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Larocque

Fannie Lafontaine and François Larocque publish a collective work in honor of Louise Arbour

By | News

CPIJ members Fannie Lafontaine (Université Laval) and François Larocque (Université d’Ottawa) publish a collective work in honour of Louise Arbour at Intersentia, titled “Doing Peace the Rights Way – Essays in International Law and Relations in Honour of Louise Arbour“.

Including a foreword of the former UN Secretary general Kofi Annan, this collective work addresses the most topical issues in the field of international law and relations. Authors are leading experts and renowned actors on the international scene or within national jurisdictions, who all maintained close contact with Louise Arbour through her career. Louise Arbour had an important impact on the development of international law and played an important role in international institutions, as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Executive Director of the International Crisis Group and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on International Migrations. She also held the highest judicial function in Canada and has helped to shape Canadian law as an academic and as a judge, sitting on the Supreme Court of Canada. Louise Arbour is a leading expert in the fields of conflict prevention and resolution, criminal justice, human rights.

This unique collection of essays written by leading experts addresses fundamental issues such as the right to the truth, torture, immunities and women’s rights in the context of recent and current events. It also questions basic assumptions and sheds new light on crucial issues that are at the core of the world’s agenda. Interactions between justice and peace, human rights and conflicts, law and politics, both within the international or national context, are at the heart of each contribution.

Doing Peace the Rights Way brings together great minds, in the honor of a justice and human rights champion and ambassador, in the hope that their vision of the most topical and important issues of our time can help to bring closer ideals of peace and justice for all.

With contributions from Andrew Clapham, William Schabas, Tity Agbahey, Gilles Olakounlé Yabi, Alana Klein, Hina Jilani, J. Michael Spratt, Pablo Espiniella, James K. Stewart, Mona Rishmawi, Lisa N. Oldring, Fannie Lafontaine, Luc Côté, François Larocque, Tim McCormack, Fabrizio Hochschild, Philip Alston, Antonia Potter Prentice, Camille Marquis Bissonnette, Kim Pate and Natasha Bakht.

The Nevsun case is heard before the Supreme Court of Canada

By | News, Press Releases

January 2019 – On 23 January 2019, co-researchers of the Canadian Partnership for International Justice intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada during the hearing of the Nevsun case. This groundbreaking case has great potential significance for human rights and corporate accountability in Canada as it is the first lawsuit whose claims are based directly on violations of international law.

The case questions whether a Canadian mining company should be held accountable for human rights violations perpetrated abroad. The British Columbia mining company Nevsun Resources Ltd. faces charges of forced labour, a form of slavery, related to the construction of the Canadian owned Bisha gold mine in Eritrea. Plaintiffs are former mine workers who have been granted the refugee status in Canada.

Jennifer Klinck, Paul Champ and Penelope Simons at the hearing. (Photo: Twitter)

In appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada, Nevsun sought immunity for its conduct based on the common law doctrine of act of state. The respondents pleaded the absence of a doctrine of corporate immunity in international law and claimed that jus cogens norms of customary international law should serve as a source for development of the Canadian common law.

CPIJ is proud that its co-researchers Penelope Simons and François Larocque intervened, together with Jennifer Klinck and Paul Champ, as representatives of Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists. Co-researcher Amanda Ghahremani and the Canadian Center for International Justice (CCIJ), a CPIJ partner organization, were also part of the legal team for the respondents.

The webcast of the hearing is available here, and the parties’ factums on appeal can be accessed here. Further documentation is available on CCIJ’s website.

What did Canadian mining executives know about possible human rights violations in Eritrea?

By | CPIJ in the Media

Scott Anderson | CBC News

Executives at Vancouver-based mining firm Nevsun Resources have denied direct knowledge of human rights violations at their gold and copper mine in the Bisha mining district in northern Eritrea, adjacent to Sudan. (CBC)

For years, Vancouver-based mining firm Nevsun Resources has dismissed allegations that forced labour was used to build its mine in the repressive east African country of Eritrea.

