Asia and International Law

International Economic Law – Educating a future generation of trade negotiators in Asia (UNCTAD, 20 Jan 2015)

The Memorandum of Understanding between UNCTAD and the University of Perdana signed in February 2014 was designed to assist Malaysia enhance the capacity of trade and competition officials to negotiate and effectively apply relevant rules and laws. It has as its first output the Master of International Trade  offered by Perdana University, in collaboration with UNCTAD and Zurich University of Applied Sciences, School of Management and Law (ZHAW), with the support of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia. Although the first batch of students are all Malaysians, it is intended that the course be gradually opened to trade negotiators from other ASEAN and Asian countries.

International Economic Law – India-ASEAN services & investment FTA to be in force from July (Economic Times,15 Jan 2015)

India's free trade agreement (FTA) in services and investments with 10-member ASEAN Grouping will come into force from July this year, paving the way for freer movement of professionals and further investment opportunities. India signed the FTA in services and investment in September 2014. India signed a free trade agreement (FTA) in goods with the bloc in 2009. India was keen on the services deal as it did not gain much from the pact on goods due to already lower tariffs in the region.

International Economic Law – WTO informal talks to ascertain positions (Business Standard, 21 Jan 2015)

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is to hold an informal meeting in January with the heads of delegations in Geneva. The aim is to ascertain the positions of countries on the post-Bali work programme, an important element being a solution to the food stock issue. “The informal meeting is to kick off the negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement on the post-Bali work programme and wider Doha Round in the near future. This meeting will outline the countries’ positions on how to proceed and where there could be difficulties,” an official said. The outcome is expected to “feed into the ministers’ discussions in a way” when they meet in Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Saturday for a ‘mini-ministerial’. The official added that negotiations on a permanent solution had started and should intensify in the next couple of months.

Human Rights – UN rights office appeals for halt in executions for drug crimes (UN News, 20 Jan 2015)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed concern over the use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes in Southeast Asia and urged authorities to abolish the punishment amid reports that eight more people had been sentenced to death for heroin trafficking. “According to international human rights jurisprudence, capital punishment could only be applied to the crime of murder or intentional killing,” OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva, where the Office is based. “Drug-related offences, economic crimes, political crimes, adultery, and offences relating to consensual same-sex relationships did not fall under the threshold of ‘most serious crimes’ required under international law for application of the death penalty,” Ms. Shamdasani said.

Human Rights – Human Rights Watch says China draft terrorism law a ‘licence to commit abuses’ (Reuters, 20 Jan 2015)

Human Rights Watch has urged China to revise draft legislation aimed at combating terrorism, saying it was little more than “a licence to commit human rights abuses”. The law, which was made public for consultation last November, would establish a new counter-terrorism body that would have the power to designate organisations and members as terrorists without any protections of due process. The draft’s definition of terrorism includes “thought, speech, or behaviour” that attempt to “subvert state power”, “incite ethnic hatred” or “split the state”. Subversion and splittism are catch-all charges that have been used against dissidents. Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson called for the draft law to be brought in line with international standards, saying that “in its present form this law is little more than a licence to commit human rights abuses”. “The Chinese government needs to respect rights, not build a new architecture of surveillance,” Richardson said in a statement. The law would require all telecommunication and internet service providers to help the government in preventing the spread of terrorism-related content. Public areas would be outfitted with facial recognition equipment – a system that “could easily be abused for personal or political ends”, Human Rights Watch said.

See also: China wages "people's war" on terrorism (Xinhua, 5 Jan 2015)

International Organisations – United Nations General Assembly and Security Council elect four Members of the Court (ICJ Press Release No. 2014/32, 7 November 2014)

The General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations yesterday elected four Members of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a term of office of nine years, beginning on 6 February 2015. Judges Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco) and Joan E. Donoghue (United States of America) were re-elected as Members of the Court. James Richard Crawford (Australia) and Kirill Gevorgian (Russian Federation) were elected as new Members of the Court.

International Economic Law – Azevêdo applauds India-US agreement on key Bali issues (WTO News, 13 November 2014)

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo has welcomed the news that the US and India have agreed on the way forward for implementing key elements of the package of agreements reached last December at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali. Differing views on the implementation of two of these accords, the Trade Facilitation Agreement and the decision on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, created an impasse in July which has led to a freezing of WTO negotiations since then. The India-US agreement provides a basis for the Director-General to intensify his consultations with other WTO members on the best way to overcome the present stalemate and to promptly implement all Bali ministerial Decisions.

International Economic Law – ASEAN Looks To End-2015 Regional Trade Integration (Tax News, 18 November 2014)

During their 25th Annual Summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, the Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) welcomed the progress already made and reinforced their commitment towards the realization of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by December 31, 2015. ASEAN-6 countries – comprising Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – eliminated tariffs on 99.65 percent of tariff lines in 2010. ASEAN's newer members – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam – reduced tariffs on 98.86 percent of their tariff lines to the zero-to-five percent tariff range by the same year, and are expected to eliminate tariffs on these goods by 2015, with flexibility for a few import duty lines until 2018. The majority of all goods in ASEAN are therefore already transit tariff-free, and the focus is now reportedly on harmonizing ASEAN-wide trade facilitation initiatives by eliminating non-tariff barriers. Discussions were held at the meeting on how ASEAN should develop and deepen its economic inter-dependence further after 2015.

Human Rights – India Votes against UNGA Resolution on Death Penalty (Indian Express, 25 November 2014)
India has voted against a UN General Assembly draft resolution calling for moratorium on the use of death penalty, saying it fails to recognise each nation's "sovereign right" to determine its legal system and punish criminals according to its laws. The draft resolution on 'Moratorium on the use of the death penalty' was approved last week in the General Assembly's Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural issues. India was among the 36 nations that voted against the resolution, which got 114 votes in favour and 34 abstentions. By the terms of the resolution, the General Assembly would urge Member States to progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and not impose capital punishment for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age, on pregnant women and on persons with mental or intellectual disabilities. In its explanation of vote, India said the resolution seeks to promote a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. India voted against the resolution as it goes "against our statutory law, First Secretary in the Indian Mission to the UN Mayank Joshi said. "The resolution fails to recognise the basic principle that each State has the sovereign right to determine its legal system and to punish criminals as per its laws," he said. Joshi said in India the death penalty is exercised in the "rarest of rare" cases, where the crime committed is "so heinous as to shock the conscience of society."
Human Rights – UN chief asks Myanmar to address citizenship concerns of Rohingyas (Firstpost, 14 November 2014)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on Myanmar's president to address citizenship concerns for members of the long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim community.
He also emphasized the need for improved humanitarian access and better cooperation with the United Nations as it tries to help. The chief minister of Rakhine state, where most Rohingya live, rebuked Ban for referring to members of the religious minority by their name, Rohingya. Maung Maung Ohn said the word inflames tensions feeding sectarian violence. Although many Rohingya families arrived in Myanmar generations ago, the government says all are migrants from neighboring Bangladesh and insists they be called "Bengali." The United Nations and human rights organizations hold the Rohingya have the right to self-identify.

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