Monday, September 28, 2009

Transboundary Water Cooperation in the Newly Independent States

With the emergence of the Newly Independent States (NIS) in the 1990s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, new borders cut through Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. As a result, many water allocation and pollution problems that were previously national issues within the Soviet Union have become transboundary issues.

This process of change poses new challenges to regional cooperation. There is a considerable inter-dependance in the NIS region with regard to water resources as they are crucial for life, economy and political stability. Therefore, managing their transboundary waters requires a new and jointly negotiated legal and regulatory framework.

In this, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) - and in particular its secretariat for the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Helsinki, 17 March 1992) - takes a leading role. The UNECE is active in programmes and initiatives aimed at peaceful and sustainable management of water resources in the region. In its recent publication Transboundary Water Cooperation : Trends in the Newly Independent States (2009) the outcome of the UNECE Water Convention's project on "Transboundary Water Cooperation in the Newly Independant States" is explained. It builds on and further develops the conclusions from the High-level Meeting on the Strategic Partnership on Water for Sustainable Development held in Moscow on 5-6 March 2003.

Programmes and further initiatives in the field of transboundary water cooperation in the NIS Region will contribute to the further development of international water law. The Peace Palace Library has an extensive collection on this topic.:

PPL systematic code : Boundary waters or lakes, international waterways and canals

PPL systematic code : Other international waterways, etc.

PPL keyword combination : Central Asia + Water

PPL keyword combination : Caucusus + Water

PPL keyword : International Watercourses

PPL keyword : Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Peace Palace Library news

New blog on international law news
Our library staff is immersed in international law news in many forms on a daily basis. We read websites, newspapers, blogs, news of international organizations and many other things. We decided to bring this international law news as a kind of extra alerting service in a new blog on international law news. Read it on our library website or use RSS to stay up to date.

in the library
The Library has subscribed on Swisslex, the most comprehensive legal database in Switzerland. Swisslex provides full-text access to judicial decisions and academic resources about Swiss law, both federal as cantonal case law and legislation, along with law journals, law books, and a unique thesaurus tool that translates search terms into any of Switzerland's official languages. Publications include Gesetzesumgehung im internationalen Privatrecht, Schweizerische Zeitschrift für internationales und europäisches and Schweizerisches Jahrbuch für Europarecht. Swisslex is for inhouse use only.

More on publications related to Switzerland: go to our useful country list, or choose the option find by country on our home page.

New feature: QR codes
QR codes, or Quick Reponse codes, are two-dimensional bar codes containing information like phone numbers, text, URLs, or other things. These codes can be scanned by camera smartphones, like the iPhone or Android phone. Using a special scanning application, like Google’s free Barcode Scanner, you can scan the QR code to read the information hidden inside it. Your phone will automatically take you to a website or get you the library’s contact information for example, right on your phone. The QR on the left hand side of the home page will take you to a phone friendly version of our library blog, and we are exploring new ways of using these codes to take you to bibliographic information.

Want to try it out?

Try to scan the image to the left to view the library's contact information!

Learn more about QR codes on wikipedia and the website 2-de code.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Messages in Miniature

Postage stamps were originally used as denotation of the prepayment of postal charges. Back in the 19th century stamps issued usually depicted heads of state, crests or flags and occasionally commemorated an event. In the 1920s this changed, when governments began to realize that postage stamps, by conveying cultural or political messages, could also be used as an inexpensive communication medium that could have a real impact on their citizens and on the people of other nations. Symbols like the communist emblem of scythe and hammer, swastika, heroes and heroines etc., together with inscriptions or slogans aimed at national identity-building and at spreading of official government views, started playing a very forward part in stamp design. This is one of the reasons that led many governments to issue more and more stamps.

Stamp issues could have unexpected side effects. For example, on 29 June 2005 Mexico released a set of five stamps to commemorate Memín Pinguín, a well known comic book character in Latin America. African-American groups and US civil rights leader Jesse Jackson were enraged over these stamps because they portrayed 'an urban black boy with large lips, bugged-out eyes and monkey-like gestures that smack of "Sambo-type" images'. Even the White House and Congress got involved. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the stamps' images 'have no place in today's society'. Mexican President Fox was baffled by the US reaction and stated: ' I would suggest to them that first they read the magazines, get the information and then express publicly their opinion. We know that all Mexicans love the character.' He also stated that the US had a total lack of knowledge of and respect for the Mexican culture. Mexicans have never interpreted cartoon character Speedy Gonzales as being offensive.

