Asia and International Law

International Organisations – Japan may suggest smaller whale catch after ICJ blow (Reuters, 1 April 2014)

Japan could try to rescue its Antarctic whaling programme by sharply reducing catch quotas after the highest U.N. court ordered a halt, rejecting Tokyo's argument that the catch was for scientific purposes and not mainly for human consumption. The judgment by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was a blow to Japan's decades-old "scientific whaling" programme, although Tokyo, which said it would abide by the ruling, might be able to resume Antarctic whaling if it devises a new, more persuasive programme that requires killing whales. "We want to accept this from a position that respects the international legal order," Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters. "We want to properly consider our country's response after carefully examining the contents of the ruling."

The ICJ Judgment Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand Intervening) of 31 March 2014 can be found here.

International Organisations – Backing Ukraine’s territorial integrity, UN Assembly declares Crimea referendum invalid (UN News, 27 March 2014)

In a vote that reaffirmed Ukraine’s unity and territorial integrity, the United Nations General Assembly on 27 March 2014 adopted a measure underscoring that the mid-March referendum in Crimea that led to the peninsula’s annexation by Russia “has no validity” and that the parties should “pursue immediately a peaceful resolution of the situation.” By a vote of 100 in favour to 11 against, with 58 abstentions, the 193-member Assembly called on all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on the basis of the 16 March referendum “and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.”

International Economic Law – ASEAN economic integration not likely in 2015 – ADB (Philippine Star, 23 March 2014)

The economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will likely not be attained by 2015, economists of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have said. In the book launching of “The ASEAN Economic Community,” ADB lead economist at the Office of Regional Economic Integration Jayant Menon said the targets for the regional economic integration would likely be missed. “The December deadline will not see ASEAN achieving all ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) targets in 2015. And it will still involve more work for post-2015,” Menon said. Based on a review of the AEC scorecard, only around 77.5 percent of targets have been reached between 2008 to March 2013. Worse, a slowdown was even observed for the unattained targets. Although various reasons were cited for the continued difficulties of attaining the AEC targets one of the major reasons remain seemingly unmindful stance unawareness of the private sector.

International Economic Law – WTO rules certain U.S. trade remedies against China inconsistent with its rules

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled on 27 March 2014 that the United States had acted inconsistently with WTO rules with regard to its countervailing and anti-dumping measures on certain products from China. The panel found that U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) failed to adjust the duty amounts so as to avoid double remedies in 25 anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations against China initiated between 2006 and 2012, which was inconsistent with the WTO rules. The panel ruled that the U.S. was not acting inconsistently with the WTO rules by passing the amendment to the Tariff Act in March 2012 and retroactively authorizing its investigating authority to impose countervailing duties against the so-called "non-market economy countries" as of November 2006.

Human Rights – UN human rights experts denounce land-grabbing case in Viet Nam (UN News, 26 March 2014)

A group of United Nations independent human rights experts have called on the Vietnamese Government to “intervene urgently” in a case of forced eviction of the last remaining residents of Con Dau, a small village located on the outskirts of Da Nang city in the centre of the country. “This appears to be a clear case of land grabbing for the benefit of private entrepreneurs and at the expense of local communities,” said Raquel Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing. Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Farida Shaheed, who recently visited Viet Nam, explained that the village of Con Dau was home to a small Catholic community and “was built by the work of many generations of residents, who shaped their culture through cultivating rice and church activities.” Earlier in March, Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and Rita Izsák tasked with minority issues, both joined an urgent appeal to the Vietnamese Government to put an end to this ongoing case of forced eviction.

Human Rights – UN rights council approves inquiry into alleged abuses in Sri Lanka war (UN News, 27 March 2014)

The United Nations Human Rights Council voted on 27 March 2014 to open an international inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by both the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the final stages of a decades-long conflict that ended in 2009. Adopted by a vote of 23 in favour to 12 against with 12 abstentions, the Geneva-based Council requested the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to undertake a “comprehensive investigation” into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations “with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability.”

Environmental Law – Emerging Economies Lead Climate Action, Globe Study Finds (Bloomberg, 26 Feb 2014)

Emerging economies led by Mexico and China are making the most progress in climate change, a recent study by Globe International found. A total of 62 out of the 66 countries examined have passed or are working on “significant” climate or energy-related laws but Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Canada lack “flagship” legislation. For the second year running, Globe flagged China and Mexico among nations making the most progress domestically. China published a plan to help it adapt to the effects of climate change, while continuing to draft a climate law, Globe said. Mexico adopted a national climate-change strategy. China remains the world’s biggest emitter and its greenhouse-gas output is rising. The country is yet to say when its emissions will peak.

Environmental Law – Chinese Man Sues Local Government Over Smog (The Diplomat, 26 Feb 2014)

Reuters, citing China’s Yanzhao Metropolis Daily,reported that a Chinese man from Hebei province has become the first person to sue the government over air pollution. Li Guixin has filed suit against the Shijiazhuang Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau seeking compensation for the heavy smog enveloping Shijiazhuang, Hebei’s capital city. “The reason that I’m proposing administrative compensation is to let every citizen see that amid this haze, we’re the real victims,” Li told the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily. Li demanded that the environmental protection bureau “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law.” While individual cases have had some success in the past, class-action environmental lawsuits have also been limited by government fiat. Last year, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress mulled a draft amendment to China’s Environmental Protection Law that would give the “All-China Environmental Federation and its sub-branches” the exclusive right to file public interest lawsuits against polluters. The draft version would prohibit local environmental NGOs, which are typically more active in pursuing environmental protection, from filing public interest lawsuits.

Human Rights – U.N. rights boss seeks international probe into Sri Lanka war crimes (UN News, 25 Feb 2014)

In a much anticipated report ahead of a U.N. Human Rights Council debate in March that could order action on the issue, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has recommended an "independent, international inquiry mechanism which would contribute to establishing the truth where domestic inquiry mechanisms have failed". Pillay's report, based on her visit to the country last August, add to pressure on the government. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's administration, in 18 pages of comments as long as Pillay's report, has rejected the recommendations as "arbitrary, intrusive and of a political nature".

Human Rights – Thailand: UN chief urges respect for human rights as political violence continues (UN News, 26 Feb 2014)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the political parties in Thailand to respect human rights and the rule of law, and to work together towards resolving the politically-motivated confrontations which are becoming more deadly. “The Secretary-General believes strongly that there should be no place for violence by any side in resolving political differences and disputes,” his spokesperson said, adding that the top UN official offered to assist the parties and the Thai people “in any way possible.”

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