Monday, March 31, 2008

Banning headscarves, banning parties

So, headscarves are back in the courts in Europe, and it’s a bit more complicated this time. Turkey has for some time banned headscarves in universities, in pursuit of its constitutional mandate of secularism. The legislature recently passed a law rescinding the ban, and that law is being challenged before Turkey’s Constitutional Court as violating secularism. Fair enough. But here’s where it gets a bit tricky: The Constitutional Court just agreed to hear a case seeking to ban the governing party and 71 of its members from politics for five years because they are pursuing an anti-secularist agenda. The suit apparently cites the law rescinding the headscarf ban as exhibit A. Turkey’s governing party is the successor to an openly Islamic party previously banned by the Constitutional Court for this reason. It is also the party that won an unpredecented 47% of the vote in the last election.
The first suit sounds like fair play all around. The majority party passes a law changing a longstanding policy, it’s challenged in court as unconstitutional – this is the usual political-legal rough and tumble. The second suit seems rather more extreme. The European Court of Human Rights has apparently upheld Turkey’s banning of other parties in at least some instances, as “necessary in a democratic society.” I can imagine why this might be the finding for parties that are openly terrorist in their means, for example, or oppressive in their ends – judicial review of their individual policies in such instances would not necessarily serve to keep their actions within constitutional bounds. (Note that these are just examples -- I do not know what the justifications were for the prior bans.) But if a party is playing by the democratic rules – winning elections, passing legislation, letting constitutional claims be heard before the courts, and living with the results -- why should there be any need to act against that party directly, even if it were to put forward unconstitutional policies, and even if it were to do so consistently, as this suit claims? Shouldn’t lawsuits aimed at the policies, instead of the party, be a sufficient remedy for any unconstitutional laws it might pass?

Plus ça change, the more demand for change

Among the birthday presents that arrived this weekend was a book published just 6 months ago by Scholastic, which holds itself out as an educational publisher. The back cover of The Boys' Book: How To Be the Best at Everything included bullet-point samples of "everything" to be learned within, and ad toward the back for The Girls' Book: How To Be the Best at Everything likewise bullet-pointed its contents.
Guess which book promises to teach readers how to:

► Fight off a crocodile?
► Rip a phonebook in half?
► Escape quicksand?
► Speak in code?

And guess which promises lessons on how to:

► Act like a celebrity?
► Make your own bubble bath?
► Give yourself a perfect manicure?
► Knit with your fingers?

Seems no one's told Scholastic that most 21st C. 'Grrls prefer the occasional lizard or snail or puppy dog tail to a ceaseless diet of saccharine stuff.

On this day

On March 31, ...
... 2005, the U.N. Security Council referred "the situation in Darfur since 1 July 2002 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court." In its Resolution 1593, the Council acted pursuant to coercive powers granted it in Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. As posted here, here, here and here, the prosecution's named suspects it believes responsible for international crimes in that region of Sudan, but Sudan's government so far has refused to hand them over to the ICC. Earlier this month former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan questioned whether all in the international community "have yet fully lived up to" their "responsibility -- notably in Darfur." (credit for photo above of Security Council meeting room)
... 2004, the International Court of Justice, in Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States), ruled that the United States had violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to inform noncitizen detainees of their right to contact their consulate. The ICJ called upon the United States to provide review and reconsideration of capital convictions and sentences at issue, as our colleague William Aceves explained in an ASIL Insight. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case arising out of the Avena matter -- Medellín v. Texas, about which we've posted here, here, here, and here --adversely to defendant/respondent. Our colleagues at Opinio Juris, and their assorted guests, produced an "insta-symposium"; hope to comment more here after digesting the 44-page judgment. credit here for above left photo of ICJ courtroom and here for photo at right of Supreme Court's courtroom)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Incarcerating men increases STDs in women

Thanks to The Nation’s guestblogger Samhita Mukhopadhyay for the heads up on the link between incarceration and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Samhita blogs for Feministing and is a member of WireTap's advisory board. Having blogged at The Nation on the rate of incarceration in the US, then on STDs and teenage girls, she was informed by a reader of
a study that came out years ago on the connections between rate of STD cases and the rate of incarceration. The conclusion? Women in communities with higher rates of incarceration are more susceptible to high rates of STD exposure, even when they are engaging in low risk behavior.
Expanding on the Washington Post’s spotlight on the study, Samhita points out that the issue is NOT, as the news articles might make it seem, that women are running around having multiple partners and spreading STDs while their men are in jail, but that the emasculation occurring in communities with high incarceration rates leads men to greater sexual risk taking, as well as rape. She therefore calls on the feminist and anti-incarceration movements to work together—a call I heartily second.

