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United Nations: Protection for Manta Rays and Sharks in Effect

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(Sept 16, 2014) United Nations-sponsored restrictions on trade in sharks and manta rays became effective on September 14, 2014. Permits and certificates establishing that sustainable, legal methods have been used to harvest five kinds of sharks and all manta rays now are needed for the sale of meat, gills, and fins. The shark species involved are the oceanic whitetip shark, the scalloped hammerhead shark, the great hammerhead shark, the smooth hammerhead shark, and the porbeagle shark. While other shark species have previously been subject to restrictions, this is the first listing of these particular species that have significant commercial value. (New UN-Backed Protections for Sharks, Manta Rays Enter into Effect, UN NEWS CENTRE (Sept. 12, 2014).)

The shark and ray species are now listed in Appendix II to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); species listed in Appendix II are not considered likely to be close to extinction, but "trade in them is controlled to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival." (Sharks and Manta Rays, CITES website (Sept. 14, 2014); CITES (as amended June 22, 1979), CITES website (last visited Sept. 15, 2014).) This listing means that exports and re-exports will not be permitted without authorization from the authorities designated in each of the 180 CITES member nations. Countries that import the species must check that all shipments have the appropriate permits. (Press Release, CITES, Stronger Protection for Five Shark Species and All Manta Rays (Sept. 12, 2014).)

The hope is that global cooperation will prevent over-harvesting. Data about the trade in the listed species will be shared with the CITES Secretariat and be made available to the public, and the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will support the CITES Secretariat in protecting these species. (Id.) The FAO has estimated that the world-wide shark capture from 2000-2009 alone was 750,000-900,000 tons. (Id.)

According to the Secretary-General of CITES, John Scanlon,

Regulating international trade in these shark and manta ray species is critical to their survival and is a very tangible way of helping to protect the biodiversity of our oceans. The practical implementation of these listings will involve issues such as determining sustainable export levels, verifying legality, and identifying the fins, gills and meat that are in trade. (Id.)

Not all countries have totally supported the new restrictions, however. Canada and Guyana entered reservations with respect to all the newly listed species; Japan has done so for all the shark species. Yemen entered a similar reservation for the three hammerhead shark species, and Denmark did so for Greenland regarding the porbeagle shark. By entering a reservation, a CITES party opts out of particular restrictions. (Id.)

Author: Constance Johnson More by this author
Topic: Biodiversity More on this topic
 Endangered species More on this topic
 Environmental protection More on this topic
 Marine resources and fisheries More on this topic
Jurisdiction: United Nations More about this jurisdiction

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Gambia: Parliament Adopts Stringent Anti-Homosexuality Law

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(Sept 16, 2014) On August 25, 2014, The Gambia's 53-member unicameral National Assembly adopted the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act, 2014, aimed at including a new crime of "aggravated homosexuality" in the country's Criminal Code. (Gambia Passes Bill to Introduce Crime of "Aggravated Homosexuality," REUTERS (Sept. 9, 2014).) The legislation must be signed by the President or passed again by the National Assembly with the support of at least two-thirds of all the members before it can become law. (Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia 1997, §§ 7 & 100(3)-(4), ACCESS GAMBIA.)

If the legislation becomes law, a person would be charged with the offense of aggravated homosexuality if he or she commits an act of homosexuality, which is a crime under the current Criminal Code, under the following circumstances:

• the victim is under the age of 18;
• the offender is HIV positive;
• the offender is the victim's parent/guardian;
• the offender exercises authority over the person with whom the act was committed;
• the other party is a disabled person;
• the offender is a recidivist; or
• the offender drugs the victim with the intent to diminish his/her capacity before committing the act. (MPs Approve Life Sentence for "Aggravated Homosexuality," THE POINT (Sept. 10, 2014).)

A person who commits the crime of "aggravated homosexuality" would be punishable by life in prison upon conviction. (Id.)

