Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


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South Africa’s Opposition to LGBTI Watchdog

 

John Rizos

“It would turn back the clock on the progress made globally in relation to LGBTI rights.” The Director for ARC International lamented in response to the opposition for denouncing the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution to monitor and investigate LGBTI rights violations more closely[1]. Although the resolution is not binding, by merely calling upon and encouraging State cooperation[2], the protections it offers cover basic human rights and treatment.

On June 30, 2016 the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted the resolution, establishing an independent expert for the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity[3].  The UNHRC recommended the position of an independent expert after reports of widespread violence and deaths in the LGBTI community[4]. It mandates the expert with the responsibilities to assess implementation of international instruments, to raise awareness of discrimination, to work in cooperation with States, to address forms of violence, and to conduct advisory services[5]. Vitit Muntarbhorn was appointed as the independent expert on September 30, 2016[6]. However, the resolution is currently receiving strong opposition with a call for cancellation from a coalition of African states. .

Through a separate resolution to the General Assembly, the African bloc is seeking to suspend and subsequently repeal the independent expert position and the UNHRC’s resolution altogether[7]. Sierra Leone initiated a resolution on behalf of the Group of African States to “defer consideration” of the position[8], to delay monitoring and to suspend activities pursuant to a determination of the legality of the HRC’s resolution[9].

The African States are claiming that the UNHRC’s resolution violates international law. They claim that it delves into matters reserved for domestic jurisdiction, that it gives priority to sexual orientation discrimination while it ignores other types of African discrimination and development[10], and that it lacks universal support[11]. Further, the African Group claims that sexual orientation and gender identity should not be linked to international human rights instruments[12]. Amongst the countries of the African opposition is South Africa, which had also abstained from voting in the UNHRC’s resolution[13].

The opposition’s reaction is not a surprise. However, South Africa’s stance is surprising as it has contributed to and upheld the development of progressive jurisprudence[14]. It is also surprising due to the country’s discrimination struggles, Constitutional guarantees to universal rights, and recent actions regarding protection of LGBTI rights[15]. South Africa abstained from voting during the UNHRC’s resolution because of alleged “unnecessary divisiness”[16]. It currently appears to agree with the African States’ stance that the UNHRC resolution jeopardizes “the entire international human rights framework as [it] create[s] divisions” and that it does not fit within international law[17].

Even recently, the South African Department of Justice has worked to protect LGBTI rights and the Department of Home Affairs was in the center of controversy by refusing entry to a pastor who had made homophobic hate speeches[18]. So, why did South Africa choose to side with the rest of Africa? Initially abstaining from the vote, but then agreeing with the rest of Africa may be the result of strategic appeasement. South African officials have been criticized for aligning with “Western” beliefs and for persuading the rest of Africa in aligning its politics pursuant to such beliefs[19]. Further, South Africa still owes a large debt to certain African countries for aid during the apartheid and trade to the rest of Africa accounts for $20 Billion of Africa’s trade[20].

The claims that sexual orientation and gender identity should not be included in international law mechanisms are unjustified. Orientation and identity are not outside of international law as they are protected in the principles of universality and non-discrimination established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights[21] [22] [23]. Also, the claim that UNHRC’s agenda on sexual orientation and gender identity overlooks issues relating to racism is frivolous. The UNHRC resolution’s purpose is to support a broad agenda, to strengthen mechanisms, and to address issues of racism, discrimination, and related intolerance in any form[24]. Further, claims that the UNHRC resolution violates sovereignty and non-intervention purport a misunderstood role of the appointed expert. The expert is not a decision-making or enforcement body, but instead its purpose is to address issues, raise awareness, engage in dialogue, and to work in cooperation with States for any recommended implementations[25]. Lastly, the unprecedented suspension of the UNHRC resolution would hinder the Council’s institutional architecture and autonomy[26], which would render it “toothless” to future oppositions[27].

If the African bloc’s resolution is put forward for a vote to the General Assembly, South Africa will likely abstain in order to appease Western Countries and to be in accordance with its constitutional guarantees. The backlash from voting against the UNHRC resolution would be too damaging to the State’s reputation and politics as the champion of anti-discrimination following the end of apartheid. It would receive criticism from governments and NGOs alike. South Africa’s stance is most likely a “bluff” in order to appease other African countries until the issue has lost its “steam.”

US officials strongly support the UNHRC resolution and warn that re-opening the resolution to opposition could undermine the council’s ability to function and enforce their mandates. They noted that such review will weaken the Council, as it has never been subject to intervention by the UN General Assembly[28]. Further, a representative from the EU reminded that the States must “protect the human rights of all individuals without distinction of any kind.”[29] The representative emphasized that they have an international obligation to uphold the UNHRC resolution and the opposition lacks legal foundation to oppose it.[30] Amidst Western warnings, the African bloc’s resolution has a good chance of obtaining the necessary 97-vote simple majority to pass,[31] with the support of the African States and almost every State in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.[32]

The vote on the African States’ resolution in the General Assembly was scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016. However, the UN has delayed talks and voting on canceling the independent expert and amending the UNHRC resolution until later this month, November 2016.[33]

John Rizos is a 3L at the University of Baltimore School of Law with a concentration in International Law. He has an interest in human rights and international criminal law. In addition to being a CICL Fellow, John has served as the Secretary for Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity and is currently enrolled in HarvardX’s online course, “Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster.” In June 2016, John was a member of the CICL Fellows team that, under the supervision of Professor Moore, assisted in drafting an amicus brief to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which was later approved and published. John graduated with honors from Towson University with a BA in International Studies (2013). He has interned at the Press Office of the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the International Civil Advocacy Network (ICAN), a non-profit organization advocating for women’s rights in the Middle East.

[1] http://mg.co.za/article/2016-11-07-sa-backs-africa-groups-view-that-lgbti-rights-have-no-place-in-international-law

[2] http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/RES/32/2

[3] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article112741003.html

[4] http://afkinsider.com/134853/african-countries-oppose-new-un-gay-rights-envoy-world-bank-appoints-lgbt-promoter/

[5] http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/RES/32/2

[6] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[7] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article112741003.html

[8] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[9] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article112741003.html

[10] http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-11-11-gender-discrimination-sas-about-turn-appeases-african-countries-that-do-not-protect-gay-rights/#.WCpgncndlMF

[11] http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/un-african-and-islamic-states-reject-western-led-lgbt-human-rights

[12] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article112741003.html

[13] http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/RES/32/2

[14] http://mg.co.za/article/2016-11-07-sa-backs-africa-groups-view-that-lgbti-rights-have-no-place-in-international-law

[15] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[16] http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-11-11-gender-discrimination-sas-about-turn-appeases-african-countries-that-do-not-protect-gay-rights/#.WCpgncndlMF

[17] http://mg.co.za/article/2016-11-07-sa-backs-africa-groups-view-that-lgbti-rights-have-no-place-in-international-law

[18] http://mg.co.za/article/2016-11-07-sa-backs-africa-groups-view-that-lgbti-rights-have-no-place-in-international-law

[19] http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-11-11-gender-discrimination-sas-about-turn-appeases-african-countries-that-do-not-protect-gay-rights/#.WCpgncndlMF

[20] http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-11-11-gender-discrimination-sas-about-turn-appeases-african-countries-that-do-not-protect-gay-rights/#.WCpgncndlMF

[21] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[22] http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

[23] http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx

[24] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[25] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[26] http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/un-african-and-islamic-states-reject-western-led-lgbt-human-rights

[27] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[28] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[29] http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ at Article 2.

