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According to a United Nations report (Ending Child Marriage – Progress and Prospects) 700 million women alive today and 156 million men were married before their 18th birthdays. About 250 million women were married before the ripe, wise, and old age of 15 (sarcasm detected). It was noted that girls that are married off are being paired up with much older men. The report also goes on to say that Child Marriage is a manifestation of gender inequality and it reflects social norms that perpetuate discrimination against girls. UNICEF’s position is that child marriages are marriages before the age of 18 and are a violation of human rights.

This strikes me as true, but in order to fully combat and eradicate the situation, we must strive to end all child marriages for both genders. It must be started with reducing the number of girls forced into marriage since they are the most vulnerable to be placed in such a situation.

One of the situations is socioeconomic status. Poorer children are married off at a higher rate and earlier than their wealthier counterparts. In India, the median age for first marriages among richer girls is 19.7; among poorer girls it is 15.4.  These girls that are forced into marriage usually are susceptible to pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS because they rarely have had a formal education. The lack of education, poverty cycle, and attitudes about women perpetuate the cycle.

The report goes on to say almost half of all “child brides” worldwide live in South Asia; most notably 1 in 3 are in India. Besides a long standing patriarchal attitude that a woman’s life goals should be to get married and bear children, there is a new motivating force for these marriages. It is the increasing violence taking place against women in India. That fear has led families to marry off their children for the thought of safety. They also do not want their daughters to be a victim of rape because that leaves them “undesirable” to future suitors. In 2013 there was a reported 309,546 crimes against women, up from 244,270 reported in 2012 and an increase of rapes in both urban and rural settings.

India has stringent laws against child marriages and offers “rigorous punishment for 2 years” and/or a fine. This law also has the child’s rights at the center of it, unlike others. However, the law relies on community reporting and that is not always sufficient as people do not report these marriages.

What do you think can be done about child marriages, not only in India, but around the world? What can the International Community improve or add to reduce and end child marriages?

Sources:

Global Issues

UNICEF – “Ending Child Marriage – Progress and Prospects”

DARSA- “Marry Me Later: Preventing Child Marriage and Early Pregnancy in India”

Image: Earth Action

The HIV/AIDS epidemic instills fear in everyone. Since there is no known cure for HIV/AIDS and it is spread through multiple ways, it is important to understand and prevent the spread of the disease. One area of the world that has been hit very hard by the HIV/AIDS epidemic is the continent of Africa. Many factors including a weak health care system, minimal sexual education access, and limited access to protective measures such as condoms, have helped spread this disease to many in Africa. It should also be noted that HIV/AIDS is prevalent in many other parts of the globe.

Recently, in Uganda, they have been a beacon of hope in combating HIV/AIDS. In 1992, the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Uganda was 18% and by 2005, the nation dropped that to 6.2%. However, some argue a controversial law could change that. On May 13, the Ugandan Parliament unanimously passed the HIV Prevention and Control Bill. On July 31, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, approved the bill. It was called it a “populist act”by Kikonyongo Kivumbi of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association.

The law allows medical personnel to disclose a patient’s HIV status to other people regardless of whether they have the infected patient’s consent. It also allows medical personnel to prescribe treatment to pregnant women, infected patient’s partners, and sexual assault victims. The law allows a 10 year prison sentence and  a $2,000 fine for the willful and intentional transmission of the disease and a 5 year sentence for attempted transmission. 60 countries have criminalized the transmission of HIV or not telling a partner they carry the disease; this includes 34 states in the United States.

There are a couple of arguments against the law that are made. One is now that privacy for the patient is no longer respected, people will not go to be tested for HIV and/or stop treatment for fear their medical history would be put out in the open. That would leave them susceptible to retribution or labeled as an outcast in society. Another is the LGBT community was already not going for testing and treatment after an earlier law against homosexuality was passed (however, this law is now null and void after a review by the Constitutional Court) could drive those numbers up.

