Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Impressions of the 60 years Genocide Convention

Impressions of the 60 years Genocide Convention

On Sunday 7 and Monday 8 December, The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Center for International Law and the Peace Palace Library organized a conference in The Hague to mark the 60th anniversary of the Genocide Convention. At the conference several legal and historical scholars gave their historical and legal viewpoints on the concept of genocide, the 1948 Genocide Convention and the legal definition of genocide. Several panels dealt with specific aspects of genocide in a legal, historical and political context.

Genocide is an emotionally laden concept which confronts us with the victims’ traumatic memories of atrocious events, the need for transitional justice and the efforts of the world community to cope with the far-reaching consequences of genocide. There has been felt a strong need for the prevention of the crime of genocide since World War II. However, despite the efforts to prevent genocide, as history has shown us, acts of genocide have still been committed since the Holocaust. Three times the international criminal courts (i.e. the Nuremberg Tribunal, the ICTY and the ICTR), have established that genocide had been committed. Genocide is a concept which is not easy to fathom. The historical and the legal perspective of genocide form complementary fields of study. An interdisciplinary study of genocide can help to overcome the gap between a legal definition of genocide based on the law and jurisprudence, and non-legal, popular perceptions of genocide.

Dr. Wichert ten Have from the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) opened the conference. Former Dutch Minister of Defense, Prof. dr. J. Voorhoeve, gave an introduction on genocide and the legal developments concerning genocide. Even more important than prosecution, arrest and trial of suspects of genocide is the prevention of genocide. According to Voorhoeve, internationally protected safe areas supported by the UN and a relevant coalition of main military powers may help to reduce the risk of genocide and crimes against humanity and it may help to save the lives of civilians - now and during future armed conflicts. The International Criminal Court has also been of growing importance for the prevention of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Finally, Voorhoeve stressed the importance of the doctrine of the responsibility to protect (R2P). The non-binding doctrine of R2P is in fact a specification of the general responsibility of governments to take care of the needs of its population, safeguarding basic human economic rights as it has been laid down in human rights treaties.

Dr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief prosecutor of the ICC gave a presentation about the role of the ICC to punish and prevent international crimes, and the need to strengthen a network of individuals and organizations to work towards the prevention and punishment of acts of genocide. The Genocide Convention has served as a visionary and founding text for the ICC. The Rome Statute forms the foundation of a global criminal justice system which is based on complementarity and cooperation. Its goal is to end the impunity for the most serious international crimes and to contribute to its prevention.

Moreno-Ocampo stated how the past genocides (the Holocaust, Srebrenica, Rwanda) have taught us an important lesson. The situation in the Darfur holds a current challenge for the international community and the ICC in particular. The Darfur case presents an opportunity for the international community to establish a new framework to protect individuals. From March 2003 to the present in the Darfur terrible crimes and genocide have been committed and are still being committed. Fear, rape and hunger are the main weapons of the current phase of genocide in Darfur. Moreno-Ocampo warns us that massive crimes are not just a moral problem but that they cross borders, destabilize regions and affect world security. The ICC creates the possibility of collective action against the massive crimes committed in Darfur but international cooperation of states and multilateral institutions is also needed to create the conditions to implement arrest warrants and to adjust old conflict management strategies to the current state of affairs. Moreno-Ocampo stated: “ ‘Never again’ should no more be a promise: it is time to transform it into a reality. Darfur is our test”.

Dr. Luis Moreo-Ocampo, keynote speaker (“Combating Genocide and Other Massive Crimes. The ICC’s Contribution”) , chief prosecutor of the ICC, The Hague, the Netherlands.

Keynote speaker Pr.dr. Wiliam Schabas clarified the difference between genocide and crimes against humanity. Both notions were created within a month of each other. The judges of the Nuremberg Tribunal an international criminal tribunal created by the four great powers after World War II, held on to the notion ‘crimes against humanity’ to describe the crimes committed by the Nazis. Raphael Lemkin, the creator of the Genocide Convention, thought that this notion was too limited: it only dealt with crimes committed during wartime and war criminals. It was Lemkin’s intention to create an international legal instrument that also could punish and prevent genocide during times of peace. Therefore, a new description of crimes was needed to fill the gap of impunity. The description of the crime of genocide as proposed by Lemkin is narrower than the notion of crimes against humanity. Genocide refers to the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such. Crimes against humanity concern any civilian population. Genocide and crimes against humanity could be considered twins, separated in the forties of the twentieth century. According to Schabas, there is little legal distinction between the two legal concepts nowadays. There are however some other non-legal distinctions. For example there is the debate whether genocide should be considered a crime of a higher order than crimes against humanity. According to Schabas, genocide concerns more serious crimes than crimes against humanity. Another problem concerns the fact that there exists a distinction between a colloquial concept of genocide and the legal concept of genocide. Further, Schabas discussed the problem of Holocaust denial versus the constitutional protection of freedom of speech. Most civilized states take position concerning debates on genocide; they pose some limits on freedom of expression. Finally Schabas gave his opinion on the difficulties of the interpretation and prosecution of genocide today.

