Feed on

POST WRITTEN BY: Hannah Hollingsworth, J.D. expected 2017

Michelle Obama

In April, 2014, over 200 girls were kidnapped at school in Chibock, Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Boko Haram is a Muslim extremist group who oppose western education. The outrage at the lack of attention by the Nigerian and international leaders to the missing girls led to the social media #BringBackOurGirls movement. Everyone from Michelle Obama to Jessica Biel posted a selfie holding a piece of paper with #BringBackOurGirls.

Over a year later, the attack is widely known and talked about but what change did the hashtag bring? Boko Haram, according to an Amnesty International report, has abducted over 2,000 women and girls. The Chibok schoolgirls are not the first or last to be taken by the terrorist group. However, the social media movement helped bring attention to the major violations of human rights and international law going on in Nigeria at the hands of Boko Haram. The girls are still missing, over 500 days later. Some of the girls are married off, others taught to fight, others killed, raped, and sold.

What is the international community doing to resolve the issue? The ICC has been investigating Nigeria since 2013 for failure to deal properly with the crimes committed within their boarders, but has yet to bring anyone to justice for the atrocities that Boko Haram have committed in Nigeria. The Security Council added Boko Haram to their Al-Qaida sanctions list. This makes it more difficult for supplies to be sold to the group without repercussions on suppliers. While Boko Haram is weakened, they are still active and still have our girls. These war criminals need to be stopped with more action than is currently being taken.

While President Johnathan Goodluck was in office, he did little to address this issue. Now that a new president has been elected the international community needs to step up and take action. Under the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect, the international community has a duty to take more effective action to resolve these war crimes and human rights violations. I do not necessarily advocate violating Nigerian state sovereignty, but the state has not publically denied help and therefore may consent. Issues such as these quickly cross international borders and become international issues. When terror strikes a nation so forcefully, as Boko Haram, people flee their nation to find more stable living conditions. The issues in Nigeria have directly affected the surrounding countries, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, with displaced peoples and fear that Boko Haram may cross the Nigerian boarder to attack their schools. Kidnapping women and children civilians violates Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention of 1949, Article 8(2) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and several other multilateral human rights treaties. The war crimes and human rights violations need to be stopped, not just acknowledged.

What is the next step? Do you think that the international community has a duty to stop the human rights violations going on in Nigeria? If not, when is the issue big enough to demand international help?

Related documents:

Taser-x26Steve White, Head of the Police Federation of England and Wales, announced today on BBC Radio 4 that he wants to put a TASER in every front-line officer’s pocket.  White is not alone in pursuing the standardization of the TASER in Europe; Italy’s commissioni Giustizia e Affari costituzionali della Camera dei Deputati (commission for Justice and Constitutional Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies) has also recently moved to enact a similar measure into lawTASER International’s website claims that 625,000 of its devices, used by nearly 17,000 agencies in over 100 countries, saving a life from what would otherwise be a lethal use of force by law enforcement every 30 minutes.

While White’s proposal is by no means a cure-all — TASERs can be ineffective in close quarters and Amnesty International has cautioned that they are not as ‘non-lethal’ as the stun gun industry might claim — they can be an effective method for saving lives when police receive training in correctly prioritizing their use.  In 2010, for instance, a grand jury in San Mateo, California concluded that TASER devices can be a use of force alternative to the lethal force of a firearm. In doing so, the grand jury noted the Sheriff’s Department modified its policy to require a higher threshold for the deployment and activation of TASER devices by its deputies by placing their priority lower on the ladder than “specialty impact munitions” (e.g. rubber bullets or 12-gauge bean bags), but higher on the ladder than the use of lethal force.

Interpol has received similar guidance.  In a report shared with the intergovernmental police organization, the Canadian Police Research Centre (CPRC) noted several medical tests and conclusions conducted in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia.  The study noted that “Definitive research or evidence does not exist that implicates a causal relationship between the use of CEDs and death,” citing “excited delirium” as a more common cause of death from TASERs than cardiac arrest.  Additionally, a Nevada study cited by the Centre noted that the TASER is ”well below the level established as ‘safe’ by the federal [U.S.] government and International European standards in approving such devices as electrified cattle fence, and the risk of cardiac complications is low.”

In an interview with the Huffington Post in December of 2014, Rick Smith, the CEO of TASER International, suggested that TASER devices could have saved lives in recent police activity that resulted in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York:

[Ferguson] would have been the perfect situation for a Taser. Now, I can’t go back and say that [Officer Wilson] would have used it. I wasn’t there. But, big, unarmed, aggressive people, that’s the number one use case for Taser devices. We want to get a Taser on every cop’s belt so that they have every option to use before they have to go to a gun.

