Issues of Cuban Human Rights To Be Discussed by Cuba and United States (Part II)

On March 26 Cuba announced that the U.S. and Cuba will commence their negotiations regarding human rights on March 31 in Washington, D.C.; this was covered in a prior post.

Issues of Cuban human rights that probably will be put on the agenda for further discussions were first examined in a prior post about the recent speech on this subject by Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla.

In Cuba’s March 26th announcement of the upcoming talks, Pedro Luis Pedroso, Cuba’s Deputy Director General of Multilateral Affairs and International Law, referred to “the recognition Cuba received at the last Universal Periodic Review [UPR] by the U.N. Human Rights Council, where the international community praised and commended Cuban achievements in areas such as education, health and access to cultural rights, and the contribution the island has made in those same areas in other countries.”

Therefore, this post will look at that UPR of Cuba while another post will discuss the latest U.S. State Department report on Cuban human rights (the one issued in 2014 for 2013).

The Nature of the UPR Process [1]

In order to assess the recent UPR of Cuba, we first must understand the UPR process, which provides the opportunity for each of the 193 U.N. members, on a periodic basis, to declare what actions it has taken to improve its human rights and to fulfill its human rights obligations.

The UPR process includes a report on all human rights issues from the subject country, compilations of information about the country from various U.N. organizations and from “stakeholders” (non-governmental organizations), a public interactive session of the Human Rights Council about the country, a report by a working group about the proceedings that includes conclusions and recommendations, the subject country’s responses to those conclusions and recommendations and a subsequent evaluation of the UPR by the Council.

It is exceedingly important, however, to know that these conclusions and recommendations are merely a systematic compilation or listing of all those that had been offered by all of the countries participating in the UPR. Hence, there is a lot of duplication and overlapping in this part of the report, which is not similar to an independent judicial body’s reaching certain findings and conclusions based upon an evaluation of often conflicting evidence. Indeed, the Working Group’s report expressly states that the conclusions and recommendations “should not be construed as endorsed by the Working Group as a whole.” In short, there is no overall “grade” of a country’s human rights performance by the Working Group or by the Council as a whole.

Most Recent UPR of Cuba [2]

The most recent UPR of Cuba occurred in 2013.

1. The Report of  the Working Group.

The key document in figuring out what happened in this UPR is the “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review—Cuba” that was issued on July 8, 2013. It has the following standard structure, after a brief Introduction:

I. Summary of the proceedings of the review process

A. Presentation by the State under review

B. Interactive dialogue and response by the State under review

II. Conclusions and Recommendations

The “interactive dialogue.” This section of this report states that there was such a dialogue about Cuba involving 132 delegations at the session on May 1, 2013, and sets forth a brief summary of that dialogue in 144 numbered paragraphs. One example is paragraph 31, which states, “ Nicaragua highlighted the commitment of Cuba to human rights despite the blockade, and condemned the [U.S.] convictions against five Cubans.”

The only reference to U.S. comments in this dialogue is in paragraph 77, which states the U.S. “raised concerns for impediments to multiparty elections and freedom of expression and referred to Alan Gross and Oswaldo Paya.” Cuba, according to paragraph 111, responded to this U.S. comment by saying that “freedom of the press was guaranteed in Cuba“ and by “reiterated[ing its] . . . willingness . . . to continue talks with the [U.S.] . . . on the situation of Mr. Gross and of other individuals who were held in detention in Cuba and in the [U.S.].” [3]

Conclusions and Recommendations. This section starts with the following statement: “The recommendations formulated [by all the countries participating] during the interactive dialogue and listed below will be examined by Cuba, which will provide responses in due time, but no later than the twenty-fourth session of the Human Rights Council in September 2013” (para. 170). This section of the Report is concluded by this statement: “All conclusions and/or recommendations contained in the present report reflect the position of the submitting State(s) and/or the State under review. They should not be construed as endorsed by the Working Group as a whole” (para. 171).

