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Belgium’s right to conduct legal checks on children born to surrogate mothers abroad was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights last week. The applicants filed a complaint in the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the Belgium authorities denied their child entry and forced a temporary separation in violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 8 (right to respect private life and family life).

Mr. D and Mrs. R, Belgium nationals, arranged for a surrogate pregnancy in Ukraine. On February 26, 2013, the child, A, was born and Mr. D and Mrs. R obtained a Ukrainian birth certificate for A. The parents applied for the child’s Belgium passport, but were denied for failure to present certain documents in order to confirm the relationship to the child. On July 31, 2013 the Belgium Court of Appeals granted the urgent application, because additional documentation was provided to establish the biological relationship. Mr. D and Mrs. R were forced to return to Belgium at the end of April because their residence permit in Ukraine expired. During this time the child was left with a nanny in Ukraine and the parents were only able to see their child a few times. On August 5, 2013, all three family members were able to return to Belgium.

The court ruled that the denial of the child’s entry into Belgium was valid and did not violate Article 3 or 8. While the temporary separation was hard on the parents, it did not rise to the level of severity needed to establish a violation of Article 3. Additionally, there was no violation of Article 8 as this interference into family life was necessary to protect the democratic society. The Belgium authorities initial denial of the travel quest was provided by law, and had valid reasons, such as the prevention of crime, human trafficking, and protections of the surrogate mother and the child’s rights. The European Court also relied on the fact that the events were reasonably foreseeable because Mr. D and Mrs. R consulted a Belgium and Ukrainian lawyer.

In my opinion, while the temporary separation was a great strain on Mr. D and Mrs. R, and interfered with their family life, the events were a reasonable interference based on the protection of public safety and the circumstances. Mr. D and Mrs. R had planned for the surrogate pregnancy and consulted with both national lawyers. Thus, they should have foreseen a delay to allow for the confirmation of the biological relationship. Also the surrogate mother’s rights should not be overlooked, even though the surrogate pregnancy was arranged, her rights should not be ignored.

With the increasing frequency of surrogate pregnancies, do you think international laws should be enacted? Should the process of a surrogate child born abroad to enter their parent’s national country move at a faster pace? Do you agree with the way the Belgium authorities handled the situation? Is there a way to protect the biological mother, biological father, adopted mother, and child’s rights?

Source: European Court of Human Rights

Picture: Surrogacy Clinics

Since 2009, the Bajo Aguán region of northern Honduras has been on the front lines fighting against the industrialization of previously private land reserved for collective ownership. In 1992, Honduras passed a series of agrarian laws allowing the sale of large tracts of land to agro-industrial companies. These parcels were formerly reserved for campesino communities, typically villages composed of small-scale farmers. However, the new laws allow these tracts to be sold for commercialization.

The campesino communities are taking action. They have filed administrative appeals, formed agrarian law reform groups, and, more recently, physically occupied contested land. The legal efforts pressed by the farming communities have attained little advance. Intimidation, threats, and violence seem to be in the weaponry of the new landowners—and one can see their frustration—but, according to a report by the National Human Rights Commissioner of Honduras, 92 people have been killed in land disputes from 2009 to 2012.

So why hasn’t the government intervened? They have, to some degree. The then President of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, deemed the situation a national security crisis. The National Human Rights Commission, Attorney General’s Office, and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have all conducted investigations in Bajo Aguán. Their reports have unanimously found evidence of human rights violations including killings, abductions, forced evictions, and sexual violence. Additionally, the International Finance Corporation—an organization that offers investment advisory services in developing countries—is currently conducting an investigation over reports of abuse by private security hired by new landowners to strong-arm campesino communities off their land.

Recognizing the situation can no longer be swept under the rug, Honduras officials are now claiming that they do not have the administrative resources to investigate and prosecute offenders. Regardless of the government’s lack of resources, officials have had opportunities to employ protective measures in preventing future attacks, yet have failed to do so.

Despite the tepid efforts by the government, there is still little or no recourse for campesino communities. Fed up, campesino communities have resorted to taking matters into their own hands. A 72-page Human Rights Watch report indicates campesino groups have contracted illegally armed criminal organizations to fight back for them.

