Cuban Blogger Obtains Cuban Passport and Plans Trip to Latin America, North America and Europe

YoaniSanchez

From her home in Havana, Cuba, Yoani Sanchez has been courageously blogging her critical comments on many aspects of life in her country as noted in a prior post.

In January 2013, under Cuban’s new law granting Cubans increased ability to obtain passports, she received her Cuban passport. She was overjoyed by this development after she had been denied a passport 20 times over the last five years.

Upon receiving the great news that she would obtain a passport, she bravely said in her blog:

  • She intends to “continue ‘pushing the limits’ of reform, to experience first hand how far the willingness to change really goes. To transcend national frontiers I will make no concessions. If the Yoani Sánchez that I am cannot travel, I am not going to metamorphose myself into someone else to do it. Nor, once abroad, will I disguise my opinions so they will let me ‘leave again’ or to please certain ears, nor will I take refuge in silence about that for which they can refuse to let me return. I will say what I think of my country and of the absence of freedoms we Cubans suffer. No passport will function as a gag for me, no trip as bait.”
  • “These particulars clarified, I am preparing the itinerary for my stay outside of Cuba. I hope to be able to participate in numerous events that will help me grow professionally and civically, to answer questions, to clarify details of the smear campaigns that have been launched against me… and in my absence. I will visit those places that once invited me, when the will of a few wouldn’t let me come; I will navigate the Internet like one obsessed, and once again climb mountains I haven’t seen for nearly ten years. But what I am most passionate about is that I am going to meet many of you, my readers. I have the first symptoms of this anxiety; the butterflies in my stomach provoked by the proximity of the unknown, and the waking up in the middle of the night asking myself, what will you look like, sound like? And me? Will I be as you imagine me?”

On February 17th she plans a worldwide tour visiting Latin American (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico), North America (U.S. and Canada) and Europe (Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Switzerland and Germany).

I pray that there will not be any last minute move by the Cuban government to block her leaving the island. I look forward to her comments on Cuba during her visits to these countries.

Yoani, congratulations and God Speed on your journey!

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Decides Guantanamo Bay Detainee’s Case Against U.S. Is Admissible on the Merits

On March 30, 2012, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“IACHR” or “Commission”) decided that a case against the U.S. was admissible for determination on the merits.

The case was brought by Djamel Ameziane, who left his home country of Algeria in the early 1990s to avoid a bloody civil war. Thereafter he lived in Austria and Canada for many years until Canada denied his asylum  application. Fearing deportation to Algeria, he fled to Afghanistan just before the U.S. invasion in October 2001. Like many others, he then went to Pakistan to escape the war. There he was picked up and sold to U.S. forces for a bounty. In early 2002 Ameziane was transferred to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he has been held ever since without any charges being filed against him. Documents about his hearings at Guantanamo Bay are available on the web.)

In February 2005 he filed a habeas corpus petition with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. There were some preliminary pre-trial and appellate skirmishes, but the case has been stayed or postponed indefinitely by court order.

Thus being left without an effective remedy in U.S. federal court, Ameziane on August 6, 2008, filed with the IACHR a petition and a request for precautionary measures (akin to a preliminary injunction) against the U.S.

Two weeks later, the Commission issued its Urgent Precautionary Measures that required the U.S. immediately to do the following:1.

  1. “[T]ake all measures necessary to ensure that . . . Ameziane is not subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or torture during the course of interrogations or at any other time, including but not limited to all corporal punishment and punishment that may be prejudicial to [his] physical or mental health;
  2. [T]ake all measures necessary to ensure that . . . Ameziane receives prompt and effective medical attention for physical and psychological ailments and that such medical attention is not made contingent upon any condition;
  3.  [T]ake all measures necessary to ensure that, prior to any potential transfer or release, . . .    Ameziane is provided an adequate, individualized examination of his circumstances through a fair and transparent process before a competent, independent and impartial decision maker; and
  4.  [T]ake all measures necessary to ensure that . . . Ameziane is not transferred or removed to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture or other mistreatment, and that diplomatic assurances are not being used to circumvent the United States’ non-refoulement obligations.”

In October 2010 the Commission held a hearing in the case. Evidence was provided about Ameziane’s lack of effective remedies in U.S. courts, his continuing need to be protected from forcible transfer to Algeria and his plea for resettlement in a safe third country.

