Sojourn stirs questions about policies in China, Cuba and the United States

This month yours truly, IntLawGrrl Kathleen A. Doty, Director of Global Practice Preparation at Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center, is a World Affairs Council Young Leaders Fellow just completing a tour of China. Traveling with me have been eleven others, many from globally minded businesses. This is the last dispatch in a series of posts on my travels.

4BEIJING – The people of China are warm. They love babies. I quickly found the best way to make a friend was to coo at the child in her arms. They love long meals and good toasts, and have spent centuries mastering the art of hospitality. Being a guest in China is wonderful.

Beijing is a vastly different city than Shanghai. It is old, gritty, artistic. I heard many people say that Beijing was like Washington, D.C., and Shanghai was like New York. I think that it is a shallow comparison, and having lived in both U.S. cities, I disagree.image1

New York is much more than high rises; Beijing is a city alive and rich in a similar way. Of course, this impression has much to do with the organization of our trip; in Shanghai we were taken primarily to government developments, while in Beijing we were taking primarily to private companies and cultural sites. We visited the sleek showroom of Huawei, the Chinese version of Apple, and iQIYI, the Chinese version of Netflix, which exudes a hip imagestart-up vibe. I sipped exotic tea as I strolled through galleries in the profoundly cool 798 Art District, wandered back alleys in Old World neighborhoods, and saw a palace that has been grand since before my own country was founded. When the lights went out in a restaurant at dinner, the servers calmly brought candles to the table and we kept on with the toasts. Beijing was much more what I image2expected to find in China: a mix of the modern and the historical, of wealth and underdevelopment.

Cultural heritage was a theme I pondered throughout the trip. China is old in a way that I, a woman from Colorado, a place young even in the history of the United States, find mind-blowing. Beijing is a huge city. The several ring roads surrounding it put the Beltway or the Perimeter to shame. The city has been developed and redeveloped countless times, replacing so much of what once was. Walking the Great Wall (which is covered in scratched graffiti, in Chinese characters so foreign to my eye) and seeing the Forbidden City provided just a taste of an incredibly rich history that, little by little, is lost with improvements to modern life. I commented to a friend, an American expat living in China, that I found this sad. He responded that the history in 3China is too long to preserve the physical – you just can’t save every 5,000-year-old building – the cultural heritage of China lives in the language. Having mastered only four words in ten days – “Hello,” “Thank you,” “Cheers,” and “too expensive” – I have to admit that this is lost on me. But it emphasized the importance of intangible cultural heritage work as a means of preserving at least some of an ancient way of life.

Sitting alone in a public park one day, I marveled at how a parent or grandparent needed only to speak a word to a child and he or she behaved. Meeting times were given at strangely precise intervals (for example, 1:25) and taken very seriously. I heard more apologies for tardiness than I thought reasonable given a city of such size and with such congestion. Our guides shared their views that much of Eastern culture derives from Confucius’ thought, and emphasizes hierarchy and respect. This consideration to others was surprising given our pre-trip prepping that people push and don’t stand in line or respect your space, but it just reinforced the cultural difference in the meaning of “consideration.” In so many of my reflections about Communism and the economy, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of the attitudes I picked up on were born of pre-existing Eastern philosophy and culture, or from the current economic and political systems in the country.

I also couldn’t help but wonder about the tension between the incredible feats of the state and human rights. Much has been written about this topic and I am no expert, so I won’t belabor the point. But I found myself reflecting, much as I did during my studies in Cuba, on the tension between the social benefits of a Communist system – universal healthcare, education, and in the case of China, the elevation of an extraordinary number of people out of poverty in a short time frame – with the profound lack of freedoms.

2During our visit to the Great Wall, we were standing in an epically long line to take a shuttle bus from the base of the Wall to the parking lot where our bus was waiting. Our guide, a young man in the employ of the University who spoke nearly perfect English, sighed as we inched forward. He said:

“Thank God for the family planning policy.”

I was surprised because the one-child policy so deeply offends our Western concept of individual choice that I simply expected someone of roughly my age to concur; yet in such a populous country, a limit on the number of people is sometimes welcome. I relayed my surprise at his comment to another young Chinese woman I met, and she said,

“Oh yes. The problem with the family planning is that we now have a China that is out of balance, with too many old people and not enough young ones.”

