Saturday, March 31, 2007

Disturbing details of Hicks' guilty plea

As the details of David Hicks’ guilty plea before a military commission in Guantanamo have emerged, the plea looks even more dubious than it did when Anna Koransky blogged about it here, earlier this week. (And see Grace O'Malley's new post below.) Apparently, Hicks didn’t even offer an unqualified guilty plea. Instead, the Washington Post reports that Hicks offered an Alford plea, admitting only that the prosecution had enough evidence to convict him, but not, crucially, admitting guilt. Over at Balkinization, David Glazier suggests (among other critiques) that this alone should undermine the plea because a guilty plea without full admission of guilt is not permissible under military law. As Kevin Heller has argued at Opinio Juris and as the Post reports in some detail, other aspects of the plea deal should raise eyebrows as well. Among the more striking details are Hicks’ change of story on whether he was abused by US forces and the “novel protections” the deal offers to the US, such as his agreement not to sue anyone in the US government (which will surely prove superfluous since he was never "illegally treated" in the first place, right?).

Hicks-ups

Let's add, to the important concerns that Amelia Earhart [IntLawGrrl Elena Baylis] raises in her above post on David Hicks' sort-of-guilty plea, the condition that he not talk to the media for 12 months -- a condition that Center for Constitutional Rights President Michael Ratner aptly termed "a modern cutting out of his tongue." We've seen these disturbing add-on waivers of rights before.
Recall the case of Louisiana-born Yaser Esam Hamdi, caught in Afghanistan and held for years as an "enemy combatant" in a South Carolina brig. As soon as the Supreme Court held that he was entitled to a due-process-protective hearing on the lawfulness of his detention, the President ordered Hamdi released -- but only after he relinquished his U.S. citizenship.
The nature of these waivers appears transparent. The government contends that Hicks recanted because he had lied -- and yet a reporter with whom I just spoke suggested to me that the very fact that the government is trying so hard to silence Hicks is indicative of the truth of his initial allegations.

A gauntlet for the international community

Thanks to Judge Taghrid Hikmet of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for the inspiring comments she delivered at the Women in International Law Interest Group luncheon Friday during the American Society of International Law's annual meeting in Washington.
"In Jordan we have no natural resources," Hikmet said of her home state. "But we believe that the human being is the greatest resource we can have."
In talking about her decades-long "struggle to change the status quo," Hikmet recalled a 1982 interview. Noting that "the number of women lawyers at that time was minuscule," she told the reporter, "'Where the court is a forest full of men there is no space for women.'" To a question about judges, she said that "'if the judicial council was willing to the appointment of a woman, in spite of the objections of some believers of Islam, I will be extremely happy to be the first one.'" Indeed she was, though her appointment as Jordan's 1st judge did not take place for another 15 years. Hikmet said she took great comfort in the congratulations she received at the time from Sharia judges. There were doubters, though, including a university professor who told her that "women being emotional and sentimental were not suitable to be judges. I looked at him," Hikmet continued, "and said, 'It is true that a woman is emotional and sentimental. But this is not something that a woman regrets. It is a gift from God, to distinguish her from other creatures.'"
Eventually Jordan nominated Hikmet to the ICTR; she was the 2d highest votegetter, receiving "40 votes from the Islamic group although I am not covering my head." The 1st Arab, Muslim woman ever to serve as an international criminal tribunal judge, Hikmet stressed that she is just one of many "Arab and Muslim women who are qualified for such positions." Thus did she cast a welcome gauntlet at the international community.

On March 31, ...

... 1959, the Dalai Lama found refuge in India following a 2-week foot trek across the Himalayas from Tibet. Winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace prize, he remains in exile to this day.
... 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella signed an Edict of Expulsion, ordering Jewish Spaniards to leave the country or convert to Christianity.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Not uniform treatment

There is nothing new about women serving in uniform; indeed, yesterday marked the passing in Maryland of 109-year-old World War I veteran Charlotte Winters. Seventy-seven servicewomen, from the United States, Britain, and Ukraine, have died in Iraq. Yet it must be admitted that women in uniform remain subject to exceptional treatment.
The fact is apparent in the way that Jessica Lynch, 1 of several persons seized in Iraq at the same time, became a POW icon in the eyes of the U.S. government and populace. And it is apparent in the focus these last days on British seaman Faye Turney. Her Iranian captors featured video of this "wife and mother," wearing an out-of-uniform headscarf, eating a meal and, ultimately, making political statements that served Iranian interests. Initially they promised that she, and she alone, would get an early release from custody. Our 24-hour media duly repeated these images and events, over and over again.
It is a disquieting relief to see this morning that the awful limelight has shifted to 1 of Turney's comrades, a male. Perhaps focus now may shift away from gender-tinged celebritization and toward a quick conclusion of the crisis.

On March 30, ...

... 1989, Beverley McLachlin was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. She has been Canada's Chief Justice for the last 7 years.
... 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward concluded the so-called "Seward's Folly" -- an agreement by which the United States would buy Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. Nearly 80 years later, Alaska became the 49th state.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

About Nancy Ward

Thank you for starting this blog and encouraging me, a virgin blogger, to join you who make-up the "grrls" on the frontier of international law. I am looking forward to reading more of your musings (and learning how to post properly!). To introduce myself, I write to you as Nancy Ward or NANYE-HI GHI-GA-U (one who goes about), a Cherokee Indian, mother, peacemaker, a "Beloved Woman" or final arbitrator of disputes among the Cherokee. She lead in dangerous times, c. 1738-1824, negotiating the first treaty between the Tribe and the U.S. government. Her belief in international law was shaken by the U.S. government's abrogation of its responsibility under the treaties it signed with the Tribe. I fear we way live in similar times. My great, great grandmother was Cherokee so I ponder whether we are not such distant colleagues. It is with great humility I publish under this name.

