IL Newswire

UN: Renewing Efforts to Combat 'Sexual Exploitation and Abuse'

Ms. Jane Holl Lute, the Special Coordinator on improving the UN's response to sexual exploitation and abuse, was made responsible in February 2016 for creating a more streamlined approach to resolving these issues when caused by UN peacekeepers. Ms. Lute has recently outlined the results of her efforts: a four-part approach aimed at "putting the victims first."

The necessary change is meant to occur both in how the UN handles such cases and in how its own peacekeepers act on the ground. In investigating existing situations, the UN strategy will be to first place utmost importance on the dignity and rights of the victims; second, the organization will end the policy of immunity given to UN peacekeepers found responsible for sexual abuses; third, the UN will consult third-party experts, which would ensure accountability; and finally, the organization will focus on raising awareness both in- and outside the UN itself.

In an effort to combine all of these steps into action, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres intends to call upon each of the four UN field missions that "account for the highest numbers of incidents" to appoint a victims' rights advocate "on the ground"; that is, an external advocate housed within each mission to ensure accountability and justice for the victims. The peacekeeping missions with the highest number of reported incidents are in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The UN's new approach is meant to focus both on prevention as well as response. Preventive measures include "mandatory training, sensitization, risk management and enhanced screening of all incoming personnel – be it military, police or civilian – for prior misconduct while serving with the UN." When responding to existing issues, efforts include the immediate deployment of response teams to "gather and preserve evidence", quick-moving investigations, and pursuing accountability measures within the Member States, including imprisoning peacekeepers that are found guilty.

Ms. Lute reaffirmed the need to address the issue as a crisis affecting the entire organization, and not just the peacekeeping missions directly involved: "This is a problem that all of us have to address, system-wide. And we need to begin by thinking through: how can we become a global example of a standards-based organisation of best practice?” 

Read more here. You may also access the "Peacekeeping Initiatives in Action: Addressing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse" fact sheet here.

Boko Haram's Use of Children as Suicide Bombers is Only One of Many War Crimes

A girl carries her sister as another stands by her in the village of Mao in Chad. Photo: UNICEF/Tremeau

A girl carries her sister as another stands by her in the village of Mao in Chad. Photo: UNICEF/Tremeau

UNICEF has reported that Boko Haram's use of children in "violent attacks," particularly suicide bombings, in the Lake Chad region has increased tremendously in 2017. At least 27 children have been used as suicide bombers in attacks orchestrated by Boko Haram from January through March of this year within Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon. This is a three-fold increase from the nine documented child bombers used within the same period in 2016.

Unfortunately, these findings constitute only the most recent of the countless horrific acts the group has committed in the region. According to Makmid Kamara, Amnesty International’s interim country director for Nigeria, Boko Haram has conducted almost daily abductions and attacks in the region, most of which can easily be identified as war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Many times these acts are openly directed against children, such as the infamous and still unresolved abduction of over 200 Nigerian girls in 2014. But the use of children as actual perpetrators in the crimes stokes disagreement on how to handle any sort of prosecution, as some believe these children are then complicit in the acts. This is especially prevalent in the communities most affected by Boko Haram's activities. In fact, the same UNICEF report found that children who'd been held captive by Boko Haram typically must keep their experiences a secret, or risk violence and retribution from their communities upon their return.

Humanitarian officials have openly disagreed with such treatment, such as the UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier. In a news release accompanying the report, Poirier insisted that these children are typically forced or deceived into committing these violent crimes, rather than taking part of their own will. The isolation that underage perpetrators experience at the hands of their communities may be just as traumatizing as their actual forced participation in the violence itself, further intensifying the harm inflicted upon them.

Although there is some controversy over whether children should be prosecuted for executing war crimes, and indeed some have been prosecuted in the past, the use of children in violent acts is considered a war crime in itself under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998). Additionally, the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (2000) prohibits the use of children in conflict by both state and non-state actors, and asserts that all care possible should be taken to ensure children are not used in such activities. 

Access to the 2017 UNICEF report, Silent Shame: Bringing Out the Voices of Children Caught in the Lake Chad Crisis, can be found here.

When Martin Luther King Came Out Against Vietnam

Matt Rota (New York Times)

Matt Rota (New York Times)

Fifty years ago today — and one year to the day before his assassination — the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the most politically charged speech of his life at Riverside Church in Upper Manhattan. It was a blistering attack on the government’s conduct of the Vietnam War that, among other things, compared American tactics to those of the Nazis during World War II.

