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ICJ Newsletter - November 2016
International Commission of Jurists
ICJ Newsletter
November 2016

Following an intensive recruitment process I am pleased to inform you that Sam Zarifi has accepted the appointment of the new Secretary-General to take over my role when I retire in March 2017. Sam has been the Director of the ICJ's Asia-Pacific Programme for the last four years and has an extensive background in the human rights and rule of law movements.
 
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APPOINTMENT OF NEW SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE ICJ

Sam Zarifi has been appointed to serve as ICJ’s next Secretary General when the current Secretary-General retires next spring. Wilder Tayler will continue to work as SG until the end of March 2017 and Sam will begin in April 2017, although there will be some overlap to ensure a smooth transition.

Sam is a veteran of the human rights movement, with a most impressive array of experience and contacts, and has done phenomenal work as Director of the ICJ's Asia and Pacific Regional Programme over the last four years. Under his tenure the ICJ has significantly expanded as well as the fact that the organisation has become a very serious human rights and rule of law player across the region.  

Prior to joining the ICJ Sam served as Amnesty International’s Director for Asia and the Pacific from 2008 to 2012. He was at Human Rights Watch from 2000, where he was Deputy Director of the Asia division. He was Senior Research Fellow at Erasmus University Rotterdam from 1997 to 2000, where he co-edited Liability of Multinational Corporations under International Law (Kluwer 2000) as well as several other publications on the subject. Sam was born and raised in Tehran, Iran and moved to the United States to complete his education. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University and his Juris Doctor from Cornell Law School in 1993. After practicing as a corporate litigator for several years, he obtained an LL.M in Public International Law from New York University School of Law in 1997.


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Other developments this month

On a less positive note the ICJ, along with a number of other human rights groups, have expressed grave concern at South Africa's announced withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.

The ICJ has released a new report documenting the misuse of the Egyptian judiciary. The report, Egypt's Judicairy: A Tool of Repression, Lack of Effective Guarantees of Independence and Impartiality, has called for an end to executive interference in judicial affairs.

The ICJ has also released a new paper, Proposals for Elements of a Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, that recommends a series of substantive elements it considers key to an effective treaty on business and human rights.

The final article featured this month is about a workshop the ICJ held in southern Thailand on how telecommunication information can be used as part of an effective criminal investigation.

Wilder Tayler
ICJ Secretary-General

 


SOUTH AFRICA: CONTINENT WIDE OUTCRY AT ICC WITHDRAWAL
22 October 2016

South Africa publicly announced on October 21, 2016, that it has notified the United Nations secretary-general of its intent to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

South Africa’s announced withdrawal from the ICC is a slap in the face for victims of the most serious crimes and should be reconsidered, African groups and international organizations with a presence in Africa said. The groups urged other African countries to affirm their commitment to the ICC, the only court of last resort to which victims seeking justice for mass atrocities can turn.

“We call on the government of South Africa to reconsider taking this enormous backwards step in the struggle for justice and to restore its place as a leader in promoting accountability for the most serious crimes and human rights abuses,” said Arnold Tsunga, Director of ICJ’s Africa Regional Programme.

South Africa is the first country to notify the UN secretary-general of withdrawal from the ICC. South Africa’s announcement that it will withdraw from the ICC comes after the country’s court of appeal concluded the government violated its international and domestic legal obligations in not arresting ICC fugitive Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in June 2015, when he visited South Africa. A government appeal was pending, but on October 21, 2016, the government indicated that it has withdrawn the appeal.

The full press release can be accessed here.


EGYPT: AUTHORITIES MUST END POLITICIZATION OF THE JUDICIARY AND ENSURE ITS INDEPENDENCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
12 October 2016
The Egyptian authorities must end executive interference in judicial affairs and act to ensure that the judiciary is independent and that it serves to safeguard human rights and uphold the rule of law, the ICJ said.

The statement came as the ICJ released its new report Egypt’s Judiciary: a Tool of Repression. Lack of Effective Guarantees of Independence and Impartiality.

