Will China force the USA’s hand to revisit the Law of the Sea Convention?
On 28th May, US President Barack Obama again called upon the US Senate to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (LOSC), following tension in the South China Sea. This area of the ocean is notoriously problematic, with China claiming sovereignty over almost all of the South China Seas and failing to recognise any rival claims from neighbouring States, such as Vietnam and the Philippines. Conflict appears to have been renewed afresh when Vietnam reported that a Chinese flagged vessel had intentionally struck two of its ships in the area at the beginning of May.
Although China has ratified the LOSC, it asserts that it has a historical claim over disputed islands that pre-date the 1982 treaty. On 1st June, the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, Wang Guanzhong, speaking in the Shangri-La Dialogue, maintained that the Convention was “not the only point of reference” in adjusting sovereignty over islands and seas, strongly suggesting that mounting disputes and its membership of the Law of the Sea Convention would not cause it to reconsider the infamous ‘Nine Dash Line’ that demarcates its claim to the South China Sea. It takes this stance despite the fact that the Philippines filed a case with the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea in March challenging its sovereignty (China having already made known its refusal to take part in any such arbitration).
At the same summit, US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, promised that the US would “not look the other way” whilst international law provisions were breached. However such statements would surely be more meaningful and persuasive if the USA itself had ratified the LOSC? Such a stance could appear to be hypocritical and difficult to take seriously. Although the Convention entered into force in 1994 and has since been ratified by 166 parties, the USA is yet to sign. The vote of at least two-thirds of the Senate is required to ratify a treaty, at least 67 Senators in this case. In 2012, 34 Republican Senators formally declared they would not support the ratification of the treaty; many feel that the LOSC would give the International Seabed Authority too much power over US commercial interests.
As tensions continue to escalate in the South China Seas, it will be noteworthy to see whether China will compel the US Senate to end its longstanding Democrat-Republican tug of war on this Convention. What’s more, if the US relents and signs the LOSC, however unlikely, what will its next move be? How will the US ratification of the treaty resolve these disputes and conflicting claims to land, sea and resources? It remains to be seen whether such talk by the USA will in fact lead to affirmative action or whether this is simply a shot across the bows.
Source: Human Rights Watch
The victims in Côte d’Ivoire are one step closer to discovering the truth behind Gbagbo’s role in the crimes against them.
Param-Preet Singh, senior international justice counsel
(Brussels) – The June 12, 2014 decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) by a majority of judges in the case of former Côte d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo should remind those in positions of power that they are not immune from justice, Human Rights Watch said today. A majority of Pre-Trial Chamber I confirmed the charges of crimes against humanity against Gbagbo and moved the case to trial.
Two out of three judges found that the prosecution put forward enough evidence to establish “substantial grounds to believe” that Gbagbo committed the crimes alleged against him. Gbagbo has been charged with four counts of crimes against humanity for his role in the murder, rape, persecution, and other inhuman acts committed in the context of the post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire between December 2010 and April 2011.
“The victims in Côte d’Ivoire are one step closer to discovering the truth behind Gbagbo’s role in the crimes against them,” said Param-Preet Singh, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. “The ICC judges’ decision should remind senior officials who seem untouchable that the reach of the law may one day extend to them.”
The full decision on the confirmation of charges can be appealed with pretrial chamber authorization. ICC judges will announce the starting date of the trial in due course.
In June 2013, a majority of judges who preside over Pre-Trial Chamber I found that the prosecution had failed to put forward enough evidence to support the charges. However, they said that the evidence presented did “not appear to be so lacking in relevance and probative value” and gave the prosecution more time to make its case. The judges also gave the prosecution a list of six areas requiring further investigation.
The ICC has unsealed arrest warrants against Simone Gbagbo, Gbagbo’s wife, who is alleged to have been his “alter ego,” and Charles Blé Goudé, Gbagbo’s former youth minister, close ally, and the longtime leader of a violent, pro-Gbagbo militia group. Both have been charged with crimes against humanity.
Earlier in 2014, Ivorian authorities surrendered Blé Goudé to The Hague on the ICC arrest warrant. The Ivorian government has challenged the admissibility of the ICC’s case against Simone Gbagbo because she is being tried on the same facts in Côte d’Ivoire. A decision on this admissibility challenge is pending. The Ivorian government’s ongoing cooperation in the ICC’s cases remains essential, Human Rights Watch said.
Gbagbo, who took power in 2000, refused to step down when the Independent Electoral Commission and international observers proclaimed his rival, Alassane Ouattara, the winner of the November 28, 2010 presidential runoff – setting off five months of violence. At least 3,000 people were killed and more than 150 women raped during the crisis by pro-Gbagbo – and to a lesser extent pro-Ouattara – forces, often in targeted acts by armed forces on both sides along political, ethnic, and religious lines. The ICC has yet to take action against any member of the pro-Ouattara forces, although the prosecutor has repeatedly stated that her investigations are impartial and ongoing.