If the Honduras government continues to ignore the problem the potential for violence will intensify. However, Honduras prosecutors claim many of the killings are because campesino communities are illegally occupying land, and refuse to leave. In other words, prosecutors are implicitly, and maybe expressly, suggesting the communities should leave if they do not want violence. Is that a fair point? Should the campesino communities temporarily vacate contested land to prevent more unwarranted violence? Although the democratic process has appeared to fail, is there any non-violent recourse for the people of Bajo Aguán? Finally, many of the international bodies that have investigated the issue have suggested international support. Do you think the international community should jump into a seemingly domestic affair?

Source: Human Rights Watch

Image: Televi Centro



A new law in Bolivia is causing a stir as the country is the first in the world to legalize work by 10-year olds. The justification offered by officials was simply “kids want to work.”  In investigating child labor in the U.S., Human Right Watch found that kids, 12 years-old and younger were working for tobacco farmers, such as Paul Hornback, a Kentucky senator. While appearing on the Daily Show, Hornback stated “When I was a 7-year old, I was wanting to work.”

This justification that young children want to work has been mirrored by other countries internationally. Mali and Tanzania made the same argument relating to the work of children in gold mines; El Salvador made it for the harvesting of sugarcanes by children; while Morocco used the argument for its child domestic workers.

Bolivia’s new law came about in part, due to the pressure from a union of child workers arguing that they need to work to support their families. While these children might have voiced a need to work to support their families, it seems there is a deeper problem lingering beneath the surface. The problem is that many families are struggling to meet ends meet. This is not just a problem occurring in Bolivia but even in the U.S.A , a twelve-year old boy in North Carolina stated he wanted to start working on a tobacco farm because he “needed” the money. Many of the children interviewed for the Human Rights Watch tobacco farming report stated they started working to earn money for their basic needs such as family bills, clothes, and school supplies. These children start working at such a young age because their families are living in extreme poverty and their parents are not able to make ends meet with their minimum wage jobs. Why should children need to work to support their families? Children as young as 10 should not bear such a burden of having to support their family economically, let alone to pay for school supplies.

Children should not be penalized by the poverty accruing in their communities either in the U.S. or internationally. By allowing children to legally work at such a young age, they are jeopardizing their education, which is limiting their opportunities to get high paying jobs later on. Studies report that children who enter the workforce at an early age typically end up with less education and lower earnings, thus having to send their children to work. Child labor is only a “short-term” solution because it is only perpetuating more child labor.

Child labor is also hazardous to a child’s health and development. Children working in gold mines and tobacco farms abroad are exposing themselves to toxic chemicals. Nearly all children interviewed by the Human Rights Watch around the world stated they would rather be in school than working.

The International Labor Organization stated that 14 is the earliest age children should be working. In developing countries the lowest age for children to start working is 15. Bolivia should not be sending the message to parents and other nations that letting children work at 10 is acceptable. These children should be in school and enjoying their youth.

Bolivia as well as other governments should be enacting laws to protect children from child labor, not endorsing it.

Do you agree with Bolivia’s new law allowing children to start working at 10? Do you think these children really want to work or is this just a poor excuse by governments, to create a short-term solution?

Source: Human Rights Watch, ‘Kids Want to Work’ is a Poor Justification for laws that legalize work by 10-year-olds 



The laws of war forbid attacks in the following circumstances: (1) in situations “that intentionally target civilians or civilian property”; (2) in situations “that do not target a specific military objective or are otherwise indiscriminate”; or (3) in situations “that cause civilian harm disproportionate to the anticipated military gain.” For example, schools are “presumptively civilian objects that may not be attacked unless they are being used for military purposes, such as a military headquarters or to store weapons.”

Recently there were three Israeli attacks, which damaged schools and killed people in violation of the laws of war. The Human Rights Watch has investigated the three attacks. The attacks took place on July 24, July 30, and August 3, 2014. These attacks killed a total of 45 people, including 17 innocent children. According to Human Rights Watch’s investigation, two of the three attacks “did not appear to target a military objective or were otherwise unlawfully indiscriminate.” Additionally, the third attack was “unlawfully disproportionate if not otherwise indiscriminate.” When an illegal attack is carried out willfully, deliberately, or recklessly then this attack is considered to be a war crime.

