Discussion Friday 3 April: Domestic Violence During COVID-19: Sheltering at Home When Home is the Most Dangerous Place

The Roosevelt House Human Rights Program of Hunter College and the Sisterhood is Global Institute are hosting a live online discussion on Friday April 3 with frontline women’s rights activists from across the world.

Friday, April 3, 2020 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EDT (17.00 – 18.00 GMT)

For victims of domestic violence, home is often the most dangerous place on earth. As the world moves towards lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, women may have no safe place to turn. Moderated by Jessica Neuwirth, the discussion will explore current realities of domestic violence victims and solutions for supporting women in this vulnerable moment.

Carmen Espinoza, Executive Director of Manuela Ramos in Peru
Shafiqa Noori, Director of Humanitarian Assistance for Women and Children of Afghanistan
Diane Rosenfeld, Lecturer on Law and Director of the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law School
Randa Siniora, Executive Director of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling in Palestine

Registration is required. You may register here and join at zoom.us/j/580841531

New Report on Guatemala’s Justice Sector – “A Window of Opportunity: Support to the Rule of Law in Guatemala”

The International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) has released a new rule of law assessment report, “A Window of Opportunity: Support to the Rule of Law in Guatemala”. The report examines the state of Guatemala’s justice sector after the closure of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) in September 2019. It discusses how recent threats against the justice sector have reversed much of the progress that was made to strengthen the rule of law during CICIG’s existence. 

Guatemala cannot combat corruption and strengthen the rule of law without ensuring an independent and impartial judiciary. With a new incoming executive, the report underlines that the international community must seize the window of opportunity to re-engage with Guatemala in combating corruption. This will require finding new and effective models of development cooperation to ensure more sustainable ways of strengthening the rule of law.

Read the full report here.

ILAC is a global rule of law consortium based in Sweden, providing technical assistance to justice sector actors in conflict-affected and fragile countries. ILAC’s mission is to rapidly respond to and assess the needs of the justice sector in conflict-affected and fragile countries, and help strengthen the independence and resilience of justice sector institutions and the legal profession. Today, ILAC has more than 80 members including individual legal experts as well as organisations representing judges, prosecutors, lawyers and academics worldwide.

High Court of Australia dismisses private prosecution of Aung San Suu Kyi for alleged crimes against humanity


Source: By Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia – High Court of Australia, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25649423

The High Court of Australia (HCA) recently dismissed a private prosecution of Aung San Suu Kyi – the State Counsellor of Myanmar – for alleged crimes against humanity against Rohingya people in contravention of the Australian Criminal Code. The judgment sheds light on the shortcomings of Australia’s domestic implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute) and raises important questions about the future of prosecutions of international crimes under Australian law.


On 16 March 2018, Mr Taylor, a private citizen of Australia, lodged an application in the Registry of the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court alleging that Aung San Suu Kyi had committed the crime against humanity of the forcible transfer of population in contravention of section 268.11 of the Australian Criminal Code. Under section 268.121, the prosecution of these types of international crimes may only proceed with the consent of the Australian Attorney-General. Section 268.121 provides that:

(1) Proceedings for an offence under this Division must not be commenced without the Attorney-General’s written consent.

(2) An offence against this Division may only be prosecuted in the name of the Attorney-General.

Accordingly, Mr Taylor requested the consent of the Australian Attorney-General to commence the prosecution. The Attorney-General refused consent based on Australia’s observation of the principle of head of state immunity, which renders Aung San Suu Kyi “inviolable and immune from arrest, detention or being served with court proceedings”.

On 23 March 2018, Mr Taylor brought an application in the original jurisdiction of the HCA arguing that the Attorney-General erred in refusing to provide consent to the prosecution and requested the HCA to quash the Attorney-General’s decision. Specifically, the plaintiff submitted that, by ratifying the Rome Statute, “Australia took upon itself, as a matter of international obligation, not to recognise immunity based on official capacity for Rome Statute crimes in domestic criminal proceedings”. This is because article 27 of the Rome Statute removes immunity based on a person’s official capacity (e.g. Head of State).