Prof.dr. William Schabas, keynote speaker (“Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity: Clarifying the Relationship”), director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where Prof. Schabas also holds the chair in human rights law.

Pr.dr. Marrus gave a keynote speech about consequences of the Holocaust and the victims' search for restitution and restorative justice. Restitution and seeking justice for genocide are a novelty in history, related to the Genocide Convention. The massive human rights violations and grave historic wrongs of the Holocaust had a great affect not only on its victims but also on later generations. More than half a century after the genocide of the Second World war, there has been a crusade for restorative justice. Efforts were made to resolve issues and to seek for reparation of historic wrongs. For instance, art restitutions and claims for compensations for war damages. For victims, seeking justice for grave historic wrongs years afterwards is a challenge. Victims do not all think alike but some generalizations are made. Marrus describes that for victims of the Holocaust, restitution is not just about financial restitution, about money, but about dealing with the memories of atrocities. “It is really about justice”. Justice can be understood in several ways. For example as a subjective concept that has to do with family situations or with a people or a historic past. Holocaust restitution is seen as an intent to “peel back the veil of time and to expose the truth”. Holocaust victims can search for a way of dealing with the atrocities and the suffering by trying to find acknowledgement, understanding, restoration of collective memory of the victims. It is about honoring the past, about the undoing of the scandal of victimization, the sense of abandonment. Memory can be considered as a bringing to imaginative life of what has been suffered, not as the bringing to life of what has brought about the suffering.

Marrus asserts the distinction between history and the memory of victims. Memory is the product of an effort to apprehend the past of individuals and groups. It is a mental representation of the past and consists only of a partial report of the past. History on the other hand is analytic, can be reconstructed and is objective. Restorative justice is a continuous effort, not a one time quest of dealing with grave violations committed in the past.

Prof.dr. Michael Marrus, keynote speaker (“Seeking Justice for Genocide. Holocaust-Era Restitution in the 90s”). Professor Marrus holds a chair in law (Faculty of Law, University of Toronto) and he is the Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies in the Department of History, University of Toronto.

Raphael Lemkin(24 June 1901 - 28 August 1959)

At the conference scholars stressed the importance of the education on genocide. One panel discussed the importance of education of genocide. Besides academic study arts and literature can also contribute to the education of genocide and stimulation of a discussion about the subject. Another panel performed the entertaining and informative one-act play If the Whole Body Dies of Em. prof. dr. Robert Skloot. Through the one-act play the visitors of the conference were offered an impression of the last day of the life of Raphael Lemkin, the founding father of the 1948 Genocide Convention and of his thoughts and emotions about his achievements and his mission to stop genocide and to ensure the adoption of the 1948 Genocide Convention. The play was performed by Robert Skloot himself (as R. Lemkin) and others.

The speakers of the Conference also paid attention to the disclosure of the archives of the ICTY and the ICTR and the role these archives can play in providing further material for public information, research and education on genocide. Josias van Aartsen, Mayor of The Hague spoke at the conference about The Hague International Legal Heritage Center. The city of The Hague could be considered as the legal capital of the world, the seat of many international tribunals and international legal institutions. Mayor van Aartsen stressed the wish of the city of The Hague to document the archives of the ICTR and the ICTR in The Hague and to store these important archives here as well. This however depends on the decisions which need to be taken by the Dutch Government.

During a session about the defense of individual perpetrators of genocide, members of the panel gave their views on the difficulties and problems that occur during (the preparation of a) trial. Alleged perpetrators will most likely be stigmatized and this might implicate that a defense lawyer has to work even harder to prove the innocence of the client.

The conference dealt with a range of aspects of genocide from a legal and historical context - interesting and informative for lawyers, legal scientists, historians, students and others who are interested in genocide studies and the legal concept of genocide.

A publication of all lectures and presentations given at the 60 Years Genocide Conference will be issued in the autumn of 2009.


Relevant literature available at the Peace Palace Library

Faith in Human Rights

On 10 December, International Human Rights Day is celebrated around the world. This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations and representing the first step in establishing a comprehensive international framework for the protection of human rights.

In commemoration of this event the International Inter-religious Conference ‘Faith in Human Rights’ is taking place today at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the Netherlands.

At the conference religious leaders representing the world religions and spiritual traditions will sign the 2008 Faith in Human Rights Statement.

The conference is an initiative of the Municipality of The Hague, supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and organized by Justitia et Pax Netherlands, the Dutch Catholic human rights organization.

Purpose of the conference is to provide a strong moral voice against violence and injustice. With their signature the representatives of the world’s largest religious traditions jointly pronounce and confirm that religion defends the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person. They declare their commitment to strengthen human rights and fundamental freedoms, countering accusations that religion causes violations of human rights.