Courts and confessions

For anyone mulling the confessions at Combatant Status Review Tribunal hearings of 2 men held for years in secret CIA prisons, this 52-year-old decision is worth a read:
In People v. La Frana, 122 N.E.2d 583 (Ill. 1954), Illinois' highest court set aside a murder conviction after finding that the confession on which it was based had been coerced. The facts are hauntingly familiar: Midway through a 2-week detention in 1937, defendant, who had not confessed despite days of interrogation, was put in a room with a police captain who
hit him repeatedly with his fists and with a night stick. His hands were then handcuffed behind him and he was blindfolded. A rope was put in between the handcuffs and he was suspended from a door with his hands behind him and his feet almost off the floor. While he was hanging from the door, he was repeatedly struck until he lapsed into unconsciousness. When he lost consciousness he was taken down from the door and when he regained consciousness he would be hung back up on the door and again questioned and struck. After about fifteen minutes of this treatment he agreed to sign a confession. (p.585)
The government having failed its "burden of establishing," "by clear and convincing testimony," "that the injuries were not administered in order to obtain the confession," the court ordered a new trial. And it noted defense counsel's "suggestion" that police had held defendant without charge for another week "to allow time for the injuries received in the beating to heal up, so as to make it more difficult to prove that the beating had occurred." (p.586)
That defense counsel? John Paul Stevens of Chicago, since 1976 a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Women of the House(s)

A treasure trove of essays and artifacts about the women who've served in the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States -- the 1st was Jeannette Rankin, Democrat of Montana, 1917-1919 and 1941-1943 -- is now available at Women in Congress website. Thanks to Legal History Blog and Cliopatria for the head's up.

On March 29, ...

... 1951, a federal jury convicted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg of conspiracy to commit espionage by transmitting nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. The two would be executed 2 years later.
... 1461, during the War of the Roses, Edward of York defeated Margaret, known as the Red Queen, to become King Edward IV of England.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Detention and Immigrant Children: Take Two

Immigration raids throughout the country earlier this month forcibly separated children of undocumented workers from their parents. Senator Dianne Feinstein asked DHS Secretary Chertoff about the Department's actions that reportedly left some young children stranded at day care centers and others without adequate adult oversight for days at a time:

[N]ews reports detail that one baby, who was breast-feeding, had to be hospitalized for dehydration because her mother remained in detention.

Leaving aside the Convention on the Rights of the Child (for reasons explained here), this practice of arbitrarily denying parents access to their children appears to violate Article 17 (right to family life) of the ICCPR, a treaty that the US has ratified, albeit as non-self-executing. The remedy? Litigation and advocacy efforts might draw authority from the international human rights angle, and if domestic remedies fail, Mexico and others might think about reviving ICCPR Article 41, which authorizes state-to-state complaints before the Human Rights Committee.

Cultural Densitivity

To Lakshmi Bai's account of the later-reversed decision in which a U.S. judge denied asylum to a battered wife, out of a skewed sense of cultural sensitivity, must be added this:
Judge Christa Datz-Winter has denied a fast-track divorce to a fellow German beaten by her husband. Setting out reasoning since condemned in and out of Germany, the judge did not follow law of the country where she and the unnamed woman, who happens to be Muslim, hold citizenship. Asserting that the "Koran ... sanctions such physical abuse," the judge applied her own understanding of the couple's "Moroccan cultural milieu, in which it is common for husbands to beat their wives." Datz-Winter relied on a verse that is at times translated to condone chastisement, though such translations have been questioned by some scholars, including Laleh Bakhtiar and UCLA's Khaled Abou El Fadl.
For thoughtful analysis of how courts might consider culture, turn to The Cultural Defense by our colleague Alison Renteln.

French Holocaust judgment reversed

Yesterday, the administrative appeals court in Bordeaux reversed the decision against the SNCF handed down by the administrative tribunal in Toulouse last year (see my earlier post), ruling that the administrative courts had no jurisdiction over the SNCF. The railway company had no public authority of its own: it merely followed government orders and cannot be held liable for any act separate from the state’s. The plaintiffs intend to appeal to the Conseil d’Etat, the French supreme administrative court, though last June’s ruling is still valid with respect to the French government, which did not appeal.

On March 28, ...

... 1953, U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) was born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico.
... 1871, a revolutionary government formed as a result of political upheaval in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War -- the Paris Commune -- was installed at Paris' Hôtel de Ville, or city hall. Following bloody battles, the commune fell 2 months later.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

J & J Joins the Fight

UNIFEM, UNAIDS, and Johnson & Johnson announced last Thursday that Botswana, Dominican Republic, India, Nigeria, and Vietnam will receive grants to address the connections between HIV/AIDS prevalence and violence against women. The grants are part of an initiative to establish public-private partnerships to combat both violence against women and the spread of HIV. UNIFEM Executive Director Noleen Heyzer observes, “Violence against women and HIV are pandemics that deny women’s human rights and devastate individual lives and societies.” The UN and the international women’s rights community have recognized the connection between violence against women and HIV/AIDS for many years. Welcome aboard, corporate America.

The Asylum Law Barometer

Recent developments in asylum law:
Rape as "personal aggression"
In the Rizvie case, a Tamil asylum seeker claimed the Sri Lankan police sexually assaulted her because they thought she supported the LTTE. The Board of Immigration Appeals found the police officer was solely motivated by personal aggression, thus the attack did not constitute persecution. The 2d Cir. disagreed, noting that sexual violence in the context of civil strife is often not about sex, but instead about domination, indimidation, and control. Despite great strides in international law towards ending the tradition of impunity for rape in conflict, our immigration courts have a long way to go.
Forced marriage
In the Gao case, a Chinese asylum seeker's parents sold her to an abusive man who she refused to marry. Last year, the 2d Cir. overturned the Immigration Judge's holding that this was a private dispute between two families over a "marriage arrangement", finding that forced marriage constitutes persecution, and that Gao was eligible for asylum as a woman sold into forced marriage. This month, the AG filed a cert petition, arguing that "the highly sensitive context of culturally diverse approaches to marriage" requires a clearer definition of forced marriage. It's not apparent to me which part of an involuntary marriage to a batterer is unclear, but it's surely not true that, as the AG asserts, 96% of marriages in India are are arranged on terms similar to Gao's.

