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Expanding Justice for Gender-Based Crimes with a Treaty on Crimes Against Humanity

Excerpt of Just Security article by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and GJC Legal Advisor Danielle Hites.

Over the last 30 years, the world has seen progress, largely due to feminists, in delivering justice for gender-based crimes — particularly sexual violence. However, most of this progress has relied on retrofitting gender-specific experiences into pre-existing legal frameworks that didn’t care much for gender. Take, for example, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s groundbreaking finding of rape as an act of genocide in the Akayesu case, or much of the jurisprudence out of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia related to sexual violence, including finding rape as a form of torture. These precedents were built on gendered readings of crimes whose definitions make no explicit reference to sexual or gender-based violence.

The Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court (ICC) was certainly an improvement on the Genocide and Geneva Conventions in its explicit codification of sexual and gender-based crimes. But the last 20 years of the Court’s practice have also shown its limitations, with only two standing convictions for sexual and gender-based crimes.

Given this track record, a new convention on crimes against humanity could be a gamechanger for the effective prevention and prosecution of gender-based crimes.

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Symposium on the Current Crisis in Myanmar: Untangling Myanmar’s Credentials Battle and the Implications for International Justice

Excerpt of Opinio Juris article by GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

Of the many perspectives offered by outside observers in the wake of the Myanmar military’s (Tatmadaw’s) attempted coup, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights cogently cut to the core of it: “This crisis was born of impunity.” 

As if to tacitly acknowledge this fact, in his first speech since illegally deposing democratically elected officials, Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing told the people of Myanmar that, “no one is above the law”. He went on, “no one or no organization is above the national interest in state-building and nation-building.” But, of course, the Tatmadaw and Min Aung Hlaing have for a generation been above the law. 

This impunity, which finds its roots in the military’s privileged position baked into Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution as well as in the international community’s mortgage on Aung San Suu Kyi’s ability to politically navigate the country out of the military’s grips, was nevertheless beginning to show cracks.  And it is these cracks that make the crisis within the crisis—the question of who is credentialed to represent Myanmar at the UN General Assembly, the representative of the National Unity Government or the junta—so urgent. 

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House’s Two Major Spending Bills Omit Long-Standing Abortion Restrictions—But Senate Battle Remains

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine article by GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed two major spending bills—a package of federal appropriations authorizations and a foreign aid appropriations bill—which do not include decades-old discriminatory reproductive rights prohibitions that have prevented women, especially women of color, from exercising their basic sexual and reproductive health rights in the U.S. and abroad.

The two bills, passed largely along party lines, will face a difficult path in the evenly-split Senate and stand in stark contrast to the recent rash of state-level abortion restrictions and the increasing possibility that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.

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Myanmar’s Garment Workers Are Fighting for Freedom. It’s Time We Fought with Them.

Excerpt of Women's Media Center op-ed by GJC Legal Intern Courtney Vice.

Since Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup d’état on February 1, garment worker union members across the country have stood at the forefront of protests and marches. Thanks to their activism, there is now a long overdue spotlight on their struggle, both as workers and as allies in the movement against the coup. Yet, they are not only fighting for an end to military dictatorship; they are also fighting for the elimination of systemic harassment and violence that has plagued their lives long before the coup.

Myanmar’s antiquated labor system has created a breeding ground for this abuse. International sanctions were dropped in 2016 as Myanmar moved toward democracy and started to set its own labor standards. After the removal of these sanctions, the garment industry boomed. Western brands seeking cheap labor flocked to the country, setting up numerous factories. In 2018, the garment industry accounted for 31 percent of all of Myanmar’s exports.

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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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