Accountability for harms to children during armed conflict discussed at ILW panel

NEW YORK – Ways to redress offenses against children during armed conflict formed the core of the panel that our University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center sponsored last Friday at International Law Weekend, an annual three-day conference presented by the American Branch of the International Law Association and the International Law Students Association. I was honored to take part.

► Opening our panel was Shaheed Fatima QC (top right), a barrister at Blackstone Chambers in London, who led a panel of researchers for the Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict, an initiative chaired by Gordon Brown, former United Kingdom Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

As Fatima explained, the Inquiry focused on harms that the UN Security Council has identified as “six grave violations” against children in conflict; specifically, killing and maiming; recruitment or use as soldiers; sexual violence; abduction; attacks against schools or hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access. With regard to each, the Inquiry identified legal frameworks in international criminal law, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law. It proposed a new means for redress: promulgation of a “single instrument” that would permit individual communications, for an expressed set of violations, to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the treaty body that monitors compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three optional protocols. These findings and recommendations have just been published as Protecting Children in Armed Conflict (Hart 2018).

► Next, Mara Redlich Revkin (2d from left), a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Yale University and Lead Researcher on Iraq and Syria for the United Nations University Project on Children and Extreme Violence.

She drew from her fieldwork to provide a thick description of children’s experiences in regions controlled by the Islamic State, an armed group devoted to state-building – “rebel governance,” as Revkin termed it. Because the IS sees children as its future, she said, it makes population growth a priority, and exercises its control over schools and other “sites for the weaponization of children.” Children who manage to free themselves from the group encounter new problems on account of states’ responses, responses that Revkin has found often to be at odds with public opinion. These range from the  harsh punishment of every child once associated with IS, without considering the extent of that association, to the rejection of IS-issued birth certificates, thus rendering a child stateless.

► Then came yours truly, Diane Marie Amann (left), Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law here at the University of Georgia School of Law and our Center’s Faculty Co-Director. I served as a member of the Inquiry’s Advisory Board.

Discussing my service as the Special Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Children in and affected by Armed Conflict, I focused on the preparation and contents of the 2016 ICC OTP Policy on Children, available here in Arabic, English, French, Spanish, and Swahili. The Policy pinpoints the crimes against and affecting children that may be punished pursuant to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and it further delineates a “child-sensitive approach” to OTP work at all stages, including investigation, charging, prosecution, and witness protection.

► Summing up the conversation was Harold Hongju Koh (2d from right), Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School and former Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State, who served as a consultant to the Inquiry.

Together, he said, the presentations comprised “5 I’s: Inquiry, Iraq and Syria, the ICC, and” – evoking the theme of the conference – “international law and why it matters.” Koh lauded the Inquiry’s report as “agenda-setting,” and its proposal for a means to civil redress as a “panda’s thumb” response that bears serious consideration. Koh envisaged that in some future administration the United States – the only country in the world not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child – might come to ratify the proposed new  protocol, as it has the optional protocols relating to children in armed conflict and the sale of children.

The panel thus trained attention on the harms children experience amid conflict and called for redoubled efforts to secure accountability and compensation for such harms.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

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Read On! New anthology, “Human Rights and Children”

Honored to be a contributor to Human Rights and Children, an anthology of works in the field edited by another IntLawGrrls contributor, Hofstra Law Professor Barbara Stark.

The collection’s just been issued by Edward Elgar Publishing, which writes:

“This volume provides a comprehensive overview of children’s human rights, collecting the works of leading authorities as well as new scholars grappling with emerging ideas of ‘children’ and ‘rights.’ Beginning with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world, this book explores the theory, doctrine, and implementation of the legal frameworks addressing child labor, child soldiers, and child trafficking, as well as children’s socio-economic rights, including their rights to education.”

My own contribution is listed in this compendium as: “Diane Marie Amann (2013), ‘A Review of Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy in Mark A. Drumbl, Oxford University Press’, American Journal of International Law…” On my SSRN page, I describe this book review as follows:

“This essay reviews ‘Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy’ (2012), in which author Mark Drumbl examines legal doctrine, global activism, and social science research respecting underaged combatants.”

