Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt and its Constitution

Egypt and its Constitution

The 1971 Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt as amended to 2007 contains many articles relevant for the present situation.
As there are:
Article 3 : Sovereignty is for the People alone
Article 5: Right to establish Political Parties
Article 40: All Citizens are Equal before the Law
Article 41: Individual Liberty is a Natural Right
Article 46: Freedom of Religion
Article 48: Freedom of the Press. In a State of Emergency limited Censorship may be imposed. See also Art. 206-211
Article 54: Right tot Peaceable Assembly
Article 64: Rule of Law basis of exercise of Public Power
Article 76: Election President
Article 83; Resignation President
Article 148: The President alone shall proclaim a State of Emergency in the manner prescribed by law
Article 180: The State alone shall establish armed forces which owe their allegiance to the People

Clearly the People of Egypt have every right to demand the execution of their constitution!

Relevant information:

Peace Palace Library Country Page Egypt: containing books, articles, book chapters and internet resources on Egypt on legal, political and historical matters

Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt

Constitutional and Legal Framework

Constitution al Enforcement in Tunesia, Yemen, and Egypt

Constitutional law Prof Blog: Egypt’s Constitution

Rule of law in Egypt, by Hatem Elliesie

Study of the present Egyptian Constitution and the law Articles that conflict with Minority Rights

Stilt, K.A., Constitutional Authority and Subversion : Egypt's New Presidential Election System, in (2006) 16 Indiana International & Comparative Law Review 335-373

Monday, January 24, 2011

THIMUN - The Hague Model United Nations Conference (23rd - 28th January 2011)



This week the annual five-day Model United Nations Conference (THIMUN) takes place. The conference is held at The Hague, The Netherlands. This year, the subject for the Model United Nations is crime and punishment. A complete list of all issues can be found here.

THIMUN offers a simulation of the United Nations for secondary school students from all over the world. The first Model United Nations was organised by Mr. Paul Sand from the American school in The Hague in 1965. In 1981 the THIMUN Foundation was established. Since 1991 the Foundation is an NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information [1].

The object of THIMUN is to give the youth an insight into the world's problems and to seek solutions to problems such as human rights issues, environmental protection, disarmament, international peace and security, through negotiations, debate and discussion. The Model United Nations lets young delegates cooperate in order to search for solutions to these problems. This way, THIMUN helps the pupils to develop a spirit of international cooperation [2].

Through its conferences, the THIMUN Foundation attempts to fulfil the aims and goals of the United Nations as mentioned in the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations: "to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours" [3].

Kofi Annan, former Secretary General to the United Nations, stated the importance of the Model United Nations conference as a source of inspiration and energy for the United Nations system:

"The fact that THIMUN exists to uphold the values of the United Nations among the young is particularly important, since it is from the young that we should draw our energy and inspiration as we strive to make the United Nations effective and responsive to the needs of the people worldwide" [4].


The conference will be held from 23rd - 28th January at the World Forum Convention Center at The Hague.

External links:

Relevant Peace Palace Library links:

Footnotes:


[1] See THIMUN website.
[2] See THIMUN website.
[3] As quoted from the
THIMUN website.
[4] Ibid.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Latin American Amnesty Laws Annulled; the Struggle Against Impunity Continues

On the 22nd of December 2010, Former Argentinean President Jorge Rafael Videla was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Federal Oral Court No.1 of Cordoba, Argentina. He was found guilty on 29 accounts of murder, 32 accounts of torture aggravated by the condition of political persecution of the victim and 1 account of torture followed by death. [1]
These crimes were committed during the years of his dictatorship which later came to be known as ‘the dirty war’ period (1976-1983).
In April 1985, General Videla was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes of assassination, illegal confinement and torture. However, after serving just five years of his sentence General Videla and many high ranking members of the military junta were granted a Pardon by President Carlos Menem in 1990. General Videla was subsequently released from prison.
In 2005, the Argentinean Supreme Court declared that the Amnesty law – ‘Ley de Punto Final' ; Ley 23.492 and the Due Obedience Law- ‘Ley de Obediencia debida’; Ley 23.521 are unconstitutional and are therefore invalid. In 2007, a Federal Court deemed the Pardon given to Videla to be unconstitutional as well. This historic decision opened up new possibilities for new charges since General Videla had only been tried for crimes that were excluded from the Pardon.[2]
Remarkably, only one month prior to the sentencing of General Videla in Argentina, the Uruguayan Supreme Court also formally annulled the Amnesty laws intended to protect members of the armed forces from accusations of violating human rights during the period of military control (1973-1985). The court cited the role of international law in Uruguay’s legal system and precedents from neighboring Argentina as well as those of the Inter-American Court and the Inter-American Commission in reaching its decision. Noteworthy is the Uruguayan public twice rejected a call to overturn the Amnesty law via referendum. In 2009, civil society groups were able to gain the required number of signatures to put the issue on the ballot, but unfortunately it lost narrowly. [3] The Uruguayan Supreme Court acted in accordance with international legal principles even if that meant going against public opinion.

