Global Justice Center Blog

Justice for Queer Iraqis is Not Optional

By Merrite Johnson

Daesh’s crimes against queer Iraqis (or people perceived of being queer, or not sufficiently adhering to traditional gender norms) have been well-documented, including harassment campaigns, arbitrary executions, and forced disappearances. These crimes were also a tactic for building popular support for Daesh’s rule.

Since the UN voted last year to create an international team to investigate crimes Daesh committed in Iraq, human rights advocates including the Global Justice Center have called repeatedly for the team to follow international laws and standards as they investigate all crimes, not just those of terrorism. Earlier this year, GJC published its analysis of Iraq’s national laws, which are woefully insufficient for achieving justice for victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and gender-based violence. If Daesh crimes are going to be prosecuted in domestic Iraqi courts, there is a very real danger that these venues will shut out LGBTQ Iraqis from seeking justice.

But Daesh isn’t the only group responsible for violence against LGBTQ Iraqis. A report published earlier this year by IraQueer found that 96% of LGBTQ respondents in Iraq have faced some form of violence over the past three years, and there have been documented killing campaigns against queer people in Iraq every year since 2003—well before the arrival of Daesh. The Iraqi government has completely failed to protect its queer citizens from harassment and violence; even worse, state forces have been active participants in targeted anti-LGBTQ violence alongside conservative militias. 

If the international community really is committed to justice, it must ensure not only that queer voices are included in Daesh prosecutions, but also that the Iraqi government is held to its obligations under human rights treaties like the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Now is the time to take action to prove that justice for queer people is not optional.

Statement on the US Decision to Withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council


[New York] – Today’s decision to withdraw from the UN  Human  Rights  Council  is shortsighted and will further marginalize the United States in the international arena.

The Council is an important venue to address the human rights records of all countries, including the United States. Just yesterday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the Trump Administration’s family separation policy “unconscionable” and demanded its immediate cessation. The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights is scheduled to present a report to the Council this Thursday that criticizes US policies as “cruel and inhuman,” and driven by a “contempt for the poor.” 

As the Trump Administration continues its abhorrent racist, xenophobic and misogynist policies, withdrawal from the Human Rights Council will not shield the United States from being held accountable under the human rights framework.

GJC Weekly News Roundup


Kim Jung-un and Trump Deal: Missed Opportunity

The two leaders met on Tuesday in Singapore to sign a "comprehensive" deal. The agreement features several key details which critics argue, are vague and possibly problematic. The first point of the deal is the guarantee of "peace and prosperity" for both the United States and North Korea. The second point highlights US support for ensuring a "lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean peninsula." The deal also mentions an important point: the complete denuclearization of North Korea.  However, the leaders did not mention anything on improving human rights practices.

Joint Submission to CEDAW Committee on the State of Palestine 

Human Rights Watch, Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, and Equality Now have submitted the first review on Palestine's compliance with CEDAW obligations. The report is based on findings and publications from Human Rights Watch and Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling as well as first-hand interviews with affected women. The report highlights the need to consider the obstacles posed by the Israeli occupation. It also explores several key issues such as honor killings of women and child marriages. 

Paraguay Eliminates Malaria 

According to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of World Health Organization, Paraguay is the first country in 45 years in the Americas to have eliminated malaria. The organization stated that Paraguay has reported no cases of malaria in the past five years. It was also included in the 2016 WHO list of countries to likely become free of malaria by 2020. 

UAE Pressures UN to Implement Ceasefire in Yemen

The United Arab Emirates gave a 48 hour ultimatum to the UN and other actors involved in Yemen's conflict to implement a ceasefire at the "Red Sea" port of Hodeiah. The port serves as the entrance for rebels, Saudi militias, and UN aid envoys. The UAE has stated it will carry out an attack at the port if the ceasefire is not implemented. Currently, the UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is seeking negotiations between Saudi Arabia and UAE to avoid the 'catastrophic' attack. 

