Saturday 29 January 2011

Libel Court Costs are Too High, European Court Judgment Concludes

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that excessive legal fees charged by claimants’ lawyers in libel and privacy cases violate freedom of expression. The decision, entitled  MGN Ltd. v. United Kingdom  results from a lawsuit filed by Naomi Campbell, who is a familiar name on these pages, against a British tabloid, the Daily Mirror. Her lawyers operated on a 'no win, no fee' agreement. Although the English court only awarded £3,500 for publishing details and photographs of Ms. Campbell leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, it also hit the newspaper with costs of £850,000, of which £365,000 was a 'success fee'. A chamber of the  European Court of Human Rights said the 'bizarre and expensive' costs scheme breached freedom of the press, which is enshrined in article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ICC and the United States

One of our doctoral graduates, Megan Fairlie, who is now an assistant professor at Florida International University College of Law, has posted an article on the United States and the International Criminal court on the blog IntLawGrrls.
Megan is the fourth academic associated with the Irish Centre for Human Rights to publish on that distinguished blog. The others are: Meg deGuzmanNadia Bernaz and Yvonne McDermott:
Diane Amann, who is one of the editors of the blog, will be one of our guest academics at the Irish Centre's doctoral seminar in early May.

International Bar Association Report on the International Criminal Court

For the latest report of the International Bar Association on the International Criminal Court, click here.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Genocide Convention and the International Criminal Court

Some have suggested that the issuance of a second arrest warrant in the Bashir case before the International Criminal Court changes the legal situation because the Genocide Convention adds to the obligations on states and strengthens what the Prosecutor can demand of them in terms of cooperation. The views on the subject of several academics, including myself, appear on the UCLA Law Forum. It is labelled a debate, although I didn't see the other contributions before they were published and the five of us don't engage directly with the positions taken by the others. I don't mean this comment to detract from the quality of the contributions, however, and the usefulness of the materials.
I seem to have been the only one to take the view that we can only speak of an obligation to arrest, etc.under the Genocide Covnention if there is in fact genocide taking place. The fact that the Prosecutor describes Bashir's acts as genocide and the fact that the Pre-Trial Chamber has said there is a reasonable basis to issue an arrest warrant - after the Appeals Chamber had told the Pre-Trial Chamber not to be so rigorous at the arrest warrant stage - certainly doesn't mean that genocide has been committed. If the Convention imposes an obligation simply because an arrest warrant has been issued, perhaps we should change its name to the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Situations Where Genocide Might Have Taken Place. I doubt that if that were really the scope of the Convention, we would have as many ratifications as we have.
In any case, lots of informed specialists, including the UN Commission in 2005 that was chaired by Professor Cassese, think that genocide is not the correct term to be used for the events in Darfur. As I point out in my article, even the Prosecutor didn't charge genocide in the first two arrest warrants concerning Darfur.
Can it really be the case that the obligations under the Rome Statute are enhanced merely because the Prosecutor adds the term genocide to the charges? If that's how it works, I suppose he'll be tempted to charge everyone with genocide, even if he can't make the charge stick at trial. I'd certainly be curious to see the reaction of the others who contributed to the UCLA Law Forum, and to readers of this blog generally, on that point.

Human Rights and Religions Course at Trinity

The School of Religions and Theology , Trinity College Dublin together  with the Irish Centre for Human Rights of NUI Galway are offering a course entitled Human Rights and Religions.
The course on human rights and religions is designed to encourage participants to go beyond stereotyping, to support dignity and respect of religious minorities and to work towards a more inclusive community.
Here is the poster for the course, and the registration form. You can also contact the organiser, Shona McCambridge, directly:

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Course on Sharia Law at Siracusa Institute

Every year, the International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences (ISISC), which is based in Siracusa, Sicily, holds a short course for 'young penalists'. The course brings in top speakers from around the world. Students also get much quality time with one of the legends of international criminal law, Cherif Bassiouni, who is the director of the Institute.
The programme also provides participants with an opportunity to network with colleagues elsewhere in the world. The Irish Centre for Human Rights regularly cosponsors the course, as it does this year.
This year the theme of the programme is 'The Sharia: Sources of Law and Selected Legal Aspects'. The course is being held from 22 to 31 May. For more information, click here.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Rwanda Genocide Trial in Germany

A Rwandan charged with genocide relating to the 1994 events is now on trial in Germany. See one of the accounts. This is the latest in a number of examples of universal jurisdiction being exercised with respect to Rwandan genocide cases.
Thanks to Hilde Laeremans.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

The Minotaur

This may first have been disclosed through Wikileaks. It describes the labyrinthine philosophy of the Bush administration. Click here.
Thanks to Guy Goodwin-Gill.