Homosexuality Under the Current Criminal Code

Homosexual acts are an offense under The Gambia's current Criminal Code. The Code states that a "person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature … or permits any person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature" commits a felony known as an unnatural offense and, on conviction, is punishable by a 14-year prison term. (Criminal Code of 1934, § 144, 3 LAWS OF GAMBIA, Cap. 8:01 (rev. ed. 2009).) An attempt to commit an unnatural offense, also a felony, is punishable by seven years of imprisonment. (Id. § 145.) The act of "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature" includes:

• carnal knowledge of the person through the anus or mouth of the person;
• inserting any object or thing into the vulva or anus of the person for the purpose of simulating sex; and
• committing any other homosexual act with the person. (Id. § 144; see also Criminal Code (Amendment) Act, 2005 (July 21, 2005), Supplement C, THE GAMBIA GAZETTE, No. 13 (Aug. 2, 2005), NATLEX.)

The Gambia's current law also criminalizes what it calls "indecent practices." Anyone who "commits an act of gross indecency with another" in public or in private or "procures" or "attempts to procure" another to commit such an act with him/herself or with another person commits a felony and, on conviction, is punishable by a five-year prison term. (Criminal Code of 1934 § 147; see also Criminal Code (Amendment) Act, 2005, supra.) An act of gross indecency includes any homosexual act. (Criminal Code of 1934, § 147.) However, the term "homosexual act" is not defined.

Impact of the New Legislation

If the Amendment Act is approved in its current form, it will make The Gambia the only jurisdiction in Africa whose laws include the offense of "aggravated homosexuality." Although earlier this year Uganda adopted an anti-homosexuality law that included a similar provision, the law was recently invalidated by the country's Constitutional Court on a technicality. (Andrew Harding, Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Homosexuality Law, BBC NEWS (Aug. 1, 2014).) According to a recent Law Library of Congress survey, many African countries criminalize homosexuality in one form or another. (Criminal Laws on Homosexuality in African Nations, LAW LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (Feb. 2014).)

Author: Hanibal Goitom More by this author
Topic: Crime and law enforcement More on this topic
 LGBT rights More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Gambia More about this jurisdiction

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Indonesia; Singapore: Maritime Border Pact Signed

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(Sept 11, 2014) On September 3, 2014, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong witnessed the signing of the Treaty Between the Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of Singapore Relating to the Delimitation of the Territorial Seas of the Two Countries in the Eastern Part of the Strait of Singapore. The pact was concluded during a state visit of Yudhoyono to Singapore. (Press Release, Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, State Visit of the President of the Republic of Indonesia Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, 2 to 4 September 2014 (Sept. 3, 2014).)

This treaty, the second one on the subject signed by the two countries during Yudhoyono's administration, establishes the maritime border in a 5.1 nautical mile section of the eastern portion of the Singapore Strait, from Changi, an area in Singapore, to Batam, an Indonesian island. (Zakir Hussain, Singapore, Indonesia Sign Treaty on Maritime Borders in Eastern Singapore Strait, STRAITS TIMES (Sept. 3, 2014).) The first treaty, concluded in Jakarta in 2009, covered the western part of the Strait. (Saifulbahri Ismail, Singapore and Indonesia Sign Milestone Maritime Treaty, CHANNEL NEWSASIA (updated Sept. 4, 2014); Lilian Budianto, RI, Singapore Sign Maritime Boundary Agreement, JAKARTA POST (Mar. 11, 2009).)

Speaking about the treaty, Yudhoyono stated, "[i]n a world marked by tensions and disputes, with this treaty we are demonstrating that with strong political commitment it is possible to achieve mutually acceptable solutions. Through this agreement we set this new milestone in our bilateral relations." (Ismail, supra.) Singapore's President, Tony Tan Keng Yam, also praised the treaty and placed it in the context of the overall relationship between the nations, adding, "[w]e have launched a new phase of our economic partnership through the establishment of dedicated working groups and enhanced our cooperation in the islands of Batam, Bintan and Karimun. We have concluded MOUs in areas such as diplomatic training, education and capacity building for public officials." (Id.)

Author: Constance Johnson More by this author
Topic: Boundaries More on this topic
 Treaties and International Agreements/Maritime More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Indonesia More about this jurisdiction
 Singapore More about this jurisdiction

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International Criminal Court; Kenya: Trial of Kenyan President Adjourned

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(Sept 11, 2014) The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on September 5, 2014, that the trial of Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of Kenya, and of the Deputy President, William Ruto, originally planned to begin on October 7, would be adjourned indefinitely. Kenyatta had been charged with five counts of crimes against in humanity, with a summons to appear issued by the court on March 8 and an initial hearing held on April 8, 2011. The charges stem from his alleged indirect role as a co-conspirator in the violence that killed more than 1,100 people after the elections in the country in 2007. (Bradley McAllister, ICC Prosecutors Adjourn Trial of Kenyan President Indefinitely, PAPER CHASE (Sept. 5, 2014); The Prosecutor v. Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, ICC-01/09-02/11, Case Information Sheet, ICC website (last visited Sept. 8, 2014).)