Military Commission Free-for-All

David Hicks, an Australian charged with providing material support to terrorists is reportedly the first Guantánamo detainee to be “convicted” by a military commission. In fact, he was neither tried nor convicted. After waiting almost 5 ½ years to be arraigned, Hicks pleaded guilty after the commission degenerated as the judge, in a surprise move, dismissed Hicks’ two civilian attorneys and the remaining military attorney accused the judge of bias. He was later quoted as saying the judge was “fixing the rules to fix…mistakes”. Indeed, one of Hick’s civilian attorneys stated as he left the commission: “You cannot predict from one day to the next what the rules are.”

On March 27, ...

... 2006, the Commission on Human Rights, established pursuant to Art. 68 of the 1945 U.N. Charter, held its last meeting after having been replaced by the new Human Rights Council. Among the Commission's many achievements had been the drafting of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as detailed in Mary Ann Glendon's A World Made New.
(photo of Commission Chair Eleanor Roosevelt holding the UDHR courtesy of the U.N. archive)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Did He or Didn't He? Or When an Apology Just Might Not Be an Apology

First he said they asked for it. Then he said it again. Now he's apologized? Prime Minister Abe of Japan may or may not have apologized for Japan's enslavement of "comfort women" during World War II. Pardon me for being a little skeptical here. Does the act of apology require actual feelings of sorrow and regret? Or mere acknowledgment that one should, really, be experiencing such sorrow? Does a coerced apology confer to the victims the same "comfort" and closure as a freely offered acknowledgment of sorrow and contrition?
Meanwhile, from other parts of the world, come an outpouring of expressions and rituals of sorrow and regret to commemorate the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Maybe it takes two hundred years.

Bird Flu Samples, Vaccines, and Equity

The ongoing dialogue between Indonesia and the World Health Organization over bird flu samples provides an interesting example of dilemmas of equity in the international community. Indonesia has departed in the last couple months from a 50-year old-tradition of countries sharing free samples of viruses with research centers in the United States, Britain, Japan, and Australia. As reported in the New York Times today, Indonesia continues to maintain that it will only share its H5N1 bird flu samples—which are critical to the WHO’s ongoing monitoring of the virus—if it receives a guarantee of affordable access to vaccines. In her opening remarks at the current meeting between Indonesia and the WHO, Siti Fadillah Supari, Indonesia’s health minister stated: “We must work together to change the perverse incentives that have resulted in developing countries being disadvantaged.” She also noted to urgency of assisting poor countries with domestic vaccine production. Indonesia and the WHO may reach agreement this week on the issue, but however it gets resolved, the dispute highlights the need for international lawyers to consistently search for creative ways to engage ongoing structural inequity.

Introducing Mother Jones



Dubbed the “most dangerous woman in America” by opponents, Mary Harris (Mother) Jones was a radical labor organizer from the 1870s to the 1920s. Jones was born in Ireland in 1837 and moved to the Unites States as a young girl. After losing her family in 1867 and, later, her property in the great Chicago fire of 1871, she devoted herself to the labor movement. Jones cultivated a mother image and soon became known as “Mother Jones.” In the 1890s, Jones began to organize mine workers in West Virginia. As a result of a particularly violent mine strike in 1912-1913, a West Virginia military court convicted her of conspiracy to commit murder. The governor later commuted her sentence in response to public outrage. In addition to her tireless labor activism, Jones also helped to organize the early Social Democratic Party and the Industrial Workers of the World. She was a fighter. She famously rejected any suggestion that she act “like a lady.” In response to the charge of being “unladylike,” she said: “a lady is the last thing on earth I want to be. Capitalists sidetrack the women into clubs and make ladies of them.” For books on Mother Jones, see here.

Elian Gonzalez redux?

Though some attempt to play it down, there are some disturbing parallels between the Elian Gonzalez saga and the recent case in which Florida’s Department of Children and Families is seeking to give custody to a Cuban-American family rather than a young girl’s father, still living in Cuba. In Elian’s case, he arrived in the United States after most of the occupants of the boat, including his mother, died at sea. The federal government ultimately decided that the then-five year old boy could not seek asylum through his distant Miami relatives and returned him to his father in Cuba. The saga and the famous picture of federal agents taking custody of the boy may have swayed enough Cuban-American votes to affect the 2000 vote in Florida. (Can we hold Elian responsible for the George W. Bush presidency?) (The opponents of returning him were right about one thing: he became a useful symbol for the Castro regime, though there was surely no resolution that would allow him a normal life out of the media spotlight.)
The new case is a state case, triggered by the removal of the girl from the custody of her mother, after she stopped taking her psychiatric medicine. Because of the different legal context, less is known. The dependency court judge has issued a gag order and it is unclear how any information was leaked to the local Miami paper. But there seems to be a disturbing parallel distortion of the usual legal standards because the father is a Cuban in Cuba.
Ordinarily a parent has a right to custody absent a showing of harm to a child; the test is not, as reported, whether another family is “more fit” than the father to raise her, as child welfare authorities are quoted as saying; the Supreme Court in Troxel v Granville indicated that the US Constitution requires such deference. The Florida officials seem disposed to avoid this rule by suggesting that the father may be unfit because he did not act in Cuba to safeguard the child from the mother’s abusive behavior. Whether that is even true depends on facts about what happened on the island – yet the stories do not indicate if she were abusive then, only that she was in the United States after she “stopped taking her psychiatric medicine” at some time after she arrived. Similarly, the same authorities, who seem to think they can know what happened years ago in Cuba, have simultaneously expressed unwillingness to place the child with her father because they are distrustful of the home study done in Cuba by an independent agency. Meanwhile, the father may be disadvantaged because of legal impediments – whether from US or Cuban authorities – that have prevented him from appearing in person at the Florida court hearings.
As a feminist and a student of transnational family law, I wonder if the “best interests of the child” requires or permits American agencies and courts to apply our law to cases involving foreign parents, uninflected by a recognition of different laws and cultures. It may indeed be true that the father has neglected or abandoned his daughter under criteria that are not parochial, or that his home is sufficiently bad that his daughter should instead be placed with legal strangers by an American agency whose record of protecting children, while recognizing the the interests of parents leaves much to be desired.
There is reason for concern, however. The Hague Convention on Child Abduction would have provided significant protection for the father, if Cuba were a party. It might yet provide a model for what the Florida courts could do in the interests of comity. Then again, this isn’t simply a transnational family law dispute – it may, unavoidably, be another chapter in the battle of the Cuban government vs. the Cuban exile community in South Florida.

