By Robert Grabosch, Attorney at law

The United Nations Human Rights Council has endorsed the Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights as they were submitted in March 2011 by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative John Ruggie. Since the Guiding Principles claim to not create but restate international law and ask little of the states of the Global North, the endorsement by the Human Rights Council was foreseeable. It is exactly these low demands what has sparked stark criticism.[1] However, SRSG Ruggie resorted to pragmatism and vagueness rather than clarifying current international law.
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By Susan Breau, Professor of International Law (Flinders University, Australia)

On 30 March 2011, the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter  adopted Resolution 1975 which urged the defeated President Gbagbo to immediately step aside and declared the situation in Ivory Coast to be a threat to international threat and security.

The resolution also imposed targeted sanctions (freezing of assets, travel bans) against Laurent Gbagbo and other members of his regime.  In its preamble it declared that the attacks currently taking place in Côte d’Ivoire against the civilian population could amount to crimes against humanity and that perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable under international law and noting that the International Criminal Court may decide on its jurisdiction over the situation in Côte d’Ivoire on the basis of article 12, paragraph 3 of the Rome Statute.

For the purposes of this analysis the resolution also authorised the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) to use “all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians” including preventing the use of heavy weapons.  Surprisingly, the resolution specifically mentioned ‘the French forces’ supporting UNOCI which indirectly authorised the use of force by French forces  in assisting the UN operation to fulfil its mandate.

Importantly, the resolution specificially referred to the ‘primary responsibility’ of each State to protect civilians, thus referring to the responsibility to protect albeit in an oblique way. It can be asserted that together with the recent resolution 1973 on Libya which authorised “all necessary means to protect civilians”, there is a growing body of international practice responding to massive violations of human rights with mandates to use force, if necessary, to protect civilians.

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By Robert Grabosch, Attorney at law

A final proposal for Guiding Principles on business and human rights was recently submitted by SRSG John Ruggie to the Human Rights Council for endorsement in June 2011. Little has changed compared to the draft. Below, I am making some observations and predictions. Read the rest of this entry »

We are happy to announce the publication of a research paper in the Surrey Law Working Paper Series dealing with the 2003 United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the 2003 African Union Convention on Corruption (AUC).

The abstract reads as follows:

Adopted in 2003, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUC), and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) are the most recent examples of international initiatives aiming at tackling corruption.
The adoption of  these conventions is an important step in the fight against corruption and this working paper considers to what extent they represent a strong basis for tackling corruption, as well as why strong implementation measures remain essential. Section 1, examines the scope of the two conventions, highlights the lack of a legal definition of corruption as well as strong similarities with regards to the conventions’ objectives, and considers the limits of the means of actions provided by the conventions. Section 2 examines how practical measures such as codes of conduct, asset declarations, social and economic reforms, reliance on the private sector or cooperation, are suitable to tackle corruption. The paper concludes with the argument that strict implementation of existing measures remains the best mean to fight corruption in developing countries.

A. Martin, Implementation as the Best Way to Tackle Corruption: A Study of the UNCAC and the AUC 2003 (February 1, 2011). Surrey Law Working Paper No. 07/2011.

The full research paper can be downloaded here.

By Loye Jide Olufemi (LL.B, LLM, BL), international lawyer and legal consultant on laws of war practicing in Nigeria and working on Human rights and international armed conflict issues. 

Ivory Coast, a former French Colony that was once admired and envied by its West African neighbours for its well developed economy and political stability has been plagued by continuous turmoil in recent years.

Historical Perspective

For more than 30yrs under its charismatic first president Felix Houphouët-Boigny, Ivory Coast prospered as a nation. However, Houphouët-Boigny’s death in 1993 brought an end to the country’s economic prosperity and political stability. Henri-Konan Bédié succeeded him in 1993, and won the 1995 election boycotted by the opposition led by Houphouet-Boigny’s Vice President: Alassane Ouattara. A coup–d’état orchestrated by General Guei forced Bedié and his government out in 1999, and presidential elections took place under his military dictatorship. Ouattara (whose party represented the majority group as reflected in the parliamentary votes) was banned from the presidential elections because of his alleged foreign parentage, while Gbagbo was allowed to run against Guei. The election results were disputed, but the Supreme Court eventually declared Gbagbo the winner. Guei, however, would not relinquish power, leading to clashes and many killings. General Guei was eventually deposed in an uprising and the declared winner of the elections Laurent Gbagbo was installed as the president.[1]

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26 October 2010 – An independent United Nations human rights expert said today that the regime created by the Security Council to counter terrorism is outside the scope of its powers, and called on the 15-member body to systematize its counter-terrorism measures and reporting duties of States under one framework rather than several resolutions.

Martin Scheinin, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, said that obligations in countering terrorism imposed on Member States by Security Council resolution 1373, adopted in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, “amount to a quasi-legislative measure that is unlimited in time and space.”

In his yearly report, which he presented to the General Assembly yesterday, Mr. Scheinin stated that whatever justification the Council may have had in September 2001 for adopting the resolution, “its continued application nine years later cannot be seen as a proper response to a specific threat to international peace and security.

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By Mulugeta M Ayalew, Research Fellow at the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

Recently the General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted (122 in favour and 41 abstentions with no vote against) a resolution which recognised access to clean water and sanitation as a human right.

By doing so, it acknowledged “that safe, clean drinking water and sanitation were integral to the realization of all human rights”. It noted in particular the more than 800 million people without access to improved and sustainable drinking water and a lot more than that suffering from lack of access to sanitation.

It also noted that 3 million children with less than 5 years old die each year because of water and sanitation-related diseases.

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