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International Human Rights Organizations Challenge Idaho’s Abortion Ban at US Supreme Court

Human Rights Treaties
Reproductive Rights
United States
US Abortion Laws
MARCH 28, 2024 — The Global Justice Center, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Ipas — in partnership with Foley Hoag LLP — today filed an amicus brief in Idaho vs. United States, the United States Supreme Court case considering the enforcement of Idaho’s near-total abortion ban. The brief argues that Idaho’s abortion law violates the human rights of pregnant Idahoans. Citing human rights treaties that the US has ratified, including those covering civil and political rights, freedom from torture, and racial discrimination, it describes how Idaho’s abortion law violates the United States’ legal obligations to provide safe and legal abortion services. In particular, the brief cites human rights obligations during emergencies governed by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. “Nothing less than the fundamental human rights of the people of Idaho are at stake in this case,” said Grant Shubin, Senior Legal Advisor at the Global Justice Center. “This abortion ban is a blatant violation of the rights to life, health, non-discrimination, freedom from torture, and privacy. And the violations are far from theoretical — day after day, pregnant people in Idaho are facing life-threatening cruelties while their doctors operate under fear of prosecution.” The brief also argues that Idaho’s abortion law will endanger the lives, health, and well-being of pregnant Idahoans — especially those from marginalized communities. It cites evidence from other US states and countries with similar abortion restrictions showing that such laws exacerbate preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, despite any narrow exception for life-saving care.  Risks to the health of pregnant people in Idaho in emergency situations have already been documented. In one case, a physician described having to send a pregnant patient home while experiencing a miscarriage because, without absolute certainty regarding the pregnancy outcome, the physician feared that Idaho’s abortion law prevented them from providing immediate care to manage the miscarriage in the emergency department. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in Idaho vs. United States next month.
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300+ Organizations and Experts Urge Governments to Advance Draft Treaty on Crimes Against Humanity to Negotiations

Crimes Against Humanity
International Criminal Law
Sexual Violence
United Nations
More than 300 civil society groups and individuals today issued a joint statement urging United Nations member states to declare support for moving the Draft Articles on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity into treaty negotiations. Human rights organizations based in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Americas, and Europe — as well as leading international law and human rights experts — are among the signatories. Beginning Monday, April 1, the UN’s Sixth Committee will resume its session to address crimes against humanity, where member states will have the opportunity to demonstrate support for treaty negotiations. Although crimes against humanity are among the most serious crimes in international law, there has yet to be a treaty regulating their prevention and punishment. The Draft Articles are the result of six years of work in the International Law Commission, an independent body of experts established by the UN General Assembly that is responsible for helping develop and codify international law. Civil society organizations and international law experts believe that the current draft is a strong starting point for negotiations. They have also recommended several areas where the Draft Articles should be improved. Ahead of a Sixth Committee debate on the treaty in October 2023, the Global Justice Center issued a series of legal briefs with recommendations to ensure the treaty is gender-competent and survivor-centric. A full list of signatories can be found here. Elise Keppler, Executive Director at the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement: “Activists from every corner of the globe have united to deliver the message that the world needs a treaty on crimes against humanity. Governments should step up and signal that they support moving to treaty negotiations. From Afghanistan to Myanmar, crimes against humanity are rampant, and more tools to combat these crimes are needed. A strong, gender-competent, and survivor-centric treaty is not only possible — it is necessary.”
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Global Justice Center Announces Elise Keppler as Executive Director