I was so amazed; again, it was a comment totally focused on the macro. Is that Chinese culture? Is that the effect of a Communist system of government? Is it both?

These are the questions that will for me remain unanswered. After studying in Cuba, my takeaway was that they don’t have it right, but neither do we in the United States. The “right” is somewhere in the middle. My impression of China is that it is inching closer to the right balance than Cuba. I have far more context about Cuba to make that statement; this trip showed me, more than anything else, how much I don’t know about China. But standing in Tiananmen Square in the rain, I couldn’t help but think that an inch is terrifically small.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes)

In politics, East is East and West is West even as economies grow closer

This month yours truly, IntLawGrrl Kathleen A. Doty, Director of Global Practice Preparation at Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center, is a World Affairs Council Young Leaders Fellow just completing a tour of China. Traveling with me have been eleven others, many from globally minded businesses. This is another in a series of posts on my travels.

imageSHANGHAI – A Chinese official at the Pilot Free Trade Zone in Shanghai told us:

“The United States is a very different economy than China; it is much more globalized. We are still learning.”

Visiting Shanghai, one would never guess that China is still learning. The city is shockingly modern, with architecture straight out of a sci-fi movie, sparklingly clean public spaces, and every sort of of consumer product available. The brands are recognizable to Americans – from Walmart to most high-end designers. Yet the rhetoric from the officials with which we’ve met has been all about development: how to further open up China’s economy.

The efforts in this regard are impossible to miss. Almost everywhere in the city there are new buildings going up and renovations in progress.

The Chinese are obsessed with space: the first thing they tell you about any project is the number of square kilometers it will occupy and the population of people living or working there. This is understandable given the stress such a high population places on the limited physical space and infrastructure of the city.

image3Perhaps more striking: they are obsessed with showcasing this development. The government has erected entire museums and project-specific showrooms dedicated to urban planning with information tailored to foreign visitors. They are surreal – we saw several unbelievably intricate miniature models of the building projects, complete with lights in the windows of the mini-buildings, and incredibly high resolution 3D video tours set to dramatic symphonic music. At one such display a colleague leaned over and said:

“Wow, it’s propaganda.”

And propaganda it is. Unlike Cuba, which is still brimming with billboards of Fidel and slogans like “¡Patria o Muerte! ¡Venceremos! (Homeland or Death! We Shall Overcome!),” the Chinese version is more subtle. It’s not centered on a leader or on separation from the rest of the world, but on the collective progress: development, innovation, opening up.

I expected Shanghai to be filled with the iconic Soviet concrete-style buildings, but the new Communism is glass and steel. It is rows of narrow, tall apartment buildings shooting out of the ground in perfectly aligned formation. But it still feels cold, a little sterile, and with pollution hanging in the air, eerie.

image1It was also quite clear that the Chinese keep a tight grip on the narrative available to foreign visitors. My trip, sponsored by the Confucius Institute, a division of the government education agency, made sure to show us the best of what China had to offer. We looked up at a major skyscraper in the distance and asked our tour guide if we were going to go there. He looked at us in complete seriousness and said:

“But why would we go there? You saw it in the model.”

I realized then that the propaganda wasn’t just for the foreign visitors, he believed it too. Government control of the narrative affects everyone.

We were told that the farmers who used to be on the land now occupied by the new industrial parks were simply removed from their land. Eminent domain is in full force in China. Here’s a statement of fact about the issue, rather than skepticism, from our same tour guide:

“You can’t bargain with the government.”

Nor can you reason with it. On my way out of the airport, after the security checkpoint where they took large liquids, I bought two waters. These were confiscated in an unexpected secondary screening on the jetway. When I asked the guard why he took them, he explained it was because of TSA rules. When I protested that they had already screened for liquids and that I purchased these past security, he just shook his head and tossed my water in a bin. Perhaps China doesn’t regulate items for purchase after security and therefore doesn’t meet TSA standards, but I find that unlikely. Despite the progress in China, it felt much more like the absurdity of life characteristic of such a strong state government.

image2China is impressive. It is actualizing public works and infrastructure projects at a rate that is unimaginable in the United States. It is developing its cities and offering its people access to a diverse marketplace of consumer goods.