The parties agreed to a set of special questions to be determined by the HCA, including whether the Attorney-General’s decision to refuse consent was erroneous by virtue of Australia’s ratification of the Rome Statute. However, the plaintiff failed to overcome the threshold issue of whether a private prosecution may be brought without the consent of the Attorney-General. The HCA, by a narrow four to three majority, therefore found it unnecessary to answer the remaining special questions regarding the current status of the principle of head of state immunity for international crimes before domestic courts and under principles of customary international law.

The HCA judgment Continue reading

Introducing Adaena Sinclair-Blakemore

Photo - AdaenaIt is our great pleasure to introduce our new IntLawGrrls contributor Adaena Sinclair-Blakemore! 

Adaena is an Australian lawyer interested in international human rights law, international criminal law and the implementation of international law into domestic law. She holds a Juris Doctor (First Class) from Melbourne Law School where she was the Editor of the Melbourne Journal of International Law. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in French Studies and Italian Studies from the University of Western Australia.

She has previously interned in the Trial Chambers of the International Criminal Court and worked as a Research Assistant at the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law at Melbourne Law School, where she undertook research on the laws of peacekeeping operations. During her Juris Doctor, Adaena was a student in the International Criminal Justice Clinic, a subject run in partnership with Amnesty International’s Human Rights in International Justice Project which focuses on monitoring and evaluating the human rights compliance of the international criminal tribunals.

Heartfelt welcome!


Webinar on Wed. 25 March: Human Rights and Public Policy Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute of Hunter College in New York City is holding a panel discussion via Zoom on Wednesday 25 March.  RSVP here so you can join the session when it starts.

 Responding to COVID-19: The Human Rights and Public Policy Implications of the Pandemic

Wednesday 25 March, 1:00-2:30 pm EDT (17:00 GMT – 18:30 GMT)

 With the increasing numbers of confirmed new cases of COVID-19, countries face tremendous challenges and very difficult decisions. Restrictions on freedom of movement and association in the interest of health security have been addressed differently in different countries, with differing results. Join us online for a timely virtual discussion addressing the urgent human rights and public policy implications of the global public health crisis.

Jamil Dakwar, Director of the Human Rights Program at the ACLU
Phelim Kine, Director of Research and Investigations at Physicians for Human Rights
Ram Raju, MD, Senior Vice President and Community Health Investment Officer, Northwell Health
Jessica Neuwirth, Rita E. Hauser Director of the Human Rights Program, Roosevelt House
Shyama Venkateswar, Director of the Public Policy Program, Roosevelt House

Click here to RSVP to this Zoom panel discussion.

Introducing our new student editor: Nelly Gordpour

The IntLawGrrls editorial team is delighted to welcome a new student editor to the blog: Nelly Gordpour.

nelly_headshotNelly Gordpour is a 2L at the Cardozo School of Law. Nelly is a Staff Editor on the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution and is currently a legal intern with the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic, where she is currently working on a strategic advocacy and corporate responsibility project in Brazil. Nelly also previously held a competitive fellowship with Humanity-In-Action, and worked as an administrative officer with the the American Branch of the International Law Association. Prior to law school, she worked as a researcher within the U.N. human rights system and formerly worked with Human Rights Watch and the Open Society Foundations. Nelly graduated Magna Cum Laude from CUNY Hunter College with a degree in Sociology and Certificate in Human Rights. As a Muse Arts Scholar at Hunter, she exhibited her photographic work on the Iranian-American diaspora, and was granted the Benjamin Ringer Award by the Department of Sociology for scholarship in the areas of ethnic and race relations.

Heartfelt welcome!

Academics and Homeschooling: Initial Notes During COVID-19

I never thought I would have to think seriously about homeschooling. To me as an academic, feminist and parent with kids in the public-school system in Norway, that has always seemed very fringe and also enormously demanding. In any event, here we are, universities and schools in Norway are closed, and I am eating humble pie. I am in awe of anyone who can do this well! On top of that, household chores double when everyone is home and in addition two parents are supposed to work for 15 hours a day. While many academics work across many time zones and the absence of teaching and travelling might actually free up a bit of time, this is challenging.

