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Asia and International Law

 
International Economic Law – Japan shifting investments from China to ASEAN (Deutsche Welle, 25 July 2014)
 

Japanese companies are shifting their investments away from China and increasingly setting their sights on the ASEAN region as a result of growing tensions between the two Asian powers, analyst Rajiv Biswas tells DW. For instance, Japanese foreign direct investment (FDI) into China declined by almost 50 percent in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period a year ago. Last year, Chinese direct investment into Japan fell by 23.5 percent in 2013, moving in the opposite direction to China's overall FDI abroad, which rose by 16.8 percent in 2013. Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific Chief Economist at the analytics firm IHS, said in a DW interview that as a result of the mounting tensions Japanese multinationals are refocusing their investments in Southeast Asia. ASEAN - the ten-member Association of South East Asian Nations - has a number of manufacturing hubs that have become increasingly attractive to Japan, particularly in comparison with China. 

 
International Economic Law – US warns Indian threat will 'flip the lights' off at WTO (Reuters, 25 July 2014)
 

An Indian-led ultimatum to unravel a World Trade Organization deal struck in Bali in December 2013 would end global trade reform efforts, US ambassador Michael Punke warned in a speech at the WTO headquarters on 25 July. At this meeting, diplomats from the 160 WTO member countries were supposed to rubber stamp a deal on "trade facilitation" that was agreed last December. Some estimates say it could add $1 trillion to the world economy and create 21 million jobs. But India said it would veto the agreement until it gets what it wants in a separate area linked to its system of subsidizing and stockpiling crops. To that, Punke said, “Today, we are extremely discouraged that a small handful of members in this organization are ready to walk away from their commitments at Bali, to kill the Bali agreement, to kill the power of that good faith and goodwill we all shared, to flip the lights in this building back to dark.”

 
International Criminal Law – How to Prosecute the Perpetrators of the Malaysian Jet (MH17) Downing (Just Security, 25 July 2014)
 

The Prime Minister of Ukraine has suggested that the International Criminal Court (ICC) might investigate and prosecute the case.  Although Ukraine is not yet a member of the ICC, it could refer the case to the Court pursuant to Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute. This provision allows non-States Parties to accept the jurisdiction of the Court on an ad hoc basis absent full ratification, even retroactively.  The fighting in Ukraine certainly qualifies as an “armed conflict,” determined in a non-international conflict by looking at the intensity of fighting and the organization of the parties on each side, and therefore international humanitarian law and international criminal law apply. In this case, investigators would consider whether the killing of the civilians on the plane constituted war crimes.

But here is where the difficulties would begin if it is in fact true that the perpetrators thought that they were shooting at a military transport plane. Aside from the legal challenges, there would of course be substantial investigative challenges and proof problems. Although reports indicate that intelligence regarding the shoot-down, which could shed light on both the perpetrators’ actions and their intent, governments are ordinarily reluctant to share such information with criminal courts.  Further, even if the specific perpetrators could be identified, apprehending them would be an additional challenge, though many war criminals who never imagined that they would be held accountable today find themselves behind bars.  The path to individual criminal responsibility for the shoot-down of flight 17 is therefore certainly difficult, but perhaps not impossible.

 

 
Human Rights – UN rights office urges probe into clashes between security forces, protesters in Cambodia (UN News, 18 July 2014)
 

Members of the main opposition party in Cambodia had gathered in Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on 15 July to protest against the barricading of the only designated area for public demonstrations in the capital, according to information from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva, “We are concerned about the very serious charges which were brought against them, including ‘insurrection’, given the widely observed efforts by opposition leaders to calm the protesters and stop the violence during the clashes. Any politically motivated charges must be dropped immediately.” OHCHR called on the judicial authorities to strictly abide by human rights standards in the pursuit of these cases, recalling the seriously flawed processes surrounding other recent cases.

