Accountability Counsel Internships

One of the premier human rights law firms in the country – Accountability Counsel – is looking for students and recent graduates interested in international law, human rights, accountability, dispute resolution, complex negotiations, environmental justice, corporate accountability, women’s rights, and/or international development.

Accountability Council:

assists communities around the world to defend their environmental and human rights. …

and seeks to

hold corporate and institutional violators accountable through our dual approaches: direct support to communities and policy advocacy.

The organization in particular works on behalf of people and communities harmed by internationally-financed projects through community driven and policy level strategies to access justice.

The following opportunities are now open for our Fall 2016 unpaid Fellow and Intern Programs:

  • Law Fellow – San Francisco – 2L and 3L law students or recent law school graduates (within one year of graduation).
  • South Asia Law Fellow – Washington, D.C – 2L and 3L law students or recent law school graduates (within one year of graduation).
  • Policy Fellow – Washington, D.C. – law students, graduate students currently studying policy and/or another related field, or recent graduates (within one year of graduation).
  • Data Analyst Fellow – San Francisco – graduate students and recent graduates (within one year of graduation) in a related field of data or statistics.
  • Communications & Operations Intern – San Francisco – undergraduate students or recent graduates (within one year of graduation).
  • Data Intern – San Francisco – undergraduate students or recent graduates (within one year of graduation).

Any interested students/recent graduates should consult the website for more information.  To apply, students must complete an online application form.

CICIG’s investigations show web of corruption in Guatemalan state. Now, what’s next?

Two weeks ago, CICIG (International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala) revealed that the Partido Popular (PP), the former governing party of now disgraced and imprisoned former president Otto Pérez Molina and his—also incarcerated—vice president Roxana Baldetti, was engaged in a web of corruption far more extensive than initially thought. Shortly after reaching power, the party, under the direction of President Pérez Molina, had established an organized criminal structure that had seized the state, and developed an elaborate scheme of collusion between the local private sector and the state to enrich public servants and grant companies easy access to government contracts.

The revelations come just as the so-called Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras) are about to receive a large infusion of international assistance through the $750 million U.S. funded Alliance for Prosperity that, rather than being limited to security sector support, seeks to stimulate economic development and strengthen democratic institutions. But given what CICIG has now revealed, are Guatemala and the other recipients ready to adopt the structural changes necessary to effectively channel and apply these funds, to address corruption at its roots?

CICIG was established in 2007 under the auspices of the United Nations to investigate organized criminal networks with links to the state. It is bound by Guatemalan law and must work closely with the country’s Public Ministry. CICIG’s operations have had their ups and downs, as has been documented in a recent report by the Open Society Justice Initiative. However, under the current leadership of Colombian prosecutor Iván Velásquez, it has made important strides in uncovering corruption and eroding impunity of even some of the most powerful.

CICIG’s most important case to date was brought to light in April 2015, when the investigatory body revealed a corruption scheme within the country’s customs authority. That case, named “La Línea,” implicated then-President Otto Pérez Molina and Vice-President Roxana Baldetti, as well as other high-level officials. The massive public outcry that followed led to the resignation of both the President and the Vice-President. Since then, CICIG and the Public Ministry have continued their investigations, and in the following months uncovered more such corruption rings involving high-level officials and prominent businesspeople.

Additional information retrieved through searches and phone taps exposed an even more extensive scheme than originally thought. In June 2016, CICIG concluded that the PP, the former government party, rather than having engaged in occasional (but serious) acts of corruption, was essentially an organized criminal enterprise whose primary purpose was to reach power to gain access to public resources for private gain. Continue reading

Joanna Madej: Presentation at ApacheCon 2016

One of the main questions of contemporary (international) law comes from the increasingly blurred line between the public and private— how do we treat private organizations taking on the responsibilities and roles previously firmly grounded in the public sphere? In an increasingly digitized world, the dichotomies between the public and private are disappearing at a rapid pace. As greater parts of individuals’ daily lives occur through interfaces and online, the norms regulating software companies become increasingly relevant beyond the world of computer scientists.
Rather than looking at government regulation of technology, in my presentation at the Apache Software Foundation’s ApacheCon, I addressed how software companies regulate themselves. Exploring the formation of open standards, I drew parallels between how software companies and states form binding agreements. Looking at software companies and states, I examined “anarchic” environments, the roles of consortia as venues for agreements and compared de jure and de facto standards with customary and treaty-based law— ultimately identifying an “international politics” of software.