“The ICC’s one-sided approach has frustrated victims of alleged crimes by pro-Ouattara forces and undercut the court’s credibility in Côte d’Ivoire,” Singh said. “The ICC should move swiftly to open an investigation against the Ouattara side to send the message that no one is above the law.”
The 2010 violence capped a decade of human rights violations and impunity in Côte d’Ivoire. Since the end of the crisis, progress toward justice at the national level has also been largely one-sided. Investigations of the devastating crimes by pro-Gbagbo forces during the crisis have led to charges against more than 150 civilian and military leaders as well as the convictionin military court of nine members of Gbagbo’s armed forces. A number of those in detention have been provisionally released, though, prompting concerns by the UN Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire that such releases should not amount to a de facto amnesty.
The serious crimes by pro-Ouattara forces have remained largely ignored at the national level. Although a national commission of inquiry reported in August 2012 that Ouattara’s Republican Forces summarily executed at least 545 people during the crisis, there has yet to be a single arrest for these crimes.
“The Ouattara government should ensure that judges and prosecutors have the support they need to go after suspects on all sides, regardless of rank or political affiliation,” Singh said. “If Côte d’Ivoire’s history is any guide, leaving one side of the conflict largely untouched by justice risks sowing the seeds for future conflict.”
In October 2011, following several requests by Ivorian authorities for the ICC’s jurisdiction as far back as 2003, the court’s judges authorized the prosecutor to open an investigation in Côte d’Ivoire for crimes committed since November 28, 2010. Gbagbo was surrendered to the ICC in November 2011. In February 2012 the court extended this authorization to crimes committed in Côte d’Ivoire since September 19, 2002. Côte d’Ivoire became a state party to the ICC in 2013.
Fuente: El Universal
Garzón y fiscal de juicios de Nurenberg defienden la justicia universal
Madrid.- El principio de justicia universal es clave para luchar contra la “impunidad” en el mundo y, lejos de limitarlo como ocurre actualmente en España, debería ser ampliado, defendieron este martes el exjuez Baltasar Garzón y el fiscal de los juicios de Nuremberg Benjamin Ferencz.
Esa ampliación “creemos que debe de producirse extendiendo a otras esferas jurídicas que van más allá de las estrictamente tradicionales de crímenes de genocidio, de lesa humanidad y de guerra”, explicó Garzón durante la apertura en Madrid del I Congreso de Jurisdicción Universal en el siglo XXI, organizado por la fundación que él preside, destacó AFP.
Mundialmente conocido por la detención del dictador chileno Augusto Pinochet en 1998 en Londres, Garzón se convirtió en paladín de este principio jurídico por el cual un país puede juzgar un delito cometido en otro si éste no lo hace. En 2012 fue inhabilatado por el Tribunal Supremo español para ejercer como juez por haber ordenado escuchas ilegales en un caso de corrupción que afecta desde hace años al partido conservador en el poder.
“Debilitar la doctrina de la jurisdicción internacional es debilitar la idea de crímenes contra la humanidad”, afirmó durante la inauguración del Congreso el secretario del ministerio de Justicia de Brasil Paulo Abrao, presidente de una Comisión de Amnistía que busca reparar a las víctimas de la dictadura militar brasileña.
“Hemos vivido en un mundo de horror indescriptible”, subrayó el estadounidense Ferencz, abogado de origen húngaro de 94 años, recordando los campos de exterminio nazi que pisó por primera vez como joven soldado durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial.
“Había cadáveres por todas partes en el suelo, esperando para arder en los crematorios y caos total”, explicó el que después, en 1947, con 27 años, se convertiría en fiscal jefe en uno de los doce juicios por crímenes de guerra organizados por Estados Unidos contra los dirigentes nazis, imponiendo el concepto de “crimen contra la humanidad”.
“Hay momentos en nuestra sociedad cuando es importante, tanto si las leyes están escritas como si no lo están, que los crímenes no sean tolerados”, afirmó. “No debemos ofrecer impunidad o inmunidad contra los peores crímenes”, agregó este hombre, único fiscal vivo de los juicios de Nuremberg, que después dedicó su vida a la defensa de principios como la justicia internacional o la jurisdicción universal.
Una cincuentena de expertos de Naciones Unidas, la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, el Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos y la Corte Penal Internacional, así como magistrados de 15 países, participarán en este congreso que finalizará el viernes con la presencia de la abogada iraní y premio Nobel de la Paz Shirin Ebadi.
A su término, un documento propondrá los nuevos principios de una jurisdicción universal ampliada, que serán leídos por víctimas de casos actualmente instruidos en España.
Investigaciones por “genocidio” en Tíbet por China o en el Sáhara Occidental por Marruecos, así como las presuntas torturas en la prisión estadounidense de Guantánamo o la muerte de un periodista español por un obús norteamericano en Bagdad ven su continuidad amenazada por una reciente reforma, impulsada por el partido gubernamental, que limita su aplicación.
Esta restricción permitió también en los últimos meses la liberación de numerosos narcotraficantes capturados por España en aguas internacionales.
“Es una grave inseguridad jurídica la que se está poniendo de manifiesto”, alertó Garzón, llamando al gobierno a rectificar.