The Statement intends to stimulate human rights awareness within religious communities and may serve to encourage a process of joint religious responsibility and commitment to uphold human rights.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Genocide Convention at Sixty!

The Genocide Convention at Sixty!
In 1948 the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide .
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Convention the Case Western Reserve Journal of International law has published a double issue dedicated to Genocide:
“To Prevent and Punish: Commemorating the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Negotiations of the Genocide Convention” (Vol. 40, 2008, No. 1-2) [Table of contents]

The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Center for International Law and the Peace Palace organise a two-day conference in The Hague to mark the 60th anniversary of the Genocide Convention.
“In an interdisciplinary setting, both historians and lawyers will examine how to achieve a proper balance between the popular perception of genocide and its legal definition, based on the 1948 Convention.”
Dr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo (Chief Prosecutor ICC) will deliver the keynote speech : The ICC and Genocide.

Themes of the different panels are :
  • Remembering Raphael Lemkin. The Significance and Cost of Being a Pioneer
  • Genocide: The Specific Intent to Destroy Compensating Victims of Genocide
  • Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity: Clarifying the Relationship
  • Records of Genocide. The primary and secondary value of the ICTR and ICTY archives
  • Law and Politics: The Impact of the Cold War on the Genocide Convention
  • Seeking Justice for Genocide. Holocaust-Era Restitution in the 90s
  • Legal Responses to Holocaust and Genocide Denial
  • Incitement to commit genocide
  • The Institutionalization of Transitional Justice Practices in the Aftermath of Mass Political Violence
  • The Institutionalization of Transitional Justice Practices in the Aftermath of Mass Political Violence
  • Defending Individual Perpetrators of Genocide

Professors Kai Ambos, Göran Sluiter, Liesbeth Zegveld, Ward Ferdinandusse, William Schabas, Harmen van der Wilt, Michael Marrus will chair the panels.

Professor Schabas wrote a lengthy article on the history of making of the Genocide Convention and its influence.

For more literature, see related publications in the Peace Palace library on genocide and the >genocide convention

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

UN Audiovisual Library of International Law

The United Nations Office of Legal Affairs launched the Audiovisual Library of International Law. The Audiovisual Library aims to provide free, scholarly resources to students and practictioners around the world, particularly in regions where there are few resources for the study of international law. The website has three main parts:
  • The Historic Archives present documents, photos, and digital film footage relating to the UN role in the development of international law. This section includes the texts of treaties, some General Assembly declarations, and certain Security Council resolutions. Each legal instrument also has a procedural history and/or related documents (travaux preparatoires).
  • The Lecture Series contains lectures by leading scholars on topics in international law, and includes a bibliography of related materials. The 100 lectures posted so far are each about an hour long and discuss various aspects of international law. Most are in English, but other official languages of the UN are also represented. Certain scholars contribute introductory texts for the Historic Archives as well as lectures.
  • The Research Library provides links to other web-based research resources in international law, including other UN sources, national treaty series, and selected scholarly articles provided by HeinOnline (still in pilot/beta).

The Audiovisual Library is available to all individuals and institutions around the world for free via the Internet.
It will be an excellent tool for any researcher in the field of international law.

Friday, October 24, 2008

United Nations Day, 24 October 2008

On 24 October 2008, the anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Charter was celebrated. Since 1948 this event has been known as United Nations Day. It has traditionally been marked throughout the world by meetings, discussions and exhibits on the achievements and goals of the Organization. At the UN Headquarters an international concert was held in the General Assembly Hall.
For more information on United Nations Day, see the special website in english, french, spanish

Peace Palace Library keywords : United Nations, UN Charter

Friday, October 3, 2008

New Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) to be signed on December 3, 2008

Cluster Bomb Tour Bus takes on Eastern Europe

On Wednesday, 1st October an eight-week campaign trail through Europe was launched to convince all governments to sign a groundbreaking treaty banning cluster bombs, in Oslo on December 3, 2008. Beginning in Belgrade, Serbia and ending at the signing ceremony in Norway, the Ban Bus will rally public support for the treaty and turn the eyes of the world on governments who are resisting putting pen to paper and curbing ending the suffering of millions.

A new Convention

The global ban on cluster munitions is the latest development in the field of international humanitarian law. The Convention bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and puts obligations on countries to clear affected areas, assist victims and destroy stockpiles. It is the most significant treaty of its kind since the ban on anti-personnel landmines in 1997. Like the Mine Ban Treaty (or Ottawa Treaty), this new treaty is likely to have a powerful effect in stigmatising cluster bombs, so that even those countries that do not sign the treaty will not be able to use them without being subject to international condemnation.
Text of the Convention in English, French, Spanish

The Oslo Process

The Cluster Munitions Process, also known as the Oslo Process, began in February 2007 in Oslo, Norway, with the issue of the "Oslo Declaration". In this Declaration, 46 nations committed themselves to conclude a legally binding international instrument on cluster munitions. The Oslo Process previously held meetings in Lima, Peru in May 2007 and Vienna, Austria in December 2007. The "Wellington Declaration" of 22 February 2008, resulting from a final preliminary meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, briefly set forth the principles to be included in the draft treaty. At the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions from 19 – 30 May 2008, 107 countries agreed to adopt the Convention. It will be open for signature in Oslo on December 3, 2008.