Additional contributors to this collection who have also contributed to IntLawGrrls include, besides Professor Stark and me, Mark A. Drumbl and Nienke Grossman. The balance of contributors are as follows: Philip Alston, Jo Becker, Maria Bouverne-De Bie, Claire Breen, Geert Cappelaere, Cynthia Price Cohen, Katherine Covell, Mac Darrow, Martha F. Davis, Michael J. Dennis, Janelle M. Diller, Sara A. Dillon,  Martin Guggenheim, Stuart N. Hart, Kamran Hashemi, R. Brian Howe, David A. Levy, Janet McKnight, Tendai Charity Nhenga-Chakarisa, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Roslyn Powell, Alison Dundes Renteln, Marilia Sardenberg, William A. Schabas, David M. Smolin, Murray A. Straus, Laura Thetaz-Bergman, John Tobin, Jonathan Todres, Geraldine Van Bueren, Wouter Vandenhole, Eugeen Verhellen, and Barbara Bennett Woodhouse.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann blog)

IntLawGrrl Louise Chappell’s study of ICC and gender justice featured in EJIL: Talk! symposium

politicsWhat a welcome surprise to read words I penned a few years ago quoted-within-a-quote in a post today at EJIL: Talk! To be precise, Washington & Lee Law Professor Mark Drumbl wrote:

“Gender justice initiatives at the ICC remain entwined with other advocacy movements. Notable in this regard is the push for children’s rights. The pairing of women’s rights with children’s rights – while perhaps seeming somewhat odd – does reflect the historical association, in Diane Marie Amann’s words (cited by Chappell), of ‘women and children as bystanders, beings not fully conscious of the world around them’ within the Grotian Weltanschauung.”

The quote, from my essay “The Post-Postcolonial Woman or Child,” appears in Drumbl’s contribution to a terrific EJIL: Talk! symposium analyzing The Politics of Gender Justice at the International Criminal Court (Oxford University Press 2015), an important book by Louise A. Chappell (below right), Professor and Australian Research Council Future Fellow, School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

chappellChappell (who, like Drumbl, is an IntLawGrrls contributor) traces her subject through chapters that “represent,” “recognize,” “redistribute,” and “complement” gender justice at the ICC, an institution that “nested” “gender advocacy,” as Drumbl puts it in his review, entitled “Gender Justice and International Criminal Law: Peeking and Peering Beyond Stereotypes.” He adds: “In short: her superb book is a must-read.”

Joining Drumbl in this symposium are:

► An opening post by EJIL: Talk! Associate Editor Helen McDermott, a post-doctoral Research Fellow in law and armed conflict in the Oxford Martin School Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations at the University of Oxford, England.

► An introduction by Chappell, who is due to close the conversation later this week (latter post now available here).

“Beyond a Recitation of Sexual Violence Provisions: A Mature Social Science Evaluation of the ICC” by Patricia Viseur Sellers, who serves as the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Special Adviser for Prosecution Strategies, is a Visiting Fellow at Kellogg College, Oxford University, and the former Legal Advisor for Gender and Acting Senior Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

“Gender Justice Legacies at the ICC” by yet another IntLawGrrls contributor, Valerie Oosterveld, Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies), Associate Professor, and Deputy Director of the Centre for Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law, London, Ontario, Canada.

To crib from Drumbl’s post, the series is a must-read.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

ICC Prosecutor’s Policy on Children, an international criminal justice capstone

 

Children have become the unwilling emblems of armed conflict and extreme violence.

Searing images have surfaced in news stories, aid workers’ alerts, and rights groups’ dispatches: a 5 year old pulled from Aleppo rubble, orphans at a Goma children’s center, a young Colombian woman struggling to readjust after years as a child soldier, and, face down on a Turkish beach, a drowned 3-year-old refugee. Images of this nature were shown yesterday at the International Criminal Court, during the opening statement in Ongwen, with Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda herself warning “that some of these images are extremely disturbing.”

There is no better time than now to press for strategies both to combat such harms and to bring the persons responsible to justice. Presenting an important step toward those goals is the Policy on Children of the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor.

fatou

Prosecutor Bensouda launched the Policy on Children at an event during last month’s meeting of the ICC Assembly of States Parties. Bensouda quoted from the U.N. expert Graça Machel’s pathbreaking 1996 report on children and armed conflict, then commented:

“[I]t is indeed unconscionable that we so clearly and consistently see children’s rights attacked and that we fail to defend them.
“It is unforgivable that children are assaulted, violated, murdered and yet our conscience is not revolted nor our sense of dignity challenged. This represents a fundamental crisis of our civilisation and a failure of our humanity.
“By adopting the Policy on Children, which we launch today, we at the Office of the Prosecutor seek to ensure that children suffering the gravest injustices are not ignored. That through the vector of the law, we do what we can to protect and advance the rights of children within the framework of the Rome Statute.”