According to Fred Abrahams, a special adviser at Human Rights Watch: “The Israeli military carried out attacks on or near three well-marked schools where it knew hundreds of people were taking shelter, killing, and wounding scores of civilians. Israel has offered no convincing explanation for these attacks on schools where people had gone for protection and the resulting carnage.”

The laws of war obligate Israel to inspect possible war crimes credibly and to punish those responsible. According to the Israeli military: “it has established a Fact-Finding Assessments Committee to examine exceptional incidents during the latest fighting, and that it had opened five criminal investigations.” However, Human Rights Watch has stated that: “Israel has a long record of failing to undertake credible investigations into alleged war crimes.”

Something needs to be done in order to protect these innocent children and civilians. A total of 45 people have been killed including 17 innocent children because of these war crimes. Human Rights Watch has stated: “National armed forces and armed groups should refrain from using schools for military purposes. Even if students aren’t there, using schools for military purposes makes them military objectives subject to attack.” Do you agree with Human Rights Watch? Why or why not? What necessary measures should be taken to minimize the harm to these civilians and children?

Additionally, Fred Abrahams stated: “Israel should go beyond sweeping justifications and provide detailed explanations for its attacks in and around these three schools housing hundreds of displaced people. And it should end its practice of impunity by punishing those who violate the laws of war.” Do you agree with Fred Abrahams? Why or why not? How should Israel punish those who violated the laws of war? What should Israel do in order to prevent this from happening in the future?


Source: Human Rights Watch

Image: Ya Libnan

Tags: Israel, Israeli Military, War Crimes, Children, Civilians, Schools, Attacks Near Schools, Human Rights Watch, Fred Abrahams

The ISIS Crisis

The practice of public beheadings and beatings as forms of human punishment are likely to be viewed by many as ancient, inhumane practices. However, currently in Syria terrorist organization ISIS (Islamic State of Syria and Iraq), utilizes these forms of punishments as a means to instill fear upon civilians and further substantiate their authority. Indiscretions that we in the U.S. would consider mere violations and misdemeanors subject to penalty fines, are dealt with by ISIS through more extreme methods. According to a recent UN report, “ISIS militants drag people into public squares to hand down their cruel version of justice — amputating the hands of accused thieves, flogging men found smoking or drinking, beating women with sticks if they showed their faces on the street.” What’s more alarming, is that public executions are also a popular form of punishment exercised by ISIS. Any individual considered by ISIS as someone who threatens or significantly contradicts the organization’s beliefs, will be publically executed to set an example for others.

The goal of ISIS is to overthrow the Iraqi and Syrian governments and establish a Sunni Islamic state governed by extreme Islamic law. ISIS initially gained support in areas of northern Iraq and Syria, by providing desolate people with aids such as food and fuel. It then used violence, particularly executions, to maintain power over civilians. “Children have been present at the executions, which take the form of beheading or shooting in the head at close range… Bodies are placed on public display, often on crucifixes, for up to three days, serving as a warning to local residents.” Similar to terrorist organization al-Qaeda, ISIS also abhors the U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Recently, members of ISIS have leaked two videos that show the beheadings of American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff. In Stoloff’s video he claims that “he is paying the price for U.S. military intervention.”

Today, these actions have drawn such significant global attention that its stands as the largest threat on peace for humanity. On the international level, these practices are recognized as crimes against humanity and violations of international law under the Rome Statute and various international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions. As such, these violations are subject to international intervention and prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Members of the United Nations including Iraq’s human rights minister, Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani, have condemned ISIS actions and are seeking to establish a multinational counterterrorism strategy. Last night, President Obama addressed the nation on the issue and said that “the U.S. is going on offense, launching a steady, relentless effort to take out the extremist group that has seized vast swaths of Iraq and has a large safe haven in Syria.”

