International Criminal Court Approves Investigation into Afghanistan War Crimes

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

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

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

UN Secretary-General Delivers Call to Action on Human Rights

NEW YORK – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a call to action today on human rights in an address to the Human Rights Council.

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

"The Secretary-General’s call to action is a welcome effort to re-center human rights into the work of the United Nations. Particularly important is its specific area of focus on gender equality and equal rights for women. Still, it is equally important that gender equality is integral to all focus areas as a cross-cutting issue.

“With the UN’s recent failure to adequately respond to the serious violations against the Rohingya in Myanmar in mind — as documented in the UN’s own internal report by Gert Rosenthal — it is essential that this call to action translates to meaningful action. It’s insufficient for the UN to pay mere lip service to the concept of human rights. Rather, the call to action should be used to fundamentally shift the UN’s culture and ensure that all parts of the system work to promote, not suppress, human rights.”

World Court Orders Myanmar to Take Immediate Action to Prevent Genocide

THE HAGUE — The International Court of Justice today ordered Myanmar to take immediate action to prevent genocide.

The “provisional measures” require 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. The measures are also automatically sent to the UN Security Council.

“Today’s order is a massive step towards justice for the Rohingya that underlines the importance of the global rule of law,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are still under the threat of genocide. Over a million languish in refugee camps far from home. These measures recognize the tremendous urgency of the situation for survivors of sexual violence and other genocidal crimes. It’s now time for the international community, including the Security Council, to act to ensure compliance.”

In its request for provisional measures, The Gambia cited the findings of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, which reported in September that the Rohingya remaining inside Myanmar “live under the threat of genocide.” Countries on the UN Security Council are obligated to prevent and punish the crime of genocide under the Genocide Convention.

“This is the first step on a path to justice for the Rohingya. I hope that all members of the UN Security Council will uphold their moral and political obligation to ensure that the provisional measures ordered by the Court are fully implemented,” said Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “Those responsible for genocide are still in power in Myanmar. Justice has been delayed but can no longer be denied.”

Myanmar “Independent” Commission on Rohingya Violence Submits Final Report

Report Confirms Human Rights Experts’ Charges that Commission Won’t Provide Real Accountability

NEW YORK – The Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE), established by the Government of Myanmar to investigate human rights abuses in Rakhine State, submitted its final report to Myanmar’s government today. The full report is not yet public and its submission comes days before an International Court of Justice ruling that could impose immediately binding obligations on Myanmar.

The report acknowledged some human rights abuses occurred in the context of what it deemed an “internal armed conflict,” but found no evidence of genocidal intent, contradicting independent United Nations investigations and numerous human rights organizations. The Commission also asserts that its full report and annexes can be used as the basis for domestic investigations, including by the military justice system as a venue for accountability, despite the military’s history of protecting soldiers who carried out human rights abuses and the significant flaws of the system. The report also seemingly fails, like the Government of Myanmar, to use the term “Rohingya” which continues to deny the identity of the group.

“All signs point to what human rights experts and Rohingya themselves already know, which is that the government has no intention of bringing perpetrators of mass rape and other genocidal crimes to justice,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “This Commission is just yet another domestic attempt to deflect responsibility and whitewash the situation of the Rohingya.”

The ICOE was established in June 2018 to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in Rakhine state. The Commission said from the outset it would not seek to hold anyone accountable and it was formed to “respond to false allegations made by UN agencies.” This bias, as well as a lack of transparency around the Commission’s methods, led the United Nations Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar to conclude last year that the commission “does not constitute an effective independent investigations mechanism.”

“The UN Fact-Finding Mission was right when it said accountability must come from the international community,” said Radhakrishnan. “We must continue to support ongoing efforts seeking true accountability for the crimes against the Rohingya, including The Gambia’s case at the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court’s current investigation.” 

Aung San Suu Kyi Delivers Opening Arguments in Genocide Case at World Court

THE HAGUE – Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivered opening arguments today at the International Court of Justice in the genocide case against Myanmar filed by The Gambia. 

Suu Kyi and Myanmar are responding to The Gambia’s request for provisional measures, which would impose immediately binding obligations on Myanmar. For more on these measures,please see our Q&A.

Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan issued the following statement:

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s picture of an internal military conflict with no genocidal intent against the Rohingya is completely false. Multiple independent agencies and experts, as well as Rohingya themselves, have documented mass killings, widespread rape, and wholesale destruction of land and property intentionally inflicted on innocent civilians. The government has discriminated against the Rohingya for decades. This is genocide and it’s precisely what the Genocide Convention set out to prevent.”

Hearings Begin in Genocide Case Against Myanmar at World Court

THE HAGUE – The International Court of Justice is holding its first hearing today in the case filed by The Gambia against Myanmar for the genocide of the Rohingya. 

The Gambia will deliver arguments on their request for provisional measures, which would impose immediately binding obligations on Myanmar. For more on these measures,please see our Q&A.

Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan issued the following statement:

"The international community is many years too late on taking action in Myanmar, but this case represents the first hope in decades for the Rohingya and other persecuted ethnic groups in the country. Indiscriminate killings, widespread rape and sexual violence, arbitrary detention, and torture have been everyday reality in Myanmar for far too long. The court has an opportunity with this case to help end it all."

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi will open Myanmar’s arguments before the court tomorrow. 

The Gambia Files Lawsuit Against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice

NEW YORK — Today the government of the Republic of Gambia filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar for violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention. This historic lawsuit seeks to ensure Myanmar’s responsibility as a state for the genocide committed against the Rohingya.

Starting in October 2016 and then again in August 2017, Myanmar’s security forces engaged in so-called “clearance operations” against the Rohingya, a distinct Muslim ethnic minority, in Rakhine State. The operations were characterized by brutal violence and serious human rights violations that, according to UN investigations, amount to genocide and crimes against humanity. Survivors reported indiscriminate killings, rape and sexual violence, arbitrary detention, and torture. Since August 2017 more than 745,000 ethnic Rohingya civilians have been forcibly displaced from Myanmar, with nearly 400 Rohingya villages attacked and burned.

The clearance operations followed decades of systematic persecution of the Rohingya by the government. Over the course of decades, Myanmar has rendered most its Rohingya population stateless through discriminatory laws, and placed severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, fundamental religious freedom as well as reproductive and marital rights.

In September, the UN Human Rights Council-mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM) concluded in its final report that “the State of Myanmar breached its obligation not to commit genocide” and welcomed efforts to ensure accountability, including at the ICJ.

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and rules on disputes between states and other questions of international law. Article IX of the Genocide Convention provides that any disputes relating to the “interpretation, application or fulfillment” of the Convention, including “the responsibility of a State for genocide,” can be brought to the ICJ. For more information on the ICJ process, see “Q&A: The Gambia v. Myanmar, Rohingya Genocide at The International Court of Justice.”

As a party to the Genocide Convention, The Gambia refused to stay silent in the face of genocide and today took an important step in filing a case against Myanmar at the ICJ. As part of its filing, The Gambia requested the ICJ to issue provisional measures which, if granted, could impose immediately binding obligations on Myanmar.

“We commend The Gambia for upholding its international responsibility to punish genocide,” said Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “The international community failed to prevent a genocide in Myanmar, but it is not too late to hold the State of Myanmar accountable for its crimes.”

"The Gambia’s lawsuit is a landmark moment for the global rule of law and for the victims of some of the most severe human rights abuses in recent memory,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center. “We must also remember that gender played a central role in this genocide and we hope this perspective will be at the heart of this critical effort to hold the state of Myanmar accountable for its atrocities.”

MEDIA CONTACT:
Thomas Dresslar, Global Justice Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +1 212-725-6530 x217
Sarah Hunter, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +1 917-242-8099

UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar Documents Genocide and Calls for International Justice in Final Report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK — Today the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar released its final report, summarizing its investigation into what it called “the gravest crimes under international law” committed against vulnerable populations in the country, including the Rohingya. The report explicitly calls for international legal accountability for violations of the Genocide Convention.

Established in 2017, the mission has thoroughly documented genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes carried out by the military and security forces in Myanmar and has consistently called on the international community to act. To that end, the final report applauded efforts by UN Member States such as The Gambia, who are potentially pursuing a case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in line with their obligations under the Genocide Convention.

“The Fact-Finding Mission has been a tremendous advocate for international accountability in Myanmar, which remains the only true path to justice for victims of gross human rights violations, including genocide,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “As its mandate ends, it is essential that the international community take the mission’s recommendations seriously and take urgent action to break the culture of impunity in Myanmar.”

The Global Justice Center and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect met with Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubaccar M. Tambadou, and other senior officials in The Gambia earlier this month to discuss efforts to hold Myanmar accountable under the Genocide Convention. For more information on how an ICJ case might proceed, see this Q&A.

“We thank the Fact-Finding Mission for its crucial work and commend The Gambia for seeking to uphold its international responsibility to punish genocide,” said Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “In 2017 the international community failed to prevent a genocide in Myanmar. But it is not too late to protect the Rohingya from further persecution and ensure that the perpetrators of these atrocities face international justice.”

“This week, world leaders will come together in New York for the start of the United Nations General Assembly. Action on Myanmar — whether sanctions, a referral to the International Criminal Court by the Security Council, or the creation of an ad-hoc tribunal — must be a priority," said Radhakrishnan.

Statement on United Nations Fact-Finding Mission Report on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK — The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar today released a report documenting and analyzing sexual and gender-based violence committed by the country’s military, the Tatmadaw. The report represents the mission’s first thorough examination of gender-based crimes in Burma.

The mission’s report describes in detail the widespread and systemic use of sexual violence by the Tatmadaw. It also analyzes the gendered impacts of Burma’s ethnic conflicts. The Global Justice Center has advocated since 2005 for the need to ensure justice and accountability for sexual and gender-based violence in Burma and last year released “Discrimination to Destruction,” the first comprehensive legal analysis of gender-based crimes against ethnic Rohingya in the country.

“The Tatmadaw has for decades utilized sexual violence to subjugate and terrorize ethnic groups with impunity and we commend the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission for recognizing this critical fact,” said Akila Radhakrishnan. “To date, no military perpetrator of sexual violence has been held accountable in Burma for their crimes. As accountability proceedings begin, including at the International Criminal Court, it is essential that a robust gender lens and perspective informs the proceedings.”

The report includes the well-documented human rights abuses that occurred in Rakhine State against the Rohingya, but it also details gendered and sexual violence against ethnic communities in Kachin and Shan states. In addition, it contains a groundbreaking investigation of gender-based violence against transgender Rohingya, as well as men and boys. Importantly, the report also recognizes the links between gender inequality in Burma and the commission of sexual and gender-based crimes.

“Sexual and gender-based violence is, at its core, an expression of discrimination, patriarchy, and inequality,” said Radhakrishnan. “As a result, accountability for these crimes must be holistic and seek to address and transform the root causes of violence.”

The Global Justice Center has long worked to ensure that gender is analyzed in mass atrocity crimes, including in the crimes against Iraq’s Yazidi minority. It has also researched, written, and spoken out against the abuses of Burma’s military regime and gender inequality in the country for over a decade.

For more background on the gender-based crimes against the Rohingya as well as potential gender-inclusive solutions, a brief factsheet can be found here.

Statement on the Formation of the “Commission on Unalienable Rights"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 9, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] — Yesterday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formation of a new “Commission on Unalienable Rights” at the State Department, which Secretary Pompeo described as an attempt to “ground our discussion of human rights in America’s founding principles.” 

The establishment of this panel is yet another assault on the international system in the service of the Trump administration’s regressive agenda. This action follows a clear pattern of ideological attacks on US engagement with the human rights system and the norms they uphold, such as withdrawing from the Human Rights Council, erasing reproductive rights from human rights reports, and cutting funding to the Organization of American States in an attempt to censor abortion-related speech. 

Statement from Global Justice Center President, Akila Radhakrishnan:

“It is not up to any one country to determine what is or is not a human right. That remains the ambit of human rights treaties, bodies, experts, and courts whose sole purpose is to define and monitor compliance with international human rights standards. Universal human rights norms exist to hold states accountable: they cannot be defined, redefined, or limited based on the demands or viewpoints of a single government. 

