Justice for genocide: Yazidis hopeful as Islamic State trial opens in Germany

Excerpt of Al-Monitor articles that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

“Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes fall under this bucket [of universal jurisdiction],” explained Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the New York-based Global Justice Center.

“It’s a recognition that when these serious international crimes happen, they are a concern not just for the country where they occurred, but they are a concern to everybody.”

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First Yazidi Genocide Trial Commences in Germany

Excerpt of Just Security articles that features GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

As outlined by Sareta Ashraph and Akila Radhakrishnan, sexual violence forms an integral part of how genocide has been committed towards Yazidi women and girls. Yet sexual slavery is often mischaracterized as a recent or modern form of slavery, as highlighted by Patricia Viseur Sellers and Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum in their discussion of the Habré trial. Consequently, it is vital in this context to understand the gendered dimensions of slavery and the slave trade, which include the relation of both types of criminal conduct to sexual violence.

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UN Secretary-General Releases Report on Impact of COVID-19 on Women

NEW YORK – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres released a report today on the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has taken important leadership to highlight the gendered impact of COVID-19, first with his call to prevent violence against women, and today with his policy brief on the impact of Covid-19 on women and girls. All crises have a gendered impact, and the secretary-general’s leadership in helping to shed light on this issue is important. We now look to states to take meaningful efforts to address these gendered impacts and make them the center of all responses. This should include, first and foremost, the equal representation of women in the decision making and planning of responses.

"We have seen around the world the failure of states to adequately take human and women’s rights into account. For example, policymakers in the United States are using COIVD-19 measures as a pretext to curb access to sexual and reproductive rights, in particular abortion. The secretary-general’s brief importantly recognizes that the provision of such services is central to women’s health and rights. A human and women’s rights informed approach should be leading to states working to make key services like abortion, more accessible, not less.

"As COVID-19 continues to lay bare the inequalities in our society, states must ensure that their responses take gendered impacts into account."

UN Secretary-General Delivers Address on Violence Against Women During COVID-19 Quarantine

NEW YORK – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres gave an address today on violence against women living under quarantine measures issued to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, had the following response:

“We applaud the Secretary-General for his important call today to end violence against women, which recognizes one of the key gendered impacts of crises situations such as COVID-19. 

“Like his call for a global ceasefire, today’s call recognizes how violence and crisis situations exacerbate existing inequalities in society and emphasize the need to center those most impacted in responses. However, to date, we have consistently seen that COVID-19 responses have inadequately taken women’s rights and human rights into account. And there’s been a lack of inclusivity in the groups responsible for crisis response and decision-making. 

“As the Secretary-General recognized, violence against women requires a multi-faceted response, including access to support services and shelters and judicial systems. We hope that states heed this important call and take immediate measures to ensure that measures are taken to prevent and respond to domestic violence, and ensure that all measures are grounded in human rights and involve an inclusive group of women in its design and decision-making.”

Latin American Feminists Are Rising Up Against Violence. The International Community Should Join Them.

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed by GJC's Danielle Hites.

Latina feminist activists have poured onto the streets to challenge government and police officials for their failure to protect women from this lethal discrimination. Pointing to the misogynist and machismo institutions, they have made clear that their inaction is complicity.

The international community must lift these voices and hold governments accountable to their obligations to protect the rights to life, equality and freedom from torture.

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Letter to UN Security Council members regarding Myanmar’s Independent Commission of Enquiry and the Provisional Measures ordered by the International Court of Justice

Your Excellency,

We are writing to you in light of the recently published summary of the final report of Myanmar’s Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE), which was issued the same week that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Myanmar to take immediate action to prevent genocide against the country’s persecuted Rohingya minority. In particular, we would like to raise grave concerns regarding the ICOE’s: (1) independence and impartiality; (2) methodology; and (3) flaws in narrative and findings.