HIV in Uganda is slightly more prevalent in women than men. Many argue with this new law and disclosure requirements, women will face much more domestic violence from their partners if they test positive. Critics also point out that disclosure violates fundamental human rights. They also claim it is contrary to many HIV International group’s practices.

What do you think? Do you think that the law in Uganda will do what it is aimed to do, which is HIV prevention and control or will this law have a reverse effect on doing those objectives. Is the law a fair one to all the citizens of Uganda and if not, are there better ways to combat HIV?

Source:

Global Issues

Human Rights Watch

Image: Deutsche Welle @ picture – alliance /dpa

imrs

The United States and Great Britain are taking a step back from launching a rescue mission in Iraq.  On Thursday, August 13, 2014, the Pentagon declared that the United States’ bombing of ISIS headquarters succeeded in diminishing the threat in the area; thus the planned rescue mission was ruled out for the moment.  A small team of Special Forces and US aid workers landed on Mount Sinjar in Iraq to assess the situation of the Iraqi Yazidis.  They said that the Yazidis have been receiving airdrops of food, water and medicine for days.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon Press Secretary, said late on Wednesday: “An evacuation mission is far less likely.”  The White House stated that the decision to call off the rescue mission came after four air strikes on Saturday targeting ISIS positions in the area.  The most recent was a drone strike occurring at midday on Wednesday eastern time.  The United States intel in the area alleged that the situation seemed better than they expected, and that there were fewer people left on the mountain than they had thought.  How this could be is still a mystery, but although this seems to be good news, the Iraqi’s are clearly still in dire need of help.

The thousands of people who are still stranded on the barren, rocky slopes of Mount Sinjar are the weakest of the weak, the elderly, the sick and very young, who could not trek to safety in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region.  The threat for non-Muslims, whether they are Iraqi Christians or Yazidis, is more real than ever.

Justine Greening, Britain’s International Development Secretary,  said many people left on the mountain were in desperate straits, “10,000 have gone to a camp just over the border in Syria that the International Rescue Committee is building up – they have walked for 14 miles in searing temperatures of possibly up to 50C.  So they are very dehydrated, very malnourished. They need a huge amount of medical attention, so we will continue to work to help the people on the mountain.”

The situation in Iraq seems to be getting worse and worse everyday, with the terror attacks looming over non-Muslims near and far.  Do you think the decision not to infiltrate at this time is a good one?  If ISIS is not quarantined now, what will the days and months to come bring, not only for Iraq but also for the world at large?

Source: TheGuardian

Picture: WashingtonPost

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The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or “ISIS” has made aggressive moves across the nations of Syria and Iraq. The goal of ISIS is to create an Islamic caliphate, a goal that they have claimed to have accomplished already by terrorizing the Iraqi and Syrian populations with swift, aggressive, and brutal advances. Many have been forced to convert their religion to the strict interpretation of Sunni Islam or be killed in brutal fashions such as beheadings or firing squads.

Iraq’s majority group is the Shiites. The government in power is led by Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, is a Shiite Muslim. Many experts believe that the lack of inclusiveness of Sunni Muslims in Iraq, has led ISIS to find support within that community. The Government has recently named a new PM.

Meanwhile in the north, ISIS has made swift advances in 2014. Largely, the United States and others in the international community have done little to help the Iraqi government combat the advances of ISIS, putting the responsibility on the Iraqis. That was until recently.

United States President Barack Obama ordered limited airstrikes on ISIS targets and the protection of Yazidi Iraqis (Ethnic Kurds who practice a religion that draws from Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Judaism). The group was chased into hiding on Sinjar Mountain by ISIS with little or no access to food or water creating a humanitarian crisis. The U.S. Central Command reported that drones and pilots hit specific ISIS targets near Irbil and also dropping humanitarian airlifts of food and water to those trapped on the mountain.