The speech drew widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum, including from this newspaper. Other civil rights leaders, who supported the war and sought to retain President Lyndon B. Johnson as a political ally, distanced themselves from Dr. King.

Dr. King’s Riverside Church address exemplified how, throughout his final 18 months of life, he repeatedly rejected the sunny optimism of his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and instead mourned how that dream had “turned into a nightmare.” But the speech also highlighted how for Dr. King, civil rights was never a discrete problem in American society, and that racism went hand in hand with the fellow evils of poverty and militarism that kept the country from living up to its ideals. Beyond signaling his growing radicalism, the Riverside speech reflected Dr. King’s increasing political courage — and shows why, half a century later, he remains a pivotal figure in American history.

As early as the first months of 1965, even before Johnson had begun his troop buildup in Vietnam, Dr. King was calling for a negotiated settlement to the conflict, telling journalists, “I’m much more than a civil-rights leader.” But his criticism of the government’s refusal to halt widespread aerial bombing and pursue peace talks attracted little public comment until that fall, when Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut, a close ally of Johnson, attacked Dr. King and cited an obscure 1799 criminal statute, the Logan Act, that prohibited private citizens from interacting with foreign governments.

Dr. King was privately distraught over the war and Dodd’s response. The F.B.I.’s wiretapping of his closest advisers overheard him telling them “how immoral this is. I think someone should outline how wrong we are.” But he reluctantly agreed that he should “withdraw temporarily” from denouncing the war. “Sometimes the public is not ready to digest the truth,” he said.

Dr. King remained relatively mute about the war through most of 1966, but by year’s end he was expressing private disgust at how increased military spending had torn a gaping budget hole in Johnson’s Great Society domestic programs. “Everything we’re talking about really boils down to the fact that we have this war on our hands,” Dr. King said in yet another wiretapped phone call.

Finally, in early 1967, he had had enough. One day Dr. King pushed aside a plate of food while paging through a magazine whose photographs depicted the burn wounds suffered by Vietnamese children who had been struck by napalm. The images were unforgettable, he said. “I came to the conclusion that I could no longer remain silent about an issue that was destroying the soul of our nation.”

Even at the time, antiwar opposition remained politically marginal, and Dr. King’s advisers were upset over his desire to participate in a forthcoming mid-April New York protest. In late February, Dr. King joined four antiwar senators — including a Republican, Mark Hatfield of Oregon — at a Los Angeles forum, and a month later he participated in an antiwar march in Chicago.

Both events received modest press coverage, and in their wake Dr. King told Stanley Levison, long his closest adviser: “I can no longer be cautious about this matter. I feel so deep in my heart that we are so wrong in this country and the time has come for a real prophecy and I’m willing to go that road.”

Levison and others arranged for a respectable antiwar group, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, to schedule an appearance at Riverside Church, a bastion of establishment liberalism. For Dr. King, the speech couldn’t come soon enough. Three days prior he told a reporter, “We are merely marking time in the civil rights movement if we do not take a stand against the war.”

At Riverside, Dr. King told the 3,000-person overflow crowd that “my conscience leaves me no other choice” than to “break the betrayal of my own silences” over the past two years. Following the widespread urban riots that had marked the summer of 1966, “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

Dr. King acknowledged how his sense of prophetic obligation had been strengthened by his receipt of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, which represented “a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for ‘the brotherhood of man’ ” — a calling “that takes me beyond national allegiances.” Dr. King emphasized that he counted himself among those who are “bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism.”

Dr. King then turned his full wrath against the war. He insisted that “we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam” and that “we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam.” He alleged that the United States tested its latest weapons on Vietnamese peasants “just as the Germans tested out new medicines and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe,” and he decried “the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets” in South Vietnam.

He recommended that all young men confronting the military draft declare themselves conscientious objectors, and he called for the United States to halt all bombing and announce a unilateral cease-fire while preparing to “make what reparations we can for the damage we have done.”

But the war wasn’t just a mistake; it was “a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.” Civil rights, inequality and American policy in Southeast Asia were all of a larger piece. When “profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” He concluded by calling for “a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation.”