Nevsun executives have denied direct knowledge of human rights violations at their Bisha mine site in a CBC interview and during an appearance before a parliamentary committee.

But company documents filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia last November and reviewed by CBC’s The Fifth Estate show executives at the highest level appear to have been informed of issues of forced labour at their mine site a decade ago.

Former Bisha mine workers are suing Nevsun in B.C. for alleged human rights violations — including forced labour, slavery and torture.

The company denies the allegations and has appealed the matter of whether the case can be heard in B.C. to the Supreme Court of Canada. Nevsun argues that the case should be adjudicated in Eritrea. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the matter on Wednesday.

The court’s decision could have a far-reaching impact on Canadian corporations operating abroad.

“The Supreme Court of Canada will be asked to rule on whether in fact it is possible in our legal system to hold a corporate citizen of Canada to account for decisions made in Canada, by a Canadian corporation, in how it will engage in business in Eritrea,” said law professor Audrey Macklin, counsel for the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program, which has intervener status in the Supreme Court matter.

Mass exodus

In recent years, there has been a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of people from Eritrea, a small country of six million in the Horn of Africa. They have fled in part because of the country’s controversial national service program, which the United Nations and human rights groups have charged involves lengthy military conscription and forced labour.

“Eritrea is a human rights pariah and the use of indeterminate conscription and forced labour has been widely reported,” said Macklin. “The question would be what kind of due diligence did Nevsun do prior to its foray into Eritrea?”

Nevsun is partners with the government of Eritrea through the Bisha Mining Share Company (BMSC). The mine is 40 per cent owned by the Eritrean National Mining Corporation (ENAMCO).

The Bisha mine opened in 2011 and has produced hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of gold, copper and zinc. For years, the mine was the only major source of revenue for the regime of President Isaias Afwerki.

But back in 2009, Nevsun was seeking financing during the construction phase of the mine when the issue of forced labour in Eritrea was raised by potential lenders.

One email filed in court, dated March 4, 2009, and written by then Nevsun CEO Cliff Davis, is headlined “Private and Confidential due to Sensitivity.”

Workers and visitors walk within the processing plant at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea on Feb. 18, 2016. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

Davis writes that the lenders “have placed another obstacle in the road to finance. They assert that the country practises involuntary labour (forced labour) and before they can lend to the project, BMSC must demonstrate that the Bisha mine will not be a benefactor in any way of such labour, either directly or via any of its contractors.”

In the same email, Davis notes “we understand there are currently some National Service people working for a key contractor working at site” and that “we are in the process of determining whether the terms of employment would constitute forced labour.” Davis suggests BMSC could hire the workers directly or offer them contracts “where they could leave on their own free will.”

But Davis goes on to say “None of these solutions are palatable to the Eritreans because: 1. another Westerner telling the Eritreans how to run their country; 2. potential disruption to the national development campaign. Politically a very sensitive topic.”

‘Permeates the whole region’

As part of its due diligence, according to the documents filed in court, Nevsun and the lenders brought in U.S. social development expert Kerry Connor to review the operation. Connor is based in Washington, D.C., and has done risk reviews for mining operations around the world.

In a March 25, 2009, email from Connor to then Nevsun vice-president Trevor Moss, she refers to a conversation she had with Stan Rogers, the manager of the mine at the time.

“Just spoke with Stan,” she writes. “He recognizes it’s forced labour and says it permeates the whole country with nearly everyone in some way associated with the “program.”

“Also says no one understands the scope of the issue viz a viz project employment of program people — so we need to concentrate on this before we can determine what can be done.”

Connor later concluded in an April 2009 report, also part of the court filing, that “the project is at risk for contravention of the prohibition on the use of forced labour, as represented by the use of NS workers.”

A truck arrives to ferry excavated gold, copper and zinc ore from the main mining pit at the Bisha Mining Share Company on Feb. 17, 2016. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

The workers in question were provided by an Eritrean state-owned subcontractor called Segen.

