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Letter to the UN, Security Council and Member States on Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

Middle East
United Nations
Dear Excellencies, We write to you ahead of the third UN-convened meeting of Special Envoys and Special Representatives on Afghanistan on 30 June–1 July 2024 in Doha, Qatar (“Doha III”), to continue to discuss the international community’s approach to Afghanistan. More than one year since the first Doha meeting, there is growing concern that the international community lacks the necessary resolve to defend and advocate for the human rights of Afghan women and girls. Many Afghan women civil society have even called for a boycott of continued negotiations with the Taliban until women’s rights are restored. Doha III therefore offers a decisive opportunity to demonstrate to all Afghans that their human rights are not a bargaining chip, but the foundation on which the future of their country depends. Since the last Doha meeting in February 2024, the Taliban’s abuses against Afghan women and girls, already unparalleled globally and condemned by international experts as gender apartheid, have continued to deepen. The Taliban are not only continuing to impose new restrictions violating the rights of women and girls, now numbering 97, but steadily intensifying their enforcement of existing decrees. The space for women and girls to make their own decisions and live their lives gets smaller every day. This is a clear signal that the international community’s approach to Afghanistan has thus far failed to deter the Taliban from its systematic repression of women’s rights. The upcoming meeting in Doha is a critical moment for the UN, Security Council and international community to coordinate around one key message: the rights of Afghan women and girls are not negotiable.
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Joint NGO Letter to President Biden on the International Criminal Court

International Criminal Court
International Criminal Law
Middle East
United States
Dear President Biden: We write as organizations with a steadfast commitment to justice for grave international crimes and therefore to the success of the International Criminal Court (ICC). We urge your administration to oppose the threats and calls for punitive actions against the Court that several U.S. lawmakers have recently made. Acting on these calls would do grave harm to the interests of all victims globally and to the U.S. government’s ability to champion human rights and the cause of justice, which are stated priorities of your administration. Accountability is important for its own sake and protects against the commission of future atrocity crimes. Acting where it has jurisdiction and within its mandate as a court of last resort, the ICC works together with national authorities to ensure perpetrators of such crimes are held to account and that victims and affected communities find some measure of justice. While the United States is not an ICC member country, Republican and Democratic administrations have supported the Court in specific cases, and the U.S. has assisted arrest operations to bring justice to victims in central Africa. Your own administration has recognized the Court’s essential role to address serious crimes in Ukraine and Darfur. We are alarmed by threats that U.S. lawmakers have aimed at the Court in recent weeks including the letter sent on April 24 by Senators, threatening to sanction the ICC prosecutor’s “employees and associates,” if steps were taken to pursue arrest warrants against Israeli officials. On May 20, the ICC prosecutor requested warrants for leaders of Hamas and Israeli officials stemming from his ongoing Palestine investigation; ICC judges will assess the request to determine whether to issue warrants.
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Submission to Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment — Report on Sexual Torture

Sexual Violence
United Nations
Download the full submission I. Introduction Over the years, parties to armed conflicts have systematically used sexual and reproductive violence against civilians to demoralize, terrorize, destroy, and even alter the ethnic compositions of entire communities. A large proportion of the victims of this violence, sometimes over 80%, are children. Stark examples include Rwanda, where nearly 250,000-500,000 women were raped in one hundred days as a part of the genocide in 1994, and an estimated 20,000 “enfants mauvais souvenirs” (children of bad memories) were born from these rapes. In Bosnia, women were held in rape camps, repeatedly raped until they became pregnant, and intentionally confined until it was too late for them to obtain an abortion. Boko Haram raped hundreds of women and girls and held them in sexual slavery. During one rescue of victims kidnapped by Boko Haram, at least 214 women and girls were found to be pregnant. More recently, the UN confirmed that Russian forces have committed numerous acts of rape and other sexual violence, with victims ranging from age four to eighty-years-old, which the UN said in some cases amounted to torture and war crimes. The UN has also documented armed gangs in Haiti using sexual violence to punish individuals associated with rival gangs, and to “assert power and control over people”. While most victims have been women and girls, men and boys have also been abused and subjected to violence. LGBTQ+ individuals have also suffered grave sexual violence in Haiti, with LBTQ+ women recounting incidents of “corrective rape” to “cure” them of “homosexuality.” Sexual violence in conflict settings can amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (CIDT) in violation of international human rights law (IHRL), international humanitarian law (IHL) and international criminal law (ICL). While all people in conflict settings have a right to protection from sexual violence and to reparations for such grave harm, all too often the compounded or independent reproductive harms individuals suffer go unrecognized and unremedied. For example, reproductive violence such as forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced contraception and forced sterilization occurs regularly in conflict. Additionally, other reproductive rights violations such as lack of access to abortion, particularly when pregnancies are the result of rape, and to contraception and/or sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services to enable individuals to prevent unwanted pregnancies occur frequently in crisis contexts. Maternal mortality and morbidity rates are also disproportionately high in conflict settings due to inadequate living conditions and lack of access to prenatal and maternal health care.
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Idaho v. United States — Amicus Brief