The Riverside crowd gave Dr. King a standing ovation, but editorial denunciations were swift and harsh. The Washington Post criticized his “sheer inventions of unsupported fantasy” and lamented how “many who have listened to him with respect will never again accord him the same confidence.”

The New York Times called Dr. King’s remarks both “facile” and “slander.” It said the moral issues in Vietnam “are less clear-cut than he suggests” and warned that “to divert the energies of the civil rights movement to the Vietnam issue is both wasteful and self-defeating,” given how the movement needed to confront what the paper called “the intractability of slum mores and habits.”

Even some of the black press lined up against him: The Pittsburgh Courier warned that Dr. King was “tragically misleading” African-Americans on issues that were “too complex for simple debate.”

Dr. King was unmoved. He told Levison that “I was politically unwise but morally wise. I think I have a role to play which may be unpopular,” for “I really feel that someone of influence has to say that the United States is wrong, and everybody is afraid to say it.”

Dr. King was indeed ahead of his time, but not for long. A year later, antiwar sentiment pushed Johnson out of his re-election bid, and today we remember opposition to the war as a widespread phenomenon, so much so that Dr. King’s Riverside Church speech is often overlooked as just one more statement against an unpopular conflict.

But it would be a mistake to read Dr. King’s speech as merely an antiwar statement. It reflected his widening worldview that chronic domestic poverty and military adventurism overseas infected the wealthiest nation on earth just as indelibly as did deep-rooted racism. It went to the heart of the multilayered social and political conflicts of the 1960s — and, like all great rhetoric, continues to speak to us today.


This article originally appeared in the New York Times on 4 April 2017

Settlement Construction Continues in West Bank Amid Renewed Tensions

The hills around the Palestinian villages in the Shilo valley are increasingly being topped with Israeli settlements [Leila Molana-Allen/Al Jazeera]

The hills around the Palestinian villages in the Shilo valley are increasingly being topped with Israeli settlements [Leila Molana-Allen/Al Jazeera]

An Israeli settlement in the Shilo Valley of occupied West Bank has been under construction since its announcement last week. The new settlement is meant to relocate around 50 Israeli families from a settlement recently dismantled by the Israeli Supreme Court in February. 

The Shilo Valley settlement is the first to be authorized by Israel in about two decades, and comes less than a week after the UN openly criticized Israel for refusing to stop construction on occupied Palestinian territory. The UN Security Council had deemed such settlements illegal and demanded under Resolution 2334 that existing settlements and settlement construction be halted. Though this resolution was passed in December of 2016, Israel has not complied with the order in the ensuing months, resulting in renewed tensions and controversy in the region.

It is believed that settlements such as the one in Shilo Valley could pose a threat to the livelihood of Palestinian residents in the area, specifically for those who rely on farming for their income. With more Israeli residents flowing into the area, Palestinians may be forced to relocate their farms as the land becomes more densely populated. Some report a reduction in job and education opportunities as a whole, increasing the tensions already present between the two groups.

Read more here.

Statement by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group at the third thematic debate of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the General Assembly

Statement delivered on behalf of the ACT Group at the United Nations on 10 April 2017:

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency group or in short ACT, a cross-regional group comprised of the following 25 small and mid-sized countries working together to improve the working methods of the Security Council: Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Gabon, Ghana, Hungary, Ireland, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Maldives, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Portugal, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay.

The work done in this working group on the cluster of the selection and appointment process of the Secretary-General and other executive heads has been truly groundbreaking and we are looking forward to a fruitful discussion on these issues also at this session. Even though the new and historically open selection process has just culminated with the appointment of an excellent Secretary-General, we believe that there is still room for improvement in the future, in particular in terms of communication between the Security Council and the General Assembly.

The Ad Hoc Working Group with the consensual adoption of resolutions 69/321 and 70/305 has undoubtedly impacted the whole process from the declaration of candidatures to the informal open dialogues with the wider membership and civil society. We are convinced that the standards achieved throughout this process should be applied and strengthened in all future selection processes. We have to guarantee that principles found in these resolutions become the norm in the future and are fully implemented.

Furthermore, the crucial role of the President of the General Assembly during the process contributed to uplifting the role of the General Assembly during the process and increased the inclusiveness and empowerment of all the member states during the informal dialogues with the different candidates. The fact that the PGA insisted on following the same procedure for all of the candidates prevented any attempts at selecting a candidate from outside the list.

