13 December, 2012

Zdravko Tolimir - convicted by the ICTY

The International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has, by a majority (2:1), found Zdravko Tolimir (former Assistant Commander and Chief for Intelligence and Security of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army - VRS), guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in 1995 after the fall of the enclaves of Srebrenica and Žepa, Bosnia and Herzegovina - see the court's press release.  He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Full judgment of the court

Summary of the judgment

The initial indictment against Zdravko Tolimir was confirmed on 10 February 2005 and made public on 25 February 2005. The Accused was arrested on 31 May 2007 and transferred into the Tribunal’s custody on 1 June 2007. His trial started on 26 February 2010.

This was a lengthy trial.  The Chamber sat for a total of 242 trial days, producing over 19,000 transcript pages. It admitted nearly 3,500 exhibits into evidence. The Prosecution adduced the evidence of 183 witnesses; the Defence presented four witnesses.


The verdicts were:

20 November, 2012

Military use of Drones ~ Concern in Parliament ~ Model aircraft in the UK

 Update 2:  Revealed: who can fly drones in UK airspace?  The Guardian 25th January 2013

Update 1:   Debate in Parliament 11th December

It is now almost 3 years since this blog first posted about the military use of drones.  Please see:

16th February 2010   -  Drones - is their use breaching international law?

18th April 2010  -  The US has defended the use of "drones"

17th December 2010  -  Drones - their legality in international law

11th June 2012   -  Killing the "bad" guys: the USA and drones

The UK Parliament - or, at least, some members of it - have become concerned at the use of drones to "take out" targets.  The Defence Select Committee is to conduct an examination into how the UK uses lethal force  - 20th November 2012 Defence Management.


Also, there is an All Parliamentary Group on Drones - see Early Day Motion 661 of 31st October 2012.  The setting up of this group is discussed at Bureau of Investigative Journalism   (18th October 2012).

For further reading see - Drone Wars UK looks at the article in The Times 20th November 2012

In October 2012, the Chief Constable of Hampshire backed the use of drones for Police surveillance operations - BBC 2nd October 2012.


: Model aircraft in the UK :
(Some of the law)

01 November, 2012

Sri Lanka ~ bid to remove Chief Justice

Update 28th February 2013:  
Update 5th February:  Asia News - Bleak state of the rule of law in Sri Lanka

Update 13th January:  The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has stated that it is deeply concerned by the move to impeach the Chief Justice - see Statement 11th January.


Original Post:

The Honourable Dr. Shirana Bandaranayake is Chief Justice of Sri Lanka.  A move to impeach her is pending and has the appearance of a serious attack on the independence of the Sri Lankan judiciary.

The Sri Lankan government wished the Sri Lankan Parliament to legislate to transfer certain powers back from the Provinces to central government.  A constitutional challenge was made to this Bill and the Supreme Court upheld the challenge stating that the Bill required the consent of the Provinces.

It appears that there is now a move within Parliament to have the Chief Justice removed.  Proponents of this argue - without specificity - that the Chief Justice's behaviour over the last year has "affected the sovereignty of the people."

30 October, 2012

The Iran Tribunal - The Hague 25-27 October 2012

On 26th May 2011, this blog published ~ Massacre of prisoners in Iran - "Do you think we should have given them sweets?" - Iran Tribunal.

A post on The Justice [ ] Gap blog preceded an independent tribunal hearing in The Hague (held 25th - 27th October) which examined the massacre by the Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime of some 20 to 30,000 political prisoners, men and women, in Iran in the 1980s.  About 4,500 people, many of them teenagers and from leftwing groups, died in the summer of 1988 alone, according to Amnesty International.   The killings have been largely ignored by the west, unlike the mass killings perpetrated in places like Srebrenica, Rwanda, or the Chile of Pinochet.  The Islamic Republic of Iran was invited to participate in the hearing but has to date refused to engage with the Tribunal process.

See the Tribunal's Press Release of 15th October.


The Tribunal follows on from a Truth Commission process which issued a report in September 2012.  The report is 357 pages and is exceptionally harrowing.  The report provides in detail the manner of arrest, the brutal tortures that were carried out by the regime in the Iranian prisons and mass executions between 1981 and 1988.  The report further investigates the disastrous impact of these brutalities on the families of the victims and the survivors of the torture and imprisonment.