President Obama cautioned it could be a long term project to protect our interests in Iraq and to make sure the goals of a stable, democratic Iraqi Government (one of the focal points of the 2003 invasion) lasts and does not fall to a terrorist organization. However, the problem of fully combating ISIS is that ISIS still operates in Syria. There was much opposition to U.S. military strikes by Russia and China in the United Nations and the U.S. Congress failed to authorize airstrikes in Syria against limited targets. With the goal of an Islamic Caliphate, ISIS does not recognize the borders put in place, but the International Community does and cannot legally strike within Syria because Syria has not invited outside help to strike ISIS like Iraq has done.

What do you think the International Community should do in this situation? Any ideas as to how ISIS be fully contained if they are only struck in Iraq and not in Syria?

Sources:

USA Today

CNN Wire / FOX8

New York Times

CNN

Image: Alliance / dpa

Argentina

In 2001, Argentina defaulted on a $100 billion. In 2005 to 2010, Argentina offered holders of its defaulted debt “exchange bonds”. 93% of the old bondholders accepted the offer. However, the 7% that did not accept is suing Argentina because they want to get paid before the “exchange bonds”. Bank of New York Mellon (“BNY Mellon”) acts as a trustee for holders of Argentina bonds. When Argentina transferred $559 million BNY Mellon to pay the exchange bonds, Justice Griesa blocked the banks transfer until the holders are paid.

Argentina agreed, within some bond contracts, that New York Law takes control of any possible disputes. Ironically, Argentina recently asked UN’s highest court, International Court of Justice, to hear a lawsuit they want to bring against the U.S.. Unless the U.S. consents to this jurisdiction, the U.N. will not hear the case. In 1986, the U.S. withdrew from forced jurisdiction. It is very unlikely that the U.S. will consent.

On Friday, August 8, 2014, Federal District Judge, Thomas P. Griesa, informed Argentina that he is considering a contempt order. This came about after Justice Griesa warned Argentina to stop making public statements “that are false and misleading.”  Ordering contempt against a foreign sovereign becomes very tricky. Think about it, how can you place a whole country behind bars; however, contempt sanction may be allowed. There are federal courts that have imposed contempt sanctions on foreign sovereign.  See FG Hemisphere Associates, LLC v. Democratic Republic of Congo, 637 F.3d 373 (D.C. Cir. 2011).

Picture: Argentina

Source: WP; Larouche

Case:  NML Capital Ltd. v. Republic of Argentina, 08-cv-06978, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

 

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On July 17, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane was shot down in Ukraine, killing 298 people on board. The seemingly gruesome attack on innocent civilians shook the world, putting fear in many air travelers on flights near countries engaged in conflict. Many question how, and why, this particular flight was targeted in attempts to prevent a repeat attack. Thus, the United Nations has taken the initiative in organizing a task force to decrease these fears.

The UN International Civil Aviation Organization, along with other international aviation organizations, initiated the task force to reduce risks passenger planes may be subjected to when flying over a conflict region. The goal is to improve communication channels regarding flight information, particularly its timing and accuracy. National security measures will be taken along with the incorporation of political considerations.

The first step the task must undertake is determining safe and effective airline routes, and then ensuring that the UN State that the flight is to travel through complies with their efforts. While on the ground, designated aviation workers must perform a risk assessment of the flight’s route at that time and determine if it can follow through with the planned course or not. The ultimate goal is to create communication channels where information of threats can be reported and be successfully received by the proper authorities.

The International Civil Aviation Organization cites the urgency for these improvements not only to reduce fear following the MH17 attack, but also because the airline industry is set to double in flights within the next fifteen years.  An aviation safety conference is being organized for UN member states to attend in February 2015.

Do you think the international community is doing enough following the MH17 incident? How do you think international law can ensure that an incident like this never happens again?

