Vacancy: Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights – NUI Galway

Nui GalwayThe National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway seeks to appoint a Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, within the School of Law.

In filling the Established Professorship in Human Rights Law, NUI Galway is seeking a person with an international reputation for academic excellence in Human Rights Law combined with strong leadership skills who will complement the existing strengths of the Centre and enable it to develop new areas of activity in line with its future strategic priorities. S/he will normally have a doctoral- level degree in Human Rights Law and a substantial record of teaching and research, the later evidenced by substantial publications in the broad field of human rights. The post-holder will also be the Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at a critical time in its development having enjoyed tremendous success, nationally and internationally, particularly since 2000.

Academic staff members of the Centre are engaged in research of high international standing in a number of fields including: human rights, international criminal law, international humanitarian law, peace operations, ethnic conflict, political violence and transitional justice, socio-legal studies, Islamic law, Middle Eastern studies and Business and Human Rights.

The post-holder, as the recognised leader of the sub-discipline of Human Rights in the School of Law, will contribute to the development of the education and research programmes of the School. The Established Professor of Human Rights Law, in his or her role as Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, will also contribute positively and proactively to the collective leadership of the School of Law. S/he will be expected to work with colleagues in the Irish Centre for Human Rights, the School of Law and other stakeholders to develop an ambitious Strategic Plan for the Centre reflecting the most relevant emphases of the University’s current strategic plan, Vision 2020.

Closing date for receipt of applications is 17:00 (Irish Time) on Thursday, 20th October 2016. It will not be possible to consider applications received after the closing date.

For more information about the vacancy, click here.

Iraqi Civilians v. Ministry of Defence: Denial of Justice in Cases Involving International Torts

UK Soldiers Iraqby Rishi Gulati and Matthew Nelson*

The decision of the United Kingdom Supreme Court in Iraqi Civilians v. Ministry of Defence (No. 2) [2016] UKSC 25 (“Iraqi Civilians”) demonstrates how public and private international law concepts interact and affect the rights of individuals allegedly subjected to grave breaches of rights to access a remedy before courts of law.

 Iraqi Civilians: Background

The claimants, hundreds of Iraqi civilians represented by 14 lead claimants, brought claims under the Human Rights Act 1998 and in tort against the UK Ministry of Defence, for damages arising out of alleged unlawful detention and/or physical maltreatment by British soldiers between 2003 to 2008 in Iraq. After the cessation of the major combat operations in May 2003, the UK became an occupying power and began exercising the powers of the Iraqi Government on a temporary basis.

The Supreme Court’s brief decision, delivered by Justice Sumption, concerned the application of limitations to the claimants’ suits that operated as a matter of Iraqi law. Accepting, as the parties did, that Iraqi law applied in relation to questions of the Ministry’s liability in tort, the claimants were, by operation of Article 232 of the Civil Code of Iraq (the “Civil Code”), barred from commencing their applications (though their rights were not extinguished) by virtue of the operation of limitation periods to claims of this kind. Consequently, the claimants sought to invoke an order of the Coalition authorities, Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 (the “Order”), that operated to suspend the taking of proceedings in Iraqi courts against the UK Government, such that it conferred state immunity on the UK Government from legal process in Iraqi courts. It is this order, the claimants’ argued, that had the effect of suspending the limitation periods, as envisaged in Article 435 of the Civil Code. Continue reading

Gaddafi Son Saif al-Islam ‘Released’ from Libya Jail

Saif Al-Islam GaddafiMuammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam has been released from custody after his death sentence was quashed, his British lawyer said.

Muammar Gaddafi’s most prominent son was sentenced to death in 2015 for crimes committed during the revolution that overthrew his father. The sentence had been quashed by Libya’s new UN-backed government this year, and Saif is now at an undisclosed location after being released from house arrest in the mountain town of Zintan where he had been held for five years.

“He’s been released from Zintan detention. The release, I’m told, was on 12 April – there was an order from the central government,” said his lawyer. “He’s in Libya, he’s in good health, he’s safe and he’s well.”

The claim could not be independently verified, and neither the UN-backed government in Tripoli or Zintan authorities have yet commented on the report.

In practical terms, an amnesty for Saif would not be a decision the government can enforce as Zintan is home to one of the most powerful Libyan militias, and any release would depend on agreement by Zintan leaders.

