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Extra update:
Dixon rejected for International Criminal Court post

Finally, a public hearing of sorts on the Petaquilla mine

Target of campaign led by relatives of the disappeared

Dixon's bid for International Criminal Court post fails

by Eric Jackson

On December 3 Graciela Dixon's last hope for a position as an International Criminal Court (ICC) judge evaporated when she lost a fourth round vote for the final remaining post by a vote of 74-21 to Uganda's Daniel David Ntanda Nesereko. Japanese jurist Fumiko Saiga and French judge Bruno Cotte won the other two posts in earlier rounds of voting. In her best result, Dixon only received 26 of the possible 105 votes in an earlier round.

Dixon, the outgoing president of Panama's Supreme Court of Justice, had been the object of an international campaign to block her appointment, led by relatives of Latin Americans whom military dictatorships had caused to disappear. The campaign, spearheaded by the Héctor Gallego Committee of the Families of the Disappeared in Panama and the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, mobilized hundreds of human rights activists and dozens of groups around the world and some prominent opposition figures in Panama to object to Dixon because she had several times ruled that investigations and prosecutions of abuses during Panama's dictatorship were barred by an unwritten statute of limitations implied by Panamanian law.

Dixon was nominated for a position on the court by President Martín Torrijos, whose father, General Omar Torrijos Herrera, presided over most of the more than 100 murders or forced disappearances of dissidents during Panama's 21-year dictatorship. Former Panamanian diplomat Carlos Guevara Mann, in a column published in La Prensa and forwarded to all the diplomats who had votes to fill the three vacant ICC posts noted Dixon's record on this country's high court and argued that "a position in favor of the 'thesis' of a statute of limitations for crimes against humanity is clearly incongruent with the purposes of the ICC."

A number of Latin American governments ended up supporting Dixon, including those of Brazil and Uruguay, which are led by leftists who were persecuted by their countries' former military dictatorships. Panamanian human rights activists Otilia de Koster and Giovanni Niedda sent an open letter to Uruguayan President Tabaré Vásquez, reminding him of his country's history of human rights violations and his administration's promises of justice in those cases, and complaining that by supporting Dixon his government would be backing one who "has signed unappealable sentences that favor a statute of limitations for crimes against humanity, such as murders and forced disappearances, preceded by cruel tortures of the unfortunate victims."

With Panamanian government financing, Dixon and an entourage traveled to Cuba, Europe and the United Nations headquarters in New York but found virtually no support in Europe. Since the United States is not a party to the Statute of Rome that created the ICC it had no vote on filling its judicial vacancies, but the PRD's emerging organization to turn out New York's absentee vote in the 2009 Panamanian elections did put on a show of support for Dixon, posing the matter as one of ethnic pride for the West Indian community. However, such support as could be mustered for Dixon where Panamanians are concentrated in Brooklyn counted for almost nothing in the halls of the UN over in Queens.

Besides objections to Dixon's human rights record, in the end another factor worked against her. Another nominee of another Panamanian president already occupies a seat on the ICC bench, so there was a sense that since this small country is represented on the 18-judge court another nation should get the spot. That Panamanian-nominated judge, however, is actually Costa Rican. Elizabeth Odio, who served as her country's justice minister, was nominated for the ICC bench by former President Mireya Moscoso. At the time Panama's legal community was annoyed that Mireya would nominate a foreigner.


 

Extra update:
Dixon rejected for International Criminal Court post

Finally, a public hearing of sorts on the Petaquilla mine

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