Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Welcome IntLawGrrl Susana SáCouto

Delighted to announce that Susana SáCouto has joined Rebecca Bratspies this week as IntLawGrrls' newest members.
Susana (left) is the Director of the War Crimes Research Office at the Washington College of Law (WCL), American University, Washington, D.C., which promotes the development and enforcement of international criminal and humanitarian law. A Professorial Lecturer in Residence at WCL, Susana teaches courses on gender and human rights law and on the responses of international humanitarian law and international criminal law to women in conflict, and further directs WCL’s Summer Law Program in The Hague.
Susana he has a rich background and expertise in the fields of human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law:
► Her most recent publications include "Reflections on the Judgment of the International Court of Justice in Bosnia’s Genocide Case against Serbia and Montenegro,"15 Human Rights Brief 2 (Fall 2007); with Katherine Cleary, "Victim Participation before the International Criminal Court," 17 Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems 73 (2008); and "Advances and Missed Opportunities in the International Prosecution of Gender-Based Crimes," 15 Michigan State Journal of International Law 137 (2007).
► Susana has directed the Legal Services Program at Women Empowered Against Violence, clerked for the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and worked with the Center for Human Rights Legal Action in Guatemala.
► She currently serves as co-chair of the Women’s International Law Interest Group of the American Society for International Law, and was recently awarded The Women’s Law Center 22nd Annual Dorothy Beatty Memorial Award, by the Women's Law Center of Maryland, for significant contributions to women’s rights.
Susana's chosen to dedicate her IntLawGrrls contributions to Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz who, as Susana describes in her post below, was a 17th century Mexican nun known as the America's 1st feminist writer. Sor Juana joins IntLawGrrls' other transnational foremothers in list at right, just below the "visiting from ..." map.
Hearfelt welcome!

Introducing Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

In this 1st post at IntLawGrrls blog, I will explain why I have selected as my transnational foremother Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648 or 1651-1695), a Mexican nun recognized for her extraordinary knowledge of the arts and sciences of her day and for her fierce defense of a woman's right to education. She has been called the first feminist of the Americas because of her outspoken advocacy of women's right to learn, a dangerous position to advance during the Inquisition in 17th century Mexico.
In one of her most famous writings, Reply to Sor Philotheawritten in response to a letter from the bishop of Puebla, who had posed as "Sor Philothea", which reprimanded her for neglecting religious literature—Sor (that is, Sister) Juana vigorously defended women's right to be educated and to take up intellectual pursuits, citing over forty women who had made significant contributions throughout history. Her reply incited harsh criticism from the Church. Although toward the end of her life Sor Juana renounced worldly learning, disposed of her library of 4,000 volumes (considered at the time to be the largest private library in Mexico), and devoted herself to penance, her story and reputation “as the first published feminist of the New World and as the most outstanding writer of the Spanish American colonial period” remain.
Many of her writings can be found online using the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Project.

'Nuff said

(Occasional item taking context-optional note of thought-provoking quotes.)

The United States and ICC supporters can do more to prevent impunity for serious crimes by working together than either can achieve on their own, and it is in our mutual interest to develop a relationship that recognizes this.

-- John B. Bellinger III, Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of State, concluding his speech last Friday at a conference on the International Criminal Court (logo at left) at DePaul University College of Law, Chicago. Commentary on same from our Opinio Juris colleagues is here; a Wall Street Journal article on the conference as a whole here.

On April 30

On this day in ...
... 2003 (5 years ago today), about 6 weeks after a U.S.-led coalition had invaded Iraq and put its President, Saddam Hussein, to flight, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer declared: ''It is the fact that major combat operations have ended.'' The same day, the New York Times published a "lessons learned" analysis of the operations that were said to have come to an end. In fact, combat continued; as we've tracked, servicemember casualties now exceed 4,365 (with U.S. troop deaths in April at a 7-month high), while a low estimate places Iraqi civilian casualties at 83,221 children, women, and men.
... 1952, The Diary of a Young Girl by the late Anne Frank (right), who lived in hiding in Amsterdam before Nazis transported her and her family to concentration camps, was made available in English. First published in Dutch as Het Achterhuis in 1947, the memoir since has been issued in 50 different languages. (photo credit)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rice Rationing

The line seemed to stretch for days—men and women pushing carts filled to the brim with foodstuffs struggled and prodded their way to the front of the line to pay for their purchases.
“One bag per customer!” shrieked a clerk to the ever-growing crowd. “One bag per customer!”
The crowd became restive and angry. “One bag?” shouts an old man, a hand cradling his treasure—5 bags of rice peeked enticingly from between the bars of the metal shopping cart. “What can we do with just one bag?” he demanded.
“Not my problem, sir,” the clerk replied. “Our policy is one bag of rice per customer. I just work here. I don’t make the rules.”
“How are we supposed to feed our families?” a woman demanded, her voice at once plaintive and angry.
“Not my problem,” the clerk repeated.
“Well, whose problem is it?” shouted a young man dressed in army fatigues, his muscular arms easily juggling his burden of 10 bags of rice.
The clerk shrugged, which only seemed to enflame the others. The crowd moved as a single predatory unit. A chant rose up: “Whose problem? Whose problem? Whose problem?” Someone tipped over a display case of mars bars and celebrity gossip rags, the sound of the metal stand hitting the concrete floor galvanized the crowd. Fists flew, several catching the hapless clerk on the head and stomach. Blood from his wounds spilled onto his navy blue Wal-Mart-issued coverall. He doubled over and landed on the floor, writhing in pain.
The crowd had gotten a taste of their power, and they weren’t ready to stop. They turned on each other, rifling through their neighbors carts and grabbing at whatever they could get a hold of—rice, sugar, flour. Children were pushed aside, women trampled, men pummeled.
It was survival of the fittest all over again.
Suddenly, a piercing yell reverberated through the crowd. “This is the New York City Police Department. We have you surrounded! Come out with your hands up!”
* * * *

OK, I’m clearly having a bit of fun here. But have you seen the headlines? “Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World,” and “Two major US retailers ration rice amid global food crisis.” It seems Costco and Wal-Mart are going to save us from ourselves by rationing rice, oil, and flour in New York and California. “This temporary cap is intended to ensure there is plenty of rice for all our members,” claims a company spokesman. Admittedly, the world is going through a global food crisis, and India, Vietnam and Thailand have either limited their rice exports or are considering such action. But there is no scarcity of rice in the United States. In fact, David Coi of the U.S. Rice Federation admitted as much. Coi maintains:

'What happened is because of perception of problems in the world market, a few people try to buy more rice than they usually do, and these two companies have decided they want all their customers to be able to purchase rice. What happened was one person bought a three-month supply instead of a two-week supply that they normally buy.'
Are you kidding me? The proper response to a few people buying more rice than usual is to ration it? To purposefully create a false sense of scarcity? Costco and Wal-Mart’s actions are nothing more than a cynical and self-serving attempt to profit from the global food crisis. They ought to be ashamed.

Remembering Harold, thinking about Barack

Twenty-five years ago today Chicago made history when Harold Washington was sworn in as mayor.
The 42d person to lead America's Second City, Washington, who was serving in Congress at the time of his election, became the 1st African-American to hold that position. (photo credit) In a bruising primary, he'd bested the incumbent, Chicago's only woman mayor, Jane M. Byrne, as well as Richard M. Daley, presumptive heir to the seat his father had held for 2 decades. Still more bruises followed in the contest against Republican State Rep. Bernard Epton, as the website of the local CBS affiliate reported:

90 percent of white voters in Chicago, including ward bosses, turned their back on the Democratic Party. The atmosphere of the city became divisive and hostile in ways that would be difficult to imagine ... a quarter century later.
... It became a campaign of slurs, accusations, charges and counter-charges, and a contest dominated by the issue of race. ...

I remember it well.
The election took place while I was a student at Chicago's Northwestern University School of Law, from which Washington had earned his J.D. in 1952, a time when, according to campus lore when I was there, the school was considered "progressive" for setting aside 2 seats in each class, 1 for a woman, 1 for an African-American. (Washington's set-aside sibling also proved her mettle: Dawn Clark Netsch was graduated magna cum laude, became a politician and Northwestern law professor, and, in 1994, the 1st woman to receive the Illinois gubernatorial nomination of a major party.) Although decades had passed, in 1983 the city remained splintered, a metropolis of ethnic enclaves circled by unseen but well known walls. Isolation fed bitter, overt hostilities.
Emblematic of the ugliness of the 1983 campaign was a button that my relative saw worn openly on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange: Beneath the circle-with-slash that's the universal sign of "NO" was a green watermelon against a black background.
And yet, that year, Chicago began to rewrite its history. Citywide turnout on Election Day was nearly 88%, the highest ever. In the end a coalition of African-American, Latina/o, and "white 'lakefront liberal' voters" elected "Harold," as supporters called him, by a slim margin.
Washington's 4 years as mayor -- he died from a heart attack in 1987 -- were landmark. The city fared as it had under other mayors. That fact of competence eroded Chicago's entrenched ugliness. And though Daley eventually did become mayor, his way of running things proved far more inclusive than that of his father.
Harold's breakthrough, moreover, inspired a generation -- not only this onetime lakefront law student, but also a man who came to the city in the '80s to work with poor people. That man was Barack Obama (right), now himself a Member of Congress, now taking his own bruising as he endeavors to repeat in the national arena what Harold achieved in Chicago.