Leading the event was journalist Zeinab Badawi. Among the many others who offered live or video interventions were: Mamadou Ismaël Konaté, Mali’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Republic of Mali; Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights; Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; Nobel Peace Prizewinner Leymah Gbowee; Lieutenant General Roméo-Dallaire, Founder of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (see also IntLawGrrls post by Kirsten Stefanik); Marc Dullaert, Founder of KidsRights and the Netherlands’ former Children’s Ombudsman; and Coumba Gawlo, U.N. Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador and National Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

screen2I am honored also to have offered brief remarks – and am especially honored to have assisted in the preparation of this Policy in my capacity as the Prosecutor’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict, working alongside a dedicated Office of the Prosecutor team led by Shamila Batohi, Gloria Atiba Davies, and Yayoi Yamaguchi. Preparation included experts’ gatherings at the University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center, at Leiden Law School, and at the ICC itself, as well as consultations around the globe with young persons who had endured armed conflict. (Legal research produced by my students, in seminars on Children & International Law and through the work of the Georgia Law Project on Armed Conflict & Children, also was invaluable.)

The result is a Policy on Children spanning 47 pages, published simultaneously in Arabic, English, French, Spanish, and Swahili. Identifying children as persons under eighteen (paragraph 16), it covers a gamut of issues related to children and the work of the Prosecutor; for example, general policy, regulatory framework, and engagement with children at all stages of the proceedings. Among many other landmarks, the Policy:

► Embraces a child-sensitive approach grounded in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty ratified by every U.N. member state save one: the United States, which is also an ICC nonparty state. (My remarks happily noted that my other state of citizenship, the Republic of Ireland, is a state party to both the Child Rights Convention and the ICC’s Rome Statute.) Paragraph 22 of the Policy on Children thus states:

“In light of the foregoing, the Office will adopt a child-sensitive approach in all aspects of its work involving children. This approach appreciates the child as an individual person and recognises that, in a given context, a child may be vulnerable, capable, or both. The child-sensitive approach requires staff to take into account these vulnerabilities and capabilities. This approach is based on respect for children’s rights and is guided by the general principles of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child: non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and the right to express one’s views and have them considered.”

► Views children, like all human beings, as multi-faceted individuals and, simultaneously, as members of multi-generational communities. (See, for example, paragraph 100.) Paragraph 25 states:

“Children, by the very fact of their youth, are frequently more vulnerable than other persons; at certain ages and in certain circumstances, they are dependent on others. Notwithstanding any vulnerability and dependence, children possess and are continuously developing their own capacities – capacities to act, to choose and to participate in activities and decisions that affect them. The Office will remain mindful, in all aspects of its work, of the evolving capacities of the child.”

► Acknowledges in paragraph 17 “that most crimes under the Statute affect children in various ways, and that at times they are specifically targeted” – and then pledges that “the Office will, in order to capture the full extent of the harm suffered, seek to highlight the multi-faceted impact on children, at all stages of its work.” The regulatory framework thus enumerates a range of crimes against and affecting children:

  • recruitment and use by armed forces and armed groups of children under fifteen as war crimes (paragraphs 39-43);
  • forcible transfer of children and prevention of birth as acts of genocide (paragraphs 44-46);
  • trafficking of children as a form of enslavement constituting a crime against humanity (paragraphs 47-48);
  • attacks on buildings dedicated to education and health care as war crimes (paragraph 49);
  • torture and related war crimes and crimes against humanity (paragraph 50);
  • persecution as a crime against humanity (paragraph 50); and
  • sexual and gender-based violence as war crimes and crimes against humanity (paragraph 52).

► Details the Office’s plan for applying the child-sensitive approach, with respect both to all stages of proceedings, including preliminary examinations, investigations, and prosecutions, and to cooperation and external relations, institutional development, and implementation.

Even as cases involving crimes against and affecting children, like Ongwen, go forward, the Office is working on implementation of its new Policy on Children. The implementation phase will include developing versions of the Policy accessible to children. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to contribute this phase – and to hearing others’ views on the Policy.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

ICC Prosecutor’s opening addresses Ongwen as alleged “victim-perpetrator”

bensouda

Since accused Lord’s Resistance Army leader Dominic Ongwen surrendered to the International Criminal Court in January 2015, there’s been much discussion of the effect, if any, of reports that he was abducted as a child into the Uganda rebel group, and eventually committed international crimes himself.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda responded in her opening statement this morning,  on the 1st day of trial in Prosecutor v. Ongwen (transcript, video, and audio available here; photo © ICC-CPI). First she discussed the crimes with which he is charged, against children and adults alike. Then Bensouda turned to the accused himself:

“One aspect of this case is the fact that not only is Ongwen alleged to be the perpetrator of these crimes, he was also a victim.”

About this, Bensouda said:

“The reality is that cruel men can do kind things and kind men can be cruel. A hundred percent consistency is a rare thing. And the phenomenon of the perpetrator-victim is not restricted to international courts: it is a familiar one in all criminal jurisdictions. Fatherless children in bleak inner cities face brutal and involuntary initiation ordeals into gang life, before themselves taking on a criminal lifestyle. Child abusers consistently reveal that they have been abused themselves as children.