[30] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article112741003.html

[31] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[32] http://afkinsider.com/134853/african-countries-oppose-new-un-gay-rights-envoy-world-bank-appoints-lgbt-promoter/

[33] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/10/opposition-and-delay-confront-anti-lgbt-push-at-u-n/

 


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North Korea: Actions, Not Words

Christian Kim

On February 7, 2016, North Korea drew heavy criticism from the United Nations by launching the Taepo Dong 3, a long-ranged missile.(1)  North Korea’s defense to the launch was that this was not a sign of aggression but, rather, a peaceful satellite test.(2)  This was not the first time that North Korea launched a missile test.  North Korea launched seven separate missile tests ever 1993, three of which occurred in the past four years.(3)  Although the first series of missile tests were unsuccessful, North Korea their success rate increases with every launch.  The missile test prior to the Taepo Dong 3 had the capability of reaching 10,000km, with the potential to target over 38% of the United States.(4)  With Taepo Dong 3, the coverage extended to 13,000km, allowing North Korea to target as far as New York City and Washington D.C. (5)

CK Blog 2_Photo1

The international community needs to take North Korea’s recent missile launch as a serious threat.  North Korea has consistently spewed hostile rhetoric of annihilating the United States, as well as the “puppets” of the United States, South Korea. (6)  Further indication that the Taepo Dong 3 missile test was far from innocent is North Korea’s past acts of aggression towards South Korea.   Even though the two Koreas signed an armistice agreement in 1953, they are still technically at war.(7)  In 2002, North Korea launched a surprise attack on a South Korean vessel, resulting in the death of six South Korean sailors.  (8)  In 2010, North Korea sunk the Cheonan, a South Korean naval vessel, in the Yellow Sea.(9)  Over 46 sailors were killed in this belligerent attack from the North.(10)  Despite North Korea’s denial of these attacks, South Korea had proof that North Korea was responsible.(11)   Almost eight months after the sinking of the Cheonan, North Korea unleashed an artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, destroying over 70 buildings and killing two South Korean soldiers as well as two civilians.(12)

CK Blog 2_Photo2

Although the United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned North Korea’s long-range missile test, this condemnation along with their proposed economic sanctions will not change North Korea’s attitude.(13)  Past economic sanctions on luxury items were unsuccessful because the North Korean regime managed to smuggle luxury items in through their biggest ally, China.(14)  Even though China’s relationship with North Korea has significantly deteriorated in the past few years, they still consider each other as important allies.  This is evident in the amount of trading that goes on between the two countries: 57% of North Korea’s imports and 42% of their exports are with China.(15)  It is unlikely that China will follow in the steps of the international community since China will have a lot to lose if they agree to the economic sanctions.  To convince China will take a lot more than simple persuasion and the change will not occur overnight.  For now, the most immediate step the international community can take is to convince South Korea to shut down the Kaesong Industrial Park indefinitely and to continue blasting anti-North Korean messages on their DMZ loudspeakers.

The Kaesong Industrial Park (“Kaesong”) is a joint economic collaboration between North and South Korea.  Kaesong is located in North Korea, approximately six miles north from the Demilitarized Zone.(16)  Over a hundred South Korean companies set up factories in Kaesong to employ over 50,000 North Korean workers.(17)  These North Korean workers work for a significantly cheaper wage than their Southern counterparts, so this is a profitable venture for the South Korean companies.(18)  Even though the South Korean companies pay wages directly to the North Korean workers, these workers are forced by the North Korean government to give the majority of their pay to the government.(19)  As a result, the North Korean government sees this region as a very important source of income.  There have been proposals in the past to have watchdogs ensure that wages stay with the Kaesong employees; however, the Kaesong employees were picked by the regime for their loyalty.(20)  It does not matter how many measures South Korea takes to ensure the wages go where they belong, it will eventually end up financing the very programs that South Korea is adamantly against. Although South Korea has pulled out of the Kaesong complex because of Taepo Dong 3 missile test, this is most likely a temporary decision.  Kaesong has been prone to shut downs and re-openings depending on the fluctuating tensions on the Korean peninsula.(21)  As soon as North Korea “apologizes” in regards to the missile test, it is almost certain that South Korea will restart operations at Kaesong.  Since these South Korean companies are indirectly financing the North Korean regime’s missile and nuclear tests, the South Korean government should step in and force these companies to shut down their operations in Kaesong indefinitely.  Even though the indefinite shut down of Kaesong will dampen the relations on the Korean peninsula, North Korea will realize that their neighbors down South are done playing games.

CK Blog 2_Photo3

While shutting down Kaesong indefinitely is one solution, restarting the DMZ loudspeakers would be an even better move.  In 2015, two South Korean soldiers were injured by landmines while patrolling the DMZ.(22)  These bombs were planted by North Korean soldiers with the intent to harm South Korean soldiers.  Once again, North Korea denied any involvement and refused to apologize.(23)  In response, the South Korean government reactivated their loudspeakers on the DMZ border.(24)  These loudspeakers can be heard up to 7.5 miles past the DMZ during the day and almost 15 miles past the DMZ at night.(25)  The loudspeakers are a source of concern for the North Korean government since news is broadcasted that the regime has attempted to keep from its citizens.(26)  These broadcasts, often, highlight the reality of the terrible conditions in North Korea.  At other times, the loudspeakers blast news stories from daily lives in the South or K-Pop music.(27)  North Korea has constantly threatened to fire at these loudspeakers, but were warned by the South that any attacks would be reciprocated.(28)  In order to have the South Korean government turn off the speakers, North Korea begrudgingly agreed to claim their sorrow at the South Korean soldiers’ injuries.(29)  Even though this wasn’t the best apology one could have hoped for, it was nevertheless an apology from a country that rarely acknowledges their mistakes.  If these loudspeakers made North Korea agree to take responsibility for the planted bombs, perhaps the continuation of these loudspeakers could make the North fess up to their “peaceful” missile tests and to take action against any future tests.

CK Blog 2_Photo4

Whether or not China agrees to apply economic sanctions to North Korea, the first step for the international community is to urge South Korea to take immediate action against the North.  Once South Korea has implemented the previously suggested measures, the next step should be for the entire international community to place harsh economic sanctions on North Korea.  Aside from medical and food sanctions, the international community should place a ban on any trade of non-essential goods.  The North Korean regime relies on the idea of self-reliance (“Juche”). If the citizens of North Korea realize that the government is no longer self-sufficient, the North Korean regime’s façade of a successful country will deteriorate.  When this realization occurs, the regime will have no choice but to listen to the demands of the international community.

Christian Kim is a 2L at the University of Baltimore School of Law and graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. He currently serves as the President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association as well as the 2L Rep for the Student Bar Association. His interests are East Asian politics, international conflicts, and human rights.  Before Law School, Christian has worked for the Korean Ministry of Education as a TaLK (Teach and Learn in Korea) Scholar and Coordinator for two years. He is currently a legal intern at the Hermina Law Group and a law clerk for the Law Office ofHayley Tamburello.

(1) http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/02/07/north-korea-missile/79963198/#

(2) http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-02-08/north-korean-missile-launch-prompts-new-calls-for-sanctions-tough-response

(3) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15278612

(4) http://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/bruce-klingner/north-koreas-missile-launch-shows-it-could-target-us-homeland

(5) Id.

(6) http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/09/north-korea-says-souths-propaganda-broadcasts-taking-it-to-brink-of-war

(7) http://www.bbc.com/news/10165796

(8) https://medium.com/war-is-boring/north-koreas-history-of-violence-b9af3d35c17a#.rvt3ch8e0

(9) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32013750

(10) Id.

(11) http://www.bbc.com/news/10130909

(12) http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2010/nov/24/south-korea-north-korea-pictures

(13) http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/07/asia/north-korea-rocket-launch-window/

(14) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/20/north-korea-sanctions-luxury-goods_n_2910005.html

(15) http://www.anser.org/babrief_nk-economy-feature

(16) http://www.bbc.com/news/business-22011178

(17) Id.