The ICOE’s independence and impartiality have been seriously undermined by its reliance on the Office of the President of Myanmar for financial and technical support, as well as by the composition of the Commission itself, which includes at least one official directly implicated in the bulldozing of Rohingya villages damaged during the 2017 crisis in Rakhine State. The executive summary of the ICOE’s report also provides no information as to what sources and materials were relied upon beyond individual interviews, nor how the ICOE corroborated and verified this information, making it impossible to assess the quality of their methodology. Crucially, the ICOE did not interview a single Rohingya refugee in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, regarding the circumstances that resulted in over 700,000 people fleeing the country. Finally, there are serious flaws and misrepresentations in the ICOE’s narrative of the crisis in Rakhine State, including disturbing inaccuracies and omissions in relation to mass rape and widespread sexual violence directed at Rohingya women and girls during the military’s so-called “clearance operations.”

Download the Full Letter 

Behind Myanmar’s Military Alibi: A Path for Compliance with the ICJ’s Order to Protect Rohingya

Excerpt of Just Security op-ed by GJC's Akila Radhakrishnan and Grant Shubin.

In the wake of the ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya going forward, the initial excitement was tempered by pragmatics—how this important court order can be enforced so that it actually protects the 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State.

To be sure, there is no confusion that these measures are binding—as the court noted, they create international legal obligations that require Myanmar’s compliance. But how can the international community guarantee that Myanmar actually does anything? And does Myanmar’s civilian government have the capacity to do what is needed?

The answers to these questions are mixed, generally relying on exertion of geopolitical pressure, including through the United Nations Security Council, to which the order has been transmitted. As a general rule and absent a concrete enforcement mechanism, ICJ orders have a reliable compliance rate. However, looking at the Myanmar case in context, and in particular the measures requiring prevention of the commission of genocide by Myanmar’s military, compliance will require a serious and concerted effort by both the international community and the civilian government.

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Myanmar’s Silence on Rape Against Rohingya Is Cruel and Dangerous

Excerpt of Pass Blue op-ed by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Last month, the world was struck by an unusual image — that of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi — standing in court to defend and deny genocide. What was striking was not only what she and Myanmar’s legal team said but also what wasn’t said: the total failure of Myanmar to respond to the allegations of mass sexual violence against the Rohingya, including rape.

As Prof. Philippe Sands, counsel for The Gambia, which brought the case against Myanmar, said, “Madame agent, your silence says far more than your words.”

In fact, the words “sexual violence” passed through the lips of Myanmar’s team just once during the three-day hearings at the International Court of Justice in December, only to say that it is “a phenomenon that regrettably occurs in many parts of the world and that we all condemn unequivocally.”

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There can be no real accountability in Myanmar if women remain on the sidelines

Excerpt ofWomen's Media Center op-ed co-authored by GJC Senior Burma Researcher Phyu Phyu Sann.

Myanmar presents one of the world’s most difficult challenges to combating impunity, assisting victims, and reforming the institutions responsible for committing sexual violence and other crimes in conflicts. For years, women in Myanmar have called on the international community to intervene to put meaningful pressure on their human rights abusers. They are demanding an end to military control in the country and accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence and other egregious crimes against women.

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Gender Inequality and Sexual Violence in Myanmar: Part of the Problem is Preventing a Cure

Excerpt ofMizzima op-ed by GJC Senior Burma Researcher Phyu Phyu Sann & GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

When it comes to protecting women from violence in Myanmar, what little difference a year makes. Last year during the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the Government pledged to submit a Prevention of and Protection from Violence Against Women (PoVAW) Law to Parliament in early 2019 and give “priority and focus” to protecting women and children from violence.  As we approach another 16 Days of Activism, the PoVAW law, in the drafting stage since 2013, has not yet been submitted to Parliament, making clear that protecting women from violence is far from a priority or focus for the current Government.