Legalizing Abortion in Argentina Creates Divide

On June 13, Argentina's lower house approved an abortion bill allowing women to receive abortions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Currently, only women who were raped or face potential health risks can receive abortions in Argentina. The bill was passed 129 – 123, however, it must still pass Senate. So far, 16 senators have spoken out in favor of the bill while 27 seven have expressed disapproval.

U.S and 'Zero Tolerance Policy'

United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad al -Hussein, has criticized the US for its border control policy. The "Zero Tolerance" policy will prosecute anyone who has illegally crossed US borders. However, the policy has also resulted in the separation of families and their children. Ra'ad al- Hussein has stated, "The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.” Moreover, UN officials have stated  that the US is in violation of children's rights and international law. 

Akila Radhakrishnan Named President of the Global Justice Center


[NEW YORK] The Global Justice Center’s Board of Directors is thrilled to announce that Akila Radhakrishnan has been named the President of the Global Justice Center (GJC). Ms. Radhakrishnan has worked at the Global Justice Center since 2010, most recently serving as the organization’s Vice-President and Legal Director.

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GJC Weekly News Roundup

Monsoon Rains Hit Rohingya Refugee Camps

Monsoon rains have hit the camps housing hundreds of thousands Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. So far, these rains have caused the death of one child and have destroyed hundreds of makeshift shelters. The UN refugee agency UNHCR reported that “large areas of the camp were underwater”, leading to 21 landslides. The rains will potentially impact upwards of 200,000 Rohingya refugees who are huddled in camps along Bangladesh’s eastern border. The monsoon season usually lasts until October.

No Mention of Reproductive Rights at G7 Development Meeting

The G7 Development Ministers’ Meetings in Whistler, Canada failed to mention reproductive rights in their concluding declarations. This occurred despite the fact the focus of the event is “the empowerment of women and girls.” Although stronger language was used at the ministerial held last week, with ministers calling for access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, softer language was used at the declarations due to the U.S. delegation being present. This censorship is also due to Trump’s reestablishment of the Global Gag Rule.

Myanmar Willing to Take Back Rohingya Refugees, Official Says

Myanmar’s national security advisor U Thaung Tun announced the country is willing to take back all 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who have fled to Bangladesh if they volunteer to return. This was declared in response to the question of whether the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state could trigger the use of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) framework of the United Nations. The R2P framework was adopted for nations to agree to protect their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Tun argued that, “there is no war going on, so it’s not war crimes.” He also argued for clear evidence of crimes against humanity.

Boat Sinks, Killing Scores of Migrants

The Defense Ministry of Tunisia announced at least 46 migrants were killed and 67 rescued after their boat sank off of the country’s coast. One of the worst migrant boat accidents in recent years, the boat was packed with migrants from Tunisia and other African countries. Human traffickers have started using Tunisia as a launchpad for migrants heading to Europe due to the tightened control of Libya’s coast with the aid of armed groups.

Supreme Court Dismisses Decision Allowing Undocumented Teen an Abortion

The Supreme Court dismissed a lower court’s decision that allowed an undocumented immigrant teen to receive an abortion. Siding with the Trump Administration, the Supreme Court directed the lower court to dismiss the teen’s individual claim seeking access to abortion services as moot. The teenager was able to terminate her pregnancy before the high court became involved. The Supreme Court refused the Trump Administration’s request asking that the ACLU lawyers representing the girl be disciplined for their actions.

Saudi Arabia Issues Driving Licenses to Women

Saudi Arabia has issued driving licenses to women for the first time in decades, which comes just before the ban on female drivers is lifted. Rights groups in the kingdom have campaigned against the law that requires women to seek male permission for various decisions. It is expected that another 2,000 women in the kingdom will join the other licensed drivers. The lifting of the driving ban was announced last September and is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s program to modernize certain aspects of Saudi Arabia’s society.


Photo Credit: John Owens (VOA) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain