Dec 272012

Several days ago, the New York Times ran an op-ed written by former legal advisor to the Secretary of State John B. Bellinger III.  In it, Bellinger called for swift action in ratifying international treaties.  If you didn’t catch it, I highly recommend giving the essay a read.

Oct 252012

I came across a blog post by Matthew Waxman, a Columbia Law professor, regarding the current Iranian nuclear issue.  Waxman has written an essay featured on entitled, “What the Cuban missile crisis teaches us about Iran.”  It is definitely worth a look…  Any thoughts?

Oct 012012

I have previously blogged about a US Supreme Court case that seeks to determine whether foreign torture victims may sue their perpetrators in US Courts.  The Supreme Court revisited the issue today, which also happens to be the opening day of the Court’s term.  Based on the mood of several Justices (Kennedy, especially) and the US Administration’s position,  I suspect that foreign claimants will not have access to US Courts.  The Los Angeles Times has more info on the hearing.


Sep 112012

I am in the process of upgrading my blog and debuting a new website.  Ongoing software issues have made maintaining and upgrading the blog difficult; however, after the transition, everything should work much easier.

In the meantime…

The Sunday New York Times featured an article about US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assurance that US imposed trade sanctions against Russia will soon be repealed.

The US has had sanctions in place for decades, although they are not enforced.  Despite their non-enforcement, the sanctions violate World Trade Organization rules, which could allow Russia to enact harsh anti US trade policies.

The US Administration supports their repeal; however, Congress seems poised to condition the repeal on the passage of a bill, which, according to the New York Times, “would punish Russian officials accused of abusing human rights, denying them visas and freezing their assets.”

The Administration favors lifting sanctions without the human rights condition; however, the issue has gained political traction as former Governor and Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has publicly supported the human rights legislation as a precondition to lifting sanctions.

Public international law often requires balancing factors, including pitting human rights and business/trade.  Should trade regulations with foreign nations be conditional on their human rights record, and if so, how extensive should the two be intertwined?

Aug 272012

As you may be aware, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy to avoid deportation/trial/etc.  In the Christian Science Monitor, Kantathi Suphamongkhon makes a case for how Assange could be arrested without breaking international law.  “How to arrest Julian Assange without violating international law” is an interesting read.

In other news, Russia warns the United States against “violating” international law in the Syria conflict.  While this is not solely a human rights issue and the United States does not have a stellar human rights record, it is always ironic to to be lectured by Russia, China, Syria, and the like.  Free Pussy Riot, anyone?

Mar 162012

A Ugandan gay and lesbian rights organization has filed suit against Massachusetts evangelist Scott Lively for “participat[ing] in a decade-long campaign in Uganda to persecute persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”  The American Bar Association Journal has the story as well as a link to the plaintiff’s complaint.

The suit is being filed under the Alien Tort Act, which you may remember has been a source of controversy of late and is currently being reviewed by the United States Supreme Court in a case involving Nigerian plaintiffs and a Shell Oil subsidiary.  More details here.

Uganda has been the center of a recent human rights outcry regarding the nation’s anti-homosexuality bill, frequently referred to as the “Kill the Gays” bill.  The proposal would punish homosexuality by life imprisonment or death.

Mar 022012


  • I blogged yesterday about the US Supreme Court hearing a case regarding foreign plaintiffs suing under the Alien Tort Act. published an interesting article that discusses the exchange and the judge’s perceived hostility towards the plaintiffs.
  • Chevron is pleased that an international arbitration tribunal has ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear Chevron’s claim against Ecuador.  The tribunal took its lead from treaty law.  This was not unexpected, and the saga continues…
  • Human Rights abuses in Syria continue to dominate world news, and today the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to condemn the Syrian regime’s continual abuses against it’s citizens.  The vote was 37 to 3.  Among the three nations voting no, China and Russia have continually blocked the UN from taking decisive action in this matter.  For now, the world will continue to watch the images from Syria in horror.
Mar 012012


On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case brought by Nigerian Plaintiffs against a Shell Oil subsidiary.  The issue is whether 28 USC §1350, commonly known as the Alien Tort Act, allows foreign plaintiffs to sue US corporations for certain human rights violations.

According to the transcript and media reports, the oral arguments were broad and shifted between the previously mentioned issue to whether United States courts can hear human rights cases where the alleged violations are committed abroad.

The Alien Tort Act states: “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

The Act has not been historically used to hold US companies liable in US courts; however, there has been an increased trend to try to use the Act in this manner.  Just last July, I highlighted a similar case between Indonesian plaintiffs and Exxon Mobil.

Should the Court hold that US companies can be liable for human rights violations, multinational corporations will potentially face much greater scrutiny and will be forced to make changes to business practices, including how they respond to human rights accusations abroad.

Then again, multinational corporations could get their way, and Congress could eliminate the Alien Tort Act altogether.  (Send in the lobbyists…)

The New York Times and ABC News do a fairly good job at chronicling the issue and oral arguments.  For those wanting a more in depth account, a full transcript of the oral argument before the Court can be found at the Court’s website.