On April 29

On this day in ...
... 1951, at a meeting in Beijing, China presented a 5-member delegation of the Tibetan government with a draft agreement. According to the Tibetan Government in Exile, the delegation "rejected the Chinese proposal in toto," and in any event did not have power to enter a pact with China; nonetheless, after undergoing "harsh and insulting terms" and being both "threatened with physical violence" and isolated from its Government, on May 23 the delegation signed the "Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" to avoid "an immediate military advance on Lhasa," Tibet's capital. China's official news service, Xinhua, has an extremely different view of events. As we've posted, China's half-century presence in -- and the Dalai Lama's exile from -- Tibet sparked riots there last month. This month, there've been disturbances nearly everywhere the Olympic torch has been displayed.
.... 2008 (today), is celebrated the 6th annual International Dance Day. At this year's celebration at UNESCO headquarters in Paris will feature performances by South African and French dancers as well as delivery of the annual "Message" by dancer and choreographer Gladys Faith Agulhas, shown at right with Makhotso Sompane (photo credit) of Agulhas Theatre Works, Johannesburg. The date was set aside in order, as UNESCO put it,
to bring all dance together on this day, to celebrate this art form and revel in its universality, to cross all political, cultural and ethnic barriers and bring people together in peace and friendship with a common language : Dance.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Welcome IntLawGrrl Rebecca Bratspies

IntLawGrrls is proud to announce our newest member: Rebecca Bratspies (right), Associate Professor of Law at CUNY School of Law in New York.
Rebecca's teaching and scholarship focus on environmental and public international law, with particular emphasis on how legal systems govern the global commons and how law can further sustainable development. Before entering teaching, as a Henry Luce Foundation Scholar, she was seconded to the Republic of China Environmental Protection Administration in Taipei, and later practiced litigation at Dechert, Price and Rhoads in Philadelphia.
Her publications, on topics such as environmental liability, international fisheries regulation, and genetically modified food crops, include “Rethinking Decision-making in International Law: A Process-Oriented Inquiry into Sustainable Development,” 32 Yale Journal of International Law 363 (2007), and Transboundary Harm In International Law: Lessons from the Trail Smelter Arbitration (2006), which she cowrote with with Russell A. Miller. This year she and Miller are set to publish Progress in International Organization, to which a panel was devoted at this month's annual meeting of the American Society of International Law. A member-scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform, Rebecca has experience blogging at BioLaw and Agricultural Law, both of which we've added to our "connections" list at right. Her 1st IntLawGrrls post below addresses the current food crisis, a topic on which I too post, still farther below.
Rebecca's chosen to dedicate her work on the blog to Harriet Tubman, to whom IntLawGrrl Hope Lewis here likewise gave special note. Tubman, as we've posted, was an escaped slave who helped other escapees to freedom on the Underground Railroad, served the Union "as a cook, a nurse, and even a spy," and agitated for women's suffrage. Rebecca explains her particular reasons for choosing Tubman:

Her courage has always been an inspiration to me. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and one of my friends lived in a house that had been part of the Underground Railroad. As girls, we read everything we could about her life. To me, her story has always been a reminder that social transformation is possible, and a vivid example of תיקון עולם (Tikkun olam, or "repairing the world").

Tubman thus joins IntLawGrrls' other transnational foremothers in the list at right, just below the "visiting from ..." map. (credit for Tubman portrait, by Robert Shetterley)
Heartfelt welcome!