Eighteen months later the Commission issued its previously mentioned decision that the case was admissible for proceedings on the merits. Thereafter Ameziane’s attorneys immediately renewed their request that the IACHR facilitate a dialogue between the U.S. and other countries belonging to the Organization of American States toward the safe resettlement of men such as Ameziane, as indefinite detention at Guantánamo will not end unless the international community offers safe homes for the men who cannot return to their countries of nationality for fear of torture or persecution. The attorneys also asked the U.S. Government to direct the U.S. Department of Defense to certify Ameziane for transfer, or, if necessary, authorize a “national security waiver” of the transfer restrictions for him. (Under the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2012, he needs a certification or waiver before he can be released.)

Now we wait to see what happens in this case.

Ameziane’s attorneys are from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

International Criminal Court: Four People Recommended for Election as ICC Prosecutor

On October 25th the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that the Search Committee for a new Prosecutor for the Court had recommended four individuals for this position.[1]

The four individuals are:

  • Fatou B. Bensonda. From Gambia, she has served as ICC Deputy Prosecutor since November 2004. Previously she held high-level positions as legal advisor and attorney for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the government of Gambia.
  • Andrew T. Cayley. From the United Kingdom, he is currently a prosecutor for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Previously he was a senior prosecuting counsel for the ICC, defense counsel for the Special Court for Serra Leone (SCSL) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), prosecuting counsel for the ICTY and an attorney with the British Army.
  • Mohamed Chande Othman. From Tanzania, he is currently Chief Justice of Tanzania. Previously he was Justice on the country’s Court of Appeal and held high-legal positions with the U.N. Development Program for Cambodia, the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), the ICTR and the High-Level Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon.
  • Robert Petit. From Canada, he is currently Counsel to the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Sections of Canada’s Department of Justice. Previously he served in high-legal legal positions with the ECCC, SCSL, UNTAET, ICTR and the Canadian Department of Justice.

Now the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties will endeavor to nominate and elect by consensus one of these people as the new ICC Prosecutor. That will happen at the Assembly’s meeting in December 2011.


[1] ICC Press Release, Report of the Search Committee for Prosecutor (Oct. 25, 2011). See Post: International Criminal Court: Its Upcoming Prosecutor Election (June 25, 2011).

 

 

The Personal Jurisdiction Requirement for Civil Lawsuits in U.S. Courts

A certain connection between a defendant and the geographical jurisdiction of a court is necessary in order for a civil lawsuit to proceed in the U.S.

This connection exists, for instance, if an individual defendant is served with a summons and complaint while he is in the geographical jurisdiction of the court or if the defendant waives the defense of lack of personal jurisdiction. Similarly there is clearly personal jurisdiction when an individual defendant is a resident of the geographical jurisdiction of the court or a defendant corporation or other business entity was organized under the laws of that jurisdiction or is “doing business” there.

U.S. Supreme Court Building

In addition, there is personal jurisdiction if the defendant has sufficient “minimum contacts” with the forum state, such that summoning the defendant to the forum state would not offend “‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.’ ” This is the U.S. Supreme Court’s articulation of the requirement under the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court also has said that a defendant’s “minimum contacts” with the forum must be more than “random,” “fortuitous,” or “attenuated.” Sufficient contacts exist when “the defendant’s conduct and connection with the forum . . . are such that he should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.” In assessing the defendant’s reasonable anticipation, there must be “ ‘some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum . . ., thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.’ ”[1]

This test is the same whether the defendant is from another state in the U.S. or from a foreign country. However, as the United States Supreme Court has stated, “ ‘Great care and reserve should be exercised when extending our notions of personal jurisdiction into the international field.’ ”[2]

Thus, any defense lawyer in a civil case immediately must determine whether personal jurisdiction obviously is established or whether there is a legitimate basis to challenge this requirement by asserting the defense in the answer to the complaint or by moving to dismiss the case before anything else happens.[3]

As a civil litigator, I encountered this issue all the time in my practice. In two cases for foreign clients I obtained dismissal of the complaint for lack of such jurisdiction at the start of the cases.