The ACT group is currently drawing its final conclusions on the latest selection process and we will be glad to share the outcome with you all shortly. In this wider lessons learned process reflecting the achievements during the process and identifying the forthcoming challenges we would like to commend the thorough work done by the civil society and especially the 1for7billion campaign. In this regard, we are studying with great interest the excellent overview Security Council Report published last week.


In addition, during this session of the working group we could exchange views on the ways how to improve the communication between the Security Council and the General Assembly. For example, the fact that straw polls’ results are not openly communicated to the Member States does not live up to the expectations of the membership and the new standard of openness and transparency.  We could as well further explore the possibilities of strengthening the role of the General Assembly in drafting and adopting the appointment resolution of the Secretary-General. 
Moreover, the ACT group has been strongly advocating for the Secretary-General to exercise independence in the selection of senior officials as well as respect for the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity in these appointments, while ensuring equal and fair distribution based on gender and geographical balance. We acknowledge the timely and open request by the Secretariat to all Member States to nominate candidates to supplement Secretary-General’s own search and consultation to ensure a wide pool of candidates while stressing the importance of human rights screening and welcoming the nomination of women candidates, especially from developing countries.

Along the same line, the ACT group would like to propose that during this session we elaborate on ways to create a code of ethics for the executive heads and the Senior Management Group of the organization similarly to the code of ethics we created for the President of the General Assembly during the previous session.
In conclusion, let me assure you that the ACT group is looking forward to participating constructively in the meetings of this working group and is looking forward to exchanging views with other groups and delegations to improve the functioning of the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Seeks New Talks Regarding Western Sahara Conflict

Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has renewed the call for negotiations regarding the conflicted Western Sahara region. Both Morocco and separatist group the Polisario Front have laid claim to the region since 1975, when colonial Spain withdrew from the area. 

The Polisario Front, representative of the region's indigenous Saharawi people, declared the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in the eastern portion of Western Sahara in 1976. SADR is now a member of the African Union and is recognized by several states. Morocco, of course, disputes the legitimacy of SADR and continues to administer the western portion of Western Sahara. A buffer zone filled with landmines and barricades divides the two sections, only serving to fuel the conflict.

Secretary-General Guterres hopes the talks can be conducted with a "new spirit," as he believes that "for progress to be made, the negotiations must be open to both parties' proposals and ideas." He also welcomed the inclusion of the international community into the negotiations, asserting that both "Algeria and Mauritania, as neighbouring countries, can and should make important contributions to this process."

For their parts, both Morocco and the Polisario Front seem to be more open to the possibility of negotiations. Moroccan representatives acknowledged that the UN report's calls for "a mutually acceptable political solution" are more objective towards the conflict than they had been in the past. The Polisario Front welcomes talks that are serious and unbiased, but does not believe neighboring states should have a say in the outcome.

Although more thorough communication needs to be accomplished before negotiations can take place, these statements by both Morocco and the Polisario Front are an important step to resolving the conflict. 

Read more here.

ICC: South Africa Defends its Decision Not to Arrest Omar al-Bashir

South African President Jacob Zuma (Left) and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (Right) at the 24th African Union Summit of the NEPAD Heads of State/Government Orientation Committee in 2011. EPA/Ntswe Mokoena

South African President Jacob Zuma (Left) and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (Right) at the 24th African Union Summit of the NEPAD Heads of State/Government Orientation Committee in 2011. EPA/Ntswe Mokoena

A lawyer representing South Africa at an International Criminal Court (ICC) hearing on 7 April defended the country's decision not to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he was inside South African borders in June 2015. 

As a member of the ICC and state party to the Rome Statute, South Africa was expected to turn Bashir over to the Court for his outstanding warrants of arrest for committing war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. The ICC does not have its own police force and therefore relies upon its members' cooperation in securing wanted individuals whenever they are within member states' sovereign territories. In fact, upon ratifying the Rome Statute of the ICC, member states pledged themselves to turning over those wanted by the ICC or risk the revocation of their membership.

However, at the hearing on 7 April regarding South Africa's actions, representatives of the country declared there had been no wrongdoing. "There is no duty under... the Rome Statute to arrest a serving head of state of a non-state-party such as Omar al-Bashir," the legal representative insisted. In addition to Sudan not being a member of the ICC, South Africa stated Bashir had immunity from arrest under Article 98 of the Rome Statute, which upholds any immunity customary under international law. According to South Africa's representative, the country's leadership believed Bashir had immunity as the head of state of Sudan.

