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United Nations

“United Nations agencies are not constrained by the First Amendment,” which means the impending change is not happy news for the cause of free speech, notes Patrick at Popehat. More: The Economist.

Decent articles on Stand Your Ground in the general press are relatively few, being far outnumbered by those that are sensationalist, axe-grinding or simply uninformed. So it’s nice to be able to recommend this one by Peter Jamison in the Tampa Bay Times [via Jacob Sullum].

In other news, a United Nations panel in Geneva monitoring compliance with international human rights law has questioned a wide range of United States domestic policies, including some states’ adoption of Stand Your Ground as well as lack of gun control and other offenses. “The committee is charged with upholding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a UN treaty that the US ratified in 1992.” Another reminder that treaties have consequences, and that ratification of other purported human rights treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD), would not be without public consequences relating to many domestic policies. [Guardian]

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Although we call it “rent control,” the key thing it controls is often not so much what you can charge for a lodging as whether you can ever reclaim it. This recluse successfully held out for $17 million to relinquish his moldy, squalid rented lodging at what is now 15 Central Park West. [New York Post]

P.S. But at least the U.N. likes the idea. While on the subject of legal insanity in NYC real estate: Andrew Rice, New York mag, “Why Run a Slum If You Can Make More Money Housing the Homeless?” I wrote about the epic New York City homeless-rights litigation in Schools for Misrule, and more links are here.

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International law roundup

by Walter Olson on January 6, 2014

Just to be maximally unhelpful

by Walter Olson on September 12, 2013

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, who is also a University of Arizona law professor, weighs in on the tribal side in Baby Veronica case [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations, earlier] Last year we discussed Mr. Anaya’s scolding of the U.S. government on Indian land claim issues. Just last week another official in the U.N. human rights apparatus upbraided the United States for hesitating to expose acquitted George Zimmerman to double jeopardy in the Trayvon Martin shooting.

United Nations “human rights expert” suggests that compliance with international human rights norms may require casting about for some way to re-prosecute George Zimmerman since the first prosecution didn’t come out as some hoped. [Volokh] As Hans Bader points out, Article 14, Section 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights forbids, as opposed to requiring, the exposure of defendants to double jeopardy.

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Once again it is rumored that the Senate will take up the U.N.-sponsored Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Once more the editorialists at the New York Times are promoting the treaty with some dubious — in some cases, easily disproved — claims about what it would and would not do. I look at the controversy in a new post at Cato at Liberty.

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David Bosco, assistant professor at American University and contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine, tweeting about the U.N. international small arms treaty that’s met with intense opposition from some gun-rights groups:

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  • U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to Germany: to comply with your treaty obligations, you must punish this insensitive discussion of immigrants [Volokh, Bader]
  • California’s Armenian genocide law entrenches on federal foreign affairs power [Ku/OJ]
  • Heritage Foundation urges feds to overrule state marijuana laws on grounds of international treaty obligations [via @LucyStag]
  • UN conventions ban torture, but that can bear meanings very different than in common parlance [Wesley Smith, Weekly Standard]
  • Kiobel-aftermath marathon at Opinio Juris: Spiro, Lederman, Ku, Bellinger and Kontorovich, Alford, Phillips, Moyn, earlier here, here. More: Eugene Kontorovich podcast, Federalist Society.
  • Underreported: how international vote buying influences outcomes in UN, similar bodies [Natalie Lockwood/OJ]
  • Adding a Protocol: U.N. human rights chief “today welcomed the birth of a new mechanism which will empower individuals to seek out justice when their rights to food, adequate housing, education or health are violated.” [UN]
  • Let’s hope not: is Kony case reconciling conservatives to International Criminal Court? [New Republic] Sea Shepherd case shows Alien Tort Statute can serve “conservative” as well as “liberal” ends [Eugene Kontorovich, earlier]
  • “Why the U.S. Shouldn’t Sign On to Empty Human Rights Treaties” [Eric Posner, Slate, earlier]
  • Or maybe non-empty? U.N. Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities said to require enactment of strong Europe-wide equivalent of ADA [Disability Law]
  • A questionable free speech victory at the U.N. on defamation of religion [Jacob Mchangama]
  • Tales of “independent” court reports that weren’t: “Chevron-Ecuador case expert switches sides” [SF Chron, December]
  • New Kenneth Anderson book getting lots of recommendations: Living with the UN: American Responsibilities and International Order [Amazon]
  • “Revive Letters of Marque and Reprisal to Launch Cyber-Attacks Against China?” [Julian Ku/OJ]

Because the important thing is to show that lawmakers have their hearts in the right place, which means not lingering over doubts about the constitutionality of the restrictions on speech or the implied rebuke to double-jeopardy norms or the nature of the delegation of federal power to tribal courts. Who cares about that stuff anyway when there’s a message to be sent about being tough on domestic violence?

