GJC in the News

Beyond Killing: The Critical Role of Gender in the Recognition, Prevention and Punishment of Genocide

GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and international law barrister Sareta Ashraph wrote an op-ed in Just Security on the importance of recognizing the role that gender plays in genocide.

One of the women who did manage to escape was Nadia Murad. Nadia, along with the rest of her village of Kocho, was trapped by ISIL until August 15, 2014. Then, ISIL executed most of the village’s men and older boys, and forcibly transferred women and children deeper into ISIL-controlled territory. After enduring three months in captivity as a sex slave, Nadia, who was 21 at the time, escaped through her own bravery and with the help of a Muslim family. Now, she campaigns to bring attention and justice for the Yazidi genocide, and the sexual violence committed as an essential part of ISIL’s annihilative violence. This week, she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for her work.

Her acceptance speech came one day after the 70th anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly’s adoption of the Genocide Convention, which first codified the crime of genocide. The Convention’s understanding of the crime of genocide owes much to Raphael Lemkin, whose work, reflections, and advocacy spurred the international community and the then-fledgling United Nations to action. The Convention sets out binding legal obligations on States to not commit, and to prevent, suppress and punish genocide. These obligations did not protect Nadia and other Yazidis captured by ISIL in August 2014. ISIL’s genocide against the Yazidis was largely not prevented by the international community, and no prosecutions for genocide have yet occurred. This is not unique, as recent reports about attacks on Myanmar’s Rohingya community indicate. Despite the Convention’s venerated status, there has been relatively low compliance with the legal obligations it entails.

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Profile of Akila Radhakrishnan in Atlas Women

GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan was profiled in Atlas Women, a community of female-identifying lawyers with expertise in international law.

What drew you to working in international law? And what were your first steps?

I knew from a young age that I wanted to work on issues affecting the rights of women. I was born and spent my early life in India where I saw a different world to that I would see after my family moved to the United States. My mother was widowed with two children before she was 30 years old. She made the decision to move to the States by herself - a tremendous act of bravery and a leap of faith in her own abilities to create a new life for her and her children. I am very fortunate to have a strong female mentor in my mother. Through her, I developed a keen understanding of the particular challenges that women face, and why it is important to empower and support women as they move through the world.

In college, I specialised in political science and international affairs, which gave me the opportunity to go abroad to study as part of my degree. I spent a year at Sciences Po in Lyon, which exposed me to a range of ideas, to a non-US focused world, and to different conceptions of the role that governments, and political life more broadly, could play. I had already decided to go to law school, but gradually my attention was turned to the international dimensions of law.

At the time I applied to law school, I had already worked for two years in a corporate law firm as a paralegal  and I knew that wasn't for me. I applied to University of California at Hastings because it offered a concentration in international law and would allow me to study abroad and to take specialised courses in various facets of public international law. As part of my degree, I spent a semester at the University of Leiden in The Netherlands and while there, I undertook an internship at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It was a privilege to be able to go abroad and have that experience. 

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GJC President Cited in Elle UK Article on Justice for Yazidi Women

Not a single ISIS fighter has been prosecuted for gender-based crimes despite mountains of evidence of rape and sexual slavery. As GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan explained to Emily Feldman of Elle UK, membership is a terrorist organization is much easier to prove than participation in gender-based crimes.

One of the benefits of ISIS’s diverse membership—fighters joined the group from countries around the world—is that many governments have an interest in going after ISIS suspects.

By 2015, countries like Iraq, Germany and even the U.K. already had ISIS suspects in their prisons. Frustratingly, every government that has arrested ISIS members has only prosecuted them for the crime of being a 'member of a terrorist organisation'—not even murder or rape.

And none of the Yazidi survivors has been informed about their detention and aren’t sure if the men who enslaved them are living or dead, imprisoned or walking free.

Akila Radhakrishnan, the president of the Global Justice Center who has advised Ibrahim, explains that it is simply much easier for prosecutors to prove membership in a terrorist organisation than it is to prove mass atrocities or gender-based crimes, like rape.

And although penalties for terrorism crimes are often severe—Iraq sentences terrorism convicts to death after hasty and widely criticised trials—the cases fail to acknowledge all the other crimes that took place.

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Call the crimes against the Rohingya what they are: Genocide

GJC's Deputy Legal Director, Grant Shubin, published a letter to the editor in the Washington Post, in response to UN Secretary-General António Guterres' article "The Rohingya are victims of ethnic cleansing. The world has failed them."

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres was right in his July 11 op-ed, “The chilling stories of the Rohingya,” to indict the international community for failing the Rohingya. His plea for more concerted international action could not be more timely or necessary. However, his appeal did not go as far as it should have. He failed to name the crimes against the Rohingya for what they are: genocide.

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Akila Radhakrishnan featured in Ms. Magazine Blog

Ms. Magazine's blog published a feature on Akila Radhakrishnan's appointment as the President of the Global Justice Center.

Radhakrishnan’s appointment also stands in stark contrast to the troubling statistics about leadership across sectors by gender—which indicate that men make up 95 percent of CEOs and top executives, and under 20 percent of CEOs are people of color. In the non-profit space, women and people of color are similarly underrepresented in leadership positions. 

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