(Posted by Mary I. Coombs under the name of her transnational foremother, Charming Betsy)

On March 26, ...


... 1930, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was born in El Paso, Texas.
... 1940, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was born in Baltimore, Maryland.
... 1973, women 1st were permitted to trade on the floor of the 200-year-old London Stock Exchange.

You go grrl!

On this day, our own Diane Marie Amann (a.k.a. Grace O’Malley) receives an honorary doctorate in international criminal law from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Professor Amann is only the third woman to have been so honored by the University’s law faculty, which bestowed an honorary degree on Eleanor Roosevelt in 1948, as she was completing her work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Winnie Mandela, who received an honorary degree when her then husband, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned in South Africa. Please join me in extending to Professor Amann a heartfelt congratulations for this richly deserved honor!
Earlier this month 7 other leading lights in international law were honored in another Dutch city on International Women's Day. As Grace O'Malley reported on March 8, the Open Society Institute (OSI) honored 7 "Women Groundbreakers in the First International Courts." I had the privilege of emceeing the event honoring these truly remarkable women. The honorees included Judge Rosalyn Higgins, who is the first female President of the International Court of Justice--and remains the only female judge ever to serve on the ICJ. In contrast to the ICJ, where it took more than 60 years for women to reach the Court, women have played leadership roles in the contemporary generation of international criminal courts almost from the outset. The other OSI honorees--Hon. Louise Arbour; Ms. Carla del Ponte; Judges Elizabeth Odio Benito, Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, Navanethem Pillay, and Dorothee de Sampayo--have all served in leadership roles in the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and/or the International Criminal Court.
One by one, the honorees are phenomenal. Together, they are an historic phenomenon. Each has used her leadership position to transform the abstract law of nations into an encompassing law of humanity. Notably, women have served as judges in every major case before an international criminal court that established a break-through precedent on gender-related violence. The impact of their work will reach across generations to come.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

More Holocaust Claims Against SNCF

In June 2006, the administrative tribunal of Toulouse found the SNCF (Société nationals des Chemins de Fer, the French railway system) liable, along with the French government, for complicity in crimes against humanity for transporting relatives of European Parliament member Alain Lipietz to the hub near Paris from which Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps. In particular, it was found that the SNCF failed to prove it acted under duress when it packed deportees into cattle cars in conditions "incompatible with human dignity," yet charged them for third-class tickets. Nor when it billed the government for its costs, even after France was liberated. In the meantime, a class action involving more than 100 Americans has been filed in the United States. These cases follow on Holocaust litigation brought in the 1990s under the Alien Tort Claims Act or Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign victims of human rights violations to sue for damages in federal court. Since the landmark 1980 case of Filártiga v. Pena Irala, victims of, inter alia, torture, forced disappearance, and genocide perpetrated by members of defunct regimes have met with a certain amount of success. The Holocaust litigation, however, created a diplomatic flap and ended in negotiated settlements including billion-dollar payouts from Germany and German businesses, and a multimillion-dollar settlement with French banks. France also provides pensions to current and former French residents orphaned by Nazi atrocities and has undertaken efforts to return spoliated property. However, the French Jewish community is deeply divided over litigation, which some consider exploitation of the Holocaust. Paris attorney Arno Klarsfeld, one of several lawyers representing victims or their survivors in the 1999 trial of Maurice Papon for crimes against humanity, defends the SNCF in the cases in the United States, claiming that the convoys were German, not French. He predicts that the Lipietz case will be overruled on appeal. That decision should be released March 27.

On March 25, ...

... 1957 (50 years ago today), Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands signed the Treaty of Rome Establishing the European Community. Today the descendant of this "Common Market," the European Union, has 27 member states.
... 1807 (200 years ago today), the British Parliament passed An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. The act would take full effect in 1808, as did a similar U.S. statute; however, it would be decades before enslavement of persons from Africa ended in either country.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Independence for Kosovo?

The UN special envoy who has been supervising the negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia for the last year made a splash this week by calling for independence for Kosovo. With this endorsement, Martti Ahtisaari has adopted Kosovo’s position virtually wholesale, indicating that he holds out no hope for a negotiated compromise. Now, more than seven years after the Security Council put off the question of Kosovo’s political status by authorizing UN administration of the province, this hot potato is back in its hands. It is scheduled to discuss the issue on Monday. Will the Security Council adopt Ahtisaari’s proposal, and if so, will Serbia accept this result? Russia has already criticized Ahtisaari’s conclusions, but has not gone so far as to say it would veto a resolution adopting his proposal. With its aspirations to EU membership and greater social and economic ties to other European states, Serbia certainly has greater incentives to comply with an adverse Security Council resolution than would Kosovo with a resolution authorizing the reinstitution of Serbian authority. Stay tuned…

Iraq & Vietnam

Historians Lloyd Gardner and Marilyn Young have published a new book, Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam Or, How Not to Learn from the Past. It draws on the U.S. experience in the Vietnam War for apt comparisons and assesses the role of China, European reactions, counterinsurgency, the imperial presidency, the manufacture of intelligence, the creation and selling of foreign policy, and the demographics of military service. Contributors include the authors, Christian Appy, Andrew Bacevich, Alex Danchev, David Elliott, Gabriel Kolko, Walter LaFeber, Wilfried Mausbach, Alfred McCoy, Gareth Porter, John Prados, and me (I wrote an essay on women in the military from Vietnam through today).

