A Double Standard for White Terrorists

Almost immediately after it emerged that a white supremacist had stabbed three men who were trying to prevent him from attacking Muslim women in a Portland train, killing two of them, efforts at mitigation began.

“We don’t know if he’s got mental health issues,” Sgt. Pete Simpson said in the first public statement about the May 26 incident. Added the perpetrator’s childhood friend, “All I have to say is I hope this brings attention to the need for mental health facilities and more outreach.” His mother struck a similarly apologetic note: “He’s always been spouting anti-establishment stuff but he’s a nice person.”

Inevitably, those close to the perpetrator tried to explain away the hate that drove this crime. Yet what this individual did was fundamentally a political act, and in a country where politicians are increasingly wary of condemning racially motivated violence. In his trial for the Charleston shooting, another white racist, Dylann Roof, made clear the real motives for his crime: “I don’t want anybody to think I did it because I have some kind of mental problem. I wanted to increase racial tension.”

An act of terror by a self-identifying Muslim would never have been treated as apologetically as have the Portland stabbings and the Charleston massacre. Compare these reactions to those following the Boston Marathon bombing and the San Bernardino massacre. Why the double standard? Why do we excuse the racist hate that led the Portland stabbings and the Charleston shootings?

Among the most frightening aspects of the Portland stabbings is that the perpetrator, Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, was long known to police and others as someone who endorsed murderous acts. To his Facebook followers, Christian’s willingness to kill innocent people should come as no surprise. But the authorities turned a blind eye to the threats that fill Christian’s public posts.

As his Facebook posts demonstrate, Christian made numerous appearances at white supremacist rallies in recent months. He was a well-known member of the Portland community, not an outsider, an alien, or an immigrant. He delighted in his own notoriety, noting in one post how a local reporter called him “the Lizard King.”

On May 9, Christian wrote on his Facebook page (still online as of this writing): “I want a job in Norway cutting off the heads of people that Circumcize [sic] Babies….Like if you agree!!!” More than two dozen of Christian’s Facebook followers signified their approval. One vowed to set up a fund to support “Americas newest hero Jeremy Joseph Christian.”

Christian began verbally attacking two women on a train, one of whom was wearing a hijab. Police said he “began yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions.” When three men tried to intervene, he stabbed them. Two of them—Ricky John Best of Happy Valley, Oregon, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche of Southeast Portland, 23—died from their injuries.

At a court appearance this week, Christian was defiant, saying, “You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism!”


Had Christian been deploying the rhetoric of ISIS on Facebook, he would have been under FBI surveillance. Why, then, are white supremacists allowed to threaten violence against innocents while authorities look the other way? Why are people still willing to make excuses when expressions of racist hate turn into racist action?

In stark contrast, Egyptian-American Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to seventeen years in prison exclusively on the basis of his association with jihadist ideology, and not for any specific act of violence. But whereas Mehanna was immediately incarcerated for his support of violence, Christian’s threats have been ignored, or tolerated, by the authorities. Like many white supremacists, the perpetrator of the Portland stabbings was regarded prior to his murders as merely a nuisance by authorities.

Like Christian, Mehanna supported an ideology that is associated with violence. Both ideologies must be condemned. Yet the point here is that Mehanna was imprisoned for his views, while white supremacists like Christian are all too often tolerated until blood is spilled.

The fight against racism is a battle that cannot be abdicated to others. It has poisoned this country and will continue to do so until white racism is taken as seriously as the terror that clothes itself in Islamic rhetoric.

I passed much of my adolescence on Portland’s streets. I attended poetry readings in Portland cafes and volunteered in soup kitchens, and hanging out in Powell’s, the country’s biggest bookstore. The violence of the past few days does not represent the Portland I know. However, it does represent a plausible future for a country increasingly driven by an ideology that must be actively resisted rather than silently condoned.

