Somalia becomes 196th state to ratify Convention on Rights of the Child

On 1 October 2015, Somalia became the 196th state to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN press release here). South Sudan ratified it back in January 2015.

The United States now stands alone as the only state not to have ratified this treaty.

The US was actively involved – during the Reagan and Bush I administrations – in drafting the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), representing the US in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly as the text was being concluded, stated: “We believe that it represents a notable step forward in the needed promotion and protection of the rights of children.”

In 1995, Ambassador Madeleine Albright signed the treaty on behalf of President Clinton, but he did not send it to the Senate, and in the face of GOP opposition to ratification, President Obama has not done so either.  Click here for a summary of the US history with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and an overview of the arguments that have been raised for and against ratification.

The Long Journey to Justice for Sri Lanka’s Victims

The much-anticipated report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) provides a momentous opportunity for Sri Lanka to atone for the atrocities of its civil war.

The OISL was set up in March 2014 pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 25/1 [pdf] to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and human rights abuses by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). On the basis of a “reasonable grounds to believe” standard, the OISL concluded that both parties to the conflict are likely to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The 280-page report (part 1 and part 2) documents a “horrific level of violations and abuses” that are “among the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.”  Sri Lankans must now sever ties with this violent past by embracing accountability and reconciliation. Implementing the OISL’s recommendations will be the first step in this journey.

The OISL focussed on a period of 9 years (2002-2011) but its report traces the complexities of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war: the post-independence government policies that favoured the Sinhalese majority disadvantaged by colonialism – ostensibly offering them redress but effectively marginalising and radicalising segments of the Tamil community. Tamil separatists’ calls for a separate state began in the 1970s. In 1983, after the LTTE killed government soldiers, the communal violence of “Black July” set the country firmly on the warpath, though hostilities waxed and waned thereafter. In 2006, at least 520,000 Sri Lankans were displaced by the conflict – one of the largest displacement crises in Asia. The LTTE’s crushing defeat by government forces officially ended the conflict in May 2009.

As the final battles raged in 2009, civilians sought refuge in “safe zones” or “No Fire Zones”. They were neither safe nor spared fire. Government forces repeatedly shelled hospitals, humanitarian facilities and food distribution centres in these zones, although these were not used for military purposes. In one incident in April 2009, at least 50 IDPs (including children) were killed during the deliberate shelling of a clinic distributing a rare commodity – milk powder. On its part, the LTTE constructed military fortifications adjacent to areas surrounding IDP concentrations, and beat and killed civilians trying to escape the fighting. Trapped and targeted, civilians were deprived of medical supplies and starved due to restrictions placed on humanitarian assistance and access. Over 250,000 IDPs who survived the war were detained in military-guarded camps in appalling living conditions.

These rampant violations in the final battles were a culmination of the wide-ranging abuses that marked the hostilities. First, unlawful killings – LTTE suicide bombers being a notorious trope of this conflict. Sri Lankan forces and linked groups also engaged in the widespread killings of civilians, politicians, journalists and humanitarian workers. As of 2013, Sri Lanka recorded one of the highest numbers of humanitarian workers killed globally. Second, extreme levels of disappearances – the second highest worldwide [pdf]. The majority of victims were individuals perceived to have links with the LTTE. Men were the main targets but women bore its devastating brunt as the survivors in culled families, looking for their loved ones in the face of constant intimidation. Continue reading

Introducing Priya Gopalan

It’s our great pleasure today to introduce Priya Gopalan as an IntLawGrrls contributor.

Priya is a human rights and international law practitioner specialising in gender issues. She has worked at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in various capacities and as a litigator both nationally and internationally. During her seven years at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), she prosecuted war crimes at the trial and appellate levels. She is part of a team of authors documenting the ICTY’s legacy of investigating and prosecuting sexual violence crimes. The publication (Prosecuting Conflict-Related Sexual Violence at the ICTY) is scheduled for release in 2016.

Priya holds an LL.M in Public International Law (Distinction) from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research interests include the rule of law, post-conflict and transitional justice issues, gender equality, and sexual violence in conflict, with a focus on Asia and the Balkans.

Her first post will discuss the report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka, to be formally presented at the Human Rights Council today. Heartfelt welcome!

Climate negotiations: What is going on?

Recently the ADP* had its 3rd of 4 pre-negotiations held in 2015 before the climate summit in December. As a young PhD candidate in climate change law, being an observer to the climate negotiations is a unique chance and a privilege. Sitting in the room where the talks take place makes you able to witness how treaty provisions are shaped and drafted. After the negotiations, scholars will be dissecting the text of the agreement, but you were there when it was put together.

What is the role of an observer? Generally meetings of the UNFCCC bodies are convened for negotiations between Parties to the Convention. NGOs – including research centers- can be appointed as observers. According to Article 7, paragraph 6, of the Convention “[a]ny body or agency, whether national or international, governmental or non-governmental, which is qualified in matters covered by the Convention, […] can be represented at a session of the Conference of the Parties as an observer”.

