Read On! The Construction of the Customary Law of Peace:Latin America and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

I am happy to announce the publication of my book. It traces the evolution of peace as a normative value within the region. It examines challenges presented by structural inequality, corruption, and exclusionary practices made evident by recent protests. I interviewed the judges of the Court who explained the pluralistic nature of peace and their quest to provide a sustainable gendered peace through innovative reparation orders and recognition of the justiciability of socio-economic rights.

Cecilia Bailliet’s book is an insightful view on the relationship between peace, as the core value of international law, and regional human rights law in Latin America. Her meticulous analysis of legal doctrine, international norms, history, and current human rights challenges, coupled with first-hand knowledge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, brings to light new understandings of how the Court articulates regional norms and principles on peace and human dignity. Anyone interested in Latin American human rights law should read Bailliet’s work.’
– Jorge Contesse, Rutgers Law School, US

Time to Reconsider the Use of Sanctions

This is a translation of an Opinion Piece published by my colleague Benedicte Bull,  Professor of Political Science, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Oslo, Norway (the original was published in Norwegian in Dagsavisen on March 30th)

The sanctions against Venezuela have worsened the economic crisis, contributed to consolidating Nicolás Maduro’s power, and deepened the criminalization of the economy.  This does not mean that all sanctions are wrong.  However, now that Biden’s general approach to sanctions seems to be rather similar to that of Trump,  there is a need to review what sanctions can and cannot accomplish.

Donald Trump set wild records regarding the amount of new sanction-actions issued against other countries- 3.900 total.  No president before him issued over 700.

Thus far, there is little that indicates that Joe Biden will be less eager to apply sanctions.  Furthermore, the EU, Russia, and China have recently ramped up the use of sanctions- often in response to the United States.

Sanctions were originally launched as a peaceful foreign policy tool that could reduce the use of military force. However, the effects and effectiveness of sanctions were criticized already in the late 1960s. Since then, experiences have been addressed in a substantial literature, drawing quite clear conclusions about the  consequences of use of sanctions . The developments in Venezuela illustrate many of those conclusions and were therefore easy to predict:

First, it is important to differentiate between individual sanctions against persons in positions of power and sanctions that block financial transactions or trade between countries or particular sectors.  The first sanctions against persons connected to the government in Venezuela were issued by the United States in 2011 and after 2014 they were directed against persons linked to human rights abuses and the narcotics trade.  The EU followed suit in 2017.

Such sanctions are being called for:  for example, individuals in the regimes in Nicaragua and Myanmar.  Individual sanctions have impact on the economy but can in some cases help to highlight the human rights situation. In Venezuela, however, the human rights situation has become dramatically worse over the last few year, with an explosion of extra-judicial executions and imprisonment of opposition actors.  

Second, substantive sanctions worsen economic crises. The first substantive sanctions against Venezuela were issued in 2017. They prevented the nation from taking on new loans in the international market.  In 2019, the oil sanctions prevented Venezuela from exporting oil- which amounted to 95 per cent of the country’s export income.  In November 2020, Trump halted access to diesel which is used in the transport of goods, including food, through ending the exception from sanctions for crude-for-diesel swaps

When the sanctions were applied, Venezuela was already deep in an economic crisis, and it is difficult to disentangle the effect of sanctions from the ongoing crisis-dynamics. Venezuela’s economy had already shrunk over 30 per cent since 2013, inflation was about to reach 1000 per cent per year, the amount of people living in poverty had doubled since 2014 reaching over 80 per cent of the population, imports had been reduced to one sixth of the rate in 2013, and the lack of goods was harrowing. Nevertheless, there is increasing evidence that  sanctions worsened the situation. Today,  Venezuela’s economy has shrunk 65 percent, and there is an unfolding humanitarian crisis  in the resource-rich land, accelerated by particularly the oil-sanctions.

