Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Victor Bout, arms dealer, extradited to USA

Victor Bout, an interpreter and a former Russian military airforce officer suspected of arms trafficking, has been extradited to the United States of America by Thailand. Bout, also called the 'merchant of death', is alleged of supplying illegal weapons to various groups and regimes, such as the Taliban, the Sierra leonean Revolutionary United Front, Charles Taylor and al-Qaida. The UN identified Bout in document S/2000/1225 about the monitoring mechanism on Angola sanctions as a "major sanctions buster" [1]. Bout had evaded UN and USA sanctions which would undermine and restrict his business but he claims that he has never sold any weapons and that he runs a legitimate air transport business [2].

Little is known about the person Victor A. Bout. He was born in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan (1967). He has five passports. and as a graduate from the Soviet Union's military Institute of Foreign Languages, he fluently speaks several languages. His career as an arms trafficker alledgedly began with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Due to the lack of security the large quantity of abandoned weapons and aircraft could easily be deployed as commodities in the black market [3]. The former military officer owns a fleet of ancient Antonov aircrafts. These are said to have been deployed to transport and sell weapons to clients of several countries that were in a state of civil war [4].

In 2008 Bout was set up and caught in Bangkok, Thailand when he was offered to sell weapons to agents from the US Drugs Enforcement Administration who pretended to be Colombian Farc rebels [3]. The Russian government claims that Bout is innocent but the United States of America (USA) have asked for an extradition to put Bout on trial for the crime of terrorism, money laundering, electronic fraud and several other charges [4].

In March 2008 the USA filed a complaint against Bout. In February 2010 an indictment followed. Thailand rejected the request for extradition of the alledged arms trafficker in August 2009. In August 2009 there was an appeal against the decision to reject extradition in Thailand. In August 2010 the appeals Court of Thailand grants the USA extradition request [5].

The Russian prime minister claims that the extradition to the USA is "illegal" and that this action undermines the USA attempts to "reset" relations between the two countries [6].

Victor A. Bout denied that he sold weapons to al-Qaida and the Taliban on US television in 2009. However, he did confess that he traded weapons to the Afghans in the 90's of the 20th century [7]. The maximum sentence Bout will face when he gets convicted by the US court is life imprisonment [8].


Peace Palace Library Keywords
Links

Footnotes

[1] As quoted from Viktor Bout: five passports, half a dozen languages and alleged friend to all sides, The Guardian. See also UN Doc. S/2000/1225 - Final Report of the Monitoring Mechanism on Angola Sanctions, Chapter IX.
[2] As quoted from
Thailand extradites alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout to US, The Guardian.
[3] See
Viktor Bout: five passports, half a dozen languages and alleged friend to all sides, The Guardian.
[4] See
Background: the life of Viktor Bout, The Guardian.
[5] As quoted from
US v. Viktor Bout , The Hague Justice Portal.
[6] See Suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to be extradited to US, The Guardian.
[7] See Background: the life of Viktor Bout, The Guardian.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Nobel Peace Prize 2010: Liu Xiaobo


Foto scanpize reuters handout

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 to Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long held the view that human rights and peace are closely linked. Human rights are essential for what Alfred Nobel referred to as “fraternity between nations” in his will.

In its announcement, the Nobel Committee pointed out that, “For over two decades, Liu Xiaobo has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights also in China.”

The Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg commented, “The Nobel Committee’s decision directs a spotlight on the human rights situation in China, and underscores the links between development, democracy and universal human rights.”

Liu Xiaobo took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989 and was a key leader; he was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China which was published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10th of December 2008. The following year, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison and two years' deprivation of political rights for "inciting subversion of state power". Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China's own constitution and fundamental human rights.

The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.

According to BBC News, several countries including the US, France and Germany, called for Liu Xiaobo immediate release:
  • US President Barack Obama said Mr Liu had "has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs" and called for his speedy release;
  • German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said China should free him so he could attend the ceremony;
  • France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also welcomed the award and also called on China to release Mr Liu. UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay said the prize recognised a "very prominent human rights defender".
  • The London-based rights group Amnesty International said Mr Liu was a "worthy winner".
Foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said: "Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who violated Chinese law. It is a complete violation of the principles of the prize and an insult to the peace prize itself for the Nobel committee to award the prize to such a person.

China said the award could damage ties with Norway, and summoned the country's ambassador in Beijing in protest. According to a Norwegian spokeswoman the Chinese foreign ministry "wanted to officially share their... disagreement and their protest,". She added "We emphasised that this is an independent committee and the need to continue good bilateral relations".

According to AFP news agency Mr Liu's wife, Liu Xia, said she was excited by the award: "I want to thank everyone for supporting Liu Xiaobo. I strongly ask that the Chinese government release Liu."
According to RNW Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest at the couple's Beijing apartment when the award was announced.

The award ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize will be held in Oslo on 10 December. According to a statement of the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, the brothers of Liu Xiaobo (Liu Xiaoguang and Liu Xiaoxuan) are willing to accept the prize on Liu Xiaobo behalf in Norway if his wife Liu Xia is unable to attend because of house arrest. The prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.5m; £944,000).

