Another U.S. Citizenship Naturalization Ceremony

As noted in prior posts, the final step for someone to become a naturalized U.S. citizen is to attend a ceremony in which the individual takes an oath of allegiance to the United States of America and officially is declared to be a U.S. citizen. This is after such an individual meets the requirements of U.S. law through submission of an application with various aspects of personal information and an interview for vetting that information [1]

Such a ceremony took place in Minnesota on February 16, 2016, when 36 individuals became U.S. citizens. The new citizens came from 18 native countries and are among the approximately 12,000 U.S. citizens who will be naturalized this year in Minnesota. [2] Below is a photograph of some of the new citizens taken by Elizabeth Flores of the StarTribune.

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One of the new citizens, Paw Da Eh, was born of Burmese parents in a Thai refugee camp and grew up without a country. Now 22-years old and a student at St. Paul College, he remarked,“I feel so happy, so good, so excited. I had no country, no rights. I can’t describe what I feel right now.”

Another new citizen, Modou Sowe, a 53-year-old from Gambia in West Africa, called America “a great country” and said it was the best place to live. “I feel very happy and proud to be an American. We have free speech. You can say whatever you believe. Not like where I come from.”

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, who presided over the ceremony and swore in the new citizens, said, “We are a better country now than we were five minutes ago. We are better with you than without you.”  Frank added that three of his five daughters are naturalized citizens. 

The new citizens also watched a televised recorded greeting from President Obama, and each received a packet with their citizenship certificate, copies of the nation’s founding documents, a small American flag and a voter registration form. From attending other such ceremonies I assume the League of Women Voters Minnesota were there to assist the new citizens’ filling out the voter registration forms.

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[1] Minnesota Welcomes New U.S. Citizens (June 8, 2015). See also President Obama Welcomes New U.S. Citizens with Inspiring Challenge (Dec. 16, 2015);  Naturalized U.S. Citizens, Important Contributors to U.S. Culture and Economy (June 7, 2015).

[2] Reinam, Newly sworn citizens are overjoyed to be Americans, StarTribune (Feb. 16, 2016).

Spanish Court Refuses to Apply New Amendment to Spain’s Universal Jurisdiction Statute

On March 15th Spanish High Court Judge Pablo Ruz refused in two cases to apply Spain’s new amendment to its universal jurisdiction statute.[1] This is the subject of a report in Spain’s leading newspaper, El Pais.

U.S. Detainees Case

One case has U.S. Government officials in its sights. It involves alleged torture by U.S. officials of five individuals from the moment of their initial detention in various countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Gambia) and subsequent detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On March 15th Judge Ruz renewed his request to the U.S. Government for information about U.S. investigation of these cases.

The Judge concluded that under the new amendment “torture and war crimes cannot be pursued . . . because the target of the procedure is not a Spaniard or a resident of Spain.” These restrictions , however, are trumped by international treaties ratified by Spain–the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture–which force signatory countries to pursue crimes.

The new amendment also stipulates that crimes cannot be pursued in Spain if they are already being investigated by an international court or by the country where they were committed. This is why Judge Ruz is insisting on securing information from US authorities regarding the status of any investigation there.

Western Saharan Genocide Case

The other case involves claims of genocide against several members of the Moroccan military in connection with Western Sahara, a disputed territory that Morocco claims as its own.

Judge Ruz asserts that the court has jurisdiction because the alleged crimes were committed between November 1975 and February 1976 when Western Sahara was still a Spanish colony. Thus, the court concluded, the alleged crimes must be considered to have been committed on Spanish territory for legal purposes.

The Judge also says he has the power to keep open this investigation because it involves alleged genocide.

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[1] A prior post discussed the amendment added earlier this year to the universal jurisdiction statute while comments thereto talked about initial reaction to the amendment. Another post involved the court’s refusal to apply the new amendment in a case involving the Geneva Conventions while a subsequent post talked about the High Court’s following the new amendment in drug-trafficking cases.

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).