The Gambia Files Lawsuit Against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice

NEW YORK — Today the government of the Republic of Gambia filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar for violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention. This historic lawsuit seeks to ensure Myanmar’s responsibility as a state for the genocide committed against the Rohingya.

Starting in October 2016 and then again in August 2017, Myanmar’s security forces engaged in so-called “clearance operations” against the Rohingya, a distinct Muslim ethnic minority, in Rakhine State. The operations were characterized by brutal violence and serious human rights violations that, according to UN investigations, amount to genocide and crimes against humanity. Survivors reported indiscriminate killings, rape and sexual violence, arbitrary detention, and torture. Since August 2017 more than 745,000 ethnic Rohingya civilians have been forcibly displaced from Myanmar, with nearly 400 Rohingya villages attacked and burned.

The clearance operations followed decades of systematic persecution of the Rohingya by the government. Over the course of decades, Myanmar has rendered most its Rohingya population stateless through discriminatory laws, and placed severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, fundamental religious freedom as well as reproductive and marital rights.

In September, the UN Human Rights Council-mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM) concluded in its final report that “the State of Myanmar breached its obligation not to commit genocide” and welcomed efforts to ensure accountability, including at the ICJ.

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and rules on disputes between states and other questions of international law. Article IX of the Genocide Convention provides that any disputes relating to the “interpretation, application or fulfillment” of the Convention, including “the responsibility of a State for genocide,” can be brought to the ICJ. For more information on the ICJ process, see “Q&A: The Gambia v. Myanmar, Rohingya Genocide at The International Court of Justice.”

As a party to the Genocide Convention, The Gambia refused to stay silent in the face of genocide and today took an important step in filing a case against Myanmar at the ICJ. As part of its filing, The Gambia requested the ICJ to issue provisional measures which, if granted, could impose immediately binding obligations on Myanmar.

“We commend The Gambia for upholding its international responsibility to punish genocide,” said Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “The international community failed to prevent a genocide in Myanmar, but it is not too late to hold the State of Myanmar accountable for its crimes.”

"The Gambia’s lawsuit is a landmark moment for the global rule of law and for the victims of some of the most severe human rights abuses in recent memory,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center. “We must also remember that gender played a central role in this genocide and we hope this perspective will be at the heart of this critical effort to hold the state of Myanmar accountable for its atrocities.”

MEDIA CONTACT:
Thomas Dresslar, Global Justice Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +1 212-725-6530 x217
Sarah Hunter, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +1 917-242-8099

November News Update: Slow Progress on Women, Peace, and Security

The United Nations Security Council last week unanimously adopted resolution 2492, which called for the full implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security agenda. This resolution is intended to serve as a call to action from the council one year before the agenda’s 20th anniversary next year.

Unfortunately, thanks to threats from countries like the United States, the final resolution completely omitted references to sexual and reproductive health and rights. New US ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, used her time on the council floor to caution the UN against putting itself "in a position of promoting or suggesting a right to abortion." We blasted the resolution ommission and US statement on social media.

As we approach next year's landmark anniversary, GJC will be doubling down on its efforts to ensure the world recognizes sexual and reproductive health as integral to the prosperity and empowerment of women and girls

Read the Full Newsletter

October News Update: Gender Equality at the UN

I had a tremendous honor this month to sit on a panel with a group of extraordinary feminists in the human rights field: Agnès Callamard, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Dr. Anne Marie Goetz, former Chief Advisor on Peace & Security, UN Women; and Melissa Upreti, Expert on the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women.

It was for an event GJC hosted on gender-sensitive approaches to international law. Agnès, myself, and the other panelists discussed the absolute necessity of centering gender and utilizing a feminist perspective as we work towards a fairer, more equal world. The conversation reinforced for me the importance of the Global Justice Center’s mission and our unique and innovative approach to using international law for gender equality.

Read the Full Newsletter

September News Update: Justice for Genocide of the Rohingya

The United Nations couldn’t be any clearer: a genocide has occurred in Burma against the Rohingya and the international community must take action. To remind the world of its responsibility to act in the face of genocide, the Global Justice Center will be engaging the UN General Assembly and other forums to urge world leaders to act to ensure justice and accountability.