Connor also reported that “Segen, the only project sub-contractor, indicates that its project workforce is composed primarily of longtime Segen employees, complemented by some expatriates with special skills, and that no NS workers have been employed on the project.  A rapid assessment by BMSC social staff, however, found evidence of approximately 23 NS workers employed by Segen at various times on the project.”

“[Nevsun] were not avoiding it. They were very much aware of it,” Connor said in a recent interview. “They were somewhat aware of it in the beginning and the initial question was: ‘Well, is it even possible to employ a contractor who isn’t government?’ ”

‘No corroborating claims’

While the company documents filed in court would suggest Nevsun had been informed of possible forced labour at their mine site in 2009, company officials have not disclosed this information in the past.

In a 2016 documentary about the Bisha mine by The Fifth Estate, host Mark Kelley asked Todd Romaine, then Nevsun’s vice-president of corporate social responsibility: “You don’t believe there was any conscripted labour that was ever used in the development or operation of your mine?”

“We’ve done extensive investigations to date inside Eritrea and at the Bisha mine,” Romaine said. “There’s no corroborating claims to support any of the allegations being made.”

Todd Romaine, who was vice-president of corporate social responsibility at Nevsun Resources in 2016, told The Fifth Estate at the time that the company had done extensive investigations in Eritrea and at its Bisha mine. (CBC)

Romaine, who is no longer an official at the company since China’s Zijin Mining Group made a successful bid for it in December, declined to comment for this story.

In 2012, testifying in front of the parliamentary subcommittee on international human rights in Ottawa, Davis, then the company’s CEO, was asked by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler: “So you are not aware yourself of any human rights violations in Eritrea?”

Davis responded: “I’m certainly not directly aware at all. All I have is the same access that you have with respect to the internet, and postings on the internet, and articles.”

When Cotler asked again: “So you have received no reports of any human rights violations while you have been in Eritrea?” Davis replied: “No.”

Now retired from Nevsun, Davis did not return calls for comment.

Longstanding skepticism

The Eritrean plaintiffs have made an application to the B.C. Supreme Court to join Davis personally as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Davis’s lawyer, Stephen Schachter, said “the matter is before the court and Mr. Davis will simply advise you that that’s the case. He’s not going to be commenting on a matter before the court.”

In 2013, Human Rights Watch published a report on alleged human rights violations at the Bisha mine.

In a meeting with Human Rights Watch, “Nevsun did not acknowledge that Segen had used conscript labourers at Bisha, but neither did it rule out the possibility,” the report said.

In a January 2013 media release, Nevsun said that the company “expresses regret if certain employees of Segen were conscripts four years ago, in the early part of the Bisha Mine’s construction phase.”

But Human Rights Watch has always been skeptical of Nevsun’s position.

“It defies belief that Nevsun did not know that a state contractor would be using national service labour,” Felix Horne, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a recent interview.

“The Nevsun experience is an important lesson for the other international mining companies that are operating in Eritrea, that unless proper procedures are put in place from the beginning, you will likely be using national service labour for the development of your mine.”

More investigation

Nevsun has maintained that it screens for military conscripts — requiring proof that their workers are no longer in the national service program.

In response to concerns raised by the United Nations, Nevsun also conducted further investigation by another social responsibility expert.

“I am very confident that there’s no forced labour, there’s no national service used either in the direct workforce or in the Eritrean contractors that provide labour or transportation or security guards to the Bisha mine,” Montreal human rights lawyer Lloyd Lipsett told The Fifth Estate in 2016.

But according to the company documents filed in court last November, forced labour at its mine site was not the only possible human rights violation Nevsun executives became aware of early on. Eritrean officials were also arresting workers off their mine site without clear cause.

In a June 28, 2010, email under the subject line “Staff Arrests,” mine manager Stan Rogers writes to Davis: “Cliff, I think that brings the number to seven or eight!! We of course have no idea why they have been taken away.” Rogers signs off on the email: “Great Country…:-)”

A general view shows the sag mill and ball mill within the processing plant at the Bisha Mining Share Company. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

An Aug. 5, 2010, memorandum from a company executive to Nevsun’s audit committee reviewed “allegations of fraud” that the Eritreans apparently provided as the reason for the arrests.