The actual conclusions and recommendations are summarized in 292 numbered subparagraphs of the Report. Those offered by the U.S. are for Cuba to “allow for independent investigations into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero” (para. 170.138) [4], to “release Alan Gross and imprisoned journalists such as Jose Antonio Torres immediately” (para. 170.187) [5] and to “eliminate or cease enforcing laws impeding freedom of expression” (para. 170.176).

2. Cuba’s Responses to the Recommendations.

In response to the U.S. recommendations and 20 others from other countries, Cuba said they “do not enjoy [its] support . . . on the grounds that they are politically biased and based on false premises; they derive from attempts to discredit Cuba by those who, with their hegemonic ambitions, refuse to accept the Cuban people’s diversity and right to self-determination. These proposals are inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation and respect demanded by the UPR process.” Moreover, said Cuba, they “are incompatible with constitutional principles and national legislation, and whose content is contrary to the spirit of cooperation and respect that should predominate at the UPR.” [6]

The other 20 numbered recommendations that were so summarily rejected by Cuba related to protecting human rights defenders, including journalists, against abusive criminal prosecutions, harassment and intimidation (Czech Republic, Austria, Australia, Germany, Hungary); release of all political prisoners (Czech Republic, Belgium, Slovenia, Poland), end indefinite extensions of preliminary criminal investigations (Belgium); improve freedom of expression (Romania, Estonia, Hungary, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, Canada); repeal laws relating to “pre-criminal social dangerousness” (Ireland); end repression, investigate acts of repudiation and protect targets of intimidation and violence (Netherlands); and end Internet censorship (Australia, Germany).

Cuba, however, did accept 230 of the recommendations while noting, “Many of these . . . have already been complied with, or are in the process of implementation , or are included among future national priorities.” Therefore, these items “will be implemented in accordance with our capabilities and in step with the evolution of the circumstances within which Cuba is pursuing its aim of complete social justice.”

The remaining 42 recommendations were “noted” by Cuba as matters to be examined with the understanding that its “process of ratifying an international instrument is very rigorous;” that is stands ready “to continue cooperating with . . . the UN System’s human rights machinery;” that it is “philosophically opposed to the death penalty: and wants to eliminate it when suitable conditions exist;” that it has an “extensive and effective” system for resolving human rights complaints; that its “system of criminal justice . . . ensures fair and impartial hearings and full guarantees to the accused;” Cuba is working at expanding internet access; and “the right to freedom of expression and assembly . . . [is] enshrined in the Constitution and . . . national legislation.”

3. Human Rights Council’s Evaluation of this UPR. As paragraph 170 of the Report of the Working Group provided, the Council was to review the UPR of Cuba at its session in September 2013 after Cuba had submitted its response to the conclusions and recommendations. That Cuban response was just summarized, and the Council on September 20, 2013, reviewed this UPR and approved, without a vote, a resolution “to adopt the outcome of the universal periodic review of Cuba, comprising the report thereon of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review . . ., the views of Cuba concerning the recommendations and/or conclusions made, and its voluntary commitments and replies presented before the adoption of the outcome by the plenary to questions or issues not sufficiently addressed during the interactive dialogue held in the Working Group.” [7]

Criticism of the Recent UPR of Cuba

It must also be noted that an observer has alleged that Cuba “corrupted and abused” this UPR process by prompting the submission of many “fraudulent” stakeholder NGOs; there was a total of 454 submissions regarding Cuba compared with the next highest, 48 on Canada. As a result, says this observer (UN Watch), “numerous statements of praise taint the UN’s official summary” of stakeholders’ submissions. UN Watch also alleges that the compilation of information from U.N. agencies was unfairly slanted in favor of Cuba. [8]

Another observer (International Service for Human Rights) reported that during the UPR of Cuba, 132 countries, at 51 seconds each, took the floor to ask questions and make recommendations. As a result, Cuba received 293 recommendations, the highest number that a State under review has ever received at the UPR, but 121 of them started with the verb ‘continue,’ thus requiring minimal action to be taken by Cuba. [9]

Conclusion

I do not know whether any of NGO stakeholders at this UPR were “fraudulent,” as alleged, but it does appear that Cuba “stacked” the process to minimize the time available to authentic critics of its human rights record and to maximize the time available to its supporters. It also appears as if Cuba rejected recommendations for improving many foundational human rights.