Abortion
Human Rights Treaties
Reproductive Rights
United States
US Abortion Laws
Summary of Argument Idaho’s near-total abortion ban restricts access to necessary emergency reproductive healthcare, exacerbating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and otherwise negatively impacting people capable of pregnancy in Idaho. The law’s narrow exception for life-saving care will not prevent or mitigate these harms in practice, and will leave patients in Idaho without access to emergency reproductive healthcare. The United States has ratified several human rights treaties—including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and the Convention Against Torture (CAT)—which require it to guarantee access to safe and legal abortion services, in particular in emergencies or acute medical crises governed by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). In accordance with the United States’ obligations under these treaties, the federal government—and therefore each state—is required to respect, protect and fulfil individuals’ international human rights to life; health; privacy; non-discrimination; and to be free from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. These rights are directly jeopardized by Idaho’s draconian abortion law.
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Joint Statement in Support of Progress toward a Crimes Against Humanity Treaty

Crimes Against Humanity
International Criminal Law
Sexual Violence
United Nations
The undersigned organizations and individuals — with representation from multiple geographic regions — express our support for a global convention on crimes against humanity, and urge states to utilize the 2024 April Resumed Session of the UN’s Sixth Committee to express strong support for a procedure to be adopted at the 79th Session of the UN General Assembly to move the Draft Articles on Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Humanity forward to negotiations for a treaty. Throughout history, millions of people have been subjected to murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, persecution, and other atrocities that have shocked the conscience of humanity. Crimes against humanity continue unabated across the globe and the Draft Articles provide a timely and urgent opportunity for states to help end impunity. 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. A treaty on crimes against humanity would close a crucial gap in the current international framework on mass atrocities as well as clarifying states’ duties to prevent such crimes and means to cooperate with each other. A crimes against humanity treaty can also rightfully contribute to global affirmation of the gravity of these crimes. In 2013, the UN’s International Law Commission approved crimes against humanity to be included in its programme of work. The Commission, in 2019, recommended the elaboration of a convention by the UN General Assembly or by an international conference.  In 2022, the UN’s Sixth Committee adopted resolution 77/249 to take forward steps for a treaty on crimes against humanity, including two interactive sessions in 2023 and 2024 on the Draft Articles, and a plan to take a decision on the ILC’s recommendation that a treaty go forward in the 79th session of the General Assembly. We believe the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles represent a strong starting point to open negotiations on a treaty. There is broad agreement that the Draft Articles contain a number of positive elements, and differences in perspectives on the existing Draft Articles should not be used to perpetuate inaction. Accordingly, we urge states to follow the Commission’s recommendation that a treaty on crimes against humanity should be negotiated, either by the General Assembly itself or in a Diplomatic Conference convened for that purpose. Our organizations also urge states at the April resumed session to identify important areas for further strengthening the Draft Articles. A variety of civil society groups have developed proposals toward this end. These include strengthening the proposed treaty by a variety of means. We urge states at the April resumed session also to express overall support for an approach to the development of a crimes against humanity treaty that is gender-competent, survivor-centric, and deploys an intersectional lens. This includes ensuring the inclusion of a non-discrimination provision to apply and interpret the treaty’s provisions consistent with international human rights law. We believe it is equally essential that the treaty-making process itself is inclusive. States should facilitate meaningful, inclusive, and safe public and civil society participation from across the region, in all stages of the treaty-development process, including by people of all gender identities, as well as victims, survivors, and affected communities, and ensure that their voices are adequately represented in the final provisions of the treaty. A full list of signatories can be found here.
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Submission to UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar — Gendered Impacts of the Coup

Asia
Myanmar
Sexual Violence
United Nations
The following responds specifically to question 1 regarding discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality through laws, policies, directives, and requirements that target the rights of women and people with diverse gender identities, including members of Myanmar’s LGBTQ community. Gender-discriminatory laws and policies, and impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes, have long been the norm in Myanmar. Since independence in 1948, successive military regimes have perpetuated systemic discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The 2021 military coup greatly exacerbated gender-based discrimination and violence against women and people with diverse gender identities, and put an immediate end to any attempts to reform or eliminate these structural barriers to equality. The 2008 Constitution At the heart of Myanmar’s discriminatory laws and policies is the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. The same document that laid the groundwork for the February 2021 coup through its broad emergency powers provision has also enabled a culture of complete impunity for military-perpetrated crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence. Though the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) voted shortly after the coup to abolish the 2008 Constitution, it remains the law of the land in the parts of the country under junta control, and the junta regularly cites the Constitution’s authority. Even before the coup, the military faced no civilian oversight or accountability. The Constitution grants the military “the right to independently administer and adjudicate all affairs of the armed forces,” leaving it to hold itself accountable. This has created a culture of complete impunity for serious human rights violations, with a very small number of exceptions aimed at appeasing the international community. Furthermore, the Constitution grants amnesty for any crimes committed by the military under current or previous administrations, stating that no “proceeding” can be initiated against a member of the military “in respect of any act done in the execution of their respective duties.” The Constitution also exempts the Commander-in-Chief from all legal constraints, stating that his decision in the adjudication of military justice “is final and conclusive.” This provision has allowed the Commander-in-Chief, Min Aung Hlaing, to issue pardons to members of the military without oversight.
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Open letter on EU and several European states’ concerning decision to suspend and review of funding to Palestinian and Israeli NGOs

Europe
European Union
Middle East
We the undersigned are writing to you to raise concern regarding the decision by several European governments to suspend or review their funding to several Palestinian and Israeli civil society organizations. We are deeply concerned by these developments and call on your government to reverse any decision to halt such crucial funding. A reduction in funds to these groups and organizations erodes human rights protections across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and call into question your ability to credibly promote and protect universal human rights values across the Middle East and North Africa. Several European states, namely Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as the European Commission have taken measures to suspend or review their funding to Palestinian and Israeli civil society organizations due to unfounded allegations of diversion of funding to terrorist organizations. These measures have intensified following the attacks by Hamas and other armed groups on 7 October 2023, where members of Hamas and other armed groups committed summary killings, hostage-taking of civilians, and launching indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel.
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Draft Crimes Against Humanity Convention Must Center Victims and Survivors

Crimes Against Humanity
International Criminal Law
Sexual Violence
United Nations
Overview: States should adopt a survivor-centric approach to the Draft Crimes Against Humanity Convention States must take a survivor-centric approach throughout when considering the Draft Articles on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity (the “Draft Crimes Against Humanity Convention”). This is an essential approach in relation to all victims and survivors of crimes against humanity, particularly those who may face ongoing marginalization or risks, such as survivors of sexual violence and other gendered harms. A survivor-centric approach recognizes that victims and survivors of crimes against humanity will have suffered immense harm and trauma. It aims to put the rights and agency of each victim and survivor at the forefront of all actions and ensures that they are treated with dignity and respect and supported to make informed decisions with regards to accessing protection, support, justice, and remedy based on their own needs and priorities. Such an approach also requires states to keep at the forefront of their minds how the text of the treaty will actually affect victims and survivors, including consideration of how victims and survivors will be able to meaningfully and effectively access their rights through the treaty’s provisions and the institutions implementing them. It emphasizes that seeking justice is a right, not just a privilege, for victims and survivors. A survivor-centric approach thus requires states to ensure that victims’ and survivors’ rights are robustly protected and set out throughout the Draft Crimes Against Humanity Convention. International criminal law and international human rights law provide that victims and survivors have rights to: (i) effective protection; (ii) effective support; (iii) notice of their rights; (iv) timely notice of developments during proceedings, including those related to justice and remedy; (v) participate in criminal and other relevant legal proceedings; (vi) have legal representation during criminal and other relevant legal proceedings; (vii) obtain full and effective reparation; and (viii) have reparation awards enforced. Such an approach also requires that states ensure that all provisions related to protection, assistance, remedy, and reparations for victims and survivors respect and strengthen their autonomy and are provided irrespective of survivors’ ability or willingness to cooperate in legal proceedings against the alleged perpetrator. In line with the human rights law principle that requires all people to be involved in decision-making that affects them, a survivor-centric approach also requires states to meaningfully engage victims and survivors in treaty development, adoption, implementation and monitoring processes, participating in decisions that impact them, and ensuring that victims’ and survivors’ voices are adequately represented in the final provisions of the treaty. States must understand victims and survivors’ priorities at each stage of the process. For example, in other forums, victims and survivors have identified justice and accountability as a key priority, including by strengthening the ability of international and domestic justice systems to deliver justice for gender-based crimes. As victims and survivors are not a homogeneous group, when taking a survivor-centric approach, states must give particular consideration to ensuring the substantive equality of victims and survivors who are subjected to marginalization and discrimination, including intersectional discrimination. This brief first sets out the importance and potential avenues of state action to ensure robust, meaningful, and effective participation of victims and survivors in discussions and decision-making in relation to the Draft Crimes Against Humanity Convention (Section I). It then highlights specific ways in which the provisions of the Draft Crimes Against Humanity Convention should be strengthened to reflect international human rights law and standards in line with a survivor-centric approach, namely by: adopting a broad and unambiguous definition of ‘victim’ in the treaty that ensures all individuals harmed by crimes against humanity are included (Section II); and expanding the treaty’s reparations provisions (in present Draft Article 12(3)) to ensure all relevant victims and survivors have access to prompt, full, and effective reparations (Section III). It concludes with a non-exhaustive list of additional examples for consideration that states should include in discussions on the recognition and rights of victims and survivors (Section IV).
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In Geneva, United States Dodges Key Questions on its Abortion Rights Record

Abortion
Helms Amendment
Human Rights Treaties
Reproductive Rights
United States
US Abortion Laws
On October 17-18 in Geneva, the United States government faced questions from civil society and the Human Rights Committee on the country’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In addition to questions on immigrants’ rights, racial discrimination, and more, US officials were pressed repeatedly on the state of abortion access in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.
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