Global Justice Center Blog

Global Justice Center Mourns the Death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

NEW YORK — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died today due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. She was 87 years old.

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

“Justice Ginsburg was an inspiration to us all. As feminist attorneys fighting for equal protection of the law for women and girls around the world, we have all built on her vision of how the law can be a positive force to build a more equal world.

“On a more personal level, Justice Ginsburg was a personal mentor and friend to our founder, Janet Benshoof, from her days at Harvard Law School to their days at the ACLU, and was deeply influential in how Janet approached legal strategies and advocacy. We were also honored to have Justice Ginsburg as a longtime donor to the Global Justice Center.

“In a letter to Janet shortly before her passing, Justice Ginsburg quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, saying ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ The same can certainly be said for the legacy of Justice Ginsburg. Here at GJC, we will continue our fight to eliminate laws that discriminate against women, and more importantly, build an affirmative legal framework that protects gender equality, in Janet’s memory and of Justice Ginsburg.”

Rohingya Crisis into Fourth Year: Challenges in Securing a Sustainable Solution

Remarks from GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan

Thank you for having me on such a distinguished panel of speakers and experts today, and I want to echo Simon’s thanks for the inclusion of civil society in this conversation. As Ambassador Rae mentioned,  I am Akila Radhakrishnan, the president of the Global Justice Center, an international human rights organization dedicated to advancing gender equality through the rule of law. And as an organization, we have been working on Myanmar since 2005, particularly justice and accountability for sexual violence against ethnic minorities. 

In reflecting on the topic for today’s panel, “Rohingya Crisis in the Fourth Year: Challenges to Securing a Sustainable Solution” - I am left with the sense that the questions we are asking ourselves four years on are almost identical to the questions we were asking ourselves 4 years ago, and frankly those for those of us who have long worked on Myanmar, much longer. 

As I prepared my remarks for today, I spoke to a wise colleague about this issue and he pointed me towards some statements that Government of Myanmar has made with respect to the Rohingya, including that “there was no discrimination based on religion,” that allegations of misconduct were “fabricated by some big countries and certain foreign news agencies”, that the “Rohingya do not exist in Myanmar either historically, politically or legally”, and that the Tatmadaw is a “methodically and systematically organized institution made up of highly trained and disciplined personnel”, and that the “grotesque allegations made against the Tatmadaw were totally false.”

While these statements sound like they could have been made by Myanmar yesterday, they are in fact statements made to the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance in 1992. I use this to show how while the face of Myanmar’s government since then has changed, how little the Government's rhetoric or posture has changed not only in the four years since this “crisis” began, but rather in the decades of oppression of the Rohingya. And this should be a rallying cry to the international community that business as usual on Myanmar cannot continue. Myanmar should no longer be allowed to set the terms of the debate and the scope of action. 

And nowhere is this more stark than when it comes to the deeply rooted gender issues at the heart of the Rohingya genocide. SRSG Patten has powerfully laid out how crimes of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, including transwomen, as well as men and boys was systematically used by the Tatmadaw in their operations so I won’t repeat what she has said and instead pick up briefly on some key issues that are essential to delivering gender justice and changing the conversation on Myanmar.  

As a starting point, there can be no true justice for the genocide of the Rohingya if acts of sexual and gender-based violence are not at the center of all accountability proceedings at the international and domestic level. And here, countries like The Gambia, Bangladesh, Canada, and the Netherlands and institutions like the ICC, OHCHR and the IIMM need to be commended in their efforts to take bold steps to move the justice and accountability conversation forward. And in particular, I must say thank you to Canada and the Netherlands for their commitment to addressing crimes of SGBV in their intervention at the ICJ. But while international efforts move forward, it has been profoundly disturbing to see members of the international community continue to validate and legitimize deeply flawed domestic processes, in particular the International Commission of Enquiry. 

As an advocate for gender-justice, that fact the ICOE’s executive summary categorically dismissed evidence of rape and gang rape, despite extensive documentation of these crimes, should immediately disqualify this report.  If the ICOE is to be the evidentiary base for domestic accountability proceedings, where does this leave those who were subject to acts of sexual and gender-based violence? While there is little to no transparency around Myanmar’s court-martials, it can be assumed that none of the court-martials that have been announced on the basis of the ICOE report will include charges of sexual and gender-based violence, including those that were announced yesterday. And even outside of the cases it may underlie, just the matter of its dismissal and exclusion from the ICOE’s report is a step in the erasure of gendered experiences.  