Judge Crawford steps up to the plate

Tomorrow the long-delayed military commissions begin anew with proceedings against Australian David Hicks. The charges against David Hicks, along with many other documents related to the commissions, are available on the DoD's Defenselink news site.
The charging sheet reveals that convening authority Susan J. Crawford marked out the charge of "attempted murder in violation of the law of war," leaving two specifications of "providing material support to terrorism," a charge that carries a maximum sentence of confinement for life. It's one of 29 crimes laid out in the Military Commission Act of 2006. Judge Crawford was appointed to oversee the new commissions after completing a 15-year term at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), the military's highest court. Prior to joining the bench she served Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush in key Department of Defense legal billets.
The DefenseLink news site also includes the transcripts of the unclassified portions of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT's) held over the last few weeks for the high-value detainees transferred to Guantamano Bay last fall. Detainees do not have access to counsel at these status hearings, but they do have the services of a misnamed "personal representative," a field-grade military officer with a top-secret clearance who is assigned to manage the detainee's participation in the process. The "personal representative" does not represent or advocate for the detainee (in fact, she cannot be a judge advocate) and may not treat as privileged any information gained in the course of conversations with the detainee. For more on the CSRT's, see Mark Denbeaux and Joshua W. Denbeaux's important study of previously released transcripts.

I/L women who blog

It seemed too few women were adding their voices to discourse on international law, policy, and practice. With the exception of our colleague Rosa Brooks, few women were publishing on these subjects in the mainstream press, either as columnists or as op-ed contributors. The I/L blogosphere seemed likewise lacking. And so IntLawGrrls was born.
Get yourself a pink car, and you begin to see them everywhere: turns out a number of women whose work touches on transnational matters have sent their 2 cents into cyberworld. We credit those we've seen here, and welcome add-ons to our list.
1st, a heartfelt welcome to our colleagues Dorean Koenig and Linda Malone, who will contribute to AIDP Blog, just launched by the U.S. section of Association internationale de droit pénal/International Association of Penal Law.
Peggy McGuinness is a regular at Opinio Juris, and past guest bloggers there have included Hari Osofsky (our own Mata Hari) and Janet Koven Levit. Over at Concurring Opinions we find Melissa Waters; among the past guest bloggers there are number of women who work in international and comparative arenas, including Francesca Bignami, Allison Marston Danner, Christine Haight Farley.
Good work, all!

Grrls are doin’ it for themselves

Former amateur rally driver and Mumbai entrepreneur Revathi Roy chose International Women’s Day to launch her women only taxi service, Forsche (think German luxury car for-she). Tired of being leered at by male cabbies in rearview mirrors, women in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, have been voicing their concerns about traveling safely as more and more of them travel alone. Not pink, the cabs are silver and blue and take no male passengers over age 12. The service looks not only to be popular, as are similar services in Dubai and Moscow, but also safe. As Roy says of her women drivers, "It's mainly men who are involved in road arguments and accidents. Women are safe drivers and my women will rock."

On March 24, ...

... 1976, a bloodless a coup d'état ousted Isabel Martinez de Perón, a onetime professional dancer who had become President of Argentina following the death of her husband, Juan Perón. In January 2007 Spanish officials investigating human rights abuses arising out of the dirty war waged in Argentina briefly detained her.
... 1989, the Exxon Valdez supertanker beached on a reef in Alaska. Crude oil, 11 million gallons of it, spilled into Prince William Sound, turning the incident into 1 of the world's worst such disasters.
... 1999, the British House of Lords ruled that the former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet could be extradited to Spain to face charges that he was involved in abuses that violated the Convention Against Torture.

Friday, March 23, 2007

CEDAW Comments Released

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has released comments on the reports of fifteen states parties on their implementation of CEDAW.

Highlights:

Lowlights:

  • The Maldives' prohibition on the election of women to the presidency and vice-presidency
  • India's failure to revise colonial-era legislation to broaden the definition of rape and address child abuse
  • Suriname's discriminatory marriage and inheritance laws

And, lest we forget, one serious lowlight: the United States' failure to ratify CEDAW, let alone subject its gender practices to the scrutiny of the Committee . . .

On March 23, ...

... 1980, Óscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, in a homily broadcast throughout the country, urged troops to stop killing other Salvadorans: "Brothers, you are from the same people; you kill your fellow peasant," he said, adding, "No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God." A day later, Romero was shot to death in church.
... 1949, English King George VI gave his assent to the North America Bill by which Newfoundland, till then an independent entity, became a province of Canada.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Is "Inconvenient" True?

Recently watched "An Inconvenient Truth" on DVD. Fidgeted through former Vice President Albert Gore's Global Warming 101 lecture. Mourned, in a simulacrum sort of way, the computer-generated drowning of a puppy-eyed polar bear. But then another animated graphic put an end to stupor: Greenland having melted, the waters of San Francisco Bay swallowed the very house in which I was sitting. OK, get it now.
Gore-as-Cassandra brought the "Inconvenient" news to Congress yesterday. House members seemed to accept Gore's sounding of a "planetary emergency." Yet in spite of a verbal box on the ears from Senate Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.), doubter James Inhofe (R-Okla.) continued to cry hoax.
If Gore is right and "Inconvenient" is true -- and nearly all scientists say that's so -- isn't it time to stop sparring and start doing something?
Cassandra, recall, was right, but by the time others got it, it was too late.