In any event, because the UPR process does not involve a truly independent fact-finder to assess the human rights record of Cuba or any other country in such a process, I reject the assertion by Cuba’s Deputy Director General of Multilateral Affairs and International Law, Pedro Luis Pedroso, that Cuba obtained a laudatory evaluation of its human rights record by the U.N. Human Rights Council. In short, I think this UPR is irrelevant to Cuba’s human rights issues.

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[1] Details about the UPR process are provided on the Council’s website. The process involves a “working group,” which is composed of all 47 members of the Council.

[2] All of the documents about the UPR of Cuba are available on the Council’s website, including the Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review—Cuba, dated July 8, 2013.

[3] As discussed in a prior post, Alan Gross was released from a Cuban prison on December 17, 2014, and returned to the U.S. as part of the U.S.-Cuba agreement to re-establish normal diplomatic relations.

[4] Paya was a Cuban political activist, a leader of the political opposition to the to the Cuban government. He was the founder and organizer of the Varela Project, which collected enough signatures to present to the government a request for changes in legislation. He was awarded the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Human Rights of the European Parliament in 2002. On July 12, 2012, Paya was killed in an automobile crash in Cuba under suspicious circumstances; Harold Cepero, a youth leader, was also killed in the crash. Many people believe they were murdered by government agents.

[5] Torres, a correspondent for the Cuban government newspaper, Granma, wrote an article about alleged mismanagement of a Santiago Cuba aqueduct project and of the installation of the Cuba-Venezuela fibre-optic cable. Afterwards he was charged and convicted of spying and sentenced to 14 years in prison and cancellation of his university degree in journalism.

[6] Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review—Cuba: Addendum: Views on conclusions and/or recommendation, voluntary commitments and replies presented by the State under review [Cuba] (Sept. 2013).

[7] Report of the Human Rights Council at its 24th session (Para. 24/114) (Jan. 27, 2014).

[8] UNWatch, Massive Fraud: The Corruption of the 2013 UPR of Cuba.

[9] Int’l Service for Human Rights, Unprecedented challeng to the Universal Periodic Review (May 31, 2013)  See also Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law, Alleged Fraud During Cuba’s Universal Periodic Review, Human Rights Brief (Oct. 24, 2013).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

International Criminal Court’s New Judges Take Office

New ICC Judges

On March 9th, five new judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) were sworn in at a ceremony held at the seat of the Court in The Hague. The are Judges Howard Morrison (United Kingdom), Anthony T. Carmona (Trinidad and Tobago), Olga Herrera Carbuccia (Dominican Republic), Robert Fremr (Czech Republic)  and Chile Eboe-Osuji (Nigeria).

The other judge who was elected at the December 2011 meeting of the Court’s Assembly of States Parties, Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago (Republic of the Philippines), was unavailable due to personal circumstances and will be sworn in later.

The ICC has a bench of 18 judges who are nationals of States Parties to the Court’s Rome Statute. Judges are chosen from among persons of high moral character, impartiality and integrity who possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices. The election of the judges takes into account the need for the representation of the principle legal systems of the world, a fair representation of men and women, and equitable geographical distribution.

International Criminal Court: Six New Judges Elected

At its current meeting in New York City, the ICC’s governing body, the Assembly of States Parties, was charged with electing six new judges for the Court.[1] On December 16th, the Assembly completed this task, and the new judges will take office on March 11, 2012.[2]

All six possess the basic Rome Statute qualifications for these important positions: high moral character; impartiality; integrity; the qualifications required by their States for appointment to their highest judicial offices; and excellent knowledge of the Court’s two “working languages” (English and French) and fluency in at least one of these languages.