The Court has yet to decide if South Africa flouted its obligations as a member of the ICC, and if so, what action should be taken. It is important to note that the ICC's ability to function is undermined when its signatories refuse to cooperate or threaten to leave as South Africa did earlier this year. Therefore, whatever outcome the Court decides to pursue, it could leave a lasting precedent for similar cases that may arise in the future.


UN Security Council Meets on Syria "Gas Attack"

The United Nations Security Council called an emergency meeting for 5 April 2017 to discuss the suspected chemical warfare attack that occurred 4 April 2017. 

In addition, a joint resolution, proffered by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, called for an objective investigation by the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in addition to calling for "Syria to provide flight plans, flight logs, and other information on its military operations on the day of the assault". No vote was scheduled or acted on in the meeting today. 

During the meeting, French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre declared that inaction is no longer an option. British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft expressed the concern that the Security Council should have taken action on Syria the last time that there was confirmed usage of chemical weapons. 

Acting Representative of Russia to the UN Pyotr Ilichov confirmed the Russian Federation's stance on the unacceptability of chemical weapons but criticized the UN's approach as well as the resolution put forth, calling it irresponsible.

The Syrian representative Munzer Munzer continued to deny any usage by the Syrian army of chemical weapons.

A version of this originally appeared in Al Jazeera on 5 April 2017

Suspected Chemical Attack Kills Dozens in Syria, Amounts to War Crime

Two men in Syria receive treatment after the suspected chemical weapon attack. Photograph: Ammar Abdullah/Reuters

Two men in Syria receive treatment after the suspected chemical weapon attack. Photograph: Ammar Abdullah/Reuters

On the morning of Tuesday, 4 April 2017, dozens of civilians were killed in what is believed to be a chemical weapon attack in the Idlib Province in Syria. The attack is reportedly one of the deadliest in the entire conflict to date, spanning over six years.

Victims exhibited symptoms typically shown with the use of sarin gas - specifically, convulsions, bleeding from the nose and mouth, low oxygen levels, and constricted irises. Even worse, the hospitals in the area are incapable of treating the wounded - currently numbering over 200 - due to structural damage from the incessant bombings by Syrian forces.

Although neither President Bashar al-Assad nor his allies have been definitively found to have caused the attack, Assad has reportedly used sarin gas on the Syrian population before. Despite disarmament deals struck in 2013 to destroy the Assad regime's chemical weapon stockpile by the next year, the same or similar weapons are being used again today, over four years later. 

The stockpiling and use of chemical weapons continues to be prohibited under international law as a war crime. Opposition forces within Syria have appealed to the United Nations Security Council to investigate the situation and to take necessary action.

Nikki Haley Threatened to Withhold Backing for U.N.'s Congo Mission, Then Blinked

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley negotiated with the Security Council over the Congo peacekeeping mission seeking budget cuts for American taxpayers. While she did not receive the demands she originally put forth, she did get some cuts, highlighting the capability and willingness of Ambassador Haley's peers at the U.N. to lower costs of missions. 

"The broader American review of peacekeeping has alarmed some U.N. officials, foreign diplomats, and even some American officials. They view it as a hastily organized project concerned primarily with meeting budget targets by a hostile White House, not one rooted in a strategy for improving the effectiveness of peacekeeping missions.

Many of Ambassador Haley's peers agree that costs can go down, but not if they compromise the effectiveness of the missions they view as necessary. As of this posting, no other missions have been discussed as subject to cuts. 

However, on 30 March 2017, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda made a statement suggesting that the ongoing crimes in the Congo could constitute crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. For a peacekeeping mission to lower personnel in this case could have serious ramifications for this crisis. 

This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy on 30 March 2017

To Punish or to Pardon? Perspectives on Accountability and Forgiveness in the Case of Dominic Ongwen

There is currently a case open in the International Criminal Court against Dominic Ongwen, a former commander in the Lord's Resistance Army. Commencing in 2016, the case against him charges 70 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. 

The article published in the International Justice Monitor provides two perspectives representing public opinion about whether or not Ongwen should be punished or pardoned. The case for punishment resides in the belief of accountability over amnesty. Those who prefer a pardon for Ongwen cite his abduction as a child as a reason for amnesty; his subsequent actions in the LRA stemmed from this abduction. 