See also:
International Committee of the Red Cross
Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC)
Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) (website)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Remembrance Slave Trade and its Abolition

Saturday 23 August marks the UN ninth annual International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.
The UNESCO Director-General Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, in a message on the occasion of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition makes an appeal “for universal remembrance of the tragic events of the past and to renew their efforts to end all forms of oppression in order to build more tolerant and just societies for the present and future generations”. In 1988 the UNESCO Executive Board adopted resolution 29 C/40 inviting all Member States to organize events to mark 23 August each year to remind people of the tragedy of the transatlantic slave trade and to give people a chance to think about the historic causes, the methods and the consequences of slave trade.
Despite the 1926 Slavery Convention of the League of Nations and its 1955 Supplementary Convention by the United Nations and also article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights "No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms", modern forms of slavery still exist. Human trafficking, bonded labor, forced child labor, forced prostitution, abuse of domestic workers are ways to exploit human beings. Many states are still reluctant to apologize for their role in the slave trade or slavery. Claims for reparations for the descendants of people held in slavery are the subject of debate in national courts.

Monday, August 11, 2008

EU Declaration on Medellín Execution

On Monday, 11 August, the Council of the European Union (EU) issued a declaration on the execution of Mexican national José Medellín in Texas last week.

In the declaration the EU restates its opposition to the death penalty, which it calls an affront to human dignity, and appeals to the United States to introduce a moratorium on executions referring to UN General Assembly resolution 62/149 of 18 December 2007. The EU also urges the United States to take the legislative measures required to give effect to the rulings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and calls on Texas to halt the executions of the four remaining Mexican nationals on death row named in the ICJ provisional measures order of 16 July.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Texas Executes Mexican National in Defiance of ICJ Rulings

Late Tuesday night, 5 August, the State of Texas executed José Ernesto Medellín, despite a call from the UN Secretary-General urging the United States (US) not to go ahead with the execution and to respect the judgements of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In 2004 the ICJ ruled in the Avena case that the US was obligated to provide a judicial remedy of "review and reconsideration" of the convictions and sentences of José Medellín and 50 other Mexican nationals named in the judgement and in similar situations.

Mexico had turned to the ICJ claiming that the US had violated its obligations under Article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to inform detained Mexican nationals of their right to consular services after their arrest and for failing to notify the Mexican consulate of their detention.

President Bush ordered Texas to provide such a review, but in March 2008 the US Supreme Court concluded in Medellín v. Texas that the ICJ judgement was not binding on Texas and that the president lacked the constitutional authority to order the state to comply.

In June 2008 Mexico filed a request with the ICJ for interpretation of the Avena judgement on the scope and meaning of the US remedial obligations and applied for the indication of provisional measures of protection. The Court ordered the US Government to "take all measures necessary" to halt the upcoming execution of five Mexicans including Medellín, pending judgement on the request for interpretation.

After the US Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal by Medellín’s lawyers to stop the execution by arguing that it should be postponed until Congress had a chance to pass pending legislation that would require a review of similar cases, José Medellín was put to death by lethal injection.

At the very end of a brief filed in opposition to Medellín’s final appeal Texas makes a statement (pp. 17-18) indicating some kind of concession to the ICJ with regard to other Mexican nationals on death row in Texas and subject to the Avena judgement.

See the April issue of the Suffolk Transnational Law Review which is entirely dedicated to this case under the title: Medellín v. Texas: A Symposium (Vol. 31, No.2, Symposium 2008).

Rwandan Genocide Report.

A report published by President Paul Kagame's government accuses France of complicity in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, by supporting and training Hutu leaders and their militia carrying out the massacres that killed 800.000 people. The so-called 'Mucyo Commission' report names senior French officials, including the country's former president and prime minister among those who should be held responsible for the slaughter of over a million people in 1994. France denies all accusations. In 1998 another report already accused France of contributing to Rwanda’s genocide. A French parliamentary committee acknowledged that mistakes had been made, but cleared France of any responsibility for the killing spree that took place.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Peace and Justice!

On Thursday, 31 July, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1828 (2008) renewing the mandate of UNAMID, the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, for another year (resolution [PDF] and meeting record S/PV.5947 [PDF]).

At the last minute the decision was complicated by the request of the African Union (S/2008/481 [PDF]) for the Security Council to use its power to suspend a possible International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of Sudanese President al-Bashir for genocide, saying that prosecuting Sudan's president might set back the Darfur peace process. Subsequent proposals to include a reference to Article 16 of the ICC statute in the resolution, which allows the Security Council to defer ICC investigations or prosecutions for a period of 12 months, resulted in differences among Council members.

