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June News Update: 2020 Annual Report

Dear Friend,

From a global pandemic to vicious attacks on democracy and human rights, 2020 presented some of the most formidable challenges the Global Justice Center has ever faced. How we rebuild and repair in the years ahead will define generations to come.

Reflecting on this momentous year, we are thrilled to share our 2020 Annual Report with you. The full report will release next week, but please enjoy this preview video featuring our own Grant Shubin. In it, Grant discusses our work last year to defend the Women, Peace, and Security agenda from patriarchal attacks.

Thank you for standing with us for another year of advocacy for radical, feminist change. We look forward to continuing the fight with you in 2021 and beyond.

Read the Full Newsletter

President Biden Releases Budget That Removes Hyde Amendment, Leaves Other Abortion Restrictions in Place

NEW YORK — In his first presidential budget released today, President Biden removed the Hyde Amendment, but left in place several other restrictions on abortion funding, including the Helms Amendment.

The Helms Amendment has prohibited any U.S. foreign aid from going to abortion services since 1973. Among other anti-abortion policies included in the budget, the president also left in place the Siljander Amendment, which prevents the use of US funds to lobby for or against abortion.

Elena Sarver, legal advisor with the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“The president is right to remove the Hyde Amendment from his budget, but the Helms Amendment and Hyde are two sides of the same coin. Both restrict access to abortion care in violation of international law. Both have been recognized by the international community as violations of human rights. There is simply no reason to protect the rights of pregnant people here in the US, but deny them to pregnant people around the world.

“At the United Nations and other international venues, the Biden administration continues to say it is a champion of sexual and reproductive rights. But the inclusion of illegal and destructive abortion funding restrictions like Helms shows this is mere rhetoric rather than a true commitment. Combine this failure with their refusal to utter the word ‘abortion,’ this administration has a lot of work to do before it can truly claim to be a champion of reproductive rights.”

May News Update: Pushing President Biden on Abortion

Dear Friend,

The Biden administration has repeatedly defined itself as a champion of sexual and reproductive rights. In his four months in power, President Biden has taken some action to back up this label.

But it takes a committed reproductive rights movement to hold this administration to the sweeping promises it made. That's why we joined 140+ organizations to demand the president implement international recommendations on abortion rights.

Thank you for standing with us as we continue to hold the US — and every government — accountable for protecting the human right to abortion access.

Read the Full Newsletter

​​​​​​​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.”

140+ Organizations Demand Biden Administration Implement International Recommendations on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

More than 140 organizations signed onto a letter sent to President Biden today urging him to implement recommendations on sexual and reproductive rights issued by United Nations member states. The recommendations came as part of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process that reviews the human rights records of all UN Member States.

Signing organizations represent a diverse cross-section of issues and expertise, including in human rights, reproductive rights, racial justice, and global health. The full letter and list of signees can be found here: http://bit.ly/BidenUPRletter

The US received numerous UPR recommendations, and several countries called for the US to take action on its abortion restrictions on foreign assistance, in particular the Helms AmendmentThe Biden administration responded to these recommendations, but did not mention Helms and instead referred to their recent repeal of the Global Gag Rule.

To implement these recommendations, the letter outlines several executive and administrative actions the administration can take now:

  • Take executive action and issue guidance to immediately clarify US foreign assistance can be used to provide abortion care in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment of the pregnant person
  • Issue guidance from relevant agencies to proactively clarify that US foreign assistance may be used for abortion information and counseling under the Leahy Amendment
  • Prioritize the removal of abortion funding restrictions like the Helms Amendment through the White House Gender Policy Council, in addition to addressing many other important sexual and reproductive health and rights priorities and considering the role of racial and other forms of discrimination on recipients of sexual and reproductive healthcare in the US and globally
  • Consult with stakeholders and agencies to issue policies to combat systemic racism and ensure implementation of these policies at the state, federal and local levels, recognizing domestic US policy influences the values exported through US foreign assistance 
  • Eliminate Helms Amendment and similar abortion funding restrictions from FY 2022 budget

Four of the signing organizations issued the following statements:

“The Biden administration says it is committed to advancing sexual and reproductive rights around the world. Now, they have an opportunity to prove it,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center. “A failure to implement these recommendations would make the US commitment to the human rights system be mere rhetoric, and worse yet, rhetoric that is directly undermined by the failure to act.”

