Trump’s Chilling Blow to the ICC

Excerpt of Foreign Policy op-ed authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and GJC Staff Attorney Elena Sarver.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing sanctions on several individuals associated with the International Criminal Court (ICC). The order is the latest salvo in an ongoing battle against the ICC, which the Trump administration has long sought to undermine in order to avoid accountability for itself and its allies. The move is also part of a broader disengagement with the multilateral system.

The executive order, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s accompanying statement invoking the “nightmare” of an American service member facing justice abroad, exemplifies the kind of “America first” thinking at the core of the Trump administration’s foreign-policy ideology. In this case it was coupled with another deeply flawed message: American exceptionalism when it comes to human rights. As David Kaye wrote in this publication last week, “[t]he phrase ‘human rights’ in American policy has almost always referred to what others violate, and it rarely comes back to what the U.S. government is obligated to protect at home. The United States may use the language of human rights law to condemn official abuses against minorities worldwide, or violence against protesters in Venezuela, Hong Kong, Iran, and elsewhere, but it bristles when those same norms are deployed against it.” This hypocrisy is particularly egregious because the United States has been at the center of the formation of the human rights system since its start.

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Trump escalates attacks on International Criminal Court over Afghanistan investigation

Excerpt of radio interview from Public Radio International's "The World" that features GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Trump administration officials point out the United States isn’t a member of the ICC, but the country has worked regularly with the international court to bring war criminals to justice. And the court has the mandate to prosecute crimes committed in any of the 123 countries that are a part of the ICC, including Afghanistan.

“It boils down to the fundamental of — you can't escape accountability when you go elsewhere and commit crimes,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “We need to cut through the veneer of what's really driving what this is, which is a fundamental position of the US government that it should not be held accountable, and its closest ally, Israel, shouldn't be held accountable.”

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Trump to authorize sanctions against ICC members probing possible Afghan war crimes by US personnel

Excerpt of article from USA Today that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

"The ICC’s investigation is only necessary because the U.S. has failed to meaningfully investigate or prosecute its own forces for human rights abuses," said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, a New York-based organization that promotes the enforcement of international human rights laws.

“The court has confirmed that this investigation clearly falls under parameters” of the statute that established the ICC, she said. “The U.S. is not a party to the statute, but Afghanistan is, and the U.S. cannot escape accountability just because it commits crimes in other countries.”

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Trump Order Treats International Prosecutors Like War Criminals

Excerpt of article from Foreign Policy that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Other experts say it’s too soon to tell how the executive order will be carried out, particularly in an administration with a penchant for firing off “shoot first, ask questions later” executive orders that are later watered down or rescinded following further legal scrutiny. “A part of it will be how the U.S. chooses to follow through with this,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, a human rights lawyer and the head of the New York-based advocacy organization Global Justice Center. “There’s a lot of announcements the administration makes, and then there’s only a deep and careful unwinding it actually means and how it could be done afterward.” 

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FY 21 Healthy Youth Sign on Letter

Dear Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Murray, Chairwoman DeLauro, and Ranking Member Cole:

The undersigned 109 organizations, committed to supporting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people, request your support for fiscal year (FY) 2021 funding that helps to ensure the health of our nation’s youth. We urge you to protect the integrity of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) and increase support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) school-based HIV and STI prevention efforts. We also encourage the elimination of the abstinence-only “sexual risk avoidance” competitive grant program.

Young people face barriers to accessing health information, education, and services, resulting in persistent inequity and health disparities. While a young person’s health and wellbeing is about more than just the absence of disease, or in the case of sexual health, the absence of HIV and other STIs, unintended pregnancy, or sexual violence, the adolescent data on these points alone, remain largely unchanged and alarming in recent years.

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International Criminal Court Approves Investigation into Afghanistan War Crimes

NEW YORK – The International Criminal Court ruled today that an investigation into war crimes committed during the conflicts in Afghanistan could proceed. This investigation would include any crimes committed by US forces. 