On this day

On March 30, ...
... 1870, Secretary of State Hamilton Fish proclaimed the 15th Amendment fully ratified. The Amendment guaranteed that "[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Of this the Library of Congress' website states:

[T]he promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote.

... 2006, Portia Simpson Miller (left), about whom IntLawGrrl Karen E. Bravo posted here, was sworn in as Jamaica's Prime Minister, the 1st woman to hold that position. She lost the post in September 2007 after her party was defeated in parliamentary elections. While head of Jamaica's government, she was listed among Forbes' 100 Most Powerful Women.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

U.N. rapporteurs no longer so special?

The Human Rights Council this week stoked the controversy that's surrounded it since its founding in 2006.
The Council supplanted the Human Rights Commission -- a six-decades-old body that critics contended had become too political and, more to the point, too beholden to the politics of countries not themselves known for compliance with international human rights norms. Yet on many fronts human rights reform has not accompanied this re-forming of the U.N.'s human rights apparatus.
Not only has the Council concentrated on Israel to the exclusion of other countries, but it, like its predecessor, has included many human rights transgressors. Indeed, transgressors' sway may have increased, given the decision of the United States not to seek a seat on the Council. (Some surmise the the United States refused to run after counting noses and realizing that, on account of its own post-9/11 behavior, it might not win were it in fact to campaign for a seat.)
Add now yesterday's news of what Le Monde calls "a new breach in the system of 'special rapporteurs' inherited from the former Commission." On Thursday, Le Monde wrote,
under the pressure of the African group, and with the support of the Islamic Conference, China, and Russia, the Council proclaimed -- 'by consensus' -- the nonrenewal of the mandate of the 'special rapporteur' on the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly, Zaïre), a country where human rights violates continue to be massive.

Congo thus joined Cuba and Belarus as countries who've been freed of Special Rapporteur investigations in 2 years, and adds fuel to concerns that most such mandates soon will disappear. Julie Gromellon of the Fédération internationale des droits de l'homme (FIDH) decried the notion that notion that a "thematic rapporteur" would do the job of the country-based expert, while Juliette de Rivero of Human Rights Watch issued this warning:
The Human Rights Council put politics before people by deciding not to renew the expert mandate on the Congo. Downgrading the council's work in Congo despite the recent rapes and killings is inexplicable and could have tragic consequences.

On this day

On March 29, ...
... 1973 (35 years ago today), American troops withdrew fully from South Vietnam (right). In the long years of U.S. involvement in the Indochinese country, "the cost to the United States has been almost 46,000 men killed and more than 300,000 wounded," according to the New York Times. It further reported that the war was "unfinished" and had "deeply scarred" both Vietnam and the United States, and that among the departing troops "[t]here was little emotion or joy as they brought to a close almost a decade of American military intervention."
... 2002, Sierra Leone's Parliamant enacted Special Court Agreement, 2002 (Ratification) Act, thus setting the stage for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a hybrid tribunal charged with trying persons believed most responsible for atrocities during the civil war that wracked the country in the 1990s. As we've posted, among those now on trial before the Court is Charles Taylor (left), former President of Liberia. Recently, a witness before the Court testified that troops cannibalized captives -- including U.N. peacekeepers -- on Taylor's orders.