Should there be an international mandate to require the use of TASER and other non-lethal devices prior to the use of lethal force by police? Are TASERs an effective method for controlling out-of-control arrestees and suspects, as TASER International and some international law enforcement bodies have suggested?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Related Readings:

Tasers for all front-line officers’ – Police Federation, BBC News (Jan. 31, 2015).

Decreto stadi, primo sì per la pistola elettrica alla polizia, palermomania.it (Sept. 30, 2014) (title – roughly translated:  ”Decree for stages, yes for first electric gun to police”)

Times Police Have Used TASER CEWs in the Field, TASER International (last visited January 31, 2015).

Police Taser use more than doubles – Home Office, BBC News (Sept. 10, 2013).

Tasers – potentially lethal and easy to abuse, Amnesty International (Dec. 16, 2008).

TASERS: Standardizing to Save Lives and Reduce Injuries, San Mateo, Calif. Grand Jury Findings (2011).

Dave Young, Specialty Impact Munitions: design purpose and effect, correctionsone.com (Feb. 19, 2008).

Drazen Manojlovic et al., Technical Report TR-01-2006: Review of Conducted Energy Devices, Canadian Police Research Centre (Aug. 22, 2005) (publishing the findings, made for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, on Interpol’s website).

Natalie Pace, Could Tasers and Cameras Have Saved the Life of Michael Brown? Huffington Post (Dec. 5, 2014).

POST WRITTEN BY: Walder Thame (J.D. ’16), Pace Law School

Sierra Leone was embroiled in an 11 year Civil War from 1991-2002 that began as rebel forces attempted to overthrow the government. The consequences were far-reaching and severe: There were deaths in the thousands, amputations, systematic rape, and destruction of homes as well as the forced relocation of thousands to neighboring countries. It was truly one of the most devastating events in modern history. War Don Don, one of the most riveting pieces of work I have seen, documented the trial and conviction of Issa Sesay, following the disarmament of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group.

The movie depicted a thought provoking dynamic of the Special Court of Sierra Leone as it adjudicated crimes at the international level. For me, one of the most compelling parts of the film is the role of politics. As I watched, I started to think of the justice system in America, particularly the idea that the courts should be free of influence from other political branches and the notion that the accused should be afforded a fair trial. I don’t necessarily agree with the way justice was carried out in the trial of Sesay, who was the acting commander of the RUF, credited with ordering disarmament and restoring peace in the country.

My contentions rest primarily on the Special Court’s handling of the testimony proffered by prosecution witnesses and the manner in which the Special Court was organized. Some of the witnesses received monetary compensation and even relocation to first world countries for their testimony. I think the defense should have been allowed to inquire deeper into the possibility of bias, and the Court should have accorded weight to each witness’s testimony, based on that possibility. During the trial, defense counsel attempted to uncover bias but the Court stopped it. This I believe was an error since it can be assumed that those who were compensated for their testimony had everything to gain. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world. Suffering is immense, food is scarce and prospects for the future are dim. Therefore, it is quite plausible that witnesses who testified had hidden agendas and as such an extensive defense inquiry should have been allowed.

Additionally, I believe that the organization of the Special Court was not ideal. I don’t think the hybrid model was the best way to decide this case. Not only was there destruction of lives and property, there was destruction of the human spirit as some of the survivors lost faith in the compassion of mankind. Based on the heinous nature of the crimes committed, I would expect the Special Court to be comprised solely of international judges. That was not the case however. Instead, as shown in War Don Don, the Court consisted of a mix of domestic and international judges and staff. Consequently, judges presiding over the proceedings had more likely than not first-hand experience or knew someone who was devastated by the alleged atrocities. Thus, I don’t think the defendant was given a fair trial because impartiality was severely compromised. After all, under the black robes and authoritative voices are regular people susceptible to the emotions stemming from great tragedy.

This is not to say that the Special Court lacked integrity or that the defendant was innocent. However, having a panel of international judges would have assured impartiality and increased the integrity of the Court’s decision. Additionally, I believe that the trial was not one marked by accuracy but rather a politically driven engine that desperately needed to hold someone accountable, anyone, even at the expense of not uncovering the whole truth.