Palestine Works is accepting applications for the Young Palestinian Lawyers Fellowship

Supported by German Cooperation and implemented in partnership with Deutsche Gessellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Young Palestinian Lawyer Fellowship (YPLF) brings together young Palestinian lawyers and their foreign counterparts for knowledge exchange and professional development. The YPLF includes a writing competition, moot court competition, presentations regarding international law as applied to the question of Palestine, and workshops on practical lawyering skills, centered around a conference taking place in Ramallah, July 18-22 2016. Scholarships will be awarded for outstanding papers, arguments, and oral briefs.
The YPLF is open to lawyers of all backgrounds who are in their first seven years of practice. Palestinians lawyers and law students (including diaspora Palestinians) are encouraged to apply.  Candidates must have demonstrated proficiency in English. Candidates can access the online application form and learn more about the fellowship by visiting the website at www.yplf.org.  Applicants are strongly encouraged to review the program FAQ before applying.
The YPLF fosters knowledge exchange, mentoring, and professional cooperation between the Palestinian and global legal communities through its educational components, including writing and mooting competitions, as well as driving sustained cross-border relationships amongst the participants
Please note that a stipend for accommodation costs associated with conference participation will be offered on a case by case basis.

 

Strengthening National Justice for Core International Crimes

The Case Matrix Network are organising a conference on Strengthening National Justice for Core International Crimes: Laws, Procedures and Practices in an Age of Legal Pluralism on 28 June in The Hague.

This conference will analyse some of the challenges faced by national and international criminal justice actors, who are working at different stages of accountability processes, as well as the measures being taken to address them:

  • What are the choices faced by justice actors in determining, pursuing and assisting justice efforts for conduct that may amount to core international crimes?
  • How to evaluate the types of fora or jurisdictions, the necessity for legal reforms or the situations or specific violations to address?
  • How to navigate evidence collection and analysis for different fora or jurisdictions?
  • When to adopt different fact-finding standards and procedures of evidence collection, security measures for investigators, victims and witnesses?
  • Why select or prioritise cases for criminal justice and can criteria provide fairness and transparency?
  • How are these decisions shaped by the context of conflict, transition or recognition, and what are the opposing pressures and restrictions of material resources, operational capacity and capability faced by the executive, investigation and prosecution authorities, judiciary, legislature and civil society?

For more information on the event, please visit the conference website.

Engendering Reparations in Forced Sterilization Case

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights recently heard its second reproductive rights case, IV v. BoliviaThis case deals with the sterilization of a migrant Bolivian woman who did not give prior informed consent to the doctors who performed her sterilization. The judgment will be released in the coming months, and is expected to be the first Inter-American Court case to apply the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (“Convention of Belém do Pará”) to a woman’s reproductive rights case. This is especially exciting because the Court’s first reproductive rights case, Artavia Murillo et al. (“In vitro fertilization”) v. Costa Rica failed to examine women’s reproductive rights violations through the Convention of Belém do Pará, which ultimately resulted in reparations that were gender-free. The IV v. Bolivia case presents an opportunity for the Inter-American Court to connect gender stereotyping to forced sterilization. It also provides a forum for the Court to expand upon its gender-based analysis in previous women’s rights cases in order to frame reproductive violations within a violence against women framework.

Ciara O’Connell (University of Sussex) and representatives from Dejusticia,  Diana Guarnizo-Peralta and César Rodríguez Garavito, submitted an amicus curiae brief in this case  in order to emphasize the need to repair gender-based harm in reproductive rights cases. The amicus reviews the Inter-American Court’s jurisprudence in relation to gender stereotyping, and in doing so highlights the advancements and shortcomings in how the Court defines the role of women in society. The amicus suggests that the sterilization of “IV” was not an individual violation, but rather, this case is emblematic and represents a culture of gender-based discrimination and “paternalistic control” within the Bolivian medical sector. The final elements of the amicus suggest specific reparation measures designed to address gender discrimination and stereotyping, and the need to comply with international standards on informed consent.

If you’re interested, the amicus can be downloaded here in both English and Spanish. And, the public hearing before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights can be viewed here.

The humanitarian quest for accountability: Examining the role of UNHCR

UNHCR 2015: A difficult crisis

The European refugee crisis has been a difficult experience for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). On the one hand, UNHCR has been criticized by civil society and the humanitarian community for not being present on Greek islands. On the other hand, the organization has experienced difficulties in negotiating this access with Greek authorities. In addition to criticism of UNHCRs actions/inactions in Greece, the organization also faced criticism for not doing enough to push states across Europe to admit a bigger responsibility for the refugee crisis, and to accept greater numbers of refugees for resettlement.

In the fall of 2015, there was explicit criticism of previous High Commissioner of Refugees, Antonio Guterres, as it was argued that his ambitions of becoming the new United Nations Secretary General was getting in the way of confronting European states more explicitly to  ensure that they live up to their responsibility as stated in the 1951 Refugee Convention:

“The heads of U.N. agencies with ‘well-nourished careers’ prefer to ‘put out cutesy heart-warming videos’ about individual refugees rather than criticize governments… They want another U.N. job … And they won’t get it if they piss governments off. You have to start shaming governments. That’s how things get done.”