NEW YORK — The Global Justice Center announced today that Elise Keppler has been named Executive Director of the organization following a months-long search process. Keppler is an internationally recognized international justice expert and advocate who joins the Global Justice Center after two decades with Human Rights Watch. She takes over as executive director following the departure of the Global Justice Center’s longtime leader, Akila Radhakrishnan. “The Global Justice Center is a feminist legal powerhouse that is much needed in the fight to dismantle systems of oppression and ensure respect for rights,” said Keppler. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to support the Global Justice Center’s incredible team in building on successes to date and leading the organization in its next phase of groundbreaking legal advocacy.” Keppler amassed extensive experience seeking justice for atrocity crimes — including sexual and gender-based violence — at Human Rights Watch, serving in various roles in the organization’s International Justice Program. She led efforts to advance justice through national, hybrid, and international courts, including for crimes committed in South Sudan, Sudan, Guinea, Central African Republic, and Liberia. “Elise’s trademark at Human Rights Watch was to build broad alliances among civil society groups to push back against governmental efforts to undermine international justice,” said Ken Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch from 1993 to 2022 and visiting professor, Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. “Autocrats pretended that they stood up for the people in opposing justice efforts, but Elise showed that it was more a quest to avoid accountability. Elise brought strategic creativity to the task,  which I am sure will be an asset in her leadership at the Global Justice Center.” During her tenure with the International Justice Program, Keppler led a multiyear campaign to secure the surrender of former Liberian president Charles Taylor to the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. She also led the organization’s effort to counter backlash against the International Criminal Court in Africa, which mobilized international policymakers and local civil society to champion the court while acknowledging needed improvements. Since 2020, Keppler also served half-time in Human Rights Watch’s General Counsel Office, where she worked to assess and mitigate risk for the organization in carrying out its mandate. “In a global landscape where impunity is too often unchallenged, Elise’s work to strengthen access to justice for survivors of atrocities, including sexual violence, is inspiring,” said Gretchen Freeman Cappio, board chair of the Global Justice Center. “We are honored to welcome her to the Global Justice Center team and are certain her expertise and strategic vision will usher in a bold new era building on the many past successes of the organization.” The Global Justice Center works to ensure a gender-equal world where every person lives free from violence, has full bodily autonomy, and has the power to access justice to protect and promote their human rights. Since its founding in 2005, the Global Justice Center has carried out this mission through efforts to deliver international justice for gender-based crimes, to enshrine universal abortion access as a human right, and to embed feminist values in international institutions like the United Nations. “The work of the Global Justice Center is more vital than ever, and I’m confident that Elise is the perfect person to lead it through the next stage of its trailblazing feminist journey,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, former executive director of the Global Justice Center. “Whether it’s through her bold campaigns to demand justice for atrocity crimes like gender-based violence or the lasting partnerships she built with grassroots activists, Elise has the experience and skills that the Global Justice Center — and the global human rights movement — needs right now.” In addition to receiving a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a law degree from the University of California Berkeley, Keppler was a visiting scholar at the University of Cape Town Faculty of Law in 2012. Her writing and commentary can be seen in the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg, National Public Radio, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, and more.
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Attendees gather for a photo during the event,

Reception: Why Government Action Matters on the Crimes Against Humanity Draft Articles

panelists speak during event,

Addressing the Crisis in Myanmar through the Women, Peace and Security Agenda

For the past three years, Myanmar has been torn apart by conflict as a result of the 2021 military coup, which reignited existing ethnic conflicts and sparked wide-spread civilian and armed resistance. The coup was itself enabled by decades of impunity for military abuses and atrocities against civilians, including widespread sexual and gender-based violence. 

The humanitarian situation in Myanmar is increasingly dire. UN sources estimate that more than 2.6 million people are displaced inside the country, and the humanitarian response is grossly underfunded. Local groups, especially women-led organizations, are uniquely positioned to provide critical humanitarian assistance and cross-border aid to their communities, but many lack the direct and flexible funding to be able to do so. 

This meeting will be an opportunity for Member States and NGOs to hear directly from members of the Women’s League of Burma on how they can take action to protect and promote the rights of women and ethnic minorities in the context of the current crisis in Myanmar, as part of their commitments to the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Briefers will provide a gender perspective as well as their analysis of political and humanitarian developments in the region and concrete recommendations for action by the international community.

speakers pose for photo after event,

Draft Articles on Crimes Against Humanity: Civil Society Workshop

UN Member States are currently considering Draft Articles on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity. The Draft Articles offer an opportunity to fill a critical gap in international law on mass atrocities and advance gender justice.

This workshop provided members of civil society attending the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women with an overview of the Draft Articles and a forum to exchange views on them. It convened experts in international law, including some who have co-authored legal briefs on proposals to make the draft articles gender-competent, survivor-centric, and intersectional.

Programme Overview of the Draft Articles on Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity, relationship to other relevant conventions, and the need to center victims and survivors of crimes against humanity in the process Leila Sadat, Professor, Washington University School of Law Sareta Ashraph, Consultant, Global Justice Center Naw Hser Hser, Advisory Board Member, Women’s League of Burma Opportunities to advance gender justice in the Draft Articles Akila Radhakrishnan, Strategic Legal Advisor for Gender Justice, Atlantic Council Strategic Litigation Project Dr. Melanie O’Brien, Visiting Professor, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Erin Farrell Rosenberg, Senior Legal & Policy Advisor, Mukwege Foundation Tess Graham, Legal Adviser, Global Justice Center

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