Technology for Accountability Lab MOOC

 

The Program on Liberation Technology (LibTech) at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law together with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) are proud to launch a free massive open online course dubbed Technology for Accountability Lab.”

The course is geared for global democracy activists, software developers and other stakeholders to conceptualize, plan and implement technological tools and advocacy strategies to improve transparency by opening political and governmental processes.

This 10-week course – which starts on August 9, 2016 – will feature video lectures by Stanford professors Terry Winograd and Larry Diamond, as well as lecturers from NDI, Transparency International, Sunlight Foundation, Creative Commons, ProPublica, and other experts.

To to learn more about the course and register, visit the course link. Please share this announcement widely with interested participants and professional networks (#TFALAB).

También de este lado hay sueños

With protestthe arrival of the Democratic National Convention, protesters have converged on Philadelphia.  At least for the moment, the historic selection of the first female presidential candidate in U.S. history seems to have been overshadowed by yet another e-mail debacle.  The New York Times reported yesterday on backers of Bernie Sanders who surrounded City Hall, making their voices heard.  Today, another protest (pictured at left) marched past my front door, chanting, “Not one more deportation!” and asking the Democrats to be the anti-Trump party.  As one woman’s sign read, “También de este lado hay sueños” — there are also dreams on this side.  President Obama and his Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, have shamefully trampled on too many of those dreams.  Here’s hoping that Hillary Clinton continues to propound more humane immigration policies, and that immigrant voters can make their dreams count in the November election.

You go, ‘Grrls!

Here is our final round of updates! Each year at IntLawGrrls, we like to take the opportunity to celebrate the numerous achievements of our contributors. Below, we’ve provided a most impressive list of awards, new jobs, publications, and other accomplishments by the ‘Grrls whose contributions have kept the blog going. Many congratulations to all of you!

Lucy Reed, past President of the American Society of International Law and formerly a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, has joined the faculty of the National University of Singapore as Professor and Director of the Centre for International Law.

Rebecca Gould started a new job as Reader in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies at the University of Bristol (UK). She was awarded the 2015 Florence Howe Award for Feminist Scholarship from the Women’s Caucus of the Modern Languages Association for her article “Engendering Critique: Postnational Feminism in Postcolonial Syria,” Women Studies Quarterly 42(3/4): 209-229.

Cassandra Steer joined the McGill Institute of Air and Space Law for an 18 month fellowship. During that time, she has become Secretary of the Space Security Committee of the International Astronautical Federation; the member for Canada on the ILA Space Law Committee; and been invited to contribute to the McGill Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Activities in Outer Space as an Associate Expert. Since May 2016, she has also been honoured to take on the role of Executive Director with Women in International Security (WIIS) Canada, which is an affiliate of WIIS Global. She hopes to continue to expand her profile as a space law and policy expert in issues of international security, international law and international relations.

Jennifer Huang since graduating law school has shifted her focus to international environmental law. She is now an International Fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). She tracks and researches international climate policy, focusing on key issues in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, and helps facilitate dialogue among international policymakers and stakeholders.

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Making the Case to End Gender Imbalance on International Courts: Data Matters

On June 16th, American University Washington College of Law’s Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law hosted a panel on “Women’s Representation in International Organs and Tribunals: A Challenge for the Inter-American Human Rights System and Beyond” as part of its “Human Rights Month” programing.

The discussion highlighted recent data showing that women are found in dramatically low numbers on the benches of the majority of international courts, and articulated how —GQUAL– the Campaign for Gender Parity in International Representation – seeks to remedy this imbalance.

One of the key aspects of the GQUAL campaign is to promote a better understanding of the effects of women’s absence or under-representation in these spaces. Parity advocates argue that equal representation of women lends “greater depth, breadth and legitimacy to decisions made by institutions.” Others underscore that on its face, it is troubling that women are not part of the very international bodies that are making decisions about war and peace, genocide, and the scope of human rights protections.

Some scholars and practitioners credit the presence of women as investigators, prosecutors and judges as helping to advance the cause of gender justice before international criminal tribunals in the past decade. For example, female judges like Navi Pillay (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda), Elizabeth Odio Benito (International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) and Teresa Doherty (The Special Court for Sierra Leone) helped develop jurisprudence that defined rape and sexual violence as genocide, rape as torture, and forced marriage as a crime against humanity.

To fully understand the importance of women in international tribunals, it is important to look at the whole picture. Women’s presence as judges and prosecutors undoubtedly matter, but perhaps so does their role as defense counsel. How do we glean whether and at what point of the proceedings their interventions matter the most? Does the presence of women change how female victims and participants are treated as others have suggested? As advocates for gender parity, where can we find the data we need to back up our claims that gender diversity matters? It turns out, it already exists in the form of the Gender Jurisprudence Collections (GJC) created by the War Crimes Research Office and the Women and the Law Program of American University Washington College of Law.

The GJC was created in response to a request by gender justice advocates who lamented the absence of a digital case document repository that was comprehensive, searchable, and keyed to significant gender issues. The GJC now contains more than 31,000 documents issued by thirteen international and hybrid tribunals, domestic courts, and human rights bodies. Users can search the database by up to 30 criteria and more than 130 keywords, including: the manner in which crimes are characterized (such as genocidal rape or rape as torture); substantive elements of the crimes (such as the definitions of consent or coercion); and procedural aspects of prosecutions (such as how courts address witness credibility or handle protective measures).

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Introducing Angie McCarthy

AngieMcCarthyheadshotIt’s our great pleasure today to introduce Angie McCarthy as an IntLawGrrls contributor. Angie is the Program Coordinator for the Women and the Law Program at American University Washington College of Law (WCL) where she works alongside university faculty and staff to integrate gender into all aspects of legal education and supports grant-funded projects that connect the WCL community with the legal needs and concerns of women and LGBTI persons.

