Myanmar to Report to World Court on Compliance with Order to Prevent Genocide

NEW YORK — Myanmar will submit its first report to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on its compliance with an order to prevent and not commit genocide against the Rohingya this Saturday. The reporting obligations are one of the “provisional measures” issued by the ICJ in January.

Myanmar is required to report to the ICJ on “all measures taken to give effect” to the Order, including to prevent genocidal acts, ensure its military and police forces do not commit genocidal acts, and preserve all potential evidence of genocidal acts. The first report must be submitted by May 23, 2020, four months after the provisional measures order, while subsequent reports will be due every six months. The ICJ does not require the report be made public.

“The reporting requirement was a critical component of the ICJ’s historic order to protect the Rohingya from genocide. Having specifically recognized that the Rohingya remain extremely vulnerable, the periodic reports will allow the Court to monitor Myanmar’s actions related to the Rohingya in real time as the case proceeds,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “Unfortunately, the response since then from Myanmar’s government has been deeply flawed at worst, and superficial at best.”

On April 8, Myanmar issued “presidential directives” to all government officials, requesting they ensure acts prohibited by Article II of the Genocide Convention are not committed — and that evidence of those acts are not destroyed. A later directive asked officials to denounce and prevent hate speech. The directives — which represent the only substantive response from Myanmar since the January ICJ order — include no clear guidelines for implementation and monitoring, and do not touch on the key issues of structural discrimination that need to be addressed in order to meaningfully give effect to the order. Deeper analysis of Myanmar’s actions since the ICJ order can be found in our Q&A.

“Myanmar’s Generals ordered the atrocities, bulldozed and buried evidence of their crimes, and are the reason why Aung San Suu Kyi’s name will now forever be associated with genocide and injustice,” said Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “Until Myanmar’s discriminatory laws are abolished and the perpetrators of the genocide are held accountable, the threat of further atrocities remains.”

USAID Chief Demands Abortion be Removed from UN COVID-19 Response Plan

NEW YORK — Acting Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), John Barsa, sent a letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres yesterday requesting references to sexual and reproductive health be removed from the UN’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan to fight COVID-19.

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

“This is a disgraceful and dangerous attack on essential health services at the worst possible time. No matter what the US government says, abortion is a fundamental human right and reproductive care is always essential, including  during a pandemic. At a time when countless lives are at risk, the US has yet again decided to put its efforts into restricting healthcare, instead of expanding it.

“Administrator Barsa’s attack on abortion care during COVID-19 is an extension of the longtime US strategy to hold millions of dollars in lifesaving global aid hostage to serve its extreme anti-abortion agenda. Policies like the Global Gag Rule and the Helms Amendment that restrict funding to abortion services have devastated global health for decades. Now, they’re opportunistically using a pandemic to further their efforts.

“UN Secretary-General Guterres should be commended for recognizing the importance of reproductive rights in COVID-19 response plans. Instead, he’s being bullied by a US administration hellbent on decimating reproductive health and bodily autonomy at all costs.”

United Nations Secretary-General Releases Policy Brief on Human Rights & COVID-19

NEW YORK – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres released a policy brief today on human rights and COVID-19.

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

“The secretary-general’s policy brief on human rights in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is an important reminder of why and how human rights need to be at the center of not only immediate government responses to this crisis, but also the rebuilding process after the pandemic. Around the world, we have seen governments ignore fundamental rights in their COVID-19 responses. In some cases, states use it as a pretext to restrict and violate human rights.”

“Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the context of gender. As rates of gender-based violence around the world have spiked during the pandemic, countries have shown themselves either unprepared to provide support services or have completely failed to take this violence into account in their responses. Countries like the United States have also exploited the pandemic to restrict access to abortion services. An effort centered on human rights, as called for by the secretary-general, must include women in the design of responses and be responsive to their specific needs, such as sexual and reproductive rights.”

“It’s imperative that states take meaningful action to incorporate human rights in their responses, and where they fail, they must be held accountable.”
 

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.”

UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Releases Final Report

NEW YORK – Yanghee Lee, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, released an advance version of her final report today. Lee was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, had the following response:

“Special Rapporteur Lee has been a stalwart advocate for human rights and justice in Myanmar throughout her entire tenure. As expected, her final report conveys the gravity of the situation in Myanmar as well as the urgency of domestic and international action.”

“Backed up by years of investigation and documentation, Lee’s report recognizes that international action, whether at the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice, is critical to reversing the scourge of genocide and other grave crimes in the country. We hope the international community heeds her words. They’re more important now than ever.”

Human Rights Orgs Sue Sec. Pompeo for Unlawful Commission Designed to Redefine Human Rights, Undercut Universal Protections for Women, LGBTQI Individuals and Others

Unalienable Rights Commission Intent on Privileging Religious Freedom Over Other Rights, Appears Set to Provide Trump Administration Roadmap to Deny Equal Rights for All
Slanted Membership, Withheld Records and Closed Door Meetings Violate Federal Law

New York, NY — Today, a coalition of international human rights organizations sued the Trump administration for creating and operating the State Department's Commission on Unalienable Rights in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unlawfully created the Commission in July 2019. Since then it has been working behind closed doors to articulate a definition of human rights that is grounded in certain religious traditions and that will eliminate rights for LGBTQI individuals, restrict sexual and reproductive health and rights and remove protections for other marginalized communities across the globe. The Commission's establishment — and its mandate to fundamentally reconsider the U.S.’s commitment to human rights — represents yet another way in which the Trump administration has eroded U.S. human rights commitments and practices, both domestically and abroad. 

Democracy Forward filed today’s lawsuit on behalf of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), the Council for Global Equality, and Global Justice Center. 

“The Trump administration’s agenda is on display at the Supreme Court this week for all to see,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Our lawsuit is bringing light to their attempts to export their misogynistic and homophobic policies around the world—policies which would deny women basic reproductive health rights like access to contraceptives, would deny LGBTQI people recognition as rights holders, and would hand over who gets rights and who doesn’t to religious sects and autocrats.”  

“The Trump administration is continuing its pattern of illegally outsourcing policymaking to hand-picked groups to reach pre-determined outcomes,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “This time, Secretary Pompeo seeks to use an unlawful advisory committee to redefine human rights and undercut protections for women and the LGBTQI community across the globe, so we are suing to stop him.” 

“The State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights is just another stepping stone in the White House’s agenda to roll back well-established human rights for women and the LGBTQIA+ community. Disturbingly, this Commission includes members who have loudly opposed women’s rights and sexual and reproductive rights, but excludes the voices of those who would forcefully advocate for these rights,” said Serra Sippel, President of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). “CHANGE objects to this unlawfully biased Commission, and is proud to join this lawsuit to hold the U.S. accountable to its commitments to human rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

“Secretary Pompeo often argues that the modern proliferation of human rights claims cheapens the currency of human rights,” noted Mark Bromley, Chair of the Council for Global Equality. “But it is this illegal Commission, with its warped use of religious freedom and natural law to deny rights, that cheapens the very notion of religious freedom and our country’s proud tradition of standing up for the rights of those who are most vulnerable.”

“Secretary Pompeo’s illegal Commission is part of the Trump administration's wider attack on a human rights system that has firmly established access to safe abortion as a protected right under international law,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center.

Secretary Pompeo established the Commission with the predetermined goal of recasting human rights based on what the State Dept. called the “founding principles of natural law and natural rights.” This terminology has previously been employed to justify curtailing human rights and, in particular, restricting reproductive freedom and rejecting equal treatment for LGBTQI individuals. Proponents of this view, like Secretary Pompeo, assert that historically marginalized communities’ successes in claiming their rights have led to a “rights proliferation,” which they claim has diluted the very meaning of rights and caused unworkable tension and chaos within the international legal system. Secretary Pompeo has crudely dismissedthe rights of historically marginalized groups as rewards for political “pet causes.”

The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires any outside advisory group that provides recommendations or advice to a federal agency maintain a balanced membership, fulfill a public interest need and operate transparently. The Commission is violating all these requirements. It is unlawfully:

  • Stacked with members who have staked out positions hostile to LGBTQ and reproductive rights, such as the belief that marriage equality is “nonsensical,” homosexuality is “one of the signs of the End Times,” and that women should not be given contraceptives to prevent transferring the Zika virus to newborns. 