Wandering a mall, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was Cuba’s future. It’s not a bad compromise between the socialist and capitalist models. (Oh, the irony; I wonder if Marx could ever have envisioned a transition back to capitalism.)

I’m not entirely certain whether the official we spoke with at the Free Trade Zone would say that the main difference between the United States and China was the economic model of each country, but I know that I left thinking that no matter how open the Chinese economy becomes, we will always be far apart, even in business, because of our different underlying political systems.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes)

Beyond Trade & Travel: Normalizing US-Cuba Relations

While much attention has been focused on the changes to ease travel and trade between the United States and Cuba, President Obama’s Policy Directive on US-Cuba Normalization lays out a broader vision for normalization of relations and mutual cooperation between the two neighbors. Issued October 14, 2016 (along with other regulatory changes which we will discuss at another time) the Directive also lays out six priority objectives for normalization and actions to implement them.obama-castro-handshake

Among other things, the vision laid out by President Obama’s Policy Directive includes – travel to Cuba for U.S. persons that is safe and secure from natural and man-made hazards and regional cooperation with Cuba towards these goals, and a strengthened U.S. position in international systems by removing an irritant from its relationships with allies and partners and gaining support for a rules-based order.

The six U.S. medium-term objectives for US-Cuban policy are to:

  1. Continue high-level and technical engagement;
  2. Continue to encourage people-to-people linkages;
  3. Seek to expand opportunities for U.S. companies to engage with Cuba;
  4. Support further economic reforms by the Cuban government;
  5. Expand dialogue with Cuba in international fora; and
  6. Seek greater Cuban government respect for human rights while recognizing that the United States must leave the future of Cuba up to the Cuban people.

To facilitate the effective implementation of this Policy Directive, U.S. departments and agencies will have the following roles and responsibilities:

National Security Council (NSC) staff will provide ongoing policy coordination and oversight of the implementation of overall Cuba strategy and of the Directive.

The Department of State will continue to be responsible for formulating U.S. policy toward and coordinating relations with Cuba. This includes supporting the operations of Embassy Havana and ensuring it has adequate resources and staffing, issuing visas, refugee processing, promoting educational and cultural exchanges, coordinating democracy programs, and political and economic reporting.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN) will coordinate with the State Department to oversee multilateral issues involving Cuba at the United Nations.

The Department of the Treasury is responsible for implementation of the economic embargo restrictions and licensing policies.

 The Department of Commerce will continue to support the development of the Cuban private sector, entrepreneurship, commercial law development, and intellectual property rights as well as environmental protection and storm prediction.

The Department of Defense (DOD) will continue to take steps to expand the defense relationship with Cuba where it will advance U.S. interests, with an initial focus on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and counternarcotics in the Caribbean.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will, together with the Department of Justice, engage with the Cuban government to combat terrorism and transnational organized crime.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will, together with DHS, engage with the Cuban government to combat terrorism and transnational organized crime.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) will support exchanges with the Cuban government in areas of mutual interest, particularly on formalization of small businesses and to spur the growth of new enterprises.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative will provide trade policy coordination in international fora and prepare for negotiations to normalize and expand US-Cuba trade.

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) will work to increase U.S. food and agricultural exports to Cuba.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in accordance with the June 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between HHS and the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, will collaborate with Cuban counterparts in the areas of public health, research, and biomedical sciences, including collaboration to confront the Zika virus, dengue, chikungunya, and other arboviruses.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will coordinate the U.S. response to natural and man-made environmental disasters.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) will continue to develop air and surface transportation links between the United States and Cuba and provide required regulatory and safety oversight of transportation providers and systems.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) will support efforts to normalize relations with Cuba and seek opportunities for engagement with Cuban counterparts on areas of common interest and information exchange on mutual threats.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) will continue to cooperate with Cuba on marine protected areas and to engage Cuban counterparts to finalize arrangements on wildlife conservation, terrestrial national protected areas, and seismic records.

In issuing the Directive, President Obama stated:

This new directive consolidates and builds upon the changes we’ve already made, promotes transparency by being clear about our policy and intentions, and encourages further engagement between our countries and our people.

