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Legal news from Sunday, November 20, 2011




UN panel releases summary on risk management in face of increased environmental disasters
Ashley Hileman on November 20, 2011 1:26 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [official website], a UN-led scientific panel, on Saturday released the Summary for Policymakers [PDF] of the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). The summary highlights a number of options [press release] available to policymakers to decrease the risk of disasters as well as to lessen their impact in areas that have historically been more vulnerable than others. One key finding contained within the summary relates to the effect of increased greenhouse gases, which many scientists attribute to the increase in maximum and minimum daily temperatures. The summary also indicates that those communities that are the most vulnerable and thus experience the most exposure to these types of disasters are "generally the outcome of skewed development processes such as those associated with environmental degradation, rapid and unplanned urbanization in hazardous areas, failures of governance, and the scarcity of livelihood options for the poor." As a result, the summary calls on policymakers to consider a range of measures in order to better manage the risks posed by extreme events and disasters, from sustainable land management and land use planning to improvements in governance and technology. The summary was released [WSJ report] weeks before global environmental officials will gather in Durban, South Africa, for climate-change talks. The full report is set to be released in February 2012.

In July, the UN Security Council [official website] made their first official statement [JURIST report] implicating climate change as a serious threat to world peace and security. At the urging of Germany, which released a Concept Note [text] to lead the discussion, the Security Council debated global warming [EPA materials; JURIST news archive] for the first time since 2007. Although Germany pushed for plans of action to be produced on extreme temperatures, rising sea-levels, climate refugees and food shortages, the Council ended up issuing a brief statement instead. The language was reportedly not as strong as some of the nations wanted [BBC report], as Russia pushed for the phrase "possible security implications" in the official text, and denied the other countries the creation of a "green helmets" peacekeeping force [Guardian report] that would step into conflicts where environmental resources become scarce. The statement did affirm that depleting resources has been, and will continue to be, the cause of several international conflicts.




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Libya prime minister assures fair trial for Gaddafi son
Ashley Hileman on November 20, 2011 12:14 PM ET

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[JURIST] Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib on Saturday pledged that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi will receive a fair trial. A fugitive since his father's regime fell last month [JURIST report], the highest-profile son of deceased former dictator Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] was arrested [JURIST report] on Friday in the desert near the southern city of Sabha. He remains in custody in Zintan, where al-Keib trusts militia will care for him [BBC report] until legal proceedings begin. Saif al-Islam is wanted [JURIST report] by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] for crimes against humanity [warrant, PDF]. Discussions regarding the location of the trial are expected to take place soon, amid concerns that attempts to try him outside of Libya could prove very unpopular. The National Transitional Council (NTC) [official website] has made statements addressing its expectations that the trial will be held in Libya.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] said Saturday that he will go to Libya in the next week [Reuters report] to discuss Saif al-Islam's fate. Earlier this month Ottilia Maunganidze [profile], a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies [website], wrote that the NTC must meet its international obligations [JURIST op-ed] and ensure justice for human rights violations by surrendering Saif al-Islam to the ICC. Edsel Tupaz of Tupaz & Associates and Daniel Wagner [profiles] of Country Risk Solutions wrote this month that while Libya needs a "strategically targeted court system" with a specialized war crimes court [JURIST op-ed] at its core, currently there is no avoiding "the fact that there are no domestic judicial mechanisms [in Libya] ... to enforce the voice of the ICC." Ocampo last month stated that he has evidence against Saif al-Islam [JURIST report] for his role in planning attacks on Libyan civilians. According to Ocampo there is "substantial evidence" that Saif al-Islam hired mercenaries to assist him in carrying out plans to attack demonstrators that protested the rule of his father. Libyan rebel leaders allegedly captured Saif al-Islam [JURIST report] in August, but he was free by September.




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ICTY prosecutors seek to speed up Mladic trial, reduce evidence
Maureen Cosgrove on November 20, 2011 10:42 AM ET

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[JURIST] Prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Friday proposed a reduction in the amount of evidence they planned to present against former Serbian general and alleged war criminal Ratko Mladic [ICTY backgrounder, PDF; JURIST news archive] in an effort to speed up his trial. The prosecutors are asking the court to reduce by nearly one half [BBC report] the number of crimes they had intended to prove. Mladic would nevertheless be tried on all 11 charges, including two counts of genocide. The request came one day after a panel of ICTY judges ordered [text, PDF; ICTY press release] the appointment of a medical expert to conduct a medical examination and issue a report on Mladic's physical condition.

In October, the ICTY prosecutor refused to seek further appeal [JURIST report] of the tribunal's refusal to split Mladic's trial into separate actions: one for his conduct during the Srebrenica massacre [JURIST news archive], where approximately 8,000 people were killed, and one for all of his other charges during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive]. Mladic made his first appearance [JURIST report] at the ICTY in June, contesting the charges while simultaneously asking for more time to review them, which he was granted. At his second appearance [JURIST report] he refused to enter a plea. Before that, he had lost his final appeal in Serbia to avoid extradition, and was transported to The Hague [JURIST reports]. Serbian authorities captured Mladic [JURIST report] in May, ending a 16-year manhunt for the former general colonel and commander of the army of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mladic faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, including murder, political persecution, forcible transfer and deportations, cruel treatment and the taking of peacekeepers as hostages.




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Brazil president creates truth commission to probe human rights abuses
Maureen Cosgrove on November 20, 2011 10:06 AM ET

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[JURIST] Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff [BBC profile] on Friday signed a law [press release, in Portuguese] establishing a truth commission to investigate human rights abuses perpetrated by the military from 1946 to 1988. The bill does not, however, overturn the 1979 Amnesty Law [text, PDF, in Portuguese] which shields military officials from prosecution for crimes committed during the country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship. Nearly 500 people were killed or abducted [AP report] by the military-controlled government, and others, including political leaders, were tortured. Brazil's Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Portuguese] approved the bill [JURIST report] in October. The seven commission members, appointed by Rousseff, must complete the report within two years. Rousseff also signed a law that limits the amount of time certain documents can be kept from the public to 50 years, allowing Brazilians the right to obtain undisclosed government information.

In August Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged Brazil to repeal its amnesty law [JURIST report]. In December the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website, in Spanish] ruled that the amnesty law was invalid [JURIST report] because it was incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights [text]. Other Latin American countries have also been working to revoke similar amnesty laws. In October, Uruguay's legislature voted to repeal the 1986 amnesty law [JURIST report] which prevented investigations, adjudications and human rights prosecutions of military junta officials during their regime between 1973-1985. In March 2010, AI urged government officials in El Salvador to repeal a 1993 amnesty law that prevents any investigation [JURIST reports] into killings committed during the country's 12-year civil war [PBS backgrounder], including the killing of respected Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down similar amnesty laws [JURIST report] adopted in the 1980s to protect potential defendants, prompting the government to reopen hundreds of human rights cases.




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