I agree that in order to dissolve the growing threat of ISIS there must be multinational approach. I also believe that ISIS has the potential of becoming a greater threat than al-Qaeda. However, ISIS has been a rising threat for the past three years. Why has the U.S. and the U.N. waited so long to undertake an assertive approach to intervene? Should the U.S. only intervene when its own interests or citizens are in imminent danger? Is it not always the responsibility of the international community to stop such crimes against humanity?

NY Daily News, ISIS militants unleash horrific justice on innocents in the form of beheadings, amputations and public beatings: UN report

The Guardian, Assad, Moscow and Tehran condemn Obama’s plan for air strikes against Isis

Time, ISIS Is Not Just Un-Islamic, It Is Anti-Islamic

Sky News, Iraqi PM Appeals For Help To Fight IS ‘Cancer


In 1995, Andrey Khoroshenko was convicted of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. However, in 1999, his punishment was altered from the death penalty to life imprisonment. Khoroshenko challenged the constitutionality of the ten-year ban in August 2004, alleging that this policy violated his “right to respect for private life” and had an overall discriminatory impact. In the end, the Russian Constitutional Court dismissed his complaint and the case been on appeal for a decade.

On September 3rd, 2014, The European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) held a Grand Chamber hearing to resolve the dispute between. The strident issue at hand is whether the ten-year ban on long-term family visits contained in the Russian Code of Execution of Criminal Sentences violated Khoroshenko’s rights during his confinement at a special regime correctional colony.

This case speaks directly to the issues Russia has dealt with concerning supposed human right violations in their penal system. As recent as 2012, the Russian government received recommendations from the U.N. Committee on Torture providing them with methods to lessen the harsh conditions experienced by prisoners. This came after the committee “discovered the use of torture in the Russian law enforcement system and Army.”

I find the whole situation disturbing. I understand that it is impossible for the international community to force Russia to remodel their entire penal system instantly but these are basic human rights that need protecting. Khoroshenko was not even able to see his own family more than twice a year for two hour intervals. These are the only people who could possibly support someone in his position and he was forced to not only deal with the brutal everyday conditions but to do it with minimal outside contact. Furthermore, Khoroshenko did not even receive a fair chance in Russian Constitutional Court as they refuted all of his claims. Khoroshenko received no support from the Russian government and had no choice but to go to the ECHR to possibly obtain a remedy. The decline of these practices needs to start somewhere. This may seem like a minor issue compared to torture but Russia needs to respond positively to the ECHR’s decision to exhibit the slightest proof that they are progressing towards a more acceptable penal system.

Do you think that a person in Khoroshenko’s position should receive long-term visits from relatives or did he relinquish that right by committing a violent crime? Why did the Russian Constitutional Court reject his claim and will they respect the ECHR’s decision on the matter? How do you think the European Court on Human Rights should rule?

Sources: EHRC, EHRC, BBC





Earlier this summer the Justice Department unsealed an indictment charging five members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army with offenses such as conspiracy to commit computer fraud, intentionally accessing and obtaining information from a protected computer, economic espionage, and theft of trade secrets. All the American companies targeted by the People’s Liberation Army were involved in trade disputes with China.  The Justice Department has yet to act on the indictment and it is clear that there is little for deterring cyber-attacks through domestic criminal prosecutions.  This indictment and subsequent inaction adds to the on-going discussion concerning how to legally deter Chinese cyber-attacks.

Unhappy with the ineffectiveness of domestic legal retaliation for cyber-attacks, SolarWorld Americas, a victim of a Chinese cyber-attack, is suggesting that the U.S. government not rely on domestic laws but turn to the international law of trade as a means of retaliation and deterrence. Specifically, SolarWorld Americas asked the Department of Commerce to consider imposing trade sanctions in response to the barrage of cyber-attacks.

