News Clips – June 13, 2010

  • Physicians for Human Rights has published a report documenting illegal experimentation and torture by CIA medical personnel in the “war on terror”.  The report is available here.  Following the paper’s publication, PHR and other organizations filed a formal complaint before the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Human Research Protection against the CIA. [PHR]
  • Human Rights Watch kicked off its International Film Festival in New York, which will run until June 24. [HRW]
  • Kuwait has drawn international attention over its detention of critical journalist and blogger, Mohammad al-Jasim. [HRW, Reporters Without Borders]
  • Venezuela orders arrest of Globovision owner and his son, in connection with an investigation into their car dealerships. [Impunity Watch]  Globovision owner Guillermo Zuloaga runs the only remaining private television station with an editorial stance critical of the Chavez government and has previously been the subject of governmental and private harassment as a result.  Earlier this year, Zuloaga was arrested by Venezuelan authorities after having made remarks critical of the government at an assembly of the Inter-American Press Association. [CIDH]  For more information on freedom of the press in Venezuela, see the Inter-American Commission’s report Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela.
  • Honduras has withdrawn its application against Brazil before the ICJ, in which it had alleged that Brazil threatened the peace and stability of Honduras by housing ousted President Zelaya in its embassy in Tegucigalpa. [ICJ]
  • The Mexican government and Human Rights Watch, among others, are calling for an investigation into the death of a Mexican teenager who was shot by a U.S. border agent from U.S. soil. [HRW, BBC] Another individual was killed by U.S. agents this month on the U.S. side of the border when he was being deported after 20 years in the U.S. as an undocumented worker. [BBC]
  • In the case of the disappeared from the Colombian Palace of Justice, former army coronel Alfonso Plazas Vega was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment on Thursday for the enforced disappearance of 11 individuals when the army retook the Palace in November 1985 after it had been seized by guerrillas. President Uribe opined that Plazas should not have been convicted as he was “simply trying to comply with his duty”. [BBC]  For many years, official reports had indicated that the disappeared died in the conflict surrounding the army’s retaking of the Palace, but in recent years evidence surfaced showing the now-disappeared leaving the Palace alive.  At its most recent session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held a hearing on the case (number 10.738) against Colombia, which is pending a combined decision on admissibility and merits by the Commission. (Video of the hearing available here).  CEJIL and the Colectivo de Abogados are among the NGOs representing the victims before the IACHR.  Colombian judge Maria Stella Jara Gutierrez has been granted precautionary measures by the Commission because of the threats she has received while handling the Palace of Justice case.
  • Kyrgyzstan’s interim government extends state of emergency as attacks by Kyrgyz against Uzbeks in southern region continue, causing the displacement of thousands, nearly 100 deaths and over 1,000 injuries. The conflict is reported to be over land and housing and follows the turbulent April overthrow of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The government has authorized its security forces to use lethal force and has sought Russian military intervention. [BBC, AlertNet]
  • The IACHR has submitted two cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. One is the case of Dominican opposition leader Narciso González Medina (previously covered on this blog, here) who was forcibly disappeared in 1994 (admissibility report here).  The other involves due process violations in the criminal prosecution of Jorge Fernando Grande in Argentina.  Read the Commission’s admissibility report in the Grande case here. [IACHR]
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor calls on UN Security Council to secure arrest of suspected Sudanese criminals Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, against whom the ICC issued arrest warrants three years ago. The situation in Darfur, Sudan was referred to the ICC by the Security Council Resolution 1593. [ICC]  Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s remarks could raise concerns about the presumption of innocence and duty of public officials not to make pre-trial statements regarding a suspect’s guilt.
  • Last week, the lower house of Bolivia’s legislature approved a law which would give indigenous communities the right to autonomously administer their own justice systems in accordance with their customs and values.  Although the reach of the new resolution is unclear, the legislature has 180 additional days to specify the areas of competence of the ordinary justice system vis-à-vis community justice systems. [BBC, JURIST]
  • Meanwhile, the Argentine legislature’s lower house passed a bill that would authorize same-sex marriage in that country and grant same-sex couples the right to adopt children. Observers say that the bill has a good chance of being approved by the upper legislative house and becoming law. [Impunity Watch, Reuters]
  • Freedom House identifies the world’s worst protectors of civil rights and liberties in its Freedom in the World 2010 report as: Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Tibet, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.  [Huffington Post, Freedom House]
  • Human rights organizations call for an investigation into the death of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in which the government is suspected to have been involved. [VOA]
  • Yesterday, the Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court concluded in Uganda, where an amendment was adopted to include a definition of the crime of aggression and regulate the ICC’s exercise of jurisdiction over such crimes. According to the ICC’s press release:

The Conference based the definition of the crime of aggression on United Nations General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974, and in this context agreed to qualify as aggression, a crime committed by a political or military leader which, by its character, gravity and scale constituted a manifest violation of the Charter.

As regards the Court’s exercise of jurisdiction, the Conference agreed that a situation in which an act of aggression appeared to have occurred could be referred to the Court by the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, irrespective as to whether it involved States Parties or non-States Parties.

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