While Secretary Pompeo claims that he wants to depoliticize human rights, this commission does the exact opposite. What’s more, the commission is overwhelmingly staffed by individuals who are openly hostile to abortion rights and to the rights of LGBTQ persons—conservative ideologues who have built careers at the expense of human rights, free thinking, and democratic values.” 

For more information contact:
Liz Olson, Communications Manager at Global Justice Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (212) 725-6530 ext. 217

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 28, 2019

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

Response to Proposed United States Strategy on Women, Peace and Security

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— June 13, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] - This week, the Trump Administration released the United States government’s latest strategy on women, peace and security (“WPS”).  While it contains lofty goals to advance women’s equality and political participation, these objectives are directly undermined by current US policies.

“The Trump Administration’s stated commitment to advancing women’s equality through the WPS strategy is absurd,” says Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan. “In fact, this administration is actively harming women and girls around the world by expanding the Global Gag Rule, blocking language on access to life-saving healthcare services for war rape victims at the UN Security Council, and impeding international efforts at accountability for gender-based violence through its threats against the International Criminal Court. Until these policies, and others, change, this WPS strategy is not even worth the paper it’s printed on.”

The Global Justice Center Mourns Lenora Lapidus

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – May 6, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] – The Global Justice Center mourns the passing of Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and member of the Global Justice Center’s Board of Directors. She passed away at home on May 5, 2019, after a long battle with cancer.

Lenora was a visionary lawyer and pillar in the struggle for women’s rights. She led the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project since 2001, focusing on eliminating gender-based violence and defending the rights of marginalized women. In 2008, she litigated Jessica Gonzales v. United States of America in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a landmark case declaring the freedom from domestic violence as a human right.

United Nations Human Rights Committee Requests Information on United States Violations of Sexual and Reproductive Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 3, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] – Today, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) challenged the United States’s restrictive abortion policies as potential violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in its list of issues prior to submission of the fifth periodic report of the United States. The Global Justice Center (GJC) commends the HRC for asking the US to provide information on the impact of the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule on women's rights under the ICCPR, including to non-discrimination and equal protection under Article 2, 3 and 26, the right to life in Article 6 and the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 7.

Statement: Response to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's Expanded Application of Global Gag Rule and Siljander Amendment

Today, the Trump Administration launched another attack on women’s health, expanding the scope of the Global Gag Rule and the application of the Siljander Amendment. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also announced that the US will cut its assistance to the Organization of American States (OAS) based on claims that its agencies are lobbying for abortions. As a quasi-governmental body, OAS recommendations are expert guidance, not lobbying. The US is censoring free speech around the world and is using the Siljander Amendment to justify decreasing contributions to the OAS on purely ideological grounds.

The OAS and its subsidiary bodies, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, work to ensure the fundamental human rights of women and girls living in member states. Threatening these institutions’ ability to carry out their mandate through the power of the purse is both unconscionable and illegal. Over the past two weeks at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the Trump Administration cemented the US’s new position as a government opposed to women’s rights, health and autonomy—Secretary Pompeo’s announcement today is one more dangerous step in that direction.

For more information contact:
Liz Olson, Communications Manager at Global Justice Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (212) 725-6530 ext. 217

Human Rights Organizations Issue Joint Submission to CEDAW Committee Ahead of Myanmar Review

   

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 22, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] –  Today, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (“Committee”) will meet to discuss Myanmar’s Exceptional Report on the situation of Rohingya women and girls from northern Rakhine State. The Committee requested the Exceptional Report months after Myanmar’s Security Forces launched a massive attack on Rohingya civilians in August 2017, destroying almost 400 villages and forcing over 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. This was only the fourth time the Committee had requested an Exceptional Report since its founding in 1982.

Statement: Proposed Rule for ACA Marketplace Violates Women’s Fundamental Rights

The Global Justice Center (GJC) has submitted a comment to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging the department to withdraw the proposed rule on abortion coverage for the ACA Marketplace. The proposed rule will create bureaucratic obstacles for abortion coverage, including instituting separate payment requirements for plans that cover abortion services.