Third, sanctions rarely lead to regime change, nor do they manage to shift authoritarian regimes to democratic ones. More often, sanctions tend to consolidate the power of authoritarian leaders and worsen freedom of expression and association. The reasons are that authoritarian leaders can use sanctions as an «external enemy» and justify their own attacks. During the past few years, Venezuela has evolved from being a hybrid regime to a full authoritarian regime. Sanctions have also affected the business community that has been among the strongest regime-opponents, and contributed to  new divisions in the opposition

Fourth: Sanctions contribute to new inequality and criminalization of the economy.  In order to evade the sanctions,Nicolás Maduro enacted a type of perverse neo-liberalization: deregulation of prices and currency have rendered the dollar the only viable currency, a privatization program based in the so-called «anti-blockade law»,  a toll-exception in order to encourage direct private import which could violate the prohibition of trade with the state, and decentralization of control in various sectors- leaving them to criminal actors. The result is the growth of a new elite with access to dollars and a deep division with the poor majority. Another consequence is the strengthening of a variety of criminal activities, including illegal mining resulting in catastrophic impact on the environment within the vulnerable Venezuelan Amazon.

Fifth: Sanctions often lead to new alliances between “sanction-busters”. In the case of Venezuela, they have  strengthened the alliance with other countries subject to sanctions, including Russia, Syria, and Iran.  The relationship to Russia was established during the United States application of a weapons embargo against Venezuela in 2006. This converted Venezuela into one of Russia’s best importers of weapons. In later years, the two countries have cooperated on developing the cryptocurrency, which is increasingly utilized to avoid sanctions. 

Let there be no doubt, Venezuela’s catastrophe cannot be blamed on the sanctions.  Neither is there any reason to believe that Maduro would have become a devote democrat or prioritized welfare and human rights in the absence of sanctions. Yet, sanctions have worsened the lives of most people without being able to meet the goals that were set for them,

If the world continues down the wrong path of sanctions, it will not only worsen humanitarian crises, but also worsen the environment for international cooperation and strengthen criminal networks.  It is essential to take a critical look at what sanctions can do and not do, and not only let decisions of imposing them be based on whether they seem justified or not.  

CEPAZ/UPEACE Webinar on the Role of the Security Council and other UN bodies in the Venezuelan situation

The United Nations Security Council has the primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security pursuant to the powers granted in Chapters VI, VII, and VIII of the Charter. At the core of this competence to decide on non-coercive and coercive measures is the construction of what constitutes a threat to international peace and security according to Article 39 of the Charter. Although initially threats to international peace and security referred almost exclusively to conflicts between states, currently it could also refer to situations within states, including civil wars, humanitarian crises, and coups d’état. Nevertheless, there is still difficulty in conceptualizing the role that the international community can have, especially through the action of the Security Council, when atrocities occur at the hands of a government within state borders without a nexus to an armed conflict.
The response given by the Security Council and other UN political bodies to the situation in Venezuela serves as an example of these contentious issues. Venezuela is currently suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. The country has experienced 7 years of economic contraction, hyperinflation, political polarization and institutional challenges, which have caused large-scale human suffering. OCHA has estimated that there are 7 million people in need in the country, and according to ACAPS this number reaches more than 13 million. The severity Index of the Venezuelan crisis has been estimated at 4.1/5, which is considered as very high and is similar to the index of other crises which have gotten a stronger response by the international community, namely Syria (4.9), Myanmar (3.5), Libya (4.2) and Yemen (4.6). In spite of the gravity and complexity of this crisis, there has not been an appropriate response from the international community. The 2020 Venezuelan Human Response Plan was one of the world’s lowest funded.