 

Cross-posted from The Progressive

Psychoanalysis & law at the Women’s March in Washington

It was amazing and exhilarating to be part of such a massive collective experience. We left my neighborhood in Northwest Washington DC early, about 8am. At that hour on a Saturday morning, my neighborhood was already buzzing with people on their way to the march. On Friday, inauguration day, I had gone out to see what was afoot. What I discovered on Friday was a dead zone. On any normal day my neighborhood is very busy; Connecticut Ave near the Woodley Park metro is normally crowded with people going about their day. On inauguration day it was nearly empty. A lonely traffic cop stood at the intersection, idle, with no worries about directing any traffic. I walked down to Dupont Circle and saw lots of people going into the Office Depot and then emerging with rolled up poster board carried under arms. They were clearly getting ready for Saturday. Then I walked over to the Washington DC Friends Meeting House which was holding a training session on non-violent interventions to public assaults. We rolled played several different scenarios of public aggression and how to intervene effectively.

On Saturday this training came in handy. While walking from the Union Station metro over to meet our friends, we passed by a large bus emblazoned with Trump campaign slogans. Vendors in front of the bus were hawking Trump sweatshirts, teeshirts, and hats. These vendors were clearly out of place, because the street was teaming with women carrying signs and wearing their distinctive knitted caps. I stopped to look at the merchandise and then suggested to the man in charge that yesterday, during the inauguration, was their better time to make sales and that today, Saturday, belonged to the Women’s March participants.

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Read On! ‘Human Security and Human Rights under International Law: The Protections Offered to Persons Confronting Structural Vulnerability’

I am thrilled to post for the first time in IntLawGrrls and to share the publication of my book Human Security and Human Rights under International Law: The Protections Offered to Persons Confronting Structural Vulnerability (Hart Publishing, 2016).

This book considers the potential of human security as a protective tool within the international law of human rights. Indeed, it seems surprising given the centrality of human security to the human experience, that its connection with human rights had not yet been explored in a truly systematic way. The book attempts to address that gap in the literature and sustains that the human rights of persons, particularly those facing structural vulnerability, can be addressed more adequately if studied through the complementary lens of human security and not under human rights law alone. It takes both a legal and interdisciplinary approach, recognizing that human security and its relationship with human rights cuts across disciplinary boundaries.

Human security with its axis of freedom from fear, from want and from indignity, can more integrally encompass the inter-connected risks faced by individuals and groups in vulnerable conditions. At the same time, human rights law provides the normative legal grounding usually lacking in human security. International human rights norms, individualistic in nature and firstly enacted more than sixty years ago, present limits which translate into lack of protection for people globally. As a result, the collective and contextual conditions undergone by persons can be better met through the broader and more recent notion of human security, which emphasizes ‘critical (severe) and pervasive (widespread) threats’, and accentuates socioeconomic vulnerabilities as authentic security concerns. Indeed, as signaled by Sadako Ogata, human security is ‘the emerging paradigm for understanding global vulnerabilities’.

The analysis follows a two-part approach. Firstly, it evaluates convergences between human security and all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural –and constructs a general framework for thought and action, the ‘human security – human rights synergy’. Secondly, it goes on to explore the practical application of this framework in the law and case-law of UN, European, Inter-American and African human rights bodies in the thematic cores of 1) violence against women and girls (VAW); 2) undocumented migrants and other non-citizens such as asylum-seekers and refugees; converging in 3) a particular examination of the conditions of female undocumented migrants. In the last chapter, the book systematizes this evidence to reveal and propose added values of human security to human rights law; and inversely, it indicates how human rights standards/indicators can deliver a needed more precise, normatively grounded and operational conception of human security.

These ‘interpretative synergies’ offer promise for shifting the boundaries of international human rights law: in constructing integrative approaches to fill legal gaps, better prevention and addressing protectively collective threats, and –in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- creating an ‘enabling environment’ to fulfil all human rights, especially for those not only confronting isolated moments of risk or individual human rights violations, but rather conditions of structural vulnerability affecting their everyday lives. Continue reading

Write On! Read On! “Inter Gentes”: a new kind of international law journal

Yesterday a buzzing social event at McGill Faculty of Law marked the launch of a new peer reviewed international law journal – but rather than adding to the existing plethora of academic journals, Inter Gentes is breaking the mold and doing something truly exciting and innovative. And they welcome your submissions in many different, multi-media forms.