Postage stamps have also been used in territorial issues. For more than half a century postage stamps have played their part in the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the UK over the Falkland Islands/Malvinas Islands and in occasionally overlapping Antarctic territorial claims. Although Article IV of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty puts aside any disputes over territorial claims as long as it is in force, there are seven countries with historic claims prior to the Treaty. Of these countries Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, UK and New Zealand issue postage stamps on a yearly base to back up their claims.
Lately the war over stamp issues between Argentina and the UK is hotting up again. In a letter dated 23 April 2009 sent to the UN Secretary General, Argentina rejected "the attempt by the United Kingdom to issue postage stamps on behalf of the so-called and illegitimate 'governments' of the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and the alleged 'British Antarctic Territory'" In its reply dated 19 May 2009 the UK stated that it stands by its decision to issue postage stamps from the disputed territories of and around the Falkland Islands, and said that it had no doubt about its sovereignty over the disputed territories, and referred to Article IV of the Antarctic Treaty of which both the UK and Argentina are parties to. On the 'Day of Argentine sovereignty rights over Malvinas, South Atlantic islands and the Antarctic sector' (10 June 2009) Argentina commemorated June 10, 1829 when the nascent Argentine government created the 'Political and Military Command of the Malvinas islands and adjacent areas to Cape Horn on the Atlantic ocean' with a set of stamps.

Another interesting aspect of postage stamps is that by looking at how well postal, telegraph and telephone services are run, you can tell how stable a government in a country or territory is. In the case of the Falklands this for the moment is clear.

Jack Child : Miniature Messages : The Semiotics and Politics of Latin American Postage Stamps. Durham : Duke University Press, 2008. [Not available at the Peace Palace Library]
- Falkland Islands
- Falklands propaganda philately
History of the Falklands
- Falkland Islands Sovereignty Question [Peace Palace Library Catalogue Titles]
- Postage Stamps Tell the Tale
- Sovereignty of the Falkland Islands (Wikipedia)
- Stamps issued by Argentina related to Antarctica and the Falkland Islands

Monday, September 14, 2009

ICTY Judgement in Florence Hartmann Case

On Monday, 14 September, the Specially Appointed Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicted French journalist Florence Hartmann for contempt of the Tribunal (Case No. IT-02-54-R77.5, full Judgement [PDF], Judgement Summary [PDF]).

On 27 August 2008 Florence Hartmann was charged with two counts of contempt of court, pursuant to Rule 77(A)(ii) of the Rules of Procedure, for knowingly interfering with the administration of justice by disclosing the contents, purported effect and confidential nature of two Tribunal decisions.

Hartmann, who served as public spokesperson for former ICTY chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte from 2000 to 2006, allegedly disclosed protected information relating to the Tribunal's proceedings against Slobodan Milošević in her book ‘Paix et châtiment : les guerres secrètes de la politique et de la justice internationales’ in 2007 and in an article entitled ‘Vital Genocide Documents Concealed’, published in January 2008.

The disclosed information concerned two confidential Appeals Chamber decisions not to publicise documents from Serbia's Supreme Defense Council given to the ICTY by Serbia for the purpose of the Milošević trial. These documents allegedly show the involvement of the Serbian government in the atrocities committed in the Bosnian war in the 1990s and might have supported Bosnia's efforts to hold Serbia liable for genocide in its case before the International Court of Justice.

During the trial both Hartmann's lawyer and numerous human-rights groups and NGOs in the former Yugoslavia pointed out that the information revealed by Hartmann was already in the public domain and that a conviction would be limiting free speech.

In its judgement the Specially Appointed Chamber stressed that “a decision remains confidential until a Chamber explicitly decides otherwise.” The Chamber found that, although some of the information disclosed by Hartmann was already in the public domain, it did not equal the confidential information referred to in the charges. In view of her former position at the ICTY the Chamber was also convinced that Hartmann knew that her disclosure was done in breach of a court order.

Regarding the sentence the Chamber considered that the conduct of Hartmann might deter other states from cooperating with the Tribunal in providing evidence which in turn would seriously hamper the work of the Tribunal. However, the Chamber also took into account, inter alia, that part of the information provided by Hartmann was already public. She was fined 7,000 Euros.

See also the blog written by William Schabas, "Hartmann Convicted of Contempt of the Tribunal."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Scheldt River Dispute

The eternal Scheldt River Dispute

Again there is serious controversy between the Netherlands and Belgium, or rather the Region of Flanders, about one of the 4 Scheldt Treaties of 21 December 2005 regulating the execution of the development outline 2010 of the Scheldt Basin, of vital interest for the access to the Antwerp harbour.
The Dutch Council of State issued July 28 a provisional ruling against the dredging works on the grounds of regional environmental reasons. The citizens of the province of Zeeland are strongly opposed to the flooding of the Hedwige Polder, land once recovered from the sea. This flooding is required to compensate lost nature. Two Dutch commissions advised the flooding as the best solution.
Also the EU Commission is very critical about this Dutch approach. Member States are free in their management of European protected aereas. In this case the European Commission fears deterioration of nature.
Since centuries the Scheldt River has been a bone of discontent between the Netherlands and Belgium. Several treaties, 1648 (Muenster), 1815 (Vienna) and the Treaty of 1839 allready regulated free navigation and commerce on the Scheldt River. The 2005 treaties include an arbitration clause for disputes. The Flanders government, the competent authority, already threatened to start proceedings. They concluded that the Dutch government does not implement the Treaty at all.
Dutch government is again trying to find another solution, saving the polder and the environment.