The Tribunal is to hand down a verdict in November - see Payvand Iran News 27th October 2012 - Iran Tribunal Closing Statement at The Hague

19 October, 2012

Fourth Baha Mousa Memorial Lecture - Iraq - Unlawful treatment of detainees "institutional"

Baha Mousa
The Torture Convention:



The United Kingdom is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (the "torture convention").  The terms of the Convention are clear enough:



 Article 2
  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 instability 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. 
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture spoke at Chatham House on 10th September - "Enforcing the absolute prohibition against torture." and also note the comments at International Law Bureau

04 September, 2012

Tutu and Blair -~ The International Criminal Court

The refusal of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to attend a conference along with former Prime Minister Tony Blair made headlines -Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair - The Guardian 2nd September.  Tutu went further and argued that Blair and Bush ought to be tried by the International Criminal Court - The Telegraph 2nd September  - Archbishop Tutu - Try Blair for War Crimes.  The actions of Blair and Bush in relation to Iraq will always be controversial and debate continues as to whether the invasion of Iraq (a sovereign State) in 2003 was lawful.  However, this post is not concerned with either the legality or the "morality" of the war but only with the question of the ICC's jurisdiction since trials are only possible where the court has jurisdiction.

The United States of America has not accepted the court's jurisdiction and also Iraq is not a States Party.  The United Kingdom became a States Party on 4th October 2001.  The court only has the jurisdiction granted to it by the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court - see ICC website - jurisdiction and Court's Statute.

21 August, 2012

Ricardo Patiño Aroca: Why Ecuador granted Julian Assange political asylum


In fairness to the Ecuadoreans, this post offers a link to an article setting out the reasons why they granted asylum to Julian Assange.

Ricardo Patiño Aroca is the Ecuadorean Foreign Minister.

Ricardo Patiño Aroca: Why Ecuador granted Julian Assange political asylum ~ Article in International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

20 August, 2012

Asylum ~ Some notes

No legal term in common use is perhaps so lacking in uniformity and accuracy of definition as the 'right of asylum' ~ John Bassett Moore, Digest of International Law - 8 Volumes (1906).

Asylum - Refugees - Diplomatic asylum - Assange

Setting the scene:

Wikileaks founder, Mr Julian Assange was granted "Asylum" by Ecuador.  He is in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.   The Embassy is inviolable under ~

Article 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations:


1.The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
2.The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
3.The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.


08 August, 2012

State sponsored juicing ~ Arizona USA

Update 9th August:  Cook was executed in Arizona on 8th August - Reuters  He was sentenced to death in 1988 and was the fifth person to die by lethal injection in Arizona this year and the 33rd since the state reintroduced the death penalty in 1992.

----

"State sponsored juicing" is a disgusting and abhorrent phrase which appears in an article in Phoenix New Times 12th June 2012.  The phrase conjures up an image of rejoicing at the deliberate killing of a prisoner.  It refers to the execution of Daniel Wayne Cook scheduled for 8th August 2012.  He has spent 24 years on Arizona's death row. 

The murders in question occurred in 1987 and were particularly brutal.  The detail is in the 1991 judgment of the Supreme Court of Arizona - Arizona v Daniel Wayne Cook 170 Ariz. 50 (1991).

With facts such as those in this case it is not at all easy to find sympathy for those convicted.  Nevertheless, unless one adopts an entirely retributive stance and nothing else, the use of the death penalty should be condemned.  Arguments for and against this are presented here.

Amnesty has published  "Know the facts about the death penalty"  where they argue that

06 August, 2012

Texas USA - Executions scheduled

Updated 8th August 2012

The next planned execution in Texas (USA) is that of Marvin Wilson.  According to an article published by The Guardian 5th August 2012, Wilson is "mentally retarded" as assessed by a battery of tests.  The execution of those who are 'mentally retarded' was declared unconstitutional by a 6 to 3 majority in the United States Supreme Court in Atkins v Virginia 2002.  However, it has been left to individual States to determine who is within that category.   According to The Guardian's article, Texas rejects scientific consensus and instead applies its own definition of learning difficulties based on the character Lennie Small in John Steinbeck's novel - 'Of Mice and Men.'  The so-called "Briseño factors" apply - see Death Penalty Information Center - and Texas stands alone in having this unusual test of mental retardation (or intellectual disability).

A list of planned executions in Texas is here.   Eight executions planned between 7th August and the end of 2012.