His captors in Zintan refused to transfer him to Tripoli, where he was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in July 2015. The verdict had drawn condemnation abroad, with Human Rights Watch saying the trial was riddled with legal flaws and carried out amid widespread lawlessness undermining the credibility of the judiciary.

Saif al-Islam is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, which issued an arrest warrant in 2011 on preliminary charges of crimes against humanity, murder and persecution for being part of the inner circle of his father’s regime.

Gaddafi’s lawyer said the ICC must now drop its case because of rules prohibiting a suspect from being tried twice for the same crimes.

“There was a trial, there was a conviction, he was sentenced to death. After that there was an amnesty,” he said. “I’m going to be filing an application that the case is inadmissible at the ICC under article 20 of the statute concerning double jeopardy.”

Event: Trials in Absentia in International Criminal Justice

IBADate: 8 June 2016 from 14:00-17:30

Venue: The Hague Institute for Global Justice, Sophialaan 10, The Hague, Netherlands

This event is organized by the International Bar Association.

The Keynote presentation will be delivered by the President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), Judge Ivana Hrdlicková. 

Following the Keynote presentation, two panels of experts will discuss issues related to the theory and practice of trials in absentia: ‘Trials in absentia: human rights law & the judicial process’ (moderated by Dr Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director) and ‘Effective representation & ethics in trials in absentia‘ (moderated by Ms Anne-Marie Verwiel, expert in international criminal practice).

 Topics to be addressed include

  • Issues related to the fairness of proceedings, including notice to the accused, the right to re-trial, and effective assistance of Counsel
  • The tensions between the promotion of the rule of law, fair trial rights and efficiency of proceedings
  • The future of trials in absentia in international criminal law

The panelists include Mr Geoffrey Robertson QC, the former President of the UN’s Special Court for Sierra Leone, Mr François Falletti, the former Chief Prosecutor of the Paris Court of Appeals, Dr Guido Acquaviva, the Deputy Registrar of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, Ms Héleyn Uñac, Deputy Head of the Defence Office of the STL, as well as other international experts and practitioners with experience in in absentia trials, including at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal.

Participation is free of charge. However, prior registration is required to attend the event.

You can register by sending the name and email of all attendees to Hague.Events@int-bar.org before 25 May 2016.

For the full programme of the event, click here.

Amnesty International: Israel Must Cease Intimidation of Palestinian Human Rights Defenders

Palestine IsraelAmnesty International issued a report this week calling on the Israeli authorities to end their long-standing attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders (HRDs) and halt the climate of intimidation of HRDs in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

According to the report, Israel is routinely violating Palestinians’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association in the OPT and are targeting HRDs, including by arbitrary arrest and detention, imprisonment, injury and torture. Israel authorities also are failing to protect HRDs from attacks by Israeli settlers and other extreme right wing activists, and in some cases they have been complicit in such attacks.

The report of Amnesty International lists a number of specific situations where human rights defenders have been intimidated, threatened by death, arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned.

In February and March 2016, a staff member and the director of Al-Haq, a prominent Palestinian human rights NGO, were subjected to a number of death threats. According to the report, these threats are directly connected to the organisation’s work with the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Israeli ministers allegedly made calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, against Omar Barghouti, a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist, at an anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanction conference in Jerusalem on 28 March 2016. Continue reading

Myanmar: New Government Inherits Problems and Promise of Special Economic Zones

By Vani Sathisan (International Legal Advisor, International Commission of Jurists) and Bobbie Sta. Maria (Senior Researcher for Southeast Asia, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre)

Myanmar Special Economic ZoneWhile SEZs are supposed to be a driver for Myanmar’s economic growth, their impacts on the rights of affected communities indicate that this growth is reserved for businesses and investors.

This is a long form version of this article published by Reuters on 1st April 2016.

More than half a century of military rule ostensibly comes to a close on April 1, when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) officially takes over Myanmar’s government and the first civilian President since 1962 starts leading the nation. Despite these extraordinary developments, daunting challenges remain in Asia’s second poorest country. Myanmar’s military still controls key governmental functions; the country is barely emerging from decades of civil conflicts; rule of law and institutions are weak; the economy is fragile and dominated by crony companies; corruption, and human rights abuses remain stubbornly persistent.