Resolution 1828 (2008) was finally adopted with 14 votes in favour and an abstention by the United States.

Nearly half the Council had made the reference to the ICC a condition for renewing the peacekeeping mandate. The US ambassador to the UN said that, while his country supported the UNAMID mission, it was abstaining because the language on the ICC would send the wrong message when trying to eliminate the climate of impunity and there should be no compromise on the issue of justice.

In paragraph 9 of the preamble of the resolution the Council refers to the African Union's communiqué without mentioning the request:
Taking note of the African Union (AU) communiqué of the 142nd Peace and Security Council (PSC) Meeting dated 21 July, having in mind concerns raised by members of the Council regarding potential developments subsequent to the application by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of 14 July 2008, and taking note of their intention to consider these matters further”
After the vote was taken, the ambassador of the UK, the resolution’s sponsor, stated that "no position has been taken by the Security Council on the question of whether to take any action on the proposal by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to indict President Al-Bashir." He continued to say that it would not be right to discuss that issue as part of the UNAMID peacekeeping resolution. Although it was the SC itself that had decided in resolution 1593 (2005) that the situation in Darfur warranted an investigation by the ICC, the discussion on whether to invoke Article 16 of the ICC Statute in this case would "raise profound questions about the relation between peace and justice. It is not something the Council should rush into.”

On this issue, see the recent article by Priscilla Hayner: Seeking Justice as War Crimes Rage on. See also the blog by Alex de Waal: Ocampo’s Gauntlet to the UN Security Council.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Australian Key Ruling on Indigenous Fishing Rights

On Wednesday, 30 July, the Australian High Court in Canberra in a key ruling (Northern Territory of Australia v Arnhem Land Aboriginal Land Trust [2008] HCA 29, judgement here) upheld a decision by the Federal Court earlier this year granting Aboriginal people rights of ownership over a large part of the Northern Territory’s (NT) coastline.

The court dismissed the appeal by the NT Government in a 5-2 vote, confirming the native title rights to the inter-tidal zone bordering Aboriginal land in the NT. The extension of their land rights gives the Aboriginal people exclusive access to these tidal waters which implies that they will now have the power to decide who enter these waters on up to eighty percent of the Northern Territory’s coast.

The ruling annuls those parts of NT's law that until now governed access to inter-tidal waters and licenses for commercial fishermen. Aboriginal leaders indicated that they had no desire to stop commercial and recreational fishing in the region and pledged to work co-operatively with fishing interests and the NT Government to ensure fishing could still take place in Aboriginal waters.

In the judgement, Justice Kirby stated that Prime Minister Rudd's national apology in February to the indigenous peoples was relevant to his decision to rule in favour of Aboriginal control of the inter-tidal zone:

“70. [G]iven the attention to, and nationwide reflection upon, its making, terms and reconciliatory purposes, it is appropriate in my view for this court to take judicial notice of that National Apology. The Court does not operate in an ivory tower. The National Apology acknowledges once again, as the preamble to the Native Title Act 1993 already did, the wrongs done in earlier times to the indigenous peoples of Australia, including by the law of this country. Those wrongs included the non-consensual denial and deprivation of basic legal rights which Australian law would otherwise protect and uphold for other persons in the Commonwealth. In the case of traditional Aboriginals, these right included rights to the peaceful enjoyment of their traditional lands and to navigate and to fish as their ancestors had done for aeons before British sovereignty and settlement.

71. Although the National Apology was afforded on behalf of the Government of the Commonwealth, with support of the Opposition and other political parties, and reflects an unusual and virtually unprecedented parliamentary initiative, it does not, as such, have normative legal operation. It is not contained in an Act of the Federal Parliament nor in a law made by any other Australian legislature with legislative powers. Yet it is not legally irrelevant to the task presently in hand. It constitutes part of the factual matrix or background against which the legislation in issue in this appeal should now be considered and interpreted. It is an element of the social context in which such laws are to be understood and applied, where that is relevant. Honeyed words, empty of any practical consequences, reflect neither the language, the purpose nor the spirit of the National Apology.”

Friday, July 25, 2008

New UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

On Thursday, 24 June, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of South African Judge Navanethem Pillay as the new UN high commissioner for human rights. The appointment is subject to approval by the General Assembly which will meet on Monday. Ms. Pillay, currently a judge on the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court, became the first woman appointed to the High Court of South Africa.

In 1995 she joined the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), where she served for eight years, including four years as president. During that period she played a leading role in landmark decisions defining rape as an institutionalized weapon of war and establishing mass rape as a crime of genocide. She has published on international criminal and humanitarian law, and more particularly on crimes of sexual violence in conflicts.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Judgement of ICTY Trial Chamber in Contempt of Court Case

On Thursday, 24 June, the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicted Kosovar journalist Baton Haxhiu for contempt of the Tribunal (Case No. IT-04-84-R77.5, judgement [PDF]).