“It is time for the U.S. to join the global community to support and defend reproductive justice,” said Dr. Anu Kumar, president and CEO of Ipas. “Ending abortion funding restrictions like the Helms Amendment will protect people seeking abortion, will help countries expand access to health services, and will bring us closer to achieving reproductive and economic freedom and equity for millions worldwide. This policy has harmed Black and brown communities in low-to-middle income countries for far too long.”

“It is not enough to remove the Global Gag Rule and maintain the pre-Trump status quo,” said Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Founder & President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. “The Biden administration must go further to advance reproductive justice by supporting repeal of the Helms Amendment and advancing racial justice in the United States. The last year demonstrated how much further the US has to go to achieve racial justice and eliminate white supremacy from our domestic and foreign policy. This cannot wait.”

“This is an opportunity for Biden’s administration to fulfill its commitment to reproductive health care by completely removing abortion funding restrictions from US foreign assistance, ensuring that no woman, girl, or young person dies from an unsafe abortion as a result of stigma, lack of information, and lack of life-saving services,” said Nelly Munyasia, Executive Director of Reproductive Health Network Kenya. “One death as a result of unsafe abortion is far too many deaths.”

 

April News Update: Women Lead the Resistance in Myanmar

Dear Friend,

In its decades-long campaign of persecution against ethnic groups, Myanmar's military has often reserved its most brutal acts of violence for women. Now that the military is in sole control once again, women in Myanmar are doing what they've always done: fight back.

Social and news media are flooded with images of women leading and filling the massive protests against military rule. Yet, the international community is failing to center the human rights of women and other historically oppressed groups in its response to the crisis.

Thank you for standing with us as we demand justice and human rights lead the global response to the coup.

Read the Full Newsletter

President Biden Repeals ICC Sanctions

NEW YORK — The Biden administration today repealed sanctions against the International Criminal Court. 

The sanctions, levied against Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and other court officials, were issued by President Trump last year following the court’s announcement of an investigation into potential war crimes committed by US military forces in Afghanistan.

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

“The Biden administration did the right thing today by ending this reckless assault on a critical and independent judicial institution. Former President Trump’s sanctions were issued to help the US and its close allies evade accountability for their own human rights abuses, but their impact went much further by targeting court officials and their urgent work.

“Repeal is a start, but if the Biden administration wishes to be a true champion of human rights and the rule of law, it must fundamentally shift the US relationship with the court. This must include a genuine effort to ratify the court’s Rome Statute to demonstrate that the US commitment to justice is not merely rhetorical.

“For too long, the US approach to the court has been hypocritical, cementing a belief that it is beyond reproach and above the law. It’s time for the US to take its own human rights obligations seriously and submit itself to the international institutions they champion, thus beginning a robust, healthy engagement with this vital institution.”

March News Update: The Biden Record on Women's Rights

Dear Friend,

In the weeks leading up to President Biden's inauguration, we urged the president to go beyond rolling back Trump policies by embracing a "feminist foreign policy agenda that places marginalized communities, including women and LGBTQIA+ people, at its center."

Two months later, there's plenty to be excited about. The Biden administration repealed the global and domestic gag rules, appointed a diverse cabinet, and established the White House Gender Policy Council.

Yet it's critical we demand more. Biden still refuses to use the word "abortion," fueling the stigmatization of a human right. We've also heard little commitment to the repeal of the Helms Amendment, an international abortion restriction that serves as the legal foundation for the Global Gag Rule.

Thank you for standing with us as we fight for a feminist foreign policy.

