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Global Justice Center Blog

New Hearings Announced in Genocide Case Against Myanmar at World Court

NEW YORK — Reports surfaced today that the International Court of Justice will hold hearings on February 21 in The Gambia’s case against Myanmar for the 2017 genocide of the Rohingya. The hearings — the first since last year’s military coup — will consider Myanmar’s “preliminary objections” to the case.

Preliminary objections are typically filed to raise procedural issues before the court considers the merits of the case. Objections filed by Myanmar likely include challenges to The Gambia’s standing to file the case and to the existence of a dispute with The Gambia. More information on preliminary objections and the military coup’s effect on the case can be found here.

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

“It is important that a critical vehicle to secure accountability for the Rohingya genocide is moving forward, especially after the perpeptrators of this grave crime took power in a coup. The present crisis in Myanmar was born of impunity and it will take accountability at this court and elsewhere to move Myanmar back on the path to democracy.

“Myanmar’s preliminary objections are little more than delay tactics. In its hearings and order on provisional measures, the court already considered and rejected many of these arguments. The fact is Myanmar violated the Genocide Convention and Myanmar will do everything it can to avoid facing justice. And with the news that the military junta will defend in this case, the perpetrators of the Rohingya genocide will now be the one’s physically present in court to answer for their atrocities.

“The military has not only yet to be held accountable for its grievous crimes, but illegally seized power over their country. In its repression of the pro-democracy movement, the military is continuing the human rights abuses that a generation of impunity has afforded. It’s past time for these atrocities to be met with consequences and this case is a vital tool to secure such justice.”

The U.S. Can’t Be a Global Leader on Democracy While Banning Abortion at Home

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine Op-Ed co-authored by GJC Legal Advisor Elena Sarver.

Last month, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in a case that could set off a new era of abortion bans across much of the country. It also marked the start of President Biden’s Democracy Summit, a high-level conference bringing together world leaders, civil society and the private sector to discuss challenges and opportunities facing democracy internationally. One of the stated themes of this first of two planned summits is a focus on human rights.

The proximity of these two moments is more than mere coincidence. Yes, the U.S. faces an unprecedented crisis for the right to abortion. But we must also recognize the numerous links between democracy and reproductive rights. A most basic and fundamental freedom in a democracy is the ability to control decision-making around one’s own reproduction. When this freedom is removed, it threatens the ability of half of the country’s population to participate equally in society. So, if the U.S. hopes to credibly host a marquee event to promote its return to global democratic leadership, it must contend with cracks in that facade here at home.

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Amicus Brief - The Prosecutor v. Dominic Ongwen

Introduction

Having been granted leave to submit amicus curiae observations, we respectfully offer these observations about the Rome Statute’s definition of ‘forced pregnancy’. This is the first occasion that the Appeals Chamber will provide its interpretation of this crime, which was expressly listed in an international instrument for the first time in the Rome Statute.

The Rome Statute enumerates forced pregnancy as a crime against humanity and as a war crime in both international and non-international armed conflicts. The term ‘forced pregnancy’ is defined in Article (Art.) 7(2)(f) of the Rome Statute (RS), which states: ‘Forced pregnancy’ means the unlawful confinement of a woman forcibly made pregnant, with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of any population or carrying out other grave violations of international law. This definition shall not in any way be interpreted as affecting national laws relating to pregnancy.

Our amicus curiae brief addresses three issues pertinent to this definition: the irrelevance of national laws relating to pregnancy when interpreting the Rome Statute’s definition of forced pregnancy; the elements of ‘forced pregnancy’ as a war crime and a crime against humanity; and the grounding of the crime of forced pregnancy in human rights that protect personal, sexual, and reproductive autonomy.

In doing so, we recall that the Court must interpret the Rome Statute and Elements of Crimes, including as they relate to forced pregnancy ‘consistent with internationally recognised human rights’ and ‘without any adverse distinction founded on grounds such as gender’ pursuant to Art. 21(3) RS. Additionally, the Court must interpret the Rome Statute in light of its object and purpose, namely, to 'put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole’, including the full range of sexual and gender-based crimes enumerated in the Statute. In light of their expertise, amici also seek to provide guidance on internationally recognised human rights relating to personal, sexual, and reproductive autonomy, and explain their relevance to the interpretation of the Rome Statute’s crime of forced pregnancy.

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Hold the Myanmar military and security forces accountable for their grave human rights violations, including violence against women

We, the undersigned women’s rights and human rights organizations, call upon the UN Security Council to hold the Myanmar military and security forces accountable for their grave human rights violations, including the use of violence against women. We strongly condemn the Myanmar military and security forces for their acts in violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws and norms, which amount to crimes against humanity according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, and the UN Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. Since the Myanmar military’s attempted seizure of power on February 1, 2021, the junta has arbitrarily arrested and detained at least 11,047 people, and murdered over 1345. Nationwide, the Myanmar military junta is intensifying its use of air strikes and other heavy weapons against civilians, forcing thousands of women and children to flee their homes. Given the Myanmar military and security forces’ decades-long use of sexual and gender-based violence against ethnic minority women, including Rohingya, we are extremely distressed that the situation of the women of Myanmar will continue to be severely exacerbated.

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48th Anniversary of Helms Letter

Dear President Biden,

We, the undersigned organizations, call on you to protect reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy for people across the globe by demonstrating your support for the repeal of the Helms Amendment. Failure to do so is in direct conflict with the priorities stated by this administration to “promote access to sexual and reproductive health and rights both at home and abroad.” We urge you to proactively protect essential human rights, including abortion, for people in other countries as well as our own. We appreciate the actions you have taken in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including repealing the Global Gag Rule and calling for increased UNFPA funding. However, simply reversing harm inflicted by the previous administration is not enough to make meaningful progress on health and human rights.

We write to you on this day specifically because it is the 48th anniversary of the passage of the Helms Amendment, which prohibits U.S. foreign aid from being used for “the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.” This provision is over-implemented as a total ban on abortion under any circumstance, denying millions of mostly Black and brown people in low-to-middle income countries the health care they want and need. Authored by the late Sen. Jesse Helms, this policy has roots in racism and neocolonialism, allowing the U.S. to police other countries through the power of foreign assistance and control their policies even in instances where countries have expanded abortion access. The result is drastic global health inequities, stifled bodily autonomy, and preventable death.

Last year, many of us called on your administration to support the "Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act," which repeals the Helms Amendment. The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act now has over 170 cosponsors and is endorsed by a diverse coalition of over 175 organizations. The Helms Amendment was also successfully removed from the House-passed Fiscal Year 2022 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill. Despite growing momentum for repeal of the Helms Amendment, it remained in the FY22 President’s Budget and was not addressed in the recently released National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, both missed opportunities to ensure bodily autonomy for people globally, no matter who they are or where they live.

Read the Full Letter