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Global Justice Center Blog

On Crimes Against Humanity, Protect the UN Sixth Committee’s Integrity With Action

Excerpt of Just Security op-ed co-authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Enthusiasm for negotiating and adopting a new global treaty on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity has been growing since the issuance of a model draft treaty 16 years ago, particularly after the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC) submitted a final set of draft articles to the General Assembly on Aug. 5, 2019. Although paragraph 42 of the ILC’s report recommended the “elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly or by an international conference of plenipotentiaries on the basis of the draft articles,” progress on this important treaty has stalled in the U.N. General Assembly’s Sixth Committee. But there are ways the Sixth Committee, the U.N. General Assembly panel that considers legal issues, could make progress on the ILC’s draft text, thereby fulfilling its role within the U.N. system and increasing the likelihood that this critical treaty will be negotiated and adopted in the near future.

The Sixth Committee Deliberations over the Past Three Years

When the ILC’s text was introduced to the Sixth Committee in 2019, it was not the first time the idea of a new treaty had been floated at the General Assembly. The ILC had assiduously canvassed State reactions since beginning work on the topic in 2013, and the draft took into account extensive State comments. Thus, a significant majority of States in 2019 were willing to proceed quickly to a Diplomatic Conference to negotiate the treaty, which Austria offered to host. A handful of States demurred, however, asking for more time to study the draft, and an even smaller number opposed the treaty entirely. The result was a disappointing resolution “taking note” of the draft articles and promising to revisit them the following year. Austria, joined by 42 other States, expressed disappointment.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic made matters worse. Strict limitations on working methods were imposed, causing the Sixth Committee to adopt a technical rollover resolution again simply “taking note” of the draft articles. This time Mexico, joined by 13 other States, voiced concerns that this ran the “risk . . . of getting caught in a cycle of consideration and postponement of the articles without concrete action, which could undermine the relationship between the General Assembly and the ILC."

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Google Maps and Crisis Pregnancy Centers Sign On Letter

Dear Mr. Pichai and Mr. Phillips,

We are writing to ask that Google stop accepting advertisements from anti-abortion clinics, including Crisis Pregnancy Centers, due to their intentionally misleading and harmful impacts on people seeking reproductive health services.

As you know, the Supreme Court's ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization opened the door for states across the country to enact restrictions on abortion care, including outright bans and criminalization.

We believe Big Tech companies like Google have the power to protect their users from disinformation, misinformation, privacy intrusions, and harassment when they utilize your search and location services, including Google Maps and Google search.

Read the Full Letter

International Committee on Racial Discrimination Calls on US to Protect Abortion Rights

NEW YORK — The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today called on the United States to take all necessary measures — at the federal and state level — to provide safe, legal, and effective access to abortion in line with its international human rights obligations.

The recommendation came as part of the committee’s “concluding observations” following its review of US compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which the US ratified in 1994. For more on US obligations on reproductive rights under ICERD, see this factsheet.

The concluding observations specifically noted the recent Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, citing its “profound disparate impact on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of racial and ethnic minorities.”

The committee questioned the US government in Geneva on August 11 and 12. During this session, it raised US abortion restrictions numerous times. The members were particularly concerned about disproportionate access to safe abortion for Black, brown, and indigenous women, as well as the prosecution of those seeking abortions post-Dobbs.

Dr. Christine Ryan, legal director at the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“Make no mistake, the international community put the United States on notice today for the racist impacts of its recent regression on abortion rights. Even before the conservative majority on the Supreme Court overruled the constitutional right to abortion, they had dismantled abortion access for decades. Black, brown & indigenous women seeking abortion faced profound and disproportionate obstacles. After Dobbs, they’re facing nothing short of a gross and systemic human rights crisis.

“Today’s recommendation on abortion is well within the committee’s mandate. ICERD prohibits racial discrimination in access to healthcare and requires the elimination of laws that perpetuate racial discrimination. Abortion restrictions in the US violate these measures at every turn. Forced travel for abortion is more difficult for women of color. Coerced pregnancy is more dangerous. And criminalization will target them at higher rates.

“This is also a critical moment of international accountability for the United States. For too long, the US government has failed to fully implement the very human rights framework it helped create. The international community should take every opportunity to interrogate the state of human rights in the US and commit to reversing this damaging trend.”

President Biden: Stop Israeli Government’s Attacks on Palestinian Civil Society

Dear Mr. President:

We write because your administration’s consistently yielding response to the Israeli government’s escalating attacks against prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society groups over the past 10 months has put the safety and well-being of Palestinian human rights defenders at serious risk. We call for immediate action in response to the Israeli government’s latest escalation so as to curtail any further imminent repressive tactics by Israeli authorities and ensure Palestinian civil society is free to continue its critical work.

Last week, in a significant escalation, Israeli military forces raided the offices of seven Palestinian human rights and community organizations in the occupied West Bank on 18 August 2022, sealing shut their doors, ordering them closed, and seizing computers and other confidential materials. In the following days, directors of the organizations were summoned by the Israeli military and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) for interrogation. All staff are currently under threat of imminent arrest and prosecution. While many in the international community were swift to condemn the Israeli governments shameful political maneuver in October 2021 designating leading Palestinian human rights organizations as “terrorist” under Israel’s draconian Counter-Terrorism Law, your administration has refused to act or reject this clear attack on Palestinian civil society, and even took affirmative steps including canceling the valid U.S. visa held by the head of one of the targeted organizations. The response so far has only enabled and empowered the Israeli government to sustain and escalate its repression.

The targeted organizations form part of the bedrock of Palestinian civil society that has been protecting and advancing Palestinian human rights for decades across the full spectrum of issues of global concern, including children’s rights, prisoners’ rights, women’s rights, socio-economic rights, the rights of farmworkers, and justice and accountability for international crimes. They include: Defense for Children International - Palestine, Al Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. They are trusted partners in our collective work to secure human rights for all.

Read the Full Letter