  • Sidelining mainstream human rights groups, as well as career diplomats within the State Department, who have advised administrations of both political parties about U.S. human rights commitments and the role they should play in foreign policy.

  • Holding closed door meetings to conduct significant Commission business outside of the public’s view and scrutiny, including efforts to redefine human rights terminology and commitments.

  • Failing to provide adequate notice of meetings and to release key documents to the public.

Since assuming office, the Trump administration has made clear its intention to reduce the United States’ role in human rights protection overseas. The establishment of the Commission is yet another means of achieving this retreat from global human rights leadership. 

This is all the more concerning in the context of Secretary of State Pompeo’s speech to Concerned Women for America at the Trump Hotel, where Pompeo professed his personal belief that human rights should be grounded in religion rather than law: “I know where those [human] rights came from. They came from our Lord, and when we get this right, we’ll have done something good, not just I think for the United States but for the world.” 

The Commission has also spurred both concern and action from Congress. In response to the administration’s May 2019 announcement of its intent to establish the Commission, five members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations raised alarms about the Commission’s membership. The next month, more than 20 U.S. Senators wrote to Secretary Pompeo in July 2019 seeking information “as part of Congress’ role in ensuring compliance with FACA.” That same month, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel and more than 50 other Members of Congress wrote to Secretary Pompeo questioning why the Commission, which has a mission duplicative of the State Department’s own human rights office, is even necessary. Last summer, the House of Representatives passed an amendment sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline that would block the State Department from expending funds on this Commission.

The Trump administration has a record of illegally outsourcing federal policymaking. Democracy Forward obtained a court order that prevents the Department of the Interior from relying on recommendations provided by a committee — stacked with oil and gas industry insiders — that was established in violation of FACA. Similarly, Interior disbanded the International Wildlife Conservation Committee — a deceptively named trophy hunting council stacked with trophy hunters, donors to the Trump administration, and firearms manufacturer — after Democracy Forward challenged the unlawfully established advisory panel.

International Criminal Court Approves Investigation into Afghanistan War Crimes

NEW YORK – The International Criminal Court ruled today that an investigation into war crimes committed during the conflicts in Afghanistan could proceed. This investigation would include any crimes committed by US forces. 

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, had the following response:

"The I.C.C. was established to bring perpetrators of humanity's most serious crimes to justice — no matter where they're from nor how powerful they are. This ruling is a historic victory for the global rule of law. The United States has shown itself entirely unwilling to hold the perpetrators of its torture program to account and has actively tried to impede the court’s investigation. The international community — especially nations who are a party to the ICC — should support this critical step towards justice."

UN Secretary-General Delivers Call to Action on Human Rights

NEW YORK – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a call to action today on human rights in an address to the Human Rights Council.

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

"The Secretary-General’s call to action is a welcome effort to re-center human rights into the work of the United Nations. Particularly important is its specific area of focus on gender equality and equal rights for women. Still, it is equally important that gender equality is integral to all focus areas as a cross-cutting issue.

“With the UN’s recent failure to adequately respond to the serious violations against the Rohingya in Myanmar in mind — as documented in the UN’s own internal report by Gert Rosenthal — it is essential that this call to action translates to meaningful action. It’s insufficient for the UN to pay mere lip service to the concept of human rights. Rather, the call to action should be used to fundamentally shift the UN’s culture and ensure that all parts of the system work to promote, not suppress, human rights.”

World Court Orders Myanmar to Take Immediate Action to Prevent Genocide

THE HAGUE — The International Court of Justice today ordered Myanmar to take immediate action to prevent genocide.

The “provisional measures” require Myanmar to prevent genocidal acts, ensure military and police forces do not commit genocidal acts, preserve all evidence of genocidal acts, and report on compliance with these provisional measures. The measures are also automatically sent to the UN Security Council.