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, had the following response:

"The I.C.C. was established to bring perpetrators of humanity's most serious crimes to justice — no matter where they're from nor how powerful they are. This ruling is a historic victory for the global rule of law. The United States has shown itself entirely unwilling to hold the perpetrators of its torture program to account and has actively tried to impede the court’s investigation. The international community — especially nations who are a party to the ICC — should support this critical step towards justice."

Sign-on letter against State Dept's pregnancy and racial profiling rule

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We, the undersigned ​XX​ organizations, demand that you rescind the final regulation published Friday, January 24, 2020, in the Federal Register, Visas: Temporary Visas for Business or Pleasure, RIN: 1400-AE96. This regulation is an attack against immigrant women, particularly those of color, and with low incomes. The Department of State (“Department”) justifies these changes to temporary visas in the name of national security, when in reality they are thinly veiled racist and xenophobic attacks on the health, dignity, and well-being of immigrant women of color and their families. The consequences of this regulation will only stoke fear and confusion in immigrant communities who are already subject to the brutal whims of an administration that embraces blatantly discriminatory policies against immigrants and people of color.

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How the International Criminal Court Has Failed LGBTQ Survivors

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed by former GJC intern Claire McLeod.

Gender has long been used as a tool to carry out mass atrocity crimes. These persecutions include not only discrimination based on gender identity, but also sexual orientation. Members of targeted groups, by the perpetrators’ own design, experience violent crimes in distinct ways by reason of their sexuality and gender. Further, the enactment of violent crimes can vary based on cultural beliefs and prejudice against the targeted group held by the perpetrator and society. And yet, despite the inextricable role played by gender and sexuality, the ICC and international criminal law at large have generally failed to apply either in analyzing mass atrocity crimes. 

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The Day of International Criminal Justice: Prosecuting Gender-Based Persecution

By Maryna Tkachenko

Today is the Day of International Criminal Justice, marking the 21st anniversary of the 1998 Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). In terms of international justice, the ICC is the only permanent institution that aims to hold perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression accountable. Created to investigate and prosecute mass atrocity crimes, the ICC offers us legal mechanisms to bolster the rule of law, ensure justice for victims, and establish a normative framework that can deter future human rights violations. Although the court continues to face setbacks in gaining the support of powerful states and strengthening its authority, this July the world witnessed a monumental moment in the ICC’s history of prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes.

Joint Statement on the Assignment of the Situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh to the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber III

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 28, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY]– The Global Justice Center, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Naripokkho, and Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice welcome recent developments at the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning the Situation in the People's Republic of Bangladesh/Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Both the intention of the Office of the Prosecutor to undertake an investigation, and the assignment of the situation to Pre-Trial Chamber III bring the ICC one step closer to providing accountability for the crimes committed against the Rohingya.

Challenges and Prospects on the ICC's Horizon: Afghanistan, Myanmar and More

From Dec.6, 2018 13:00 until 15:00

At World Forum, Africa Room, The Hague, Netherlands

The Global Justice Center is proud to participate in this side event for the 17th Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court hosted by the American Bar Association (ABA) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

The roundtable discussion will focus on current and upcoming challenges faced by the International Criminal Court, and the ways in which the Court’s recent work has confronted and responded to pressing global challenges. Experts will discuss issues posed by recent criticism of the Court from those implicated in its examinations and investigations, the increasingly diverse range of examinations and investigations undertaken through the Court and other global criminal justice processes, and opportunities for accountability posed by the Court’s recent cases and decisions, including in Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Speakers:

  • Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights
  • Amb Stephen Rapp, Visting Fellow at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and former US Ambassador-at-large for Global Criminal Justice
  • Michael Greco, former President of the ABA, and current Chair of the ABA's ICC Project
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center
  • Kate Vigneswaran, Senior Legal Advisor at the International Commission of Jurists

Moderator:

  • Christopher (“Kip”) Hale, Atrocity Crimes Attorney and Term Member, Council on Foreign Relations

Submission to the International Law Commission: The Need to Integrate a Gender-Perspective into the Draft Convention on Crimes against Humanity

I. Intro

The Global Justice Center, international human rights organization, welcomes the International Law Commission’s (“ILC”) decision to codify crimes against humanity to form the basis of a potential Convention. Unlike war crimes and genocide, crimes against humanity are not codified in a treaty outside the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“Rome Statute”). The development of a treaty on the basis of the ILC’s draft articles presents the opportunity to monitor and enforce the provisions outside of the limited jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “the Court”) and to encourage states to enact national legislation.

Given the unique and powerful opportunity the ILC has to combat impunity and codify progressive standards of international law, the Global Justice Center (“GJC”) believes it is essential to do more than merely replicate the language of the Rome Statute. We call on the ILC to take the opportunity to reflect the progress made and lessons learned in the 20 years since the Rome Statute was adopted, particularly with regard to gender. Specifically, we ask the ILC to reconsider for the purposes of the draft Convention, two specific instances where the Rome Statute has differential treatment of gender-related provisions relative to their non-gendered counterparts: (1) the formulation of the crime of forced pregnancy; and (2) the definition of gender.

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Letter to The Honourable Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor, "Re: Preliminary Examination into the Situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar"

Dear Prosecutor Bensouda,

The Global Justice Center writes to congratulate the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) on the decision to open a preliminary examination into the deportation of the Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Since impunity has long been the rule and not the exception in Myanmar, this examination offers a glimmer of hope that those who have long been oppressed by Myanmar’s military will see some measure of justice. We write to the OTP today with respect to three key issues related to this preliminary examination: (1) to emphasize the need to place the gendered experiences of these crimes at the center of the examination; (2) to urge the OTP to take a broad view to the crimes over which the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction; and (3) to provide information with respect to any analysis of positive complementarity.

On the first point, we were pleased to attend a recent event with you at the UNGA in New York “Prosecuting Sexual and Gender-based Crimes at the International Criminal Court.” We applaud the OTP’s commitment to applying a gender analysis in all areas of its work, which has been reinforced by its strong policy on sexual and gender-based crimes. We agree that consideration of the complete nature of the crimes is necessary in order to ensure effective investigations and prosecutions. We urge that this be made a priority in the preliminary examination at hand.

Statement on the ICC Ruling in Burma

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 6, 2018

[New York]– The Global Justice Center applauds the International Criminal Court (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber I for recognizing the Court’s jurisdiction over crimes committed by Burma’s security forces that were continued into Bangladesh—including the crimes against humanity of deportation, persecution and other inhumane acts. The ICC’s decision provides the opportunity to see real accountability for the crimes committed against the Rohingya.

Since the commencement of “clearance operations” by Burma’s security forces last August, over 700,000 Rohingya have been forcibly displaced to Bangladesh. The ICC’s ruling potentially opens the door to other ongoing crimes, elements of which have occurred in Bangladesh or as a result of their displacement to Bangladesh. Forcible displacement has been found by international courts to not only be a crime against humanity itself, but also a constitutive element of genocidal acts.

How the International Community is Failing the Syrian Torture Victims

 

By Maftuna Saidova

June 26th was the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. In honor of this day, we should remember the victims who were tortured (and continue to be tortured) in Syrian detention centers and evaluate what is being done to hold the perpetrators responsible. Neither the Syrian government nor the international community has taken any significant steps to address or mitigate the violations happening in in Syria. Under the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the state–who should be responsible for protecting its citizens–has been acting as the perpetrator. Under the leadership of Bashar al-Assad, those who are deemed as a threat to the government continue to be tortured in the detention centers.  Moreover, the two mechanisms set out by the Convention Against Torture, meant to protect victims, have not been fully employed–leaving the victims defenseless against their own government.  As a result, many Syrians continue to live in fear, knowing that their government could strip them of their rights at any moment.

Under Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture, state parties to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, are required to, “ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible.” Acts of “redress” can include reparations for the victims such as rehabilitation, compensation, and guarantees of non-repetition. However in this case the Syriangovernment is the perpetrator, which makes it highly unlikely that any types of reparations will be provided to the victims by the government. This is why the role of the international community is especially important for the Syrian victims.

The Global Justice Center Applauds ICC for Issuing Warrant for Gender-Based Persecution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 13, 2018

[New York] – The Global Justice Center (GJC) applauds the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the charging of Al-Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud for persecution on the grounds of gender. This potentially groundbreaking case could be the first time that the Court will consider the crime of gender-based persecution and has the potential to define the Court’s jurisprudence around gender.

Seeking Justice for the Yazidi on the World Day for International Justice

By Marie Wilken

After the Holocaust, the world said “never again.” The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, and 142 countries have ratified it since. But we have not fulfilled that promise to prevent and punish. Through genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, Darfur and more, millions have died because the international community failed to act sooner. History views this inaction with regret and shame. We hope that we would’ve done better, cared more, acted faster. But we are not.

Right now, ISIS is committing genocide against the Yazidi, a religious and ethnic minority in Syria and Iraq. This genocide began with ISIS’s 2014 attack on Sinjar. They killed men and boys and kidnapped, trafficked and raped women and girls. Over 3,000 women and girls remain in captivity. ISIS’s enslavement and rape of these women is prosecutable as genocide under international humanitarian law. In fact, there is evidence that ISIS has committed all five genocidal crimes. The UN recognized it as genocide and urged stronger international action. Last year, the Obama administration also acknowledged that ISIS was committing genocide.

Yet little has been done about it. Today is the World Day for International Justice, which celebrates the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the international criminal justice system. However, this system has been underutilized. To prove that the international criminal justice system can be a force for justice, not merely a hollow ideal, the ICC needs to investigate atrocities like the Yazidi genocide.

While showing good intentions is easy, it’s difficult to take action. Political interests often interfere, and the method of prosecution raises numerous questions and challenges. Counter-terrorism concerns are often conflated with or prioritized over action on ISIS’s genocide—but it is important to combat ISIS’s genocide as well as, or along with, terrorism. We do not have to choose between pursuing justice for the Yazidi and security for the rest of the world. Experts discussed this in GJC’s Brain Trust, Reconciling International Laws on Genocide and Counter-Terrorism, last month. Participants agreed that the counterterrorism framework fits today’s model of international cooperation better than the framework of the Genocide Conventions, and it is easier for prosecutors to use a terrorism lens. However, this can ignore the gendered impact of the genocide. In addition to providing justice for the Yazidi community, genocide prosecution would help delegitimize ISIS and combat its terrorism.

The World Day for International Justice should be a reminder that we need to not only recognize ISIS’s treatment of the Yazidi as genocide but also treat it as such. Inaction not only hurts the Yazidi today, but it could also worsen situations in the future. Brain Trust participants discussed how impunity could encourage future discrimination against communities like the Yazidi. It widens the gap between law and action on genocide, and sending a message that the international community can or will not act on genocide could spur similar tragedies in the future.

We are all bystanders to this genocide, and we determine whether this will go down in history as another failure to meet the legal and moral obligation to prevent genocide. Genocide is not a problem of the past; it is our problem and our opportunity to do better.

To celebrate the World Day for International Justice, GJC released a podcast on prosecuting genocide. We interviewed Stephen Rapp, a lawyer who has helped prosecute genocide, including in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and served as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice. Listen to this episode of That’s Illegal! on iTunes or Soundcloud, and read outcomes document from our Brain Trust here.

Photo credit: OSeveno (CC BY-SA 4.0)

International Justice Day

On July 17, Global Justice Center celebrated International Justice Day and reminded of the ongoing Yazidi Genocide, despite promises of #NeverAgain. 

#JusticeMatters