Importantly, the Security Council and other political bodies of the United Nations have failed to play an important role in its resolution. The Council has met nine times to discuss the situation in Venezuela but has not managed to provide a unified response to support Venezuelans in finding a solution to the crisis. This lack of response may be partly given to the fact that the situation is understood primarily as a domestic issue where the principles of sovereignty and non-interference trump the responsibility to protect even in the face of mass atrocity crimes. An ineffective response from the international community in the face of a humanitarian crisis and gross human rights violations has a direct impact in exacerbating the situation. States continue to commit atrocity crimes if they calculate that they will be protected from a strong response by international actors and that the cost of breaching human rights is bearable.
The seminar addressed the concepts and theoretical analysis which would allow the understanding of the humanitarian and political crisis in Venezuela as a threat to international peace and security. The event was moderated by Mariateresa Garrido and included presentations by Professor Cecilia M. Bailliet, University of Oslo, Norway, Adriana Salcedo, UPeace Costa Rica, and Richard Gowan, UN Director, International Crisis Group. The webinar is available here

The Cost of Battling Discrimination in Academia

Amrei Mueller is an Associate Professor at the University College Dublin. She has published several books, including the ‘The Relationship between Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and International Humanitarian Law’ published in the series Nottingham Studies on Human Rights (Brill, 2013), a pioneering in-depth study of the parallel application of socio-economic rights and IHL in times of armed conflict, and edited anthologies: ‘Judicial Dialogue and Human Rights’ (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and ‘Human Rights Diplomacy’ (Brill, 2011; with Michael O’Flaherty, Zdzislaw Kedzia and George Ulrich). Her research has also been published in prestigious international journals, among them the Human Rights Law Review, the International Review of the Red Cross and the International Journal of Human Rights; and in edited collections with leading international law publishers such as Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Routledge. She researches the duties and responsibilities of armed non-state actors under IHL and human rights law, taking account also of the right to self-determination.

She applied for a position at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo, Norway. Although she was ranked #1 by the Academic Committee, the Faculty gave the job to the candidate who was ranked #3 (a Norwegian Man). Amrei sued the University for discrimination and lost in court, leaving her with the obligation to pay 27,000 Euro in legal fees. She has set up a Go Fund Me account. The quest for fairness and transparency in Faculty hiring is costly. Please share her GoFundMe link to those who may help ease her burden.

Avoiding the Glass Cliff

Law faculties are undergoing financial and status constraints that increase the risk of women academics being subjected to glass cliff appointments. Glass cliff appointments are the placement of women in academic management positions in times of reduction of budget or status, or other situation of crisis. Women are appointed in part because of stereotypical conceptions about their supposed conciliatory style of management. Academic management positions suffer a corresponding decline in status, merit and prestige, as they have become more time-consuming due to an significant increase in meetings and other administrative tasks, thereby reducing the ability of women academics to complete high level research. Helen Peterson conducted a study of Swedish women in academic management and found that: “The problem with glass cliff appointments is that they come with an increased risk of failure and the leader being held accountable and blamed for negative events. Glass cliff appointments also tend to involve less authority, to be less likely to lead on to more senior appointments, offer less material rewards and be less valued in the organization. Another problem is that glass cliff appointments are particularly stressful for women and involve more interpersonal conflict.”

Her article is available here:

On Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the World at 75 years by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (in Spanish)

Hiroshima y Nagasaki

Y el mundo a 75 años

El avión sobrevoló la ciudad de Hiroshima, los pilotos a cumplir su rutina  de  guerra, arrojar las bombas sobre territorio enemigo y regresar a la base. Ese día las instrucciones de sus jefes fue que llevaban un arma especial,   arrojar la bomba en el objetivo asignado y alejarse lo más rápido posible del blanco. El día 6 de agosto el cielo  estaba sin nubosidad y el comandante feliz  porque habían puesto el nombre de su madre Enola Gay al avión.

 Cuando arrojaron la bomba atómica sobre la ciudad de Hiroshima algo se quebró en su interior y el piloto gritó -¡Dios mío,… Dios mío… que hemos hecho!…..en ese minuto el mundo cambió. El presidente Truman de los EEUU dio la orden de arrojar la bomba sobre Hiroshima, una ciudad civil sin bases militares,  la bomba atómica  desato  el horror, la destrucción y muerte se sobre  la  humanidad.