Fraser Bridge, Delta, B.C., Canada

In one case, my client was a Canadian corporation from Delta, British Columbia that was a subcontractor to a company from the State of Washington that had an agreement with a Twin Cities FM-radio station to provide certain electronic equipment for the station. The equipment was manufactured by the Canadian company and sold to the Washington company that in turn sold it to the radio station. The equipment allegedly did not work properly so the station sued the Canadian company in a Minnesota state court. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, and the appellate court affirmed. The latter emphasized that the Canadian company never had an office, owned property or filed tax returns in Minnesota, had never had a mailing address or telephone number in this State, and did not negotiate any agreement with the radio station. While the Canadian company, upon request, shipped the equipment directly to the station in Minnesota and later sent a technician to the state to attempt to fix the equipment, hand delivered a part for the equipment to the station and mailed certain drawings of the equipment directly to the station for use by its consultant, these contacts were insufficient to justify jurisdiction.[4]

Singapore skyline

In the other case, my clients were parent and subsidiary companies from Singapore. Again the trial court (Post: Minnesota’s Federal Court (June 28, 2011) dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction, and the appellate court affirmed. The latter court noted that the Singapore subsidiary had sent numerous letters and faxes and made several telephone calls to Minnesota in connection with the contract and that the contract contained a Minnesota choice-of-law provision. In addition, the Singapore subsidiary sent four samples of the product in question to Minnesota. These, however, the court held to be insufficient to justify personal jurisdiction.[5]

The appellate court in this second case concluded by saying that the negotiations, meetings, production, and delivery were all centered in Singapore. The contacts with Minnesota appeared at best as inconsequential rather than substantial under these circumstances. The Singapore subsidiary did not create a substantial connection between itself and Minnesota, it merely engaged in negotiations with a purchaser who happened to reside in Minnesota. Given the nature and quality of the Singapore subsidiary’s  contacts with Minnesota, traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice indicated that it would not expect to litigate in the State of Minnesota.[6]

The personal jurisdiction issue is part of the regular tool kit of the trial lawyer and litigator. Yet it is built on the constitutional bedrock of fair play.


[3] E.g., Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 (c ), 12(b)(2).

[4]  KSTP-FM, LLC v. Adtronics Signs, Ltd., 602 N.W.2d 919 (Minn. Ct. App. 1999).

[5] Digi-Tel Holdings, Inc. v. Proteq Communications, Inc., 89 F.3d 519 (8th Cir. 1996).

[6]  Id.

My First Ten Years of Retirement

It is hard to believe that the 10th anniversary of my retirement from the practice of law is nearly here. I have no regrets. I made the correct decision. Here is my own grading of how I have met my retirement goals that I set 10 years ago.[1]

Being a good Grandfather. I now have four grandchildren, two in Minnesota and two in Ecuador. My wife and I obviously spend more time with the Minnesota kids, and our Ecuadorian grandson spent last Fall in Minnesota going to school with his cousins. We also frequently have traveled to Ecuador to see our family there although we have decided not to spend significant amounts of time there. I recently took my 10-year old Minnesota grandson to visit two federal judges and some friends at my former law firm and to observe parts of a trial and a court hearing.[2] I leave it to the grandkids to judge me on this goal, but I think I have done a pretty good job. I know I enjoy being a grandfather.

Being a good Father and Husband. I also have been making an effort to be a good father and husband. I am still working at it.

Learning Spanish. I have not taken the time to improve my very limited Spanish ability. I still wish that I were fluent in that language, but do not see myself taking the time to do this. Sorry.

Law Teaching. I had a goal of teaching law in Ecuador. I was interviewed by a university in Quito about teaching law in the English language, but I was not offered a position. My son who lives there went to the interview with me in case I needed an interpreter, and afterwards he said he thought that my positive comments about liberation theology may not have been appreciated by the university officials. In retrospect, I am not unhappy with this result. I would have had to work very hard to organize and teach one or more courses in this foreign country.

