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Global Justice Center Blog

Letter Supporting Abortion Rights for Veterans Affairs Patients

Dear Under Secretary for Health Dr. Elnahal:

As organizations committed to protecting and expanding abortion access for all people, including service members, veterans, and their family members, we commend the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (“VA”) for its Interim Final Rule (“IFR”) on Reproductive Health Services. This IFR will provide essential abortion care and counseling to veterans and their family members in the midst of the current reproductive health care crisis. Access to abortion is essential to veterans’ freedom to make decisions about their health and well-being, and this IFR is a critical action toward ensuring they have control over their bodies, lives, and futures.

As a part of this country’s commitment to providing for the needs of veterans after they leave the military, VA has been directed by Congress to “promote, preserve, or restore the health” of the veterans they serve—and this includes ensuring access to abortion without political interference. Lacking access to abortion care and adequate reproductive health services can have profound impacts, including financial insecurity, increased risk of intimate partner violence, and maternal and neonatal deaths. These impacts are disproportionately felt by marginalized communities in the U.S who have long faced systemic barriers to health care—including Black, Indigenous, and people of color, low-income people, rural populations, LGBTQI people, people with disabilities, and immigrants.

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The London Conference on International Law: International Criminal Law and the Politics of Impunity

Despite the major advance of international criminal justice over the last thirty years, and despite significant efforts in theatres such as Ukraine, impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern still prevails. This panel, featuring an introduction by HM Attorney General for England and Wales, Rt Hon Michael Ellis KC MP, will reflect on the opportunities and risks presented by recourse to the institutional frameworks of international criminal justice as an immediate response mechanism, discuss a number of situations where impunity still prevails, including in Ukraine, the role of the Security Council, the wisdom of a special tribunal for the crime of aggression, and the importance of considering intersectionality and applying a gender lens to deliver true justice.

Chair:

Sir Howard Morrison KC, Independent Adviser to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General

Speakers:

Professor Olympia Bekou, Professor of Public International Law and Head of the International Criminal Justice Unit, The University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre

Professor Roger O’Keefe, Professor of Public International Law, Bocconi University, Italy

Angela Mudukuti, International Criminal Justice Lawyer

Impunity in Myanmar, 5 Years After Genocide

On August 25, 2017, the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, escalated a genocidal campaign in Rakhine State against the Muslim Rohingya community. Despite a case at the International Court of Justice, international investigations, and efforts to pursue justice under universal jurisdiction, there has been little progress in achieving accountability. In the face of serious obstacles, including the Tatmadaw’s February 2021 coup, civil society leaders are leading the charge for accountability and fighting for a peaceful future in Myanmar.

This discussion focused on the urgent need to combat impunity in Myanmar and mitigate ongoing mass atrocity risks in the country.

Featuring:

  • Robert Rae, Ambassador, Canadian Mission to the United Nations
  • Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar
  • Naomi Kikoler, Director, Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center
  • Yasmin Ullah, Rohingya human rights activist, feminist, and poet
  • Naw Hser Hser, General Secretary, Women’s League of Burma

Q&A: How International Law Protects Abortion Access in the US

On June 4, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that ended the constitutional right to abortion in the US. Following the ruling, many states have moved to ban abortion and issue new restrictions on abortion care.

This factsheet answers questions about protections for abortion under international law. Over the last few decades, multiple human rights treaties have been developed that, together, establish reproductive autonomy as a human right.

1. What human rights treaties has the US ratified?

There are nine core international human rights treaties that together establish standards for the protection and promotion of human rights. The US has ratified three: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).

These treaties are binding, and as such they require the US to comply with its international human rights obligations, one of which is ensuring access to abortion. Additionally, the US has signed but not ratified other relevant treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and has an obligation not to defeat those treaties’ object or purpose.

2. Who enforces these treaties? How do they hold the US accountable?

Implementation of the human rights treaties is monitored by treaty bodies, including the Human Rights Committee (which monitors the ICCPR), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and the Committee against Torture. Treaty bodies periodically review States parties for their compliance with their treaty obligations. The treaty bodies undertake a variety of activities, including reviewing States parties reports, issuing concluding observations and recommendations, considering complaints, and conducting inquiries. For example, in August 2022 the CERD’s concluding observations specifically called on the US to take all necessary measures — at the federal and state level — to provide safe, legal, and effective access to abortion in line with its international human rights obligations.

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On Crimes Against Humanity, Protect the UN Sixth Committee’s Integrity With Action

Excerpt of Just Security op-ed co-authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Enthusiasm for negotiating and adopting a new global treaty on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity has been growing since the issuance of a model draft treaty 16 years ago, particularly after the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC) submitted a final set of draft articles to the General Assembly on Aug. 5, 2019. Although paragraph 42 of the ILC’s report recommended the “elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly or by an international conference of plenipotentiaries on the basis of the draft articles,” progress on this important treaty has stalled in the U.N. General Assembly’s Sixth Committee. But there are ways the Sixth Committee, the U.N. General Assembly panel that considers legal issues, could make progress on the ILC’s draft text, thereby fulfilling its role within the U.N. system and increasing the likelihood that this critical treaty will be negotiated and adopted in the near future.

The Sixth Committee Deliberations over the Past Three Years

When the ILC’s text was introduced to the Sixth Committee in 2019, it was not the first time the idea of a new treaty had been floated at the General Assembly. The ILC had assiduously canvassed State reactions since beginning work on the topic in 2013, and the draft took into account extensive State comments. Thus, a significant majority of States in 2019 were willing to proceed quickly to a Diplomatic Conference to negotiate the treaty, which Austria offered to host. A handful of States demurred, however, asking for more time to study the draft, and an even smaller number opposed the treaty entirely. The result was a disappointing resolution “taking note” of the draft articles and promising to revisit them the following year. Austria, joined by 42 other States, expressed disappointment.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic made matters worse. Strict limitations on working methods were imposed, causing the Sixth Committee to adopt a technical rollover resolution again simply “taking note” of the draft articles. This time Mexico, joined by 13 other States, voiced concerns that this ran the “risk . . . of getting caught in a cycle of consideration and postponement of the articles without concrete action, which could undermine the relationship between the General Assembly and the ILC."

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