On March 22, ...

... 1972, a proposed Equal Rights Amendment was sent from Congress to states' legislatures. Ratification fell 3 short of the 38 states needed to become part of the U.S. Constitution.
... 1945, several Middle East countries concluded the Pact of the League of Arab States in Cairo, Egypt.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Introducing Eleanor Roosevelt

Upon the death of her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt became an icon in her own right as a vocal champion of international human rights. Most importantly perhaps, she chaired the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which she described as “the international Magna Carta of all mankind.” She also supported the United Nations and helped to found Freedom House, an organization dedicated to the promotion of democratic values. Her work earned her the moniker “First Lady of the World” by President Harry S. Truman. Eleanor Roosevelt is my avatar not only because I, IntLawGrrl Beth Van Schaack, admire her, but also because she is a distant relative (the Van Schaacks and the Roosevelts inter-married). I look forward to continuing the conversation here in various shades of pink.

Women @ ASIL

Kudos to Co-Chairs Chantal Thomas, William Aceves, and Charles Hunnicutt, and to ASIL President José Alvarez and Executive Director Elizabeth Andersen (pictured, left) for the mélange of participants at next week’s American Society of International Law annual meeting. The agenda reveals but a few events with no woman, and far more with more than 1 woman panelist. The IntLawGrrls' honor roll (forgive the length, but we don't want to miss any 'Grrls; if we did, tell us):
Wednesday, March 28, 4:15 pm
Grotius Lecture: Rachel Kyte, International Finance Corp. (discussant)
Thursday, March 29, 9 am
"Feeling the Heat? Climate Change in the 21st C.": Hari Osofsky (IntLawGrrls’ own Mata Hari), U. Oregon
"Social Justice Advocacy in the U.S.: What Role for International Law?": Monique Harden, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights
"Citizenship": Linda Bosniak, Rutgers U.; Karen Knop, U. Toronto; Kim Rubenstein, Australian National U.; Saskia Sassen, U. Chicago
Thursday, March 29, 10:45 am
"Future of Food": Janet Nuzum, former U.S. International Trade Commissioner (moderator); Peggy Clarke, Powell Goldstein LLP
"Queering International Law": Doris Buss, Carleton U.; Dianne Otto, U. Melbourne
"Africa: New Voices Panel": Angela Banks, Harvard Law School; Marjorie Florestal, U. Pacific McGeorge School of Law
"1907 Hague Convention & 1977 Geneva Protocols: Looking Back and Thinking Ahead": Laura Olson, International Committee of the Red Cross
Thursday, March 29, 1 pm
"Paving the Way? Africa & the Future of International Criminal Law": Vernice Guthrie-Sullivan, ABA Africa Law Institute; Simone Monasebian, U.N. Office on Drugs & Crime
"Institutions and the Rule of Law: A New Voices Panel": Susan Notar, American Society of International Law
"Collapse: Can International Law Protect Earth’s Natural Resources?": Edith Brown Weiss, Inspection Panel, World Bank & Georgetown U. Law Center
Thursday, March 29, 2:45 pm
"Globalization of the American Law School": Chantal Thomas, U. Minnesota Law School (moderator)
"Future of Internet Governance": Esther Dyson, former chair, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN); Miriam Sapiro, Summit Strategies International
Election of 2007 Nominee for ASIL Honorary Member: Brigitte Stern (pictured, right), U. Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne)
Thursday, March 29, 4:30 pm
"Breaking Developments in International Law: Conversation on ICJ’s Opinion in Bosnia v. Serbia": Leila Nadya Sadat, Washington U. School of Law; Brigitte Stern, U. Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne)
Thursday, March 29, 7:30 pm
"Future of International Law": Anne-Marie Slaughter, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton U. (moderator); Lori Fisler Damrosch, Columbia Law School
Friday, March 30, 9 am
"What Future for the Doha Development Agenda & the Multilateral Negotiating Regime?": Dorothy Dwoskin, Office U.S. Trade Representative; Sonia E. Rolland, U. Cambridge Law Faculty
"Customary International Law as Federal Law after Sosa": Beth Stephens, Rutgers U.
"Slave Trafficking 200 Years After Abolition": Adrien K. Wing, U. Iowa College of Law (moderator); Diane Marie Amann (IntLawGrrls’ own Grace O’Malley), U. California, Davis, School of Law; Adrienne Davis, U. North Carolina School of Law
"Internationalizing International Law Societies: Dialogue on Building a Global Scholarly Network": Charlotte Ku, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law & U. Illinois College of Law (moderator); Hélène Ruiz Fabri (IntLawGrrls’ own Olympe de Gouges), U. Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne) & President, European Society of International Law
Friday, March 30, 10:45 am
"Justice Should Be Done, but Where? Relationship between National & International Courts": Naomi Roht-Arriaza, U. California, Hastings College of Law (moderator); Laura Dickinson, U. Connecticut School of Law; Kimberly Theidon, Harvard U.
"Toward International Order in Migration & Trade?": Susan Martin, Institute for Study of International Migration, Georgetown U.
"Indigenous Rights, Traditional Knowledge & Access to Genetic Resources - New Participation in Future International Law Making": Valerie Phillips, U. Tulsa College of Law
"Ethics, Legitimacy, and Lawyering: How Do International Lawyers Speak Truth to Power?": Kathleen Clark, Washington U. School of Law
"International Law 2.0: Maximize Technology for Research & Scholarship": Ellen Callinan
Friday, March 30, 12:30 pm
Women in International Law Interest Group Luncheon: Judge Taghrid Hikmet (pictured, left), International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
Friday, March 30, 1 pm
"Report of International Economic Law Interest Group Bretton Woods Conference": Isabella Bunn, Oxford U. (moderator); Karen E. Bravo (IntLawGrrls’ own Nanny of the Windward Maroons), Indiana U. School of Law; Amy Porges, Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP
"Supreme Court & War on Terrorism": Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, U. Pacific McGeorge School of Law (moderator); Dinah PoKempner, Human Rights Watch
"Divergence & Harmonization in Private International Law": Louise Ellen Teitz, Roger Williams School of Law
"Are We Teaching International Law or Foreign Relations Law?": Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; Mary Ellen O'Connell, Notre Dame Law School
Friday, March 30, 2:45 pm
"Future of Transnational Litigation in U.S. Courts: Distinct Field or Footnote?": Linda Silberman, New York U. School of Law
"Democracy, Gender & Governance": Sonia E. Alvarez, U. Massachusetts-Amherst; Janie Chuang, Washington College of Law, American U.; Janet Halley, Harvard Law School
"Future of International Labor Law": Adelle Blackett, McGill University (moderator); Janelle Diller, International Labour Organisation; Virginia Leary, U. Buffalo Law School
Friday, March 30, 4:30 pm
"Impact of International Law on Multinational Corporations": Lucinda Low, Steptoe & Johnson LLP (moderator)
Friday, March 30, 8 pm
Annual Dinner Introduction by Sarah Cleveland, visiting at Harvard Law School
Saturday, March 31, 9 am
"UN Sale of Goods Convention: Perspectives on Current State-of-Play": Ingeborg Schwenzer, U. Basel, Switzerland
"Strengthening Human Rights Around the World": Judge Cecilia Medina Quiroga (pictured, left) Inter-American Court of Human Rights
"How Can the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime Be Repaired? What if it Can’t?": Patricia McNerney, U.S. Department of State
Saturday, March 31, 10:45 am
"Counterinsurgency & War on Terror: Deadly Convergence?": Catriona Drew, School of Oriental & African Studies, U. London
"Investment Law, Dispute Resolution & Development Promise: Back to the Future": Susan D. Franck, U. Nebraska College of Law
"A Multiplicity of Actors and Transnational Governance": Erika George, U. Utah College of Law

