The UN Leader Is Sworn In (Again); Myanmar’s Downhill Slide; the US Envoy’s Rising Star

Excerpt of Pass Blue that quotes GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

The UN General Assembly passed its first resolution addressing the Feb. 1, 2021 coup in Myanmar, with 119 in favor, 1 against (Belarus) and 36 abstentions. This resolution was voted on the same day the Security Council held a closed meeting on the country’s situation, revealing little about what occurred in the session and still not producing a resolution on the matter.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, said, in part, “The bright sides of the General Assembly’s resolution, including the call on all nations to prevent arms flows into Myanmar, are in stark contrast to the Security Council’s failure to take decisive action.”

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Press Conference: Joint Civil Society Appeal for Global Arms Embargo on Myanmar

Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan spoke at a press conference to announce a call to action from more than 200 nongovernmental organizations from around the world. The letter urges the United Nations Security Council to immediately impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar in order to pressure the military junta to stop killing unarmed protesters and end human rights abuses against those opposing military rule.

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Global Civil Society Statement: The UN Must Block Arms Sales to Myanmar

We, the undersigned organizations, call on the United Nations Security Council to urgently impose a comprehensive global arms embargo on Myanmar to help prevent further violations of human rights against peaceful protesters and others opposing military rule. In recent weeks, Myanmar security forces have killed hundreds of people, including dozens of children, merely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Since the February 1, 2021 coup, Myanmar’s military junta has responded with increasing brutality to nationwide protests calling for the restoration of democratic civilian rule. As of May 4, security forces have killed at least 769 people, including 51 children as young as 5, and arbitrarily detained several thousand activists, journalists, civil servants, and politicians. Hundreds have been forcibly disappeared, the authorities unwilling to provide information on their well-being or where they are being held. Over the past few months, the military has demonstrated a callous disregard for human life that has driven its strategy for decades. In video footage from cities and towns across the country, soldiers can be seen shooting down protesters, including children, brutally beating medical aid workers, and firing shotguns into crowds of peacefully protesting doctors.

In addition to the latest violations of human rights, Myanmar’s security forces have a history of grave abuses against peaceful critics of the government and military, and war crimes and other international crimes against the Rohingya and other ethnic minority groups. Of particular note is the military's widely documented use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon against ethnic communities.

No government should sell a single bullet to the junta under these circumstances. Imposing a global arms embargo on Myanmar is the minimum necessary step the Security Council should take in response to the military’s escalating violence. Arms and materiel provided to Myanmar’s security forces are likely to be used by the security forces to commit abuses in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.

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​​​​​​​200+ NGOs Call on UN Security Council to Impose Global Arms Embargo on Myanmar

NEW YORK — Over 200 nongovernmental organizations from around the world today called on the United Nations Security Council to immediately impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar in response to the military coup and ensuing human rights abuses.

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

“The urgency of a global arms embargo in Myanmar cannot be overstated. Myanmar’s military has long been one of the world’s most notorious perpetrators of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. Such violence has ramped up since the coup, with harrowing reports of torture and sexual violence against women and girl detainees. International arms sales fuel these ongoing military crimes and its past time UN Security Council members back up their rhetoric on women’s rights with concrete action.”

Russia, the Current Big Spoiler in Advancing Global Gender Rights

Excerpt of Pass Blue article that quotes GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

At issue is not only violence — rape and other forms of sexual assault — but also a revival of attempts by Russia, China and their allies to downgrade human rights, reproductive and otherwise, and to push those topics out of the Council’s purview into economic and social branches of the UN, where they can fall into an abyss.

Grant Shubin is a human-rights lawyer who is the legal director of the Global Justice Center, a civil society organization based in New York. He is dubious about American leadership in the long term.

“Throughout the Trump years,” he said in an interview with PassBlue, “it was proven that the international human rights movement and the international human rights system do not rely on the United States to keep functioning.”

In government terms, he added, “The US is just not a functioning model,” marked as it is by making the enjoyment of people’s human rights “conditioned on the whipsaw nature of American foreign policy and of American politics.”

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UN Security Council: Hold Myanmar Military Accountable for Violence Against Women

Hold Myanmar Military Accountable for Violence Against Women

Dear President and Members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council,

Marking the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, we, Women’s Peace Network, and the undersigned organizations working for women’s rights and against gender-based violence, call upon the UN Security Council to hold the Myanmar military accountable for grievously violating the human rights of women. Since the military’s illegitimate seizure of power on February 1, the people of Myanmar have led nationwide mass movements to demand for the November 2020 election results to be respected, the 2008 Constitution to be abolished, a federal democratic union to be built with full equality and self-determination, and those arbitrarily detained and arrested to be released. Despite engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience, thousands of civilians, including women, have been brutally assailed by the regime’s tactics of violent assault, arbitrary detention, and extrajudicial killing. Given this military’s record of using sexual violence as a weapon of war, we fear that the country’s progress in enhancing the status of women is at risk now more than ever. We, members of the global women’s rights movement, now urgently join forces to amplify the people’s calls: the Myanmar military and security forces must be held to account for their brutality, and all impunity fueling their historical violation of women’s rights and international laws and norms must end.