Moreover, this development opened the door for my having the opportunity to co-teach one course (international human rights law) at the University of Minnesota Law School for nine years (2002-10). This built on my experience as a federal court litigator and as a pro bono asylum lawyer. It also allowed me to work with, and become friends of, other professors at the Law School and many U.S. and foreign students. One of the foreign students was a Hubert Humphrey Fellow from Brazil who was a Professor of Law and Criminology at the Catholic university in Rio de Janeiro, and at her subsequent invitation, I presented a paper on the Truth Commission for El Salvador at a conference in Rio in 2009. In addition, through my work at the University of Minnesota I developed a strong interest in, and some expertise about, the International Criminal Court, and I have made many presentations about the ICC and have served as the Provisional Organizer for the Minnesota Alliance for the ICC.[3]

I recently decided that I would retire from this teaching job even though I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted to have more time for writing as discussed below.

Human rights legal work. Without the support of a law firm, including its professional liability insurance, I decided I was not able to do pro bono legal work in retirement. But as mentioned above, I have been able to teach human rights and learn more about the subject myself. I also have developed an interest in the ICC and found a way to make use of that interest.

News “distributor.” Although not one of my goals from 2001, I have developed a practice in retirement of regularly reading many news sources online (New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post (Politics page), Wall Street Journal, Guardian (from the U.K.) and Granma (English translation of Cuba’s major national newspaper) and occasionally others (New York Review of Books, Atlantic and Harpers). After doing this for a while, I started sending by email interesting articles on human rights, the ICC, immigration, Cuba and Africa to friends who were interested in these subjects.

Arbitrator. Another retirement activity I had not anticipated in 2001 was being an arbitrator. But I have done so for disputes between investors and financial firms through the Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (FINRA; f/k/a National Association of Securities Dealers), usually as chair of a panel of three arbitrators, and I have enjoyed this challenge. I try to act like the arbitrators and judges I respected in my practice: fair, impartial, respectful of the law, organized, decisive and clear (unlike some of the judges on the TV show “The Good Wife”).

Recently, however, I decided that I no longer wanted to spend my time working on other people’s problems and will not take any more cases. Sounds like my 2001 decision to retire from practicing law.

Obituary writer. Yet another surprising development over the last half-year has been being an obituary writer. As a member of my Grinnell College class’ 50th reunion committee, I have been responsible for writing or commissioning obituaries for our 53 deceased classmates. This used my factual research and writing skills from lawyering. I also came to see this activity in some cases as one of pastoral care for the families of the departed.

International travel. In addition to many trips to Ecuador and my trip to Brazil, my wife and I have been on many other fascinating international trips in the last 10 years. They include an Elder Hostel trip about Mozart to the Czech Republic and Austria, Turkey, Spain, England and Scotland, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Canada, Mexico, El Salvador and Peru plus my church mission trips to Cuba and Cameroon. These were great, educational experiences.  I was really glad that I was in good health to be able to take these trips. I also have been able to chair a committee that supervises the global partnerships of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Historical research and writing. I wanted to conclude my research about Joseph Welch and Edward Burling and write articles about them. I have done so, as was mentioned in a prior post.[4] I will share some of the key points of that research in future posts. On the other hand, I have not yet been able to do additional research on two of my ancestors, but it is still a goal.

Personal journal and memoirs. I have not been able to make much progress on the goal of writing a personal journal and memoirs. I was hung up on the issue of how do I organize or structure such a writing project. Recently, however, I started this blog and have found it a great way to do the writing that I wanted to do. I do not have to worry about how I might organize all of these thoughts. It is really exciting to be able to write this blog.

Physical exercise. I have been more diligent in my personal exercise program although I should be doing more.

Financial planning and management. With the assistance of an able investment professional, I have developed appropriate methods for financial planning and management for retirement. Like nearly everyone else, we suffered financially in the recent deep recession, but we have made progress since then. I know that I am fortunate when I read articles about the many people who have not saved enough for retirement or who lost their pensions or retirement savings in the recent deep recession or through collapse of their former employers or financial fraud or who struggle to survive with investments in bank CD’s or federal securities that now pay virtually nothing in interest.

In short, I am happy with my efforts to meet my retirement goals over the last 10 years. Now I need to continue my pursuit of these now modified goals during the next phase of my life.


[1] Post: Retiring from Lawyering (4/22/11).

[2] This trip to the federal courthouse and my former law firm was inspired, in part, by recent comments of Mary Robinson, the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Post: Tip for Grandparents (4/11/11).

[3] The Minnesota Alliance is part of the American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court or AMICC, http://www.amicc.org.

[4] Post: Adventures of a History Detective (4/5/11).