Along with our partners at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, GJC will join the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh and the Minister of Justice of Gambia for a UN General Assembly side-event on solutions to the Rohingya crisis. GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan will about GJC’s work to ensure justice for sexual and gender-based violence against the Rohingya. 

Read the Full Newsletter

UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar Documents Genocide and Calls for International Justice in Final Report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK — Today the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar released its final report, summarizing its investigation into what it called “the gravest crimes under international law” committed against vulnerable populations in the country, including the Rohingya. The report explicitly calls for international legal accountability for violations of the Genocide Convention.

Established in 2017, the mission has thoroughly documented genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes carried out by the military and security forces in Myanmar and has consistently called on the international community to act. To that end, the final report applauded efforts by UN Member States such as The Gambia, who are potentially pursuing a case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in line with their obligations under the Genocide Convention.

“The Fact-Finding Mission has been a tremendous advocate for international accountability in Myanmar, which remains the only true path to justice for victims of gross human rights violations, including genocide,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “As its mandate ends, it is essential that the international community take the mission’s recommendations seriously and take urgent action to break the culture of impunity in Myanmar.”

The Global Justice Center and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect met with Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubaccar M. Tambadou, and other senior officials in The Gambia earlier this month to discuss efforts to hold Myanmar accountable under the Genocide Convention. For more information on how an ICJ case might proceed, see this Q&A.

“We thank the Fact-Finding Mission for its crucial work and commend The Gambia for seeking to uphold its international responsibility to punish genocide,” said Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “In 2017 the international community failed to prevent a genocide in Myanmar. But it is not too late to protect the Rohingya from further persecution and ensure that the perpetrators of these atrocities face international justice.”

“This week, world leaders will come together in New York for the start of the United Nations General Assembly. Action on Myanmar — whether sanctions, a referral to the International Criminal Court by the Security Council, or the creation of an ad-hoc tribunal — must be a priority," said Radhakrishnan.

Statement on United Nations Fact-Finding Mission Report on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK — The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar today released a report documenting and analyzing sexual and gender-based violence committed by the country’s military, the Tatmadaw. The report represents the mission’s first thorough examination of gender-based crimes in Burma.

The mission’s report describes in detail the widespread and systemic use of sexual violence by the Tatmadaw. It also analyzes the gendered impacts of Burma’s ethnic conflicts. The Global Justice Center has advocated since 2005 for the need to ensure justice and accountability for sexual and gender-based violence in Burma and last year released “Discrimination to Destruction,” the first comprehensive legal analysis of gender-based crimes against ethnic Rohingya in the country.

“The Tatmadaw has for decades utilized sexual violence to subjugate and terrorize ethnic groups with impunity and we commend the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission for recognizing this critical fact,” said Akila Radhakrishnan. “To date, no military perpetrator of sexual violence has been held accountable in Burma for their crimes. As accountability proceedings begin, including at the International Criminal Court, it is essential that a robust gender lens and perspective informs the proceedings.”

The report includes the well-documented human rights abuses that occurred in Rakhine State against the Rohingya, but it also details gendered and sexual violence against ethnic communities in Kachin and Shan states. In addition, it contains a groundbreaking investigation of gender-based violence against transgender Rohingya, as well as men and boys. Importantly, the report also recognizes the links between gender inequality in Burma and the commission of sexual and gender-based crimes.

“Sexual and gender-based violence is, at its core, an expression of discrimination, patriarchy, and inequality,” said Radhakrishnan. “As a result, accountability for these crimes must be holistic and seek to address and transform the root causes of violence.”

The Global Justice Center has long worked to ensure that gender is analyzed in mass atrocity crimes, including in the crimes against Iraq’s Yazidi minority. It has also researched, written, and spoken out against the abuses of Burma’s military regime and gender inequality in the country for over a decade.

For more background on the gender-based crimes against the Rohingya as well as potential gender-inclusive solutions, a brief factsheet can be found here.

"That's Illegal" Episode 11: Justice and the Genocide of the Rohingya

Two years ago, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya were violently driven from their homes in Burma in a military campaign that the United Nations has characterized as genocide. To this day, the military dictatorship who carried out these crimes has evaded any meaningful accountability.

Simon Adams, an expert on mass atrocity crimes and director of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, joins That's Illegal to discuss worldwide efforts to get justice for the Rohingya. Akila Radhakrishnan, director of the Global Justice Center, also joins the program.
 

Enjoy this episode? Follow us on iTunes and Soundcloud!

August News Update: Ready to be Heard on the World Stage

The United Nations, the US Congress, and the European Union are all on summer recess. For the Global Justice Center, however, the struggle for human rights never rests. 

We are busy preparing for a number of high-profile events and forums on the international stage, including an upcoming UN Security Council Arria meeting on accountability in Burma — an issue GJC has worked on for over a decade. We are also gearing up for the UN General Assembly beginning September 17.

Read the Full Newsletter

July News Update: Akila's First Year as President

Looking back on my first year as President of the Global Justice Center, I am so proud of all that we have accomplished. We were on the floor of the UN Security Council fighting to preserve gains on reproductive rights in the face of a hostile U.S. administration. Expert UN bodies, including the Fact-Finding Mission for Myanmar and the International Criminal Court, considered our legal analysis of gender-based crimes committed against the Rohingya in their work.

We are more motivated than ever to leverage our expertise into action to break down centuries of patriarchal oppression and inequality. With the steadfast support of our allies behind us and justice on our side, I firmly believe that we can make this vision a reality.

Read the Full Newsletter

Statement on the Formation of the “Commission on Unalienable Rights"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 9, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] — Yesterday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formation of a new “Commission on Unalienable Rights” at the State Department, which Secretary Pompeo described as an attempt to “ground our discussion of human rights in America’s founding principles.” 

The establishment of this panel is yet another assault on the international system in the service of the Trump administration’s regressive agenda. This action follows a clear pattern of ideological attacks on US engagement with the human rights system and the norms they uphold, such as withdrawing from the Human Rights Council, erasing reproductive rights from human rights reports, and cutting funding to the Organization of American States in an attempt to censor abortion-related speech. 

Statement from Global Justice Center President, Akila Radhakrishnan:

“It is not up to any one country to determine what is or is not a human right. That remains the ambit of human rights treaties, bodies, experts, and courts whose sole purpose is to define and monitor compliance with international human rights standards. Universal human rights norms exist to hold states accountable: they cannot be defined, redefined, or limited based on the demands or viewpoints of a single government. 

While Secretary Pompeo claims that he wants to depoliticize human rights, this commission does the exact opposite. What’s more, the commission is overwhelmingly staffed by individuals who are openly hostile to abortion rights and to the rights of LGBTQ persons—conservative ideologues who have built careers at the expense of human rights, free thinking, and democratic values.” 

For more information contact:
Liz Olson, Communications Manager at Global Justice Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (212) 725-6530 ext. 217

June News Update: We Won't Go Back

The Trump administration’s new strategy on Women, Peace, and Security is one more glaring example of their dangerous, regressive, and illegal approach to women’s health and rights. The United States is eroding women’s equality at home and abroad by exporting censorship, enacting restrictive abortion policies, and undermining protections for survivors of sexual violence in conflict.

We will not let the Trump administration turn back the clock. Women and girls deserve to live with dignity, in full control of their bodies, and with equal protection under the law.

Read the Full Newsletter

Joint Statement on the Assignment of the Situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh to the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber III

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 28, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY]– The Global Justice Center, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Naripokkho, and Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice welcome recent developments at the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning the Situation in the People's Republic of Bangladesh/Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Both the intention of the Office of the Prosecutor to undertake an investigation, and the assignment of the situation to Pre-Trial Chamber III bring the ICC one step closer to providing accountability for the crimes committed against the Rohingya.

Response to Proposed United States Strategy on Women, Peace and Security

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— June 13, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] - This week, the Trump Administration released the United States government’s latest strategy on women, peace and security (“WPS”).  While it contains lofty goals to advance women’s equality and political participation, these objectives are directly undermined by current US policies.