(18) Id.

(19) http://www.rfa.org/english/news/korea/north-koreans-make-less-money-than-their-counterparts-at-kaesong-08142015164241.html

(20) http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/09/business/north-korea-economy-explainer/

(21) http://www.cbsnews.com/news/north-south-korea-resume-work-at-joint-kaesong-industrial-park-after-5-month-shutdown/

(22) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3192103/South-Korea-accuses-North-Korea-planting-landmines-maimed-two-soldiers-patrolling-volatile-border-threatens-make-Pyongyang-pay-harsh-price.html

(23) Id.

(24) http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2015/08/17/north-and-south-korea-turn-up-loudspeakers-to-blare-propaganda-at-each-other.html

(25) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35278451

(26) Id.

(27) Id.

(28) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/11813728/North-Korea-attacks-South-Korea-military-border-unit-and-fires-shots-at-loudspeaker.html

(29) http://fox6now.com/2015/08/24/tensions-eased-as-northsouth-korea-reach-deal-on-apology-loudspeakers/

 


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The Maldives: A Façade Paradise

Kia Roberts-Warren
The Maldives is a place that very few of us know about, other than that it is vacation paradise to millions of Western countries. However, the Maldives has recently been put in a rather shocking light when international human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney decided to represent former President Mohamed Nasheed on appeal in the Maldivian highest court, pro bono.[1] Nasheed has served one year of a thirteen-year sentence for terrorism charges after he ordered the arrest of a senior judge.[2]

KRW Blog 1_Photo1

For thirty years, the Maldives was under the rule of Maumoon Gayoom, who repeatedly imprisoned Nasheed during this time for his political beliefs against the regime.[3] In 2005, Nasheed returned from self-exile and in 2008 ran against Gayoom and won in the country’s first multiparty election.[4] Nasheed did not finish his first term before resigning. The Maldivian government alleges that Nasheed was crushed by the opposition, but Nasheed contends that there was actually a coup d’état.  Under the threat of force, security forces loyal to Gayoom held him at gunpoint and forced his resignation.[5] Since, his resignation Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdullah Yameen has been the President.[6]

KRW Blog 1_Photo4

 After the coup, Nasheed was subjected to an unfair trial, which the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention criticized for its unlawfulness and injustice.[7] However, Nasheed is not the only one in prison! President Yameen has, at the moment, imprisoned two former defense ministers, one former vice-president, one former deputy parliamentary speaker, and leaders of every opposition party in the Maldives.[8]

Since Amal Clooney has been advocating on the behalf of Nasheed, the question is why should the Western world care? If you don’t care about the political situation or human rights violations happening there, then you should care that the Maldives has the highest percentage of ISIS recruits per capita in the world.[9] Mr. Ben Emmerson, Nasheed’s other lawyer, noted that the “two hundred Maldivians [that] have gone so far to Iraq and Syria…[is] the equivalent of 36,000 Brits.”[10] He also believes that another Tunisia-style tragedy is inevitable for tourists that go to The Maldives (in June 2015, 38 people were killed at a beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia by an ISIS gunman).[11]

KRW Blog 1_Photo2

This week, Nasheed was released for 30 days to go to London for spinal surgery.[12] Since arriving, he met with Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss sanctions on the Maldives.[13] Cameron stated to Parliament that “Britain was prepared to consider targeted action individuals if further progress isn’t made.”[14] Cameron and Nasheed also agreed on a Commonwealth meeting in the Maldives next month to give the Maldivian government an opportunity to have “an open dialogue and free all remaining political prisoners swiftly.”[15] On January 13, Amal Clooney visited with Obama administration officials and members of Congress to discuss sanctions to be placed on the Maldives.[16] Congress seemed to openly support the cause. Further, the Australian government asked travelers going to the Maldives to “exercise a high degree of caution.”[17]

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What is happening to Nasheed is a true travesty. Frankly, I am surprised that the Western world or even powerful, more developed Asian countries have not gotten involved. Although, no country should interfere with another country’s sovereignty, it is truly alarming that the Maldives has the highest per capita of ISIS recruits in the world and no one seems to want to take action. The United States has had this information, yet we have not made this a national security priority; although the U.S. and Britain are considering sanctions. Neither country, however, has taken affirmative action or has even stated a more solid plan if sanctions are ineffective.  While sanctions may be effective to correct the wrong against Nasheed, sanctions will not stop ISIS recruitment on the island. Preventing such recruitment should be a huge priority for the entire international community. Sanctions are not enough and the U.S. should not let the beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters cloud its judgment. Stopping terrorism should always trump tourism.

 

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/12/opinions/maldives-vice-president-ahmed-adheeb/

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/amal-clooney-wins-the-day-as-un-rules-former-maldives-president-was-unlawfully-jailed-a6680986.html

[3] http://raeesnasheed.com/about

[4] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/amal-clooney-takes-maldives-human-rights-battle-washington-n496051

[5]http://raeesnasheed.com/about

[6] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/amal-clooney-takes-maldives-human-rights-battle-washington-n496051

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/amal-clooney-wins-the-day-as-un-rules-former-maldives-president-was-unlawfully-jailed-a6680986.html

[8] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[9] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[10] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[11] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[12] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[13] http://in.reuters.com/article/britain-maldives-nasheed-idINKCN0V51MB

[14] http://in.reuters.com/article/britain-maldives-nasheed-idINKCN0V51MB

[15] http://in.reuters.com/article/britain-maldives-nasheed-idINKCN0V51MB

[16] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/amal-clooney-takes-maldives-human-rights-battle-washington-n496051

[17] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354


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Does the Paris Climate Summit have the Potential for a Real Response to Climate Change?

Natalie Krajinovic

In sum, yes. The Geneva Climate Conference in February 2015 saw the Member States of the United Nations aim to achieve positive environmental policy change. The Conference saw the UN make major headway with a formal draft agreement that would be the source of negotiation for the 2015 Paris Summit.[1] The formal draft agreement is a substantive step following general affirmations of climate reform policy made at the 2014 UN Climate Summit.[2] The UN seems poised to strengthen the world’s attention on environmental matters with this draft agreement. The draft agreement builds upon negotiations that occurred during the 2014 Lima Climate Change Conference. The final agreement, which includes a focus on “mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and capacity-building,” is set to be reached in Paris at the end of 2015 and should come into effect in 2020.[3] What makes these environmental initiatives distinct from the UN’s past attempts at an environmental framework is the collective interest in reaching emission level reductions.

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The draft agreement currently states that the parties are “[g]ravely concerned by the IPCC’s [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] finding in its Fifth Assessment Report that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”[4] This clear statement regarding the severity of the state of climate change demonstrates the UN’s seriousness in combating drastic environmental change. The draft agreement also states that the parties recognize “that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires to be urgently addressed by all Parties.”[5] It is evident that even though the parties are still in negotiation stages, the occurrence of climate change is no longer debatable, and instead, is a reality that the international community must now confront.

Between March and June of this year, individual countries will articulate their emission reduction plans.[6] Once individual countries outline their targeted plans and efforts for emission reduction, the viability of the current draft agreement will be evaluated. Through this formal draft agreement, the hope is that the increase of the average global surface temperature is no more than 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels, to avoid dangerous climate change.[7] These aggressive targets mean that individual states must act nimbly with their individual responses to climate change. It is insufficient to rest upon general obligations of emissions reductions. Rather, now is the opportunity for Member States to announce specific and realistic environmental protection action.