Saturday 15 January 2011

Analysis of Death Penalty Vote in General Assembly

On 21 December, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the third resolution in four years calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, with a greater number of states in favour than previously. The vote sheet is now available. It shows the following changes in position by comparison with the results of the previous vote, in 2008:
Two states that were opposed to the resolution in 2008 voted in favour in 2010: Maldives, Mongolia.
Five states that had abstained in 2008 voted in favour of the resolution in 2010: Bhutan, Gambia, Guatemala, Togo.
Two states that had voted in favour in 2008 did not cast their votes in 2010: Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritius.
There appear to be no states that went from support to abstention or opposition.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

EU Ratifies Convention on Disabilities

The European Union has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is the first time that the EU has ratified a human rights treaty. The EU signed the Convention in 2007. 
Article 42 of the Convention says: 'The present Convention shall be open for signature by all States and by regional integration organizations at United Nations Headquarters in New York as of 30 March 2007.' Article 43 says: 'The present Convention shall be subject to ratification by signatory States and to formal confirmation by signatory regional integration organizations.'
The EU is the 97th party to the Convention.
The EU is also in a position to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights. Negotiations are now underway with the Council of Europe in order to work out the details. For a discussion on EU ratification of the European Convention, see the article by my colleague Laurent Pech and Xavier Groussot in European Issues.
Thanks to Clemens Müller and Laurent Pech.

Monday 10 January 2011

War Don Don Now Available on DVD

Still from the film shows defence counsel Wayne Jordash and Prosecutor Steve Rapp doing a radio interview following judgment in the Sesay case.
Rebecca Richman Cohen's award winning film on the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, War Don Don, can now be purchased on DVD.

Judicial Creativity at the International Criminal Court

Shane Darcy and Joseph Powderly, have published, with Oxford University Press, a collection of essays entitled Judicial Creativity at the International Criminal Tribunals. The collection results from a series of seminar that Shane, who is a lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights (and graduate of its LLM and PhD programmes) and Joe (who is completing his PhD at the Irish Centre, who works as a researcher at the Asser Institute in The Hague, and who is managing editor of the Criminal Law Forum) organized over the course of 2009 and 2010.
Among the essays in this volume are:
Mohamed Shahabuddeen: Judicial Creativity and Joint Criminal Enterprise
Gideon Boas: Omission Liability at the International Criminal Tribunals - A Case for Reform
Wayne Jordash & John Coughlan: The Right to be Informed of the Nature and Cause of the Charges: A Potentially Formidable Jurisprudential Legacy
Göran Sluiter: Procedural Lawmaking at the International Criminal Tribunals
Hakan Friman: Trying Cases at the International Criminal Tribunals in the Absence of the Accused?
Fidelma Donlon: The Role of the Judges in the Definition and Implementation of the Completion Strategies of the International Criminal Tribunals
Fabián Raimondo: General Principles of Law, Judicial Creativity and the Development of International Criminal Law
L.J. van den Herik: Using Custom to Reconceptualize Crimes Against Humanity
Niamh Hayes: Creating a Definition of Rape in International Law: the Contribution of the International Criminal Tribunals
Robert Cryer: The ad hoc Tribunals and the Law of Command Responsibility: A Quiet Earthquake
Caroline Fournet: The Judicial Development of the Law of Defences by the International Criminal Tribunals

Gillian Higgins: The Development of the Right to Self Representation before the International Criminal Tribunals
Congratulations to Shane and Joe on this important contribution and fine achievement.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Four Freedoms by Norman Rockwell at Dulwich Picture Gallery

From top left, freedom of expression, freedom of belief, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
If you are around London in the coming weeks, try to visit the Dulwich Picture Gallery, where there is an exhibition of art by Norman Rockwell. Included in the exhibition are two of my favorites, the 'Four Freedoms' and 'The Problem We All Live With'. Those who have visited the Irish Centre for Human Rights will know that the Four Freedoms are framed in our seminar room, and The Problem We All Live With is in the corridor just outside my office. The Problem We All Live With illustrates a courageous African-American schoolgirl, Ruby Bridges, going to school on the first day of desegregation in New Orleans, escorted by four US marshalls.