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The name Inter Gentes represents the ethos of this journal, to consider international law not according to the traditional 19th Century conception of law between States, but rather as law between people. This goes far beyond a “transnational” or “transboundary” approach, and is broader than “legal pluralism” or “cosmopolitanism”. The intention is to create debate and interaction on the way in which international law affects individuals and peoples, and the way in which we affect international law.

To facilitate this debate, Inter Gentes is an open access online journal, with no paper print issues. This reduces the overheads for the team producing the bi-annual publication, but more importantly ensures true international accessibility.

Inter Gentes will be publishing articles in English, French and Spanish, all of which will be peer-reviewed by members of the star-studded Advisory Board, including Bruno Simma; Francois Crepeau, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants; Mark Drumbl; Lorie Graham; Sally Engel Merry; Jens Ohlin; Rene Provost; Juan Carlos Sainz Borgo and others. The expertise of the Advisory Board will guarantee the quality of the work published, but the real footwork will be undertaken by a dedicated team of students at McGill Faculty of Law, a faculty renowned for it’s commitment to linguistic and legal diversity, and which attracts students from all over the world.

As well as the peer-reviewed articles published in the bi-annual themed issues, Inter Gentes will have op-ed dialogues, encourage debate and dialogue among readers through interactive comments platforms, and provide multi-media content in the form of podcasts, images, posters and more. Since 2015 it has been creating ad-hoc content in the form of editorials, and it will continue this alongside it’s bi-annual issues.

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The inaugural edition has the theme “International Law and Peoples’ Resistance”, and it is testament to the commitment and ethos of this new journal that the articles included are written by authors from around the world, from perspectives as diverse as indigenous law and international law as colonialism; self determination as resistance; and global participation in global democracy.

The theme for next Spring is “(In)tangible Ownership in the International Sphere”, looking at diverse notions of property and land rights. The deadline for the Spring edition has now passed,  however the editorial team is happy to receive op-ed pieces on topics related to this theme.

Keep an eye out for this exciting new platform, which really is an expression of twenty-first century perspectives, dialogues, multi-media forms of knowledge dissemination and learning, and diverse identities. And let the editorial team know if you have something you’d like to submit – they  accept non-thematic articles on any area of international law year round on a rolling basis, which will be considered for ad-hoc publication, outside the publishing schedule for the theme issues

 

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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Book cover, courtesy International Nuremberg Principles Academy. (Original: Montana Historical Society)

On 4 November 2016 in Nuremberg, at its annual forum commemorating the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Nuremberg Principles by the UN General Assembly, the International Nuremberg Principles Academy launched its first book, a volume of deterrence studies titled, Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Deterrent Effect of International Criminal Tribunals. This volume comprises ten country studies (Serbia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, DRC, Uganda, Darfur, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali), as well as a chapter on methodology, and conclusions drawing from all the country studies, with recommendations for further action.

Two Steps Forward is notable in a number of respects. While various articles have addressed deterrence in international criminal law in some fashion, it is apparently the first volume that addresses the issue so comprehensively. It also ventures to offer conclusions on the question of deterrence based on quantitative and qualitative research, noting that nearly 20 years have passed since the ICTY and ICTR’s establishment, and nearly 15 since the ICC and Sierra Leone Special Court’s establishment. While the Nuremberg trials themselves arguably took several generations for their effects to be fully felt, enough time has passed that it is fair to begin to examine what has been the deterrent effect so far of international tribunals, and how that effect can be enhanced or improved.

