Myanmar ignoring Rohingya genocide trial measures: activists

Excerpt of AFP article that quotes GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

Rights groups have condemned the almost absolute exclusion of Rohingya from voting in November's election and their continued vilification as illegal interlopers.

"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," said Global Justice Center legal director Grant Shubin.

The Rohingya crisis has left the international reputation of Myanmar and Suu Kyi in tatters.

The UN General Assembly last week voted overwhelmingly for a draft resolution expressing "grave concern" over serious rights violations against the Rohingya, a decision Myanmar blasted as "intrusive" and "illegitimate".

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Execution of Lisa Montgomery Delayed—the Only Woman on Death Row

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed by GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello .

A federal judge on Thursday stayed the execution of Lisa Montgomery, potentially thwarting the government’s plans, announced in October, to put her to death in December.

Lisa Montgomery, a victim of severe child and sexual abuse with a history of mental instability, is the only woman on federal death row. The accelerated timeline of Montgomery’s case, and the Justice Department’s determination to proceed despite an election loss and her lawyers’ incapacity due to COVID-19, is an example of the dangerous consequences of its misplaced priorities.

As part of its renewed commitment to federal executions and a broader campaign to bolster its “law and order” credentials, the Justice Department, without notice to her attorneys and in the midst of a pandemic, announced in October that Montgomery’s execution would take place Dec. 8. Defense attorneys, taken by surprise at the expedited process, scrambled to respond and contracted COVID-19 after visiting Montgomery.

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US advocates fear creation of a hierarchy of human rights

Excerpt of International Bar Association article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Akila Radhakrishnan is President of the Global Justice Center, which develops legal strategies to establish and protect human rights and gender equity. She believes ‘The elevation of religious liberty is seriously problematic, especially given the way it’s been constructed to then supersede other fundamental rights’.

Radhakrishnan also has concerns about the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in late October, which gave the Court a 6-3 conservative majority. Although Justice Barrett swore to set aside political and personal preferences in her rulings, she is influenced by originalism. At her confirmation hearings, Justice Barrett reiterated that she believes the Constitution should be interpreted on the grounds that it was written: ‘I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn’t change over time’.

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Mike Pompeo Is Wrong: There *Is* an International Right to Abortion

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed from GJC Program Coordinator Merrite Johnson.

Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed the Geneva Consensus Declaration, a U.S.-led document that fired yet another shot across the bow at reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy. Bookended by a bizarre montage video, the signing ceremony was touted as a watershed moment in the fight against an international movement to declare a right to abortion at the expense of traditional family values.

The only problem? There very much is an international right to abortion.

The good news, at least, is the declaration is not legally binding. As reluctant as Pompeo and the rest of the Trump administration may be to follow the law, the fact remains that the United States is party to a number of human rights treaties that protect abortion rights—and adhering to these treaties is a legal requirement.

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Russia loses UN vote over women's rights in conflict zones

Excerpt of The Guardian article that quotes GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, said: “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.”

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Ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in EU humanitarian aid

Excerpt of The Parliament article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Kumar emphasised that safe abortion care needs to be understood as a medical necessity, independent of the context and the reason for the abortion. Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center in New York, said that in the past ten years of their work on abortion access in humanitarian settings, there has been both great progress as well as backlash.

“Pregnant persons are still routinely denied access to safe abortion services in humanitarian settings and proactive action grounded in fundamental rights under international law - including by powerful humanitarian donors like the European Commission - is vitally needed.”

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U.S. signs international anti-abortion declaration

Excerpt of UPI article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

The Global Justice Center lambasted the Trump administration Thursday, saying despite its rhetoric it has never put the health of women first.

"This administration has consistently [put] both women's bodies, here at home and abroad, last," Akila Radhakrishnan, president of Global Justice Center, said in a statement.

"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," Radhakrishnan said. "There is a reason why none of the U.S.' traditional allies, nor countries with strong records on human rights, joined this declaration -- if flies in the face of decades of hard-fought victories for the rights for women."

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An Unequal World: Are universal human rights actually possible?

Excerpt of CBC Radio program that features GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

"We set something out there that's aspirational, but it doesn't make it perfect," Radakrishnan tells IDEAS. She explains that a common issue in the discourse around human rights is the focus is often on protecting the law and "not about protecting the people."

"If something is written in a way that is too much in the colonial tradition, we need to rethink it.

"We should be listening to those voices and thinking about how to adapt (the law) and put it into practice in a way that responds to real needs."

