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NEW YORK — The Biden administration today repealed sanctions against the International Criminal Court.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

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.”

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.”

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.”

Myanmar Files Second Report to World Court on Compliance with Order to Protect Rohingya

NEW YORK — The government of Myanmar today filed its second report to the International Court of Justice on compliance with the court’s order to protect Rohingya from genocide. The report will not be made public at this time.

The court issued its “provisional measures” order in January. It required Myanmar to prevent genocidal acts, ensure military and police forces do not commit genocidal acts, preserve all evidence of genocidal acts, and report on compliance with these provisional measures. Reports to the court are due every six months after the first report in May.

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

“We welcome Myanmar’s second report, but merely meeting the court’s technical deadlines is not enough. Since the provisional measures order was issued, Myanmar has done nothing to address the root causes of discrimination and impunity that give rise to the ongoing risk of genocide against the Rohingya.

“In fact, the government has ramped up discrimination with this month’s election that disenfranchised Rohingya voters and blocked Rohingya candidates from running for office. Meaningful compliance with the order requires comprehensive legal reform to dismantle systemic discrimination against the Rohingya and to strip the military of its supremacy and autonomy.”

UN Security Council Resolution on Gender Equality Fails After Major Countries Abstain

NEW YORK — A United Nations Security Council resolution on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) failed to pass today after 10 countries abstained from the vote because the resolution failed to advance the agenda. The resolution effort was led by Russia, the Security Council president during the month of October.

The countries abstained after the resolution fell below agreed language on human rights, the role of civil society, and women’s participation in peace processes.

Adopted 20 years ago with Resolution 1325, WPS is an agenda that addresses the unique and disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls.

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

“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.”

Trump Administration Launches Declaration Attacking Human Right to Abortion Access

NEW YORK — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today signed a declaration opposing the human right to abortion access and elevating notions of the traditional family and motherhood. The “Geneva Consensus Declaration” was initiated by the US and was co-sponsored by Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Uganda, and signed by 32 countries.

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

“This declaration is nothing less than an assault on decades of progress for the health and rights of women around the world. Let's be clear: abortion is healthcare and a human right — no matter what the US or any of the other countries who signed this statement say.

“Despite what Secretaries Azar and Pompeo said, this administration has never ‘put women's health first.’ Rather, this administration has consistently both women's bodies, here at home and abroad, last. For evidence, look no further than its expanded ‘Global Gag Rule,’ which has devastated critical healthcare for women around the world

“Just because these regressive governments keep asserting that abortion is not a human right, doesn't make it true; the international human rights framework is clear on this issue. There is a reason why none of the US’ traditional allies, nor countries with strong records on human rights, joined this declaration — it flies in the face of decades of hard-fought victories for the rights of women.”

Global Justice Center Mourns the Death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

NEW YORK — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died today due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. She was 87 years old.

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

“Justice Ginsburg was an inspiration to us all. As feminist attorneys fighting for equal protection of the law for women and girls around the world, we have all built on her vision of how the law can be a positive force to build a more equal world.

“On a more personal level, Justice Ginsburg was a personal mentor and friend to our founder, Janet Benshoof, from her days at Harvard Law School to their days at the ACLU, and was deeply influential in how Janet approached legal strategies and advocacy. We were also honored to have Justice Ginsburg as a longtime donor to the Global Justice Center.

“In a letter to Janet shortly before her passing, Justice Ginsburg quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, saying ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ The same can certainly be said for the legacy of Justice Ginsburg. Here at GJC, we will continue our fight to eliminate laws that discriminate against women, and more importantly, build an affirmative legal framework that protects gender equality, in Janet’s memory and of Justice Ginsburg.”

Canada and the Netherlands to Intervene in Myanmar Genocide Case at World Court

NEW YORK — The governments of Canada and the Netherlands today announced their intention to intervene in the genocide case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministries of both governments said the move furthers their solemn pledge to prevent genocide and hold those responsible to account. They also made clear their intention to “pay special attention to crimes related to sexual and gender-based violence, including rape.”

Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center, had the following response:

“Today’s announcement from Canada and the Netherlands is nothing short of historic. The Gambia took the brave and necessary step to file the case late last year, but the cause of the Rohingya must be a cause of the whole world. Canada and the Netherlands took a major step today towards fulfilling their legal and moral duty to act against genocide.

“Just as important as their intention to intervene is their promise to focus on gendered crimes of genocide like sexual and gender-based violence, which was central to the atrocities against the Rohingya. Too often, gendered experiences do not translate to justice and accountability efforts and leave the primary targets of those crimes — women and girls — behind. This is an important step forward to address that gap and Canada and the Netherlands should be applauded for this move.”

Statement in Solidarity and Support of the Rohingya Community: The Need for Justice and Accountability

Originally posted at Asia Justice Coalition

Three years after the Myanmar military launched its campaign involving acts amounting to crimes against humanity and acts the UN's Fact-Finding Mission determined may amount to genocide against its Rohingya Muslim citizens, the Asia Justice Coalition today joins the Rohingya community in remembering and honouring their victims and survivors. Over a million Rohingya remain refugees, most of them in Bangladesh, but also scattered in other countries including Malaysia, India, Thailand, Indonesia and in Europe. Some 126,000 individuals have also been internally displaced and are living in dire conditions.

We reflect on the need for justice for the Rohingya, including through investigations and prosecutions of those individually responsible for crimes under international law committed against the Rohingya, and to uphold their right to safe, dignified and voluntary return. We recognize the global efforts undertaken so far, and encourage further action to ensure ensure truth, justice, and reparations for the Rohingya.

The Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice Releases First Priorities for an Incoming Administration

WASHINGTON — Today, the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice released First Priorities, a detailed punch list of executive and agency actions for the opening days of an incoming administration.

First Priorities is based on the Blueprint, a bold, intersectional, and proactive policy agenda to advance sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice released last year and developed by a diverse coalition of more than 90 organizations. 

First Priorities for the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice is a roadmap for an incoming administration’s first days. It lists specific actions centered around six key points and milestones:  

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Abortion Rights Groups Announce First-Ever Bill to Repeal 47-Year-old Anti-Abortion Policy

Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act would repeal the Helms Amendment, which bars U.S. foreign assistance funding for abortion, expanding abortion access globally

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus Providers and Clinics Task Force, today introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act. The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act is the first-ever legislation to repeal the Helms Amendment,a 47-year-old policy rooted in racism that bans the use of any U.S. foreign assistance funds for abortion, putting an arbitrary line between abortion and all other global health services. Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Diana DeGette (D- CO), and Norma Torres (D-CA) signed on as original co-sponsors.

Rep. Schakowsky announced the new legislationon a virtual press conference with reporters on Wednesday morning, discussing the Helms Amendment’s harmful history, its burden on global reproductive and economic freedom, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to reproductive health care around the world. Joining her on the call were Dr. Ernest Nyamato, a Kenyan doctor and Quality of Care global team lead at Ipas, an international reproductive health and human rights organization, and former director of the Ipas Africa Alliance in Kenya; and Lienna Feleke-Eshete, public policy associate at CHANGE, a U.S. nongovernmental organization that advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls and others who face stigma and discrimination.

Sec. Pompeo and State Dept.’s Unlawful Commission Flouted Federal Law — Their New “Human Rights” Report Must Be Set Aside

Human Rights Groups Issue Statement in Response to Today’s Release of the Commission on Unalienable Rights’ Report

Washington, D.C. — This afternoon, Secretary Pompeo and his Commission on Unalienable Rights released their report on human rights at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, despite the health concerns of holding an in-person event during the coronavirus pandemic. The report is the product of a Commission that was unlawfully formed with a narrowly chosen membership made up of academics with little human rights experience and long records of opposition to the rights of women and the LBGTQI community. The Commission also unlawfully shut the public out of its work, leading Democracy Forward and four human rights organizations to file a lawsuit against the State Department.

In response to today’s release of the report, Democracy Forward, joined by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, CHANGE (Center for Health and Gender Equity), Council for Global Equality, and Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

Secretary Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights has produced a biased, pseudo-academic report that purports to clarify the grounding for U.S. human rights advocacy abroad. It fails in that objective, neither laying the groundwork for better human rights advocacy nor explaining why the Trump administration has done so little to stand on principle against human rights denials by other countries.

From day one, the Secretary and his Commission have flouted federal law. The State Department unlawfully stacked the Commission with members hostile to LGBTQI and sexual and reproductive rights, excluded career diplomats and mainstream human rights groups, and denied the public a meaningful opportunity to engage with the Commission and follow its work. Indeed, the report claims that abortion and same-sex marriage are not rights but “divisive social and political controversies.”

The Commission has not only ignored federal law in its procedures but has grossly wasted taxpayer resources. The report unveiled today is the fruit of a poisonous tree. Secretary Pompeo should be admonished for these failings, and neither he nor the State Department should be permitted to rely on the recommendations made by this unlawful Commission.

Learn more about the unlawful Commission and our suit to shutter it here.

UN Secretary-General Releases Report on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

NEW YORK — United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres released a report this week on sexual violence in conflict. It is the 11th report on the issue since the creation of the secretary-general’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict in 2010.

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

“The secretary-general’s report should be commended for clear progress it makes in several areas, including recognizing the intersecting identities of survivors, the need to move from political commitments to actual compliance, and the focus on a rights-based survivor centered approach. Still, we need to see stronger commitments to ensure sexual and reproductive health for survivors.

“We’re a year out from a Security Council resolution thatcalled for a survivor-centered approach to conflict-related sexual violence and nevertheless are witnessing unprecedented attacks on women's bodily autonomy. The secretary-general could have made it unequivocally clear, like he has in multiple reports in the past, that we must fund and support comprehensive and non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive care, including abortion services and emergency contraception.”

Notably, the secretary-general’s report again included Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, in its annex of parties responsible for conflict-related sexual violence.

“We should note the report’s inclusion of the Tatmadaw is directly contrary to what Myanmar’s internal investigation, the ICOE, found. This is another reminder that the ICOE was not a credible investigative body and did not produce a credible report. Domestic avenues for real accountability in Myanmar are non-existent.”

US Supreme Court Upholds Speech Restriction on NGOs

NEW YORK — The United States Supreme Court today ruled that foreign affiliates of American non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can be required to oppose sex work as a condition of funding. The ruling therefore holds that these affiliates, and the Americans who speak through them, have no First Amendment rights.

The policy upheld today is similar to other ideology-based US policies like the Global Gag Rule and the Helms Amendment, which prohibit US-funded NGOs from speaking about abortion.

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

“With today’s ruling, the Supreme Court is putting its stamp of approval on yet another US policy that limits the human rights to free speech and association. Whether on abortion rights or sex work, the US is using the power of its purse to impose its own regressive ideology on the world. This has real world harms, as it devastates the critical work of NGOs, who are forced to choose between US funding, free speech, and the pursuit of work based on evidence and human rights. Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court further entrenches the ability of the US government to impose ideology over evidence.”