POST WRITTEN BY: Sanjeevi Seshadri, 4th Year Candidate, Bachelor of Laws (Hons.) at National Law University, Delhi; and Kanwar Vivswan, 4th Year Candidate, Bachelor of Laws (Hons.) at National Law University, Delhi

Pace International Law Review is honored to feature State Dinners & Summons: Mr. Modi’s trip to New York from our guest bloggers Sanjeevi Seshadri and Kanwar Vivswan. Both Sanjeevi Seshadri and Kanwar Vivswan are from New Dehli, India and are 4th year candidates for Bachelor of Laws at National Law University in Delhi. Sanjeevi Seshadri hopes to pursue a career in litigation and is very interested in international investment law, international criminal law and the law of treaties. Kanwar Vivswan wishes to pursue a career at the UN and is interested in public international law, international environmental law and international law for protection of intellectual property. Theirpost, “State Dinners & Summons: Mr. Modi’s trip to New York,” looks at how summons was issued in September 25, 2014 by A New York Federal District Court pursuant to a complain by the American Justice Center, which sought compensatory and punitive damages for crimes against humanity, cruel and unusual punishment and other allegations perpetrated by Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minster of India. The post analyzes how the complainant has failed to establish that civil universal jurisdiction has the same scope as criminal jurisdiction in enforcing these international norms:

In 2005, the United States of America denied Mr. Modi a visa while he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Today, Mr. Modi is the Prime Minister of India and is a state guest of the United States, yet, he still faces challenges in the land of the free. A New York federal District Court issued a summons to Mr. Modi on September 25, 2014. The summons was issued pursuant to a complaint by the American Justice Centre [AJC], an American NGO, that sought compensatory and punitive damages for “crimes against humanity; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; extrajudicial killing; wrongful deaths; negligence; public nuisance; battery; and intentional infliction of emotional distress” allegedly perpetrated by Mr. Modi.

The complainant states that under international law, Mr. Modi can be prosecuted for the said crimes in the U.S. under the principle of universal jurisdiction, whereby a state may exercise jurisdiction over serious crimes (such as genocide, torture and war crimes) even if there exists no connection, based on territory or nationality.

In this post, it will be argued that the complainant has failed to establish in the lawsuit whether civil universal jurisdiction (under which damages are being claimed in this case) has the same scope as criminal jurisdiction in enforcing these international law norms. In this regard, we argue that the summons against Mr. Modi is not sustainable under international law. . .

Take a moment to enjoy reading the full article State Dinners & Summons: Mr. Modi’s trip to New York. If you would like to contact the authors of this post, Sanjeevi Seshadri can be reached at seshadri.sanjeevi@gmail.com, and Kanwar Vivswan can be reached at Kvsingh92@gmail.com.

Image Source: Rediff News


David Bergman was recently convicted on contempt charges by Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT). Bergman was sentenced to a symbolic “simple imprisonment” and a fine of $56. The charges were out of comments he made in three different blog posts about cases that were before the ICT.  Specifically, the court looked at one blog post that questioned the number of dead in the 1971 war.  The court stated that the questioning of this number Some observers have estimated that the number could be anywhere between 300,000 to 3 million. The court found that Bergman’s questioning of the number of people killed to have no legitimate public interest. It further noted that, his questioning “disgraces and demeans the nation’s wishes and  holy emotion and that it was based on malicious intent designed to scandalize the court.” Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Commission of Jurists obviously disagree. They do not take a position on how many people were killed but do state that the topic is something that all international criminal tribunals have to deal with and was completely legitimate for Bergman to question. The three groups have also raised concerns about the language of the opinion that gives the court broad discretion to keep prosecuting journalist for criticizing the ICT.

The ICT is meant to serve as a war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh. Its purpose is “to bring to account those responsible for grave violation of international law during the country 1971 war of independence.”  The ICT has used contempt of court proceedings against some of its critics. There have been concerns over the procedural aspects of the court including concerns about sours of law and rules of procedure. The conviction of Bergman is just another concern that has arisen. Many observers including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and International Commission of Jurists are concerned that the conviction narrows the ability for outsiders to comment on the proceedings at the ICT. Richard Bennet, a director at Amnesty International, stated “Rather than respecting the right to freedom of expression, the ICT has used contempt of court proceedings against some of its critics, and those who are convicted have no right of appeal.” The decision is also in direct conflict with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bangladesh is a party to. The ICCPR states that all “branches of governmental authority, including the judiciary, must respect and protect freedom of expression. Any restrictions on free speech must be necessary and strictly proportionate to protect national security, public order, public health, morals, or the rights of others”.  It is really not clear here that Bergman’s blog posts affected national security, public order, public health, morals, or the rights of others has specifically stated by the ICCPR.

Should it be within the ICT, a war crime tribunal, jurisdiction to convict a journalist for his blog posts?

What should the international community do to prevent future journalist from being persecuted?