Friday, March 28, 2008

"Do more." costs more

In the United States, criticism of the United Nations is old news. For years critics have drummed the "Do more." beat, urging the 63-year-old international organization to be more efficient, more effective, to keep the peace and feed the poor, here, there, and everywhere. A number of recent articles underscore an obvious response:
"Do more." costs more.
The Washington Post's Colum Lynch reported that the United Nation has just

presented its top donors with a request for nearly $1.1 billion in additional funds over the next two years -- boosting current U.N. expenses by 25 percent and marking the global body's highest-ever administrative budget ...
Lynch attributed the increased to "Bush administration demands for a more ambitious U.N. role around the world," with particular reference to Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Sudan/Darfur.
And as for those U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur, there's this report from Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times:

The force, a joint mission of the African Union and the United Nations, officially took over from an overstretched and exhausted African Union force in Darfur on Jan. 1. It now has just over 9,000 of an expected 26,000 soldiers and police officers and will not fully deploy until the end of the year ....
Even the troops that are in place ... lack essential equipment, like sufficient armored personnel carriers and helicopters, to carry out even the most rudimentary of peacekeeping tasks. Some even had to buy their own paint to turn their green helmets United Nations blue ...
Nor is it just peacekeeping operations that are in dire straits. The Los Angeles Times' Tracy Wilkinson reported that rising food and fuel prices have spurred another U.N. agency to declare a global food emergency:

The World Food Program called on donor nations for urgent help in closing a funding gap of more than $500 million by May 1. If money doesn't arrive by then, Executive Director Josette Sheeran [left] said in a letter to donors, the WFP may be forced to cut food rations 'for those who rely on the world to stand by them during times of abject need.'
Official U.S. response? Despite linkages between some U.N. programmatic weaknesses and the strength of U.S. demands, in the Post article Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States' Permanent Representative to the United Nations, criticized the ballooning budget:
'I want to have a Ferrari, but if I can't afford it I would have to take something else or defer' additional spending .... 'There have to be trade-offs; there has to be savings from reforms.'

On this day

On March 28, ...
... 1970, Michelle Gildernew (right) was born into a farm family of 10 in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. After university studies, she traveled in Europe, the United States, and Australia, then returned home and entered politics as a member of the Sinn Féin party. In 1998 Gildernew was elected to represent Fermanagh/South Tyrone in the Northern Ireland Assembly, a post she continues to hold. In the Assembly Cabinet she serves as Minister for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. She was a member of the 1st Sinn Féin delegation to Downing Street, residence of the British Prime Minister, in 1997.
... 1898 (110 years ago today), in the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the Supreme Court held that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited denial of citizenship to anyone born in the United States. The habeas petitioner, Wong (left), had been born in San Francisco to Chinese immigrant parents, yet was denied re-entry into the United States, after a visit to China, on grounds that he was not a U.S. citizen and that the Chinese Exclusion Act barred him from entering as an immigrant.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Women @ ASIL redux

