Reversing the Coup is No Solution for Myanmar

Excerpt of The Diplomat op-ed authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

Almost as soon as news spread of the Myanmar military’s brazen coup on February 1, we began hearing calls for a “reversal” of the coup. Now, the international community’s efforts have focused on restoring the pre-coup status quo, as evidenced by the recent (and failed) ASEAN emergency summit.

These proposals and initiatives ignore the persistent demands from protestors and ethnic groups for a radical and fundamental shift in Myanmar. Perhaps most importantly, they fail to acknowledge that the rapidly deteriorating situation in Myanmar cannot be resolved with a return to the precarious pre-coup balance of power because it’s precisely this unsustainable framework that led to the coup in the first place.

Without a recognition of the need for a complete restructuring of the underlying political and legal system so that it grants ethnic groups a meaningful role and assures justice for the military’s past and present crimes, history will keep repeating itself and the people of Myanmar will continue to suffer.

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UN calls for restoration of democracy in Myanmar, end to violence

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

Civil society groups said the Security Council needs to agree on a more robust response.

“The military has already reneged on the flawed ‘consensus’ it reached with ASEAN leaders, so it’s critical the international community not treat last weekend’s outcome as a legitimate path forward for Myanmar,” Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, said in a statement ahead of the closed-door briefing.

“The Security Council must keep its focus on the solutions long demanded by Myanmar’s people, in particular women-led civil society groups, including a global arms embargo, targeted sanctions, and a referral to the International Criminal Court. It’s unconscionable that the Council has yet to act and they cannot deflect their responsibility to do so because others, like ASEAN, have ‘acted’.”

The military, which ruled Myanmar for almost 50 years, until it began tentative moves towards democracy a decade ago, has acknowledged that some protesters have been killed but accused them of initiating the violence.

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Biden urged to end US aid ‘abortion ban’

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

The group want clear guidance issued on Helms and another misinterpreted law, the Leahy amendment.

“The US is the largest funder of global health, including family planning, and is the only donor nation to single out abortion in this way,” the letter says. “Many US abortion restrictions, including the Helms amendment, have consistently been in place for decades, causing generations’ worth of harm – and they will continue to do so if action is not taken. This is a matter of utmost urgency as bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom are increasingly under siege.”

During his first 10 days in office, Biden rescinded the Mexico City Policy – known as the “global gag rule” – which stopped overseas groups that received US aid using money from other sources to fund abortion services. Kamala Harris, the US vice-president, co-signed a bill to repeal the policy permanently – currently, it can be reintroduced or rescinded by each president.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, said the belief that the Helms amendment banned abortion under all circumstances had become “normalised”.

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Russia, the Current Big Spoiler in Advancing Global Gender Rights

Excerpt of Pass Blue article that quotes GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

At issue is not only violence — rape and other forms of sexual assault — but also a revival of attempts by Russia, China and their allies to downgrade human rights, reproductive and otherwise, and to push those topics out of the Council’s purview into economic and social branches of the UN, where they can fall into an abyss.

Grant Shubin is a human-rights lawyer who is the legal director of the Global Justice Center, a civil society organization based in New York. He is dubious about American leadership in the long term.

“Throughout the Trump years,” he said in an interview with PassBlue, “it was proven that the international human rights movement and the international human rights system do not rely on the United States to keep functioning.”

In government terms, he added, “The US is just not a functioning model,” marked as it is by making the enjoyment of people’s human rights “conditioned on the whipsaw nature of American foreign policy and of American politics.”

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Biden Plans to Repeal Trump-Era Sanctions on ICC

Excerpt of Foreign Policy article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

After Trump, “they’ve done a reasonable job but they’ve also had a pretty low bar to clear,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Radhakrishnan said even if Biden lifts the sanctions, the fact that the United States imposed sanctions in the first place could still cause lasting damage to Washington’s reputation on global human rights.

“What it shows is that the U.S. is willing to allow things like self-interest to get in the way of independent judicial institutions when it finds them inconvenient for its own policies,” she said. “That, considering the things we say we stand for and advocate for worldwide, is deeply problematic.”

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Myanmar’s Coup Is Devastating for Women

Excerpt of Foreign Policy op-ed by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

The Myanmar military’s forceful takeover of the civilian government on Feb. 1, and its deadly crackdown on peaceful protesters who have marched in the streets ever since, are a dangerous setback for democracy and the rule of law in the country. But they’re especially devastating for women.

The coup, which ousted State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, not only threatens to reverse the progress made over the past decade to ensure that women in Myanmar have more opportunities, power, and influence in society but also places an unaccountable military with a history of gender-based violence in control of every aspect of government. Beyond the direct threat this poses to women’s physical safety, this rule—if left unchecked—will reinvigorate Myanmar’s long history of patriarchal oppression.

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International rule of law: historic firsts in ICC’s conviction of Dominic Ongwen

Excerpt of International Bar Association article that quotes GJC Legal Advisor Danielle Hites.