Source: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/12/05/bangladesh-conviction-journalist-chills-speech

image: http://www.bdchronicle.com/detail/news/32/4627


The Cambodia government needs to take action and close all facilities arbitrarily holding “undesirables.” According to Human Rights Watch, the abusive nature of these centers was highlighted on November 26, 2014 when a man, Phea, who was arbitrarily detained and denied medical treatment, died at the Prey Speu center. On November 2, 2014, authorities brought Phea to the Prey Speu’s Po Senchey Vocational Training Center. According to Human Rights Watch: “Phea had been picked up during ‘sweeps’ by security forces in Phnom Penh to clear homeless people and others considered ‘undesirable’ off the streets prior to Cambodia’s traditional Water Festival being held on November 5-7. When the police took Phea off the streets he was seriously ill and was covered with infected wounds all over his body. However, the center staff made no efforts to provide him with any medical treatment and refused to take him elsewhere for treatment. He died on November 26, 2014 and the police made no investigations into his death.

According to the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment provides that medical care and treatment shall be provided to detainees whenever necessary and free of charge. Whenever a person dies in detention, “an inquiry into the cause of death … shall be held by a judicial or other authority.” In addition, “[t]he findings of such inquiry … shall be made available upon request.”

The Cambodian government needs to take action to protect these vulnerable people. These centers need to be closed immediately because they are not providing individuals with medical treatment. Additionally, why has the Cambodian government not investigated the death of Phea? What do you think needs to be done? If the government does not close these centers what can be done to enforce the United Nations Body of Principles?

Naly Pilorge, the director of Licadho stated: “Keeping Cambodia’s detention centers open is an endless invitation to the authorities to violate the human rights of people deemed ‘undesirable.’ The systematic abuse of Cambodia’s most vulnerable people occurs at these centers and the government should close them immediately.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

Additionally, Licadho, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights organizations have documented torture and systematic cruel and inhumane treatment, as well as rapes, killings, and other abuses at the Prey Speu center since it became operational in 2004. So why has the Cambodian government failed to take action? How else can these organizations get the government to take action?


Source: Human Rights Watch

Image: WN.com

Tags: Cambodia, Cambodia Government, Human Rights Watch, Licadho, Naly Pilorge, Phea, United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, Undesirables, Prey Speu’s Po Senchey Vocational Training Center


As if being a refugee wasn’t difficult enough, millions of Syrians now have the mystery of where there next meal comes from hanging over their head.  Earlier this week, the World Food Programme was forced to put on hold food vouchers for the Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.  While a lack of food vouchers can never come at a good time, this is especially difficult as a fierce and cold winter approaches.

If the World Food Programme does not receive the necessary funding, it will affect both the refugees and the hosting nations.  While the hosting nations are crucial to the refugees, the loss in funding has lead to many pointing fingers, namely at donors, wealthier countries and the United Nations itself. The WFP pleads to the donors to stay true to their commitments and critics look to other countries to provide additional support both financially and as providing safe havens.

In hopes of providing support, the UN has asked the public to donate at least $1 to cover the $64 million needed by December to support the Syrian Refugees.  While appealing to the souls of the generous may provide some support, there still remains the question, why haven’t other countries opened their borders to these refugees? This question is posed mainly at the European Union member states, who have yet to host any refugees.  Many feel the refugees have set up base in “ill-equipped” countries.

At this point we must ask, what duty, legal or moral, do better equipped countries have to those in need?  This is a broad question that applies to many situations, but it also furthers the inquiry if support is to be provided, how much and what kind is appropriate?  Should there be protocol for this situations? Or do we have to rely on international and non-profit organizations to set the standards?

Sources: ABC, The Post, Maps.




On December 1, 2014, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed, by a majority, the verdict that declared Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty as well as the decision that sentenced him to 14 years of imprisonment. Mr. Lubanga was found by the Trial Chamber to be committing war crimes that consisted of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 into the Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC). He allegedly used these children to actively participate in hostilities of armed conflict between the times of September 1, 2002 through August 13, 2003. These offenses were found punishable under Article 8(2)(e)(vii) of the Rome Statute.

Article 8 of the Rome Statute states:

“(2) For the purpose of this statute, ‘war crimes’ means: (e) Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts not of an international character, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts: (vii) Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities.”

The Appeals Chamber explained in their decision that they only intervene in findings of the Trial Chamber if they were found to be “unreasonable.” They further went on to say that they deferred to the Trial Chamber’s conclusion after an assessment of the age of the child soldiers. The Trial Chamber’s findings were held to be reasonable. Therefore, every ground of appeal raised by the Defense was rejected, and the decision that established the 14 year sentence was confirmed.