In April 2008 Haxhiu was indicted on contempt of court charges, pursuant to Rule 77(A)(ii) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Tribunal, for allegedly revealing the identity of a protected witness who testified during the trial of former Kosovar military leader Ramush Haradinaj et al. According to the indictment, Haxhiu obtained information about the witness which he subsequently published in a newspaper article in contravention of a Trial Chamber order.

On 3 April the Trial Chamber acquitted Haradinaj, a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), of all charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo between March and September 1998, but noted “significant difficulties in securing testimony of a large number of witnesses.” Also the Prosecutor’s claims of witness intimidation cast doubt on the proceedings and in May the Prosecution filed an appeal in which it called on the Appeals Chamber to order a re-trial of Haradinaj due to what it described as the “prevailing circumstances of witness intimidation and fear.”

Convinced that Haxhiu disclosed protected information and that he knew that his disclosure was done in breach of a court order, the Trial Chamber found him guilty of the crime of contempt. Regarding the sentence, the Trial Chamber considered, inter alia, that the conduct of Haxhiu "[C]ould have jeopardized the security of the witness and his family. Moreover it was of a kind to undermine confidence in the effectiveness of the Tribunal’s protective measures orders, and to have the effect of dissuading witnesses from cooperating with the Tribunal." Haxhiu was fined €7.000.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Karadžić located and arrested

During the night of the 21st of July Radovan Karadžić was located and arrested by Serbian security officers.

Radovan Karadžić is charged with genocide for the murder of close to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995. The indictment alleges that Radovan Karadžić also committed genocide, persecutions and other crimes when forces under his command killed non-Serbs during and after attacks on towns throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The arrest of Radovan Karadžić was welcomed as a "milestone" by war crimes prosecutors of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [ICTY] in The Hague.

Monday, July 21, 2008

ICC Guidelines on Whistleblowing

Earlier this month the Anti-Corruption Commission of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) issued the ICC Guidelines on Whistleblowing [PDF document]. Purpose of these guidelines is to help enterprises in establishing and implementing internal whistleblowing programs. According to the Anti-Corruption Commission these programs have shown to be a very effective instrument in the fight against fraud and corruption. Nevertheless internal fraud reporting schemes are still not very common among enterprises worldwide. Due to cultural differences, legal requirements and psychological obstacles there is still reluctance in parts of the businessworld to resort to fraud reporting by the company's employees.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Judgement of the ICTY Appeals Chamber in the 'Dubrovnik' Case

On Thursday, 17 July, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) rendered its judgement [PDF document] on the appeals of both the Prosecution and the Defense against the conviction and sentence of the former Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) General Pavle Strugar (Case No. IT-01-42-A).

In January 2005 the Trial Chamber sentenced Strugar to eight years in prison for his role in the 1991 shelling of the historic town of Dubrovnik, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979.

The Trial Chamber found Strugar, on the basis of superior criminal responsibility (Article 7(3) of the ICTY Statute), guilty on two counts of violating laws and customs of war: for attacks on civilians and for destruction of protected buildings. As such, the Chamber sentenced Strugar for failing to take adequate measures to stop the bombing of the Old Town of Dubrovnik and for not punishing the officers who were responsible. The Trial Chamber found Strugar not guilty on four other counts: murder, cruel treatment, devastation not justified by military necessity and unlawful attack on civilian objects.

In its judgement the Appeals Chamber extended the scope of Strugar's criminal responsibility for failing to prevent the bombing of the Old Town. It also convicted Strugar for two of the other counts: unjustified devastation and unlawful attacks on civilian objects.

The Appeals Chamber only allowed two grounds of appeal submitted by the Prosecution and ruled that, as a result of applying the wrong test for the requisite mens rea under Article 7(3), the Trial Chamber erred in not finding that as of the early hours of 6 December 1991, Strugar already had reason to know that his subordinates were about to commit crimes. It also ruled that the Trial Chamber erred in law by failing to enter cumulative convictions for unjustified devastation and unlawful attacks on civilian objects in addition to the counts for which it found Strugar guilty.

The errors committed by the Trial Chamber, however, did not impact Strugar's sentence, since the damage caused during the additional period had already been taken into account by the Trial Chamber and the additional counts for which Strugar was convicted on appeal were based on the same criminal conduct and did not add to the gravity of his crimes. In view of Strugar’s deteriorating health the Chamber reduced his sentence to seven and a half years in prison.

Monday, July 14, 2008

ICC Prosecutor Presents Second Case on Crimes in Darfur

On Monday, 14 July, Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of the International Criminal Court (ICC) filed an application for an arrest warrant and submitted to the Judges of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber evidence of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur by the Sudanese President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir (Read here the Application for warrant of arrest [PDF])

The Prosecution contends that its evidence shows that al-Bashir masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part three ethnic and historically influential groups in Darfur, namely the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa, on account of their ethnicity after they engaged in a rebellion in 2003 against the central government over its favoritism to Arabs over Africans. The alleged crimes stem from the brutal counterinsurgency campaign conducted by the Sudanese government.