The proposed rule violates women’s fundamental rights under the US Constitution and international human rights law. Human rights obligations protect access to abortion under a multitude of rights—including the rights to privacy, life, and health, and the right to be free from discrimination, torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The proposed rule would violate these protections by enacting discriminatory barriers to services needed only by women, stigmatizing abortion, and denying women access to safe affordable care, forcing them to seek out unsafe services at high risk to their health and lives.

"The outcome, and tacit intent, of the proposed rule is to discourage insurers from providing abortion coverage” says Global Justice Center Special Counsel, Michelle Onello. “It will impose onerous burdens on both insurers and consumers that aim to stigmatize abortion, embarrass women, annoy and inconvenience consumers, and increase administrative burdens on insurers.”

For more information contact:
Liz Olson, Communications Manager at Global Justice Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (212) 725-6530 ext. 217

New Report Provides First Comprehensive Legal Analysis of the Role of Gender in Genocide

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 7, 2018

[New York] – Today, the Global Justice Center (GJC) released the first comprehensive legal analysis of the gender-based crimes of genocide. Over the past four years, the world has witnessed at least two genocidal campaigns—against the Yazidis in Iraq and against the Rohingya in Myanmar. Widespread sexual and gender-based violence was central to both, as in the genocides in Darfur, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and Guatemala. The new report, Beyond Killing,details the role that gender plays in the commission of genocide and the role it must therefore play in efforts to prevent and punish it.

For too long, the understanding of genocide has centered on killing, a genocidal act that most often impacts men. Women and girls are more likely to survive the initial wave of killings—facing enslavement, beatings, starvation, degradation, and other acts that form constitutive acts of genocide. Survivors of these abuses are not just witnesses to the genocide: they are its intended targets and require accountability and reparations. When the gendered, non-killing crimes of genocide go unrecognized, women and girls, in particular, are denied justice for the abuses they have suffered.

Statement on Nobel Peace Prize Award to Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 5, 2018

The Global Justice Center commends the Nobel Committee’s decision to award Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege with the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, honoring their work to end rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war. Ms. Murad and Dr. Mukwege have each displayed remarkable bravery and determination, risking their safety and wellbeing in the struggle to end to sexual violence in conflict. This award shines an international spotlight on this widespread and horrific tactic that continues to be used to destroy communities both physically and emotionally, breaking apart the social fabric of society. 

Despite the widespread use of rape as a weapon, no state has ever been held accountable for the use of rape as a prohibited tactic of war. To date, there have been no successful convictions for sexual violence at the International Criminal Court (after the acquittal of Jean-Pierre Bemba this June), despite the prevalence of sexual violence in many of the cases under the Court’s jurisdiction. As the perpetrators of crimes against the Yazidis and the Rohingya face justice, they must be held accountable for their horrendous acts of sexual violence, rape, and other gender-based crimes. This year’s Nobel Prize recognized the importance of addressing sexual violence in conflict. The next step is to ensure justice.

For more information contact:
Liz Olson, Communications Manager at Global Justice Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (212) 725-6530 ext. 217

Statement on the Creation of the IIIM for Myanmar

The Global Justice Center applauds the Human Rights Council for acting where others have not in creating an International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) for Myanmar. This is an important step towards addressing the total impunity for the decades of crimes committed by the military.

While it is imperative to collect evidence, without a court where such evidence can be analyzed and prosecuted, justice and accountability for these crimes cannot be delivered. As such, the creation of the Mechanism without the establishment of an avenue for justice is insufficient. The Security Council should still refer the situation to the International Criminal Court so that the Court has jurisdiction over all crimes committed in the course of these attacks. Structural barriers to accountability in Burma, including those enshrined in the Constitution, must also be addressed.

The Mechanism also must ensure that gender is at the center of the investigation, and that the Mechanism has sufficient gender expertise. “Burmese Security Forces have long used rape as a weapon of war against ethnic minorities,” says Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan. “The attacks on the Rohingya were gendered in their conception, commission, and consequences. Women were specifically targeted for crimes against humanity and genocide, and they must not be left behind in these accountability efforts.”