Ex parte José Garcia Briseño - Court of Criminal Appeals Texas - 9th June 2010

Amnesty USA 

Article by Lisa Falkenberg - Texas view of executing mentally ill based on fiction  - 'the goal is to spare as few as possible"

05 August, 2012

Attorney-General vetoes Information Commisioner' decision

The Attorney-General - Mr Dominic Grieve QC MP - has used a power in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 section 53 to veto a decision notice of the Information Commissioner.  The decision notice related to extracts from minutes of two Cabinet meetings held on 13th and 17th March 2003 in the run up to the Iraq war.  The advice of the Attroney-General as to the legality of the war was considered and discussed at those meetings.
The Information Commissioner issued a statement on 31st July expressing disappointment at the Attorney-General's decision. The Decision Notice of the Commissioner is accessible via this statement.  (The case Reference is FS50417514 - 4th July 2012).

I am totally unsurprised by the Attorney-General's decision.

25 July, 2012

Warren Lee Hill ~ USA ~ State of Georgia ~ Capital punishment

The execution, by injection of a single drug, of Warren Hill (aged 52) was stayed by the Supreme Court of Georgia, USA- see The Guardian Monday 23rd July

Hill was sentenced to death in 1991 after a Lee County jury convicted him of murder in the 1990 bludgeoning to death of a fellow prison inmate, Joseph Handspike. At the time, Hill was serving a life prison sentence for the 1985 shooting death of his 18-year-old girlfriend, Myra Sylvia Wright.

Irrespective of general arguments relating to whether the death penalty should be used at all, there are particular reasons why Hill should not be executed.  The arguments are well summarised in an article in The Guardian 23rd July .  The State of Georgia was the first State in the USA to ban the execution of mentally disabled prisoners.  However, the problem lies in the standard of proof demanded by Georgia.  The prisoner has to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that he has learning difficulties.  It appears that Georgia is the only State to apply this high standard.  Other States which continue to apply the death penalty would not carry out an execution where the disability was shown on the "preponderance of the evidence."  Hill has met the latter test.

As the Guardian article states: -

17 July, 2012

International Criminal Court - Lubanga sentenced

The conviction of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was the subject of a post on 12th March 2012 - here.  He has been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment - The Guardian 10th July.   The announcement from the International Criminal Court is here and the decision on sentence (pdf 51 pages) is here.

Judge Odio Benito dissented in part and would have imposed a 15 year sentence.  He disagreed with the view of the majority who disregarded the damage caused to the victims and their families, particularly as a result of the harsh punishments and sexual violence suffered by the victims of the crimes.

Under Article 78(3) of the Statute, when the person has been convicted for more than one crime "the Court shall pronounce a sentence for each crime and a joint sentence specifying the total period of imprisonment".

Iraq Inquiry ~ Chilcot ~ Report delayed perhaps 2 years


The Iraq Inquiry - under the chairmanship of Sir John Chilcot - was expected to report during 2012 but publication of a report is to be delayed and may not appear until 2014.  What has brought about this state of affairs?

The delay seems to arise for three reasons - (a) the amount of material to be analysed; (b) the process known as "Maxwellisation" and (c) problems in getting government to agree to certain material being published either in the eventual report or alongside that report.

Statement on the Inquiry website:

The Inquiry website states that the Inquiry has concluded its public hearings and is currently analysing the written and oral evidence it has received and drafting its report.

Pulling together and analysing the evidence and identifying the lessons, for a report that covers so wide and complex a range of issues and a time period of some nine years, is a significant task. Very considerable progress has already been made, but there is still much to be done.

24 June, 2012

The 2003 Iraq War - legality

Shock and Awe
The legality of the 2003 Iraq War - a war embraced enthusiastically by Prime Minister Tony Blair - is a controversial question and, following the publication of diaries by Alistair Campbell, it has been raised again by an article in The Independent 24th June 2012.  It is claimed in the article that the Attorney-General of the day - Lord Goldsmith QC - was prevented by Blair from informing the Cabinet of the complete legal advice.

At the time, Robin Cook MP resigned from the government and a Foreign & Commonwealth Office Legal Adviser Elizabeth Wilmshurst resigned.

The Chilcot Inquiry is preparing its report but there are now some calls for it to reconvene to hear evidence of this matter.

The Chilcot Inquiry has published many documents relating to the Iraq War, including advice given by the Attorney-General to the Prime Minister.  The Inquiry also invited international lawyers to make submissions about the legality of the war - Watching the Law 30th June 2010.