As we did last year, today we take note of all the women set to speak at "The Politics of International Law," the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law, April 9-12, 2008, in Washington, D.C. (Details & registration here.)
Noted very few sessions with no women, and many with more than 1 woman panelist -- for which we extend heartfelt kudos to Co-Chairs Andrea K. Bjorklund, U. California-Davis (an IntLawGrrls guest/alumna), Marinn Carlson, Sidley Austin, and Michael Scharf, Case Western Reserve; to Executive Director Elizabeth Andersen; to ASIL President José Alvarez; and to Lucy Reed of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (left), who will succeed José as President at the meeting.
Without further ado, here's the IntLawGrrls' honor roll:
Thursday, April 10, 9 am
"The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals": Valerie Oosterveld, U. Western Ontario
"Beyond Kyoto: Dilemmas of Climate Regulation & Equity": Christiana Figueres, U.N. Framework Convention for Climate Change Clean Development Mechanism
"The Politics of the Internet": Jacqueline Lipton, Case Western Reserve; ASIL Vice President Miriam Sapiro, Summit Strategies International; Wendy Selzer, Northeastern U.
"The Sovereign Power to Tax": Sharon Yuan, Sidley Austin, moderator; Avril Haines, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
"New Voices: The Role of International Legal Institutions in Norm Development": Oona Hathaway, U. California-Berkeley, moderator; Natasha Affolder, U. British Columbia; IntLawGrrls' own Karen Bravo, Indiana U.-Indianapolis; Galit Sarfaty, Harvard
Thursday, April 10, 10:45 am
"Civil Liberties in Times of Crisis": Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First
"The Politics of Sudan": IntLawGrrls' own Hope Lewis, Northeastern U., moderator; Courtney Hostetler, Sudan Divestment Task Force
"The Law and Politics of Foreign Sovereign Immunity": Eileen Denza, U. College London
"State Sovereignty & Regional Autonomy: The Asian Experience": Astrid Tuminez, Southeast Asian Research Center City U., Hong Kon
Thursday, April 10, 12:30 pm
Women in International Law Interest Group Luncheon: honoree/speaker will be the Honorable Graciela Dixon (left), Chief Justice of Panama's Supreme Court and President of the International Association of Women Judges
Thursday, April 10, 1 pm
"Polar Politics: Change in the Arctic": Suzanne Lalonde, U. Montreal
"Restating the U.S. Law of International Commercial Arbitration": Carolyn Lamm, White & Case, moderator; Catherine Kessedjian, U. Paris II; the Honorable Diane Wood (far right), Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
"Hardening Soft Law: Implementation of the Guiding Principles on Internally Displaced Persons": Roberta Cohen, Brookings Institution; Erika Feller, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (near right)
Thursday, April 10, 2:45 pm
"International Law & the Fight Against Corruption": Sabine Konrad, Dewey & LeBoeuf, moderator
Thursday, April 10, 4:30 pm
"Presidential Foreign Policy Advisers' Panel": Ruth Wedgwood, Johns Hopkins U.
Friday, April 11, 9 am
"The Legacy of Iraq: Impact on International Law": Sandy Hodgkinson, U.S. Department of Defense; Susan Breau, U. Surrey
"Do International Financial Institutions Repress Development?": Sylvia Kang'ara, U. Washington, moderator; Linn Hammergren (left), World Bank
"Economic Politics & National Security: A Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States Case Study": Linda Menghetti, Emergency Committee for American Trade
"The New Politics of Regulatory Cooperation: The Case of Food Safety": Marsha Echols, Howard U.; Joanne Scott, U. College London
"Feminism v. Feminism: What Is a Feminist Approach to Transnational Criminal Law?": Madhavi Sunder, U. California-Davis; Mary Anne Case, U. Chicago; Catherine O'Rourke, U. Ulster; Kay Warren, Brown U.
Friday, April 11, 10:45 am
"Corporate Counsel Roundtable": Sheila Cheston, BAE Systems, moderator
"The Politics of Adjudication": Merit Janow, Columbia U.
"The Changing International Economic Balance of Power": Jane Bradley, Georgetown U., moderator
"Politics of Teaching International Law": Sarah Cleveland, Columbia U.
"Restoring Rule of Law in Post-Conflict & Stabilization Operations: Respective Roles of Law & Politics": Melanne A. Civic, U.S. Department of State, moderator; Colette Rausch, U.S. Institute of Peace; Jane Stromseth, Georgetown U.
Friday, April 11, 1 pm
"Just Back from the Human Rights Council": Margaret Satterthwaite, New York U., moderator; Yvonne Terlingen, Amnesty International; and IntLawGrrls' own Connie de la Vega, U. San Francisco
"When Subnational Met International: The Politics & Places of Cities, States & Provinces in the World": Judith Resnik, Yale U.; Christina R. Sevilla, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
"If Water Respects No Political Boundaries, Does Politics Respect Transboundary Waters?": Alice Aureli, UNESCO; Jutta Brunée, U. Toronto
"Capital Markets Agenda for International Regulatory Reform": Esta Stecher, Goldman Sachs; Annette Nazareth, former Commissioner, U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission
Friday, April 11, 2:45 pm
"Foreign Ministry Legal Advisers' Roundtable": María del Luján Flores (left), Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the Organization of American States
Saturday, April 12, 9 am
"Universal Jurisdiction: It's Back!": IntLawGrrls' own Diane Orentlicher, Open Society Institute
"The Shifting Sands of Treaty Interpretation": Isabella Van Damme, Cambridge U.
"New Voices: Peace & Security Norms & Institutions in Historical Context": Allison Danner, Office of the U.S. Attorney, Northern District of California, moderator
Saturday, April 12, 10:45 am
"International Humanitarian Law & Non-State Actors": Suzanne Spaulding, National Terrorism Commission
"The Politics of Progress in International Law": Betsy Baker, U. Vermont; Rebecca Bratspies, CUNY; Alexandra Kemmerer, U. Würzburg
"Legal Education Initiatives in Africa": Penelope Andrews, CUNY