Read the Full Newsletter

Akila Radhakrishnan Named in List of Top 100 Influencers in Gender Policy

NEW YORK — In a list launched today, Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan was named by Apolitical as one of the world's 100 most influential people in gender policy in 2021. This year's list includes prominent feminist politicians, activists, and academics such as Jacinda Arden, Patricia Viseur Sellers, Stella Nyanzi, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, and many more. 

Akila was featured for her work on gender-based violence and, specifically, her legal advocacy on abortion access in conflict and the gendered aspects of genocide. Other honorees were featured for their work on economic justice and rights, reproductive rights, climate change, technological innovation, and movement leadership.

You can view the full list here: https://apolitical.co/list/en/gender-equality-100

Myanmar Representative to UN Denounces Coup and Urges Security Council Action

NEW YORK — During a briefing before the United Nations General Assembly today, Myanmar’s representative to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, denounced the coup carried out by his country’s military. He also urged the UN Security Council and international community to use “any means necessary” to hold the military accountable.

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

“The world should applaud the bravery of Representative Kyaw Moe Tun for delivering such a powerful statement on behalf of the people of Myanmar, not the illegitimate military junta. The international community must reward such courage by taking up his call for immediate, decisive action to hold the military accountable.

“The representative made his statement on behalf of the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluuttaw (CRPH), composed of duly elected members of parliament, not the illegal military regime. The international community should support the will of the people of Myanmar by recognizing the CRPH and refusing to legitimize, normalize, or cooperate with the military government.

“In defending his people and democracy on the world stage, the representative made it clear that the military poses an existential threat to the country and that the coup must fail. The path to a peaceful, democratic, and multi-ethnic Myanmar will require steps to financial isolation of the military and their access to arms, accountability for military crimes, and — perhaps most importantly — a new federal Constitution.

“The people of Myanmar have spoken at great risk to their personal safety and security. Now is the time for the international community to stand with them and take forceful, concerted action.”

February News Update: A Coup in Burma

Dear Friend,

In the early morning hours of February 1, Myanmar's military, the Tatmadaw, seized power. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested along with many other political figures and government critics.

The Global Justice Center has long warned of the consequences of an international failure to hold the military accountable for its crimes. The world is now forced to recognize what democracy activists and ethnic women in Burma have long known: the military is the chief obstacle to democracy and human rights in the country.

Thank you for joining us as we push the international community to learn from its mistakes by taking concrete action against this military coup.

Read the Full Newsletter

UN Human Rights Council Passes Resolution on Myanmar Coup

NEW YORK — The United Nations Human Rights Council today passed a resolution on human rights concerns in Myanmar following the military coup. The resolution followed an emergency session requested by the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The resolution, adopted by consensus, denounced the coup and the violations of civil and human rights that followed. It called on Myanmar’s military and security forces to refrain from violence and protect fundamental human rights. It also requested further UN monitoring of the situation and called for Myanmar’s cooperation.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“The council took an important step today by passing a resolution against the coup and urging respect for democratic and human rights. The resolution rightly called on the Myanmar military to release those arbitrarily detained, including Aung San Suu Kyi. But, it failed to address the most necessary condition for change: accountability.

“Structural impunity for crimes committed by the military is what emboldened the military to stage a coup. The international community has continually failed to combat this impunity cemented by Myanmar’s pseudo-democratic constitution. The council could have taken the opportunity today to confront this failure by acknowledging that there is no sustainable path forward for Myanmar without accountability for those responsible for human rights violations.

“People across Myanmar are uniting more and more around the demand to bring the military under civilian control. They recognize that the military is the chief obstacle to democracy and human rights in the country. It’s time the international bodies like the UN Human Rights Council recognize this fact that the coup has made undeniable.”

UN Security Council Issues Statement on Myanmar Coup

NEW YORK — The United Nations Security Council issued a press statement today in response to the military coup in Myanmar. The statement, drafted by current council president the United Kingdom, follows days of strained negotiations between council members.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, had the following reaction:

“It is some relief for the people of Myanmar that the UN Security Council finally took action today by agreeing on a statement concerning the military coup. But thanks to recent, historic levels of gridlock on the Council, the bar has been set far too low. If this statement is not followed by formal action, it is meaningless.