The Amnesty Laws of Peru were annulled after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights determined that it violated the rights to a remedy and to access to justice of the victims in the Barrios Altos Case. This case involved a massacre of fifteen people in 1991. Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori stood trial for this massacre among many other crimes in 2008. President Fujimori fled to Japan after his government collapsed but later traveled to Chile where he was arrested and extradited back to Peru to stand trial in 2007.[4] On 7th of April 2009, Alberto Fujimori was convicted of human rights crimes and sentenced to 25 years in prison. It was the first time a democratically elected Latin American President was found guilty in his own country of committing international crimes. [5]

In Chile, Amnesty Laws have not been formally annulled but a number of judges have held that Amnesties cannot be applied in cases of human rights violations since it breaches international law.

These recent Court decisions demonstrate a dramatic change in Latin American legal culture.
In the past, Judges were not expected to defend- let alone- expand citizen’s rights but to quietly preserve the status quo through formalist interpretations.[6]

What factors contributed to these changes in Latin American legal culture ?

Over the last two decades lower courts all throughout the region began to vigorously ‘attack’ Amnesty laws in search of loopholes, exceptions and interpretations which at times allowed investigations to go forward. Constitutional changes such as in Argentina, gave international treaties superior status over domestic laws. In addition, many attempts to reform the judiciary may also have led to the erosion of Amnesty laws. [7] The decisions of the Inter-American Commission criticizing Amnesty laws throughout the Americas served as a legal basis for overturning them on a domestic level. The Commission was particularly critical of the inability for victims’ families to use legal remedies in both civil as well as criminal proceedings to find out the fate of loved ones and those who could be held accountable for this. In 2001, The Inter-American Court of Human Rights based in Costa Rica, endorsed the Commission’s approach in the Barrios Altos Case. [8]

The proliferation of transnational legal instruments has ushered in a new era of legal conceptions and practices. The rule of law has become a core point in many political movements and policy making. Activists throughout the region increasingly use courts as a stage for their struggles and a portal through which to import favorable international norms. [9]

However, the country that seems unaffected by these changes in legal culture is Brazil. Unlike Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay, Brazil has not brought to justice those accused of human rights violations committed during the period of military rule (1964-1985). In April 2010, the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court upheld the interpretation that crimes committed by members of the military regime were political acts and therefore covered by Amnesty laws.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that the Brazilian Amnesty Laws that prevent the investigation and sanctioning of human rights violations are incompatible with the American Convention of Human Rights. As a result, they have no legal effect and cannot stand in the way of investigating cases of human rights violations committed during the military regime. [10] The responsibility of how to handle the Inter-American Court’s decision will now be in the hands of the government of newly elected President Dilma Rousseff who took office on January 1st. President Rouseff who is a former resistance fighter who was imprisoned and tortured during the military regime vowed in her political campaign to bring human rights violators from the dictatorship to justice. [11]
Many Latin American legal scholars believe that considering the regional consensus that now exists on this particular issue, amnesties may, in the near future, lose their value even within the domestic context and will at last become a thing of the past.



Footnotes




[1] http://www.trialwatch-ch-org/.


[2] http://www.trialwatch-ch-org/.


[3] http://www.internationallawgirls.com/

[4] Amnesty Laws in Latin America: Devalued Currency? By Naomi Roht Arrazia, http://www.humansecurity.com/

[5] Reuters April 7th 2009;

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5363RH20090407


[6] Cultures of Legality, Judicialization and Political Activism in Latin America, Ed. By Couso, Huneeus & Sieder, Cambridge University Press 2010.
[7]Amnesty Laws in Latin America: Devalued Currency? By Naomi Roht Arrazia, http://www.humansecurity.com/

[8]Amnesty Laws in Latin America: Devalued Currency? By Naomi Roht Arrazia, http://www.humansecurity.com/

[9] Cultures of Legality, Judicialization and Political Activism in Latin America, Ed. By Couso, Huneeus & Sieder, Cambridge University Press 2010. p.3.