“But having suffered victimization in the past is not a justification, nor an excuse to victimise others. Each human being must be considered to be endowed with moral responsibility for their actions. And the focus of the ICC’s criminal process is not on the goodness or badness of the accused person, but on the criminal acts which he or she has committed. We are not here to deny that Mr. Ongwen was a victim in his youth. We will prove what he did, what he said, and the impact of those deeds on his many victims.

“This Court will not decide his goodness or badness, nor whether he deserves sympathy, but whether he is guilty of the serious crimes committed as an adult, with which he stands charged.”

 

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann; IntLawGrrl Dieneke de Vos’ preview of the Ongwen trial is here)

ICC Assembly of States Parties: Children and Conflict

An estimated 230 million children live in armed conflict-affected countries. Of these, approximately 250,000 children are involved in the conflicts themselves. Some are used for fighting; they themselves turned in to tools of war. Others may act as messengers, porters, cooks, or sex slaves. The UN Secretary-General’s 2016 report on children and armed conflict identified 58 parties to current conflicts that recruit and use children. This includes 7 government security forces and 51 non-state armed groups in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, and Syria. As some of the most vulnerable members of society, children deserve and require concentrated efforts from the international community to protect them in times of conflict, to prevent their use in war, and to aggressively go after those who violate international law by victimising them in conflicts.

On 16 November 2016, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) launched its Policy on Children aimed at strengthening ongoing efforts to address atrocity crimes against children as well as providing a framework for helping the OTP in their interactions with children from preliminary investigations to post-trial. On 18 November 2016, Canada hosted a side event at the ICC Assembly of States Parties (ASP) on “Child Soldiers: Prevention and Accountability”. This event united speakers on the preventative efforts of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative with ones on the accountability measures (from preliminary investigation to post-trial) of the ICC OTP.

“War has changed,” began LGen Dallaire (Ret’d), “therefore our tactics need to change.” As Commander of the UN Mission to Rwanda during the Rwanadan Genocide, LGen Dallaire faced first-hand the horror of children turned into weapons of war and the fundamental moral dilemma all soldiers and police forces face when confronted with an enemy combatant that is not merely a combatant, but also a child. These members of professional forces face the choice: don’t react and either take casualties or give up ground; or, react and have to live with the fact that they have used armed force against a child, they suffer. The Dallaire Initiative aims to address this gap that professional forces have in addressing the child dimension as well as to address the recruitment of children as tools of war. To achieve these ends, it focuses on training, research, and advocacy. Training to military, police, and peacekeepers to provide the necessary tools and knowledge to recognize and prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Research to understand patterns of child recruitment, to identify that such recruitment and use can be a warning sign for mass atrocity and genocide, and to gain insights from former child soldiers. High-level advocacy with states, the United Nations, NATO, the African Union and so on, in an effort to have a direct impact on policy and procedures relating to child soldiers. Critically, the Dallaire Initiative takes a very practical approach to the issue rather than a legalistic approach. In other words, it focuses on practical reasoning for breaking down support among armed forces that recruit and use children, rather than merely on what the law says.  Ultimately, the organization seeks to prevent the recruitment of children before they suffer the horrors of being used as tools of war.

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Now available online, chapter on international criminal law & children

I’ve just posted at SSRN the chapter I published at the beginning of the year in The Cambridge Companion to International Criminal Law, edited by Professor William A. Schabas.

policyThe chapter, entitled “Children,” aims to look back at developments in the area since World War II, and then to cast a forward glance at the comprehensive approach now under way at the International Criminal Court – where, incidentally, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor Policy on Children will be launched on November 16, 2016. I was privileged to help with drafting in my capacity as Special Adviser to the Prosecutor on this issue. (prior posts) The date coincides with the start of the annual meeting of the ICC Assembly of States Parties.

Here’s the abstract for my article:

cambridgeThis chapter, which appears in The Cambridge Companion to International Criminal Law (William A. Schabas ed. 2016), discusses how international criminal law instruments and institutions address crimes against and affecting children. It contrasts the absence of express attention in the post-World War II era with the multiple provisions pertaining to children in the 1998 Statute of the International Criminal Court. The chapter examines key judgments in that court and in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, as well as the ICC’s current, comprehensive approach to the effects that crimes within its jurisdiction have on children. The chapter concludes with a discussion of challenges to the prevention and punishment of such international crimes.

SSRN e-journals where this abstract may be found (thanks to always-welcome assistance from TJ Striepe of Georgia Law’s Alexander Campbell King Law Library) include the University of Georgia School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series and the Dean Rusk International Law Center Research Paper Series.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes)