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Global Justice Center Blog

UN Committee Advances Treaty on Crimes Against Humanity

NEW YORK — A United Nations committee today passed a resolution that advanced the International Law Commission’s draft treaty on crimes against humanity. If eventually adopted by states, it would be the first stand-alone treaty that specifically addresses a broad range of obligations, including duties to prevent and punish crimes against humanity.

Introduced by the Gambia, the final resolution passed by the UNGA Sixth Committee was co-sponsored by a cross-regional group of over 85 countries and creates an “interactive format” for debate on the substance of the draft treaty over the next two years. The resolution represents significant progress after the topic has stalled in recent years following resistance from Russia, China, and its allies.

In 2021, prominent international law experts and practitioners from around the world — including former International Criminal court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda — signed a statement  arguing the treaty would “close a crucial gap in the current international framework on mass atrocities.”

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

“Today’s resolution represents the most significant progress on the treaty since work on it began in 2013. For too long, victims of atrocious crimes around the world have languished without a comprehensive international framework that specifically targets these crimes and requires the international community to prevent and punish them. As an organization dedicated to combating gender-based crimes around the world, we’re heartened to finally see action on this critical treaty after so many years.

“Year after year, progress on the treaty was stymied by a small cadre of authoritarian countries determined to halt human rights measures at every turn. In these cases, procedural objections were used as a cover for opposition to the treaty itself.

“We can’t allow this gap in the international legal system to exist any longer. Perpetrators of sexual and reproductive violence, enslavement, deportation, and other crimes against humanity are growing more emboldened thanks to an increasingly-weakening international order. We need this treaty now more than ever.”

The UN's New Agenda for Peace and the Situation in Myanmar

 

Among the 12 commitments from the Declaration on the Commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, is the UN Secretary General’s call for a “New Agenda for Peace” (New Agenda). Billed as an opportunity to revisit the United Nations Charter’s founding pledge to prevent the scourge of war, the New Agenda could be an opportunity to recalibrate multilateral approaches to conflict prevention and resolution, as well as to promote human rights and gender equality. Given the “systemic failures” and “structural shortcomings” in the UN’s handling of the situation in Myanmar (see 2019 Rosenthal inquiry), it is apt to consider what lessons Myanmar could hold for this New Agenda. In addition to shedding light on the UN’s conflict prevention shortcomings, a contextual look at the crisis - and opportunities - in Myanmar can be instructive on other pertinent peacebuilding dynamics. From the need to address gender in conflict to the limits of regional prevention mechanisms, the complexities of the situation in Myanmar challenge advocates, policymakers, and States to consider inclusive and reflexive paths to peace

This event asks: if Myanmar is centered as a case study for this new vision, what priorities emerge for UN peacebuilding?

Panel: The human right to health as a gateway to other human rights

This panel was part of the Institute for Public Health's15th Annual Conference, which explored the concept of health as a human right and how health affects the enjoyment of our human rights, while lack of access to human rights can affect our health.

Featured panelists:

  • Akila Radhakrishnan, JD, President of the Global Justice Center
  • Diego Abente, MS, MBA, President and CEO, Casa de Salud
  • Jeremy Goldbach, PhD, LMSW, Masters & Johnson Distinguished Professor of Sexual Health and Education Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
  • Sherrill Wayland, MSW, Director of Special Initiatives at SAGE

Moderated by:
Leila Nadya Sadat, JD, LLM, DEA, James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law, WashU School of Law Fellow at the Schell Center for Human Rights, Yale Law School Special Adviser on Crimes Against Humanity to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor

Social media platforms must act against election-related violence, disinfo, hate

As we approach the midterm elections, it remains painfully clear that social media companies are still failing to protect candidates, voters, and elected officials from disinformation, misogyny, racism, transphobia, and violence. After the 2020 presidential election, Trump backers and MAGA Republicans attacked the United States Capitol in the hopes of undermining the democratic process and stopping electoral vote certification. Before the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, social media platforms like Twitter and Meta knew that white supremacist misogynists were using their platforms to organize violent actions, spread false information claiming Trump had won, and threaten election workers, mostly Black women in places like Georgia. Yet social media companies did little to protect us.

In fact, according to The New York Times, the phrase "Storm the Capitol" was used 100,000 times on social media platforms in the month preceding the attack. Facebook groups had 650,000 posts questioning the validity of the election between Election Day and the January 6 insurrection, including many posts that called for executions and other violence. Most of this violence, both online and at the Capitol, was driven by racist, misogynistic men, and many of them had records of domestic violence or sexual harassment and assault. Similarly, insurrectionists made numerous threats on social media against women leaders in Congress, including threatening to kill Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. These threats were in addition to the regular threats and harassment endured by women of color congressional leaders: A study by ISD Global of 2020 candidates found that women of color candidates receive more abusive messages on social media, with Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez getting the most.

Read the Full Letter

International Law Weekend: The Crimes Against Humanity Treaty

Panelists

  • Richard Dicker, Human Rights Watch
  • Alexandra Lily Kather Emergent Justice Collective,
  • Ambassador Alexander Marschik, Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN
  • Mosammat Shahanara Monica, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, Global Justice Center
  • Leila Nadya Sadat, Washington University School of Law