Publications in the Peace Palace catalogue:
On China and human rights
On the Nobel Peace Prize

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Influence of NGOs on International Law

From a traditional point of view, International Public Law has been understood as a set of rules produced by states in order to regulate relations between them. Since the end of the Cold War, the role of NGOs in international law is growing in importance and their activities are reaching the remotest parts of the world.

In this blog, I will briefly discuss how NGOs have transformed international law as well as how they continue to contribute to the development of international law.

NGOs can best be described as ‘groups of persons or of societies, freely created by private initiative, that pursue an interest in matters that occur or transcend national borders and are not profit seeking.[1] Since international NGO law does not exist, article 71 of the UN Charter has served as a legal basis for NGO activities. Article 71 of the UN Charter determines that NGOs can be granted consultative status by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). These consultative norms underlying article 71 have influenced institutional developments in many other International Organizations as well. For instance, The Organization of American States (OAS) adopted The Guidelines for the participation of Civil Society Organizations in OAS Activities in 1999. In 2001, the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) also called for the establishment of an advisory Economic, Social and Cultural Council composed of social and professional groups of the member states. [2] Over the years, such provisions made by International Organizations have caused an enormous rise of NGO participation in the international decision- making process. The practice of consulting NGO quickly became widespread and continues to expand. Even though article 71 of the UN Charter granted NGO consultative status in UN policymaking, the UN Security Council remained off- limits until 1997 when NGOs began to hold briefings with council members. In 2004, the UN Security Council engaged in direct consultations with NGOs regarding the role of civil society in post-conflict peacebuilding.[3] International Organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) both provide limited opportunities for NGOs to participate. The WTO, on the other hand, continues to resist to formally adopting a NGO consultation process.
When it comes to exerting influence in the international law-making process, NGO typically initiate action by first encouraging states to codify international norms. Very often, this results in what legal scholars consider soft law which mainly consists of declarations and resolutions devoid of any legal force. [4] Since soft law is mostly declarative, not legally binding and therefore flexible, it enables NGO to easily interfere and gain influence. States are more willing to comply with international legal norms when the legal scope of their responsibility is small.[5]As a result, many NGOs strongly believe that these declarations of principle may serve as a legal basis for future ‘ hard law’ norms.[6] This has led many legal scholars to believe that NGOs played an important role in helping to make international law more responsive to the needs of the international community. [7] In a lecture, Rosalyn Higgins, former President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) pointed to NGO demands as a “one phenomenon in the reformation in international law”. [8] “An aspect of that reformation is a change in the concept of international law, and in particular, in our notions of the identity of the users and beneficiaries of international law”. [9]

For many NGOs as well as intergovernmental organizations, obtaining even as little as informal political declarations is already a lot since these ‘ given words and statements’ may then be used and publicized in order to bring it in to more formal arenas and to eventually turn them into legally binding instruments. Once international norms have legal effect, NGOs continue to have a watchdog and monitoring role to play in order to ensure that these norms are applied in accordance with the spirit in which they were negotiated, or that they are interpreted in a way that is favorable to the enforcement of legal rights. [10] In this way, NGO’s help foster a universal legal conscience, a loyalty to and compliance with a certain set values. In the early 21st century, NGOs have become unavoidable participants in the emergence, drafting and monitoring of international norms. In addition, as the voice of international civil society, they have had a hand in humanizing international law to the general public.


Footnotes

[1] S. Charnovitz , Nongovernmental Organizations and International Law, in Non State Actors and International Law (A. Bianchi Ed., p.350 (A. Bianchi Ed.,2009)

[2] S. Charnovitz , Nongovernmental Organizations and International Law, in Non State Actors and International Law (A. Bianchi Ed., p.350 (A. Bianchi Ed.,2009)

[3] http://www.globalpolicy.blog/; R.Wedgwood, Legal Personality and the Role of Non-Governmental Oraganizations in Non- State Actors as New Subjects of International Law, p. 27 (R.Hofmann Ed)

[4] M. Törnquist-Chesnier, NGO and International Law, Journal of Human Rights, Vol 3, No 2 (2004), p. 254
[5] M. Törnquist-Chesnier, NGO and International Law, Journal of Human Rights, Vol 3, No 2 (2004), p. 254

[6] M. Törnquist-Chesnier, NGO and International Law, Journal of Human Rights, Vol 3, No 2 (2004), p. 254

[7] Rosalyn Higgins, The Reformation in International Law, in Law, Society and Economy 207,211-215 (R. Rawlings Ed.,1997)


[8] Rosalyn Higgins, The Reformation in International Law, in Law, Society and Economy207,211-215 (R. Rawlings Ed.,1997)

[9] Rosalyn Higgins, The Reformation in International Law, in Law, Society and Economy207,211-215 (R. Rawlings Ed.,1997)


[10] M. Törnquist-Chesnier, NGO and International Law, Journal of Human Rights, Vol 3, No 2 (2004), p. 258