Danielle Hites is a legal advisor at the Global Justice Center and previously worked at the Coalition for the ICC. She was pleased the Court foregrounded victims and did not just charge sexualised and gendered crimes under the catch-all category of sexual violence.

‘There were also charges of enslavement in general, torture and outrage upon personal dignity. It was an important distinction’, she says. ‘They’re recognising that sexual and gender-based violence can’t just be siloed into one category, there are gendered elements to all of these crimes and they can be committed in gendered ways and often are’.

But recognising the gendered perpetration of crimes in court is very difficult – partially, Hites says, because it is a more specific kind of harm, but also because the legal frameworks for convictions were created to make it more difficult.

Reaching this conviction for forced pregnancy was particularly challenging, as the Court noted in its discussion, because of the history of its incorporation into the Rome Statute. Hites says, ‘there were so many countries that either didn’t want forced pregnancy included in the Statute because they were concerned that their own national laws on reproductive autonomy would be implicated, or they felt it was already covered by unlawful detention or rape.’

Because of the resulting narrow definition and ‘ridiculous’ high standards for conviction of the crime, Hites says, there are ‘so many barriers to access to justice’.

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Reset or revolution: Biden’s first 100 days

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

Another cause for concern is gender inequality. Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center, says that on some issues Biden has said the right things and taken the right initial steps, but on abortion the administration has been ‘profoundly disappointing’.

Radhakrishnan notes that the Biden administration has shown its comfort and ability to stand up against white supremacy, and to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights, at least in rhetoric and initial gestures. She asks, ‘so when it comes to abortion, why are we seeing them not utilise the terminology of abortion? Why have we seen nothing on broader commitments beyond repealing the gag rule?’

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UN condemns Myanmar violence as US sanctions general’s children

Excerpt of Al Jazeera article that quotes GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

While welcoming the Security Council statement, rights groups monitoring the situation in Myanmar said more action was needed.

“It is a welcome development to see the Council finally take action on the situation in Myanmar,” said Grant Shubin. Legal Director at the Global Justice Center in New York. “But let’s be clear – this is the bare minimum. It must be treated as a starting point. Strong condemnations and calls for adherence to human rights are important, but the people of Myanmar aren’t asking the international community for statements. They are asking for concrete action to stop the military’s violent assault on democracy.”

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Biden faces calls to lift Trump's controversial ICC sanctions

Excerpt of Al-Monitor article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Biden has so far rejoined the World Health Organization, reentered the Paris Agreement on climate change and announced it would “reengage” with the UN Human Rights Council before seeking full membership later this year. In a Wednesday address outlining the Biden administration’s foreign policy strategy, Blinken committed the United States to leading with diplomacy.

“Issuing sanctions against an independent prosecutor elected through the multilateral system isn't exactly a diplomatic maneuver,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the New York-based Global Justice Center. “While the Biden administration may disagree with some of the decisions that are being made by the prosecutor on the court, it’s not in line with their own professed values around human rights, around accountability, to take measures against an independent prosecutor."

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Myanmar's UN ambassador defies military to plead for immediate global action to overturn coup

Excerpt of CNN article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

The world should applaud the bravery of Representative Kyaw Moe Tun for delivering such a powerful statement on behalf of the people of Myanmar, not the illegitimate military junta," Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, said in a statement Friday.

"The international community must reward such courage by taking up his call for immediate, decisive action to hold the military accountable."

Myanmar descended into unrest when the coup ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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The International Criminal Court Still Has Work to Do on Gender-Based Crimes

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed from GJC Staff Attorney Danielle Hites.

The International Criminal Court recently convicted Dominic Ongwen, a former commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Notably, this was both the first conviction for forced pregnancy in the court’s history and only the second standing conviction for any sexual and gender-based crimes. While the case establishes a roadmap for the incoming prosecutor of the court to effectively charge and prosecute sexual and gender-based crimes, it also reinforces the unduly burdensome standards applied to reproductive violence.

Ongwen’s case involves the systemic abduction of girls and young women in Northern Uganda, who were awarded like chattel to LRA soldiers. In addition to forced pregnancy, the court charged Ongwen with rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage, enslavement, torture and outrages on personal dignity. Critically, it charged forced pregnancy as a crime against humanity and rape as a war crime.

In the nearly 20 years since the International Criminal Court was established, violence targeting individuals for their perceived responsibility for reproduction—typically cisgender women and girls—has been an integral tool in nearly every mass atrocity. The absence of charges, prosecutions, and convictions for these gender-based crimes up until this point demonstrates the need for greater gender expertise at all stages of cases.

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What Myanmar's coup means for the future of Rohingya Muslims

Excerpt of The New Arab article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

For now, UN-backed efforts to repatriate Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar have stalled, with rights groups forewarning an increased danger for them.

"A necessary condition for safe and voluntary return has been holding the military accountable," says Akila Radhakrishnan, president of international human rights organisation Global Justice Center.

"Senior General Min Aung Hlaing - one of the main architects of the genocide against the Rohingya - is now in power, so I think it's really hard to imagine how there can be any safe repatriation to Myanmar. A risk of atrocities is certainly heightened."