So far the main result of the negotiation sessions is the Geneva text (GNT) released at the ADP Session in Geneva (February 2015). As ADP co-chairs have made clear several times, this text is the only official draft negotiation text on the table. All themes under discussion are reflected in the GNT’s sections which are: preamble, definition, general/objective, adaptation, loss and damage, mitigation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building, transparency and monitoring, time frames and commitments, implementation and compliance, and procedural and institutional provisions. Negotiations are still ongoing. There is a unanimous view that there exists an urgent need to accelerate the work Besides that, the progress achieved so far by the ADP is a testament to the strong political will of all Parties to ensure the successful implementation of the ADP mandate and to their commitment for a universal climate agreement to be adopted in Paris at COP 21.The submission to date of intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) on behalf of 52 Parties is also a demonstration of such commitment.

The most common question that I am usually asked is whether there is any risk that States Parties will not to sign any agreement as in Copenhagen (2009). I think we should be careful with our expectations for what reaching an agreement will mean. The main objective of COP 21 in December is to produce a cooperation framework among governments.. More than looking for a legally binding agreement that will solve everything right now, we should evaluate how much countries are themselves are ready for to change towards a low-carbon economy.

Compliance mechanism is one of the topics under discussion. There are two alternative options on the table. One is to make a compliance mechanism following the model of the Kyoto Compliance mechanism. The other is to establish a climate justice tribunal. Besides the challenges related to structure and membership of these bodies, the greatest threats/challenges would be how to agree who would trigger compliance procedures. In the best scenario, the Paris Agreement will provide a sketch of a compliance mechanism, which will be worked out in detail in later meetings. This happened with the Kyoto Compliance Mechanism that was sketched out in the Protocol of 1997 and its workings finalized through a package of COP decisions under the Marrakesh Accords of 2001. The value of the agreement will correlate with the achievement of a similar outcome.

*The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. In the framework of the UNFCCC bodies, this body has the specific mandate – to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties-, which is to be completed no later than 2015 in order for it to be adopted at the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP), – next December 2015 (Decision 1/ CP. 17, 2011).

Introducing Rosa Manzo

Untitled It’s our great pleasure today to introduce Rosa Manzo as an IntLawGrrls contributor. Rosa is a researcher with particular expertise in general international law and international environmental law. She is currently working as a Ph.D Candidate in Climate Change Law at PluriCourts’ Environmental Pillar. Prior to joining PluriCourts in March 2015, Rosa held a MA Degree in Law at Cattolica University of Milano (Italy, 2012). She spent one semester in the Netherlands at the Radbound University of Nijmegen (2011).

Rosa successfully defended her master dissertation on the topic of unjustified enrichment and tort law according to Italian and Dutch Law. She received the Realmonte Prize for the best thesis in civil law (2013). She worked as trainee in two law firms in Italy. In 2014 she received her MA Degree in Public International Law with option in International and Environmental Energy Law at University of Oslo. During her studies Rosa was President of the European Law Students’ Association (ELSA) in Milan. She worked as a research assistant for the International Development Law Organization (IDLO, Aichi Project, 2014) and as a research assistant for the environmental pillar in PluriCourts (Jan-Feb, 2015).

Rosa’s first post will discuss developments in the ongoing climate negotiations. Heartfelt welcome!

International Law Happy Hour in Washington, DC, Thursday, October 1

If you are in the Washington, DC area, please join the American Society of International Law New Professionals Group for a fall happy hour for international law professionals on Thursday, October 1 from 5:00 – 7:00.  There will be a cash bar and happy hour specials until 7, but the conversations can continue beyond that.  All are welcome, so bring a colleague and expand your network!


Thursday, October 1 from 5:00 – 7:00

Fire & Sage (inside the Marriott at Metro Center)

775 12th Street NW

Washington, DC



This event will feature a panel discussion on how ad hoc tribunals are created, financed, managed, and dissolved to address international legal issues. Among the panelists will be Mr. Adema Dieng, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide. The event is co-sponsored by ASIL’s International Criminal Law, International Courts and Tribunals, and the Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Interest Groups, the New York City Bar Association, and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice.


  • Adama Dieng, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide
  • Daryl Mundis, Special Tribunal for Lebanon, The Hague
  • Giles Norman, Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations
  • Milena Sterio, Cleveland-Marshal College of Law
  • Moderator: Tamara Shockley, International Courts & Tribunals Interest Group co-chair

If you are an ASIL member, click here to register for this event. If you are not an ASIL member, click here to register or access the following link:. ASIL and New York City Bar members are free.

Date and Location

Date: Monday, October 5, 2015 – 6:00pm to 8:00pm

Location: New York City Bar Association

Address 1: 42 W. 44th Street

City: New York

State: NY

Zip Code: 10036


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