On March 21, ...

... 1990, Namibia won its independence from South Africa.
... 1804, the Code Napoléon, a foundation for legislation in many countries, was adopted in France.
... 1617, Pocahontas, a native American who had married Jamestown, Va., colonist John Rolfe, died and was buried in England.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

ECHR on abortion

The European Court of Human Rights issued a judgment today finding that the European Convention on Human Rights imposes an affirmative obligation on states parties to provide effective procedures for women to obtain abortions that are legal under national law. The case, Tysiąc v. Poland, concerned a woman who was denied an abortion after being warned by doctors that her pregnancy might put her already deteriorating eyesight at risk, even though Polish law permits abortions to safeguard a woman’s health. While the court relied on Article 8 of the Convention, which establishes the right to respect for private life, its analysis focused not on privacy as such, but on states’ responsibility under this provision to take positive measures to protect women’s physical integrity. Because therapeutic abortions are legal under Polish law, the court did not address the question of whether the Convention itself provides a right to abortion, leaving that issue for another day. However, it did note that Polish law criminalizing most abortions may have a chilling effect on doctors’ willingness to certify the need for a therapeutic abortion, for fear of prosecution. In this context, the court affirmed, transparent, efficient procedures for determining whether a woman’s condition meets the legal standards for a therapeutic abortion are all the more important to Poland’s Convention obligations.

Unarmed truth*

Emphasis on the record-making function of international criminal justice tends to disquiet U.S. lawyers, particularly those in criminal defense. But no less disquieting is a Paris trial that, though under way now, has roots in events that took place more than 60 years ago, and so suggests that even the Nuremberg-era trials failed to make a sufficient record of atrocity.
On trial is Senator Robert Badinter. As Justice Minister in the 1980s, he pushed France to end the death penalty, curtail the State Security Court, and reinforce habeas corpus. In the 1990s, he led a European panel that resolved legal issues arising out of Yugoslavia's breakup. Last March Badinter, who turns 79 next week, called Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson "faussaire de l'histoire," falsifier of history. Faurisson, who took part in the 2006 Tehran conference that called the Holocaust a myth, sued Badinter for defamation.
Le Monde reports that in a session this month, Badinter testified that when he was a teenager during Nazi occupation, his uncle, 80-year-old grandmother, and father disappeared in police roundups. "We never got news of them again. This, this was my adolescence!" To deny the existence of gas chambers, of genocide, of thugs and assassins, he said, is to say his loved ones died for nothing. Eying the plaintiff, he concluded: "Until the end of my days, as long as I have breath, I will battle against you and your like." Trial resumes April 2.
* This title derives from the 1964 speech in which Martin Luther King Jr. accepted the Nobel Peace Prize: "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."

On March 20, ...

... 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Peace with Japan.

Monday, March 19, 2007

... and counting ...

(Sobering thoughts on this 4th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.) Amid reports that Iraqi insurgents have turned to chemical warfare -- chlorine bombs -- to magnify the lethal effect of attack, Iraq Body Count reports that as of today between 59,326 and 65,150 Iraqi women, children, and men had died in the conflict there -- an increase of 1,521 to 1,577 deaths in 2 weeks. American servicemember fatalities, through March 17, 2007: 3,217 persons. Total coalition fatalities: 3,475 persons. (That's 46 servicemember deaths in 2 weeks, all Americans.) The number of total U.S. wounded remains, as it has for weeks, at 23,417 persons.
Military casualties in the conflict in Afghanistan -- Does anyone know a reliable source for Afghan civilian casualties? -- 373 Americans and 170 other coalition servicemembers killed (increases of 2 Americans and 3 other coalition members in same period). The number of American servicemembers wounded remains, as if has for weeks, at 5,994.