The country in which Mr. Lubanga will be serving his sentence has yet to be determined. The Court decides where prison sentences will be served based off a list of States that have indicated to the Court their willingness to accept persons who have been convicted. Until the place is of his sentencing is determined by the Presidency of the Court, Mr. Lubanga will remain in the detention center in The Hauge.

The crimes that he committed are inexcusable, and in my opinion the sentencing should possibly have been longer. Children should not be put into situations that involve war; something needs to be done to show men like Mr. Lubanga that they cannot get away with crimes like these. Given that Mr. Lubanga will have served two thirds of his sentence by July 2015, and under the Rome Statute the Court shall review sentencing to determine whether it should be reduced after two thirds has been served, do you think the Court should reduce his sentence? Do you think that he has served enough time already in regards to the crimes that he committed? Or do you think that he should serve the entire 14 years?

Sources: ICC, The Prosecution v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo

Photo: SABC News


During an international conference on conventional weapons, countries agreed on November 14, 2014 to discuss concerns with fully autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots.” There are currently 118 nations that are part of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) who agreed to reconvene at the United Nations in Geneva on April 13-17, 2015 to continue discussing issues raised earlier in 2014 on questions relating to “lethal autonomous weapons systems.” Although these weapons have not been created yet, with technology moving rapidly, this increases autonomy.

Mary Wareham, arms advocacy director at Human Rights Watch and coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots stated, “By continuing talks, countries are acknowledging the many concerns raised by autonomous warfare, but the technology is moving faster than the international response.” Wareham suggested that a new international treaty should be created based on these discussions to make sure humans control their targeting and attack strategy decisions.

Parties to the CCW include countries known for their advancements in autonomous weaponry such as the United States, China, Israel, Russia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. This Convention was adopted in 1980 and has five protocols, one of which is protocol IV that preemptively banned blinding lasers.

Human Rights Watch is addressing this issue as they are the co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an international coalition of nongovernmental groups, which started in April 2013. Human Rights Watch is seeking a pre-emptive ban on weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention.

Do you think there should be a pre-emptive ban on weapons such as “killer robots” that could attack and select targets without any human intervention? Should a new international treaty be developed to stop these types of weapons? How should the rapid growth in technology factor into this debate?

Source: Human Rights Watch 



Next on the list: Iran. On December 3, Iran, just like the United States and its coalition of allies, launched airstrikes on ISIS in Iraq; in other words, they joined in on the fight against ISIS. What is Iran’s main reason for joining the fight? Iran’s position is religion; whereas, it’s underlying interest (just like all parties involved in Iraq) is oil. For centuries, Iran and Iraq have consistently been at odds because of their religious differences and geographic proximities; Iran is dominantly Shiite and Iraq is dominantly Sunni. Iran, being the dominant Shiite power in the Middle East, is scared of ISIS’s  extremist militant power if they were to take control of the country. As ISIS’s war wages closer to the borders with Iran, extremist state militants could endanger Iran’s security, including its oil riches. A recent study conducted by the International Energy Studies, a government research center, concluded that a “threat of ISIS’s advancement to Iran’s borders [will lead to a] possible disruption in oil fields production and development in western Iran.”

Similarly, the Kurds, who have been the target of a systematic cleansing, have been strategically designated as the newest crutch to the current Iraqi government. What was the deal breaker that ended years of political deadlock? Oil! The pact was based on the sharing of oil and the country’s national budget.  Conveniently, the Kurds, currently residing in the North of Iraq, also sit on a large oil bank. For this reason, the Iraqi government will get to export the oil in the Kurdish territory, in exchange for the availability of resources. This new relationship will also lead to a coalition against ISIS.

In conclusion, what does the US, the French, the Australians, the British, the Canadians, the Danish, the Belgians, the Dutch, the Saudi Arabians, the Emiratis, the Jordanians, the Bahrainis, the Kurds and the Iranians all have in common? They are all partaking in the fight against ISIS. Interesting how politics always has a different agenda, never taking into consideration society and media’s accentuating disparities between different religions and polar opposite governments. Iran’s attack on ISIS shows their regional strength and dominance, but also highlights common loopholes that exist in the world as we know it, bringing together two countries who have consistently been at odds since 1979. Each country’s political agenda is driven by resources, most importantly access to oil and water. If only we were to unite over a more common goal. I leave you with one last question: are the enemies of your enemies, your friends?

Sources: L’Orient Le Jour

Image Source

Older Posts »