SolarWorld Americas’ idea is “legally creative” and “politically risky,” but may actually be illegal. Unlike the Justice Department’s reliance on U.S. code,  in order for the Department of Commerce to implement trade sanctions they would need to work with the World Trade Organization. International law of trade and sanctions, under the World Trade Organization, are governed by complicated treaties and customs, therefore, imposing sanctions is much easier said than done. In order for SolarWorld Americas’ legal theory to be viable and for the sanctions to be legal, they need to prove it was the Chinese government or its affiliates that effectuated the hacking, as opposed to a private company.  Likewise there would need to be proof that the hacking resulted in Chinese business gaining an unfair advantage over U.S. competitors. Therefore, successful sanctions would need to rest on the theory that the Chinese government was stealing trade secrets from American companies giving them to Chinese competitors.

There is a question as to the U.S. government’s own approach to hacking and whether or not American companies or the N.S.A. could be hit with the very sanctions SolarWorld Americas is looking to impose on China. If the U.S. government sets the precedence for trade sanctions as punishment for hacking would it out open itself up to similar measures from other states, even China?

Do you think legal anti-hacking measures should remain a domestic issue or should the U.S. look to international?  



Solar Company Seeks Trade Sanctions




With the introduction of the new iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and the iWatch yesterday, Apple is once again breaking new grounds. In reality, as Apple has worked endlessly to ensure the launch of its products on the keynote date, they also face new accusations over human rights andlabor and safety violations at a factory run by Apple and its supplier, Catcher Technology in Suqian, China.

According to an undercover investigation conducted in August of 2014 by China Labor Watch (CLW) and Green America, Catcher Technology is exploiting its employees to various human rights violations, including excessive work hours and hazardous health conditions. Other violations include: locked safety exits; improper protection for handling hazardous materials; and “a grievance process that retaliates against workers for raising valid workplace issues.” Employees were also forced to consistently work overtime without any pay.

Apple has responded to the investigate report by sending a team to investigate the allegations of the report. They have already instilled regulations to keep fire exits unblocked and to limit working hours to sixty hours a week. Although Apple has responded rather quickly to the report, Apple should have been more vigilant over Catcher Technology, as this is not the first time it faces such allegations. An investigation conducted in April of 2013 yielded similar violations; at the time of the incident, Apple and Catcher Technology instilled solutions to the violations.

Analysts at Bank of America and Merrill Lynch “expect the release of the iPhone 6 to add roughly 1 percent a month to China’s export growth rate for the rest of this year.” With a highly expected, almost given, sales return, what financial and legal duty does Apple have to ensure compliance with human rights, labor, and safety laws? How can the role of a major investment company, like Apple, influence other companies, who are less inclined to regard human rights, to comply with international labor and employment standards and laws? Since these new allegations will most likely not affect the sales of the iPhone, what does this say about the materialistic society we have become?

Sources: Green America: An Investigative Report of Catcher Technology Co. Ltd (Suqian), an Apple Parts Manufacturer;  China Labor Watch Press ReleaseWSJ: Report Alleges Labor Violations at Apple Supplier in China (Sept. 4, 2014)NYT



The Louisiana International Gulf Transfer Terminal (LIGTT) is a $1.3 billion deep sea port that will be built off the coast of Louisiana. The terminal is meant to improve trade and enhance America’s competitiveness in the midst of increased shipping demand by increasing import/export capabilities, efficiency, cargo handling, and bulk handling. The port is a hub-and-spoke system for transporting goods via smaller vessels to the American market. Amazingly, this project is estimated to create over 200,000 jobs (34,000 jobs in Louisiana and 180,000 jobs nationwide.)

This massive project will be financed primarily through an unlikely medium: Immigration.

The Immigrant Investor Program, also known as “EB-5”, was created by Congress in 1990 in an effort to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. A foreign investor can either invest $1 million for a U.S. business, or $500,000 in a venture located in an EB-5 regional center (narrowly defined rural areas or places where unemployment is 150 percent of the national average) that creates at least 10 full-time jobs within two years. In return, the investor and their family can apply for a green card.  Every year, there are 10,000 visas that are set aside for this program.

The LIGTT regional center will be one of the largest approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (six times larger than the previous regional center.) The LIGTT project will be accepting up to 2,000 investors over the next five years which is the first time this many people are concentrated in an infrastructure project. Before this project, use of the EB-5 visa has never been this highly organized or institutionalized. Annual revenues for LIGTT once fully constructed are expected to be in the billions.