The good news is that in all of the country situations surveyed, at least some deterrent effect was reported. The authors draw on quantitative factors first to assess whether overall criminality has risen or fallen, a fundamental baseline for asking whether crimes have thereafter been deterred. The authors draw on qualitative factors to assess perceptions of deterrence, in particular amongst perpetrators and potentially like-minded individuals, including members of militaries and rebel groups, political actors, diplomats and politicians, as well as academics, civil society members and victims. Perceptions of deterrence are as significant as objectively measurable deterrence; people act on their perceptions, for good or bad, and these actions can help determine whether further crimes will be committed. In all the situation countries surveyed, the authors found that while the international court or tribunal concerned had a deterrent effect, both objective and perceived, it proved difficult to sustain because the factors supporting it often fell apart. This is an important starting point for examining how to ensure that any hard-won deterrent effect is not ultimately lost. Continue reading

Reflections on ‘The Gendered Imaginaries of Crisis in International Law’ Agora @ the 2016 ESIL Annual Conference, Riga, Latvia

With many thanks to Emily Jones, currently a PhD researcher at SOAS, University of London, who authored this reflection and, along with IntLawgrrls Gina Heathcote, Loveday Hodson, and Bérénice Schramm, as well as Troy Lavers, organized the Gendered Imaginaries of Crisis Agora on behalf of the Feminism and International Law Interest Group of the European Society of International Law.

esil-2016On Friday 9th September, the Feminism and International Law Interest Group of the European Society of International Law (ESIL) held an agora entitled ‘The Gendered Imaginaries of Crisis in International Law.’ The agora session was initially inspired by Hilary Charlesworth’s provocative statement that ‘international lawyers revel in a good crisis. A crisis provides a focus for the development of the discipline and it also allows international lawyers the sense that their work is of immediate, intense relevance.’ In this vein, the agora aimed to disrupt mainstream interpretations and perspectives on crisis as well as remind attendees of the various ways in which gender is implicated in the narratives of crisis. (Agora participants pictured above, from left to right, Bérénice Schramm (chair), Marion Blondel, Dianne Otto, and Jaya Ramji-Nogales; Zeynep Kivilcim is pictured in the Skype screen at the top.)

The agora was bilingual (in both French and English). This bilingualism not only helped to disrupt the increasing dominance of the English language at ESIL but also allowed for a wider array of feminist perspectives to be considered.

The panel began with an intervention by IntLawGrrl Bérénice K. Schramm, the Agora Chair. Bérénice began with a reminder of the many ways in which crisis is utilised globally, not only by international lawyers to revel in but also as a moment for change and resistance, thus disrupting mainstream international legal views of crisis. She also highlighted the many elements of crisis which go unseen, including the sounds and images of crisis, showing pictures of women in Rojava engaging in radical democratic work and drawing on the work of German art collective Maiden Monsters to highlight both the existence of counter images to crises and sounds of crisis and the corollary fact that neoliberalism, from a feminist perspective, is, itself, a crisis.

Bérénice, in her introduction, also read an important statement regarding Turkey. One of the panellists, Zeynep Kivilcim, sadly, was unable to attend the agora in person and was forced to intervene via Skype. This was due to the current political situation in her country and the crack down by the government on academics and academic freedom. As a signatory to the ‘Academics for Peace’ petition‘Academics for Peace’ petition, Zeynep risks being interrogated daily. Bérénice reminded the agora participants of the terrible ongoing situation in Turkey and the need to remember the ways in which crises affect academic work and freedom.

The first paper presented was by Dianne Otto and was entitled ‘Feminist Aspirations and Crisis Law: Navigating Uncomfortable Convergences and New Opportunities.’ Dianne noted the normalisation of crisis in international discourse and the ways in which this spreading atmosphere of crisis has allowed for the expansion of emergency laws and rule by experts and technocrats who often favour neoliberal ends. Her paper went on to highlight the ways in which ‘gender panics’ are also caught up in international discourses on crisis, noting, for example, how the trafficking movement and the panic over preventing sex trafficking has been used, not only to deny women agency and the right to make their own sexual and economic decisions, but also to ignore the wider, structural issues which surround trafficking, including poverty and exploitative labour conditions (noting how the focus on trafficking also works to ignore other migrants). Continue reading