The charges are based on the crimes against humanity section of the Rome Statute, the founding document of the ICC, and include murder, deportation, rape, persecution, and other inhumane acts. (Case Information Sheet, supra; Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (in force from July 1, 2002), arts. 7(1) (a), (d), (g), (h), & (k), ICC website.) The Statute also provides for holding people criminally responsible for a crime if they commit that crime either as "an individual, jointly with another or through another person, regardless of whether that other person is criminally responsible … ." (Rome Statute, art. 25(3)(a).)

The prosecution of Kenyatta has not been generally popular with other African leaders, who jointly spoke out against the trial. (McAllister, supra.) The African Union supported Kenya's request that the proceedings against the President and Deputy President be dropped and that African states "speak with one voice" against ICC prosecution of heads of state while they are in office. (Press Release, AU Summit, 22nd Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly Concludes: A Summary of Key Decisions (Jan. 31, 2014), African Union website; Matthew Pomy, African Union Urges Members to Stand Against ICC Trials of Presidents, PAPER CHASE (Feb. 1, 2014).)

Author: Constance Johnson More by this author
Topic: Crimes against humanity More on this topic
 International organizations More on this topic
 Judiciary More on this topic
Jurisdiction: International Criminal Court More about this jurisdiction
 Kenya More about this jurisdiction

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Austria; Council of Europe; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development: Ratification of Tax Convention

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(Sept 10, 2014) On August 28, 2014, Austria deposited its instrument of ratification of the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. The Convention and its amending Protocol will enter into force for Austria in three months, on December 1. (Convention and Protocol on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters – Austria Deposits Instruments of Ratification, TAX NEWS SERVICE (Sept. 1, 2014), International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation online subscription database; Status of the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters andAmending Protocol – 28 August 2014, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) website.)

The Convention, which was formulated jointly by the OECD and the Council of Europe, was opened for signature on January 25, 1988, and amended by the Protocol in 2010. The amended Convention was opened for signature on June 1, 2011. (Exchange of Information: Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in TaxMatters, OECD website (last updated Sept. 2014).)

According to an introduction to the text of the Convention on the OECD website, the purpose of the Convention is "to help governments enforce their tax laws" and provide "an international legal framework for co-operation among countries in countering international tax avoidance and evasion." (The Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters:Amended by the 2010 Protocol (June 1, 2011) [scroll down to view hyperlinked Table of Contents for Convention ].) To do so, it provides for "assistance in tax collection and service of documents" and "facilitates joint audits and information sharing to counter other serious crimes (e.g. money laundering, corruption) when certain conditions are met." (Id.) In addition, the OECD asserts, it "preserves the rights of taxpayers, [with] extensive safeguards to protect the confidentiality of the information exchanged, in particular in relation to personal data." (Id.)

Austria was one of nine countries to sign the amended Convention on May 29, 2013; on the same date, another three countries signed a letter of intention to sign, and six countries deposited instruments of ratification. (Austria, Luxembourg and Singapore Among Countries Signing-On to End Tax Secrecy, OECD website (May 29, 2013).) On that occasion, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría stated, "[t]his is a historic moment for the Convention and another winning round in the fight against tax cheats, … . In the past 2 years more than 60 countries have signed the Convention or stated their intention to do so, marking an important milestone on the road to closer cooperation and more transparency – to making the international system fair to all taxpayers." (Id.)

According to the OECD webpage on the status of parties to the Convention, 42 countries have deposited instruments of ratification of the Convention and 67 countries have signed it. (Status of the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters and Amending Protocol – 28 August 2014, supra.)

Author: Wendy Zeldin More by this author
Topic: Taxation More on this topic
 Treaties and International Agreements/Taxation More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Austria More about this jurisdiction
 Council of Europe More about this jurisdiction
 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development More about this jurisdiction

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