regions so as to deprive the government of its funding base. Nothing new here. It looks like all wars, where you try to choke the funding source of your enemy. But no confirmation of the idea that diamonds were the source of the civil war.
Thanks to Fidelma Donlon.

Pirates and international law

Piracy is the oldest international crime. It had been little more than a footnote for international scholars until a few weeks ago. Now there are proposals to set up some kind of international justice mechanisms, possibly in Kenya. There is a pretty thorough discussion of some of the issues in yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor: .
In a sense, piracy is of the same genus as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Yet it is profoundly different too. It is really much more like an 'ordinary crime' that requires internationalisation essentially so that jurisdictional issues can be resolved. Children dress up as pirates for Halloween. They generally don't dress up as génocidaires (although I seem to recall one of the English princes thinking it was a joke to disguise himself as a Nazi).

Islam and Human Rights

There is some interesting material in the Muslim World Journal of Human Rights:

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Guantanamo Blog

The Oxford University Press blog has an interesting post ( ) from Karen Greenberg, author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days, about the information that the general public is given about Guantanamo Bay and the human rights violations that are occurring there. Greenberg reflects on the image of Guantanamo that is transmitted through cable television specials that, while attempting to show the situation from all sides, don’t provide any sort of reality check for viewers.
Thanks to Megan Branch

Via Campesina

Last weekend, while attending a meeting in Bruges, I bumped into a former student of ours who now works with an international organization of peasant farmers called La Via Campesina ( Via Campesina actively work on promoting the right to food as well as the rights of peasants (to land, natural resources, seeds etc).
Thanks to Fergal Anderson.

Monday 6 April 2009

Human Rights Coins

Several European Union States have issued coins that are commemorative of human rights. Last year, Belgium, Finland, Portugal and Italy issued 2 euro coins on the 60th anniversary of the University Declaration of Human Rights. France has recently released a 10 euro silver coin for the 60th anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights, shown in the photo. They can be purchased from coin dealers, such as Electa Collections ( and Yvert et Tellier (, and make lovely gifts.

Human Rights and Climate Change

At our expert group meeting in Galway in November, hosted by the Irish Centre for Human Rights in partnership with UNESCO and the University of Amsterdam, we considered how issues like climate change were relevant to the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, set out in article e27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Not much is yet available on the issues concerning human rights and climate change. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has now produced a useful report:

Friday 3 April 2009

Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage

The Iowa Supreme Court today found that the 1998 stautory prohibition on same-sex marriage violates the Iowa Constitution. The Court's opinion is available at
Thanks to Brian Farrell.

Thursday 2 April 2009

Defamation of Religions

The latest salvo in the debate about freedom of expression is the resolution adopted last week by the Human Rights Council entitled 'Combating defamation of religions'. Here is the text of the draft, which I can only presume was adopted without change:
Thanks to Maria Veraki.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Canadian Perspective

The Canadian government has published its long-awaited response to the corporate social responsibility roundtables held in Canada in 2006-2007. Taking a largely preventive and capacity-building approach, the Government committed itself inter alia to promoting a number of normative processes among Canadian extractive companies (the IFC Performance Standards, the Volontary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Global Reporting Initiative) and to establishing an 'Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor to assist stakeholders in the resolution of CSR issues pertaining to the activities of Canadian extractive sector companies abroad'. On the legal aspects, see pp. 14-15.
Thanks to Bruce Broomhall.

Harsh Assessment of International Criminal Court Prosecutor

Alex de Waal and Julie Flint have published a very harsh assessment of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the current issue of World Affairs: Alex has a blog, where comments on the piece will be posted:

Bush Released; Problem Solved in Houston

The source for yesterday's blog - that is, April first - proved unreliable. A relative newcomer to The Hague, my source went to a coffee shop for breakfast before leaking the exciting but apocryphal story of the Bush arrest. They had run out of coffee, so my source had something else.
Readers of the blog know my pedagogical inclinations, and should appreciate that even if the facts were mistaken, the law in yesterday's post is sound.
By the way, there was record feedback, and many were taken in, if only briefly. Who says there's no humour in torture, war crimes and genocide?

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Bush Arrested, Will Stand Trial for Torture at International Criminal Court

From a confidential source in the Registry of the International Criminal Court, I have just learned that former United States President George Bush was kidnapped yesterday by Mexican bounty hunters, who managed to overwhelm the Secret Service agents at his ranch in Texas. A few hours ago, he was covertly transported across the border into Mexico. Government authorities there are holding him under an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court. Bush has been charged for his role in torturing prisoners in Afghanistan, which is a State party to the Rome Statute. The Court has jurisdiction over all crimes committed on the territory of a State party (art. 12(2). A sealed arrest warrant was issued by the Pre-Trial Chamber I against Bush earlier this week.
In a few hours, Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is expected to publicly announce the arrest. He will explain that the recent decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber authorizing the arrest of President Bashir of Sudan means that thereis now no immunity for any Head of State or former Head of State: In support of the lawfulness of the kidnapping and its effect on proceedings, he will cite a judgment of the United States Supreme Court involving the abduction of a suspect from Mexico as authority:
Bush is being held in a secret location, and will be flown to The Hague later today on a private jet that has been made available to the Court by President Chavez of Venezuela.
I’ve managed to obtain a copy of the draft statement that the Court will issue later today:
Thanks to ‘deep throat’.