P.S. In case you wondered, the U.N. is in favor.

A Yale professor calls for using the fledgling U.N.-system court to prosecute multinational businesses and their executives (“Treat Greed in Africa as a War Crime”). Red meat for some Times readers, no doubt, but among others alarm bells might start belatedly going off. I have more details in a new post at Commentary.

P.S. More on the Dutch court’s decision in the Shell Nigeria pollution case from Roger Alford/Opinio Juris, @annaholligan.

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International law roundup

by Walter Olson on December 13, 2012

  • U.N. children’s-rights treaty oversight committee seeks ban on foundling baby boxes [Global Post, Telegraph, Vancouver Province]
  • BoJo has mojo: as sentiment burgeons in UK to quit European Union in whole or part, London Mayor Boris Johnson is listening [Reason]
  • History of Chevron Lago Agrio litigation to date [Seeking Alpha, earlier]
  • In Dubai talks, Western nations putting up stouter resistance to proposed International Telecommunications Union takeover of internet governance [Chicago Tribune, earlier here, etc.]
  • Obama backs global arms trade treaty, Second Amendment groups deeply suspicious [David Kopel, Zachary Snider/TheDC, earlier, Ryan Scoville/Prawfs with contrary view)]
  • 130-page resource guide to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act [DoJ/SEC, earlier]
  • “The immensely complex and burdensome conflict minerals disclosure debacle” [Bainbridge, earlier here, etc.]

“The head of the United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board is calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to legally challenge marijuana ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington.” It seems the U.S. is a signatory to a U.N.-drafted 1961 treaty under which nations agree to “adopt such measures as may be necessary to prevent the misuse of, and illicit traffic in, the leaves of the cannabis plant.” [Mike Riggs, Reason; Jacob Sullum]

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November 13 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 13, 2012

  • New law grads and others, come work for liberty at the Cato Institute’s legal associate program [Ilya Shapiro]
  • Lawsuit against United Nations seeks compensation for mass cholera outbreak in Haiti [Kristen Boon, Opinio Juris]
  • “Parents Sue Energy Drink After Girl’s Death” [NBC Washington; Hagerstown, Md.] “The New York Times Reveals That 18 Servings of an Energy Drink Might Be Excessive” [Jacob Sullum]
  • Claim: There is no explosion of patent litigation [Adam Mossoff, Truth on the Market, and further]
  • “After Inmates Sue for Dental Floss, Jailers Explain the Security Risk” [ABA Journal, earlier]
  • Court: First Amendment protects right of “The Bachelor” producers to consider contestants’ race [Volokh, earlier]
  • From Florida tobacco litigation to an, um, interesting higher-education startup [Inside Higher Ed, h/t Overlawyered commenter Jeff H.]

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Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on October 30, 2012

  • Australia: after talk displeasing to authorities, popular radio host ordered to undergo “factual accuracy training” [Sydney Morning Herald]
  • Jenzabar loses an appeal against documentary filmmaker [Paul Alan Levy, CL&P; earlier here, etc.]
  • “A Few Words On Reddit, Gawker, and Anonymity” [Popehat]
  • Canada: “Federal Court Upholds Hate Speech Provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act” [Yosie Saint-Cyr, Slaw] “Canadian Government Official Calls Anti-Abortion Speech Illegal ‘Bullying'” [Hans Bader, CEI, Amy Alkon]
  • U.N.-regulated web? No thanks [Robert McDowell, Federalist Society, earlier here, etc.]
  • Further thoughts from Kevin Underhill on being sued by Orly Taitz [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
  • U.S. State Department official: we’re not just going to roll over on this free speech business [Volokh]