The Problem We All Live With
The 'Four Freedoms' was coined by Franklin D. Roosevelt in a speech delivered on 6 January 1941. To mark the sixtieth anniversary of the speech, there is a feature on the speech at the FDR Library. It includes the speech itself, and an audio recording.
The 'four freedoms' are repeated in the preambles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the two International Covenants on human rights. They reaffirm the indivisibility of human rights, notably the relationship between civil rights and economic rights, and the role of peace in the promotion of human rights.
Thanks to John Barrett.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Innocent Man who was Executed is Pardoned Posthumously by Colorado Governor

The ougoing governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, has just pardoned Joe Arridy. Arridy was convicted of murder and executed in Colorado in 1939. The governor said that overwhelming evidence suggested Arridy did not commit the crime.
Arridy was reported to have an I.Q. of 46. He was convicted on the basis of a coerced confession.
This is apparently the first time a Colorado governor has pardoned a person who has been executed.
Reuters has a very good account.
Back in 1997, I coordinated an editorial team that published the International Sourcebook on Capital Punishment. It included a book review by Professor Mike Radelet about the Arridy case.
Thanks to Mike Radelet.

Nicolaos Strapatsas Successfully Defends PhD

From left, Claus Kreß, myself, Nick Strapatsas and Noam Lubell. 
On 7 January, Nicolaos Strapatsas successfully defended his doctoral thesis entitled 'The Supreme International Crime: Aggression Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court' at the Irish Centre for Human Rights. The external examiner was Professor Claus Kreß of the University of Köln. The internal examiner was Dr Noam Lubell. The thesis is the first scholarly study of the definition of aggression since the adoption by the Review Conference of the International Criminal Court, in June 2010, of amendments to the Rome Statute.
Nick is also a graduate of the first cohort of the LLM programme at the Irish Centre for Human Rights. He is currently working as an international legal adviser to the Jordanian National Centre for Human Rights in Amman.
Congratulations, Nick. 

Friday 7 January 2011

Death Penalty Developments

  • The General Assembly, on 21 December 2010, adopted the resolution on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty, by a recorded vote of 109 in favour to 41 against, with 35 abstentions. By comparison, the 2008 resolution was adopted by 106 in favour, and 46 against, with 34 abstentions. The 2007 resolution was adopted by 104 in favour, with 54 against and 29 abstentions. In other words, over three years, the number of States supporting the resolution has increased by five, and the number opposing it has decreased by 13, many of which now abstain
  • The Illinois House of Representatives voted yesterday to abolish the death penalty in an unexpected development, described in the Washington Post as a 'whirlwind reversal on a historic vote'.  The resolution was not expected to pass. Now it should succeed in the Senate without difficulty. It also requires the governor's consent, which is a bit unpredictable, given that he had not accepted the legislation to succeed in the House. See also the report in the Chicago Tribune.
  • On 16 December 2010, the European Parliament's resolution on  the  Annual Report on Human Rights in the World 2009 and the European Union's policy on the matter (2010/2202(INI)) 65, contains the following

Notes that there are 32 jurisdictions in the world with laws allowing the death penalty to be applied for drug offences; notes that United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the European Commission and individual European governments are actively involved in funding and/or delivering technical assistance, legislative support and financial aid intended to strengthen drug enforcement activities in states that retain the death penalty for drug enforcement; is concerned that such assistance could lead towards increased death sentences and executions; calls on the Commission to develop guidelines governing international funding for country-level and regional drug enforcement activities to ensure such programmes do not result in human rights violations, including the application of the death penalty; stresses that the abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences should be made a precondition for financial assistance, technical assistance, capacity-building and other support for drug enforcement...
Thanks to Rick Lines, Brian Farrell and Diane Amann.