“Today’s order is a massive step towards justice for the Rohingya that underlines the importance of the global rule of law,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are still under the threat of genocide. Over a million languish in refugee camps far from home. These measures recognize the tremendous urgency of the situation for survivors of sexual violence and other genocidal crimes. It’s now time for the international community, including the Security Council, to act to ensure compliance.”

In its request for provisional measures, The Gambia cited the findings of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, which reported in September that the Rohingya remaining inside Myanmar “live under the threat of genocide.” Countries on the UN Security Council are obligated to prevent and punish the crime of genocide under the Genocide Convention.

“This is the first step on a path to justice for the Rohingya. I hope that all members of the UN Security Council will uphold their moral and political obligation to ensure that the provisional measures ordered by the Court are fully implemented,” said Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “Those responsible for genocide are still in power in Myanmar. Justice has been delayed but can no longer be denied.”

Myanmar “Independent” Commission on Rohingya Violence Submits Final Report

Report Confirms Human Rights Experts’ Charges that Commission Won’t Provide Real Accountability

NEW YORK – The Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE), established by the Government of Myanmar to investigate human rights abuses in Rakhine State, submitted its final report to Myanmar’s government today. The full report is not yet public and its submission comes days before an International Court of Justice ruling that could impose immediately binding obligations on Myanmar.

The report acknowledged some human rights abuses occurred in the context of what it deemed an “internal armed conflict,” but found no evidence of genocidal intent, contradicting independent United Nations investigations and numerous human rights organizations. The Commission also asserts that its full report and annexes can be used as the basis for domestic investigations, including by the military justice system as a venue for accountability, despite the military’s history of protecting soldiers who carried out human rights abuses and the significant flaws of the system. The report also seemingly fails, like the Government of Myanmar, to use the term “Rohingya” which continues to deny the identity of the group.

“All signs point to what human rights experts and Rohingya themselves already know, which is that the government has no intention of bringing perpetrators of mass rape and other genocidal crimes to justice,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “This Commission is just yet another domestic attempt to deflect responsibility and whitewash the situation of the Rohingya.”

The ICOE was established in June 2018 to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in Rakhine state. The Commission said from the outset it would not seek to hold anyone accountable and it was formed to “respond to false allegations made by UN agencies.” This bias, as well as a lack of transparency around the Commission’s methods, led the United Nations Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar to conclude last year that the commission “does not constitute an effective independent investigations mechanism.”

“The UN Fact-Finding Mission was right when it said accountability must come from the international community,” said Radhakrishnan. “We must continue to support ongoing efforts seeking true accountability for the crimes against the Rohingya, including The Gambia’s case at the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court’s current investigation.” 

Aung San Suu Kyi Delivers Opening Arguments in Genocide Case at World Court

THE HAGUE – Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivered opening arguments today at the International Court of Justice in the genocide case against Myanmar filed by The Gambia. 

Suu Kyi and Myanmar are responding to The Gambia’s request for provisional measures, which would impose immediately binding obligations on Myanmar. For more on these measures,please see our Q&A.

Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan issued the following statement:

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s picture of an internal military conflict with no genocidal intent against the Rohingya is completely false. Multiple independent agencies and experts, as well as Rohingya themselves, have documented mass killings, widespread rape, and wholesale destruction of land and property intentionally inflicted on innocent civilians. The government has discriminated against the Rohingya for decades. This is genocide and it’s precisely what the Genocide Convention set out to prevent.”

Hearings Begin in Genocide Case Against Myanmar at World Court

THE HAGUE – The International Court of Justice is holding its first hearing today in the case filed by The Gambia against Myanmar for the genocide of the Rohingya. 

The Gambia will deliver arguments on their request for provisional measures, which would impose immediately binding obligations on Myanmar. For more on these measures,please see our Q&A.

Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan issued the following statement:

"The international community is many years too late on taking action in Myanmar, but this case represents the first hope in decades for the Rohingya and other persecuted ethnic groups in the country. Indiscriminate killings, widespread rape and sexual violence, arbitrary detention, and torture have been everyday reality in Myanmar for far too long. The court has an opportunity with this case to help end it all."

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi will open Myanmar’s arguments before the court tomorrow. 

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

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.

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

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.”

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.