"Predictable" food catastrophe

A Predictable Catastrophe—that is how Jacques Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has described the growing world food crisis. The combined pressures of market speculation, diversion of corn to biofuel production, pressures from a changing climate, and an increased demand for meat from rapidly developing nations all contribute to the record high prices for staples like wheat, corn, and rice.
These recent events are not written on tabula rasa. Decades of International Monetary Fund-imposed structural adjustment, which forced developing countries to drastically cut agricultural subsidies and to promote production of export crops rather than food for the domestic population, created a situation in which developing countries were particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of international trade. The current crisis (prior IntLawGrrls posts here) is also at least partly attributable to the collapse of the Doha round and the failure of the United States, European Union, and Japan to eliminate domestic subsidies for agricultural production.
Where is the outrage?
I know that sitting here in New York, awash in plenty, most of my neighbors are more interested in whether fast food companies should have to post the calorie counts for their meals than the hundreds of millions of people suffering food insecurity. From a distance, it can be hard to appreciate the enormity of this problem. But, millions of the world’s poor face hunger because they simply cannot afford to feed themselves and their families. That is inexcusable!
Biofuel production poses a particular threat to the food security of women. A recent FAO analysis reports:

Unless policies are adopted in developing countries to strengthen the participation of small farmers, especially women in biofuel production by increasing their access to land, capital and technology—gender inequalities are likely to become more marked and women’s vulnerability to hunger and poverty further exacerbated.

The report also warned about threats to biodiversity and traditional knowledge posed by the replacement of local crops with monoculture energy crop plantations.
Food riots, prompted by shortages, are perhaps the most visible sign of a food system in disarray. The FAO warns that more than 30 countries face food crises. (See post below for yet another set of concerns.)
Olivier de Schutter, the newly appointed U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, certainly has his work cut out for him.

On balance, does the Earth benefit from shipping organic foods transcontinentally?

Beyond the food-crisis concerns that newest IntLawGrrl Rebecca Bratspies raises today (in a post that joins others of recent weeks), there's another concern to ponder:
Does it help the planet to buy organic foods if they traveled halfway 'round the globe to reach our plate? Or, as The New York Times put it Saturday, want "Some Carbon With Your Kiwi?"
That was the teaser for "The Environmental Cost of Shipping Groceries All Over the World," an excellent article by Elisabeth Rosenthal (below left).
Among the transcontinental food movement that Rosenthal cites:
Britain ... imports -- and exports -- 15,000 tons of waffles a year, and similarly exchanges 20 tons of bottled water with Australia.
The result's predictable:

[P]ollution -- especially carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas -- from transporting the food.

Perhaps, then, we ought to add an aphorism to prior suggestion of biodiversity dieting: Think globally, eat locally.

On April 28

On this day in ...
... 1932, researchers announced the discovery of the 1st effective vaccine for yellow fever, a sometimes fatal disease apparently so named because the skin of some of its victims becomes jaundiced. Discoverer Max Theiler was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1951. Carried by mosquito from human to human(virus at left), "yellow fever has increased in the last two decades of the 20th century and is again a serious public health issue."
... 1970, the United States notified Cambodian officials of the decision of President Richard M. Nixon "to approve and assist the South Vietnamese sweep into Cambodia, with the objectives of saving the Government of Premier Lon Nol and destroying Communist hideouts in Cambodian territory," the New York Times reported. U.S. involvement in Cambodia ended, as we've posted, with defeat in the same month 5 years later. After U.S. withdrawal Lon Nol (right), who'd overthrown Cambodia's Prince Sihanouk in March 1970, went into exile in Hawaii.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Déboire de la globalisation*

* Globalization’s heartbreaks.

Couldn’t resist the pun: a “déboire” is a heartbreak, disappointment or difficulty; “boire” means to drink. One drinks from a glass, and a heartbreaking (among other adjectives) result of globalization is that the French drinking glass company, Duralex, is going under, glub glub. Created in 1939, this handy little tumbler (because it survives tumbles?) has served generations in school- and employer-run cafeterias (yes, French employers must provide either a company cafeteria, a sufficiently equipped space to allow employees to eat on site, or a lunch allowance as part of their pay), and is widely used in homes (we have several) and retro-chic cafés. How can such a sturdy and ubiquitous product, with an equally sturdy global reputation, go belly up? According to the workers’ union rep, the company’s Turkish owner and principal customer has mismanaged the company, which is otherwise viable, by buying glasses at below-market rate for his Turkish dishware companies. Result: Duralex has been in judicial recovery since 2005, one of its factories was closed in 2007 for economic reasons (putting 103 people out of work), and the second factory (240 employees) is now facing the same fate—unless someone can come up with at least €5 million ($7.5-8 million) towards the overall €22 million (at least $33 million) debt. The bankruptcy judge had, of course, asked the owner for this money, but he went home to Turkey.
I am not at all familiar with bankruptcy law or procedures that might allow for bringing this person to justice, so to speak (going bankrupt isn’t a crime, after all). Neither is the general public. And the press isn’t saying, which is rather typical of stories of factory closings here in France:
► Foreign owner closes down the “inefficient” or “expensive” French site, taking the work (and money) home; or
► French owner closes down the “inefficient” or “expensive” French site, taking the work (and money) elsewhere; and
► No one talks about what the solution might be, other than protectionism.
Paradoxically, while the government tries to keep factory closings quiet for obvious reasons, stories like Duralex’s get good coverage, stirring up anti-globalization sentiment with which this IntLawGrrl sympathizes when globalization leads to the enrichment of some and the impoverishment of others, leaving us feeling that the glass is only half full (photo credit)). I wonder, though, why this otherwise viable company was sold in the first place, and whether we shouldn’t be collectivizing rather than globalizing tout azimut.

On April 27

On this day in ...
... 1960, the West African country of Togo won its independence from a U.N. trusteeship managed by 1 of its former colonizers, France. The day was not marked for nearly 3 decades when President Gnassingbé Eyadéma held sway; he ordered celebration instead on January 13, "the date he took power in 1967." After his death in 2005, his son and successor, President Faure Gnassingbé, returned the independence celebrations to this date.
... 1973 (35 years ago today), Beryl Plumptre was named chair of the new Food Prices Review Board of Canada. She saw her job "not merely to report on why food prices were increasing so rapidly, but to report, not to politicians, but directly to the Canadian public." At the time that Plumptre, a past president of the Consumers' Association of Canada and the Vanier Institute of the Family, launched the food board, Canadians spent 20% of their budget on food. Today it's about 10%. The food board was merged a few years later with Canada's Anti-Inflation Board; Plumptre became vice chair of the latter agency. Born in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, in 1908, she died just this month, on April 4, at the age of 99. (credit for circa 2000 portrait of Plumptre, by Jerry Grey)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Human rights for hostes humanis?

Since the time of Grotius, a pirate has been considered to be hostis humanis generis, an enemy of mankind.

So write Ilias Bantekas and Susan Nash in their book International Criminal Law (2003). As a global enemy, the pirate was subject to prosecution in any country that managed to exercise jurisdiction over him -- or, in the case of pirates like my IntLawGrrls transnational foremother Grace O'Malley -- her. (credit)
Thus it's a bit of a surprise to read that Britain, the country that once claimed to rule the waves, is shirking from seizure of the 21st C. pirates about whom IntLawGrrl Naomi Norberg posted earlier this month. London's Sunday Times of London reported that the Foreign Office has instructed the Royal Navy "not to detain pirates because doing so may breach their human rights." The Times' Marie Woolf reports of the further concern regarding the "risk that captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain." This fear of inability to return the captives likely stems from Britain's non-refoulement obligations, explicit in treaty provisions such as Article 33 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture, and deemed implicit in provisions such as Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

The Foreign Office has advised that pirates sent back to Somalia could have their human rights breached because, under Islamic law, they face beheading for murder or having a hand chopped off for theft.

Not all Britons share this view. The Times quoted Julian Brazier, a Conservative Member of Parliament:
'These people commit horrendous offences. The solution is not to turn a blind eye but to turn them over to the local authorities. The convention on human rights quite rightly doesn’t cover the high seas. It’s a pathetic indictment of what our legal system has come to.'

No doubt the notion that even hostes humanis have human rights also will trouble those who would use the old rule of free-rein-to-fight-pirates as a template for today's treatment of persons caught up in what the Bush Administration calls its "Global War on Terror."

(Cross-posted at Slate's Convictions blog. Subsequently, co-bloggers Benjamin Wittes posted this response, and Deborah Pearlstein this reply. Thanks to Berkeley Law student Lindsay M. Harris for the head's up on the Times story.)