Although the EB-5 visa program has been thought of as an innovative way to attract foreign capital, it is constantly criticized for its difficulty to implement. Although the program is meant to direct foreign investment to areas where it is needed most, in practice, the program has been somewhat of a bureaucratic disaster.  For example, some EB-5 ventures have allegedly lied to foreign investors and stolen their money. Also, the program has been poorly managed. Applications can take as long as 20 months to process and record keeping is subpar. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general reported that administrators could only “speculate about how foreign investment is affecting the U.S. economy and whether the program is creating U.S. jobs as intended.”

The LIGTT project could potentially be a blueprint on how to stimulate the economy by utilizing and implementing the EB-5 visa. The possibility of creating over 200,000 jobs in a massive and beneficial infrastructure project financed through private capital almost makes one think why this was not thought of sooner.  With the help of the Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, this could be a great project that will aid in stimulating the economy, and enhancing U.S. trade capabilities.

Despite some of the criticisms that the EB-5 visa has received, do you think that if implemented correctly, this program should be used more often in stimulating the economy? Are there any reforms that should be made to the program? Is it fair that wealthy immigrants may be buying their way into this country?

Source: USCIS, Bloomberg Businesweek, Fox Business, Thomas, EB-5 News 

Photo: Maritime Executive




ISIS, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a Sunni-Jihadist terrorist group in the Middle East which claims religious and political authority over all Muslims across the world. They have been accused of ethnic cleansing of minority groups in Iraq. They have taken over Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian city, which hosts Christians and Yazidis.

The Yazidis, a Kurdish community which practices the ancient religion of Yazidism have become the latest target of the ISIS. The Yazidis woman have become victims of ISIS’s new physical and psychological war fare. In Iraq, ISIS has turned the Badush prison in the northern city of Mosul into a slavery operation. The captured Yazidi women who are being held at the prison, have two choices. They can either convert to Islam so they can be sold as brides to Islamist Fighters starting from $25 up to $150 or they have to submit to daily rapes by their captors. These captive women, who are as young as 14 years old, include members from other religious minority groups like Turkomans. ISIS has even made the young women call their families and describe their horrible state in detail as a means to cause psychological warfare on them.

President Obama has announced that airstrikes will continue to protect American facilities and remaining personnel in Iraq from ISIS. The United Nations estimates that 12 million adults and kids may be victims of trafficking, and 79% of human trafficking is connected to sexual exploitation. In 2000, President Clinton signed Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) into law. The Act made human trafficking a federal crime and it aimed to “prevent human trafficking overseas, to protect victims and help them rebuild their lives in the United States, and to prosecute traffickers of humans.”

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime enforces international compliance for human, specifically sexual trafficking from states that sign a treaty and subject them to be monitored by the U.N. Even though Iraq has never officially signed the treaty, I believe that U.N should intervene in ISIS’s human trafficking, along with United States since they both have strong laws in place against human trafficking. The women, under the supervision of U.N. should be taken out of Iraq, and given a chance to rebuild their lives in the United States under TVPA law.

I am glad that U.S is not being silent when young women are being raped, but as a global society, are we doing enough? Why are other nations silent and allowing these atrocities to continue? Are they afraid that if they intervene, they might be next? I believe that silence promotes re-occurrence of injustice. We must discuss these events, instead of the MTV awards in mainstream media and bring awareness to the public so we can make a change.

NY Magazine, More Deatails Brutal Treatment of ISIS Prisoners
Jewish Voice NY, Rape Jihad: inside ISIS harem for Capture non-Muslim Women
International Business Times, ISIS Kidnaps, Sells Women as ‘Sex Slaves’ While Obama Declares U.S. Mission Not Over Yet 
Anna Williams Shavers, Human Trafficking, the Rule of Law, and Corporate Social Responsibility, 9 S.C.J. Int’l L. & Bus. 39, 46 (2012)
International Law and Human Trafficking
BBC, Who, What, Why : Who are the Yazidis?
The Independent, Iraq Crisi: ISIS Declares new Islamic State with restoration of Caliphate in Middle East 

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