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Discrimination by Design: Key Points for the Universal Periodic Review of Iraq

In advance of the Human Rights Council’s forthcoming review of Iraq, it is critical that attention is paid to the need for fundamental reform of Iraq’s legal system in order to achieve justice for Daesh’s victims, and more broadly for the people of Iraq. As currently codified, Iraq’s criminal laws do not punish the most egregious aspects of Daesh’s sexual and gender-based violence. If prosecuted under these laws, basic features of Daesh’s crimes will go unpunished, such as rape with objects, forced marriage, and gender-motivated torture, as well as the international atrocity crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The Global Justice Center’s full submission highlights a number of concerns over Iraq’s criminal laws as violations of Iraq’s obligations under the treaty bodies to which it is a party – including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the Geneva Conventions.

Download Fact Sheet 

Ending Impunity for Gender-Based Violence in Genocide

Excerpt ofMs. Magazine op-ed by GJC Legal Intern Katherine Comly.

Ask any feminist how they think their government is doing at holding perpetrators of sexual violence accountable and most would respond with an emphatic “poorly”—at best. Internationally, there are moves being made to tackle sexual violence, like awarding the Nobel Prize to Nadia Murad and passing the first Security Council Resolution on the issue. Still, they go nowhere near solving systemic problems.

There currently exists, however, a major opportunity to reform how the international justice system addresses sexual violence: the investigations into genocidal violence against the Rohingya in Burma. A gendered understanding of these crimes is essential and will fulfill the international community’s responsibility to recognize and punish all forms of genocidal violence.

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Bringing a Gendered Lens to Genocide Prevention and Accountability

By Maryna Tkachenko

More than 70 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, mass atrocity crimes are still carried out in systematic and, equally important, gendered ways. The lack of emphasis on the gendered nature of coordinated crimes not only jeopardizes international security but also ignores the multi-layered reality of genocidal violence. The most recent genocides against the Yazidi and the Rohingya populations are clear instances of the international community neglecting to prioritize a gendered lens in preventing and punishing genocide.

On 22 May, the Global Justice Center and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) held a panel on “Gender and Genocide: Engendering analysis for better prevention, accountability, and protection” to examine critical gaps within the framework of analysis for atrocity crimes. (Read GJC’s white paper Beyond Killing: Gender, Genocide, & Obligations Under International Law to learn more about the ways in which female experiences of genocide are too often removed from the analysis of genocidal violence.) 

There’s Nothing “Pro-Life” About Sweeping Abortion Bans

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed by GJC Communications Manager Liz Olson.  

Alabama’s sweeping abortion ban compares abortion to the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, as though the termination of a fetus is morally equivalent to the willful annihilation of a people. But it is abortion bans, not the women who seek them, that put lives at risk every day.

Legislation that criminalizes abortion access and provision does not prevent abortions—it just makes them more dangerous. The World Health Organization reports that about 25 million unsafe abortions are performed annually, primarily in regions with heavily restrictive abortion laws. Women who have unsafe abortions face serious and even fatal medical complications like heavy blood loss, infection and damage to internal organs. Unsafe abortions are even a leading cause of maternal mortality: 68,000 women die from them every year around the world.

The deadly impact of restrictive abortion policies is so well documented that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, once declared that total abortion bans “amount to a gender-based arbitrary killing, only suffered by women, as a result of discrimination enshrined in law.” 

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Breaking Decades of Silence: Sexual Violence During the Khmer Rouge


By: Maryna Tkachenko

April 17, 2019 marked the 44th anniversary since the Communist Party of Kampuchea (the Khmer Rouge) took over Cambodia. While in power, the party sought to create a Cambodian “master race,” resulting in years of repression, forced labor, torture, and massacres. While the recent trials at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) convicted two Khmer Rouge leaders of genocide, the issue of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by the regime was not at the center of discussions.

After decades of silence, survivors of sexual violence are speaking out about their experiences. Working toward justice, accountability, and peace building becomes a challenge when survivors are at risk of being blamed and discriminated against. Hence, in an effort to eradicate the stigma and facilitate transitional justice processes, women in Cambodia are demonstrating the ways in which Cambodian society is impacted years after the Khmer Rouge regime ended.