Across Myanmar, the military continue to act in violation of the UN Charter and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. In over a month, the Myanmar military and security forces have indiscriminately fired live ammunition at peaceful protesters -- killing at least 20 women. Deploying armored vehicles along the country’s streets, male security forces have targeted women with batons and slingshots all while strategically wielding water cannons, tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets against other peaceful protesters. Throughout states and regions, the regime’s arbitrary detention and arrests of civilians have continued to rise as allegations of sexual assault and abuse across prisons have spread rampantly. If the Security Council and the international community do not take concrete action, we are concerned that the Myanmar military and security forces will continue to commit mass atrocities and act in contravention of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

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UN condemns Myanmar violence as US sanctions general’s children

Excerpt of Al Jazeera article that quotes GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

While welcoming the Security Council statement, rights groups monitoring the situation in Myanmar said more action was needed.

“It is a welcome development to see the Council finally take action on the situation in Myanmar,” said Grant Shubin. Legal Director at the Global Justice Center in New York. “But let’s be clear – this is the bare minimum. It must be treated as a starting point. Strong condemnations and calls for adherence to human rights are important, but the people of Myanmar aren’t asking the international community for statements. They are asking for concrete action to stop the military’s violent assault on democracy.”

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US advocates fear creation of a hierarchy of human rights

Excerpt of International Bar Association article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Akila Radhakrishnan is President of the Global Justice Center, which develops legal strategies to establish and protect human rights and gender equity. She believes ‘The elevation of religious liberty is seriously problematic, especially given the way it’s been constructed to then supersede other fundamental rights’.

Radhakrishnan also has concerns about the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in late October, which gave the Court a 6-3 conservative majority. Although Justice Barrett swore to set aside political and personal preferences in her rulings, she is influenced by originalism. At her confirmation hearings, Justice Barrett reiterated that she believes the Constitution should be interpreted on the grounds that it was written: ‘I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn’t change over time’.

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Russia loses UN vote over women's rights in conflict zones

Excerpt of The Guardian article that quotes GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, said: “Every country who withheld its vote for this unnecessary and dangerous resolution should be applauded. The women, peace and security agenda is anchored in human rights and this resolution could have turned back the clock on 20 years of progress.

“Women in conflict-affected countries are suffering catastrophic impacts due to Covid-19. Any attack on this critical tool for advancing women’s health and rights is dangerous and we’re glad to see a diverse group of nations stand up for the agenda and its bold commitments to gender equality.”

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Letter to UN Security Council members regarding Myanmar’s Independent Commission of Enquiry and the Provisional Measures ordered by the International Court of Justice

Your Excellency,

We are writing to you in light of the recently published summary of the final report of Myanmar’s Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE), which was issued the same week that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Myanmar to take immediate action to prevent genocide against the country’s persecuted Rohingya minority. In particular, we would like to raise grave concerns regarding the ICOE’s: (1) independence and impartiality; (2) methodology; and (3) flaws in narrative and findings.

The ICOE’s independence and impartiality have been seriously undermined by its reliance on the Office of the President of Myanmar for financial and technical support, as well as by the composition of the Commission itself, which includes at least one official directly implicated in the bulldozing of Rohingya villages damaged during the 2017 crisis in Rakhine State. The executive summary of the ICOE’s report also provides no information as to what sources and materials were relied upon beyond individual interviews, nor how the ICOE corroborated and verified this information, making it impossible to assess the quality of their methodology. Crucially, the ICOE did not interview a single Rohingya refugee in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, regarding the circumstances that resulted in over 700,000 people fleeing the country. Finally, there are serious flaws and misrepresentations in the ICOE’s narrative of the crisis in Rakhine State, including disturbing inaccuracies and omissions in relation to mass rape and widespread sexual violence directed at Rohingya women and girls during the military’s so-called “clearance operations.”

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Human Rights Watch Blasts China for Rights Violations at Home and Abroad

Excerpt of Inter Press Service article that features GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Meanwhile, Roth also echoed thoughts from experts who have previously said that one of the reasons the Security Council had not been able to take steps against Myanmar is because of pressure from China. 

In November, on the heels of a lawsuit being filed against Myanmar by the Gambia, Akila Radhakrishnan of the Global Justice Center expressed similar concerns to IPS.