This clarity and transparency is important given the long and complicated history of US-Cuba relations that dates back to the 1880s. The Directive is also aimed at ensuring the recent changes in US-Cuba policy outlive the Obama Administration. We can hope that the next Directive will implement the lifting of the outdated and ineffectual embargo, the low point in this history.


Job Postings

iCourts – Centre of Excellence for International Courts, University of Copenhagen, is currently looking for a new professor or associate professor of international law.

Call for Papers

Centre for Women, Peace and Security, London School of Economics and Political Science

  • Gender and New Wars Workshop, 9 & 10 March 2017
  • Deadline for abstracts: 11 November 2016

War is a gendered phenomenon. While gender differential impacts of war have been widely studied, there is still a gap in our understanding of how gender is constructed in the context of ‘new wars’ (an analytic approach to understanding present-day conflicts: Kaldor, 1999, 3rd ed. 2012). In ‘old wars’, the battle was between the states, the national interest was the justification for war and uniformed militaries were the main actors. New wars have a different logic, stemming from differences in the actors, the goals, the tactics, and the forms of finance. In new wars, the actors include armed forces, para-military groups, war lords, mercenaries, private security contractors, criminal groups. They are largely fought in the name of identity, such as ethnicity, religion, tribal, rather than for geopolitical goals, and fear and terror are spread via civilian casualties and forced displacement. While old wars tend to be extreme in the sense of maximising and totalising violence, new wars tend to be persistent and difficult to end. Continue reading

Documentary on Akayesu case makes world premiere at UN; reviewers call it “riveting”, “courtroom thriller”


The Uncondemned,” a film about the first prosecution of rape as a war crime, saw its theatrical release over the week-end in New York City, where it will play through October 27, at the Sunshine Cinema, SoHo.  The film, which will play in some 30 major markets through the end of the year, opened to rave reviews in the New York Times, The Village Voice, and the New York Daily News. Michele Mitchell and Nick Louvel co-directed the film.


Witnesses JJ, NN, OO, and Godeliève Mukasarasi at the UN Special Screening on Wednesday

A feature-length documentary, “The Uncondemned” tells the story of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s (ICTR) prosecution of Mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu for crimes against humanity and acts of genocide, both including acts of sexual assault against residents of Taba commune, which he governed.  The film actually interweaves two stories.  One is that of the Taba rape survivors—until now known as JJ, NN, and OO—and the social worker and founder of SEVOTA, Godeliève Mukasarasi, who encouraged and empowered them to participate in the prosecution.  The other story is that of the team of young lawyers who worked on the case, including trial counsel Pierre-Richard Prosper (now with Akin Gump) and Sara Darehshori (now with Human Rights Watch, working on issues of sexual assault in the United States).  Also appearing in the film are Patricia Sellers, gender advisor to ICTR and ICTFY at the time the Akayesu case was investigated and tried, Rosette Muzigo-Morrison, a UN investigator from Uganda, and Binaifer Nowrojee, who from her position with Human Rights Watch in East Africa wrote Shattered Lives, a report on Sexual Violence during the Rwandan genocide and campaigned for the prosecution of rape as a war crime.  My own work as gender consultant at ICTR—twenty years ago this fall—is also featured in the film.



Lisa Pruitt, now a professor at UC Davis, worked as a gender consultant at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 1996.

The October 21 theatrical release followed a special viewing at the United Nations on October 19.  The Rwandan witnesses, along with Mukasarasi, were special guests at the UN event, hosted by Zainab Hawa Bangura Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  A Yazidi rape survivor previously held captive by ISIS also appeared at the event, speaking on a panel about sexual assault during war that followed the screening.  The UN promoted the hashtag #EndRapeinWar at the screening.     

“The Uncondemned” was screened at several film festivals in the past year, taking the 2015 Brizzolaro Family Foundation Award for the Best Film on Conflict and Resolution at the Hamptons International Film Festival.  The documentary also played at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and the Napa Valley Film Festival.  Reviewers have called the film a “must see” and “riveting,” and characterized it as a “courtroom thriller.

Following the week-long run in NYC, “The Uncondemned” will open in Los Angeles on October 28, at the Laemmle Royal, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd.   Beginning on November 4, the film will run for one week in Washington DC at the E Street Theatre, 555 11th Street, NW, and for one week in Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Avenue N.  You can find information on all screenings here.     