The outgoing government initiated a number of significant changes, including efforts to encourage economic development through foreign trade and investment. This strategy included heavily promoting foreign investment through three major special economic zones (SEZ): a Japanese supported zone focused on manufacturing in Thilawa, near Yangon; a Thai supported zone initially focused on heavy industry including petrochemicals in Dawei in the south; and a Chinese supported zone in Kyaukphyu in the northwest, envisioned as a trade corridor connecting the Chinese, Indian and ASEAN economies. These were said to build on Myanmar’s strategic location and low-cost production base for export destinations in the region.

The NLD recently announced that while it supports the zone in Thilawa, it will reconsider the continuation of the Dawei and Kyaukphyu SEZs, study commitments made by the former government to investors, and speak with relevant stakeholders. This is a crucial process and many hope that the NLD does not lose sight of its commitments in its Election Manifesto, including encouraging “foreign investment in line with the highest international standards”, and laying down “paths for economic cooperation that can bring sustainable long-term mutual benefits”. Continue reading

Myanmar: Rule of law depends on reform of Union Attorney General’s Office

By Daniel Aguirre and Vani Sathisan*

Recent political discussion in Myanmar revolves around the formation of a new government and selection of a president, but not enough attention is focused on the position of the attorney general, who holds a critical function in upholding rule of law and respect for human rights.

Students arrested in a police crackdown on their peaceful protests against the education law in March 2015 arrive for a court hearing on May 12, 2015. Lawyers and activists complain the trial is taking too long. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw / The Myanmar Times

Students arrested in a police crackdown on their peaceful protests against the education law in March 2015 arrive for a court hearing on May 12, 2015. Lawyers and activists complain the trial is taking too long. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw / The Myanmar Times

The attorney general is Myanmar’s most powerful legal officer: As a member of the executive, the AG provides legal advice to the President and the hluttaw, analyses international treaties, drafts and amends laws, and represents the government in judicial proceedings. The attorney general also directs the prosecutors’ office and ensures that cabinet actions are legally valid, in line with the constitution and international human rights law.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), international donors and development partners discussed the attorney general’s powerful role on the sidelines of the launch for the Union Attorney General Office’s (UAGO) Strategic Plan 2015-19 in Nay Pyi Taw last week. All expressed hope that the incoming National League for Democracy (NLD) government will appoint an attorney general committed to reform, the rule of law and human rights, in line with their election manifesto promise to ensure that executive and judicial systems support the rule of law. Continue reading

Annual Report of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has published its Annual Report for the period from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2015.

The Report contains information on the mandate and procedures of the Panel as well as a detailed account of its activities over the last year. It also reports on the complaints the Panel dealt with in 2015 and the case-law it developed reviewing those cases.

The HRRP’s mandate is to review alleged human rights violations by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in the conduct of its executive mandate. The Panel will look into whether a violation of human rights occurred or not and formulate recommendations for remedial action.

iLawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux is a member of the Panel.

Dealing with the Past Course

Dealing with the pastThe Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is organizing an Advanced Learning Course for Professionals in cooperation with the Swiss Peace Foundation. The Course is called “Dealing with the Past” (DwP).

The DwP Course addresses a range of topics which are central to the implementation of relevant mechanisms for dealing with prior and on-going grave human rights violations. Special attention is paid to case studies, to a gender based approach, to the need to integrate DwP in the negotiation of peace agreements, as well as in the post conflict efforts.

The Course is designed to train professionals from governmental and multilateral institutions as well as from national and international non-governmental organizations, working in countries or regions which are confronted with a legacy of massive human rights abuse.

The DwP Course 2016 will take place from 5 – 13 July 2016 in Switzerland.

For further information on the course, click here.

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its Thirteenth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions between June and December 2015.

The newsletter also highlights the meetings that the HRRP held with officials and international organisations.

The Panel met with the new EULEX Chief of Staff. Meetings with EULEX representatives are essential for the cooperation between the Panel and EULEX as the HRRP’s mandate is to review alleged human rights violations by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in the conduct of its executive mandate. The Panel will look into whether a violation of human rights occurred or not and formulate recommendations for remedial action.

The Panel also met with representatives of various bodies, including the new Ombudsperson of Kosovo, as well as local authorities or representatives of the Serbian Government.

iLawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux is a member of the Panel.