(2 other events to keep in mind: ASIL-West reception, 7:30-9 pm Thursday, April 10, and the Bloggers' Reception, of which IntLawGrrls is a proud cosponsor, 6-7 pm Friday, April 11)

Work On! National security law

(Work On! is an occasional item about workshops, roundtables, and other fora for scholarship-presentation-without-publication) A host of scholarly subjects now fall within "the national security law umbrella" -- jus ad bellum and jus in bello, of course, but also intersections between international humanitarian law and international human rights law, interactions among national, regional, and international legal regimes, overlaps among powers of various governmental branches, and, even more broadly, the degree to which individual human security aids or undermines collective national security. Scholars working in these areas (particularly though not exclusively "junior" scholars) are invited to take part in a National Security Law Works-in-Progress Workshop on May 23, 2008, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Cosponsors include Wake Forest University School of Law, national security law centers at Duke University and the University of Virginia, the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School, and the Journal of National Security Law & Policy.
Papers, or at the very least, abstracts, should be submitted by the April 4 deadline to our colleague Bobby Chesney at They'll then be reviewed by officers of the National Security Law Section of the Association of American Law Schools.
Details here on the call for works-in-progress and the workshop, which is open to presenters and nonpresenters alike.

On this day

On March 27, ...
... 47 B.C., Cleopatra VII was put back in power in Egypt with the aid of Roman consul Julius Caesar. At age 17 she had become co-regent, along with the 10-year-old brother, on the death in 51 B.C. of their father. Cleopatra, depicted on the coin at left, committed suicide in 30 B.C.
... 1898 (110 years ago today), Russia obtained from China a 25-year lease for the fortress of Port Arthur in Manchuria, thus thwarting Japan's effort to obtain control over this "strongest position in eastenr Asia" by means of a treaty of cession that it and China had entered 3 years earlier. Within 6 years a battle at Port Arthur touched off the Russo-Japanese War, won by Japan in 1904.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

'Nuff said

Every time we reach out to others whom we have been conditioned to distrust, fear, or subordinate because of culture, race or class, we begin to chip away at the wicked culture that gives rise to irrational hatred, animosity, and violence.

-- Bill Ong Hing, colleague at the University of California, Davis, School of Law (Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall), in an impassioned call to "Declare War on Racism," posted at ImmigrationProf Blog.

Go On! "Preventing Torture"

(Go On! is an occasional item on symposia of interest.) Insufficiently noted when issued was a November 2007 statement on combating torture, set forth by the U.N. Committee Against Torture (CAT) in its General Comment No. 2.
The General Comment elaborates on Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which states in full:
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

A careful look at the General Comment will be taken by a host of panelists at "Preventing Torture," a symposium to be held this Friday, March 28, 2008, at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. As cosponsors -- the New York City Law Review, a student journal at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, and the International Human Rights Committee of the city's bar association -- put it in their conference brochure:

The General Comment addresses key fault lines in the absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment that have been opened in the name of counter-terrorism. It also underscores the applicability of the Convention to sexualized and gender violence, where perpetrated by state officials as well as where state officials acquiesce to private violence, including domestic violence.
Speakers will address the authority, adequacy, and policy implications of the General Comment. Since the U.S. is a State party to the CAT, speakers will also address the relevance of the Comment to current laws and practices of the Bush administration and to positive reforms and initiatives needed to bring U.S. law and practice into compliance with its international commitments to eliminate torture and ill-treatment in every sphere.

Among those speakers will be several women who're experts on these questions, a number of whom we've featured in prior posts. Among the CAT members who'll speak are Felice Gaer (top left), former Vice-Chair and current Rapporteur of CAT, as well as Co-Rapporteur for General Comment No. 2, and Nora Sveaass (bottom left), President of the Norwegian Psychological Association's Human Rights Committee. Other panelists will include: Patricia Viseur Sellers, former Legal Advisor for Gender-Related Crimes, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; New York University Professor Margaret L. Satterthwaite, Research Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice; CUNY Professor Rhonda Copelon, Director of the International Women's Human Rights Clinic; and Columbia Professor Betty Reardon, Founding Director Emeritus of the Peace Education Program.
Details here.