The concerns are compounded with larger concerns over the ICOE, including their limited and flawed mandate, to questions about their independence, impartiality and methodology, and its findings. However, in looking for openings to address the seemingly intractable situation in Myanmar, most states have chosen an approach of selective acceptance and “constructive” engagement with regards to the ICOE, even as they have yet to see the full report. This is what operating on Myanmar’s terms looks like.

In fact, just last week, the joint statement released following yet another closed-door Security Council meeting on Myanmar called for the implementation of the recommendations of the ICOE. It is not possible to divorce the recommendations of a report from the analysis and narrative that underlies it, and the continued legitimization of this report, signal the international community’s comfort with the erasure of gendered experiences in pursuit of “solutions.” Rhetoric decrying sexual and gender-based violence is not enough, the international community must ensure that all of its actions on Myanmar are undertaken with a gender perspective. 

Second,  while justice is an important part of the larger accountability picture, it cannot be the sole focus. Rather, accountability needs to be holistic and survivor-centered and should seek to address and transform the root causes of violence--including patriarchal structures and misogyny--both in Myanmar and in the Rohingya community itself. Therefore, punitive measures against individuals cannot alone address it; to comprehensively address SGBV takes much more: reparations and redress, including guarantees of non-repetition, and access to comprehensive medical and psychosocial care for survivors, including essential sexual and reproductive health services such as safe abortion.

And as accountability proceedings are underway, it is crucial that the Rohingya themselves, including Rohingya women and girls, are able to determine their own priorities for justice and restitution. To borrow a phrase from American reproductive justice activists, “nothing about us without us.” And on this, while I deeply appreciate being included in this conversation, I note with disappointment that the direct voice of Rohingya women is not represented today. Rohingya women and girls must be the architects, not objects, of their future. 

Thank you so much for the ability to participate. 

Canada, Netherlands join Gambia's genocide case against Myanmar

Excerpt of Al Jazeera article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

The New York-based Global Justice Center welcomed the move by Canada and the Netherlands, calling it "nothing short of historic".

Akila Radhakrishnan, the group's president, said: "Just as important as their intention to intervene is their promise to focus on gendered crimes of genocide like sexual and gender-based violence, which was central to the atrocities against the Rohingya."

She added: "Too often, gendered experiences do not translate to justice and accountability efforts and leave the primary targets of those crimes - women and girls - behind. This is an important step forward to address that gap and Canada and the Netherlands should be applauded for this move."

Read the Article

ICC Case Could Make History with Gender Prosecution

Excerpt of Women's Media Center op-ed from GJC Legal Intern Sarah Coniglio.

Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) began its presentation of what could be a landmark case for the prosecution of gender-based crimes. Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud (“Al Hassan”) has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture, rape, sexual slavery, and gender persecution surrounding Mali’s 2012-2013 internal armed conflict. The ICC has not had a standing conviction for persecution on the basis of gender due to the overturning of the conviction of former Congolese military leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba, in 2018.

The Al Hassan case has the potential to shine light on the unique harm perpetrators commit against individuals based on their gender, which enforces patriarchal social norms and increases the potency of their crimes. It could also chart a path forward for international criminal law to define gender.

Read the Article

Canada and the Netherlands to Intervene in Myanmar Genocide Case at World Court

NEW YORK — The governments of Canada and the Netherlands today announced their intention to intervene in the genocide case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministries of both governments said the move furthers their solemn pledge to prevent genocide and hold those responsible to account. They also made clear their intention to “pay special attention to crimes related to sexual and gender-based violence, including rape.”

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

“Today’s announcement from Canada and the Netherlands is nothing short of historic. The Gambia took the brave and necessary step to file the case late last year, but the cause of the Rohingya must be a cause of the whole world. Canada and the Netherlands took a major step today towards fulfilling their legal and moral duty to act against genocide.

“Just as important as their intention to intervene is their promise to focus on gendered crimes of genocide like sexual and gender-based violence, which was central to the atrocities against the Rohingya. Too often, gendered experiences do not translate to justice and accountability efforts and leave the primary targets of those crimes — women and girls — behind. This is an important step forward to address that gap and Canada and the Netherlands should be applauded for this move.”