Laying a new path under high commissioner Grandi?

Now things may be changing. Prior to the much debated EU-Turkey refugee deal, the new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, stated that the potential refugee bottleneck in Greece was a major topic of discussion. And during a February 2016 visit to Athens, he took the opportunity to criticize “the border closures and the inability of European countries to face the refugee crisis with generosity and unity”. Only weeks later (in March 2016), the organization explicitly distanced itself from the EU-Turkey plan, as potentially undermining the tenants of international refugee protection.

Arguably this marks a shift in how UNHCR interprets and enacts its function as a key international actor tasked with the important job of holding states accountable to their commitments to international refugee protection (1951 Convention). And now that the EU-Turkey deal has become is a reality, it is certainly worth noticing that UNHCR was not part of the deal making. Instead, UNHCR is now looking to the future: “Let’s see what the European courts has to say on this,” said Vincent Cochetel, who is leading the UNHCR’s response to the crisis in Europe. A deal might be legal if Turkey overhauls its asylum system and guarantees that those returned are not kept in detention and are given a proper chance of claiming refuge, which is not currently the case, says Mr Cochetel. Other than Europeans, only Syrians have any right to claim shelter in Turkey under its current system. Accordingly, in line with UNHCR’s policy on opposing mandatory detention, the organization has suspended provision of transport to and from detention sites on Greek islands, and has also expressed concern that Greece may have deported asylum seekers by mistake, in violation of international law.

Good Enough Accountability as existential challenge

These contradictory examples illustrate what amounts to an existential challenge not only for UNHCR, but for the humanitarian enterprise as a whole, namely the quest for good enough accountability.  In situations where the host state may be unable or unwilling to protect civilians, humanitarians step in to provide governance, care and protection. With a record-high number of humanitarian emergencies and displaced individuals worldwide, there are more humanitarian organizations doing more things in more places than ever before. They are not elected and are mostly unencumbered by legal obligations towards the communities they proclaim to work for. While the humanitarian sector has developed its own ‘accountability-industry’, humanitarians continue to express concern about how accountability-initiatives are skewed towards donors, at the expense of accountability towards crisis-affected communities and individuals. At the same time, there is deep disagreement about what good enough accountability might look like, how it might be achieved and what resources humanitarians and donors would be willing to invest towards reaching a satisfactory level of accountability.

A knowledge gap: Conceptualizing the history and ‘technologies of accountability’

Despite the key importance of accountability for the legitimacy of humanitarian action, inadequate academic attention has been given to how the concept of accountability is evolving within the specific branches of the humanitarian enterprise. Up to now, there exists no comprehensive account of what we label the ‘technologies of accountability’, the effects of their interaction, or the question of how the current turn to decision-making software and biometrics as both the means and ends of accountability may contribute to reshaping humanitarian governance.

In a recent book, UNHCR and the Struggle for Accountability: Technology, Law and Results-Based Management (Routledge Humanitarian Studies series) we explore UNHCR’s quest for accountability by viewing the UNHCR’s accountability obligations through the web of institutional relationships within which the agency is placed (beneficiaries, host governments, implementing partners, donors, the Executive Committee and UNGA). The book takes a multidisciplinary approach in order to illuminate the various layers and relationships that constitute accountability and also to reflect on what constitutes good enough accountability.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction: The Quest for an Accountability Cure Katja Lindskov Jacobsen & Kristin Bergtora Sandvik
  • UNHCR and the Complexity of Accountability in the Global Space Niamh Kinchin
  • Advancing UNHCR Accountability through the Law of International Responsibility Maja Janmyr
  • Narratives of accountability in UNHCR’s refugee resettlement strategy Adèle Garnier
  • UNHCR and accountability for IDP protection in Colombia Miriam Bradley
  • Universalizing the refugee category and struggling for accountability: the every-day work of eligibility officers within UNHCR Marion Fresia and Andreas von Känel
  • Accounting for the Past, A history of refugee management in Uganda, 1959-64 Ashley B. Rockenbach
  • How accountability technologies shape international protection: results-based management and rights-based approaches revisited Kristin Bergtora Sandvik
  • UNHCR, Accountability and Refugee Biometrics Katja Lindskov Jacobsen

 

Kristin Bergtora Sandvik is an Associate Professor at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law at University of Oslo and a Senior Researcher at PRIO.

Katja Lindskov Jacobsen is Senior Researcher at The Centre for Military Studies at Copenhagen University, Department of Political Science.