Los pilotos regresaron con la muerte en el alma, ya nada sería igual. El gobierno de Truman buscó todo tipo de justificación para justificar lo injustificable,  Japón ya estaba vencido antes de las bombas. La crueldad humana no tiene límites, como no la tuvo el nazismo en los campos de concentración  contra los judíos.

El presidente Truman  impartió la orden de  arrojar la segunda bomba atómica el día 9 de agosto de 1945 sobre la ciudad de Nagasaki.  El “éxito de las masacres” fue total, necesitaba  mostrar el poderío de los EEUU al mundo y en especial a la Unión Soviética, su aliado circunstancial en la guerra.

Una madre víctima de la bomba en Nagasaki deja una carta a su hija de dos años que sobrevive, es de una ternura infinita  donde le dice como cambió la vida, que su amor permanece más allá de la muerte y  que la recuerde.

En mis viajes a Japón en varias oportunidades estuve en  Hiroshima, me reuní con  mujeres – Ibakushas,-  sobrevivientes de la bomba;  son  testigos del horror y nos  acompañaron  recorriendo los túmulos y lugares dónde estallo la bomba y donde se encuentran  las víctimas; decían que  tienen la responsabilidad de trasmitir la memoria  de lo vivido cuando eran niñas a tres kilómetros de la ciudad en la escuela y ese día perdieron su familia, después de los bombardeos hasta el presente sufren las radiaciones, el cáncer y la contaminación que mató a miles de japoneses/as  no combatientes.

La humanidad frente al dolor y tragedia  de dos guerras en el siglo XX  buscó encontrar caminos de entendimiento y respeto entre los pueblos y dio nacimiento a  las Naciones Unidas y la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos, un paso fundamental en para lograr superar el horror  y sanar las heridas y tratar de encontrar nuevos horizontes de vida  para que nunca más vuelva a desatarse  la tragedia de todas las guerras. Si bien los organismos internacionales cumplen una función necesaria  en el mundo, la carrera armamentista, las guerras, los conflictos bélicos, de alta y baja intensidad, y la explotación de los bienes y recursos de la Madre Tierra  no terminaron. Continúa la ambición del poder dominación acumulando arsenales nucleares entre las grandes potencias y generando más pobreza, marginalidad y hambre en el mundo

 Hoy nuestra Casa Común sufre la Pandemia del Coronavirus,  tragedia que  afecta a toda la humanidad con miles de muertos y millones de infestados y sin encontrar hasta el momento vacunas o antídotos para superar la tragedia global.

El Covid 19 es consecuencia del maltrato del ser humano contra la Madre Tierra, la destrucción de la floresta, los agro-tóxicos, las quemas intencionales que provocan la perdida de la biodiversidad,  la muerte de los animales y la violencia contra las comunidades indígenas;  devastación y crueldad que ha roto el equilibrio entre el ser humano y la Madre Tierra, es urgente llamar a la conciencia de los gobiernos que privilegian el capital financiero sobre la vida de los pueblos.

Llamar a la conciencia de  empresas que en su afán de lucro no respetan los derechos de la Naturaleza, es urgente convocar a un “Nuevo contrato Social”  para encontrar nuevos caminos de convivencia, caso contrario las pandemias se agudizarán cobrando más vidas y la destrucción de  bienes y recursos naturales.

Los centros de investigación científica están cerca de alcanzar una vacuna para el Covid 19, es necesario que la misma sea gratuita para toda la humanidad, sin exclusiones de los países más pobres.

Es necesario hacer memoria, no para quedarse en el pasado, la memoria nos ilumina el presente y nos llama a reflexionar, a 75 años de Hiroshima tenemos que ver el caminar de la humanidad,  sus avances y retrocesos, no se trata de recordar únicamente la tragedia y a las víctimas, debemos honrar la memoria de las víctimas de las guerras y mirar el camino a recorrer de la humanidad.

No olvidar  el momento que el mundo cambia cuando el avión por orden del presidente de los EEUU Truman lanza su carga mortífera sobre poblaciones civiles.