Much More Than Language: How the US Denied Survivors of Rape in Conflict Lifesaving Care

Excerpt of Women Under Siege op-ed by GJC Deputy Legal Director Grant Shubin.  

On Wednesday, April 23, 2019, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2467 during the Council’s annual Open Debate on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. .

After months of German-led negotiations, passage of the Resolution ultimately came down to sexual and reproductive health (SRH)—specifically, whether the U.S. would veto its inclusion in the final text.

The U.S. justified its position by claiming that SRH is a euphemism for abortion services. Not only is this not true—SRH includes, among other things, contraception, safe abortion services, HIV prevention, and prenatal healthcare—but even if it were, abortion services for survivors of sexual violence save lives.

Unsafe abortion causes the deaths of 47,000 people each year and leaves another 5 million with some form of permanent or temporary disability. They may suffer complications, including hemorrhage, infection, perforation of the uterus, and damage to the genital tract or internal organs. In fact, the consequences of denying abortion services have been found to be so severe that it can amount to torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment.

The international community cannot become accustomed or complacent to the Trump administration’s use of domestic politics to hold international rights hostage. Because it is more than just words that are given up last minute on the floor of the Security Council—it’s women’s lives.

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"That's Illegal" Episode 10: #BringBackOurGirls: Five Years Later

In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké Okome, Professor of Political Science, African & Women’s Studies at Brooklyn College, CUNY and one of the founders of the Bring Back Our Girls NYC campaign, to discuss the fifth anniversary of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of the 276 Chibok girls and gender-based violence in Nigeria.  

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UN Security Council Adopts Resolution 2467

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 23, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] – Today, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2467 on Women, Peace and Security. Although the resolution purports to address the needs of victims of sexual violence in conflict, it contains no direct references to reproductive health—a key component of necessary and comprehensive medical care. This last-minute compromise was made to avoid a certain veto by the United States government.

"The Prosecutors" Screening at the United Nations

From April 25, 2019 18:15 until 20:00

At United Nations Headquarters, New York City, CR11

Speakers:

  • H.E. Ms. H. Elizabeth Thompson, Permanent Representative of Barbados to the United Nations
  • Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict
  • Karim Khan QC, Special Adviser and Head of UN Investigative Team to promote accountability for crimes committed by
  • Susana SáCouto, Director, War Crimes Research Office, American University Washington College of Law
  • Leslie Thomas, Director and Producer

Overview:

The Prosecutors is a documentary that tells the story of three dedicated lawyers who fight to ensure that sexual violence in conflict is not met with impunity. Filmed over five years on three continents, it takes viewers from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Bosnia and Herzegovina to Colombia on the long journey towards justice.

The Global Justice Center is proud to co-sponsor this event alongside the Permanent Missions of the United Kingdom, Colombia, Canada, Chile and Costa Rica to the UN and Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice. Join us for a 30-minute screening of The Prosecutors, followed by a panel about prosecuting sexual violence in conflict. 

#BringBackOurGirls: Five Years Later


By: Maryna Tkachenko

On the night of April 14, 2014, Boko Haram—a jihadist terrorist group that aims to purify Islam in Nigeria—kidnapped 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria. Not long after, Boko Haram broadcasted images of the captives, wearing dark gowns. Although Boko Haram had previously engaged in armed attacks on the local people, this event captured the attention of the international community and sparked the global media campaign #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG).

Consequently, New York City’s Nigerian community responded: #BringBackOurGirlsNYC. Responding to the widespread outrage, the UN Security Council added Boko Haram to its sanctions list, and the United States sent troops to search for the girls. Public figures and celebrities also used their voices to condemn the abductions. While Pope Francis encouraged all to “join in prayer,” Malala Yousafzai and Angelina Jolie rallied on the behalf of the girls, and Michelle Obama posted an image of herself holding a white sheet of paper with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.