On this day

On March 26, ...
... 1953 (55 years ago today), U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao was born in Taipei, Taiwan. Her family emigrated when she was 8; she attended high school in Long Island, New York, and eventually earned an M.B.A. degree from Harvard. Before assuming her present position in 2001, Chao'd served as Director of the Peace Corps from 1991-92. Appointed to lead the Labor Department in 2001, Chao's the 1st Asian-American woman ever appointed to the Cabinet of a U.S. President.
... 1888 (120 years ago today), Elsa Brändström was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. The daughter of a Swedish diplomat, during World War I she was moved, upon seeing Germans held as prisoners of war in Russia, to become a nurse. The care she gave those POWs earned her the nickname "Angel of Siberia" and, in 1951, posthumous recognition on a German stamp (right). Having moved to Germany after the war, when Adolf Hitler took power she and her husband fled to the United States, where they helped to care for European refugees. She died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a few weeks shy of her 60th birthday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Taiwan's New President

The Man of the Moment is Ma Ying-jeou (left), the newly elected president of Taiwan. One of the central issues in the Taiwanese presidential election was the question of China. An NYU and Harvard-educated lawyer, Ma rejects calls for Taiwanese independence. Instead, he advocates greater rapprochement with the mainland, and he has “offered a mechanism and some thoughts on a formula for achieving a peace agreement” with China. One aspect of that rapprochement is for the two countries to establish greater trade and economic ties. Taiwan’s economy is sluggish at the moment, and President Chen Shui-bian's anti-China rhetoric held little sway with the cash-strapped Taiwanese. Can trade lead to a lasting peace between Taiwan and China?

Go On! Commemorating the Anniversary of the 1948 Convention Against Genocide

(Go On! is an occasional item on symposia of interest.) Kudos to Rutgers School of Law, Newark, New Jersey, for assembling many top social science and legal scholars for an April 4, 2008, conference devoted to the Convention Against Genocide, which the U.N. General Assembly adopted on December 9, 1948.
The United Nations Genocide Convention: A 60th Anniversary Commemoration will include a keynote by Juan E. Mendéz, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice. In addition, our colleague Karima Bennoune will moderate a "Past, Present, and Future" panel featuring Frank Chalk, Jens Meierhenrich, and Martin Mennecke. Dennis Papazian will moderate "Applied: Case Studies," with talks by Sheri Rosenberg (left), Joyce Apsel (below left), and Marcelo Raffin. IntLawGrrls' own Jaya Ramji-Nogales will moderate the final panel, "Prevention," featuring Roger S. Clark, Helen Fein (right), and Gregory Stanton.
A promising kickoff for this anniversary year of the Convention.

On this day

On March 25, ...
... 1988 (20 years ago today), the 1st mass protest of the decade against the Soviet-backed regime in Czechoslovakia -- a protest known as the Candle Demonstration -- was held in Bratislava, today the capital city of the independent nation-state of Slovakia.
... 1998 (10 years ago today), at the airport in Kigali, Rwanda, U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke to survivors of the massacre that killed hundreds of thousands of Rwandans over a 90-day period in 1994 during which no other country intervened. Clinton said, in part:
The international community, together with nations in Africa, must bear its share of responsibility for this tragedy, as well. We did not act quickly enough after the killing began. We should not have allowed the refugee camps to become safe haven for the killers. We did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name: genocide. ...
We owe to those who died and to those who survived who loved them, our every effort to increase our vigilance and strengthen our stand against those who would commit such atrocities in the future -- here or elsewhere.

Monday, March 24, 2008

First elections in Bhutan

“Bhutan is a tiny mountain kingdom nestled in the Himalaya of Central Asia, just south of Tibet, north of India, and east of Nepal….” I was charmed by Bhutan when I visited in 2001 – so charmed that my husband and I wrote a short law review article about our meeting with a Bhutanese judge that began with those words. (A law review article is an unusual tribute, to be sure, but it was what we had to offer.) We were struck by many aspects of Bhutan: its stunning, nearly vertical landscape; its government’s insistence on maintaining a particular aesthetic in dress, architecture, and so on; its adoption of a “Gross National Happiness” standard in lieu of GNP as the benchmark for national success; and, in the legal arena, the philosophy of “simple justice” described to us by a Bhutanese judge. We described our meeting with the judge in our article, “Simple Justice,” and took note of the tensions between his philosophy and the process of codification and harmonization undertaken by the Bhutanese government to facilitate foreign investment and interaction.
Today, Bhutan held its first national elections at the behest of the current and former kings, who have been steadily and voluntarily divesting themselves of power for some years now. According to news reports (e.g., here and here), these elections have been marked by some of the same tensions we noted in the legal sphere: concern about destabilizing what was described as a generally satisfactory arrangement, distaste for the conflict that elections have catalyzed in neighboring countries, questions about the eligibility and participation of Bhutanese residents of Nepali ethnicity, and so on. Nonetheless, the elections went forward, with a reported voter turnout near 80% and a decisive result (44 of 47 seats to one party, according to a preliminary count).

