15 November, 2011

Jonathan Sumption QC - the F A Mann Lecture 2011

Jonathan Sumption QC delivered the F A Mann Lecture at Lincoln's Inn on 9th November 2011.  His theme was "Judicial and Political Decision-Making: The Uncertain Boundary."  Mr Sumption has been appointed a Justice of the UK Supreme court but has not yet taken up the appointment.  He is likely to do so in 2012.  In the lecture, Mr Sumption looks at the extent of judicial review and asks whether the judiciary have now trespassed on to areas of policy which should be left to the appointed decision-maker.

Sumption Mann Lecture Final

03 June, 2011


Cemetery at Srebrenica

"I hope the very mention of the name “Srebrenica” will remind every child in the world that pride in our own religious and ethnic heritage does not require or permit us to dehumanize or kill those who are different. I hope and pray that Srebrenica will be for all the world a sober reminder of our common humanity" - President Clinton on 20th September 2003.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has already concluded that the 1995 events at Srebrenica amounted to the crime of genocide - see Radislav Krstić appeal.   The International Court of Justice agreed with this in 2007 when the ICJ held that Serbia had violated its obligation to prevent genocide (12 votes to 3) and also that Serbia had failed in its obligation to transfer Mladic for trial (14 votes to 1).  Suspicions remain that Serbia had sheltered Mladic even after the ICJ ruling. 

Ratko Mladic now stands indicted for his alleged part in the appalling events which are described here.

An exhumed body with blindfold and hands tied behind the back

26 May, 2011

Massacre of prisoners in Iran - "Do you think we should have given them sweets?" - The Iran Tribunal

Vietnam - The Russell Tribunal

In 1966, the British philosopher and mathematician Lord Russell (1872-1970) set up, along with Jean Paul Sartre, a tribunal to consider United States Foreign Policy and Military Intervention in Vietnam. Representatives of 18 countries participated and hearings were held in 1967 in Stockholm and Copenhagen. Twenty-five notable persons formed the tribunal including a number of Nobel Prize winners.   Neither Vietnam nor the United States of America participated and the tribunal was largely ignored by the media. The Tribunal reached, unanimously, a number of verdicts finding against the United States on matters such as the use of weaponry forbidden by the laws of war, inhumane treatment of prisoners etc - see Russell-Sarte Tribunal on Vietnam.  It was inevitable that the tribunal was criticised as a "Kangaroo Court" by those who had the opportunity to participate but declined to do so.  Of course, the tribunal had no legal force and could not try particular individuals.

This form of tribunal - essentially a private enterprise - contrasts with the approach to some events such as the International Criminal tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Iran in the 1980s - Report by Geoffrey Robertson QC - the Iran Tribunal

Iran Tribunal
This idea of a Tribunal has been adopted recently in relation to events which it is said took place in IRAN in the 1980s, a decade in which there was major war between Iraq and Iran resulting in the loss of in excess of half a million lives.  The war lasted until August 1988 when it came to an end as a result of United Nations effort and Security Council Resolution 598.  However, in the second half of 1988 there were many executions in Iran - some estimates say in excess of 4500.  Those executed appear to be political dissidents who were opposed to the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini.  Writing in The Guardian on 7th June 2010, Geoffrey Robertson QC called upon the United Nations to enforce international law by setting up a court to try the perpetrators of the massacres.  Mr Robertson has produced a detailed report on the massacres.

In his Guardian article, Robertson stated that - "Most of the judges and officials who implemented the fatwa are still in high office in Tehran – under a supreme leader who, when asked about killing prisoners replied: "Do you think we should have given them sweets?"

A Tribunal - (intended to operate on similar lines to the Russell-Sartre Tribunal) - has been set up and John Cooper QC has become Chairman of a Steering Committee.  The February 2011 Press release explains the way it is hoped to develop the Tribunal's work.  John Cooper stated - “The work of the Steering Committee in creating, advising and facilitating the establishment of the Iran Tribunal will be vital if due process is to be observed at the future hearings. We are determined that the Tribunal discovers the truth about what happened to thousands of Iranian people and that justice is finally done.”

The HOME Page of the Tribunal sets out the background and the aims of the Tribunal and ways of supporting the tribunal may also be seen. 

Further material is available at Amnesty International - "Iran: The 20th Anniversary of 1988 prison massacres"

Camp Ashraf and Iran Freedom

Camp Ashraf, Iraq
Many exiled Iranians are at Camp Ashraf in Iraq.  The European Union has recently called on Iraq to respect their rights - see Declaration of 9th April 2011.  This article in The Spectator is interesting.

See also British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom

14 May, 2011

Death of a distinguished jurist - Moshe Landau

A former Chief Justice of Israel - Moshe Landau - died on 1st May 2011 - aged 99.  His contribution to Israeli law was truly outstanding.

See these articles reporting his death and looking at his remarkable career - Israel National News and Haaretz

In particular, his conduct of the trial of Adolf Eichmann will long stand as an example of how a fair trial can be achieved even when the defendant is an arch-enemy of the State.  The 14 week trial was held in 1961 and, in accordance with Israeli law, three judges sat - Moshe Landau, Benjamin Halevy and Yitzhak Raveh.  Sentence of death was passed in December 1961 and carried out on 31st May 1962.  Eichmann's ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean Sea.

A particularly striking article about Landau may be seen at the Ruthfully Yours blog.

Throughout his remarkable career in the law, Landau stands out as a truly independently minded judge who paid meticulous attention to detail.  Above all, he had that one absolutely essential characteristic for a judge: courage.

The Telegraph 15th May - Obituary of Moshe Landau

16 March, 2011

In Memoriam - Halabja - 16th March 1988

Halabja Memorial

Never Forget Halabja
As Sulaymānīyah - Iraq

In March 1988 Halabja was subjected to an horrific gas attack which killed some 5000 people and caused severe injury to many more.  On 25th January 2010 the man who ordered this attack - Ali Hassan Al Majid (a cousin of Saddam Hussein) - was executed in Baghdad.  The full horror is well recorded by the Gallery of Muslim Massacres website.  The City of Manchester, in Northern England, has a modest memorial to Halabja 16th March 1988.  It is a tree - (pictured) - and a small memorial stone.  They are located in a busy part of the city centre.  Today, 16th March 2011, a small group of people met there and placed flowers in remembrance of those who had died.

The Halabja massacre took place toward the end of the Iraq-Iran War (September 1980-August 1988).  Of course, much was to unfold before the Saddam Hussein regime was finally brought to an end as a result of military action against Iraq.   There was the action (under United Nations mandate) to remove Iraqi Forces from Kuwait - (August 1990 to February 1991).  Later there was the 2003 military invasion of Iraq by Coalition Forces.  This action remains highly controversial and, in the U.K., has been the subject of a number of inquiries the latest of which is the Chilcot Inquiry which has been referred to in several posts on this blog.  The coalition action against Iraq raised numerous issues in international law and the justification for military action by the U.K. remains the subject of intense debate.  Nevertheless, Halabja is a constant reminder of the abysmal regime headed by Saddam Hussein.

The Responsibility to Protect (UN Security Council Resolution 1674/2006) emerged as one outcome of these and other atrocious events.
An "Inconvenient Atrocity": The Chemical Weapons Attack on the Kurds of Halabja, Iraq