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In 2011 and 2012, the world’s leading foreign law firms began to create offices in South Korea. This highly tactical move was met with varying levels of intrigue. Some critics said there were concerns that there wasn’t enough work to go around, yet others championed the possibilities of success.

Despite this bifurcated assessment of the legal profit possibilities in South Korea, international firms continue to take an interest in Seoul. Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom is the 19th firm to open in the country, and the most recent. Currently, most firms have been devising plans on  how to corner the market pertaining to overseas litigation. Areas of applicable law include outbound M&A, international capital markets, nationalization of transient workers, and Korean corporate compliance. These legal teams usually start with three and ten lawyers and then grow according to need. Pursuant to recent regulations, these foreign firms are also permitted to co-bill and share profit-pools with local firms on a project-by-project basis. The current question in the legal world  is whether these mega-firms are turning a profit with their Korean ventures and what challenges persist as competition with other firms continues.

“It is hard to generalize on how firms are doing,” says Yong Guk Lee, the chief representative for Cleary in Seoul. “We had a Korean practice based in Hong Kong for more than 20 years and are continuing in Seoul with what we’ve always done. That’s probably true for a handful of firms - they are carrying on doing what they used to do out of Hong Kong. There are others that have a more niche practice, and those that are either brand new players in the market or trying to expand beyond their traditional practice areas.

For a greater set of firms, the reality seems to be that the Seoul branch is not a solitary profit growth center and serves as more of a networking base for new clients and new business prospects for other connected offices. Another problem these firms are having is finding Koreans, either to run or staff offices. A partner at a firm based in the United Kingdom says the Korean employment issue is unlikely to change: “The difficulty in Korea is that it will be hard to make any inroads into the market unless you’ve got a team of Korean-speaking lawyers. That’s a particular challenge for British firms because not many Koreans want to go and study in the UK. The US firms are almost spoilt for choice and so have a natural advantage.”

Source: The Korea Times

Picture: The Korea Times

Kenya's President, Uhuru Kenyatta.

In September 2014, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta appeared before the ICC to deny five counts of crimes against humanity charged against him. This is also the first time a head of state has appeared to face charges before the ICC since its establishment in 2002. Kenyatta is charged for his alleged role in orchestrating a wave of violent unrest following the 2007-2008 presidential elections, where 1,200 people died and 600,000 displaced. The post-election unrest initially began as political riots, but it quickly turned into an ethnic violence between members of the Kalenjin tribe and the Kikuyu tribe (Kenyatta’s ethnic group). At the hearing, Kenyatta did not make any statements, and deferred answering all questions to his lawyer, Stephen Kay.

This particular case has been delayed numerous times, and during this delay, at least seven prosecution witnesses have dropped out amid allegations of bribery and intimidation from ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda. Just last month, Chief Prosecutor Bensouda requested an indefinite postponement of this case, because the Nairobi government had refused to cooperate with the prosecutor’s request for financial statements and other documents such as telephone records. This refusal has left Bensouda with insufficient evidence to proceed with trial at this time.

Once again, this trial must be postponed. Without further evidence, these allegations against Kenyatta cannot be fully proved. Nairobi’s uncooperative conduct seems to be just another excuse to intentionally delay this action from proceeding against their leader, although the defense has denied such allegations. In September 2014, Kenya had voted to withdraw from ICC jurisdiction after repeatedly asking the Court to drop these cases against African leaders. Additionally, the ICC has been accused of having bias against Africa, indicating that all the cases currently before the ICC are against Africans in eight different African countries. The withdrawal, if it were to happen, would take time to implement because it would involve a number of steps, including a formal notification to the United Nations. In the meantime, the Court stated that trials will still proceed.

The whole premise of the ICC is to ensure justice for everyone who is a party to the ICC jurisdiction under the Rome Statute, and is a victim of particular heinous war crimes. Countries become parties to the ICC to seek justice, so a withdrawal from ICC jurisdiction would definitely send the wrong message about “Africa’s commitment to protect and promote human rights and to reject impunity.” What do you think the ICC should do to address this issue? Should they allow Kenya to withdraw? Assuming the ICC approves of Kenya’s withdrawal, and in light of the fact that the Nairobi government refused to cooperate with the ICC investigation against their leader, such action would create an unwanted precedent of allowing parties to the ICC, whose political leaders are under investigation, to escape potential prosecution by simply withdrawing from its jurisdictions.

Sources: The Guardian; BBC; CNN.

