Monday, May 25, 2009

North Korea confirms nuclear test

North Korea has conducted its second nuclear test, the country's state news agency KCNA announced today. The nuclear test was expected. Earlier this year North Korea conducted a failed intercontinental missile test.

“The current nuclear test was safely conducted on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology of its control and the results of the test helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in further increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear technology," KCNA announced.

Latest news

North Korea confirms second nuclear test (CNN)
North Korea carries out nuclear test (TimesOnline)
La Corée du Nord affirme avoir mené un deuxième essai nucléaire (Le Monde)

International reactions

The U.S. State Department condemned North Korea's announcement of its second nulear nuclear test as being in "blatant defiance" of the U.N. Security Council. South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak's office said the country was investigating the reported test and would hold an emergency meeting of its national security council. In Japan, Prime Minister Taro Aso's office said it has set up a special task force to look into the test and how to respond.

PPL catalogue keywords:
North Korea, nuclear arms, nuclear tests
PPL catalogue systematic index: 179 Corée du Sud , 205a (nuclear weapons)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Call for an UN Piracy Tribunal

Five Somalis are currently on trial in the Netherlands after they failed to hijack a freighter sailing under the Dutch Antilles flag in January. The pirates have expressed their satisfaction with their prison cells, and at least one of them has said he wants to stay in the Netherlands after he is released and hopes to bring his family over.

In the Dutch daily 'NCR Handelsblad' Dutch foreign minister Verhagen stated that 'Prosecution should deter pirates, not encourage them with the prospect of starting a new life in the country that prosecutes them'. In Brussels, Verhagen proposed to establish a regional tribunal under the umbrella of the UN. According to Verhagen 'convicted pirates should than serve their sentence in the region'.

Professor in international humanitarian law, Liesbeth Zegveld, also pleads for a UN pirate tribunal 'Such a tribunal could collect evidence and use specialised indicters. For suspects there’s also legal certainty concerning the applying law. The current Dutch system under which pirates are only prosecuted if there is a national interest at stake for the arresting country, is not working.'

Piracy and universal jurisdiction
In international law, piracy is a crime that can be committed only on or over international waters (including the high seas, exclusive economic zone, and the contiguous zone), in international airspace, and in other places beyond the territorial jurisdiction of any nation. The same acts committed in the internal waters, territorial sea, archipelagic waters, or national airspace of a nation do not constitute piracy in international law but are, instead, crimes within the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the coastal state. International law has long recognized a general duty of all nations to cooperate in the repression of piracy. This traditional obligation is included in the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas and the 1982 UNCLOS Convention, both of which provide: 'All States shall cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State'.

By means of universal jurisdiction, any nation should try such pirates under the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea. Nations used to claim universal jurisdiction over pirates, a concept that has been expanded to include violators of fundamental human rights. Instead many states choose to only chase the pirates and disarm them. Why not exercise legal means of universal jurisdiction? Because of juridical unclarity, enforcement problems, or policial or financial interests! However until now captured pirates has been released not only by the Netherlands, but also in Denmark, Germany, USA and Canada.

Besides Dutch foreign minister Verhagen, also Germany and the United Kingdom plead for a anti-piracy tribunal. Even Russia calls for an international pirate court. Boonstra stated in the UN Dispatch that the UN responded with refreshing unanimity on the pirate issue: 'Don't think a Yugoslavia or Rwanda-style tribunal is in the offing just yet. Ad hoc tribunals like Yugoslavia or Rwanda - in addition to being a little on the costly side - are also meant for national reconciliation. Creating a pirate court, on the other hand, would do little to help reconstitute Somalia's shattered law and order system and curb the piracy pandemic. Existing methods of justice, involving extradition to countries with reliable court systems, will likely prevail for now.'

Peace Palace Library catalogue titles on the combination privateering and piracy and UNCLOS convention

See also our earlier PPL blog on piracy

Friday, May 15, 2009

UNCITRAL Rotterdam Rules

Following the adoption of the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce at its twenty-ninth session in 1996, the United Nations Commission on Trade Law (UNCITRAL) considered, as part of the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) project, a proposal to include in its work programme a review of current practices and laws in the area of the international carriage of goods by sea, with a view to establishing the need for uniform rules where no such rules existed and with a view to achieving greater uniformity of laws. Existing national laws and international conventions left significant gaps relating to issues such as the functioning of bills of lading and seaway bills; the relation of those transport documents to the rights and obligations between the seller and the buyer of the goods and the legal position of the entities that provided financing to a party to the contract of carriage.

At the request of the UNCITRAL Secretariat the International Maritime Committee (IMC) began preparatory work for a new convention [See: A/CN9/497 for the history]. In December 2001 the CMI International Subcommittee completed its preparatory work on the Convention by producing a preliminary draft outline instrument. [See: A/CN.9/WG.III/WP.21].

With some minor changes the draft outline instrument was adopted in 2002 by the UNCITRAL Transport Law Working Group III as a basis for its work. Originally the mandate of the Working Group was to consider port-to-port transport operations, but due to the exponential growth in containerized transport operating under door-to-door contracts, the mandate was extended to take into account the specific needs of land transportation.

After a six year negotiation process the UNCITRAL Working Group completed work on the Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea. On 11 December 2008 UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/63/122 formally adopted the Convention and authorized a signing ceremony for the Convention to be held in Rotterdam on 20-23 September 2009, recommending that the new Convention be known as the "Rotterdam Rules".