The United Nations estimates that some 300.000 people have died in Darfur, and more than 2.5 million have been forced from their homes since 2003.

The Prosecutor maintains that because of his absolute control over the country al-Bashir bears ultimate criminal responsibility. Through the evidence submitted, the Prosecution seeks to demonstrate that al-Bashir mobilized the entire state apparatus, including the armed forces, the intelligence services, the diplomatic and public information bureaucracies, and the justice system, to subject the 2.45 million people living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps, most of them members of the target groups, to conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction.

The Pre-Trial Chamber must now determine whether to issue an arrest warrant. Until now the Judges have approved all previous submissions made by Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo to the court. The warrant would make al-Bashir the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC for genocide.

On the genocide charge against the Sudanese president, see also the recent blog by W. Schabas: Genocide Charges at the International Criminal Court?

United Nations Sanctions Against Zimbabwe Leadership Vetoed

A United States-led attempt to impose United Nations (UN) sanctions against Zimbabwe failed when on Friday, 11 July, China and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, voted against a draft resolution that would have instituted a travel ban and asset freeze against President Robert Mugabe and thirteen senior government/security officials in connection with the election violence in Zimbabwe. Had it passed, the UN resolution would also have imposed an arms embargo on the country (UN doc. S/2008/447). In recent years the Security Council has moved away from broad economic sanctions because of their harmful effect on the civilian population.

The resolution would have determined, under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, that the situation in Zimbabwe posed a threat to international peace and security in the region. The US insisted that there should be no doubt that what was happening in Zimbabwe affected peace and security in the region. Both China’s and Russia’s ambassadors to the UN, however, stated that there was no mandate to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe because the present situation had not exceeded the context of domestic affairs. They also said they wanted to give the rival political parties a chance to resolve the election matter on their own terms without undue interference from the Security Council.

The draft resolution was backed by nine nations, the minimum for it to pass, but foundered on the vetoes of the two permanent members.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

European Pact on Immigration and Asylum

European Pact on Immigration and Asylum : At a meeting in Cannes on Monday, 7 July, EU ministers approved French proposals for a tougher common policy to stem the influx of illegal immigrants, despite some differences and concerns about accusations of xenophobia from outside the European Union.
France has made harmonizing the EU immigration policy a priority of its six-month EU presidency that began this month. Under its plans, EU Member-States would pledge to boost the fight against illegal migration and expel more illegal immigrants, while promoting legal migration and a common asylum policy by 2010. EU officials argue the European Union must get tougher on illegal immigration to convince voters to be more accepting of legal immigrants needed to make up for the EU aging population. France's Immigration Minister Hortefeux has said concerns about immigration were one reason Irish voters have rejected the Lisbon Treaty on EU reform.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Implementation of environmental law

A bibliography on the ‘Implementation of environmental law” is now available on our site. The bibliography has been compiled exclusively from materials available in the Peace Palace Library for the use of the researchers of the 2008 programme of the Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International relations of the Hague Academy of International Law. For the time being its bibliographic content will be extended and updated regularly.

Tenth Anniversary Celebration of the Statute of Rome

HRH Maxima at the Peace Palace On 3 July 2008, the 10th anniversary of the Rome Statute [PDF]of the International Criminal Court was celebrated here, at Peace Palace in The Hague, in the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima of the Netherlands.
The event started with speeches of Mr. Maxime Verhagen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands, Ms. Rama Yade, French Secretary of State, Judge Philippe Kirsch, President of the ICC, and Mr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the ICC.

Please, check also our extensive Bibiliography on International Criminal Law, compiled exclusively from materials available here in the Peace Palace Library.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hostages rescued in Colombia

Colombian armed forces rescued 15 hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Ms Betancourt was held prisoner for six years in the Colombian jungle. Still the FARC holds many persons captive under primitive circumstances.
FARC is described worldwide as a terrorist group, indulging in activities such as extortion, kidnapping and illegal drugs trade. Many of its actions are in violation of international humanitarian law.
The Peace Palace Library has a wide collection of literature on terrorism, hostages, and international humanitarian law.
Keywords : Terrorism, Hostages, Guerrillas, International humanitarian law, Kidnapping

Friday, June 27, 2008

US Supreme Court decision Boumediene v. Bush [12 June 2008] about habeas corpus Guantanamo detainees

The American Society for International Law (ASIL) published an article written by Andrew Kent about the Military Commissions Act (MCA) and the habeas corpus review concerning Guantanamo detainees. The US Supreme Court decided on June 12, 2008 that the US Military Commissions Act of 2006 violated the constitutional right of the detainees to meaningful habeas corpus review by federal civilian judges.

N Korea destroys nuclear reactor tower

North Korea has demolished the cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.
The Bush administration has reacted by removing North Korea from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism (axis of evil list); a step forward in the international relations between North Korea and the US.
The intention to disarm was one of the cornerstones of the so called Six-Party talks about North Korea's nuclear energy program.