It is very easy in this age of Facebook, Twitter, MSNBC, Fox News and a never ending news cycle to forget that there is still good in the world. We forget that International Law serves a greater purpose and is actually effective. The violence in Syria has been the main focus of the media for the past few years. However, little has been reported on the safety, shelter, and aid that has been provided to the refugees. Even less has been reported on the governments looking to hold the perpetrators of mass murders and tortures accountable. These outside governments, most notably Germany, France and the Netherlands, have created units that utilize universal jurisdiction. In Germany, prosecutors have started broad investigations aimed at countries in crises including Syria and Libya. These investigations called structural investigations focus on the crimes that have been committed during  mass unrest. The governments of Germany, France, and the Netherlands are proactive in their investigations by identifying refugees who might be witnesses.  Germany and a few other European countries collect testimony from asylum seekers on their testimony in order to use in later investigations and prosecutions. These investigations serve two purposes. First, crimes that are committed in these war torn countries are usually not prosecuted until years later. At the point when the investigations would usually start potential witnesses are scattered all over the world and most perpetrators have gone missing. By interviewing asylum seekers at the beginning these investigations are more likely to lead to prosecutions of crimes. Second, these interviews prevent countries from being safe havens for the perpetrators of heinous war crimes. Since many of these crisis countries are years away from having a functional government and even further away from prosecuting war criminal, universal jurisdiction is the best option. Universal jurisdiction is the bright line that international lawyers look to for justice. In all the bad news, there is a remedy and more countries should follow the example of Germany, France and the Netherlands.

 

 

 

Cite: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/09/19/extending-reach-justice

Image: http://blog.athirtyeight.com/2012/10/universal-jurisdiction-political-liability.html

Got Trash?

Boy in Lagos

In 1989, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposals treaty was created. This treaty, better known as the Basel Convention, was established to prevent developed nations from transferring their hazardous waste materials to less developed countries. The United Nations and 181 states are parties to the international treaty; the United States signed the Convention but they have yet to ratify it.

The current issue is determining what developed nations should do with their waste. Many developed nations, like Canada for instance, has been shipping their waste products off to less developed countries. This is a prime example of the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy. Recently, the Philippines has requested to re-export 50 storage containers back to Canada. Representative Leah Paquiz stated, “I filed for a Congressional Inquiry in aid of legislation regarding the unlawful importation of the 50 container vans filled with garbage. Clearly, this is a reflection of our dignity as a nation.” While both Canada and the Philippines are parties to the Basel Convention, neither of them have ratified the Basel Ban Amendment which completely prohibits the shipment of hazardous wastes to less developed countries.

The main reason that developed nations are shipping their waste to less developed countries is to avoid the costs of appropriate treatment for the waste. The European Union (EU) has set up a system to regulate transboundary shipments of waste within other EU countries or to outside developing countries called Waste Shipment Regulation (WShipR). WShipR implements the Basel Convention which bans exports of hazardous waste from developed countries to less developed countries. Less developed counties do not have proper and sufficient waste treatment capacity to dispose of the waste in an environmentally safe manner.

So while some nations are taking steps towards implementing the Basel Convention, others are holding off on ratifying the treaty. Do you think that the United States should ratify the treaty? If a nation creates waste, shouldn’t it be their responsibility to dispose of it properly? If we keep sending our waste to less developed nations, it will lead to severe environmental degradation. Who should have the ultimate burden of waste disposal?

Sources: Treaty Collection; InterAksyon; European Commission

Photo: Basel Action Network (BAN)

At least that seems to be the idea spreading across the globe.

The world will always commend those who peacefully speak out for the people who cannot. A most recent example is Nobel Peace Price Winner, Malala Yousafzai.  Unfortunately, even peaceful Malala, who at 17 is the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, experienced violent retaliation.  So much so, her life was nearly taken from her by the Taliban.

But, while advocates of rights and protestors in general may start out with the best intentions, too often brutality breaks through.  This is the case numerous cities across the globe. What the media indicates to be the most pressing of the moment is the police’s sudden retaliation to protestors opposing the Chinese government’s involvement in Hong Kong’s upcoming elections.  Footage of this retaliation emerged today, showing a police officer violently attempting to restrain a protestor. Despite indications of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s wishes to engages in talks with the demonstrators, this footage follows reports of previous usage of pepper spray and dangerous bouts to block the crowds.  Even with speculation of such talks, the Hong Kong chief shows no wishes to negotiate.

When protesting takes a turn for the worst, as it almost inevitably does in most situations, the media takes it upon themselves to report that moment.  While the public does have a right to be informed before, during and after these instances, the public also has a right to feel safe in standing up for their rights.  The issue here is how can governments, police officials, other influential bodies and the acting protestors work together to maintain the peaceful nature that seems to be lost over time? Some may say the answer is don’t protest in the first place, but that does not seem to be a realistic solution.  Then it must be asked, does any realistic solution even exist?

