Through conducting social media research for the Global Justice Center each week, I have been continuously observing thoughtful conversations occurring within and between online communities on crucial issues of human rights and international law. I recently came across a news article discussing the pros and cons of transitional justice efforts such as truth and reconciliation commissions and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The fact that the author expressed a deeply critical, less-than-optimistic view of such institutions didn’t come as a surprise to me; skeptics exist everywhere and the sphere of international human rights is no exception. What did shock me, however, was the extent to which he was so certain of the inevitable path of failure that all international justice mechanisms seem to be moving towards.
While the writer continued to question the effectiveness of transitional justice processes throughout his piece, I felt the urge to point out that many of these entities are incredibly young, with the ICC itself having undergone a thorough five-year review just last month. Not to mention all of the historical victories (i.e. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission) that have paved the way for nations to transition from periods of prolonged conflict to states of peace and emerge stronger. Reading the article reminded me of all that must be done globally to break down this cynicism surrounding the use of international law as a tangible strategy for human rights enforcement. Fortunately, I get to witness this kind of work being done every day in the valuable, on-the-ground projects that the GJC does in Burma, Iraq, and Sierra Leone as well as its engagement with U.S. Foreign Policy.
As a principal actor in the movement for a world in which nation-states cannot act with impunity and allow their citizens to become victims of war crimes, be imprisoned for their political beliefs, or fall prey to any other forms of human rights abuse, the GJC recognizes the importance of such entities as international courts and tribunals. In fact, the very foundation of the GJC’s Burma strategy is the contention that the situation in Burma must be referred to the ICC. Through the tasks I have performed, the events I have attended, and the conversations I have had with GJC staff, I have learned that strategies such as this one truly do work and are very much essential to the advancement of international human rights.
After spending three months at the Global Justice Center, I can say that I have been given deep insight into the utter significance of legal human rights advocacy work in today’s world. Seeing the innovative ways in which the GJC analyzes legal tools and frames its arguments has only affirmed and strengthened my faith in transitional justice and human rights through the rule of law. So much so, indeed, that I hope to take my summer experience at the GJC and work to build a future career in the field of human rights law. For me, the GJC is not simply a stepping stone in this process; it is the foundation.
Natasha Mir is a senior at Vassar College with an independent major in Peace and Conflict Studies and a minor in Arabic Language and Culture. This year she is writing a thesis on the history of religious-based, nonviolent movements for peace in the Palestinian territories.