“As a start, holding an open meeting on the crisis would build trust in the Council’s commitment to meaningful action and to execute its mandate to maintain international peace and security. Yet it is crucial the Council listens to communities most at risk in Myanmar, who have been clear from the beginning that targeted sanctions on the military and military owned companies, an arms embargo, and efforts to hold the military accountable are the concrete actions the international community must take to address this emergency.

“The geopolitical reality between Council members is no doubt complicated. Yet it is certain that the Council’s continued failure to act will have dangerous ramifications for the people of Myanmar. Ethnic groups like the Rohingya, activists, and others who speak out against the military are at risk. The military must be shown that there are consequences for such brazen attacks on democracy. The Council is in a unique position to lead this charge for accountability and if it fails, the people of Myanmar are all the more likely to face another violent era of military dictatorship.”

Frmr. Sec. Pompeo’s “Commission on Unalienable Rights” Cannot Evade Accountability After Breaking Federal Law

Originally posted by Democracy Forward

Human Rights Orgs Press Lawsuit Over Commission’s Failure to Follow Transparency Law

New York, N.Y. — On Friday, four international human rights groups — Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), the Council for Global Equality, and the Global Justice Center, represented by Democracy Forward — explained in a new court filing why former Secretary Mike Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights cannot evade accountability after breaking federal transparency law at every turn. The groups filed suit over the Commission in March 2020.

In violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), former Secretary Pompeo deliberately stacked the Commission on Unalienable Rights with members with known hostility to LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights and without any known human rights practitioners. Pompeo’s Commission then unlawfully operated behind closed doors to produce an irreparably compromised final report. Once the report was published, Pompeo and the Commission’s members harmed the interests of human rights practitioners by touting the Commission’s findings and conclusions before the United Nationsforeign governments, and foreign civil society organizations. But the Commission’s report is unlawful and should be labeled as such. We’ll continue to fight for these results in court.

Military Stages Coup in Burma

NEW YORK — Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, seized power today in Burma following days of threats. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested along with many other political figures and government critics.

The Tatmadaw handed power over to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, its Commander-in-Chief, and declared a state of emergency lasting one year. 

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

“This is the moment democracy activists and ethnic minorities have feared since the 2008 military-drafted constitution was used as the basis for ‘transition’ and utterly failed to reign in military supremacy. The Tatmadaw has exposed the vast vulnerabilities of Burma's democratic institutions by staging this brazen coup. Given the history of military rule, the risk of ensuing violence and atrocities is greater than any moment in recent memory.

“We can’t ignore the repeated failure of the international community to take concerted action to curb military power and hold it accountable for its constant human rights abuses, including its genocidal campaign against the Rohingya. For years, world leaders praised a ‘democratic’ transition and constitution that gave the military the very power they used to stage today’s coup. Now, we’re seeing the consequences of an international order that blinds itself to reality in the interest of ‘progress’ and economic investment instead of protecting human rights.

“The military must be called upon to swiftly release all political detainees and respect the results of November’s election, but action cannot end there. Women’s rights and ethnic minority groups in Burma have long decried military impunity for international crimes such as sexual violence. They have repeatedly called for international action, including a referral to the International Criminal Court and targeted sanctions. It’s past time for the international community to embrace their demands and pursue a policy grounded in justice, accountability, and human rights for all.”

Biden Administration Repeals Global Gag Rule

NEW YORK — The Biden administration today rescindedthe Global Gag Rule (also known as the “Mexico City Policy”'). It also ordered a review of the Trump administration’s “domestic gag rule,” which bars organizations participating in the Title X family planning program from providing abortion services.

First ordered by President Reagan in 1984, the Global Gag Rule blocks foreign organizations from receiving certain US funds if they provide abortion services, referrals, or information or if they advocate for changes to abortion laws in their country. Initially restricted to “family planning” funds, President Trump expanded the rule to apply to organizations receiving nearly any global health assistance funds.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“We welcome the repeal of the disastrous Global Gag Rule. Now begins the critical work of communicating the new policy to the world. But let’s be clear — repealing Gag is the bare minimum. 

“The Biden administration should have also included in this executive order a provision allowing congressionally permitted exceptions for rape, life endangerment, and incest to the Helms Amendment, which is the legal foundation for Gag and has prohibited any U.S. foreign aid from going to abortion services since 1973. Reproductive rights activists should be worried that, like his predecessor, he will ultimately choose political expediency over survivors’ rights to access safe abortion services.

“We are also disappointed with the administration’s failure to consistently and explicitly use the word ‘abortion’ since taking office. The global and domestic rules directly target abortion services and by tiptoing around this fact, the Biden administration is stigmatizing abortion — a human right.

“The Biden administration can’t call itself a champion of women if it repeals Gag but leaves in place the patriarchal structure around it. The reproductive rights community has compiled a comprehensive agenda for sexual and reproductive health that details what is necessary. If we want to truly “build back better,” we must go beyond simply rolling back Trump’s policies and embrace a bold, feminist agenda for global health and human rights.”

January News Update: Human Rights in the Biden Era

Dear Friend,

Throughout his presidential campaign, Joe Biden repeatedly committed to reforge the US commitment to human rights and repair America's relationship with the world. But what should this look like?

Organizations like GJC are outlining concrete steps the Biden administration can take. But more than anything, we must reject "business as usual" that has led to failures on human rights by past Democratic administrations. As we said recently in our joint op-ed for Foreign Policy, it's critical the Biden administration root its actions in the language of universal human rights.

Thank you for standing with us as we work to seize this unique moment to advance our rights.

Read the Full Newsletter

United States Designates China’s Treatment of Uyghurs as Genocide

NEW YORK — The United States today declared China’s government is committing genocide and other international crimes against the Uyghurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority living in western China. In the past, President-elect Joe Biden has also deemed the repression of Uyghurs genocide.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“The United States is right to bring the brutal, years-long repression of the Uyghurs within the framework of genocide. What’s more, it correctly cited gendered crimes of biological destruction like forced sterilization and birth control. However, the human rights community should be alarmed at reports that this decision was motivated by policy goals instead of a legal obligation to prevent and punish genocide.

“Our legal and moral duty to combat genocide should inform our policy goals, not the other way around. The US should be applauded for taking action to prevent the destruction of the Uyghurs and we hope other nations join them. But we must see fighting genocide as a cause for humanity rather than a geopolitical wedge.

“We hope to see the US follow these strong words with decisive action. Where there is a risk of genocide, there is a duty to act. Moving forward, this designation should inform the entirety of US foreign policy and we hope to hear more from the incoming Biden administration on how it plans to follow through on this historic announcement.”

December News Update: Envisioning a Post-Trump World

Dear Friend,

Four years of President Trump has devastated sexual and reproductive rights around the world. The Biden-Harris administration promises to "build back better" on human rights and global institutions, but what does that look like exactly?

As Serra Sippel of CHANGE said during our recent webinar, policies like a repeal of the Global Gag Rule "must be the floor, not the ceiling." The Biden administration must take a systematic approach to dismantling Trump-era policies, using feminism as a guiding principle.

Join us as we gear up to fight for our feminist vision for human rights.

Read the Full Newsletter

November News Update: Beating Back Global Patriarchy

Dear Friend,

After months of negotiations between nations and advocacy from organizations like GJC, Russia's resolution on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) failed in the UN Security Council last month. It was a victory for women's rights.

As a member of the NGO Working Group on WPS, we made it clear that any attempt to chip away at this crucial agenda mandating gender equality in peace processes must be resisted. Russia's resolution could have turned back the clock on 20 years of progress and we thank every nation who refused to go along with it.

This is no time to surrender our hard-won progress on the rights of women and marginalized communities. Thank you for standing with us as we fight back.

Read the Full Newsletter