El pueblo japonés sobreponiéndose al dolor y destrucción ha logrado grandes avances en la reconstrucción de ciudades devastadas como Hiroshima y Nagasaki, pero preserva la memoria de los días  6 y 9 de agosto de 1945 en que el mundo cambio.

 La humanidad necesita desarmar la “razón armada”, hacer  realidad lo que en el Foro Social Mundial – FSM- proclamamos que “Otro mundo es posible”, transformar las armas en arados  como  dice el profeta Isaias,  a fin de alcanzar la Paz y unidad en la diversidad entre las personas y los pueblos del mundo.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel

Buenos Aires, 1 de agosto del 2020


Time to break the Silence of Academia in the face of MicroAggression and Harassment

U.S. Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s eloquent rebuke of the verbal abuse she was subjected to by fellow Representative Ted Yoho prompted reflection by all women on the institutionalized workplace harassment they face, including within academia. Women in academia have been and continue to be routinely subject to stereotyping, harassment, exclusion, subtle verbal and non-verbal insults, rumors, gossip, and pathologizing of their communication. They are also subject to inter-sectoral discrimination based on their ethnicity, race, religion, and nationality in addition to their gender. Common stereotypes include:

•Bossy •Crass •Emotional, Difficult, Problematic •Scary (50 plus) •Overly Sensitive, Insecure •Overreacts •Nice (under 50) •The Mother •The Workaholic •Divorced

In contrast, male academics are subject to positive stereotypes which lead to promotions, awards, and accolades:

•Direct Leadership style •Straight-forward, decisive •Enthusiastic, Driven •Assertive •Dedicated to research •Successful at managing various projects

A disturbing tendency within universities is a policy of silence when facing such practices. Cases are routinely shoved under the carpet, surprisingly often by men & women administrators, personnel managers, and Deans who seek to uphold the reputation of the university at the expense of the woman academic. The harassment may be labled as a minor, the women academic reminded “to move beyond the incident” thereby leaving the culture of abuse unchanged. It is time to break the culture of silence which fails to condemn language which diminishes the woman academic. Universities should have transparent mechanisms to correct discrimination and harassment of staff and students. While globalization has prompted universities to pursue diversity, such policies may fail if there is a lack of institutional committment to confronting discrimination in an open, effective manner.

As I have received requests for strategies to deal with microaggression, there are several resources which recommend lobbying for universities to adopt a microaggression framework or an Inclusiveness toolkit. It is important for women academics to meet across departments to validate and share their experiences as well as cooperate to design better polices.

Read On! Women and Law

The Washington Post reported today that for the first time the editors of the journals of the top 16 law schools in the United States are all women!

They joined together an published a special edition on Women and Law featuring a selection of accomplished women lawyers from diverse backgrounds addressing intersectoral concerns. We extend our heartfelt congratulations and encourage all to read and disseminate this edition!:

Family, Gender, and Leadership in the Legal Profession Kerry Abrams

Motherhood as Misogyny Jane H. Aiken

On Power & Indian Country Maggie Blackhawk

Reflections of a Lady Lawyer Lisa Blatt
The Nerve: Women of Color in the Legal Academy Khiara M. Bridges
Inching Toward Equal Dignity Denise Brogan-Kator

On Firsts, Feminism, and the Future of the Legal Profession Risa L. Goluboff

Carrying on Korematsu: Reflections on My Father’s Legacy Karen Korematsu

Reconstituting the Future: An Equality Amendment Catharine A. MacKinnon Kimberlé W. Crenshaw

Law School in a Different Voice Melissa Murray

Experience on the Bench Rebecca R. Pallmeyer
Kafka’s Court: Seeking Law and Justice at Guantanamo Bay Alka Pradhan

A Personal Essay Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro

The Nineteenth Amendment: The Catalyst that Opened Courthouse Doors for Women on the Federal Bench Ann Claire Williams