In addition, they have established competency in either (a) “criminal law and procedure, and the necessary relevant experience, whether as judge, prosecutor, advocate or in similar capacity, in criminal proceedings” or (b) “relevant areas of international law such as international humanitarian law and the law of human rights, and extensive experience in a professional legal capacity which is of relevance to the judicial work of the Court.”

All were on the list of qualified candidates for the judgeships that was produced by the Independent Panel on ICC Judicial Elections that evaluated the 19 candidates advanced by States Parties. The six new judges range in age from 49 to 66 and are reported to be in good health and thus presumptively able to serve the full nine-year term of office.

As shown below, the new judges bring a wealth of experience in domestic and international criminal law, prior judicial and advocate experience in criminal trials plus academic writing in the fields of criminal law, humanitarian law (or the law of war) and human rights. They also have distinguished educational records.

Judge Carmona

Anthony Thomas Aquinas CARMONA from Trinidad and Tobago. At 58 years of age, he has degrees from the University of the West Indies and the Sir Hugh Wooding Law School. He has considerable experience, training and demonstrated competence in criminal law and criminal procedure both at the national and international levels for over 25 years.

  • He currently  is a judge of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago.
  • He has served as Appeals Counsel (Office of the Prosecutor) at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Judge Carmona also served at the highest level of the criminal prosecution service of Trinidad and Tobago rising to the position of Acting Director of Public Prosecutions. At this level, he prosecuted major and complex criminal cases which sometimes involved appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.
He was a representative of Trinidad and Tobago at the Preparatory Committee on the establishment of the ICC.As a judge of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago and a former prosecutor, Judge Carmona presided over or prosecuted cases involving violence against women and children.
Senator Defensor-Santiago
Miriam DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO of the Philippines. At age 66, she holds degrees from the University of the Philippines and the University of Michigan (LLM and LLD) and has authored books and articles on Philippine and international law. She will be the first Asian from a developing country on the Court. She has had a distinguished career in the Philippines:
  • Defensor-Santiago currently is a Senator, having been elected in 2010 for a third term; she also served as Senator from 1995 to 2001 and 2004 to 2010. She was the Chairperson of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, 2004-2010.
  • She also stood for election as President in 1992 and received the second highest number of votes.
  • She was Professional Lecturer on constitutional and international law, College of Law, University of Philippines, 1976-1988.
  • She was a legal officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1979-1980.
  • She served as Presiding Judge of a Regional Trial Court, 1983-1987.
  • She was head of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation, 1988-1989.
  • She was appointed Secretary (Minister) of Agrarian Reform in 1989.

She is well known in her home country for making colorful statements. For example, when she was asked if she had received death threats at the Commission on Immigration and Deportation, she said, “I eat death threats for breakfast. Death is only a state of thermodynamic equilibrium.”[3]

Eboe-Osuji

Chile EBOE-OSUJI of Nigeria. At age 49, he holds degrees from the University of Calabar (Nigeria), McGill University in Canada (LLB and LLM) and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands (PhD in international criminal law). Mr. Eboe-Osuji  has  competence in substantive and procedural criminal law based on 25 years of experience and familiarity with professional  advocacy in courtrooms:

  • He has worked in senior legal advisory capacities to the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights and has rendered legal advisory services to the Government of Nigeria and foreign governments, on questions of international law.
  • He has practiced criminal law in the courts of Nigeria and Canada.
  • He has litigated cases before the ICTR as senior prosecution trial counsel, the Special Court for Sierra Leone as senior prosecution appeals counsel and the European Court of Human Rights. Prior to these engagements, he was prosecution counsel in several cases at the ICTR.
  • He also has extensive experience, in a senior legal advisory capacity behind the scenes, assisting ICTR trial and appellate judges in the drafting of many judgments and decisions.
  • His specific areas of competence include international criminal law (especially genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes); international humanitarian law; international human rights law; public international law; Nigerian and Canadian criminal law, and criminal law in the common law world.  He also has expertise relating to the crime of aggression, by virtue of his research and legal advisory assistance to the Delegation of Nigeria to the ICC Assembly of States Parties Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression.
Judge Fremr
Robert FREMR of the Czech Republic. He is 54 years old and holds degrees from Charles University Law School in Prague. He has nearly 25 years of experience in criminal law and procedure as a judge in all four tiers of the Czech judicial system plus judicial experience at the ICTR. In these positions, he has gained considerable expertise in managing complicated and time-intensive cases as well as in working with women and child victims of violent crime who require special treatment in court. Here are the specifics:
  • Judge ad litem, ICTR, 2010-2011
  • Judge of the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic, 2009-10.
  • Judge ad litem, ICTR, 2006-2008
  • Judge of the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic, 2004-2005
  • Judge of the High Court in Prague (Penal Section), 1989-2003
  • Judge of the Court of Appeal in Prague (Penal Section), 1986-1989
  • Judge of the District Court Prague 4, 1983-1986
  • Judicial practitioner, Municipal Court, Prague, 1981-1983

Judge Fremr also has lectured on criminal law at the Faculty of Law of Charles University in Prague and taught human rights courses to judges and trainee judges at the Judicial Academy of the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic.

Judge Fremr has attended many important international conferences (e.g. the ninth session of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute, official meetings within the Council of Europe,  Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Herrera Carbuccia

Olga Venecia HERRERA CARBUCCIA of the Dominican Republic (DR). She holds degrees from the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo in the DR and is 55 years old. She has practical experience in the field of criminal law, human rights protection, children’s rights, and combating money laundering and financing terrorism.  She has extensive legal teaching experience in her home country. Herrera Carbuccia has extensive judicial experience in her home country:

  • Judge President of the Criminal Chamber of a Court of Appeals , 2003-present
  • Presiding Judge of the First Criminal Chamber of a Court of Appeals, 2001-2003
  • First Deputy Judge President of the  Criminal Chamber of a  Court of Appeals, 1997-2003
  • Substitute Second Judge President of the Criminal Chamber of a Court of Appeals, 1991-1997
  • Judge President of the Eighth Penal Chamber of a Court of First Instance, 1986-1991
  • Assistant Attorney to the National District Prosecutor, 1984-1986
  • Fiscal of two DR Peace Courts, 1981-1984
Judge Howard Morrison
Howard MORRISON of the United Kingdom. He holds a degree from London University and is 62 years old.  Here are some of the highlights of his legal career:
  • Judge of ICTY, 2009-present
  • Judge of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, 2009
  • Senior Judge of the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus, 2008.
  • Circuit Judge, criminal and civil, 2004
  • Defense counsel , ICTY and ICTR, 1998-2004
  • Recorder in crime, civil and family jurisdictions, 1998
  • Assistant Recorder in crime, civil and family jurisdictions, 1993
  • Ad hoc Attorney-General for Anguilla, 1988-1989
  • Resident Magistrate and  Chief Magistrate of Fiji and concurrently Senior Magistrate of Tuvalu, 1986-1988
  • Practicing barrister in U.K., primarily criminal law and equally divided between prosecution and defense, 1977-1985 and 1989-2004.

We the peoples of the world should give thanks to these six qualified people for their willingness to undertake the important and challenging work of a Judge of the ICC.


[1]  See Post: International Criminal Court: Basics of Its Upcoming Judicial Election (June 23, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Specified and Recommended Qualifications for ICC Judges (June 24, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: New States Parties, Judges and Prosecutor (Nov. 22, 2011).

[2]  ICC, Final Results:  Election of the Judges of the ICC (contains biographical material about the new judges), http://www2.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ASP/Elections/Judges/2011/Results/Final+Results.htm; AMICC, First Week of Assembly of States Parties Concludes with the Completion of the Election of Six ICC Judges, http://amicc.blogspot.conm (Dec. 16, 2011).

[3] Tordesillas, We will miss Sen. Miriam, http://www.gmanetwork.com (Dec. 15, 2011).

 

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).