 

Source: [UN]

Image: [Eurocontrol]

07-11-gaza

On July 23, 2014, the United Nations on Human Rights Council decided to launch an independent inquiry to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  In an emergency session, the Council adopted a resolution, which indicated that the investigative team must be sent immediately to the area.  The resolution is accepted by a vote of 29 countries in favor, with 17 abstentions and a sole negative vote by the United States.  Even though the United States voted against the resolution, it strongly condemned Israel for failing to end its prolonged occupation of the area. In the resolution, the Council asked for an immediate action by the Israeli authorities to reopen the occupied Gaza Strip and called upon the international community to provide humanitarian assistance and services to the Palestinian people.

According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council condemned strongly the “widespread, systematic, and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms.”  The Council also condemned “all violence against civilians wherever it occurred, including the killing of two Israeli civilians as a result of a rocket fire.”

One of the representatives on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay emphasized that children, women, the elderly, and person with disabilities suffer the most.  Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyung-Wha Kang added that since the Israeli military began the operation, over 600 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip and another 3,504 were injured in addition 28 Israelis.  Ms. Kang further emphasized that one third of civilians killed so far are only children, and one child is killed each hour in Gaza during this period.  Both officials focused on how many Palestinian children have lived their entire life under siege.

Ms. Pillay urged Israel, Hamas and all Palestinian armed groups to strictly abide by applicable norms of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.  She further pointed out that if these principles are not abided, actions taken from either side may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Finally, she called for a credible and proper research of allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity since there have not been one so far.  Ms. Pillay further detailed all the actions taken or will be taken by the UN on Human Rights Council in light of this ongoing conflict.

These days, the world witnesses yet another bombardment by the Israeli authorities into places where civilians suffer the most. It is a fact that civilians in Gaza have no safe place to go, and they are unable to receive sufficient humanitarian aid.  Because medical facilities and health clinics have been hit by airstrikes, injured people are also unable to receive the necessary medical treatment.  In light of this newly adopted resolution, do you think it will, in any event, deter Israel from continuing the operation?  How effective do you think the resolution will be?  What else could be done for Palestinians, and especially for Palestinian children?

Source:

Picture:

  • UN News Centre (two children stand in front of a house that police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Maghazi refugee camp in Center Gaza Strip).

torture

The United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) runs a global apprehension and incarceration operation of suspected terrorists, known as “extraordinary rendition”, which developed after the 9/11 attacks. Rendered persons were reported to have undergone torture by the receiving countries.  Yesterday, Thursday, July 24, 2014, marks the first time a court has condemned a European state for its role in the rendition program.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Poland had violated the rights of two suspected terrorists from Saudi Arabia, Abd Al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad Al Nashiri and Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, by allowing their transfer to a secret detention center in Poland, where the two men were coerced and tortured. The existence of a C.I.A. “black site” prison in Poland has been widely reported for years, but the United States government considers the list of countries that hosted the prisons to be highly classified.

“The C.I.A. has never formally revealed the locations of its secret overseas prisons, but intelligence officials, aviation records, and news reports have placed them in Afghanistan, Jordan, Romania and Thailand, as well as Poland and other countries. Out of fewer than 100 prisoners held there, roughly 30 were subjected to what the C.I.A. called “enhanced” interrogation techniques, according to agency officials.”

Both suspects are now being held at the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Nashiri and Husayn fell into the category of “High-Value Detainees” (HVD), since they were terrorist suspects likely to be able to provide information about current terrorist threats against the United States due to their involvement in Al Qaeda. The suspects in their respective cases alleged that Poland was in violation of the following Articles of the Convention: Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) ;  Article 5 (right to liberty and security); Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life); Article 13 (right to an effective remedy); and Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial).

Gen. Michael  V. Hayden, a former director of the C.I.A., “has confirmed that the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding, which simulates drowning, was used on Abu Zubaydah, Mr. Nashiri and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of the Sept. 11 attacks.”