Curious about Munaf

There's something curious about the United States' position in Munaf v. Geren, on which the Supreme Court will hear oral argument Tuesday morning.
Petitioning for a writ of habeas are Mohammad Munaf (left) and Shawqi Ahmad Omar (below left), both U.S. citizens who also hold citizenship in a 2d country, and both of whom now are detained in Iraq. The U.S. brief filed in advance of oral argument cites as the "threshold jurisdictional question" in the case whether
United States courts lack jurisdiction to review the detention of individuals held broad pursuant to international authority, including individuals held by United States forces acting as part of a multinational force.
Interesting question, particularly given that the 1949 per curiam judgment in Hirota. There, as I discussed a while back, out of 9 Justices agreed denied habeas petitions challenging convictions issued by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the Tokyo-based counterpart to the Nuremberg trials. The Court in Hirota deemed the IMTFE a "military tribunal" established by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur "as the agent of the Allied Powers," so that "the courts of the United States have no power or authority to review, to affirm, set aside, or annul the judgments and sentences imposed." (p. 17)
But here's what curious: in Munaf the U.S. government contends that U.S. troops that're detaining petitioners do not hold them "'in custody under or by color of the authority of the United States,'" as subsection (c)(1) of the federal habeas statute requires, for the reason that those troops are detaining petitioners "pursuant to international authority"; that is, the coalition known as Multi-National Force (MNF). (pp. 17-18)
The claim suggests a break in the U.S. chain of command -- a cession of U.S. sovereignty -- that's at odds both with the staunchly sovereigntist stance of this administration and with extrajudicial statements that administration officials have made. To cite just 2 examples, on June 5, 2004, Colin Powell, then the United States' Secretary of State, wrote in a letter to Lauro L. Baja, Jr., then President of U.N. Security Council:

[T]he MNF must continue to function under a framework that affords the force and its personnel the status that they need to accomplish their mission, and in which the contributing states have responsibility for exercising jurisdiction over their personnel .... The existing framework governing these matters is sufficient for these purposes.

Likewise, in a July 1, 2004, U.S. Department of Defense briefing, Brigadier General David Rodriguez, Deputy Director for Operations, J-3, Joint Staff, said with regard to the MNF:

But in every case, all our allies have a chain of command that goes up to their national leaders, just like we do.
Though the clash in claims may not estop the government as a matter of law, am curious to see, should it be noted in oral argument, whether the government reconciles the clash as a matter of persuasive advocacy.

(cross-posted at Slate' s brand-new Convictions blog, as explained below.)

Courage in our Convictions

Eagle-eyed blogreaders will notice that a couple of my recent posts (here, and today, here) have been cross-posted at Convictions, the just-launched legal blog at Slate, the online magazine owned by Washington Post.Newsweek Interactive Co. Convictions is self-described as

Slate's blogging destination for smart legal conversation and commentary. Law plays an increasingly important role in American public and private life, defining the myriad ways we interact, transact, relate and dispute with each other. We hope that, by sharing their own convictions on this blog, our contributors will help inform and shape the American conversation about law.

My co-contributors, I'm pleased to announce, include a number of women featured here in the course of this past year:
► IntLawGrrl guest/alumna Dawn Johnsen, Professor of Law and Ira C. Batman Faculty Fellow, Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington. Formerly Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, Dawn guest-posted last month on the question of investigating CIA waterboarding.
Rosa Brooks, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C., a number of whose Los Angeles Times columns we've featured.
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate senior editor and legal writer, on whose work we've also posted.
Other women (we make up a third of the Convictions roster; not bad for the outside-the-pink-zone):
Emily Bazelon, Slate senior editor, with a focus on health, law, and family.
► Judge Nancy Gertner, U.S. District Court, Boston, Massachusetts, who teaches at Yale Law School and practiced in Boston before joining the bench in 1993.
Deborah Pearlstein, Visiting Scholar, Princeton University's Law and Public Affairs Program. She was the founding director of Human Rights First's Law and Security Program and a speechwriter in the White House of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
For details on blog organizer Phillip Carter and our other distinguished male colleagues at Convictions, click here.