 
Human Rights – Indonesia: New President Widodo must make good on human rights pledges (Amnesty International, 22 July 2014)
 

Indonesia’s new President Joko Widodo must deliver on campaign promises to improve Indonesia’s dire human rights situation, Amnesty International said. Widodo, who was confirmed on 22 July as the winner of the 9 July presidential elections, has pledged to champion human rights during his time in the office – including addressing serious past human rights abuses, protecting freedom of religion, reforming the police and opening up access to Papua for international observers. Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director said, “The new government has the opportunity to turn a page to an era when human rights are genuinely respected in Indonesia. Widodo’s victory will have raised the hopes of many brave human rights activists and victims who have struggled against impunity for years – those hopes must not be dashed. As a very first step, we urge the new administration to undertake a thorough assessment of Indonesia’s human rights record over the past decade and formulate a clear action plan. Crucially, this must be done together with civil society and other key actors.”

 
Human Rights – India votes in support of UN Human Rights Council resolution on Gaza (Economic Times, 24 July 2014)
 

India along with the BRICS countries has voted in support of a UN Human Rights Council resolution to launch a probe into Israel's offensive on Gaza. India joined Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa to vote for a Palestinian-drafted resolution on "Ensuring Respect for international law in The Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jersusalem". In the 46-member council, 29 countries voted in support of the resolution while 17 nations abstained. The US was the only nation to vote against the resolution. European countries abstained.

 
Law of the Sea – Why Asia Should Say No to Mr. Abe's Vision of International Law for Asia (World Post, 24 June 2014)
 

At the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Shinzo Abe made a bold pitch to Asia to buy in on a new type of Japanese leadership. Mr. Abe talked extensively about The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, declaring his government's strong support of the Philippines and Vietnam in their claims against China. From China's view, this was a provocative and dangerous articulation of law. China has never taken any actions or made any claims in the South China Sea that limits the freedom of passage. Yet in case after case, Mr. Abe's government has shown that Japan's conception of an Asia ruled by "international law" is really just an Asia ruled under Japanese mandate. All Asian nations -- including those currently being befriended by Japan -- should reject itreject it, argues Allen K. Yu of the Chunqiu Institute for Developmental and Strategic Studies.

 
Law of the Sea – Vietnam, China Trade Accusations of Vessel-Ramming Near Oil Rig (WSJ, 24 June 2014)
 

Since the deployment of the rig on May 2, Vietnam and China have accused each other several times of vessel-ramming at the site. Vietnam earlier this month released video footage showing a Chinese fishing vessel ramming and sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat.

Vietnam said the oil rig was deployed within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, while China said China National Offshore Oil Corp. is carrying out normal activities in Chinese waters and that it is entitled to conduct drilling operations there.

 
Law of the Sea – China slams Philippines for 'non-stop' talk on rule of law (Philippine Star, 30 June 2014)
 

China is again turning the tables on countries accusing it of violating international law for its perceived aggression in the disputed South China Sea. China Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang reacted to the statement of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the disputes in the East and South China Seas should be resolved according to the rule of law. "It is worth noting that recently some countries keep taking provocative actions and stirring things up, and at the meantime, they just cannot stop talking about the rule of law with a purpose of threatening and smearing China and swaying the public opinion… Since some countries are so fond of the 'rule of law,' then I wonder what on earth is the 'rule of law' that they keep talking about?" Qin said. Qin claimed that China has been exercising the lawful right "to properly handle relevant issue and maintain regional peace and stability and abiding with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). Qin also advised countries embroiled in the territorial disputes to look over their own violations of international laws.

 
Law of Development – UN launches Sustainable Energy for All Decade, regional hub (UN News, 18 June 2014)
 

With an estimated 628 million people in Asia- and the Pacific lacking access to electricity and more than 1.8 billion using natural fuels, the United Nation office in the region has launched the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), underscoring the importance of clean forms of electricity in the post-2015 developing agenda. The goals of the 2014-2024 UN Decade echo the priorities set out by UN Secretary’s General Ban Ki-moon in his eponymous 2011initiative to reach universal access to energy services and double the amount of renewable energy available by 2030. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have also launched a Regional Hub to tackle energy issues at the country level.

 
 
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