[10] http://penknifepresslatam.blogspot.com/

[11] http://penknifepresslatam.blogspot.com/

Monday, January 3, 2011

German War Reparations (WW I) financially ended

First World War’s legacy and memory rapidly fading into history

World War I, or called at the time the Great War, is rapidly fading into the mists of history, as distant and as elusive as the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century, or even the Middle Ages. Standing less than a decade from the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, the world that spawned the Great War is alien and bewildering. Competing also with the legacy and memory of that other great war, the Second World War, still fewer survivors of WW I can tell their story. At this moment, only three living veterans of World War I are verified. All are from the Allies. The last Central Powers veteran died in 2008.

Elsewhere, the memory of WW I is also fading. Nearly 92 years after the official end of World War I, Germany made its final reparations-related payment for the Great War on October 3, thereby ending the conflict financially. The German newspaper Die Welt discovered a last installment for the Londoner Schuldenabkommen of 69,9 million euro’s in the German budget. Not being a direct reparations settlement but rather the final sum owed on bonds that were issued between 1924 and 1930 and sold to foreign (mostly American) investors, but then never paid.

The Treaty of Versailles and the German war reparations

The Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919 was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between the German Reich and the Allied Powers. Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most important and controversial required the Weimar Republic as successor of the German Empire to accept sole responsibility for causing the war (the so-called 'war guilt' clause), to disarm, make substantial territorial concessions and pay heavy reparations. Both before and after the publication and signing of the Versailles Treaty, there was extensive debate about the justice and likely impact of the reparations demands. Most famously, the principal representative of the British Treasury at the Paris Peace Conference, John Maynard Keynes, resigned from the Treasury in protest at the scale of the reparations demands, arguing that reparations would cripple Germany's economy. Keynes protested publicly in his best-selling The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919).

But what took Germany so long to pay for the war? The history of German reparations involves several payment plans, broken promises, canceled debts, and years of hyperinflation. When Germany made its first payment in August 1921, it just literally printed the paper money. In fact, Germany began printing money for almost everything, thereby deliberately devaluing its currency. By 1923, Germany had defaulted on its reparations so many times that France sent troops to occupy the Ruhr region in northern Germany to force them to pay.

In 1924, an American banker named Charles Dawes, outlined a new reparations agreement what came to be known as the Dawes Plan under which commercial banks issued bonds to (mostly U.S.) private investors on behalf of Germany, which agreed to pay them back when the money became due. But when the first batch of bonds came due in 1928, Germany again defaulted. So in June 1929, a new plan – the Young Plan – was enacted, floating more U.S.-backed bonds and reducing Germany's payments to be paid out over 59 years. Unfortunately, the Young Plan collapsed during the Great Depression.

When the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933, Germany cancelled all reparations, making all these bonds out there instantly worthless. Nevertheless, it did't make the agreement null and void. The bonds, the agreement, still existed.

In June 1953, at an international meeting that came to be known as the London Agreement on German External Debts (Londoner Schuldenabkommen), West Germany offered to slowly pay back some of the bonds on which it had defaulted back in the 1920s, but said that it wouldn't pay everything until the country was one day reunified. Nonetheless, West Germany paid off the principal by 1980. In 1995, no longer divided, Germany took up the task of settling all its debts. On Oct. 3, Germany paid off the last installment of interest, finally settling its World War I reparations.


Article from WELT ONLINE :


PPL Books and Articles :



Abstract : How and why were heavy reparations imposed on Germany by the victorious Allies, under the Treaty of Versailles (1919), at the end of the First World War? And how did Germany end up paying no net reparations out of her own resources? This book provides the answers to these questions, by using a historical narrative to tell the story of interwar German reparations. Leonard Gomes examines the debates, controversies and diplomacy surrounding the issue from the 1919 Paris peace conference to the abandonment of reparations at the Lausanne Conference in 1932. This up-to-date and highly-accessible overview of the classical German reparations story will be useful reading for all interested in international relations, political history and economic history.