"Human rights isn't a zero-sum game"

IntLawGrrls readers may recall last Saturday's post regarding the U.N. General Assembly speech in which Pope Benedict XVI endorsed the promotion of human rights. A key element of was the pope's support for the view that civil and political rights are indivisible from economic, social, and cultural rights.
Cross-posting of the report at Slate's Convictions drew response from my fellow blogger Eric Posner, a University of Chicago law professor whose scholarship often concerns international law. His post, entitled China, Human Rights Champion?, began:

If Diane and the pope are right that we shouldn't privilege civil and political rights over social, economic, and cultural rights, and maybe they are right, then we should give credit where credit is due, and crown China the human rights champion of the last thirty years.

It concluded:

We needn't declare a winner; but out of respect for China's achievement, we should at least let it relay its Olympic torch in peace.

FWIW, here, in full, is how I replied:

Eric, nothing that the pope said Friday favored one set of rights over another. Indeed, as my post stated, his speech to the U.N. General Assembly included "a tacit reprimand to those who would privilege civil and political rights over economic, social, and cultural rights -- or vice versa." (emphasis added) The point I'd intended to underscore was that the pope had reaffirmed the indivisibility of both sets of rights, the civil/political, on the one hand, and the economic/social/cultural, on the other. Indivisibility was inherent in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but frayed when Cold War geopolitics pushed the U.N. Human Rights Commission to separate the 2 sets as it began the process of drafting treaties designed to make binding all those rights that states had endorsed in the nonbinding Declaration. That separation, which seemed essential at the height of the Cold War, may be less so today: 160 countries are full members of the 1977 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, while 157 countries are full members of the 1977 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. That means that 3/4 of all the United Nations' member states are firmly in each Convenant's camp. Vestiges of Cold War concerns may be found, however, in the fact that the United States is not party to the latter Covenant and China is not party to the former.
As for China: application of the concept of indivisibility means that China is no more a "champion" of human rights than any other state. The role that the Chinese state has played in alleviating poverty deserves attention. Indeed, how each country addresses the basic needs of persons within its jurisdiction deserves note, as I've argued with regard to the United States in a forthcoming essay just posted at SSRN. But the costs of such programs also must be assessed, respecting matters as wide-ranging as the health problems and the repressions of civil liberties that may result from economic development at all costs. (Here, too, insert a "vice versa.")
On 2 points, it seems, we agree. 1st: Athletes honored to carry the torch a bit of the way toward the 2008 Olympics should not have to fear anger and assault as they run through the streets of their home country. 2d: Comprehensive, critical comparison of the nature and extent of states' programs to protect human rights rarely will yield a clear "winner."

On April 26

On this day in ...
... 1998 (10 years ago today), 75-year-old Juan Gerardi Conedera, a Roman Catholic Bishop, was fatally bludgeoned in Guatemala City, Guatemala. His death occurred 2 days after he issued Nunca Más (Never Again), his "scathing report on human rights violations committed during the country's 36-year civil war." In June 2001, a Guatemalan court sentenced to 30 years in prison the retired colonel, the captain, and the sergeant whom it had convicted of the murder. (photo credit: Bishop Gerardi's funeral procession)
... 2008 (today), is celebrated the 8th annual World Intellectual Property Day. It was founded by the group responsible for monitoring global developments in intellectual property, aptly named the World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO. Its Director General, Kamil Idris, states, with good reason:
The man or woman in the street might wonder just what makes intellectual property worth all this effort. What, they might ask, do the workings of copyrights, patents, industrial designs or trademarks have to do with the really big issues, like how to stop global warming; or with the things that add spice to life, like watching their favorite athletes perform in this year’s Olympics?

His answer:
The answer is that, without intellectual property rights, many new technologies developed to tackle global problems would never see the light of day and the great sporting events, which entertain and unite us, would not be broadcast into homes across the globe.

And for that reason, he concludes:
[O]n World Intellectual Property Day, we pay tribute to the inventors and artists, great and small, who enrich our existence with the fruits of their innovative thoughts and creative vision.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Roosevelt memorial

Had the opportunity during my recent visit to Washington, D.C., to make a 1st visit to the Roosevelt Memorial installed a few years back on the edge of the Tidal Basin, a stone's throw from the Jefferson Memorial. The bronze statues recalling the life and times of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President during the Great Depression and World War II, and Eleanor Roosevelt, 1st Lady and, eventually, U.S. delegate to the United Nations, were set against dark granite. The words etched in stone, they shone.
Depression-era soup kitchen line

Crippled by polio a decade before his election as President, FDR sits in his seldom-photographed wheelchair.

Perhaps the most famous line from FDR's 1st Inaugural Address in 1932; audio here.