The panel of judges presiding over the European Court of Human Rights, ordered Poland to pay 230,000 euros (which translated to $310,000 American dollars) in damages to the two men, who successfully argued that Poland violated prohibitions on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment and had undermined their right to a fair trial. The Court also sought assurances from US authorities that the death penalty would not be imposed on these two suspects. The judgment of the court is not final, and Poland has three months to appeal if the country wishes to do so for the sake of it’s reputation. What do you think about rendition in general? How do you think prisoners like these two men who plotted and killed thousands of people around the world, including many Americans should be treated?

Source: HUDOC; NYTIMES

Picture: AmericanEvangelical

Jason KilbornToday, Pace International Law Review presents Professor Jason Kilborn as their guest blogger and a featured author in PILR’s Winter Commercial Edition. Jason Kilborn is a Professor of Law at John Marshall Law School in Chicago and is serving his second four-year term as the Van der Grinten Chair in International and Comparative Insolvency Law at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.  In Fall 2011, he was the Robert M. Zinman Scholar in Residence at the American Bankruptcy Institute.  Professor Kilborn has concentrated over a decade of academic research on a comparison of bankruptcy and insolvency in the U.S. with similar systems in Europe and elsewhere in the world.  He has written numerous articles and a book on comparative bankruptcy for individuals (including an analysis of Islamic law, shari’a).  Professor Kilborn chaired the drafting group for the World Bank report described in this paper, and he has advised several national governments on their development of personal insolvency laws.  His current article will be featured in the 3 issue of the 26 volume of Pace International Law Review:

In global law reform, indirect persuasion can be equally as effective—with far less criticism and pain—as direct intervention through “conditionalities” tied to aid.  The IMF and World Bank have faced widespread criticism for what some have challenged as heavy handed requirements for direct financial assistance.  They have commonly imposed on client developing countries austerity measures and “modernization” of legal and financial systems, creating a not surprising measure of resentment among both politicians and the public at large.

A recent law reform project led by the World Bank demonstrates a softer and more cooperative approach, with an impressive record of early success.  The IMF and World Bank have long been concerned about structural impediments to financial development.  The global financial crisis thrust into the spotlight one particular legal impediment:  The lack of an effective legal regime for treating the many ills of excessive debt, not only among businesses, but among individuals, or “natural persons.”  The absence or ineffectiveness of systems for treating the ills of personal insolvency (what we in the US would call “consumer bankruptcy”) produce a wide variety of negative effects for financial development.  That became particularly clear as the aftershocks from the global recession disrupted the lives of the millions of individual people on whom national economic activity and growth depends.

In response, the World Bank initiated in January 2011 its first-ever examination of the policies and characteristics of effective insolvency systems for individuals (natural persons).  It convened a large group of experts from around the world to produce a report reflecting the state of the art in world personal insolvency regimes.  Focusing on the issues most salient in personal, as opposed to business, insolvency, the group set out to identify the range of approaches pursued by various countries to date and to suggest which approaches seemed to have produced the most positive, and the most negative, results.  Avoiding guidelines and direct recommendations entirely, instead the final report of this expert group simply describes the many advantages of producing an effective personal insolvency system and the objectively most and least successful provisions and approaches of such laws.

Three major themes emerge from the Report that might be cast as soft recommendations and can be tracked in legislation adopted following its publication:  (1) adopt a legal system for discharging the debts of hopelessly overindebted individuals (as many countries still have not), (2) encourage out-of-court debt settlements among debtors and their creditors, but provide institutional support for such negotiations, and (3) if a rehabilitation payment plan is to be imposed on debtors in exchange for the discharge relief, carefully moderate the demands imposed by such plans, as individual capacity for withstanding extreme austerity is limited, especially as the demands extend over long periods of time.  In any event, do not rely on judicial discretion in crafting such payment plans; rather, make a legislative policy decision as to the appropriate demands of such plans that are transparent, predictable, and uniform