“Security council has consistently failed to act because of China — there’s no possibility of any strong action,” Radhakrishnan had said, reiterating why it’s important for states to directly take action against Myanmar.  

In that regard, especially with Roth’s concerns about China “intimidation of other governments” with threatsone issue of concern would be China’s relations with the Gambia, which has grown in the past few years. 

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Brain Trust: Legal Limits to the Use of the Veto

From March 8, 2019 9:00 until 17:00

At Foley Hoag, LLC

Question at Issue:Are there legal limits to the use of the veto by the Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council blocking action in the face of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes? Or is the veto in such circumstances a carte blanchethat can be utilized at the complete discretion of the permanent members?

Proposition:There arelegal limits to the use of the veto power in the face of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. Three arguments support this conclusion:

  1. The veto power derives from the UN Charter, which is subsidiary to jus cogensnorms. Thus, a veto that violates jus cogensnorms, or permits the continued violation of jus cogensnorms, would be illegal or ultra vires. The Charter (and veto power) must be read in a way that is consistent with jus cogens.
  2. The veto power derives from the UN Charter, which states in Article 24(2) that the Security Council “[in] discharging [its] duties” “shall act in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.” A veto in the face of a draft resolution aimed at curtailing or alleviating the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes does not accord with the Charter’s purposes and principles.
  3. A permanent member of the Security Council that utilizes the veto power also has other treaty obligations, such as those under the Genocide Convention, which contains an obligation to “prevent” genocide. A Permanent Member’s use of the veto that would enable genocide, or allow its continued commission, would violate that state’s legal obligation to “prevent” genocide. A similar argument can be made as to allowing the perpetration of at least certain war crimes, such as “grave breaches” and violations of Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. (Given that under Article 103 of the Charter, the Charter trumps inconsistent treaty obligations, this argument may only apply where treaty obligations also embody jus cogensnorms or accord with the Charter’s purposes and principles.) Alternatively, these treaties and the veto power could (and should) be read consistently, so that there is no conflict, making article 103 inapplicable.

Goal of Project:To ensure that the UN Security Council is able to act in the face of genocide, crimes against humanity and/or war crimes; therefore, to have the members of the General Assembly request an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ): Are there legal limits to the use of the veto power in the face of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes?

Initial Goal of Initiative:To form a group of NGOs and States who support this initiative and would be willing to work to convince the General Assembly to make this request of the ICJ.

Alternative Concept:To put some of these legal concepts directly into a GA resolution that notes the legal obligations related to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and calls for veto restraint (and not ask for an Advisory Opinion).

    —Professor Jennifer Trahan, NYU Center for Global Affairs, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Supporting Individuals:

  • Hans Corell, former Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs
  • Richard Goldstone, former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia & the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,
  • Navanethem (“Navi”) Pillay, former High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Andras Vamos-Goldman, co-founder & former Executive Director, Justice Rapid Response
  • David M. Crane, former Chief Prosecutor, Special Court for Sierra Leone
  • Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert, formerly International Court of Justice (ad hoc), International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and International Criminal Court; presently Kosovo Specialist Chambers (signing in a personal capacity)

Supporting NGOs:

  • The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • The International Center for Transitional Justice
  • The World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy
  • Parliamentarians for Global Action
  • Open Society Justice Initiative
  • Global Justice Center
  • Syrian Justice and Accountability Center
  • Moroccan National Coalition for the International Criminal Court
  • Lawyers for Justice in Libya
  • Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice

 

Yes, Human Rights belong in the UN Security Council, but they also belong in the White House

As global tensions mount and with daily atrocities in the news, there is increasing concern over how to protect civilians and vulnerable populations. The US holds the Presidency of the UN Security Council for April and has a chance to take a strong stance in defense of human rights. Instead, the US’ plans to hold an open briefing on human rights at the Security Council has some concerned it will serve to undermine already existing international bodies devoted to protecting human rights and further polarize attempts to address human rights abuses.

The discussion is being branded as the first ever human rights debate in the Council, which is not entirely true. Human rights are regularly discussed in thematic agendas and contexts such as peacekeeping, issuing of sanctions, or when setting up commissions of inquiry or referrals to the International Criminal Court. Viewed in isolation, a discussion highlighting the nexus of human rights and international peace and security is welcome and appears extremely timely. For some time, advocates and the UN have been calling for a preventative approach by putting human rights at the heart of the Security Council’s actions, given the Council’s failure to act in light of the most egregious human rights abuses.

Countdown to August 12th: Will the U.S. Step Up to the Plate at This Year’s Universal Periodic Review?

At the 2nd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United States, five countries- Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom- urged the U.S. to reconsider its stance on the Helms Amendment. This amendment makes it illegal for any U.S. foreign aid to be directed to abortion services. This leaves many women and girls who are victims of war rape no choice but to carry the child of their rapist or unsafely try to abort it themselves. The Helms Amendment impinges upon the rights of women and girls in conflict, and is in violation of the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Geneva Conventions.