My partner and I have devised a well-meaning and comprehensive scheme to organize #1, 2 and 3, who are all primary-school age. So far, some things have worked and others not. I have quickly and deservedly been demoted from Headmaster to assistant TA (explained below). We (parents) are ambivalent about the merits of popular participation in deciding the daily schedule. I thought I would be a tad more progressive in that department. Conversations have been had with self about keeping own voice down. Kids miss their friends. Kids are amazing.

It is hard for everyone not to get anxious. Having humanitarian emergencies as my field of research, I am well aware that this is not one right here and right now. At the same time, this is uncharted territory. We don’t know how long this is going to last, and how our families will be impacted. What we do know is that this will go on for a couple of weeks, at least. Knowing that other countries are going to close schools in the coming days, here are my notes so far:

  1. In the morning: Stick to normal routines but have better breakfasts. Last week, we learnt that we as adults should get dressed, fix our hair and not work from our untidied beds. Kids also need to do the same. This involves arriving at a clean desk in the morning.
  2. Go for a walk! Even if it’s raining! While the overall enthusiasm for having to go for a walk at 7:30 AM might be low, they need to get some air and move about. So do you.
  3. Most schools will swiftly come up with digital routines. It’s important that daily life is tailored to these routines but also that you help out with ringing the bell. Literally (this is where I got demoted – after forgetting to formally close their English session because I was selfishly engrossed in writing a blog post). Provide proper breaks. Preferable outside. Remember snacks.
  4. You will and should play Lego. The kids play a lot at school. To help them spend that mental energy, engage. Quaint stuff from your childhood might merit revisiting: I have now parented for a decade-plus without ever playing with marbles. Intermittently, I have looked at the dusty bag with a guilty conscience. I used to be a marbles hoarder in primary school. Opportunity beckons.
  5. Responsibilize everyone for cleaning up their mess, from tidying beds to cleaning up their plates, and if they are older, vacuuming and taking out the trash and so forth. This is going to be hard. But if there is more to do, everyone needs to do more. Consider drawing from the capitalist toolbox and offer (more) incentives. Some four-year-olds will be better at folding towels than you – believe me.
  6. They – the kids – need to get physically exhausted. Set aside 90 minutes every afternoon to do something outside.
  7. Although I knew this, it turns out that screen time right before bed is still not a good idea. Audiobooks are a great combination with arts and crafts. I am now working towards Easter decorations (cute bunny, eggs, chickens, hens, the Easter bunny MONSTER, Easter bunny monster paper macheé pinata, funny trolldeig chicken), Easter being the new Halloween or Christmas.
  8. Have the kids call (older) relatives every day.
  9. Divide the workday with your partner and stick to that division. Ideally, the person on the first shift gets up earlier. Co-schedule your Zoom and Skype sessions. BUT: accept that nobody is going to work a full day. Settle for a couple of effective hours each and be grateful to each other for making it happen.
  10. Finally: be nice to yourself! In the academic department, make ridiculous lists of tasks that are VERY low-hanging fruit. I have cleaned most of my desk. With soap. I have also finally chucked out a bunch of articles I hoarded at the Harvard Law School copying center in the basement of HLS in 2004, articles I was going to read once I had finished my PhD work (2008). I am thinking the chucking represents some kind of positive act of self-awareness yet to be defined. I have made another list of outstanding peer reviews I will do next week (promise!).

Also, seriousness in the self-care department cannot be emphasized enough: Wiggle your toes. (Try. You might be surprised to discover you no longer can. Fix that.) Attempt yoga! I know that a lot of people adore Adriane – I like Erin Sampson for her no-nonsense style. However, now some amazing Norway-based yoga teachers are offering online courses. Oslo-based Lindsay Eisinger, AKA @yogaforquarantine on Instagram, is streaming live classes on weekdays, and the iYoga studio has started releasing classes in Norwegian.

All of this advice is given with the caveat that I am living in Norway, a country which has the preexisting infrastructure to make a COVID-19 lock-down feasible for most of its citizens, including economic support to parents. Additionally, I write from a two-parent household, and with extraordinary support from my employers at PRIO and the University of Oslo.

Still, I hope some of what I write here can be helpful to parents in Norway and beyond.

Stay well.

This blog was initially posted at https://blogs.prio.org/2020/03/academics-and-homeschooling-initial-notes-during-covid-19/