Female Voices at the 12th International Humanitarian Law Dialogs

I had the pleasure to attend the 12th International Humanitarian Law Dialogs in Chautauqua, New York, from August 26-28.  This post will brief highlight notable female contributions to this year’s conference.

Catherine Marchi Uhel

Catherine Marchi-Uhel, Head of IIIM (Katherine B. Fite Lecture, 12th IHL Dialogs)

As usual, Intlawgrrls sponsored the Katherine B. Fite lecture; this year’s lecturer was Catherine Marchi-Uhel, the recently appointed Head of the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria (IIIM).  Catherine Marchi-Uhel is a French national who began her career in the French judiciary, and then held several different posts at the United Nations, including in Bosnia, Kosovo, New York, and at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.  In addition and as usual, Intlawgrrls sponsored a porch session.  This year’s porch session was on the topic of “Victims and International Criminal Tribunals.”  The session was moderated by yours truly, and included Professors Jennifer Trahan, Yvonne Dutton, and Valerie Oosterveld as speakers.

IntlawGrrls Porch Session

Intlawgrrls Porch Session: Professors Oosterveld, Sterio, Dutton, and Trahan (from left to right)

Other notable lectures and panels by female professors included the “Year in Review” lecture by Professor Valerie Oosterveld, a lecture on “Legal Limits to the Use of the Veto in the Face of Atrocity Crimes” by Professor Jennifer Trahan, and the “Ferencz Issues Panel: Is the Justice We Seek the Justice They Want?” moderated by Professor Leila Sadat (panelists included Zainab Bangura, Binta Mansaray, and Catherine Read).  The recipient of the Heintz Award this year were Allyson Caison, North Carolina Stop Torture Now, and Christina Crowger, North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture.

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Recipients of this year’s Heintz Award: Allyson Caison and Christina Cowger 

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Professor Leila Sadat, moderating the “Ferencz Issues Panel”

New supplements to the International Protocol on documentation and investigation of sexual violence in conflict for Iraq, Myanmar and Sri Lanka

Cover_Myanmar_Burmese supplement.jpgOnce hidden and unspoken, reports of sexual violence now feature prominently in daily media dispatches from conflict zones around the world. This visibility has contributed to a new emphasis on preventing and addressing such violence at the international level.

Promoting the investigation and documentation of these crimes is a key component of the international community’s response. However, this response requires thoughtful and skilled documenters.  Poor documentation may do more harm than good, retraumatising survivors, and undermining future accountability efforts.

Recently, the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI) and international anti-torture organisation REDRESS, with the funding support of the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), have launched a series of country-specific guides to assist those documenting and investigating conflict-related sexual violence in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Iraq.

The guides (available in English, Burmese, Tamil, Sinhalese, Arabic and Kurdish on the REDRESS and IICI websites) complement the second edition of the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict, published in March 2017 by the FCO.

The Protocol aims to support practitioners to document appropriately by providing a “set of guidelines setting out best practice on how to document, or investigate, sexual violence as a war crime, crime against humanity, act of genocide or other serious violation of international criminal, human rights or humanitarian law”. It is a tremendous resource for practitioners, covering theoretical, legal and practical aspects of documentation.

However, as the Protocol itself makes clear, documentation of conflict-related sexual violence is highly context-specific. Each conflict situation and country has individual legal and practical aspects that must be considered alongside the Protocol’s guidelines.

The guides aim to fill this gap by addressing the context for and characteristics of conflict-related sexual violence in the three countries. They address legal avenues for justice domestically and at the international level, specific evidential and procedural requirements and practical issues that may arise when documenting such crimes.

The publication of these guides on the three different countries highlights some interesting comparisons and contrasts.  Although the background to and most common forms of sexual violence differ from country to country, the motivations for the violence have parallels. Similarly, the stigmatisation of survivors is a grave concern in each country, influencing all aspects of daily life for them and the way that institutions and individuals respond to the crimes committed against them.