Three countries adopted personal insolvency systems shortly after the publication of the World Bank’s report, and so the three themes can be tracked in the legislative history and the resulting provisions of these three new laws.  The new Colombian law offers direct evidence of the influence of the World Bank project, especially in the notion of offering a discharge of hopeless indebtedness.  The new Italian law reflects the World Bank report’s emphasis on introducing a discharge of debt, as well.  The idea of encouraging negotiated solutions is less clearly reflected here, however, especially in the rather poorly developed infrastructure for supporting such negotiations.  The Italian law also expects debtors to earn their fresh start by completing a payment plan, but the demands of such plans are not formulated with the care and sensitivity that the World Bank report had favored.  Finally, the new Irish law makes an existing theoretical discharge truly effective for the first time, and it leverages an impressive institutional structure for supporting debt settlement negotiations.  As for payment plans, the Irish approach is a mixed bag.  On the negative side, the Irish law adopts the unfavorable method of vesting the court with discretion to impose and formulate payment plans.  On the positive side, the Irish law suggests guidelines for court-imposed plans, and these guidelines were developed in an extraordinarily impressive way.

Discharging legitimate debt is and will continue to be a divisive topic.  The World Bank expressly accepted that world legislation in this area would likely continue to diverge.  The Bank’s indirect approach of encouraging policymakers to consider the strengths and weaknesses of existing laws, however, seems to have already begun to produce significant convergence.

Please read the entirety of Professor Kilborn’s article in this year’s Pace International Law Review Winter Commercial Edition

The European Court of Human Rights, in its Chamber judgment, held unanimously in Rouiller v. Switzerland that there was no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case concerned the removal of two children from France to Switzerland by their mother.

The Court ruled that because of the short distance between France to Switzerland there was no real “international abduction” for the purposes of the Hague Convention. Despite one of the child’s desire to live in Switzerland, the Court, like the Cantonal and Federal Courts, found that the children’s removal was a “wrongful removal” and that the Hague Convention did not grant a child the freedom to choose where he or she wished to live. The wish to continue to live in Switzerland did not satisfy the Hague Convention exceptions to return the child.

The parents of the children, Rejane Rouiller (a Swiss national) and their father (a French national) lived in Saint-Louis, France, near the Swiss border.  They had two children, F. and M, born in 1993 and 1999.  The parents divorced in 2000 and share what we, in America, would call joint custody. Thus, each parent has authority to make decisions with respect to the children.  On the other hand, the mother would have what we would call physical or residential custody and the father would have the right to access or visitation.

In May 2007, the father applied to the court for the return of his children to France, invoking the Hague Convention.  In June 2007, the Arlesheim District Court in Switzerland dismissed the application for their return to France. The court ruled that this was not a child abduction under the Hague Convention. The father appealed to the Cantonal Court of Basle-Rural in September 2007. The court ordered the return of the children to France. Ms. Rouiller appealed to the Federal Court and argued that it was in the children’s best interest for them to remain in Switzerland.  The Court dismissed the appeal and ordered the children’s return to France. Ms. Rouiller lived in Saint-Louis until July 2009 following the judgment of the Mulhouse tribunal de grande instance, which decided the children should go to school in Switzerland.

The applicant complained that the return of her children to France, as ordered by the Swiss courts, constituted a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Her children had lived with her in Switzerland for almost two years and she claimed that the Swiss courts had been wrong to apply the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in ordering their return to France. She added that the children’s opinion had not been sufficiently taken into account.

The Court found, like the Cantonal and Federal Courts, that the children’s removal by their mother to Switzerland was indeed an “wrongful removal” and that the Hague Convention did not grant a child the freedom to choose where he or she wished to live. The Chamber held there was no violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

Do you feel that parents should be able to relocate with their children at all? What about in a situation like this case where the two cities are so close? Should children have a right to determine where they live and which parent they live with? What about in cases of domestic violence?  Could custody be used as a tactic to maintain control over the abused parent?

Sources:

ECHR

Google Images

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