Radhakrishnan says the lack of accountability of the military throughout more than 50 years of rule is to blame for the fragility of the country's democracy.

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Myanmar coup: How will the military takeover affect Rohingya genocide trial?

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

While experts believe the coup d’état will have little effect on the outcome of the trial itself, it could significantly change how Myanmar responds to proceedings at the UN’s highest court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Netherlands.

“From the court’s perspective, nothing changes,” Grant Shubin, legal director at the Global Justice Center, told The Independent. But he said the coup could change how the military government defends itself against the charge of genocide and affect how it is represented in The Hague.

Myanmar is accused of committing widespread and systematic atrocities against the Rohingya during a “clearance” campaign launched in August 2017, which thousands were killed and raped and more than 730,000 forced to flee to the world’s largest refugee camp across the border in Bangladesh.

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British Human Rights Lawyer to Be Next ICC Chief Prosecutor

Excerpt of Voice of America article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

The court was established in 1998 and began hearing cases in 2002, after 60 countries had ratified the Rome Statute. Today, 123 nations are members.

“We welcome the election of Karim Khan as the next ICC prosecutor and look forward to working with him to deliver justice to victims of international crimes, including survivors of sexual and gender-based violence,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “Prosecutor Bensouda has taken important steps to center a gender perspective and approach to the work of the prosecutor’s office, and we hope that Prosecutor Khan will continue to build on this legacy.”

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U.N. calls for democracy in Myanmar following military coup

Excerpt of UPI article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

"This is not how the Security Council runs its day-to-day work, nor will it be conducive to the solidarity of and mutual trust between Security Council members," he said.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, said the Security Council statement provided "some relief" following the negotiations but that it will be meaningful if not "followed by formal action."

"It is crucial the council listens to communities most at risk in Myanmar, who have been clear from the beginning that targeted sanctions on the military and military-owned companies, an arms embargo and efforts to hold the military accountable are the concrete actions that international community must take to address this emergency," Radhakrishnan said in a statement on Thursday.

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The Biden Administration’s Moves to Protect Abortion are Good, Just Not Good Enough

Excerpt of Women's Media Center op-ed by GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

On January 28, the Biden administration issued a much-anticipated Presidential Memorandum “protecting women’s health at home and abroad” that reversed four anti-abortion policies adopted under the Trump administration. While this move undoes some of the harm done to reproductive rights over the last four years, it falls far short of being the “bold and proactive” policy package demanded by reproductive rights activists.

This failure will be felt as more conservative state legislatures pursue anti-abortion measures and the Supreme Court — made significantly more conservative by President Trump — is likely to hear cases in the near future that could provide an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. It also highlights a sense of urgency — we may have only two years of a Democratically-controlled White House and Congress to secure lasting progress on abortion rights.

During the 2020 election, then-candidate Biden issued a detailed Agenda for Womenthat recognized a “woman’s constitutional right under Roe v. Wade” and pledged to take action against attempts to violate this right.

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Myanmar lodges objections in Rohingya genocide case

Excerpt of Al Jazeera article that quotes a GJC factsheet.

This week’s coup could bring further complications, with the military that orchestrated the crackdown once again in control and the country’s elected civilian leaders in detention.

“In principle the coup has no direct impact on the ICJ case,” international rights group Global Justice Center said in a statement. “For the ICJ’s own purposes, it is the state of Myanmar, however constructed, that is the subject of this case and changes in political leadership have no bearing. The coup does however, raise other questions, including whether a military-led government will continue to engage with and defend the case, as well as how the Court will view compliance with the provisional measures orders.”

In January last year, the court told Myanmar to take provisional measures to “protect against further, irreparable harm to the rights of the Rohingya group under the Genocide Convention” and ordered the country to report on the situation every six months.

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UN Security Council Finds Rare Unity in Criticizing Myanmar Coup

Excerpt of Bloomberg article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

China’s diplomats sought to strike a balance by supporting the Security Council statement while issuing a separate statement noting that China is a “friendly neighbor” of Myanmar and highlighting that the council is calling for “dialogue and reconciliation in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.”

“It is some relief for the people of Myanmar that the UN Security Council finally took action today by agreeing on a statement concerning the military coup,” Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the New York-based Global Justice Center, said in a statement. “But thanks to recent, historic levels of gridlock on the Council, the bar has been set far too low. If this statement is not followed by formal action, it is meaningless.”

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UN Security Council fails to condemn Myanmar coup

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

Human rights groups condemned the failure of the council to take swift action.

“No one should be surprised that the world’s body for maintaining international peace and security failed to issue a statement condemning a brazen military coup,” Akila Radhakrishnan, the president of the Global Justice Center said in a statement urging world leaders to take action including selected sanctions, arms embargoes and economic divestment to “disempower” the military.

“The time has passed for failed strategies promoting ‘stability’ and quiet diplomacy over accountability and justice,” she said. “The military has destabilized the country irreparably. It’s now on the international community to stem the tide of military violence and impunity before it’s too late.”

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