See "The invasion of Iraq was lawful" - Head of Legal blog - 27th January 2010.  The view of Lord Bingham of Cornhill (1933-2010) was expressed at the annual Grotius Lecture delivered at Lincoln's Inn on 17th November 2008.  As a judge - (Bingham was formerly Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary) - he had remained silent on the question of legality.  After his retirement, he expressed the view that the invasion was a "serious violation of international law."

Law and Lawyers - Lord Bingham of Cornhill

21 June, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi addresses both Houses of Parliament

Today, 21st June 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi addressed both Houses of Parliament in the historic Westminster Hall.  Addresses to both Houses are rare.

See BBC 21st June 2012 and Parliament

Earlier in the week, Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the degree of Doctor of Civil Law - Oxford University.  Here is a video of her speech after the award:


14 June, 2012

The story of capital punishment

The BBC's Timeshift Series - Series 10 - No.9 - Crime and Punishment: the story of capital punishment is a thought-provoking film.  The whole film is just short of 1 hour in duration and the first 44 minutes traces the history of the death penalty in the UK and the movement for its abolition.  After that, the film turns to look at the situation in the USA and elsewhere.

Within Council of Europe member states the death penalty is abolished under Protocol 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights.  Amnesty International has an up-to-date summary of the world wide position.

11 June, 2012

Killing the "bad" guys: the USA and Drones

This blog has considered the use of drones on three previous occasions - see 16th February 2010; 18th April 2010 and 17th December 2010.  The use of drones to "take out" targets in far away places is a form of extrajudicial killing and, according to The Guardian 11th June 2012 (Obama's drone wars and the normalisation of extrajudicial murder), at least 2400 people have been killed in Pakistan by US drones.  The article claims that President Obama President Obama "has been seduced by political expediency and the lure of new technology into adopting a policy that kills first and asks questions later."

At the present time, it may be that the US has the technological advantage in relation to drones.  However, other states will inevitably acquire this technology and, in that event, the table may turn.




Syria - update 11th June 2012

It is very difficult to establish the complete truth about what is occurring within Syria but, on any view, the situation is appalling and worsening.  Here are some of the latest reports.

7th June 2012:

The Damascus Centre for Human Rights has documented a massacre at Mazra’at al-Qubeir in Hama.  This took place on 7th June 2012 with some 78 victims including women and children.

Amid growing atrocities and little evidence

02 June, 2012

Rwandan Genocide 1994: Conviction of Callixte Nzabonimana

Rwandan Genocide 1994:


From April to July 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the east-central African nation of Rwanda murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority. Begun by extreme Hutu nationalists in the capital of Kigali, the genocide spread throughout the country with staggering speed and brutality, as ordinary citizens were incited by local officials and the Hutu Power government to take up arms against their neighbours. By the time the Tutsi-led Rwandese Patriotic Front

27 May, 2012

Houla, Syria: an act of pure naked savagery

Massacre of Children - Houla, Syria
Update 28th May:  The UN Security Council met on Sunday 27th May and issued a Press Statement on the violence in Syria.  See also UN News

The Guardian - Houla massacre survivor tells how his family were slaughtered

See also UN Human Rights Council for various developments.


-----    -----     -----     -----     -----


Syria: UN officials deplore brutal killing of civilians near Homs

The United Nations has been largely ineffective over the continuing violence in Syria.  Amnesty International has stated that "the failure of the UN to take decisive action on Syria shows it is no longer fit for purpose and is becoming redundant as a guardian of global peace - see Telegraph 24th May 2012.  This is a very worrying conclusion against which, in relation to Syria,  it is difficult to argue.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International published its report for 2011-12 -  see the Syrian section of the report. 

The latest atrocity in Syria is the massacre in Houla

18 May, 2012

Ratko Mladić - Trial at the ICTY

Updated 25th May 2012 ...

The trial of Ratko Mladić finally commenced on 16th May 2012 at the International Criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) - see Start of the Mladić case.  Prosecution opening statements from the hearings on 16th and 17th May may be viewed via the court's website.