The UN Security Council, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, countries and organizations around the world have recognized the gravity of the Helms Amendment and the necessity for clarification so that women and girls in conflict can have access to the medical care that they need.

Out of the 293 women and girls who were rescued from Boko Haram in Nigeria, one-third of them are pregnant. 214 of these women and girls are being denied proper care, and this is the fate of many others around the world.

The Obama administration has 3 months to respond to these charges and overturn the Helms Amendment and its abortion ban. GJC encourages President Obama to respond to these suggestions as soon as possible, as the end of the 3-month time frame for U.S. response to UPR recommendations, falls on August 12th, 2015. August 12th is the anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, and is also the inspiration for GJC’s August 12th Campaign to “Ensure the Right to Safe Abortion for Women and Girls Raped in Armed Conflict.”

Pressure is mounting and the clock is ticking. Will the U.S. overturn the Helms Amendment by the deadline, and show the world that it is upholding its obligations under the Geneva Conventions?

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GJC Participates in Third Annual Women Law Summit at the NYU School of Law, titled, "Women in Conflict: Gender, Violence, and Peacekeeping"

Friday, 20 February, 2015 at 11:30am - 5:15pm

At Vanderbilt Hall, Greenberg Lounge

On February 20th,  NYU School of Law held its third annual  women's law summit which coincided  with  the 15th anniversary of UN Resolution 1325. The Summit sought to educate participants about  women's roles within conflict and their various means of empowerment, especially within  the legal system. The all-female panels were composed of practicing lawyers, doctors, academics, and theorists. GJC founder and president Janet Benshoof gave the keynote address, highlighting the organizations projects, such as a campaign for the prosecution of rape as a prohibited weapon,  and a campaign seeking the provision of abortions for women  in conflict. Further, GJC, who advocates "power, not pity," was referenced several times throughout the following panels, as speakers detailed  the ways in which women  might act in conflict. Akila Radhakrishnan, legal director  of GJC sat on the final panel about  women  and the transformation of the legal space, where she spoke on the opportunity for transforming women's rights in Burma.

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Fact Sheet: Stopping The Use Of Rape As A Tactic Of War: A New Approach

There is a global consensus that the mass rape of girls and women is routinely used as a tactic or “weapon” of war in contemporary armed conflicts.1 Despite two decades of intense global efforts, rape used as a tactic of war continues undeterred. This is not surprising: rape is a cheap, powerful, and effective tool for military forces to use to kill and mutilate women and children, force pregnancy, terrorize families and communities, demoralize enemy forces, and accomplish genocide.

Rape used to further military objectives or the strategic aims of a conflict (“strategic rape”), constitutes a prohibited tactic or method of warfare under international humanitarian law.

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Women, Peace, and Security: Janet Benshoof, President, Global Justice Center

The last two decades have seen a dramatic transformation in the Security Council’s (Council) role in advancing and enforcing international humanitarian law (IHL). The changing nature of armed conflict, the universal acceptance of human rights, the calcification of certain precepts of international law into jus cogens, and advances in international law have all redefined the limits of state sovereignty and influenced the modern understanding of the Council’s mandate under the United Nations Charter (Charter).

Within this new paradigm, the Council has made protecting civilians in armed conflict central to its duty to maintain international peace and security. As part of this effort, the Council has passed a series of resolutions addressing the impact of armed conflict on women and the use of sexual violence in conflict (Women, Peace and Security Series, WPS Series).2 Despite these efforts, the resolutions have failed to achieve one of the Council’s main goals – ending sexual violence perpetrated against women in armed conflicts around the world.

The chapter, Women, Peace and Security, in the forthcoming publication, Security Council in the Age of Human Rights, examines the Council’s actions in the WPS Series against its duties to act under the evolving imperatives of IHL, in particular those rules considered jus cogens. The chapter argues that the Council has a duty to take stronger and more effective measures to address sexual violence against girls and women in armed conflict, in order to successfully deter its use.

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GJC Hosts High-Level Panel on Sexual Violence in Burma at the United Nations

Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 3:00pm-4:30pm

At UN Secretariat, Room 9

On Thursday, April 24, 2014 the Global Justice Center, together with the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Amnesty International and the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security hosted a side event to the Security Council Open Debate on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. The interactive panel included distinguished guests such as Naw K’nyaw Paw, Secretary of the Karen Women’s Organization and grassroots activist working on empowering women and assisting sexual violence survivors in Burma; H.E. Zainab Bangura, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict; and H.E. David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations. The panel was moderated by Nicole Bjerler of Amnesty International.

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