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Article 2 of the draft agreement is purported to outline the objective of the convention. The viability of the current draft agreement may be undermined with the repeated language of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” in all three options for Article 2.[8] This emphasis on separate responsibilities based upon a Member State’s independent capabilities suggests that how emission levels will be reduced will not involve uniform action.

Although the agreement is still in the drafting stage, the global community appears to be gaining momentum in combating climate change. The goal is for the formal draft agreement to reach finalized content and text through the year, with negotiations occurring at the Climate Change Conference in Bonn in June, in addition ministerial-level meetings throughout the year.[9] This ongoing work towards a final formal environmental protection convention is promise that the 2015 Paris Summit will result in a viable agreement that unites UN member states in responding to climate change.

Natalie Krajinovic is a University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. candidate (’15), with a concentration in Business Law. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts in English and East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto, St. George. Natalie has always had an interest in international law and policy. While studying at the University of Toronto, she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Toronto Globalist, an international relations magazine with chapters across the globe. She currently serves as the President of the International Law Society and as the Comments Editor for the Journal of International Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Natalie is also a law clerk for John H. Denick & Associates, P.A., a business law firm in downtown Baltimore and is an intern with International Rights Advocates in Washington, D.C.

[1] UN agrees draft text for Paris climate summit, BBC News (Feb. 13, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31456369.

[2] Natalie Krajinovic, The Climate Summit 2014 – The Best of Intentions, But Missed the Mark, Ius Gentium (Sept. 28, 2014), https://ubaltciclfellows.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/climate-summit-missed-the-mark/.

[3] Governments Agree the Negotiating Text for the Paris Climate Agreement, UN Climate Change Newsroom (Feb. 13, 2015), http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/governments-agree-the-negotiating-text-for-the-paris-climate-agreement/.

[4] Negotiating Text, Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, ADP 2-8, Agenda Item 3 (Feb. 12, 2015), http://unfccc.int/files/bodies/awg/application/pdf/negotiating_text_12022015@2200.pdf.

[5] Id.

[6] UN agrees draft text for Paris climate summit, BBC News (Feb. 13, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31456369.

[7] Id.

[8] Negotiating Text, Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, ADP 2-8, Agenda Item 3 (Feb. 12, 2015), http://unfccc.int/files/bodies/awg/application/pdf/negotiating_text_12022015@2200.pdf.

[9] Governments Agree the Negotiating Text for the Paris Climate Agreement, UN Climate Change Newsroom (Feb. 13, 2015), http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/governments-agree-the-negotiating-text-for-the-paris-climate-agreement/.


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Houthis’ Rising Power Spears Turbulence in Yemen

Suzanne De Deyne

On January 22, 2015, Yemen’s President, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, resigned shortly after his prime minister and Cabinet stepped down.[1]  The sudden resignation came only one day after Houthis rebels struck a tentative UN brokered deal with President Hadi aiming to halt days of turmoil.[2]  The deal reportedly agreed to a power sharing between the government and, in exchange, Houthis would relinquish control over government facilities seized last September[3]  and would release President Hadi’s chief of staff, whom the rebels kidnapped.[4]  Nevertheless, President Hadi stated he had to resign so as “to avoid being dragged into an abyss of unconstructive policies based on no law…We don’t want to be a party to what is happening or will happen.”[5] This blog will set forth the concerns arising out of Yemen’s change in political leadership, discuss the role of the UN during Yemen’s time of turmoil, and explain how this change in regime to the Houthis directly affects U.S. counterterrorism in the Arabian Peninsula.

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The Houthis adhere to the Zaidism branch of Shia Islam as members of Ansar Allah (Partisans of God).[6]  Their slogan translates to, “Death to America, death to Israel, curses to the Jews and victory to Islam.”[7]  As Shiite Muslims, in a majority Sunni country, Houthis wanted more power and elimination of marginalization.[8]  Under international law, it is true that the people of Yemen have the right to self-determination when denied rights amongst the political spectrum, but claiming authority via a coup d’état is not the proper legal method to convene political rights.  So, as the Houthis dissolved parliament and announced plans for a new interim assembly and five-member presidential council,[9] they claimed more than they bargained for – the responsibility to govern.

Conversely, Sunni and southern leaders will, most likely, not recognize their assertion to power, thus intensifying the country’s descent into chaos.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Yemen to reinstate President Hadi and told Council, “Let me be clear, Yemen is collapsing before our eyes.  We cannot stand by and watch.”[10]  It is the job of the UN Security Council to act in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter (Action with Respect to the Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression) during this time of hostility and take measures to promote peacekeeping. Due to safety concerns, the U.S. even closed the American embassy in Yemen, placing it in similar circles as Syria and Libya where U.S. diplomatic presence has been removed.[11] Similarly, other states have closed their embassies due to security concerns.[12]

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Yemen is a fractured country on the brink of a civil war and the recent struggle for power also generates opportunity for al-Qaeda to establish a stronger foothold.  For a long time Yemen’s government has been considered a key ally in the fight against al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP).[13]  Houthis claim to be anti-al-Qaeda and have driven the extremists from the areas they control, but Saleh Ali al-Sammad, second in command for the Houthis rebel group and former advisor to President Hadi, alludes to other conclusions by stating, “We are not against the missions or individuals themselves, but against policies adopted by America.”[14]  A common disdain for American diplomacy means the U.S. lacks a key counterterrorism ally in the region while al-Qaeda’s influence expands.  The effective boost for al-Qaeda was affirmed when al-Qaeda fighters completely captured the Yemeni National Army’s 19th Brigade, an important oil-producing area in southeastern Yemen.[15]  The strategic position of Yemen next to Saudi Arabia, a top oil exporter, and its access to shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden make the stability of the country a U.S. priority.[16]  Also, Saudi Arabia, as the main Sunni power, believes the Houthis are backed militarily, financially and politically by its Shia regional archrival, Iran, although these allegations have been denied.[17]

Houthi Child

The international community, especially the UN, must coordinate a response to Houthis’ newfound control and aim to terminate AQAP’s influence in the Arabian Peninsula.  Bruce Riedel, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute stated, “Yemen was supposed to be a role model for this smarter approach of building local capacity and getting our allies to do more.  It’s a sobering reality that it’s not working.”[17]  With the Houthis in power, Yemen, a dominant player in an especially geo-strategic location, is now a pro-Iranian, anti-American Shia militia.  The Houthis’ rebellion has not only put Yemen at a political crossroad that concerns the international community, but has now also caused the U.S. to reevaluate its commitment to the poorest country in the Arabian peninsula as al-Qaeda’s infectious presence intensifies.

Suzanne De Deyne is a second year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law (candidate for J.D., May 2016) concentrating in International Law. Suzanne graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Economics. She also received a Honor’s International Relations Certificate from Mount Holyoke College.

Currently, Suzanne is a staff editor on the Journal of International Law and represents the International Law Society as the Alumni Relations Director. As a CICL Fellow, Suzanne conducts legal research for International Rights Advocates on human rights and corporate accountability. She is also a member of Phi Alpha Delta and the Women’s Bar Association. This summer she will be a legal intern at Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher in the firm’s Brussels office, which is focused on Competition Law practice in Europe.

[1] Nick Paton, Yemen’s President, Cabinet Resign, CNN (Jan. 23, 2015), http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/22/world/yemen-violence/.

[2] Id.

[3] Nadia Prupis, Yemeni President, Cabinet Resign Amid Deal with Rebels, Common Dreams (Jan. 22, 2015), http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/01/22/yemeni-president-cabinet-resign-amid-deal-rebels.

[4] Nick Paton, supra note 1.

[5] Nadia Prupis, supra note 3.

[6] Yemen Crisis: Who are the Houthis?, BBC News Middle East (Feb. 6, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423.

[7] Bruce Ridel, SOTU: U.S. has Little Leverage to Influence the Outcome in Yemen, Brookings (Jan. 20, 2015), http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2015/01/20-sotu-us-little-leverage-to-influence-outcome-in-yemen-riedel

[8] Nick Paton, supra note 1.

[9] Yemen Crisis: Who are the Houthis?, supra note 6.

[10] Shuaib Almosawa & Rod Nordland, Qaeda Fighters Gain in Yemen as United Nations Warn of Country’s Freefall, N.Y. Times (Feb. 12, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/world/middleeast/al-qaeda-yemen-military.html.

[11] Shuaib Almosawa & Rod Nordland, U.S. Embassy Shuts in Yemen, Even as Militant Leader Reaches Out, N.Y. Times (Feb. 10, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/11/world/middleeast/yemen-houthi-leader-pledges-to-pursue-power-sharing-accord.html?_r=0.

[12] Japan closes embassy in Yemen over ‘security concerns’, PRESS TV (Feb. 16, 2015) http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/02/16/397791/Japan-closes-diplomatic-mission-in-Yemen

[13] Nick Paton, supra note 1.

[14] Shuaib Almosawa & Rod Nordland, supra note 11.

[15] Shuaib Almosawa & Rod Nordland, supra note 10.

[16] Yemen Crisis: Who are the Houthis?, supra note 6.

[17] Id.

[18] Bruce Ridel, supra note 7.


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International Law Society at the United Nations

Natalie Krajinovic

On January 23, 2015 the International Law Society (ILS) from the University of Baltimore School of Law visited the United Nations (UN) in New York City. The Presbyterian Ministry at the UN hosted ILS, arranged for a number of speakers to discuss human rights law, and facilitated a tour of the UN.* The overall theme of the visit suggested that greater cooperation and action is needed across both legal and social regimes in order to enhance the strength of human rights law internationally.

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Our first speaker was Shulamith Koenig, the Founding President of the People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning (formerly known as People’s Decade for Human Rights Education). She founded the Movement in 1988 with the goal of creating, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “a new political culture based on human rights—and to enable women and men alike to participate in the decisions that determine their lives, and live in community in dignity with one another, moving from charity to dignity guided by the holistic human rights framework.”[1] Mrs. Koenig’s invigorating discussion focused on the inalienability of human rights. She asserted that in order to address human rights abuses, we need to consider human rights as a “framework”, not an “approach.” This framework ultimately requires that every human have the knowledge that they hold human rights and are entitled to dignity. As a strategy for human, social and economic development, Mrs. Koenig advocates for meaningful grassroots discussions to effect change through learning about human rights as a way of life.

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“Human Rights is about recognizing the humanity of the other as your own.” Shulamith Koenig

Renzo Pomi then spoke to our group regarding Amnesty International’s role in the preservation and promotion of human rights. Mr. Pomi is a human rights lawyer with over 30 years experience in the field. He is currently Amnesty International’s Representative at the United Nations, covering areas of human rights and humanitarian law in armed conflict and post conflict settings, international justice and accountability, among others.[2] He is also responsible for Amnesty International’s institutional work at the Organization of American States, in particular the strengthening of the Inter-American Human Rights System. Mr. Pomi spoke about the importance of a legal education in the field of human rights. He further addressed how an international human rights framework is critical to the development of human rights law.

Renzo Pomi, Amnesty International

John Washburn spoke to ILS regarding the need for the U.S. to ratify the Rome Statute and become a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC).[3] Mr. Washburn has an extensive career in diplomacy and international governmental and non-governmental organizations. He was a director in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and thereafter was a director in the Department of Political Affairs at the United Nations. He is currently the Convener of the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC), co-chair of the Washington Working Group on the International Criminal Court (WICC), and a past president of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. Mr. Washburn’s discussion on the validity of the ICC focused on the legitimacy of the Court. He emphasized the secular nature of the Court and its focus on justice. He categorized the Court’s aim of justice as punitive justice that is redemptive. For proponents of the ICC, the ICC allows for international acknowledgement of the harm done by perpetrators, which ultimately provides reprieve to victims of crimes when moving forward with their lives.

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Finally, we met with Janette Amer, Human Rights Adviser of UN Women,[4] who discussed equality and gender balance as a human rights issue. She discussed the importance of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), its achievements and the challenges ahead. In particular, Ms. Amer identified the need for sustainable equality efforts under both the UN and other entities. “The humanity of women alone is insufficient to ensure human rights,” Ms. Amer noted. Ms. Amer emphasized the importance of campaigns, such as HeForShe, in enhancing the substantive opportunities women have. These types of campaigns emphasize not only that women be equal under the law, but also in reality, with their everyday experiences and opportunities. These types of campaigns are of particular importance given the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action this year.

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The seminars’ emphasis on human rights reminds us of one of the purposes of the United Nations: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”[5] The seminars demonstrated the intermingling of various parties’ perspectives regarding human rights. It showed how activists, NGOs, judicial bodies and the UN itself react and promote human rights laws across the globe. The most effective way of achieving these purposes is ultimately through the domestic implementation of international human rights law.

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*The International Law Society would like to sincerely thank the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, specifically The Rev. W. Mark Koenig, Director, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, for organizing this wonderful event.

Natalie Krajinovic is a University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. candidate (’15), with a concentration in Business Law. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts in English and East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto, St. George. Natalie has always had an interest in international law and policy. While studying at the University of Toronto, she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Toronto Globalist, an international relations magazine with chapters across the globe. She currently serves as the President of the International Law Society and as the Comments Editor for the Journal of International Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Natalie is also a law clerk for John H. Denick & Associates, P.A., a business law firm in downtown Baltimore and is an intern with International Rights Advocates in Washington, D.C.

[1] Shulamith Koenig, PDHRE: The People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning, http://www.pdhre.org/people/shulabio.html (last visited Jan. 31, 2015).

[2] Who We Are, Amnesty International, http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are (last visited Jan. 31, 2015).

[3] About the Court, International Criminal Court, http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/about%20the%20court/Pages/about%20the%20court.aspx (last visited Jan. 31, 2015).

[4] About UN Women, UN Women, http://www.unwomen.org/en/about-us/about-un-women (last visited Jan. 31, 2015).

[5] U.N. Charter art. 1(2).


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What about Mali? Why the Recent Attacks on UN Peacekeepers Demonstrates the Need for Renewed Focus on UN Peacekeeping Ops

Natalie Krajinovic

The month of October began with two separate attacks on United Nations (UN) peacekeepers in Mali. On October 3, unknown attackers killed nine UN peacekeepers in Mali.[1] On October 8, a second attack occurred, resulting in the death of one UN peacekeeper.[2] Both attacks have been linked to the UN’s mission to guard against militant Islamists who posed a threat to Bamako, Mali. These attacks are indicative of the security problems in Mali, which have only been further exacerbated by both food insecurity and extreme poverty throughout Africa’s Sahel region, an area that stretches from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, including Mali, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, and parts of Sudan, Cameroon and Nigeria. However, it is the lack of attention or response from the international community for these attacks that is equally striking and highlights the need for more attention and focus on UN peacekeeping missions, generally.

