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Global Justice Center Blog

Symposium in Pursuit of Intersectional Justice at the International Criminal Court: Group Three – Observations on Forced Pregnancy – Protecting Personal and Reproductive Autonomy

Excerpt of Opinio Juris article co-authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

In February 2021, nearly 20 years after the Rome Statute’s entry into force, the International Criminal Court (ICC) secured its first conviction for forced pregnancy as a war crime and a crime against humanity in the case against Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen. In that 2021 judgment, the Trial Chamber found that the enumeration of the crime in the Rome Statute protects the distinct legal interest of personal and reproductive autonomy.

The Global Justice Center, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, Amnesty International and Dr. Rosemary Grey submitted an amicus brief to the Appeals Chamber on the definition of this crime, addressing questions that were raised in Ongwen’s appeal brief. In addition, in February 2022, at the invitation of the Appeals Chamber, we presented oral observations to the Court as amici.

This post summarizes the arguments made in our amicus brief and oral submissions, and very briefly comments on related arguments about the crime of forced pregnancy made by the Prosecution, Defence and victims’ legal representatives in this case.

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US Supreme Court Reportedly Set to Repeal Constitutional Right to Abortion

NEW YORK — A majority opinion from the US Supreme Court that was leaked to the press shows a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the core legal precedent establishing the right to abortion in the United States.

The court has not yet issued its official ruling and abortion remains legal in the United States.

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

“If this leaked opinion is legitimate, it offers a preview of the catastrophic day reproductive rights activists have feared for decades. In just a few short weeks, this court is set to seize a human right from millions in America. This places the United States in violation of its human rights obligations and far out of step with global trends towards liberalizing abortion access.

“Let’s be clear: safe abortion is a fundamental human right and must be accessible to all pregnant people. Everyone from international human rights bodies to healthcare experts agree. And yet, abortion has been singled out, stigmatized, and targeted, including as a test run for broader assaults on human rights.

“The court’s ruling is still weeks away, but the time to act is now. President Biden and Congress must take all steps within their power to protect abortion access and expeditiously act to firmly enshrine this human right into law.”

Symposium in Pursuit of Intersectional Justice at the International Criminal Court: Ongwen amici curiae Submissions from a Feminist Collective of Lawyers and Scholars

Excerpt of Opinio Juris article co-authored by GJC Senior Legal Advisor Angela Mudukuti.

On 4 February 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s Trial Chamber IX found Dominic Ongwen, a former commander in the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), guilty of 61 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Northern Uganda between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005. The 61 counts included 19 counts of sexual and gender-based crimes (SGBC) and notably among them charges of sexual crimes tried at the ICC for the first time, namely forced marriage as an inhumane act and forced pregnancy. On 6 May 2021, Trial Chamber IX sentenced Dominic Ongwen to 25 years of imprisonment. The Defence filed its appeal briefs against the conviction in July and against the sentence in August 2021. Between 14 and 18 February 2022, the Appeals Chamber (AC) held the appeal hearing.

Following the Defence’s appeal and prior to the AC hearing, on 25 October 2021, the AC  issued an order inviting “expressions of interest as amici curiae in judicial proceedings” with respect to the case against Dominic Ongwen. Particularly, the AC sought to receive observations from “qualified scholars and/or practitioners of criminal procedure and/ or international law, mental health law and/or neuroscience and law” on, inter alia, “sexual and gender-based crimes, especially the legal interpretation of the crimes of forced marriage, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy as well as the standards applicable to assessing evidence of sexual violence”. A group of feminist lawyers and scholars put their heads together to form what we will loosely call a Feminist Collective and submitted four separate amici briefs.  As an introduction to this symposium, this blog details the process and shares our personal reflections as members of the Collective.

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The Science is In: Abortion Bans Are a Public Health Emergency

Excerpt of Women's Media Center Op-Ed authored by GJC Program Coordinator Merrite Johnson.

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) published new guidelines on abortion care, developed through years of consultations with providers, researchers, and human rights experts. The release of this groundbreaking healthcare manual is timely for people in the United States, who are bracing for the end of Roe v. Wade and ensuing crackdowns on abortion access. It’s also a test for the Biden administration, who has made women’s healthcare a major talking point in its campaign to re-assert US leadership on human rights globally.

Most importantly, however, the guidelines can serve as an authoritative confirmation for what American reproductive rights activists have always known: abortion is essential healthcare.

The WHO’s guidelines take a radically simple approach to laws and policies on abortion, recommending both full decriminalization and that abortions be made available on request, without any grounds-based or gestational restrictions.

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Ukrainian Victims of Wartime Rape May Be Forced To Give Birth—All Thanks to This U.S. Policy

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine Op-Ed authored by GJC Legal Director, Dr. Christine Ryan.

Seeking protection from Russian bombing and shelling amidst a siege of their city, thousands of civilians in Bucha bunkered down in subways and basements. But for some, the reprieve from artillery was not enough. For women and girls, there was no shelter from the sexual violence inflicted by Russian soldiers.

Rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy are among the war crimes reportedly suffered by women and girls in Bucha and in wider Ukraine. Yet, the cruelty endured by these victims does not end there. Thanks to U.S. policy, abortion may be unavailable to these women and girls.

Because the Ukrainian health system is drastically strained, international humanitarian aid is playing an outsized role in delivering healthcare throughout the country. But all humanitarian aid provided by the U.S.—the largest single-country donor of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine—is subject to the Helms Amendment, which limits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds for abortion. In this way, rather than alleviating their suffering, U.S. aid could be the reason that victims of wartime rape are denied abortions and forced to give birth.

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