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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

October News Update: 20 Years of Women Demanding Power

On October 31, 2000, the United Nations Security Council handed down a bold vision mandating the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of peace and security. Sadly, much of the progress made since then remains rhetoric rather than a reality for most women around the world.

Even worse, what progress we have made is under threat from powerful, patriarchal governments. Countries like the United States and Russia continue to make clear their hostility to the women, peace, and security agenda.

Stand with us as we fight back attacks and push for progress on this critical tool in the fight for gender equality.

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September News Update: Our Feminist Past and Future

The first-ever virtual Global Justice Awards have come and gone, and we couldn't be happier with our night of celebration and collaboration. Thanks to you, we feel as emboldened as ever to continue our fight for gender equality.

We had the honor of presenting awards to Dr. Senait Fisseha and the Women's League of Burma, women who truly embody what a #FeministInspiration means to the staff of the Global Justice Center and to gender justice advocates around the world.

We are nothing without our incredible allies and supporters. Let's win a feminist future together.

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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.”

August News Update: Celebrating Our Feminist Inspirations

To continue our reflection on what it takes to build a feminist future ahead of the virtual Global Justice Awards on September 17th, we've asked the GJC community to share their feminist inspiration with us. It has been encouraging and exciting to see so many meaningful stories so far!

We saw a contribution from Global Justice Awards host committee member Oshiya Savur, who recognized fellow "glass ceiling shatterers." Canadian Senator Marilou McPhedran shared her hopes for an intersectional and inclusive feminist future. And our president, Akila Radhakrishnan, delivered a video tribute to her inspirations: her mother and GJC’s founder, Janet Benshoof.

The Global Justice Awards will be a celebration of our feminist past and future so please register for the free event now. And don’t forget, we are still accepting submissions, so be sure to share your inspiration with us!

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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.

July News Update: Human Rights, Uncompromised

Dear Friend,

In this age of runaway nationalism, GJC has never wavered in its fight for both fully realized human rights protections and systems of accountability to enforce those protections.

During last week's UN Security Council Debate on conflict-related sexual violence, we stood in solidarity with brave activists taking member states to account for their failure to meaningfully act to protect the rights of victims.

Back in the US, we blasted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his illegal "Commission on Unalienable Rights" as the draft of the commission's final report was released.

Human rights need committed, zealous defenders. We thank you for fighting with us.

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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.”

June News Update: Bolstering our Global Institutions

Dear Friend,

Over the last several years, we've witnessed a nationalist slide away from multilateralism and against international institutions. GJC knows global institutions are critical to protecting human rights, so this month, we ramped up our work to bolster them.

We came out firmly and quickly against President Trump's executive order sanctioning International Criminal Court officials. Over at the UN Human Rights Council, we joined the call for an independent inquiry into police violence and racism in the US. And we stood in solidarity with the World Health Organization as the US withdrew funding.

Our international institutions need to be empowered and supported. We hope you'll continue to fight with us as we work to protect them.

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