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US Supreme Court: death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spurs battle for civil rights

Excerpt of International Bar Association article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Akila Radhakrishnan is President of the Global Justice Center, which develops legal strategies to establish and protect human rights and gender equity. Although she sees the ‘deep misogyny’ of the backlash against abortion as the entry point, she says, ‘in many cases, abortion has been a test case of how far you can take a right down. Through the abortion pushback, a model has been created for dismantling other fundamental rights.’

Radhakrishnan notes Justice Ginsburg was ‘a stalwart on a range of civil rights issues that are on the table right now’. Without her, and with those abortion test cases, alongside cases on LGBTQI+ rights and voting rights, currently working their way up to a potentially conservative-skewed Supreme Court, Radhakrishnan is deeply concerned.

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Limiting Scientific Research is Another Front in the War on Abortion

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed from GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg puts reproductive rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade in grave jeopardy. As part of its war on abortionthe Trump administration has banned scientists from using human fetal tissue (HFT) donated from terminated pregnancies in medical research.

The ban on HFT research is not only another attack on reproductive freedoms; it is limiting crucial medical advances, putting lives in danger and demonstrating the vast collateral damage unleashed by the war on abortion. Reproductive rights advocates must seize upon this dangerous politicization of medical research to forge new allies and further broaden advocacy coalitions.

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The Trump administration's war on abortion rights is worse than you think

Excerpt of The Hill op-ed from GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

The Trump administration has been executing a coordinated attack on what it sees as a critical public health issue. Unfortunately, the offensive is not targeting the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected over six million people and claimed almost 200,000 lives in the US. Instead, the campaign has its sights set on women’s sexual health and reproductive rights, especially abortion. With the recent death of Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg threatening the fate of Roe v. Wade, the security of abortion rights has never been more precarious.

The administration’s brazen anti-abortion agenda includes not only well-publicized executive actions such as the expansions of the global and domestic gag rules, “conscience” exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, and the packing of courts with anti-abortion judges.

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Canada, Netherlands join Gambia's genocide case against Myanmar

Excerpt of Al Jazeera article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

The New York-based Global Justice Center welcomed the move by Canada and the Netherlands, calling it "nothing short of historic".

Akila Radhakrishnan, the group's president, said: "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."

She added: "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."

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ICC Case Could Make History with Gender Prosecution

Excerpt of Women's Media Center op-ed from GJC Legal Intern Sarah Coniglio.

Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) began its presentation of what could be a landmark case for the prosecution of gender-based crimes. Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud (“Al Hassan”) has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture, rape, sexual slavery, and gender persecution surrounding Mali’s 2012-2013 internal armed conflict. The ICC has not had a standing conviction for persecution on the basis of gender due to the overturning of the conviction of former Congolese military leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba, in 2018.

The Al Hassan case has the potential to shine light on the unique harm perpetrators commit against individuals based on their gender, which enforces patriarchal social norms and increases the potency of their crimes. It could also chart a path forward for international criminal law to define gender.

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Rohingya Symposium: From Rhetoric to Justice–Ensuring a Gender Perspective in Accountability Proceedings for the Rohingya Genocide

Excerpt of Opinio Juris op-ed from GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

This August marks not only the 3rd anniversary of the start of the Rohingya genocide, but also the 6th anniversary of the start of the Yazidi genocide. Beyond starting in the same month, these two genocides share some key features, not the least of which is that both were conducted along highly gendered lines. In the two we see some similar patterns in the way there were carried out, even where they vary significantly in the details; the separation of men and women, the subsequent fast killings of men and boys, and systematic sexual violence against women and girls.

In 2016, in its analysis of the Yazidi genocide, “They Came to Destroy,” the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (“Syria COI”) found that “ISIS fighters systematically rape Yazidi women and girls as young as nine.”

In 2018, in its analysis of the Rohingya genocide, the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, found that sexual violence was a “hallmark” of the Myanmar military’s operations against the Rohingya.

And yet, ongoing accountability processes for both genocides risk leaving gendered experiences, including sexual violence, behind.

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Mandatory Birth Control: China Weaponizes Reproductive Health Against Uyghur Women

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed from GJC Legal Intern Shelby Logan.

Women and their reproductive health are at the center of one of the most severe humanitarian crises in recent memory. Yet, while some may have heard of the persecution of China’s Uyghur minority, the gendered campaign of forced birth control, which many experts say indicates a serious risk of genocide, is less understood. It is a clear violation of international law—but what is less clear is the path forward for accountability.