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Despite the unconfirmed identities of the attackers, these attacks potentially show the danger of growing extremist behavior in Africa. Although MINUSMA, the UN peacekeeping force based in Mali, has not indicated who is responsible for these attacks, there were 30 survivors. One of these survivors, from Niger, stated that the attacks were carried out by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), an al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militia.[3]

The UN began their peacekeeping mission in Mali in April of 2013 as a response to northern Mali falling under the control of Tuareg separatists and Islamic extremists with links to Al Qaeda after a military coup in 2012.[4] Mali entered into conflict after a coup in 2012, which failed to handle the Tuareg rebellion in Mali’s northern desert region.[5] “Al-Qaeda with its Islamist allies took advantage of the subsequent chaos to seize the north, sidelining the Tuaregs.”[6] Despite French-led interventions in 2013, which successfully scattered extremists, some groups still remain active and continue to act violently.[7] Following this intervention, peace talks begun between the Malian government and the Tuaregs, however, as French troops have removed themselves from the region, the situation has become “intolerable” per Hervé Ladsous, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping.[8]

Mali UN peacekeeping forces

The international community’s lack of response to these attacks is extremely concerning. Other than minor news coverage reports detailing the number of casualties, there has been minimal international reaction. UN officials have commented on the events, with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressing “shock and outrage at the killing[s] . . . and issued a warning that all hostilities waged against UN ‘blue helmets’ constitute a serious violation of international law.”[9] The 9,000-strong UN force, took over peacekeeping operations in July 2013,[10] and frighteningly, thirty peacekeepers have now been killed in Mali since the United Nations Security Council established the operation in April 2013.[11] Yet, international attention regarding these conflicts has been minimal.

The world has been consumed with the threat of ISIS, particularly with the recent battle for control of the Syrian border town of Kobane.[12] However, these recent attacks on UN peacekeepers illustrate the need to look at extremist actions beyond the anticipated Middle Eastern Regions. The UN Security Council was recently debriefed on global conflicts, including the Malian attacks. Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop spoke to the UN Security Council stating that urgent measures were needed in response to the recent killings of UN peacekeepers.[13] In regards to the Golan Heights region of Syria and Israel, Lieutenant General Iqbal Singh Singha, Force Commander of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), stated the UN peacekeeping missions were further jeopardized due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, which has resulted in “an upward spiralling of violence.”[14] Singha also noted that troop contributing countries, such as Austria, have removed their forces from the region as the Syrian conflicts continue to rage.[15] These instances of conflict demonstrate the difficulty UN peacekeeping missions have in regions of conflict, regardless of the political and social reasons for the conflict. Without proactive measures for the UN peacekeepers, peacekeeping efforts will likely be halted and civilians further harmed.

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The difficulty now becomes determining how the UN and international community respond to the attacks, even if it is in the form of aid relief. “‘Force Commanders are operating in failing or failed States, where, frankly, there is no – or hardly – a peace to keep,’ Lieutenant General Ahmed stated, noting that the growing Ebola crisis had added yet another dimension of complexity to the UN military presence on the ground in Africa.”[16] In the recent Security Council briefing, Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz, the Force Commander of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) addressed the Security Council, stating, “the protection of civilians remained ‘a moral obligation.’”[17] However, the safety of UN peacekeeping forces, as well as civilians, should now be the primary focus.

UN-Graphic

Despite these calls for strengthened peacekeeping missions, there is still inadequate discussion on how to strengthen peacekeeping forces. For example, at the General Debate of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly in September 2014, peacekeeping discussions were dwarfed in comparison to topics such as terrorism or extremism.[18] Further, the lack of discussion of peacekeeping efforts, particularly in Mali, reflect that the global community is more concerned with active conflicts in regions such as Israel/Palestine and Syria. Without discussion on how to improve and strengthen peacekeeping efforts, more harm will likely come to UN peacekeepers operating in conflicted regions. Hopefully the UN will respond to the Malian government’s request for heightened enforcement action in the coming days. The level of support offered to the stressed Malian areas should involve sufficient aid so that both civilians and peacekeepers in the region receive enhanced protection.

Natalie Krajinovic is a University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. candidate (’15), with a concentration in Business Law. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts in English and East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto, St. George. Natalie has always had an interest in international law and policy. While studying at the University of Toronto, she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Toronto Globalist, an international relations magazine with chapters across the globe. She currently serves as the President of the International Law Society and as the Comments Editor for the Journal of International Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Natalie is also a law clerk for John H. Denick & Associates, P.A., a business law firm in downtown Baltimore.

[1] The Associated Press, Mali: Gunmen Kill 9 U.N. Peacekeepers, N.Y. Times (Oct. 3, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/04/world/africa/mali-gunmen-kill-9-un-peacekeepers.html.

[2] Reuters, Mali: U.N. Peacekeeper Dies in Attack, N.Y. Times (Oct. 7, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/08/world/africa/mali-un-peacekeeper-dies-in-attack.html.

[3] Mali’s UN troops killed in deadliest attack, BBC News (Oct. 3, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29475975.

[4] The Associated Press, Mali: Gunmen Kill 9 U.N. Peacekeepers, N.Y. Times (Oct. 3, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/04/world/africa/mali-gunmen-kill-9-un-peacekeepers.html.

[5] Mali’s UN troops killed in deadliest attack, BBC News (Oct. 3, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29475975.

[6] Id.

[7] The Associated Press, Mali: Gunmen Kill 9 U.N. Peacekeepers, N.Y. Times (Oct. 3, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/04/world/africa/mali-gunmen-kill-9-un-peacekeepers.html.

[8] Id.

[9] Ban ‘outraged’ by deadly attack on UN peacekeepers in Mali, UN News Centre (Oct. 3, 2014), http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48998#.VDWW_PldXNw.

[10] Mali’s UN troops killed in deadliest attack, BBC News (Oct. 3, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29475975.

[11] The Associated Press, Mali: Gunmen Kill 9 U.N. Peacekeepers, N.Y. Times (Oct. 3, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/04/world/africa/mali-gunmen-kill-9-un-peacekeepers.html.

[12] Kobane: IS and Syria Kurds in fierce gun battles, BBC News (Oct. 8, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29532291.

[13] Mali conflict: UN urged to send more troops, BBC News (Oct. 8, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29547051.

[14] UN force commanders brief Security Council on challenges facing ‘blue helmets,UN News Centre (Oct. 9, 2014), http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49037#.VDdAUxZPS2w.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] OpenCanada Staff, Global Priorities and the UN General Debate, Canadian International Council (Oct. 7, 2014), http://opencanada.org/features/graphic/global-priorities-and-the-un-general-debate/.


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The Climate Summit 2014 – The Best of Intentions, But Missed the Mark

Natalie Krajinovic

The Climate Summit 2014 was held on September 23, 2014 at the UN Headquarters in New York City.

The UN Climate Summit commenced last week in New York City, coinciding with Climate Week. The heightened attention brought to last week’s events echoes serious concerns involving the environment and international obligations. These events are indicative of the growing attention paid to states’ relationship with the environment, yet what is lacking from these events is substantive reform that will have a lasting, positive impact on the environment. 

There have been a large number of demonstrations and rallies prior to the UN Climate Summit, urging heads of states to take more stringent action to prevent climate change. The People’s Climate March “ . . . campaign[ed] for curbs on carbon emissions, ahead of the UN climate summit in New York . . . In Manhattan, organisers said some 310,000 people joined a march that was also attended by UN chief Ban Ki-moon. Earlier, huge demonstrations took place in Australia and Europe.”[1] These global demonstrations have involved more than 600,000 people, with the rallies in New York accounting for more than half of the global demonstrators.[2]

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Despite the public outcry for environmental reform, critics of climate change conferences have urged for stronger action by states, instead of general good-faith obligations to manage climate change. “Underneath the overheated rhetoric [of the Summit] and the U.N. platitudes about acting together, the signs of failure are already apparent. The original intent of the summit was to put world leaders on the spot . . . Instead, the leaders that came were let off the hook . . . [as] they are only expected to submit their proposals by March next year” before the next summit in Paris.[3] Critics are ultimately demanding stronger state response to climate change, but have yet to see quantitative results.