Wednesday Night’s Premiere at the UN. Photographed, left to right: Sara Darehshori, Michele Mitchell, Pierre Prosper, and Lisa Pruitt.


Cross-posted on UC Davis faculty blog.


Introducing Lisa R. Pruitt


It is our great pleasure to welcome back Lisa R. Pruitt to IntLawGrrls. Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis, School of Law (Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall), Lisa’s special interests include law and rural livelihoods, feminist jurisprudence, the legal profession, and torts. Her scholarship focuses on cultural differences; in particular, on the range of ways in which rural places are distinct from what has become the implicit urban norm in legal scholarship. Exposed through this research is how the economic, spatial, and social features of rural locales shape residents’ lives, including their encounters the law. Most recently, as described more fully in her guest post below, Lisa has explored how rural spatiality inflects dimensions of gender, race, and ethnicity; that is, the ways in which rural lives and rural places are enmeshed with law and other forces at both national and global levels.
These are issues that Lisa examines frequently on her Legal Ruralism blog (subtitle: “A Little (Legal) Realism about the Rural”), among the “connections” links in our righthand column. Lisa has written a great deal about CEDAW’s Article 14 on the rights of rural women.

Lisa earned a Ph.D. in Laws from the University of London, where she was a British Marshall Scholar and wrote a dissertation entitled “A Feminist Reconsideration of the Legal Regulation of Speech.” She earned her J.D. and B.A. degrees, both with honors, from the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) where she served as the law review’s Editor-in-Chief. She was a law clerk to Judge Morris Sheppard Arnold, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, and a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and Leiden University in the Netherlands. Lisa’s pre-academia career included service as a consultant to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, as a legal assistant at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, and as associate at Covington & Burling LLP, based in its London office.

Lisa is a past chair of the Section on Women in Legal Education of the Association of American Law Schools.  She was distinguished visitor at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, in 2012.

70 Years Later: the Tenth International Humanitarian Law Dialogs in Nuremberg


Co-authored by Leila Sadat



“Let us leave here renewed in our devotion to justice – not just for the people of our own countries, but for the people of all countries.  Let us leave here refreshed in our determination to defend human rights, to protect human liberty, and to uphold human dignity wherever and whenever it is threatened.” Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (Sept. 29, 2016)

On September 29-30, 2016, the Tenth International Humanitarian Law Dialogs convened in Nuremberg, Germany. Normally held at the Chautauqua Institution, this year’s special location was chosen to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the close of the Nuremberg trials, where the Allied Powers tried Nazi war criminals for atrocities committed during World War II. Intlawgrrls, the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University in St. Louis and New York University’s Center for Global Affairs are among the sponsors and long-time supporters of the IHL Dialogs, which gather prosecutors, jurists, and nongovernmental partners to discuss issues involving international justice that extend beyond the walls of any one court or tribunal.


International Prosecutors at the IHL Dialogs in Nuremberg, with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch

This year’s IHL Dialogs opened on Thursday, September 28 with an inspiring program in Courtroom 600, the small, iconic courtroom where 22 defendants were tried at the International Military Tribunal. The Keynote Speakers included ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who spoke powerfully about the shared responsibility that people and States around the world have to address atrocity crimes and the arc of justice’s continual bend towards accountability, and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who gave a beautiful, reverent speech about the potential power of fairly-applied justice and the rule of law, stating that by seeking justice rather than vengeance, Nuremberg participants showed that “war does not have to be the final arbiter of human affairs.”

“Certainly the onslaught of evidence of man’s inhumanity to man can leave one dispirited and discouraged.  But we cannot – and we should not – give in to despair, because the legacy of Nuremberg is that when we are called to confront the evil that walks this earth, we turn to the law.  When we need to mete out justice to those who have reaped the whirlwind and revel in the chaos resulting therefrom, we turn to the law.  And through the law we give voice to those shattered souls who seek redress, and we provide a reckoning to those who trade in fear and trembling.  Let us never forget that within these walls, evil was held to account and humanity prevailed.” – Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (Sept. 29, 2016)

Continue reading