[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Saturday urged the international community to take action after a second migrant ship capsized near the Italian island of Lampedusa last week during an attempt to cross from Africa to Europe. The incident resulted in nearly 30 deaths. Ban emphasized the need to adopt new approaches [press release] to migration, focusing on the vulnerability and human rights of migrants. Migrants facing political unrest and persecution in Africa and the Middle East often choose to pay smugglers to assist in their escape to Europe via the Canal of Sicily, a dangerous 70-mile pass along the Italian coast. The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants [official website] Francois Crepeau urged [JURIST report] the EU to address migration concerns after the first incident in early October, which left more than 300 dead.
Last month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on governments [JURIST report] to create human rights-based policies addressing migration. In May Crepeau visited both sides of the border in Turkey, Greece, Tunisia and Italy [official reports] to investigate the migration experience. He found that those irregular migrants related to the Arab Spring [JURIST news archive] and global south were unduly targeted for security purposes that were ineffective and indirectly exploitative. Irregular migrants are those seeking economic opportunities that do not enter through a traditional visa program, usually because a sufficient program is not offered by the EU to support the seasonal work force required by its member states' economies.
[JURIST] The African Union (AU) [official website] unanimously resolved Saturday that African heads of state should be immune from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder]. In particular the AU denounced the ICC trials of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta [official website; JURIST news archive] and Deputy President William Ruto [JURIST news archive]. The AU alleges that the EU, which funds 70 percent of the ICC's budget, uses ICC prosecution to leverage political power in Africa. While the AU's resolution has no legal effect, reports indicate the measure could embolden [allAfrica report] African leaders to reject ICC prosecution in the future. Kenyatta applied for a permanent stay [JURIST report] of the ICC proceedings earlier this week, claiming that a fair trial is impossible due to the corruption within the prosecution. Kenyatta and Ruto are charged with crimes against humanity for their alleged involvement in inciting violence after the 2007 election [JURIST news archive] resulting in more than 1,100 deaths.
In protest of these trials, Kenya's National Assembly voted in September to withdraw from the ICC [JURIST report] and is expected to take action to this end soon. Kenya's parliament began to formally debate [JURIST report] withdrawal earlier in September. In July the ICC rejected [JURIST report] a request by Kenyan officials to change the forum of the trials to Kenya or Tanzania. The defense request was filed in January under articles 3(3) and 62 of the Rome Statute and Rule 100 of the ICC Rules and Procedures of Evidence, which provides for in situ hearings. African foreign ministers requested [JURIST report] that Kenyatta and Ruto be tried in Kenya after the Kenyan Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) released a report [JURIST report] connecting Kenyatta and Ruto to the post-election violence. Even with charges for crimes against humanity pending against him, Kenyatta was able to win a controversial election [JURIST report] to the presidency in March.
[JURIST] The Supreme Court of New Jersey [official website] on Friday agreed to hear [order, PDF] an appeal [JURIST report] by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie [official website] challenging a lower court ruling that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry [JURIST report]. The decision will allow the case to skip appellate-level hearings and move straight to the Supreme Court, with briefs are due in early November and oral arguments scheduled [Star-Ledger report] for January. With the lower court's order that same-sex couples be permitted to marry set to be implemented on October 21, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on Christie's request for a stay of the order shortly.
The heated debate regarding same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most polarizing [JURIST op-ed] issues currently facing the US legal community. Last month Michigan's Treasury Department ruled [JURIST report] that same-sex spouses must file separate tax returns. Also last month a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio expanded a lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking the recognition of same-sex spouses on death certificates. Judge Timothy Black ruled in July and September [JURIST reports] that the surviving same-sex spouses of two decedents should be listed as spouses on death certificates, because their marriages were valid under the laws of the states where they were performed. Also in September, a Kentucky judge ruled that the same-sex spouse of a woman charged with murder must testify against her at the trial because same-sex partners are not protected by the spousal privilege [JURIST report] under Kentucky state law.
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