To Punish:

"Joyce, a CSO representative working with Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI) said, 'Given what he did in northern Uganda, his background is not very good and so the people who have been victims of his actions may not let him go free even if he is acquitted, so I think he should be tried so as to be on the safer side. My fear is that if Ongwen is left to come out free, people will lose the trust they have in the international justice system.'"

In addition, many of those who favor punishment feel that a trial would act as a deterrent for other LRA commanders. Holding one commander accountable would send a message to both the LRA and the alleged victims of the actions of the LRA. 

To Pardon:

"Many people readily embraced the culture of forgiveness because of sensitization campaigns that promoted it as the best option to ending the conflict. It is therefore the reason why almost 10 years since the return of relative peace to northern many people continue to call for Ongwen to be forgiven."

The supporters of amnesty also believe that had Ongwen not been abducted, he would not have committed these crimes. They cite his manipulation by the LRA to supplement their belief that he perpetrated these atrocities unwillingly. 

A third perspective proffered by the article was the "neutral" view, which takes the side of the victims. Here, it is the welfare of those affected by the LRA's actions that is paramount. 

This article was originally published by the International Justice Monitor on 30 March 2017

South Africa To Appear Before the ICC to Account For Failing To Arrest President Al Bashir

It was released on 30 March 2017 that in early April, South Africa will have to appear before the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court to defend the decision not to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2015. 

In 2016, the ICC invited South Africa to make statement in its defense as to why the Court should not make a finding of non-compliance. The hearing, which will take place in The Hague, will determine:

  • "Whether South Africa failed to comply with its obligation under the Rome Statute by not arresting and surrendering President Omar Al Bashir to the ICC while he was on South African territory despite having received a request by the Court for his arrest and surrender; and if so
  • "Whether a finding of non-compliance by South Africa and referral of the matter to the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute and/or the United Nations Security Council, are warranted."

This article was originally posted by Southern Africa Litigation Center on 30 March 2017

Ivory Coast's Former First Lady Simone Gbagbo Acquitted

News broke Wednesday morning that Simone Gbagbo, the former first lady of Côte d'Ivoire, was acquitted in an Ivoirian court on charges of crimes against humanity. There is currently an outstanding warrant for her arrest issued by the International Criminal Court on four counts of crimes against humanity. Côte d'Ivoire has refused her extradition. 

Former president Laurent Gbagbo is currently on trial at the ICC for crimes against humanity. 

This article originally appeared in BBC News.

What's the Difference Between 'Crimes Against Humanity' and 'Genocide?'

Although the two terms are theoretically very similar, it could be argued that there is a sociological conflict between the two. In an interview of British lawyer Philippe Sands by Robert Coalson, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent, Sands explains the difference between 'Crimes Against Humanity' and 'Genocide':

Crimes against humanity focuses on the killing of large numbers of individuals. The systematic, mass killing of a very large number of individuals will constitute a crime against humanity. Genocide has a different focus. Genocide focuses not on the killing of individuals, but on the destruction of groups. In other words, a large number of individuals who form part of a single group. And the two concepts in this way have different objectives. One aims at protecting the individual; the other aims at protecting the group.

The conflict between the two terms stems from the fact, as Sands puts it, that calling a mass murder 'genocide' reduces the importance of the individual victim. Doing so can be considered unjust, as people are human beings and therefore should be protected and/or given justice as individual human beings. Thus the argument for the term 'crimes against humanity,' as it stresses the humanity of each individual. Yet it could also be argued that people who become victims of mass murder specifically due to their ethnic, religious, or other affiliation really are victimized for being part of that group, and therefore this association cannot be ignored. In other words, they did not become victims simply because they were individual human beings, and so genocide is more appropriate.

The difference between the terms remains complicated, as both seem to be necessary in understanding international justice and yet they conflict with one another. As it stands, both are punishable by international law. Yet it is interesting that debates over international legal standards set decades ago can still be validly debated even today.

This interview was originally posted by The Atlantic.

Mosul: Protection of Civilians Paramount as ISIL Intensifies Use of Human Shields

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Tuesday deplored the massive loss of civilian lives in west Mosul in recent days, victims of actions by ISIL and of airstrikes.