Introducing OLYMPE’s first collective book: “Féminisme(s) et droit international” (2016)

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A few months ago, OLYMPE, the network for francophone feminist studies in international law and relations, published its first collective opus. Entitled Féminisme(s) et droit international. Études du réseau Olympe (Éd. de la Société de Législation Comparée), this volume brings together, under the co-direction of Emmanuelle Tourme Jouannet, Laurence Burgorgue-Larsen, Horatia Muir Watt and Hélène Ruiz Fabri, 14 chapters providing a valuable first overview of the state of feminist research in international law and international relations in French. All in all, a great addition to the critical canon of international law in French. As an important side note, OLYMPE is already preparing a call for a second volume on LGBTQIA/Queer approaches to international law. Said call should be issued in a few issues; stay tuned!

To order the book…

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Introducing OLYMPE: Francophone Feminist Approaches to IL represent!

P1100700There is obviously no better place than the IntLawGrrls blog to introduce to the anglophone world the first research network for francophone feminist studies in international law, OLYMPE, and its recent first collective publication, released in March, Féminisme(s) et droit international. Études du réseau Olympe.

Founded in January 2014, OLYMPE is a research network gathering more than 80 scholars and practitioners with an interest in feminist approaches to international law in French. Thought broadly, OLYMPE aims at promoting transdisciplinary feminist, gender, LGBTQIA and queer studies in international law (and international relations) in the francophone world where, by contrast to the anglophone world, they are still unknown and institutionally underdeveloped, if not inexistent. Named after Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793), a prominent French feminist figure who used the law as a tool for activism, the network pursues a number of objectives through various events, research publications and scientific watch and diffusion. OLYMPE seeks to introduce feminist approaches to international law and international relations in the francophone world and engage in a critical discussion of it using the abundant francophone feminist tradition in order to contribute to new developments in the field, in French and in English. It also actively fosters an inclusive approach to gender at the normative and institutional levels in international law in order to reinforce social and economic equality of individuals notwithstanding their gender identity or sexual orientation: it therefore promotes gender as an explicit and inescapable element of international policy-making. Aware of the limits and obstacles generated by “gender mainstreaming”, OLYMPE wishes through its activities to question the global dimensions of what is nowadays called feminist governance. Last but not least, OLYMPE is an institutional platform around which a network of scholars, practitioners and any other professionals interested in those issues can organize in order to contribute to the implementation of the objectives listed above.

As the coordinator of OLYMPE, it is therefore my very pleasure to give you a first introduction to the network and its activities in the hope that you join it or share its existence around you (website; facebook). While being a francophone network, its members do not have to be French-speaking to join (although it might help as we do share some information in French); all in all, an interest in French-speaking feminist research in international law (and relations) suffices! OLYMPE is happy to relay any information regarding future conferences or calls in English or any other language, as long as it is related to feminist/women’s/gender/lgbtqia/queer studies in international law (and relations). To become a member or for any other query or communication, please feel free to get in touch with me via email (berenice.schramm@graduateinstitute.ch).

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The Future of Women’s Engagement with International Law

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I’ve just returned from sunny Brisbane, Australia, where I had the pleasure of participating in a two-day expert workshop hosted by IntLawGrrl Susan Harris Rimmer of Griffith University Law School (pictured left) and co-organized by Kate Ogg of the Australian National University College of Law (pictured below right).  True to the organizers’ description, the conference featured “the most excellent cast of characters a production could ever hope for.”  We were welcomed by Griffith Law Dean Penelope Mathew, a feminist international law professor (like an IntLawGrrl’s dream come true!), who participated throughout the first day.  The first order of business was a lively debate on terminology: feminist, gender, or women.

