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United Nations Week – 7/26/10

August 4, 2010

by John and Douglas Carey, Editors,

Contents of this issue: ICJ upholds Kosovo independence; ICTY orders Kosovo leader back to trial; targeted killings.

          Last Thursday, July 22nd, the International Court of Justice, by a vote of 10-4, issued a non-binding advisory opinion upholding the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government. Addressing the Court in The Hague, ICJ president Hisashi Owada said international law contained “no applicable prohibition” of Kosovo’s declaration of independence. “Accordingly, [the court] concludes that the declaration of independence on 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law,” Owada said.

The Secretary-General’s Spokesperson stated on the 22nd that Mr.Ban will be forwarding the advisory opinion to the General Assembly, which had requested the Court’s advice and which will determine how to proceed on this matter. The Secretary-General strongly encourages the parties to engage in a constructive dialogue. The Secretary-General urges all sides to avoid any steps that could be seen as provocative and derail the dialogue.”

ICTY orders Kosovo leader back to trial.

          The day before the ICJ ruling was announced, the International Crimi-nal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ordered Ramush Haradinaj and two co-accused to be placed in the Detention Unit at The Hague to await re-trial. Haradinaj and one other had been acquitted of all charges in 2008. Now the appellate chamber has acted based on “the serious witness intimida-tion that formed the context of the trial.”

          Haradinaj, a commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 1998-99, had been acquitted in 2008 of murder, rape, torture, abduction, cruel treatment, imprisonment and forced deportation of ethnic Serbian and Kosovar Roma civilians.

          The three accused are charged with being part of a joint criminal enterprise between March and September 1998 that aimed to consolidate the KLA’s control over the Dukagjin area of north-western Kosovo by unlawfully removing, mistreating and killing ethnic Serbian and Kosovar Roma civilians, as well as Kosovar Albanians perceived to have collaborated with Serbian forces.

Targeted killings.

Professor Philip Alston of New York University Law School[1] is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. His “final report to the Human Rights Council,” A/HRC/14/ 24, “analyses the activities and working methods of the mandate over the past six years, and identifies important issues for future research. Detailed addenda to this report address: (a) accountability for killings by police; (b) election-related killings; and (c) targeted killings.” Id. at 1.  Addendum 6 to the report includes this at 24-25: “79. * * * Some have suggested that drones as such are prohibited weapons under IHL [International Humanitarian Law] because they cause, or have the effect of causing, necessarily indiscriminate killings of civilians, such as those in the vicinity of a targeted person. It is true that IHL places limits on the weapons States may use, and weapons that are, for example, inherently indiscriminate (such as biological weapons) are prohibited. However, a missile fired from a drone is no different from any other commonly used weapon, including a gun fired by a soldier or a helicopter or gunship that fires missiles. * * *

“84. Furthermore, because operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield, and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote audio-feed, there is a risk of developing a ‘Playstation’ mentality to killing. States must ensure that training programs for drone operators who have never been subjected to the risks and rigors of battle instill respect for IHL and adequate safe-guards for compliance with it.”

Professor Alston’s conclusions and recommendations begin with this: “States should publicly identify the rules of international law they consider to provide a basis for any targeted killings they undertake. They should specify the bases for decisions to kill rather than capture. They should specify the procedural safeguards in place to ensure in advance of targeted killings that they comply with international law, and the measures taken after any such killing to ensure that its legal and factual analysis was accurate and, if not, the remedial measures they would take. If a State commits a targeted killing in the territory of another State, the second State should publicly indicate whether it gave its consent, and on what basis.”

That’s all for this July 26th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. Send along your comments to

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