Bodies continue to be found in buildings where civilians were reportedly held by ISIL as human shields, and were subsequently killed by airstrikes conducted by Iraqi Security Forces and International Coalition forces, as well as by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) allegedly planted in the same buildings by ISIL. Numerous other civilians have been killed by shelling and have been gunned down by ISIL snipers as they tried to flee.

“ISIL’s strategy of using children, men and women to shield themselves from attack is cowardly and disgraceful. It breaches the most basic standards of human dignity and morality. Under international humanitarian law, the use of human shields amounts to a war crime,” High Commissioner Zeid said. 

He stressed how vital it is for "the Iraqi Security Forces and their Coalition partners to review how their procedures comply with their obligations under the international humanitarian law principle of precautions, and consider all tactical options available with a view to avoiding civilian loss of life and, in any event, reducing the impact of operations on the civilian population to an absolute minimum.”

Originally posted by the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.

Possessing Nuclear Weapons 'Fundamentally Incompatible' with World's Aspiration for Peace

An atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1 November 1952. Photo: US Government

An atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1 November 1952. Photo: US Government

At the start of a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, a senior UN official highlighted that creating a world free of such weapons is a common obligation of all States – both nuclear and non-nuclear – and called for their inclusive engagement.

“Let us all work harder and more creatively, so that we can achieve our common goal of a world, safer and more secure, without nuclear weapons, and better for all,” said Kim Won-soo, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.

Speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, he also expressed hope that the instrument will also strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and advance the world closer to the total elimination of nuclear weapons and that it would make important contribution to nuclear disarmament and to our ultimate objective of general and complete disarmament.

Yet he acknowledged that defeatism and dismissiveness now permeate international deliberations on disarmament, and cautioned that the public at large seems to be losing interest in the issue. Indeed, it is hard to imagine these days a gathering of one million people in the street in support of nuclear disarmament, as the world witnessed in the 1980s.

“We need to find a new way to inspire and motivate the public in support of disarmament... [Nuclear weapons are] an existential threat facing humanity,” he stated.

Originally posted by the United Nations News Centre.

ICC: Bemba et al. case: Trial Chamber VII issues sentences for five convicted persons

Judges of Trial Chamber VII delivering their decision on the sentencing in the Bemba et al. case during a public hearing held in ICC Courtroom 1 on 22 March 2017 © ICC-CPI

Judges of Trial Chamber VII delivering their decision on the sentencing in the Bemba et al. case during a public hearing held in ICC Courtroom 1 on 22 March 2017 © ICC-CPI

On 22 March 2017, Trial Chamber VII of the International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered its decision on sentencing in the case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido at a public hearing held at the seat of the Court in The Hague, The Netherlands, in the presence of the convicted persons. The Prosecution and the Defence may appeal the decision on sentence within 30 days.

Read the full press release here

It Can Happen Here: Assessing the Risk of Genocide in the US - Dr. James Waller, Keene State College

NEW YORK - The Center for the Development of International Law (CDIL) and the Institute for Global Policy (IGP) are pleased to release an important white paper titled “It Can Happen Here: Assessing the Risk of Genocide in the United States” by Professor James E. Waller, Cohen Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College in New Hampshire, United States. 

Professor Waller’s paper questions:

Could a long, slow attrition of civil and human rights bring our country [the United States] again to the point where genocide – at home or abroad – stands justified as sound political, social, national, and economic strategy? If so, could we recognize the warning signs in that process and have the collective resolve to resist and mitigate them? The purpose of this paper is to offer a sober real-time analysis of those warning signs and assess the degree of risk for genocide in the US.

It would be the epitome of American exceptionalism to believe that we, alone among nations in the world, are immune to genocide. Every country in the world, including the US, is at risk of genocide. Countries simply differ in their degree of risk.

William Pace, President of CDIL and Executive Director of IGP stated,

While we agree with Professor Waller that the danger of genocide being committed in the United States is presently very remote, the increased incidence of hate crimes and xenophobia are undeniable. Our websites have published the warnings issued in the last six months by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, about the dangerous political statements by Donald Trump and other extremist Western politicians.

The High Commissioner warned that campaigns promoting religious discrimination and fear were destabilizing nations and increasing support for terrorist organisations like ISIS.

CDIL and IGP are honored to publish papers related to the purposes and principles of our missions. The Center and the Institute have as primary goals the national, regional and global legal enforcement of international humanitarian laws, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.  The views expressed in the papers we publish and publicize are solely the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the view of the organizations.

The paper is available for download here.