International law, by nature, is often difficult to bridge with domestic law and environmental law, in particular, poses many enforcement challenges. For example, states are not necessarily required to enforce environmental protection law within their domestic jurisdiction unless they give credence to international environmental treaties. Furthermore, the limited use of judicial enforcement for international environmental law means that enforcement is problematic.[4] Ultimately, the faulty enforcement of international law allows for the inconsistent implementation of environmental law reform.

Alternative renewable energy sources should be promoted in any new environmental protection reform.

This particular UN Climate Change Summit initially appeared to have a different tone from climate change conferences in the past. Attending states have affirmatively acknowledged the rising emissions levels and other environmental deteriorations and have vocalized the need for more stringent reform. For example, China pledged for the first time to take strong action against climate change as result of its emissions levels (the world’s highest) peaking in the near future.[5] Yet, the recent crises of the rise of IS,[6] tensions between Ukraine and Russia,[7] and the West African Ebola epidemic have overshadowed the importance of environmental protections.

Despite the seriousness of these global events, the Summit was the largest meeting of world leaders on climate change.[8] The aim is now for global leaders to reconvene in Paris in 2015 to assemble an agreement specifically addressing environmental concerns.[9] Yet, when we look at the effectiveness of this year’s Summit, there is much to be desired in terms of a stringent framework specifically targeting environmental protection. Robert Orr, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, stated that “[w]e now need a meaningful, universal climate agreement.”[10] Such a climate agreement is the missing tool needed to enforce consistent and qualitative environmental protection standards.

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Part of the issue regarding the global acceptance of environmental protection agreement involves states’ priority of having such a treaty. Wealthy nations that are ranked “very high” according to the UN Human Development Index have ranked environmental protection as number nine out of sixteen in a list of societal measures.[11] Poorer nations ranked as “low” according to the UN Human Development Index have ranked environmental protection as last in a list of the same societal measures.[12] These two statistics bring up worrying implications. First, wealthy nations still ranked environmental protection relatively low, indicating their sluggish interest in environmental preservation. Second, poorer nations are simply unable to afford the costly and intensive measures needed to reduce emissions. Ultimately, the disparity in wealth indicates the wide-ranging difference in environmental protection interest – those who can financially do something about the problem have no interest in doing anything.

Arguably, the best outcome for this Summit would have resulted in a stringent frameworks for pollution and emissions regulation agreed to by all participants. International environmental law, like many areas of international law, relies heavily upon the use of international convention, treaties and customary norms as a method of governance.[13] This disconnect between priorities only further strengthens the argument that the global community as a whole must respond to climate change. Poorer nations simply cannot afford to alter their behavior to allow for environmental protections. Wealthy nations, however, have the capacity to not only develop their own environmental standards, but assist these developing nations in reforming their environmental policy. It is only through this wide-reaching commitment that environmental protection reform will occur.

 

Natalie Krajinovic is a University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. candidate (’15), with a concentration in Business Law. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts in English and East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto, St. George. Natalie has always had an interest in international law and policy. While studying at the University of Toronto, she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Toronto Globalist, an international relations magazine with chapters across the globe. She currently serves as the President of the International Law Society and as the Comments Editor for the Journal of International Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Natalie is also a law clerk for John H. Denick & Associates, P.A., a business law firm in downtown Baltimore.

[1] Laura Westbrook, Climate change summit: Global rallies demand action, BBC News (Sept. 21, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29301969.

[2] Id.

[3] Rupert Darwall, The Air Comes Out of the Climate Change Talks, Real Clear Politics (Sept. 24, 2014), http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/09/24/the_air_comes_out_of_the_climate_change_talks_124087.html.

[4] Omar E. García-Bolívar, Lack of Judicial Independence and Its Impact on Transnational and International Litigation, 18 L. & Bus. Rev. Am. 29, 32 (2012) (citing John S. Baker Jr. & Agustín Parise, Conflicts in International Tort Litigation Between U.S. and Latin American Courts, 42 U. Miami Inter-Am. L. Rev. 1, 24 (2010) (“Countries are not compelled to enforce foreign judgments but do so as a matter of comity, which “[r]ests on the principle of reciprocity which is generally the basis for relations among sovereign nations.”).

[5] UN climate summit: China pledges emissions action, BBC News (Sept. 24, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-29334807.

[6] Ryan Crocker, Airstrikes on ISIS Should Expand to Syria, N.Y. Times (Aug. 22, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/08/22/should-the-us-work-with-assad-to-fight-isis/airstrikes-on-isis-should-expand-to-syria.

[7] David M. Herszenhorn, Ukrainian President Sets Sights on Closer E.U. Ties, N.Y. Times (Sept. 25, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/26/world/europe/petro-poroshenko-ukraine-eu.html?ref=world.

[8] After the Summit, planners look toward Lima, then Paris, Climate Summit 2014 (Sept. 25, 2014), http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/2014/09/summit-planners-look-toward-lima-paris/.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Brad Plumer, Why rich countries worry more about global warming than poor ones, Vox (Sept. 23, 2014), http://www.vox.com/2014/9/23/6835285/why-rich-countries-worry-more-about-climate-change-than-poor-ones.

[12] Id.

[13] International Law: Cases and Materials 1486 (Lori F. Damrosch, et al. eds.) (5th ed. 2009).


1 Comment

Time to Break the Silence:  Shining a Light on the Conflict in the Central African Republic

Jillian Bokey

International human rights violations are the modern-day plague—wiping out hundreds of thousands of people in short periods of time and the international community is facing so many of these plagues today.  Unfortunately, a large portion of the world is unaware of the atrocities taking place every day across the globe.  The most well known violations are taking place in Ukraine and Syria—it seems that there is new coverage every day on Ukraine.  Every once in a while the media catches us up on Syria, where a civil war has taken the lives of well over 100,000 people and displaced millions.[1]  Recently, barrel bombs were dropped on a school, killing young children, two men were crucified in the streets, and the use of sarin and other poisonous gases has become more and more regular.[2]  It is the politically charged actions that get the most attention in the media.  But what about the rest of the world?

Ukraine and Syria are not the only places with human rights issues; they plague the entire world.  This post seeks to shed a little light on the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR)—a place we never hear about and a people entrenched in havoc and tragedy.  It is important that we break the silence on the crisis and give a voice to the people that desperately need help. 

Image Source: BBC News

Brief Introduction of the Role of Human Rights in International Law 

I think it is fair to say that when people think of international law, they probably think about a couple of different topics:  war, terrorism, foreign policy and relations, and human rights.  Of course I make this statement without having conducted any poll or survey.  Human rights have become an extremely relevant and important topic in modern international law.[3]  The atrocities that took place during World War II prompted a change in international law—a change that brought human rights concerns to the forefront, starting with the creation of UN.[4]  The UN Charter included the importance of fundamental human rights, the dignity and worth of each human person and the equal rights of men and women.[5]  Numerous conventions centering on human rights quickly followed, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.[6]  Rights and responsibilities recognized under human rights law include the right to self-determination, the right to equality and nondiscrimination, the right to life, the right to not be enslaved or forced labor, the right to not be tortured or ill-treated, the right to fairness in the criminal process and the administration of justice, the right to not be detained or imprisoned, the right to privacy, the right to travel, the right to seek asylum and refugee status, the right to citizenship or nationality, the right of protection for family, the right to own property, freedom of religion and belief, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, the right to participate politically and vote, and many more.[7]  The recognition of fundamental human rights has had a dramatic effect on the treatment of peoples and public opinion across the globe.

