In Passing: Justice Amos Twinomujuni

Friday, November 15 marked the passing of Justice Amos Twinomujuni of the Ugandan Supreme Court.  Judge Twinomujuni was appointed to the Supreme Court in June of this year, but was unable to serve due to health issues.  Prior to this appointment, Twinomujuni was a justice on the Court of Appeals of Uganda, which also convenes as the Constitutional Court.

Twinomujuni was well known for his Constitutional Court opinions and dissents, many of which were very progressive on women’s rights and other human rights issues.  In 2004, Twinomujuni wrote the opinion of the Constitutional Court finding that sex discriminatory provisions of the Divorce Act violated the rights of both men and women, in contravention of Uganda’s constitution.   In 2010, he notably dissented from the Constitutional Court’s refusal to find the practice of demanding payment of bride price unconstitutional, arguing that, “the practice no longer serves any useful purpose in society.  It has now become purely commercialized and highly exploitative and humiliating to women.”  Twinomujuni instead supported the emergence of practice of a marriage payment that “is voluntary…is not demanded…does not humiliate the bride and…is never refunded when the marriage breaks down.”   Twinomujuni has also authored opinions upholding the guarantees associated with the right to a fair trial, declaring the custom of female genital mutilation unconstitutional, and protecting freedom of speech while delineating the limited circumstances under which the government may limit a fundamental constitutional right.

His presence on the court will certainly be missed.

Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin: In Passing

ImageSadly, Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin has died. She was a tremendously influential figure in international environmental law, through her work on international agreements, her many years as Head of the IUCN Environmental Law Centre, and her contributions to capacity building in this field. From the IUCN tribute:

Françoise was instrumental in drafting and elaborating a number of international conventions, agreements and instruments, such as the African Convention for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora –CITES; the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals; the World Charter for Nature; the ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Her real passion was the development of technical capacities through access to information on environmental law and policy. That is why already in the 1970s, she initiated the Environmental Law Information System (ELIS), presented at the Stockholm Conference, which over the years evolved into the far more sophisticated online information system ECOLEX, the Gateway to Environmental Law.

In passing: Christopher Keith Hall

Christopher Keith Hall

Christopher Keith Hall
Photograph: Amnesty International

It is with sadness that I report that Christopher Keith Hall, a much admired and highly effective advocate for international justice, passed away on 27 May after a long illness.

Over the last 20 years or so, Christopher – a Senior Legal Adviser at Amnesty International – made a remarkable contribution to the development of international justice mechanisms aimed at ending impunity for the most serious crimes under international law.  A brilliant human rights lawyer, Christopher is widely recognized for his contribution to the drafting of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, For example, his five volume series of legal papers for Amnesty International, The International Criminal Court: Making the Right Choices, were widely read and used by government delegates and civil society during the negotiations and helped shape a number of the positive outcomes evident in the Statute.

Once the Statute had been adopted, Christopher switched focus to ensuring that states ratified and implemented the Statute. He established Amnesty International’s International Justice Project and launched a global campaign, which, under his leadership, significantly contributed to more than 50 successful national ratification campaigns in partnership with national and international civil society partners.

Convinced that complementarity – the principle that national authorities have the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law and ensure full reparation for victims – was the biggest prize achievable under the Rome Statute system and that poor legislation in most countries was a major cause of impunity, Christopher developed Amnesty International’s Checklist for effective implementation of the Rome Statute and oversaw technical advice and comments that improved draft legislation in scores of countries.

Christopher was also a highly respected and published commentator on the ICC’s work in its first decade. He consistently maintained that the ICC can do much more for victims, advocating in particular for the ICC to embrace more ambitious investigations, be even handed in its pursuit of justice, ensure that gender-based crimes were not ignored, and push harder for states to fulfil their complementarity obligations.

His vision for international justice though went far beyond the International Criminal Court. Driven by his involvement in the Pinochet case, he led Amnesty International’s calls for more states to accept shared responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law by exercising universal jurisdiction and developing better systems of mutual legal assistance. He often pointed out that countries have adopted much better systems for tackling piracy than for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture.

Continue reading