“Over the past three months, five BMSC staff have been arrested by Eritrean authorities,” the memo said. “According to BMSC senior management, the Eritrean state has alleged the employees were involved in various frauds including the theft of food and fuel inventories and kickbacks on purchasing.”

But the memo goes on to report that it “should be emphasized that no evidence of fraud has been uncovered by BMSC management or received from the Eritrean state. However, ENAMCO personnel have confirmed to BMSC management that the employees have confessed to having a role in the frauds.”

At the time of publication, Nevsun had not officially responded to a request for comment.

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/amp/1.4980530

Acknowledgement of 8 students who collaborated with CPIJ Co-Researcher François Larocque

By | News, Student News

We would like to acknowledge the following students who have collaborated with Professor François Larocque at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Common Law Section in his research under the aegis of the CPIJ.

ANNIKA WEIKINNIS

Annika Weikinnis is currently pursuing a Master’s in Law at Ottawa University. Her research focuses on international criminal law, particularly on transnational corporate responsibility for international crimes. She holds a master’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Aberdeen, and a Master’s in Law and International Security Policies from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

BAHATI MUJINYA

Bahati Mujinya is a doctoral student in Law at the University of Ottawa and the Francophone Co-President of the University’s Law Alumni Association since September 2018. His research focuses on international criminal justice, child soldiers, their right to reparation, and the fight against transnational criminality in the African context. He holds a master’s degree in Law from the University of Ottawa and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

LILIANE LANGEVIN

Liliane Langevin is a candidate for a combined J.D. and  M.A. (International Affairs) from the University of Ottawa and the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. Liliane holds a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management (Hons.) from Carleton University. Through these interdisciplinary programs, Liliane has developed an interest in international governance, and its intersection with domestic legal obligations and policy considerations, such as Canada’s engagement with the International Criminal Court.  She has previously worked as a policy analyst at Global Affairs Canada.  Liliane hopes to article with the Department of Justice and pursue a career as a lawyer in the foreign service.

LILIANE STÉPHANIE KOAGNE MOGUEM

Liliane Stéphanie Koagne Moguem holds a J.D. from the French common law program within the University of Ottawa’s Common Law Section. She also holds a D.E.A. in civil law and international public law from the University of Yaoundé II in Cameroon. She is currently candidate for the Ontario Bar Law Practice Program. As a member of the research group Transnational Anticorruption Watch, she is interested in judicial mechanisms established by various international instruments to which Canada is party to fight against money laundering.

MICHELLE SAHOU

Michelle Sahou holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from University of Montreal and graduated of the Canadian Law Program (LL.L. and J.D.) from the Law Faculty of the University of Ottawa. Currently candidate for the Ontario Bar Licensing Process, Michelle Sahou is collaborator to the Transnational Anti-Corruption Watch research group. Her research in this group focuses on civil reparation for victims of money laundering in France. She aspires to work in the fields of banking law, business law and fiscal law.

SAGE-FIDÈLE GAYALA NGANGU

Sage-Fidèle Gayala Ngangu graduated of the Canadian Law Program (LL.L. and J.D.) from the Law Faculty of the University of Ottawa. He also graduated in philosophy from the Catholic University of the Congo. Former investigative reporter and former member of the Global Investigative Jounalism Network and the Forum for African Investigative reporters Board of Directors, Sage-Fidèle Gayala has always had cross-borders crimes in the heart of his reflections and research.

SARAH LAGG

Sarah Lagg graduated of the dual Juris Doctor and Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Ottawa in 2018. She holds a degree in Biochemistry from Concordia University in Montreal. During her time at law school, she participated in the international Charles-Rousseau moot competition in international law held in Benin, Africa. She also worked for the University of Ottawa Community Legal Clinic where she was a Division Leader for the Community and Legal Education Outreach Division. She is currently articling at Caza Saikaley srl/LLP, a bilingual boutique litigation firm in Ottawa.