The Rotterdam Rules extend and modernize the existing international rules relating to the contract of maritime carriage of goods by replacing the existing Hague Rules of 1924, Hague-Visby Rules of 1968 and Hamburg Rules of 1978.

Text of the Rotterdam Rules: [English] ; [French] ; [Spanish] ; [German]
Travaux préparatoires: [English] ; [French] ; [Spanish]
UN General Assembly Resolution A/Res/63/122: [English] ; [French] ; [Spanish]
Information and URLs relevant to the Rotterdam Rules
Rotterdam Rules [McGill University: Tetley's maritime & admiralty law]
Tetley, William: Some general criticisms of the Rotterdam Rules
Peace Palace Library Catalogue Titles

Thursday, May 7, 2009

UN report accuses Israel of recklessness in Gaza

A U.N. inquiry accused Israel on Tuesday 5 May of gross negligence and recklessness in attacks on U.N. property in the Gaza strip during fighting between the Jewish state and Palestinian militants in January (see the article of Patrick Worsnip in Reuters).

An article of the Guardian by Ed Pilkington (New York) and Rory McCarthy in (Jerusalem) at Tuesday 5 May 2009 reports that: "The summary of the UN report, commissioned by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, censured the Israeli government for causing death, injuries and damage to UN property in seven incidents involving action by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
It said: "The board concluded that IDF actions involved varying degrees of negligence or recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and to the safety of United Nations staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries, and extensive physical damage and loss of property."(....) The summary emphasised that UN premises are inviolable, and that inviolability cannot be set aside by the demands of military expediency.

The U.N. inquiry led by Briton Ian Martin, a former head of rights group Amnesty International who later joined the United Nations, investigated nine incidents of damage to U.N. property and faulted Israel in seven of them. It blamed Hamas in one case and could not establish responsibility in another.

Haaretz' correspondent Barak Ravid emphasises in his article that "The Foreign Ministry noted that immediately upon the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, the codename for the operation, Israel carried out independent inquiries into the damage caused to the UN installations." He opens the article with "United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said a damning UN report on Israel's conduct in its recent offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip was not legally binding.(.....) Ban made the comments in a letter he agreed to attach to the report at the request of Foreign Ministry director-general Yossi Gal, who traveled to New York on Monday for meetings with Ban's aides on the matter. In the letter, the UN chief condemned Hamas cross-border rocket fire on Israeli civilians, attacks that sparked the conflict and, according to the Israeli paper, were ignored by the UN committee in its report.

At 5 May 2009 Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent to the Security Council a summary of the report. Today Ban Ki-moon and Israeli President Shimon Peres discussed the report.

The article in the Guardian mentions also that "International human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused Israel's military and Palestinian militant groups of serious violations of international law and possible war crimes during the conflict.
The UN board of inquiry report has limited scope: it is confined to investigating death or injuries or damage at UN buildings or during UN operations. The UN human rights council is also to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Gaza, but Israel has already suggested it will not co-operate, saying the council is biased."

More press articles on this subject.

Books and articles in online Peace Palace library catalogue about Israeli-Palestinien conflict

Books and articles in online Peace Palace library catalogue about Israeli occupied territories (including Gaza)

Books and articles in online Peace Palace library catalogue about Hamas

Friday, May 1, 2009

Arctic Council ratifies the Tromsø Declaration

April 29, 2009

Guidelines for the next two years work in the Arctic Council

Wednesday, the eight Arctic Council Ministers ratified the Tromsø Declaration. The declaration is the guideline for the work in the Arctic Council the next two years. It is seen as an important leap to reduce the global warming.

The Arctic Council meets at foreign minister level every second year, approving projects and guidelines. Due to the increased activity and interest in the Arctic, the Tromsø meeting decided that the Arctic Council from now on will meet at political level once a year. Denmark will take over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Norway.

Some of the recommendations adopted by the Arctic Council:

Search and rescue: As maritime activities in the Arctic increase, there will be increasing need for Arctic search and rescue services. The Arctic Council therefore agreed to negotiate an international instrument on cooperation on this issue.

Arctic shipping guidelines: The Council also urged the International Maritime Organization to ensure adoption of updated and binding guidelines for ships operating in Arctic ice-covered waters, and to support the development of mandatory regulations on safety and environmental protection for Arctic waters as a matter of urgency.

Infrastructure safety: The Council also approved a Russian proposal to "develop safety systems for economic activity and infrastructure projects in the Arctic". Norway and Russia will take the lead in this project.

Oil and gas: The Council also revised the guidelines for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, including procedures and minimum standards.

Task force on short-lived non-CO2 drivers: The task force on nonCO2 drivers of climate change will identify measures to reduce emissions of these substances and recommend immediate actions, recognising the role of short-lived non-CO2 drivers of climate change such as black carbon, methane and tropospheric precursors in Arctic climate change.

Ocean management: A project on best practices in ocean management has resulted in advice on principles for ecosystems-based ocean management.

The road to Copenhagen: The Arctic Council also agreed to report to the Conference of the Parties to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-15) from the project "Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic.

Ice Melting: The Arctic Council decided that it will co-operate with the task force established by the co-chairs of the ice melting conference yesterday, which will contribute a state of the art report on ice melting to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009.

In addition the Council received final reports with recommendations from several projects on climate change, the International Polar Year, the Arctic marine environment, human health and human development, energy, contaminants and biodiversity.

PPL catalogue keywords: Arctic Council, Arctic Region

PPL catalogue systematic index: 68a (Polar regions)

External links:

Arctic Council


Melting Ice - Co-chairs summary
SAO Report to Ministers 2009
The Tromsø Declaration