29 July, 2015

Mandatory Death Penalty

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Some States continue to mandate a death sentence for certain offences such as murder.

Oxford Human Rights Hub has published an article by barrister Joseph Middleton - The Mandatory Death Penalty and Narratives of the Common Law.

"An argument has evolved over decades, in India, the US, the Commonwealth Caribbean and most recently in Africa, that imposing the ultimate and irreversible penalty of death, without considering the particular circumstances of the offence and the offender, and without allowing any possibility for mitigation, is unconstitutional. It amounts to cruel and inhuman punishment and it violates the right to a fair trial, including the right to a fair sentence. It also violates the separation of powers, because by denying the courts any discretion on sentence, it deprives them of an essential judicial function, the imposition of an appropriate sentence for each offence."

The United Kingdom

04 February, 2015

Croatia v Serbia ~ International Court of Justice

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The International Court of Justice has delivered judgment in the "Genocide" case of Croatia v Serbia.

Croatia contended that Serbia was responsible for breaches of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide committed in Croatia between 1991 and 1995. In its counter-claim, Serbia contended that Croatia was itself responsible for breaches of the Convention committed in 1995 in the “ Republika Srpska Krajina”, an entity established in late 1991.

It is a lengthy judgment (146 pages / 524 paragraphs) and reveals much of the horror of the conflict.  The court first decided (11 judges to 6) that its jurisdiction to entertain Croatia's claim extended to before 27th April 1992.  The court then decided (15 to 2) to reject Croatia's claim and unanimously dismissed Serbia's counter claim.

23 December, 2014

Powerful thoughts for today's world

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Benjmain B. Ferencz - The Road to World Peace - 1986

"Since ancient times, every village, town, city and nation-state has come to recognize that a peaceful society requires: (1) laws, (2) courts, and (3) a system of effective law enforcement. To the extent these three conditions are met, there is relative tranquility; to the extent they are absent, there is turmoil."

The article is as valid today as when it was written.  “The Road to World Peace” is abbreviated from Dr. Ferencz’s book - A Common Sense Guide to World Peace.  Benjamin Ferencz served as a US Prosecutor at the Nuremburg war crimes trials and as director of post-war restitution procedures providing compensation to survivors of Nazi atrocities.  He is the author of the prize-winning book Less Than Slaves and was Adjunct Professor of International Law at Pace University.

18 December, 2014

Al-Sweady Inquiry Report

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The Al-Sweady Inquiry - set up by the previous Labour government under the Chairmanship of Sir Thayne Forbes - has now reported.and the report was laid before Parliament on Wednesday 17 December 2014.   See The Report, Executive Summary and Chairman's Statement.


Previous post on this blog about the Inquiry.  The costs of the inquiry are set out on the Inquiry website and total £24,598,372 up to the end of November 2014.  That included £5,612,484 on counsel and legal services. 

The Executive Summary document extends to 95 pages. 

10 December, 2014

USA - Senate Select Committee on Intelligence - CIA Detention and Interrogation Program

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The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has released an important and refreshingly straightforward report- Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program - (pdf 525 pages).  The document reports the Executive Summary, Findings and Conclusions of a much larger report that remains classified though declassification may be considered later.  The report covers the period September 2001 to January 2009.

In the Foreword to the report,

17 November, 2014

Maryam Rajavi ~ Legal challenge to her exclusion from the UK failed

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The Supreme Court of the UK has dismissed an appeal against the Home Secretary's exclusion from the UK of dissident Iranian politician Maryam Rajavi.  The majority justices were Lord Neuberger (President); Lady Hale (Deputy President); Lord Clarke and Lord Sumption.  Lord Kerr dissented.

In essence, the court's role was limited to examination of whether the Home Secretary had acted lawfully.  It was held that that was so.  There was no basis on which the court was able to substitute its own opinion for that of the constitutionally appointed decision-maker on this matter.

The full judgment is at R (Lord Carlile of Berriew QC) and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] UKSC 60 and an explanatory memorandum is available.

Please also see the Of Interest to Lawyers blog for a succinct summary of the case and a more detailed look at the case is at the UK Human Rights blog - HERE.



25 September, 2014

United Kingdom Parliament ~ Briefing

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Throughout the summer of 2014, the movement known by names such as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) , Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Islamic State (IS) has perpetuated unfathomable and hideous brutality in the Middle East - principally in Iraq and eastern Syria.   (On the various names see here). This movement is not a State so far as international law is concerned though it seeks to impose a "caliphate" on that area of the middle east. 

Air strikes against IS targets have taken place since August 2014 and the United States and its allies have now intensified that form of military action - BBC News 23rd September 2014 - US launches air strikes on Syria IS militants

At the United Nations General Assembly there were key speeches by President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron:

President Obama 24th September 2014

Prime Minister Cameron 24th September 2014

As the United Kingdom moves

01 August, 2014

Iran Tribunal - Reasoned judgment

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The Iran tribunal - covered on this blog in a number of posts - issued its reasoned judgment on 5th February 2013.   Please see Youtube for The Final and Reasoned judgment of the Iran tribunal.  The video (dated 15th March 2013) lasts 41 minutes.  Following an introduction by John Cooper QC, South African Judge Johann Kriegler pointed out that Iran ignored an invitation to be a party to the tribunal.  This added a burden to the tribunal's deliberations since it wished to produce a fair judgment.  Nevertheless, Judge Kriegler described the evidence that was produced as 'cogent, logically interrelated and corroborative' and 'horrifying.'  He describes how he approached the case with a 'jaundiced ear and a jaundiced eye' but became convinced of the truthfulness of the evidence.

The full written judgment is available here  (Word Document).

20 March, 2014

Iraq - Al Sweady Inquiry - update

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The Al Sweady Inquiry was the subject of an earlier post - 9th March 2013.  The Inquiry's terms of reference are:

"To investigate and report on the allegations made by the claimants in the Al- Sweady judicial review proceedings against British soldiers of (1) unlawful killing at Camp Abu Naji on 14 and 15 May 2004, and (2) the ill-treatment of five Iraqi nationals detained at Camp Abu Naji and subsequently at the divisional temporary detention facility at Shaibah Logistics Base between 14 May and 23 September 2004, taking account of the investigations which have already taken place, and to make recommendations".

19 February, 2014

North Korea ~ The Hidden Gulag

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Update 7th July 2015 - Public executions in North Korea since 2000



Update 21st January 2015 - UN dismisses North Koera's claim that damning human rights report is invalid - The Guardian.

Original post:

On 21 March 2013, at its 22nd session, the United Nations Human Rights Council  established the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Resolution A/HRC/RES/22/13 mandated the body  to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, with a view to ensuring full accountability, in particular for violations which may amount to crimes against humanity.

Among the violations to be investigated are those pertaining to the right to food, those associated with prison camps, torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, freedom of expression, the right to life, freedom of movement, and enforced disappearances, including in the form of abductions of nationals of other States.  Read more about the Commission... 

The Commission's report and supporting documentation is HERE.

Although North Korea has been referred to as The Hidden Gulag the world has no excuse any longer to claim lack of knowledge of the North Korean situation of today.

The Democratic People's Republic of North Korea did not co-operate with the Commission's investigation.  The Commission shared its findings with the North Korean government.

Other Links:

Wikipedia - North Korea - Political Prison Camps

International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea

The Hidden Gulag