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about US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assurance that US imposed trade sanctions against Russia will soon be repealed.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?

Oct 212010

Two news items:

First, Reuters reports that the European Court of Human Rights fined Russia over $40,000 for banning gay parades.

The judgment is a limited victory for the humanitarian organizations supporting gay rights because the Court has no jurisdiction to force Russia to allow the parades to commence.   The Court may hear cases and fine a country held in violation of international law.  Therefore, Moscow will suffer the small fine and international criticism, but there is no guarantee that the Court’s judgment will result in Change in Moscow’s practices.

Second, you might be interested in the added tension as the UN Security Council meets to discuss Iran’s nuclear program next month because Iran has announced the trial of the three American hikers in Iranian custody for alleged “espionage and illegal entry” into Iranian territory. [All three will be tried even though one was previously released on bail.]  The trial is set to begin on November 6.  The New York Times covers the story.

Apr 262010

Several weeks ago, I began examining the international community’s responsibility to respect free expression under international law.  I examined guarantees provided by the United Nations, but a nation’s responsibilities extend beyond UN charters and conventions.

Obviously, free expression is guaranteed under domestic constitutions ranging from the United States and United Kingdom to former Soviet controlled nations such as the Republic of Uzbekistan (for example, see the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, part three, chapter fifteen).

Further, many European countries, including Russia, are signatories to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The charter protects free speech, and signatories have agreed to adjudicate such human rights violations before the Court.

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms guarantees the freedom of expression. Article 10 (1) states, “everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”

However, for an issue to reach the ECHR, it must first be exhausted in the host nation’s legal system.  Further, if a nation is found to violate the Convention, the penalty is generally a fine, which often is not substantial enough to deter future violations.

Thus, while the ECHR theoretically protects free expression, in reality, it offers little protection in countries where the government systematically tramples their citizen’s fundamental rights.  This is especially a problem in countries like Russia where the government targets diverse opinions and the media.

The next entry in this series will focus on Russia, examining the country’s domestic and international responsibility to protect free expression as well as how they have failed to live up to the standard.

Apr 082010

Sorry for the infrequency of posts over the past few days, but travel has kept me from actively blogging.

In case you have not been watching the news, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) today in Prague.  The treaty would significantly cut the US and Russia’s stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The New York Times covers the treaty and its political implications.

The Christian Science Monitor detailed the significance of the treaty’s terms:

“For the Russians, because of the deterioration of the conventional weapons projection capability, nuclear weapons are more important in their overall military doctrine,” says Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “That gets to the question of how possible or how difficult future agreements are going to be [for] getting to a next round of reductions with the Russians.”

It is important not to “oversell” the significance of the new START, says Mr. Kuchins. The US and Russia, with a new limit of 1,550 nuclear warheads each, will remain by far the world’s predominant nuclear powers.

Of course, to be ratified the treaty must garner 67 votes in the US Senate. ABC News reports that it is unclear whether President Obama can garner Senate approval.

The Washington Post examines a commonly overlooked in US news coverage – the Russian political reaction and the  ratification process.  After all, the treaty must also be approved by the Russian Duma.

The full text of the treaty and protocol can be found here via the White House.

Mar 232010

Google’s decision not to censor search results promotes the free dissemination of uncensored information in China. However, Google’s ongoing battles highlight the conflict between stringent government control and the right to uncensored information.

Over the next several weeks, I will be periodically examining legal consequences that journalists, businesses, and ordinary citizens face under domestic and international law.

The series will begin this week by examining basic free speech assurances under international law, followed by a series of posts examining Russian free speech laws and their effect.