“The Trump Administration’s stated commitment to advancing women’s equality through the WPS strategy is absurd,” says Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan. “In fact, this administration is actively harming women and girls around the world by expanding the Global Gag Rule, blocking language on access to life-saving healthcare services for war rape victims at the UN Security Council, and impeding international efforts at accountability for gender-based violence through its threats against the International Criminal Court. Until these policies, and others, change, this WPS strategy is not even worth the paper it’s printed on.”

May News Update: The Time Is Urgent, And You Must Take It

This May was a whirlwind of events for the Global Justice Center. 

We hosted the inaugural Global Justice Awards, and were honored to see so many friends and allies show their support for our mission. We were inspired by Patricia Sellers' powerful acceptance speech: "to all the young feminist lawyers: go to the places where they say you have no business. The time is urgent, and you must take it."

Taking those words to heart, we advocated for gender justice at events around the world—from the launch of the Gendered Peace project at the London School of Economics to the Gender and Genocide panel on the sidelines of the UN Security Council debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.

Read the Full Newsletter

The Global Justice Center Mourns Lenora Lapidus

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – May 6, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] – The Global Justice Center mourns the passing of Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and member of the Global Justice Center’s Board of Directors. She passed away at home on May 5, 2019, after a long battle with cancer.

Lenora was a visionary lawyer and pillar in the struggle for women’s rights. She led the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project since 2001, focusing on eliminating gender-based violence and defending the rights of marginalized women. In 2008, she litigated Jessica Gonzales v. United States of America in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a landmark case declaring the freedom from domestic violence as a human right.

April News Update: Reproductive Rights at the Security Council

Last week, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2467 on Women, Peace and Security. As a last minute compromise, language on sexual and reproductive heath was removed, undermining the resolution's goal to address the needs of victims of sexual violence in conflict.

Reproductive health care—including access to abortion services—is a critical component of necessary and comprehensive medical care for survivors of sexual violence in conflict. 

We will not allow these priorities to be played against one another. Sexual and reproductive rights must not be sacrificed in order to gain other protections.

Read the Full Newsletter

"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.  

Enjoy this episode? Follow us on iTunes and Soundcloud!

United Nations Human Rights Committee Requests Information on United States Violations of Sexual and Reproductive Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 3, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] – Today, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) challenged the United States’s restrictive abortion policies as potential violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in its list of issues prior to submission of the fifth periodic report of the United States. The Global Justice Center (GJC) commends the HRC for asking the US to provide information on the impact of the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule on women's rights under the ICCPR, including to non-discrimination and equal protection under Article 2, 3 and 26, the right to life in Article 6 and the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 7.

Statement: Response to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's Expanded Application of Global Gag Rule and Siljander Amendment

Today, the Trump Administration launched another attack on women’s health, expanding the scope of the Global Gag Rule and the application of the Siljander Amendment. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also announced that the US will cut its assistance to the Organization of American States (OAS) based on claims that its agencies are lobbying for abortions. As a quasi-governmental body, OAS recommendations are expert guidance, not lobbying. The US is censoring free speech around the world and is using the Siljander Amendment to justify decreasing contributions to the OAS on purely ideological grounds.

The OAS and its subsidiary bodies, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, work to ensure the fundamental human rights of women and girls living in member states. Threatening these institutions’ ability to carry out their mandate through the power of the purse is both unconscionable and illegal. Over the past two weeks at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the Trump Administration cemented the US’s new position as a government opposed to women’s rights, health and autonomy—Secretary Pompeo’s announcement today is one more dangerous step in that direction.

For more information contact:
Liz Olson, Communications Manager at Global Justice Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (212) 725-6530 ext. 217

March News Update: No Rollbacks on Gender Justice

The sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is coming to an end, and we have been busy over the last two weeks bringing our legal analysis to the conversations about equality and empowerment. 

While this year's CSW has provided a platform for many crucial and progressive discussions, we are troubled by reports that the United States is working to remove the term "gender" from CSW's outcome document. If realized, this would represent a major step backwards for gender justice.

We cannot accept rollbacks on gender equality. The international community must stand together and fight to uphold the rights of women, girls, and members of the LGBTQ community.

 

Read the Full Newsletter