On this day

On March 24, ...
... 1890, Agnes Campbell Macphail (right) was born at Proton Township, Grey County, Ontario, Canada. While a schoolteacher Macphail became an activist on behalf of farmers in her community. In 1921, the year that women 1st were permitted to vote in federal elections, She became the 1st woman elected to Canada's Parliament. An MP until 1940 and a member of Ontario's provincial legislature for 2 terms thereafter, Macphail worked to establish pension protection and equal pay legislation, against militarism, and for prison reform. (This last achievement -- part of which included founding of Canada's Elizabeth Fry Society -- is marked in this docudrama video clip.) She was the 1st woman to serve in Canada's delegation to the League of Nations. Although a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Macphail "reluctantly" voted in favor of Canada's entry into World War II. Macphail, who died in Toronto in 1954, suffered no fools. When she 1st joined Parliament, it's been reported:
Not all of her colleagues welcomed her. One tried to embarrass her by asking, 'Don't you wish you were a man?'
'No,' Macphail replied. 'Don't you?'

... 1978 (30 years ago today), Amoco Cadiz, which several days earlier had run aground off France's Brittany coast (left), was split in 2 in turbulent seas, with the result that all of its "220,000-ton cargo will have escaped into the sea" in what was the worst oil tanker spill to date. An oil slick 18 miles in width and 80 miles in length polluted about 200 miles of coastline and killed much marine life. A dozen years later on this day, as we've posted, another spill, from the Exxon Valdez, occurred in Alaska. (photo credit)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Budding Reconciliation in Cyprus

Friday, the recently elected president of Cyprus, Dimitris Christofias, sat down with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to discuss ways to end the 30-year division of the island. Cyprus is a former British colony that became a Commonwealth country in 1961. In 1974, violence broke out between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, and the Greek military junta in power at the time sponsored an attempt to bring the island under Greek control. The Turkish military stepped in, displacing thousands of Cypriots (see the European Court of Human Rights case Loizidou, for example) and occupying an area recognized only by Turkey as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Since then, the island has been tensely divided into a southern section controlled by Cyprus, a smaller northern section controlled by Turkey (or the TRNC), and about 5% split between British sovereign bases and the UN Green line area between the Cypriot and Turkish areas. The dividing line runs through Cyprus’s capitol city, Nicosia, where Christofias and Talat met with UN special representative to Cyprus, Michael Moller. Christofias was elected just a month ago, and announced within hours that he would meet with Talat to find a way to resolve differences in the interests of the Cypriot people. Christofias and Talat (photo, credit) are on friendly terms and prefer to emphasize agreement rather than disagreement (such as on whether or not to pursue the UN peace plan rejected by Greek voters in 2004). Moving amazing quickly, they’ll be taking concrete (pun intended) steps as of tomorrow, when work will begin on blocking access to the numerous abandoned and dilapidated buildings in the green zone and tearing down the aluminum and plastic wall that divides the pedestrian shopping street running through both halves of Nicosia. Cypriots should be able to cross from north to south and vice versa along this road within a week. Shades of trade brings peace?

On this day

On March 23, ...
... 1568 (440 years ago today), the Peace of Longjumeau, which ended Second French Religious War, was concluded. France's teenaged King Charles IX and his Queen Regent mother, the Florence-born Catherine de Medici (right), both Roman Catholics, signed the pact, which made promises of religious freedom for the Protestant Huguenots. The agreement was short-lived: the Third Religious War began a scant 6 months later.
... 1977, Lucy Wilson Benson became the 1st woman to serve as Under Secretary of State. When appointed Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science, and Technology, a post she held until January 5, 1980, Benson (left) was the top-ranking woman in the U.S. State Department. From 1968-74, Benson had been President of the League of Women Voters.