Subsequently, the court decided that the hearings would be adjourned sine die.  This was due to the revelation that prosecuting lawyers had not disclosed evidence to the defence.  The court stated that the trial would resume as soon as possible.  See The Guardian 17th May

On 15th May it was announced that a defence application to remove

01 May, 2012

Foreign and Commonwealth Office - 2011 Report - Human Rights and Democracy

A 392 page report - Human Rights and Democracy - has been published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).  The report deals with the year 2011 and divides into 9 principal sections dealing with (1) The Arab Spring; (2) the FCO's Human Rights priorities; (3) Promoting British values of democracy, criminal justice and the rule of law, equality and non-discrimination; (4) Human Rights in securing Britain's national security; (5) Human Rights in securing Britain's prosperity; (6) Human Rights for British nationals overseas; (7) Working through a rules-based international system; (8) Promoting Human Rights in Overseas Territories; (9) Human Rights in countries of concern.

The full report is required reading for those with serious interest in human rights globally.   The following is a summary of the section dealing with Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law - (part of Section 3).  This commences at page 42 of the report.

Human rights and the rule of law are

27 April, 2012

Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone: Charles Taylor convicted

Addendum 30th May:  Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment for war crimes of the "utmost gravity in scale and brutality."  The Guardian 30th May.  See also the court's Press release.

-----

On 26th April, Charles Ghankay Taylor, the former President of Liberia, was convicted on all counts of an 11-count indictment which alleged that he was responsible for crimes committed by rebel forces during Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war. The Special Court for Sierra Leone’s Trial Chamber II found unanimously that Mr. Taylor aided and abetted Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) rebels in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone.  See Court's Judgment and the Press release.

Charles Ghankay Taylor
Taylor is the first Head of State to be indicted, tried and convicted by an international tribunal.  The Chamber has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Wednesday, 16 May 2012, and the sentencing judgement will be delivered on Wednesday, 30 May 2012. Under the Special Court Rules, sentences must be given in a specified term of years. The Special Court may not impose a life sentence or the death penalty.

Taylor was remanded

27 March, 2012

Amnesty International Report: Death Sentences and Executions 2011

Updated 29th March and 31st March

Amnesty International has issued a report - Death Sentences and Executions 2011.  This should be mandatory reading for anyone concerned about the state of human rights in the world today.


In relation to the use of the death penalty for convicted juveniles see Amnesty on the Iranian case of Behnoud Shojee (aged 17 at the time of his offence) - "One Iranian Lawyer's fight to save juveniles from execution"  This is a very powerful piece of animation about the actual case of Shojee who was executed on 11th October 2009.  The victim's family could have prevented the execution but did not do so.

In the United States of America, executions have continued but there are some encouraging signs of a move away from the death penalty in some States.  The Amnesty report states:

While the USA was once again the only

14 March, 2012

International Criminal Court - First Judgment - The Prosecutor v Thomas Lubanga Dyilo

Thomas Lubanga stands convicted, as a co-perpetrator, by the International Criminal Court ICC)  of the war crime of  of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities from 1 September 2002 to 13 August 2003. It is the first verdict issued by an ICC Trial Chamber.  The court delivering judgment may be seen here.

These crimes were committed in the context of an internal armed conflict that took place in the Ituri (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and involved the Force patriotique pour la libération du Congo (Patriotic Force for the Liberation of the Congo) (FPLC), led by Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, against the Armée Populaire Congolaise and other militias, including the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri. A common plan was agreed by Mr Lubanga Dyilo and his co-perpetrators to build an army for the purpose of establishing and maintaining political and military control over Ituri. This resulted in

27 February, 2012

Judge Baltasar Garzón - Judicial Independence in Spain looks questionable

Baltasar Garzon
Recent events in Spain have raised serious questions about the independence of their judiciary and, in particular, of their investigating judges.  Baltasar Garzón served as one of six investigating judges for Spain's National Court (Audiencia Nacional).  He came to international attention when, in 1998, he issued an arrest warrant for General Pinochet - (Pinochet: Arrest).

In 2006, Judge Garzón took preliminary

20 February, 2012

International Court of Justice: Germany v Italy (Greece Intervening)

On 3rd February 2012, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave final judgment in Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v Italy: Greece Intervening).   (There are also some separate opinions).  Essentially, the case was concerned with the principle of State Immunity in international law and in this post I seek to bring together a number of resources available via the internet which will, hopefully, explain the decision and its implications.