Prior to joining the Washington College of Law, Angie was a Graduate Fellow at Peace Brigades International-USA where she supported field projects engaged in protective accompaniment of human rights defenders in Colombia, Guatemala and Indonesia, and conducted outreach and training activities aimed at increasing awareness of the fields of human rights and peace and conflict resolution in the U.S. She has also worked and volunteered with several women’s organizations both domestically and abroad, including the NGO Committee on the Status of Women at the United Nations and the New Women’s Movement in South Africa. Angie holds a JD from American University Washington College of Law and an MPhil in International Peace Studies from Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland). Her current research interests include the intersections between environmental justice and reproductive justice, the criminalization of abortion and pregnancy outcomes, and the prevention of violence against Native American women. Recent publication: “State Obligations to Protect the Lives and Health of Women After Abortion or Miscarriage,” Human Rights Brief, Volume 21, Issue 2 (2014).

Her first post will look at ways of addressing the gender imbalance on international courts. Heartfelt welcome!

El Salvador’s Constitutional Court Invalidates Amnesty Law; Will Prosecutions Follow?

After years of deliberations, the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador’s Supreme Court ruled on July 13 that the country’s 1993 amnesty law is unconstitutional and must be stricken. The 4-1 decision, although long expected, has caused uproar in El Salvador, where neither side in the civil war has been supportive of prosecutions for past crimes and where rampant criminality and insecurity are present-day scourges. The four-person majority of judges Sidney Blanco, Florentín Meléndez, Rodolfo González and Eliseo Ortiz, grounded the decision in the rights of the victims to access to justice, to judicial protection of fundamental rights, and to full reparations. It makes extensive use of international law, especially the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It will provide new hope for the long-suffering victims of the country’s twelve-year civil war, but will also complicate the country’s politics and challenge a weak and compromised prosecutors’ office.

The complaint was brought by a number of NGO representatives and victims of rights violations, alleging that the amnesty law was illegally passed and violated El Salvador’s international commitments and constitution. The 1993 amnesty was passed to deal with the crimes of both sides in a civil war that cost some 75,000 lives. The amnesty was passed just three days after a U.N. sponsored Truth Commission issued its report. The Commission found that most of the massacres, assassinations, forced disappearances and torture committed had been carried out by the armed forces or by death squads connected to them.

The text of the decision

The Court first dismissed the procedural illegality argument, but used the occasion to note that the amnesty was not, as the Prosecutors’ office argued, a part of the peace accords that ended the civil war. On the contrary, those accords had stressed the need to end impunity for human rights violations. The Court thus confronted head-on one of the central myths of the country’s political classes, that amnesty was required by the peace accords. Rather, the Court held that the legislature had to balance the need for reconciliation with the need for justice for the victims. It cited with approval in this regard the 1992 Law of National Reconciliation, which provided amnesty for political crimes, but expressly excluded “grave violent events from January 1, 1980 on, which have left their mark on society, and demand the most urgent public knowledge of the truth” that were mentioned by the U.N.-backed Truth Commission.

In its July 13 judgment, the Court held that the amnesty is unconstitutional as applied to all crimes against humanity and those war crimes that violate the fundamental guarantees of Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions, committed by either side in the conflict. The amnesty violates the country’s international obligations to investigate and prosecute under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, Protocol II, and the constitutional right of the victim of a crime to civil damages and to judicial protection of fundamental rights. Regarding war crimes, although Protocol II calls for the “widest possible amnesty,” that provision must be read in light of all the country’s international obligations, and the amnesty cannot be absolute. With respect to crimes against humanity, those crimes are by definition not subject to amnesty or statutes of limitations and are subject to universal jurisdiction.

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Read On! New Book on Public Law of Gender

I am delighted to contribute my first post to this excellent website to let readers know of the final book in a six volume series, Connecting International Law with Public Law, which I initiated as part of my former position as Director of the Centre for International and Public law at the ANU (2006-2015).  The first five volumes looks at themes including Sanctions, Access to Medicines, Environmental Discourses, Allegiance and Identity, and Security Institutions and have been published through Cambridge University Press.

The final volume has just been launched and it is of particular interest to the IntLawGrrls community.

I have co-edited this final volume with my friend and former ANU colleague Dr. Katharine Young, who is now at Boston University, and it is called The Public Law of Gender: From the Local to the Global. The volume brings together leading lawyers, political scientists, historians and philosophers.

The book examines the worldwide sweep of gender-neutral, gender-equal or gender-sensitive public laws in international treaties, national constitutions and statutes, and documents the raft of legal reform and critically analyses its effectiveness. In demarcating the academic study of the public law of gender, the book examines law’s structuring of politics, governing and gender in a new global frame.

Of interest to constitutional and statutory designers, advocates, adjudicators and scholars, the contributions explore how concepts such as equality, accountability, representation, participation and rights, depend on, challenge or enlist gendered roles and/or categories. These enquiries suggest that the new public law of gender must confront the lapses in enforcement, sincerity and coverage that are common in both national and international law and governance, and critically and pluralistically recast the public/private distinction in family, community, religion, customary and market domains.  The book outlines the common and distinct challenges and issues across various fields and it provides those working with gender-sensitive laws and gender-neutral laws with an assessment of the various ways in which public law interacts with gender, by intent or outcome. It also uncovers the local and global perspectives and the obstacles facing gender equality, equity and parity, showing how traditional agendas of feminist theory now translate in a global legal frame.

I would encourage any one interested in reviewing the volume (or any of the set of six, or indeed the whole set!) for a journal to contact Elizabeth Spicer at Cambridge University Press- espicer [at] cambridge.org.

Professor Kim Rubenstein, ANU College of Law, Public Policy Fellow, Australian National University

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