Ignorance in the Media

It is unfortunate that media outlets, specifically those in the United States, do not share the stories of human rights violations.  Only those that are “popular” are shared with the American public.  That is a problem.  The United States, along with the international community, has a responsibility to stand for and respect fundamental human rights, to be the voice for others that cannot share their own stories, to be the people that somehow find a way to give others hope in their own future even if they are located in another country.  It is important that a conversation about these global human rights violations is started and shared throughout the world in order to educate our global society about the injustices taking place in and outside of the places we all live.  Picking and choosing the topics of discussion on human rights violations is just perpetuating an ignorance and false impression about the status of the people of our world.

Christian anti-balaka attack the property of Muslim civilians in an effort to destroy everything in their commumity

Image Source: The Telegraph 

Starting a Conversation about the Crisis in the Central African Republic

The current conflict in CAR can be traced back to the coup in 2003 that removed then President Ange-Félix Patassé from office.[8]  François Bozizé, the army’s chief of staff, formed a relationship with Chad’s President Déby, and seized control of CAR, remaining in power for the next eight years with the help of Déby and the Chadian troops.[9]  When Bozizé began to change the dynamic of the business relationship, and sought connections with South Africa, Déby began to encourage a coalition of Muslim rebels—The Seleka—from CAR to take over the country.[10]  The Seleka was comprised of factions of different organizations.[11]  The Seleka’s campaign to overthrow the government and President Bozizé started in December of 2012, stating that they sought to “liberate the country and bring peace and security to the people.”[12]  Violence ensued, resulting in the Seleka taking control of the capital of CAR, Bangui, and fifteen of the sixteen CAR provinces.[13]  One of the leaders of the Seleka appointed himself as interim president.[14]  The Seleka members have destroyed rural villages, looted all over CAR, have raped women and girls, have deliberately killed numerous women, children, and elderly individuals, deliberately destroyed homes, destroyed and stole food and seed stocks creating a massive food shortage, and have left residents to fend for themselves without clean water or shelter.[15]  The Seleka do not seem to be the only guilty party as there are reports of major human rights abuses taking place under the Bozizé government.[16]  The abuses by the Seleka forces prompted Christian militias to organize counterattacks and defenses—the groups are known as anti-balaka fighters.[17]  They too have committed abuses, but against the Muslim population.[18]  The anti-balaka fighters attack those they believe are supporting the rebel coalition.[19]  The use of child soldiers has been a widespread issue as well.[20]

Soldiers drag the lifeless body of a suspected Seleka rebel after he was killed. (Jerome Delay/AP)

Image Source: The Washington Post 

Some of the accounts of violence are shockingly brutal.  Human Rights Watch tells of a story of how one Muslim woman was forced to watch the anti-balaka fighters slit the throat of her three-year old son, two other young boys, and an adult relative.[21]  The organization also recounted the story of an adult man who witnessed anti-balaka fighters slitting the throats of 13 of his loved ones.[22]  Seleka fighters sought revenge by ravaging a Christian village killing numerous people and destroying homes.[23]  Although this sounds like a religious conflict, pitting Christians against Muslims, the violence is, at the root of it, economic and political. CAR ranks at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index (ranked 180 out of 187).[24] 

Although the Seleka are no longer in power and a transitional government has been put into place, violence continues and the forced enlistment of child soldiers has not ceased.[25]  International efforts are woefully inadequate in addressing the issues, and the international community has not been keeping up with the crisis, even with troops on the ground.[26]  HRW calls upon the United Nations to deploy a full-scale peacekeeping effort in the region in order to provide protection to the civilians and provide aid to the displaced.[27]  The international community is slowly starting to be cognizant of the abuses, taking action one step at a time.  On May 13, 2014, President Obama ordered sanctions against five individuals tied to the violence and abuses and made way for the potential of future sanctions or penalties.[28]  In issuing the sanctions, President Obama noted that over 2.5 million people, which accounts for half of the population of CAR, need humanitarian assistance, and over 1 million are displaced.[29] 

Conclusion

The international community needs to do more to educate themselves on the status of the conflict in CAR.  Widespread atrocities, from killings to rape to the use of child soldiers are taking place daily.  The international community has a responsibility to act to help put an end to the human rights violations taking place in CAR.  The fighting between the anti-balaka fighters and the Seleka will not stop on its own—too much has happened for a ceasefire to be possible without international influence.  With over half the country in need of humanitarian assistance and a fifth of the country’s citizens already displaced, the time to act is now.  The more people that know about the conflict, the more support an international peacekeeping mission would receive, and the quicker that the millions of innocent CAR civilians can receive the aid, protection, and dignity that they so desperately need and deserve.

 

[1] Loveday Morris, 3 Grim Statistics from 3 Years of Conflict in Syria, Washington Post (Mar. 14, 2014 9:55am), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/03/14/3-grim-statistics-from-3-years-of-conflict-in-syria/

[2] Salma Abdelaziz, Death and Desecration in Syria:  Jihadist Group Crucified Bodies to Send Message, CNN (May 2, 2014 3:11pm), http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/01/world/meast/syria-bodies-crucifixions/; Holly Yand & Saad Abedine, 25 Children Killed in Elementary School Bombing, Syrian Activists Say, CNN (April 30, 2014 7:47am), http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/30/world/meast/syria-civil-war/index.html?hpt=imi_c2; Claims of New Poison Gas Attack in Syria, BBC News (Apr. 12, 2014 11:15am), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27001737.

[3] Dinah Shelton, Remedies in International Human Rights Law 1 (2nd ed. 2005).

[4] Dinah Shelton, Remedies in International Human Rights Law 104 (2nd ed. 2005).

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 105.

[7] David Weissbrodt & Connie de la Vega, International Human Rights Law:  An Introduction 30-119 (2007).

[8] Human Rights Watch, “I Can Still Smell the Dead”:  The Forgotten Human Rights Crisis in the Central African Republic, p. 29 (Sept. 2013).

[9] Graeme Wood, Hell is an Understatement:  A report from the bloody, crumbling Central African Republic, New Republic (Apr. 30, 2014), http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117519/central-african-republic-conflict-africas-bloodiest-fight.

[10] Id.

[11] Human Rights Watch, “I Can Still Smell the Dead”:  The Forgotten Human Rights Crisis in the Central African Republic, p. 29 (Sept. 2013).

[12] Id. at 5.

[13] Id.

[14] Id. 

[15] Id. at 5-6.

[16] Id. at 7.

[17] Human Rights Watch, “They Came to Kill”:  Escalating Atrocities in the Central African Republic, p. 1 (Dec. 10, 2013), http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/12/18/they-came-kill.

[18] Id.

[19] Human Rights Watch, Central African Republic: A Country In Turmoil, One Year On, Security, Aid, Justice Remain Essential (Mar. 23, 2014), http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/23/central-african-republic-country-turmoil.

[20] Obama Orders Sanctions Against 5 Over Central African Republic Violence, Wall Street Journal (May 14, 2014 12:18am), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304081804579560532520785604.

[21] Human Rights Watch, “They Came to Kill”:  Escalating Atrocities in the Central African Republic, p. 5 (Dec. 10, 2013), http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/12/18/they-came-kill.

[22] Id.

[23] Id. at 6.

[24] Jim Wallis, Don’t Blame the Central African Republic Conflict on Religion, Time (Apr. 9, 2014), http://time.com/55813/dont-blame-the-central-african-republic-conflict-on-religion/.

[25] Obama Orders Sanctions Against 5 Over Central African Republic Violence, Wall Street Journal (May 14, 2014 12:18am), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304081804579560532520785604.

[26] Human Rights Watch, Central African Republic: A Country In Turmoil, One Year On, Security, Aid, Justice Remain Essential (Mar. 23, 2014), http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/23/central-african-republic-country-turmoil.

[27] Id.

[28] Obama Orders Sanctions Against 5 Over Central African Republic Violence, Wall Street Journal (May 14, 2014 12:18am), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304081804579560532520785604.

[29] Id.