STANISLAS MULABI BALAMBULA

Stanislas Mulabi Balambula is currently completing a joint honours B.Sc.Soc in Economical Science and Political Science at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Social Science (Department of Economics). He is notably interested in the economic and social dimension of money laundering through the real estate market.

A Canadian First: François Larocque is Awarded the Canadian Francophonie Research Chair in Language Rights

By | News, Press Releases | No Comments

June 2018– On 19 June 2018, the Canadian Partnership for International Justice (CPIJ) co-researcher François Larocque was awarded the Canadian Francophonie Research Chair in Language Rights at the University of Ottawa. It is “the very first time, at the national level, that a law faculty receives a research chair on the Canadian Francophonie”, Professor Larocque explains. “Up until now, no research chair on linguistic rights and cultural communities’ legal protection existed.”

This award is a well-deserved recognition of the Professor Larocque’s obvious leadership in his field. Dedicated researcher and eloquent lawyer, he has been defending Francophones’ rights for the past 10 years, and has significantly contributed to the advancement of linguistic rights of Francophones living in minority communities in Ontario and in Canada. Professor Larocque will take advantage of his new situation to advance the state of knowledge on linguistic rights and make a tangible contribution to the development of legal norms pertaining to language in Canada. He plans to focus on legal protection of linguistic minority communities and their institutions, particularly in relation to the adoption and interpretation of constitutional laws, legislative material and case-law principles. His research will primarily focus on linguistic rights of Francophones, but will also include Aboriginal languages.

Professor Larocque’s 5-year appointment will begin on July 1st, 2018.

Members of the Partnership will intervene as Amici Curiae before the International Criminal Court concerning the Rohingya situation

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May 31, 2018– Members of the Canadian Partnership for International Justice (CPIJ) were granted leave by Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to submit observations as Amici Curiae on important legal issues with respect to the situation of the Rohingyas in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Context

On 9 April 2018, the ICC Prosecutor submitted a request for a ruling under Article 19(3) on whether the Court may exercise jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The complexity of the jurisdictional issues arise from the fact that the Rohingya are being deported from the territory of a State which is not a party to the ICC Statute (Myanmar) directly into the territory of a State which is a party to the Statute (Bangladesh). Given that it is the first time that the Prosecutor submits such a request based on Article 19(3), Pre-Trial Chamber I will be considering a number of novel and important legal issues.

Members of CPIJ submitted a request for leave to intervene as Amici Curiae on 25 May 2018. The Chamber granted leave on 29 May 2018 pursuant to Rule 103 of the ICC Rules of Procedure and Evidence. In the decision, the Chamber recognised CPIJ and its members’ extensive experience in the field of international criminal law, human rights law, refugee law, migration and humanitarian law, as well as in intervening as Amici Curiae before both domestic and international courts. It took the view that the proposed submissions are “desirable for the proper determination of the Prosecutor’s Request”.

Issues at stake

The Partnership’s members acting as Amici Curiae will support the Prosecution’s position with complementary legal observations and will assist the Chamber in the determination of issues that have never been fully litigated before the ICC. In particular, the members of CPIJ will address the three following issues:

  1. Whether Article 19(3) of the Rome Statute allows the Office of the Prosecutor to request a ruling on jurisdiction;
  2. The scope of territorial jurisdiction under Article 12(2); and
  3. The nature and definition of the crime of deportation under Article 7(1)(d).

The Amici Curiae observations will be submitted before 18 June 2018 by 17 members of the Partnership, namely: Jennifer Bond, Robert J. Currie, Amanda Ghahremani, Julia Grignon, Mark Kersten, Fannie Lafontaine, François Larocque, Frédéric Mégret, Valerie Oosterveld, Frederick John Packer, Pascal Paradis, Darryl Robinson, Penelope Simons, Érick Sullivan, Alain-Guy Tachou Sipowo, Mirja Trilsch and Jo-Anne Wemmers.