Peace Palace Library keywords : weapons of mass destruction, disarmament

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Benelux-Treaty

On the 18th of June 2008, the three countries of the Benelux Economic Union signed a new treaty, which replaces the 1958 Treaty. With the new Benelux-Treaty, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg created a new incentive for their cross-border cooperation. A more integrated Common Market and Economic Union, and extended cooperation into new areas, such as sustainable development, justice and home affairs. The Benelux Economic Union will be renamed Benelux Union. With this new Treaty the three countries also intend to maintain their pioneering role for further European integration.

For the Dutch version of the new Treaty, click here. For the French version, click here.
Peace Palace Library keyword : Benelux

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tsvangirai seeks diplomatic protection

Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's opposition leader, fearing for his safety, has taken refuge in the Dutch embassy in the capital Harare. Zimbabwean authorities said to respect the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations of 1961 [PDF]
The embassy has diplomatic immunity and cannot be entered without permission of the ambassador.
Famous cases involving embassies are ; the Iran-US Hostage crisis in 1979, the Hungarian Cardinal József Mindszenty lived for 15 years in the American embassy in Budapest.
Keywords for more literature on diplomatic protection : Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, Hostages, Iran, Diplomatic and consular protection

Lesbians v. Lesbians

Who is a true Lesbian?
Inhabitants of the Greek Isle of Lesbos started a trial in Athens to ban the Greek Gay and Lesbian Union (OLKE) from using the word "Lesbian". According to the Lesbos residents the term "lesbian" causes psychological distress to the islanders, as it is a world lesbian centre in a rather conservative environment. Same-sex marriage is still a difficult issue. The decision can have worldwide effects, if the name may be used only for the people of Lesbos, with a copyright not to use it publicly in print. What about the other "Lesbians"?
Perhaps Sappho, the poetess, who lived around 630 BC on the island, and whose poems caused all these problems, was not a lesbian after all?
Type "Sexual Orientation", and find out what the Peace Palace Library has on this topic.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

EURO 2008 and Hooliganism

The European Football Championship, Euro 2008, will start on 7 June and finish on 29 June. This football tournament will be hosted by Austria and Switzerland.
Thousands of fans will support their teams, celebrate victory and mourn defeat. Often these huge and massive emotions of joy and grief will result in violent clashes with supporters of rival teams and even lead to fights with the local police.
Literature on this dark side of football can be found in the Peace Palace Library collection under the keyword hooliganism

Food Crisis

The global increase in food prices will plunge millions of people into hunger worldwide. Starvation and food shortage already caused food riots and are threatening to destabilize regimes.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon created a special task force to respond to the crisis and soaring food prices. In Rome, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) hosted a high-level summit on world food security, climate change and bioenergy.
Some argue that modern business-dominated agricultural industry promotes the degradation of nature - and that, in turn, means less and worse food for a growing population and that governments should take responsibility for this situation.
In 1948 the UN recognized the right to food as a fundamental human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, followed by more international legal instruments.
The Peace Palace Library has a remarkable collection of books and articles on this subject, with keywords Right to food and food security.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Amsterdam Canals

The famous ring of three Amsterdam canals, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht must be included in the Unecso World Heritage List, according to a decision of the City Council and the Mayor & College of Aldermen.
Already this year UNESCO has proclaimed Amsterdam ‘World Book Capital’. From 23 April 2008 until 22 April 2009.
Consult for an extensive collection of materials on cultural heritage the Bibliography on the Cultural Heritage of Mankind !


The history of piracy goes back in the library collection till 1816. Still the oceans are unsafe, especially the Somali coast is crowded with modern pirates with guns and grenades. As in the old days kidnapping and piracy are lucrative businesses, if a ransom is paid.
Maritime piracy is an international crime, as defined in art. 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982. To read more on this topic, consult our catalogue with keywords Privateering and piracy, Maritime violence [Course et piraterie]

Monday, February 25, 2008

Germany and Liechtenstein: Tax Evasion Dispute!

The German Federal Intelligence Service paid an informant some 5 million euros for a list with the names of account holders from a Liechtenstein Bank. German investigations thereupon revealed a massive tax evasion scandal! Hundreds of people in Germany are suspected of having stashed away millions of euro in Liechtenstein to escape taxes in Germany.

The tiny Alpine principality of Liechtenstein, a major European tax haven, accused the Germans of attacking its sovereignty and of breaking the law by buying secret (stolen) data and sending in spies to uncover the scandal.

The OECD in Paris criticized the Liechtenstein practice of allowing foreigners to open trusts there anonymously by registering them through a local attorney or trustee.
The policy of "excessive" secrecy of banks in Liechtenstein might have attracted many rich people and more countries are interested in the data bought by the German intelligence agents.

Interestingly a lot of literature on Liechtenstein is about financial matters, trusts, anti-money laundering issues and the transparency of its fiscal regime. Read more on Liechtenstein and its special place in Europe.