Sources: ABC, The Guardian, BBC

Chinese Police

On Monday, a Chinese court sentenced twelve people to death and fifteen others to a suspended death sentence.  The persons before the court were said to have been involved in attacks on a police station and government offices in Xinjiang  The charges were listed as homicide, organizing terror, kidnapping, and harming public safety. The particular attack in July, which led the Chinese court to sentence the twelve to death, had a death count almost reaching 100 people. “It was said that 59 assailants were shot dead by police, 37 passers-by died and that 215 people were arrested.”

Over the past few months, there has been a widespread of similar attacks. For example, in March twenty-nine people were killed in an attack in a train station; in May, thirty-nine people were killed during an attack on a market in the capital of Xinjiang, and an additional thirty-one were killed during another terrorist attack in the same month; in June, assailants drove a car full of explosives into a police station in Urumqi and thirteen were shot dead by the police,  a total of thirty-five were reported dead.

The Chinese government is pointing fingers at Islamic militants, or separatists, “who they say are determined on forming an independent state called East Turkestan.” On the other-hand, “Rights groups accuse China’s government of cultural and religious repression which they say fuels unrest in the region bordering Central Asia.”

The violence leading to so many deaths is said to be due to the clash between Muslim Uighur people and ethnic majority Han Chinese. There seems to be some suspicion toward the Chinese government, as the Uighur argue “Beijing’s security forces used submachine guns and sniper rifles, leading to “huge casualties”. The harsh punishments are being argued  as a “strike hard” campaign against violence in Xinjiang by the Chinese government. Unfortunately the Chinese government is making it rather difficult for journalists to verify many details on these incidents, as they are imposing harsh restrictions upon journalism in Xinjiang. Therefore, it seems inconclusive as to who is responsible for which deaths, and exactly how many deaths  occurred. It also seems that the government may not want the world to know exactly what is going on behind Chinese borders.

Are the Chinese violating international law by imposing such harsh penalties, or are these sentences warranted? Are harsh penalties like the death penalty effective? Does the international community have any right to investigate when human rights groups are suspicious of a government?  Do you think journalists should have international protection regarding their rights to report on stories in areas of conflict, or should a domestic government control what reporters can and cannot express in matters of domestic conflicts?

Sources: Jurist, ABC, dw.dePicture

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On October 21, 2014, the European Court of Human Rights will issue several judgments. One of these judgments includes the deportation of 35 applicants back to their respective nations, when they claim they will be faced with potential death and torture if forced to return.

In the case of Sharifi and Others v. Italy and Greece, 32 Afghan nationals, two Sudanese nationals, and one Eritrean national (applicants) claim to have arrived illegally in Italy from Greece to escape torture and possible death from their respective countries. The 35 migrants admit that they entered Greene between 2007 and 2008 due to armed conflicted which affected civilians in their respective countries. Once in Greece, applicants boarded a vessel and attempted to smuggle themselves into Italy. When the vessel arrived the border police intercepted the applicants and they were immediately deported.

Some of the applicant’s claims include that their rights were violated under Article 2 (right to life) and Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) when they were immediately deported to Greece by the Italian authorities, as they are now faced with potential death or torture if they are deported back to their respective countries. Additionally, the applicants argue that both the Italian and Greek police subjected them to ill treatment when they were sent back to Greece under Article 3.

The United Nations Refugee Agency works with countries to develop national asylum systems to determine which applicants actually qualify for protection. The applicants should be forced back to their own countries if they are going to be subjected to risk of death or torture, as this would be inhumane and a clear violation of Article 2 and 3.

How do you think this case should be decided? Should it be the policy of all countries to allow for asylum seekers to enter? The applicants claim that they are being denied their right to life by being deported back to Greece as well as their respective nations. Is the deportation from Italy to Greece too far of a link to say that their right to life will be denied?

Sources: European Court of Human Rights; UNHCR

Picture: The Journal

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Today, in Afghanistan there are no laws that prohibit sexual harassment. In a recent Human Rights Watch report, it has been urged, “Afghanistan’s new government should take urgent steps to combat sexual harassment of women in education, employment, and public life.”

Sexual harassment is a big problem in Afghanistan. Both women and girls have had to struggle and suffer “to regain their rights after being completely shut out of education and employment during Taliban rule until their ouster in 2001.” Sexual harassment is a daily obstacle for women and girls each day as they walk down the street. Furthermore, when these victims seek help and assistance from police officersthey typically receive no assistance. Harassment on the street is a daily experience for women and girls, and women who have sought help from the police in response to harassment and even threats have typically received no assistance. Also, women in the police force face higher levels of sexual harassment and even sexual assault. These women should be able to feel safe while at work rather than feeling fear. The government needs to provide these women police officers with safe working conditions. This is not right and the Afghan government needs to step in as soon as possible to help protect these victims. It is clear that the government has not made any effort to prohibit sexual harassment and assist the victims.