kate oggWhile I’m not sure that we reached consensus on that question, the panelists presented a feast of terrific projects, ranging from efforts to quantify women’s presence in the legal academy to examining whether fields such as global constitutionalism can be reconstituted as a feminist project.  Participants also represented a range of levels of seniority and a mix of academics and practitioners, from Kamala Chandrakirana of the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and in Practice, IntLawGrrl Hilary Charlesworth, and Dr. Sima Samar of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, to Siobhan Airey, currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa, writing on consent in international law; Saptarshi Mandal, an Assistant Professor at Jindal University in New Delhi, writing on global governance and local feminisms, and IntLawGrrl Gabrielle Simm, currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Technology in Sydney, writing on gender and disasters.  All of these projects and more will constitute the Research Handbook on Women and International Law to be published by Edward Elgar in 2017 .

This was just the first of a series of workshops that will take place around the edited volume, which aims to “define the research agenda for women’s engagement with international law over the next 50 years.”  While the participant list is largely complete, the editors are still seeking chapters that present TWAIL and/or masculinities theories, as well as those that discuss technology issues and methodologies.  If you’re interested in authoring such a chapter, please contact Prof. Sue Harris Rimmer at s.harrisrimmer@griffith.edu.au

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ABILA Call for Proposals: International Law Weekend 2016

International Law Weekend 2016 (ILW 2016) – the premier international law event of the fall season – is scheduled for October 27-29, 2016 in New York City. The conference will be held at the New York City Bar Association (42 West 44th Street) on October 27, 2016 and at Fordham Law School (150 West 62nd Street) on October 28-29, 2016.

ILW 2016 is sponsored and organized by the  American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA) – which welcomes new members from academia, the practicing bar, and the diplomatic world – and the International Law Students Association  (ILSA). This annual conference attracts an audience of more than one thousand academics, practitioners, diplomats, members of governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and law students.

The unifying theme for ILW 2016 is International Law 5.0.

The world is changing at an accelerating rate. From technological advances to environmental transformations, international lawyers are forced to confront emerging forces and new scenarios. Even settled principles of law are no longer settled. These tectonic shifts have been felt throughout the geography of international law. Legal professionals at every level – local, national, regional, and international – must change their practice to meet a changing world. Innovation will become necessary for survival.

ILW 2016 will explore these issues through a diverse collection of engaging and provocative panels.

We expect the audience to include practitioners, academics, U.N. diplomats, business leaders, federal and state government officials, NGO leaders, journalists, students, and interested citizens. We plan to have a broad array of both public international law and private international law topics in each program time slot.

The ILW Organizing Committee invites proposals to be submitted online by April 9, 2016. Panels will only be accepted through the online ILW Panel Proposal Submission Form, which is located here:

https://www.ilsa.org/index.php?option=com_chronoforms&chronoform=ILW_Panel_Proposals

Deadline: April 9, 2016

When submitting your proposal, please consider the following points.

 

  • Panel proposals may concern any aspect of contemporary international law and practice including, but not limited to, international arbitration, international environmental law, national security, cyber law, use of force, human rights, international humanitarian law, international organizations, international criminal law, international intellectual property, the law of the sea and outer space, and trade law. When submitting your proposal, please identify the primary area(s) of international law that your proposed panel will address.
  • Provide the names, titles, and affiliations of the chair and likely speakers. One of the objectives of ILW 2016 is to promote dialogue among scholars and practitioners. Panels should include presenters with diverse experiences and perspectives.
  • Please identify what format you are proposing for your panel. We welcome various formats, such as debates, roundtables, lectures, and break-out groups, as well as the usual practice of panel presentations.
  • Please indicate whether you are an ABILA member and whether or not your panel is sponsored by an ABILA committee.
  • We encourage you to consider taking the necessary steps to qualify your panel for CLE credit. We hope to offer several CLE panels.

 

For questions regarding ILW 2016, please contact conferences@ilsa.org.

 

ILW 2016 Program Committee Members:

 

William Aceves (co-chair)

Peter Yu (co-chair)

Samuel Baumgartner

Carlos Fuentes

Rahim Moloo

Jessica Simonoff

David Stewart

Tessa Walker