Human Rights: Films, Forum, no Fluff

Libération reports that grand prize at the 5th Human Rights Film Festival in Geneva went to Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady for their documentary on American fundamentalist Christians, Jesus Camp. A special prize went to Florent Marcie for his film on Chechnya (Itchkeri Kenti), Manon Loizeau earned a special mention for her Malédiction de naître fille (the curse of being born female), and the World Organization Against Torture prize went to Swiss sans papiers, a film on undocumented Swiss residents by Andreas Hoessli. Meanwhile, expressing dissatisfaction with the UN Human Rights Council, the film festival doubled as a forum on immigration and human rights, with particular emphasis on Burma.

On March 19, ...

... 2003 (U.S. time), a U.S.-led coalition began Operation Iraqi Freedom, setting off a conflict that to this day has resulted in ouster of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, hanged in 2006, and tens of thousands of Iraqi, American, and other coalition servicemember casualties.
... 1920, the U.S. Senate failed to muster the 2/3 majority necessary to approve the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I and authorized the League of Nations, an international organization aimed at peaceful settlement of interstate disputes.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Pink ≠ fluffy

In cyberland last week, musings on the role of women in international law:
Our own Lakshmi Bai [IntLawGrrl Jaya Ramji-Nogales] saw "many shades of pink" in the fact that women (including her and 2 other IntLawGrrls) outnumbered men as presenters at an academic conference. Yet the note of optimism in her question, "Is the Future of International Law Rosy?", soured when commenters noted that "in Europe at least," women seemed relegated to human rights, a field deemed "fluffy," while men dominated trade and humanitarian law.
Meanwhile, a query at National Security Advisors blog, on why a U.S. academic panel on the Military Commissions Act included no woman among its 6 members, drew remarks in like vein. "[W]hat exactly is 'women's national security law'?" a commenter asked, adding that having Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State trumps any panel imbalance.
A few comments: 1st, to work in human rights means to interview the victims and to defend the perpetrators of the world's worst crimes, to assess the credibility of horrific testimony, to campaign for conventions or to write articles that labor to balance outrage at atrocity against instilled values respecting the rights of the accused. None of that is "fluffy," and to call it such demeans the women and men (there are many of both) who devote themselves to that work. If indeed this is an emerging stereotype, it ought to be fought at every turn.
2d, the list of women who work in national security law neither begins nor ends with Secretary Rice. She was preceded, of course, by Madeleine Albright, who remains active in international matters. Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was among the members of the Iraq Study Group. Women, some of whom served in uniform, serve on boards of the National Institute of Military Justice. Several women help run the National Security Law Section of the very group that sponsored the questioned panel, and far more women teach and write on military justice and national security -- as is the case, at least in the United States, with fields like trade. (Included are many of us IntLawGrrls.)
Each of these many women no doubt approaches her work from her own vantage point. But most, I suspect, will describe what they do not as "women's" law, but rather, simply, as international law. Perhaps one day that description will draw no comment at all.
(Kudos to our colleague Steve Vladeck for raising the women-in-national-security question.)

On March 18, ...

... 1962, France and Algeria's National Liberation Front concluded the Accords d'Évian, which ended more than a century of colonization and 8 years of anticolonial warfare in the North African country.
... 2000, voters chose Democratic Progressive Party candidate Chen Shui-bian as Taiwan's President, thus putting an end to more than 50 years of rule by the Kuomintang Party.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Egyptian "Patriot" Constitution?

Egypt is surely to be applauded for appointing women as judges (even though only prosecutors, and no defense attorneys, were appointed). However, the FIDH reports that Egypt is laying the groundwork for lifting its 25-year-long state of emergency by amending its constitution to include counter-terrorism measures that would counter not only terrorism, but also constitutional rights guaranteed by Articles 41 (on arrest and due process), 44 (on house searches) and 45 (on the privacy of correspondence and communications). In particular, the proposed amendment would allow the president “to refer any ‘terrorist crime’ to any of the judicial authorities stated in the constitution or the law” and “is likely to grant security forces unlimited authority to detain persons, raid residences, and monitor postal and telephone communications without court permission…It will also grant the President the power to refer anyone suspected of terrorism to jurisdictions of exception”. Sound familiar?

Green day

A tip of the hat today to Ireland's fair city of Dublin, which invited Christine Quinn, the Irish-American lesbian Speaker of New York's City Council, to march in its multiculti St. Patrick's Day parade after the organizers of New York's parade refused to allow gay and lesbian groups to march openly. U.S. courts have authorized the ban on the ground of freedom of religion.

On March 17, ...

... 1968, clashes during a demonstration against the Vietnam War, held in front of the U.S. embassy in London, resulted in arrests of more than 200 persons
.... 1901, a Paris exhibition of paintings by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), among them images of ordinary women, children, and men, created a stir that secured the Dutchman a place in art's pantheon.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Step forward, step back

Egypt has taken the step of appointing 31 woman judges, our colleague Kevin Jon Heller at Opinio Juris reports. Tahany el-Gebaly (pictured), the 1st woman elected to the board of Egypt's Lawyer's Syndicate and the Permanent Secretariat of the Union of Arab Lawyers, will serve on the Supreme Constitutional Court. Some rights activists say the move is too little too late. Clerics are split: some fear that pregnant judges will harm the bench's prestige, but at least 1 says nothing in the Quran forbids woman judges.
In Pakistan, steps in a different direction: as a 5-judge panel continued review of President General Pervez Musharraf's week-old suspension of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, police in riot gear barricaded parts of Islamad against protests of what many view as a "grave threat to the judiciary's independence." Chaudhry's term is marked by a willingness to consider "cases of 'forced disappearance' – people believed to have been picked up by the country's powerful intelligence agencies without due process of law" – reportedly, "at least 400 people ... since Pakistan joined the American-led effort to curb terrorism in 2001." "When the state cannot protect" rights of the official charged with upholding rights," one Chaudhry supporter asked, "how can it protect women's rights or any other individuals' rights?"