In all three countries, a landscape of almost complete impunity prevails, and in many situations survivors, their families and practitioners face significant threats to their security – often from state actors (e.g. police, military, state security). This harsh reality is borne out by the fact that although the drafting of the supplements relied heavily on the experience and input of local practitioners, due to security concerns, very few were able to be individually acknowledged for their contributions.  Continue reading

International Law And National Security: A View From Abroad On Current Trends In Targeting, Detention, And Trials

On May 18, from 6-7:30 pm, in Cardozo Law School’s Moot Court Room, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Cardozo Law School will co-host an essential program for anyone interested in the application of international law to national security.

This event will feature some of the most active and respected experts in the field from abroad to discuss their view of international law and national security in the United States and around the globe in light of recent political upheavals. The panel will be moderated by yours truly (Prof. Beth Van Schaack of Stanford Law School).

For further information, please see the flyer below. There will be a reception after the event.

To register: Eventbriteppflyernorsvp.

On the Job! Gender Project Consultant in NYC; Clinical Fellow @ Duke Law

On the Job! compiles interesting vacancy notices, as follows:

logoThe Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack. Applications are welcome from Ph.Ds, Ph.D candidates or other advanced research training in fields such as gender, human right, humanitarian assistance or education for the position of GCPEA Gender Project Consultant.  The holder of this position will conduct research and develop gender-specific recommendations on protecting girls and women from attacks on education and military use of educational institutions. They will work approximately 65 days between April and November 2017, presenting research to the GC{EAGender Project Working Group and external reviewers. Applications will be reviewed as received until the position is filled; details here.

download► Duke University Law School. Applications are welcome from individuals with 2-5 years experience with international human rights for a supervising attorney/clinical fellow to join the international human rights program and clinic beginning in Summer 2017, led by Professor Jayne Huckerby. The holder of this position will primarily help supervise student fieldwork in Clinic projects and participate in the planning and teaching of the Clinic advocacy seminar, among other opportunities, supervised by the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic. Deadline is April 16, 2017; details here. 

Call for Papers: 2017 AHRI Conference

The Promotion and Enforcement of Human Rights by International and Regional Organizations: Achievements, Challenges and Opportunities

Conference: 27-28 April 2017, Leuven (BE)
Deadline for abstract submissions: 2 January 2017

The Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI), the FRAME Project and the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies (KU Leuven) are pleased to announce a call for papers for the 2017 AHRI Conference, which will be held in Leuven. This international conference aims to take a broad and comparative view of the achievements and potential, but also of the challenges of international and regional organizations in promoting and enforcing human rights. Further details of the call can be found in the attached document.
Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, KU Leuven
Charles Deberiotstraat 34
3000 Leuven
BELGIUMwww.globalgovernancestudies.eu
info@ggs.kuleuven.be
+32 16 32 87 25

Documenting Human Rights in South Sudan

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Victoria Akur (left) and Grace John (right), members of South Sudanese CSOs, with Milena Sterio (middle).

On behalf of the Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG), a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization (NGO), I participated in a four-day workshop in Nairobi, Kenya.  The workshop was entitled “South Sudan Human Rights Documentation Initiative” and it built on existing PILPG Work in South Sudan.  This particular workshop brought together approximately forty participants: several PILPG members, including yours truly as a consultant, members of various South Sudanese civil society organizations (CSOs), a United Nations representative, as well as members of a partner organization, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), a South African NGO.

The workshop was structured over four long days of presentations, interactive dialogs, exercises and guided simulations.  The specific topics covered during the workshop included specifics of documentation in general, such as purposes of documentation, preserving documents, various investigation options and tools, and involving women in human rights documentation efforts.  One day of the programming was organized by the CSVR, with a specific focus on the psycho-social effects of trauma, and the effects of violence and trauma on documentation efforts.  The outcome of the workshop will be the drafting of a joint agreement on a human rights documentation roadmap, as well as the beginning of ongoing discussions with representatives of South Sudanese CSOs regarding how international groups and NGOs can assist in future documentation efforts.

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Kenyan coffee (it helped during long days of workshops).

This post will explore the purposes and importance of documentation efforts in South Sudan.  South Sudan is a war-torn country.  It gained its independence from Sudan in 2011, through a public referendum where the majority of South Sudanese voted in favor of separating from Sudan.  The referendum came at the heels of a decades-long independence war during which South Sudanese rebels fought against the Khartoum regime.  South Sudanese independence, although initially celebrated, did little to quell the ongoing conflict.  The independence in many ways exacerbated already existing tribal and ethnic rivalries, resulting in new violence and civil conflict pitting two major South Sudanese groups against each other: the Dinka and the Nuer.  The Dinka-Nuer conflict, deeply rooted in South Sudanese colonial history and reflected in the independence rebellion itself, has by now involved other minority groups who have been forced to align each other with either the Dinka or the Nuer and to thereby take a more active role in the fighting.  The current South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, is Dinka, and the government regime is composed of mostly ethnic Dinkas.  The Nuer feel particularly vulnerable under this regime, and have reported that police and security forces working on behalf of the government have targeted not just Nuer fighters, but civilians as well.

Documenting human rights violations in this type of climate appears as the first step toward peace-building and reconciliation; ultimately, documented human rights violations can lead toward accountability and can serve a particular role in potential prosecutions of perpetrators of human rights abuses.

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Urban safari at the Nairobi National Forest.

Other countries have already implemented various human rights documentation efforts.  Various groups have worked on documenting human rights abuses in places such as Brazil, Guatemala, Argentina, Cambodia, etc. These efforts, which were briefly discussed during the Nairobi workshop, can serve as models for South Sudan and can provide successful examples of documenting and archiving human rights abuses, and using them toward both reconciliation and accountability.  In addition to serving as a first step toward accountability, documenting human rights violations can serve other purposes, such as building a fair and neutral historical narrative about the South Sudanese conflict, memorializing various types of violence, building long-lasting peace and promoting reconciliation. All of these different purposes of human rights documentation were discussed at the workshop. The ultimate conclusion of the workshop was that documenting human rights violations for all its possible purposes was of particular importance in South Sudan, and that the country’s CSOs would take the lead in this project.

This Tuesday (5/5): UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay at Stanford

For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area on May 5, Stanford University’s WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice is pleased to present its Inaugural Public Lecture on Human Rights with Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. She will address The Protection and Promotion of Human Rights: Achievements and Challenges at 5:30 p.m. on May 5 in CEMEX Auditorium at Stanford University (641 Knight Way).

The address will cover Ms. Navi Pillay’s work as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on prevention of human rights violations and implementation of human rights principles, as well as the activities of the UN Human Rights mechanisms such as the Human Rights Council, Treaty Bodies, and Special Procedures. She will also share her insights on future human rights challenges.

Navi Pillay served at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to 2014. Her tenure was marked by a focus on addressing discrimination on all grounds, including against previously unaddressed groups such as migrants, LGBT people, people with albinism, and caste-based discrimination. She oversaw the 2011 launch of Free & Equal, an unprecedented global public education campaign to promote greater respect for LGBT rights, and the Secretary-General’s endorsement of the Rights Up Front policy, which ensures that every UN department, regardless of mandate, is committed to advancing the protection of human rights.

A native of South Africa, Pillay was the first non-white female judge of the High Court of South Africa, and previously served as a judge at the International Criminal Court and President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda where she oversaw groundbreaking jurisprudence on rape as genocide, and on issues of freedom of speech and hate propaganda.

Attendees can kindly RSVP to Jessie Brunner at jbrunner@stanford.edu. We hope to see you there!

A note about the Handa Center:

The WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice is dedicated to promoting the rule of law, accountability, and human rights around the world, in post-conflict settings, developing countries, and in societies grappling with difficult legacies from a historical period of violent conflict. Through research and international programs, the Handa Center supports and helps improve the work of domestic courts, international tribunals, and human rights commissions around the world. Relying on a small core group of lawyers, scholars, student interns, and volunteers, the Center concentrates its resources where it can make a real difference helping people make sense of the past, come to terms with periods of violent social upheaval, and build institutions that will promote justice and accountability. The Center is further committed to increasing awareness and raising the level of discourse around new developments in the fields of human rights and international law. To this end, the Handa Center has dedicated itself to becoming a major public resource center for the study of war crimes and human rights trials, where students, scholars, and legal practitioners can take advantage of new technologies to access unique archival resources from World War II through contemporary international criminal trials. The Handa Center succeeds and carries on all the work of the University of California at Berkeley’s War Crimes Studies Center, which was established by Professor David Cohen in 2000.