The report documents the many ways in which the judiciary has been used as a tool to silence those suspected of opposing the Military and Executive. This include prosecutors and judges initiating and continuing prosecutions on unfounded charges; adopting a presumption in favour of pre-trial detention; applying laws in violation of human rights standards and refusing to permit constitutional challenges to those laws; and failing to respect fundamental fair trial rights.

“Egypt’s military and executive have subordinated the judiciary to their political will, making it a docile tool in their on-going, sustained crackdown on human rights in Egypt,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ MENA Director. “In doing so, judges and prosecutors have abdicated their primary responsibility in upholding the rule of law. Rather than acting as a check on the arbitrary exercise of power, judges themselves have become complicit in violating the very rights they are mandated to protect,” he added.

The report contains 136 recommendations to the Egyptian authorities aimed at guaranteeing, in law and practice, the independence and accountability of the judiciary in Egypt.

The full press release and report (in English and Arabic) can be found here.


PROPOSALS FOR ELEMENTS OF A LEGALLY BINDING INSTRUMENT ON TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS AND OTHER BUSINESS ENTERPRISES
20 October 2016
In a paper published today, the ICJ recommends a series of substantive elements that it considers as key to an effective treaty on business and human rights.

The ICJ is publishing this paper as the second session of the open ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights (OEIWG) will be held next week (24-28 October).

The ICJ supports the objective of establishing an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises, with a focus on business accountability and access to effective remedies for human rights abuses by business enterprises.

There is a substantial international protection gap to be filled in this respect, on which the ICJ has previously commented extensively. It is with a view to closing this gap and ensuring that international human rights law can optimally fulfil its protective function that the ICJ is engaging in the present treaty process.

The full press release and briefing paper are accessible via the links. 


THAILAND: ICJ WORKSHOP ON USE OF TELECOMMUNICATION EVIDENCE IN CRIMINAL CASES
16 October 2016
On 15-16 October 2016, the ICJ held a Workshop for justice sector actors in Thailand’s deep South on “the Use of Telecommunication Evidence in Criminal Cases” for police, special investigators, prosecutors and lawyers. The attendees included 30 public prosecutors, police and Department of Special Investigation officials, 15 defense lawyers, and observers from the Thailand Institute of Justice and the Asia Foundation.

The objective of the workshop, held in Hat Yai, was to discuss how telecommunication information may be used as part of an effective criminal investigation, and the ways in which prosecutors, lawyers and judges should consider approaching the use of this kind of information as evidence at trial.

Kingsley Abbott, ICJ Senior International Legal Adviser, opened by saying that the use of telecommunication evidence is one tool that can be used in an effective investigation of serious criminal and security related cases followed by fair trials. However, it is important to ensure that the acquisition and use of this information as evidence fully respects the right to privacy guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a State Party. The ICJ firmly believes that respect for human rights and the rule of law must be the bedrock in countering terrorism and violent crime.

The Workshop observed a moment of silence for the passage of the late King Rama IX.

Further information about the workshop can be found here.


PRESS STATEMENTS, ADVOCACY AND INTERNET ARTICLES

Thailand: immediately drop sedition case and all proceedings against human rights lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri
3 October 2016
The government should drop all proceedings against human rights lawyer, Sirikan Charoensiri, including the specious accusation of sedition, which apparently relate to her organization’s representation of 14 student activists peacefully protesting in June 2015, the ICJ and other groups said today.

India: Release human rights defender Khurram Parvez
4 October 2016
The ICJ, along with Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and Human Rights Watch, sent a letter to the Government’s Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir expressing concern at the arbitrary detention of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez.

Tajikistan: long prison sentences for lawyers endangers the fairness of the justice system
7 October 2016
The ICJ today expressed its serious concerns over the convictions on charges of incitement and extremism of Tajikistan lawyers Buzurgmehr Yorov and Nuriddin Makhkamov, and their sentencing to 23 and 21 years in prison respectively.

Training on migration and human rights in the Western Balkans
10 October 2016
The ICJ, OSCE and Group 484 are holding a training on migration and international human rights law starting on From 10 to 13 October in Zlatibor (Serbia).

Thailand: ICJ alarmed at increasing use of arbitrary powers under Article 44
11 October 2016
Thailand should immediately end the use of Article 44 of the Interim Constitution which gives the Head of the military junta sweeping, unchecked powers contrary to the rule of law and human rights, said the ICJ today.

Kyrgyz Republic: ICJ observes an appeal hearing of the case against Azimzhan Askarov
11 October 2016
Today, the ICJ observed a hearing in the case of Azimzhan Askarov, a prominent human rights defender in Kyrgyzstan, convicted in 2011 of murder and incitement to ethnic hatred, after an unfair trial, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Renowned Uyghur interllectual Ilham Tohti selected as 2016 Martin Ennals Award Laureate
11 October 2016
Selected by a jury of 10 global human rights organizations, including the ICJ, Ilham Tohti has worked for two decades to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. Detained in China, he could not travel to collect his prize in Geneva.

Pakistan: Asia bibi's blasphemy case, a final plea for justice
12 October 2016
In a briefing paper released today, the ICJ provides answers to key questions regarding the blasphemy case against Asia Noreen (Asia bibi), a 45-year old Christian woman convicted and sentenced to death for “defaming the Prophet Muhammad” in 2010.

Egypt: authorities must end politicization of the judiciary and ensure its independence and accountability
12 October 2016
The Egyptian authorities must end executive interference in judicial affairs and act to ensure that the judiciary is independent and that it serves to safeguard human rights and uphold the rule of law, the ICJ said today.

Pakistan: ICJ disappointed by further delay in Asia bibi's blasphemy case
13 October 2016
The ICJ expressed disappointment in the adjournment of Asia bibi’s blasphemy appeal and urged the Supreme Court to set a new hearing date as soon as possible.

ICJ Practitioners' Guide no.6 on Migration and International Human Rights Law now available in Russian
13 October 2016
The ICJ published today a Russian translation of its Practitioners Guide no. 6 on Migration and International Human Rights Law.

Cease wrongful detentions in Jammu and Kashmir
15 October 2016
Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir should end the use of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) to arbitrarily detain people, including children, the ICJ, Amnesty International India and Human Rights Watch said today.

Bangladesh: ICJ condemns the execution of Asadul Islam
16 October 2016
The ICJ today condemned the execution of Asadul Islam, leader of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a banned Islamist group.

Thailand: ICJ workshop on use of telecommunication evidence in criminal cases
16 October 2016
On 15-16 October 2016, the ICJ held a Workshop for justice sector actors in Thailand’s deep South on “the Use of Telecommunication Evidence in Criminal Cases” for police, special investigators, prosecutors and lawyers.

Recommendations for the content of a treaty on business and human rights
20 October 2016
In a paper published today, the ICJ recommends a series of substantive elements that it considers as key to an effective treaty on business and human rights.

India: ICJ submission on transgender persons bill
21 October 2016
Today, the ICJ has made a submission to the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment of the Parliament of India on the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016.

South Africa: continent wide outcry at ICC withdrawal
22 October 2016
South Africa’s announced withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a slap in the face for victims of the most serious crimes and should be reconsidered, African groups and international organizations with a presence in Africa said today. 



Thailand: proposed amendments to Computer-Related Crime Act fail to address human rights concerns
25 October 2016
The ICJ, Amnesty International, FIDH, Fortify Rights and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada urge Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to reject currently proposed amendments to the 2007 Computer-Related Crime Act (CCA).

The process towards a treaty on business and human rights: a roundtable multistakeholder discussion
25 October 2016
The ICJ convenes today a roundtable at the United Nations gathering several stakeholders to discuss on a possible future treaty on business and human rights.

NGOs call for Burundi suspension from UN Human Rights council
26 October 2016
13 leading non-governmental organizations have called for Burundi to be suspended from membership in the UN Human Rights Council, due to its flagrant refusal to cooperate with the UN regarding the gross and systematic violations occurring in the country.
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