The ICJ held that:

Italy had violated its obligation to respect the immunity which Germany enjoys under international law by:

1.   allowing civil claims to be brought against it based on violations of international humanitarian law committed by the German Reich between 1943 and 1945 - (12 votes to 3);

2.   taking measures of constraint against Villa Vigoni (German State property in Italy) - (14 votes to 1);

3.   declaring enforceable in Italy decisions of Greek courts based on violations of international humanitarian law committed in Greece by the German Reich - (14 votes to 1);

It was further held that Italy must, by enacting appropriate legislation, or by resorting to other methods of its choosing, ensure that the decisions of Italian courts (and other judicial authorities) which infringe the immunity of Germany shall cease to have effect - (14 votes to 1).

Finally, all other submissions made by Germany were unanimously rejected.


In a separate but concurring judgment, Judge Keith pointed out that Germany accepted that dreadful violations of international law occurred in the 1940s but that was not the issue before the court which was only concerned with Germany’s claim to immunity from the jurisdiction of Italian courts over the proceedings based on those events.

The separate opinions include dissents by Judges Cancado Trindade, Yusuf and Judge ad hoc Gaja.   Judge Yusuf said that the court had a unique opportunity to clarify international law by establishing a "a limited and workable exception to jurisdictional immunity in those circumstances where the victims have no other means of redress."  He ended his judgment by saying: 

"The assertion of jurisdiction by domestic courts in those exceptional circumstances where there is a failure to make reparations, and where the responsible State has admitted to the commission of serious violations of humanitarian law, without providing a contextual remedy for the victims, does not, in my view, upset the harmonious relations between States, but contributes to a better observance of international human rights and humanitarian law."

Judge Cancado Trindade's dissent was unequivocal - "... my firm position is that there is no State immunity for international crimes, for grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law. In my understanding, this is what the International Court of Justice should have decided in the present Judgment."

Background - Events in Greece in World War 2:

During World War 2, there were

14 February, 2012

Piracy - A major problem in modern times

The extent of the problem:

Piracy is an extremely serious problem to shipping.   The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has published figures for piracy and armed robbery incidents reported to the IMB in 2012.  Up to the end of January, 37 attacks worldwide were reported - read  Piracy News and Figures   Further IMB material shows that attacks are getting bolder (IMB 14th July 2011 - an article with some truly frightening information).   Nevertheless, the IMB indicated that although world piracy had a hit a new high, more ships were escaping from Somali pirates - see IMB 18th October 2011  This article stated:

"Demanding millions of dollars in ransom for captured ships and their crews, Somali pirates are intensifying operations not just off their own coastline, but further afield in the Red Sea – particularly during the monsoon season in the wider Indian Ocean. With unprecedented boldness, this August pirates also boarded and hijacked a chemical tanker at anchor in an Omani port, under the protection of coast state security.
But although Somali pirates are initiating more attacks – 199 this year, up from 126 for the first nine months of 2010 – they are managing to hijack fewer vessels. Only 24 vessels were hijacked this year compared with 35 for the same period in 2010. Hijackings were successful in just 12% of all attempts this year, down from 28% in 2011."

The IMB reported a doubling of piracy across the world in the first half of 2009 - see Maritime Terrorism Research Center 16th July 2009  and an interactive map for 2010 is also available.   See further the Piracy and Armed Robbery interactive maps for 2011 and 2012.


Legal definitions:

Detainee Inquiry under Sir Peter Gibson scrapped

The government announced the discontinuance of the Detainee Inquiry under the Chairmanship of Sir Peter Gibson - see BBC 19th January 2012.   See also Parliament - Statement on the Detainee Inquiry.

On 18th January, Sir Peter Gibson said:

"The Secretary of State for Justice (the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP) today announced that, in view of the further immediate Metropolitan Police investigations announced last week into the allegations concerning renditions of two individuals to Libya and their alleged ill-treatment, the Government has decided to conclude the work of the Detainee Inquiry. He has also announced that he has asked for a report to be presented to the Prime Minister summarising the preliminary work done to date by the Inquiry and any issues which it has been able to identify as likely to form the subject of further investigation.

The Inquiry regrets

31 January, 2012

"Colonies" on the Moon ?

This week, Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich announced that as President, he would support building an American colony on the moon. According to Gingrich, by 2020, “we will have the first permanent base on the moon… a manned colony on the moon which flies the American flag.”  Whilst the idea has been ridiculed in some quarters, its legality has also been questioned (e.g. Newt Gingrich’s dreams of moon colony squashed by 1967 treaty).  So what does international law say about activities on the moon?  See the interesting article in  International Law Observer



To date, only 12 men have stood on the Moon's surface.  Pictured left is Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 (July 1969).