Thursday 6 January 2011

Israel Aimed to Keep Gaza Economy 'On the Brink of Collapse', says Wikileaks Cable

Israel told U.S. officials in 2008 it would keep Gaza's economy "on the brink of collapse" while avoiding a humanitarian crisis, according to U.S. diplomatic cables published by a Norwegian daily on WednesdayThree cables cited by the Aftenposten newspaper, which has said it has all 250,000 U.S. cables leaked to WikiLeaks, showed that Israel kept the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv briefed on its internationally criticized blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Thanks to Kathleen Cavanaugh.

Monday 3 January 2011

Better Writing

My students can tell anyone that I have an obsession with good writing. Most of my students could benefit from devoting more attention to the quality of their writing. The spell check programme that is built into Word and other similar programmes is a help, although sometimes things slip by -- principal and principle, lead and led, their and there - and so on. Word also has a grammar programme which is helpful. It catches obvious mistakes and at the very least provokes reflection about the clarity of sentences.
Perhaps readers of the blog know of better programmes? I have come across something on the internet, but I have not used it, called Whitesmoke. The price seems reasonable enough, given the benefits. Do any readers have experience with this? Are there competitive programmes?
Last year, one of my students invested a considerable amount of money getting a thesis reviewed by a firm located on the internet that promised to revise and correct. Finally, deadlines were not met and the quality of the work was questionable. Do any readers have experience with such firms? Recommendations of both good and bad services would be very much appreciated.
Finally, I advise doctoral students to acquire their own library of reference books devoted to good writing. They don't have to be as insane as I am, and purchase the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary. But it is necessary to have a good collection of dictionaries, style manuals, and so on. Some of these are available on CDs and can be downloaded onto a laptop. I have copies of the Oxford Shorter and the Oxford Thesaurus, as well as the Petit Robert for French, and use one or more of them virtually every day. The thesaurus has a very handy feature where you need only highlight a word in a text and immediately a menu pops up with the alternatives. I know that there is also a thesaurus in Word, but I don't think it compares with the Oxford version. By the way, the Oxford thesaurus can be purchased for about 10 pounds, if I recall correctly.

Saturday 1 January 2011

Hong Kong's War Crimes Trials Collection Website

A new website on the war crimes trials held in Hong Kong from 1946-1948 has been alunched by Suzannah Linton. click here. Here are details from the press release issued by the Hong Kong University, which hosts the website:

The website provides details of, and access to, the database containing case files of 46 trials involving 123 persons who were tried in Hong Kong for war crimes committed during the Second World War. The four British War Crimes Courts in Hong Kong exercised jurisdiction over war crimes, meaning Ia violation of the laws and usages of war committed during any war in which His Majesty has been or may be engaged at any time since the 2nd September, 1939'. The courts dealt with cases from across Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories, and also from Formosa (Taiwan), China (Waichow and Shanghai), Japan and on the High Seas. The subject matter spanned war crimes committed during the fall of Hong Kong, during the occupation and in the period after the capitulation following the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but before the formal surrender.  They included killings of hors de combat, abuses in prisoner-of-war camps, abuse and murder of civilians during the military occupation, forced labour and offences on the High Seas.
The first trial, concerning the Silver Mine Bay Massacre on Lantau Island, began on 28 March 1946.  The last judgement, in the matter of detainee abuses in Shanghai, was promulgated on 18 February 1949 having been passed on 20 December 1948.  There were a total of 46 British war crimes trials in Hong Kong, of 123 individuals.  Of the 46 judgments issued, 44 were confirmed against 108 individuals, with 14 acquittals.  Two judgments were not confirmed:  there was one retrial following non-confirmation of the judgement, and one judgement was not confirmed but transferred to the Supreme Court. 

Lemkin Artefact for Sale

A signed and dedicated copy of Raphael Lemkin’s book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe is for sale on one of my favourite websites, This is the book in which the germ ‘genocide’ was first proposed. Lemkin dedicated the book to Ricardo Alfaro, the Panamanian diplomat with whom he had collaborated at the 1946 United Nations General Assembly in proposing the first resolution identifying genocide as an international crime. I’m a sucker for buying up such things, but the price is a bit steep: $US 4,250.
If you’re interested, click here.
The description of the book notes that it is ‘a tight, unread copy’. Is it possible that Alfaro never read the book?