In November 2019, 403 pages of internal documents from China’s ruling Communist Party were leaked to the global community. They detailed how authorities have corralled as many as a million ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others into internment camps and prisons over the past three years. Survivors of the camps claim to have experienced extreme conditions, including torture. 

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Inequality before the law

Excerpt of International Bar Association article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

In many jurisdictions, the legal definition of rape doesn’t meet international human rights standards. In late 2018, only eight European jurisdictions had consent-based definitions, according to Amnesty International. In Myanmar, the legal definition of rape is a colonial legacy dating back to the 1861 penal code. Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center, asks ‘why, in 2020, are we clinging to the standards of 1861?’

Radhakrishnan asks us to look to existing legal frameworks promoting gender equality for solutions. For example, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women is a two-part framework that bars discrimination but also requires states to pursue measures towards substantive equality.

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Implications of the Myanmar ICJ and ICC Cases for Non-Rohingya Minorities

Excerpt of Just Security op-ed authored by GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

(Editors Note: This article is the fourth and final piece of a special Just Security forum on the ongoing Gambia v. Myanmar litigation at the International Court of Justice and ways forward.)

As my colleagues Param-Preet Singh and Nadira Kourt laid out in the first two pieces of this forum, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) case concerning Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingya presents opportunities for Myanmar to finally dismantle the root causes of its longstanding persecution of Rohingya people and the international community to live up to its promise of “Never Again.” In this final forum article, I look at what all the recent international attention paid to Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya means for other ethnic minorities that have suffered atrocities at the hands of Myanmar’s military (the Tatmadaw).

In some ways, international attention on the experiences of other ethnic groups in Myanmar is currently at a zenith. The intensifying conflict between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army – an armed group seeking increased autonomy for the multi-ethnic peoples in Rakhine state (referred to by the Arakan Army as “Arakan” state) – and the recent announcement of new military clearance operations by the Tatmadaw in ethnic Rakhine regions, have brought condemnation from American, Australian, British, and Canadian embassies in Myanmar.

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Genocide: China’s reported persecution of Uighurs exposes states’ legal obligations under international conventions

Excerpt of International Bar Association article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

For now, the United States government has imposed sanctions on state officials in China and US companies doing business with China, and other countries have been urged to act.

The legal obligations on states to intervene are determined in part by their capacity to influence the perpetrators, notes Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center. She asks, ‘are sanctions a full utilisation of the US’ capacity to intervene?’

Further, Radhakrishnan says ‘states are claiming they can’t act until something is definitely found to be a genocide, but that requires a level of evidence and information that surpasses where legal obligations to act kick in’.

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Myanmar’s Protection Bill falls Short of Addressing Violence against Women

Excerpt of Inter Press Service article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

A legislation that aims to protect women against violence in Myanmar, while long overdue, is raising concern among human rights advocates about its inadequate definition of rape, vague definition for “consent”, and anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rhetoric.

Myanmar is soon to see the latest version of its Prevention of and Protection from Violence Against Women (PoVAW) introduced in parliament. But the Global Justice Centre (GJC), an international human rights and humanitarian law organisation focusing on advancing gender equality, has pointed out that the legislation falls short of addressing violence against women.

According to GJC, the language used in the law borrows from Myanmar’s 1861 Penal Code and thus perpetuates antiquated understandings of rape, such as; considering rape as violence committed only by men, the definition of “rape” constituting only of vaginal penetration, and no acknowledgement of marital rape.

“The Myanmar government has long shown a lack of commitment to breaking the cycle of impunity for widespread sexual and gender-based violence, a problem that is exacerbated by broader structural barriers with respect to Myanmar’s military justice system, and a lack of robust domestic options for accountability,” the GJC analysis has claimed.

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Myanmar and the ICJ: Ways Forward

Excerpt of Just Security op-ed authored by GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

(Editors Note: This article introduces a special Just Security forum on the ongoing Gambia v. Myanmar litigation at the International Court of Justice and ways forward.)

In August 2017, Myanmar’s military carried out a brutal campaign of murder, rape and other abuses against the country’s Rohingya Muslims. These so-called “clearance operations” forced more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh and constituted a range of international crimes. While the ferocity of this violence may have been new, the commission of acts of oppression and violence against the Rohingya is not. Indeed, as many have pointed out (see e.g. here and here), the Rohingya have been targeted by the government of Myanmar for decades.

For years, Myanmar evaded direct accountability, as the best the international community could muster in the face of these atrocities were condemnations in the United Nations Human Rights Council and General Assembly. However, in November 2019, Gambia filed an application before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging that the violence committed by the Myanmar government against the Rohingya violated the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

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