Fala stands sentry at the foot of FDR.

Real men, and women, hate war.

Though the Roosevelts' record was not unblemished, their lifework helped to open a new era of human rights.

A call to global justice.

ER beside the symbol of the United Nations. Many women stopped, climbed into the alcove, and had their photos taken in a sisterly stance right next to Eleanor.

On April 25

On this day in ...
... 1983 (25 years ago today), Samantha Smith, a 10 year old schoolgirl from Maine, received a letter in which President Yuri Andropov invited her to visit the Soviet Union. His letter came in response to hers of a few months earlier, in which Samantha (left) wrote, in part:
I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to have a war or not? If you aren't please tell me how you are going to not have a war.

She and her parents made the trip that summer, and she became known as a child emissary for peace. She and her father died in a plane crash in 1985. (photo credit)
... 1974, a military coup took place in Portugal. What came to be known as the Carnation Revolution brought to an end a dictatorship that had lasted for 50 years, longer than any other in Europe. The people of Portugal (flag at right) celebrate this date as Freedom Day.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New IntLawGrrls Arrival

Congratulations to Janie Chuang on the birth of her baby boy, Ian Henry Chuang Parrish. He was born on Friday, April 4, in the middle of the afternoon, providing Janie with the very best possible of reasons for having to miss the annual ASIL meeting. He weighed 7 lbs 5 oz at birth. Janie has recovered in record time and sends her regards to all. Ian is absolutely beautiful and, like all good IntLawChildren, is becoming an avid IntLawGrrls reader at a very young age!

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On April 24

On this day in ...
... 1955, the Bandung Conference of 29 countries, mostly from Asia and North Africa, ended. Leaders who met in Bandung, Indonesia, included India's Jawaharlal Nehru, and Burma's U Nu, pictured at left, as well as Pakistan's Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Lebanon's Charles Malik, China's Chou En-Lai, and Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser. Topics discussed included "colonialism, economic and cultural cooperation, the legitimacy of defense pacts such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), and the viability of peaceful coexistence." The conference paved the way 6 years later for a conference among Non-Aligned Nations.
... 1863 (145 years ago today), in the midst of the Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln promulgated Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, known as the Lieber Code in recognition of its principal drafter, Columbia Law Professor Francis Lieber (right), who'd fought in the Franco-Prussian War before emigrating and whose sons fought on both sides of America's War Between the States. The significance of this document is noted by no less an authority than the International Committee of the Red Cross:

Although they were binding only on the forces of the United States, they correspond to a great extend to the laws and customs of war existing at that time. The "Lieber Instructions" strongly influenced the further codification of the laws of war and the adoption of similar regulations by other states. They formed the origin of the project of an international convention on the laws of war presented to the Brussels Conference in 1874 and stimulated the adoption of the Hague Conventions on land warfare of 1899 and 1907.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

... and counting ...

(Occasional sobering thoughts.)
Amid news:
► that 1 in 5 servicemembers "returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffers symptoms of depression or post-traumatic stress," but that "barely half are seeking treatment";
► that "due to Iraq's lack of state capacity, the primary responsibility for taking care of refugees has fallen on militia leaders who, naturally, use that situation to consolidate their power"; and
► that "[f]ighting between security forces and Shi'ite militiamen" in March drove "civilian deaths in Iraq to their highest level" since August 2007;
we proceed with a count Iraq/Afghanistan casualties in the 4 weeks since we last reported.
According to Iraq Body Count, between 82,987 and 90,521 Iraqi women, children, and men had died in the conflict -- an increase of between 747 and 770 deaths in the last 4 weeks. Regarding servicemembers: by the U.S. Defense Department's figures, as of Sunday 4,045 American servicemembers had been killed in Iraq. Total coalition fatalities: 4,354 persons. That's 56 servicemember deaths in 4 weeks, all but 1 of them Americans. (Without explanation, the site appears to have stopped listing how many servicemembers were wounded.) Military casualties in the conflict in Afghanistan stand at 494 Americans and 305 other coalition servicemembers, an increase of 7 and 12, respectively, in the last 4 weeks.

On April 23

On this day in ...
... 1702, a founder of the Society of Friends, Margaret Fell, died in Swarthmoor, England. She'd been born in the same country in 1614. Her husband, an older man who rode circuit as a judge and served in Parliament, left to her the duties of managing their estate. In 1652 she and her daughters heard the preaching of George Fox. She married Fox upon her 1st husband's death, and helped Fox to establish the Friends, a group known colloquially as "Quakers," despite persecution and loss of her estate. In 1666, amid a 4-year term of imprisonment, she issued the pamphlet at right, which "[f]eminist historians have recognized ... as a key document, one of the first by a woman, in the evolution of woman's vision as an equal partner with man": Women's Speaking Justified, Proved and Allowed of by the Scriptures, All Such as Speak by the Spirit and Power of the Lord Jesus And How Women Were the First That Preached the Tidings of the Resurrection of Jesus, and Were Sent by Christ's Own Command Before He Ascended to the Father (John 20:17).
... 1984, Margaret M. Heckler (right), then the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced that scientists had discovered a virus believed to cause AIDS, which the BBC described as "the fatal disease sweeping through America." It was hoped that the discovery of the virus, eventually known as HIV, would lead to development of a vaccine; that has not yet occurred. The BBC further reports:
An estimated 24 million people, both homosexual and heterosexual, have died of Aids since the disease emerged in the United States. It has now reached pandemic proportions in some parts of southern Africa, where two million died in 2001 alone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gas Prices Rise: What is the WTO to Do?

Every day, the price of gas reaches a new “all-time high.” Retail rates are averaging $3.50 a gallon, but for those of us living in California, that would be a dream come true. The last few weeks, I have paid between $3.80 and $3.90 a gallon, and San Franciscans have already seen that magic number: $4.00 a gallon.
Worse yet, there is no indication that prices are stabilizing any time soon. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims prices are too low and “oil is a strategic commodity that needs to discover its real value." The recent attacks against Nigeria’s oil pipeline and the Japanese tanker in Yemen have driven the price of oil even higher (now $117 a barrel for crude). How high is “the real value” of oil likely to go? No one can say with any certainty, but it seems clear that we are in for a long upward climb. (photo credit)
Some might say that $4.00 is hardly cause for concern. Europeans have long been paying exorbitant gasoline prices with some real benefits: manufactures produce smaller cars for the European market, more people bike and walk to work, and gasoline tax revenues are used to maintain a robust social safety net. I support the environmental benefits that come from decreased dependence on cars. When I moved to Northern California five years ago, I was more than a little surprised at the underdeveloped and poor condition of public transportation; it’s particularly striking considering how much California prides itself on its progressive environmental policies (a subject about which IntLawGrrl Hari M. Osofsky's posted here, here, here, and here).
But increased gas prices have a profoundly regressive impact: those who can least afford it, are forced to pay the most. It is hardly possible to feed, clothe and house oneself on a minimum wage job, but imagine having to factor in a $50 to $60 weekly gas bill just to get to work. High gas prices, coupled with the rising cost of basic foodstuffs like corn and rice, and the economic fallout from the mortgage crisis have converged into a perfect economic storm that threatens to blow many over before we are done.
Well, does international trade law have anything to say about the price of gas at our pumps?
Yes, actually.
For years, Congress has been clamoring for the United States to bring a dispute in the World Trade Organization against some of the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has gone so far as to articulate the legal case against those OPEC members who are also members of the WTO. In his report, Busting Up The Cartel: The WTO Case Against OPEC, Lautenberg charges that OPEC’s production quotas violate a host of WTO rules, including General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT, Article XI, which prohibits quantitative restrictions or quotas (the rule is more commonly applied to imports, but there is no reason why export quotas could not similarly be covered under the rule). The 2003 report acknowledges OPEC might benefit from certain GATT exceptions, including Article XX, which permits GATT-inconsistent measures “relating to the conservation of exhaustible natural resources.” In short, GATT Article XX may provide an excuse allowing OPEC’s production quotas to stand. But Article XX maintains such restrictions cannot constitute a “disguised restriction on international trade,” which Lautenberg claims it does.
A WTO case against some of OPEC’s most powerful members—Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Kuwait, Nigeria, Qatar, the UAE and Venezuela—would cause a stir to say the least. It might actually endear the WTO to the majority of Americans who see the organization as The Great Satan. But a WTO case is an unlikely pipe dream. Robert Zoellick, the nation’s top trade chief at the time the Lautenberg report issued, was dismissive of a potential claim (and there is nothing to indicate that his successor, Susan Schwab (left), believes differently). President George W. Bush has consistently refused to entertain the idea.
But will all of that change when gas prices hit $4.00 a gallon?