Additionally, Heather Barr, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch stated: “The Afghan government should promptly enact a law against sexual harassment and ensure that every government institution develops and implements an anti-sexual harassment policy.” Do you agree with Heather Barr?

I completely agree one hundred percent. The Afghan government needs to protect people from sexual harassment. What do you think the Afghan government should do to help prevent sexual harassment? If the Afghan government does enact laws against sexual harassment what should it do to make sure these laws are followed?

 

Source: Human Rights Watch

Image: Ironmonger Curtis

Tags: Sexual Harassment, Afghanistan, Afghan government, Women, Human Rights Watch, Heather Barr, Women’s rights, Unsafe Work Conditions, Police Officers, Sexual Harassment in Education, Sexual Harassment in Employment

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Under a strikingly ominous exception to traditional US child labor laws, children as young as 12 years old are permitted to work unlimited hours on farms, with parental permission, so long as it does not interfere with school hours. Aside the apparent moral dilemmas with such exceptions, more troubling issues arise from children working under hazardous conditions—particularly, on tobacco farms. Working on tobacco farms posses a serious threat to ones health. According to a Human Rights Watch report, many children working on tobacco farms reported vomiting, nausea, headaches, and dizziness. These are symptoms of both nicotine poising and “green tobacco sickness,” two medically diagnosable conditions. Nicotine poisoning can occur in a variety of ways. For one, when a worker is consistently handling tobacco leaves without proper protection, nicotine is absorbed through the skin. Additionally, many workers get sick from handling wet crops. When the crops are wet, from rain or morning dew, worker’s clothing absorbs the moisture from the leaves. According to the US National Library of Medicine, green tobacco sickness is especially harmful to children,

“[c]ompared with adults, children may be especially vulnerable to GTS because their body size is small relative to the dose of nicotine absorbed… especially after a recent rain. Without an awareness of the causes of GTS, children may fail to take effective precautions when handling green tobacco.”

Nicotine overdose may even cause seizures or death, yet one may be baffled to find that tobacco farming is not considered “hazardous” under current US Labor laws. This has become so problematic that the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina, which represents more than 2,300 tobacco farmers, released a statement affirming they do not condone the use of child labor. They strongly recommend tobacco farmers not to hire children under 16, and that only workers over 18 should work under hazardous conditions.

Author Megan McGinnis provides some justifications as to why the public and governments tolerate these laws in Child Farm Labor Under the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to McGinnis, “one primary reason for child labor is to provide income for the family.” Many farm-working children come from low-income families, so their children’s labor can be a significant source of income.  Other justifications are family tradition, cultural norms, and that children may learn responsibilities.

But what does this say about the US on an international scale? The US is a major advocate of international child labor standards. According to HRW, tobacco companies have responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights. HRW, and more than 50 other organizations, have urged the Obama administration to take legislative action in banning children from the hazardous working conditions of tobacco farms. What would it say about the United States credibility if they were found in violation of international human rights and labor protections?

Sources: Human Rights Watch, US National Library of Medicine, 20-FALL Kan. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 155

Image: Human Rights Watch

 

640px-Map_Bih_entities

In 1995, the Dayton Agreement was signed, putting to rest the three and a half long Bosnian War. As a result, the State of Bosnia Herzegovina was set as the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Federation), mostly Bosniak and Croat, and the Republika Sprksa (RS), mostly Serb. The Agreement envisioned a single country with a loose centralized system governing two entities. However, the Federation wishes for the state to be centralized and RS believe that they deserve independence, presumably to join Serbia.

Recently, evidence of the longstanding, fragmented relationship resurfaced. Milorad Dodik, a Bosnian Serb nationalist who advocates secession from Bosnia, led the race for president of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia, with 85 percent of ballots counted. Furthermore, regional elections follow suit as Bosnia Serb leaders pushed for independence, Bosnian Croat leaders pressed for more autonomy, and Bosnian Muslim leaders favored centralized power.

Is there a lack of accountability regarding the Agreement and its aftermath? The United States, alongside several global power, led the peace conference that gave way to the construction of the Agreement, effectively endorsing its spirit. But that spirit has seemingly abandoned the document and the country. For one, the original Dayton Agreement disappeared in 2008. In 2009, a certified copy took its place.

The conflict seems to be ethnically motivated: a portion of the population claims it does not belong to the country and claims it deserves to leave.

Does the international community have an obligation to mitigate what it effectively failed to facilitate? Bosnia is one of Europe’s poorest countries. Unemployment rate is at 44% and the country suffers from infrastructure deficiencies that are emblematic of the country’s crumbling stability.

Should the RS be granted independence to secede and join Serbia in an effort to resuscitate what’s left of the country? Why hasn’t RS garnered international attention as an independent state?

Sources: New York Times, Trans Conflict

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