Friday, July 31, 2009

Humanizing Immigration Detention

This week has been full of news on the immigration detention front. In a disappointing move, last Friday, the Obama administration rejected a call to make legally enforceable rules ensuring minimum standards in immigration detention. On Tuesday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a press release reporting on the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families' visit last week to immigration detention facilities in Arizona and Texas. That same day, the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Southern California, and Holland & Knight released a 170-page report on rights violations in U.S. immigration detention centers. Yesterday, Senators Robert Menendez (pictured below right) and Kirsten Gillibrand (pictured below left) unveiled two new bills that aim to reform the immigration detention system, a fix that is long overdue. While the text of the bills is not yet available, and while any step to improve the disaster that is our immigration detention system is to be applauded, the bills fall short of addressing fundamental human rights violations identified by the IACHR.
The IACHR discusses the myriad problems raised by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s policy of outsourcing detention to state, local, and private prison facilities. Often, as a pork barrel job-creation strategy, these facilities are located in rural areas, far from pro bono lawyers and support networks. The Rapporteurship's central concern with this subcontracting is that the consequent failure of accountability creates severe obstacles to ensuring that basic human rights are met. As a striking example of this problem, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (profiled here in last week's New Yorker) refused to allow the IACHR to visit immigration detention facilities, raising serious doubts about federal government's ability to hold local law enforcement accountable for violating fundamental human rights.
The Rapporteurship focuses on the impact of immigration detention on vulnerable populations -- asylum seekers and children, particularly unaccompanied minors. It notes the need to improve the process for identifying unaccompanied minors for claims of asylum, human trafficking, and other abuses. Moreover, the IACHR decries the broad use of detention for asylum seekers and their accompanying minor children, emphasizing the harsh psychological impact of this policy. Finally, it underlines the need to ensure pro bono counsel for unaccompanied minors.
The bills unveiled this week, the Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Detention Act and the Strong Safe Treatment, Avoiding Needless Deaths, and Abuse Reduction in the Detention System (STANDARDS) Act, appear to address some, but not all, of these serious problems. Most importantly, the bills aim to improve standards within existing detention sites rather than ending the outsourcing of immigration detention. Again, I've not seen the text of these bills, but it appears that they don't address the needs of asylum seekers and trafficked children, nor do they call for an end to family detention and the detention of children.
The bills require detention facilities to be located where free or low-cost legal representation is available; it's not clear whether this provision would require DHS to end outsourcing to prisons in rural locations. In addition, the bills "restrict" transfers of immigration detainees that would impair an attorney-client relationship, addressing a particularly pernicious practice by DHS.
Stopping short of prohibiting detention of "vulnerable populations" (pregnant women, nursing mothers, people with serious health conditions) entirely, the first bill would require a decision on detention by DHS within 72 hours as well as appeal to an immigration judge. In a similar vein, rather than imposing strict limits on the detention of children and vulnerable individuals, the bills require that detention facilities accommodate the "unique needs" of these populations. That includes eliminating the use of solitary confinement and strip searches on children (!), a policy that one would hope would already be in place.
The second bill addresses basic human rights of immigrant detainees, including ensuring fundamental medical and mental health care; providing translation and legal information; allowing family, legal, and religious visitors and access to recreation; and preventing of physical and sexual abuse. The bill would require DHS to enforce these standards, including through a Detention Commission that would investigate facilities and report to Congress, but there's no sign that the law would authorize a private right of action to ensure that these standards are upheld. It's a shame that the Obama administration has refused to take that step towards accountability itself.
In short, it's a sign of progress to have serious and sustained attention paid to the human rights violations perpetrated in immigration detention, but we're still a long way from meeting international human rights standards when it comes to detained immigrants.

On July 31

On this day in ...
1936, the International Olympic Committee announced that the 1940 Summer Olympics were to be held in Tokyo. Two years later, however, the Japanese would renounce renounce the games due to the outbreak of the 2d Sino-Japanese War; they expressed hope that the 1944 Olympics might be held in Tokyo. The IOC conseuqently would award the 1940 games to Helsinki, Finland, the runner-up in the original bidding process. The Olympic Games would be suspended indefinitely following the onset of World War II, and would not resume until the London Games of 1948.
1913, Alys McKey Bryant (left) became the first woman to fly a plane in Canada. (photo credit) She flew in Minoru Park, Vancouver, as part of the entertainment for the Prince of Wales and his younger brother, the Duke of York, who would become King George VI. Bryant, an American, learned to fly after winning a job to perform in flight demonstrations. She is recognized as an Early Bird of Aviation, given that she piloted a plane before December 17, 1916. View a video clip of her here in front of her plane in 1913.

(Prior July 31 posts are here and here.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Darfur in D.C. today

"Toward a Comprehensive Strategy for Sudan" is the title of today's hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The session begins at 10 Eastern time this morning at 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, and should also be available on webcast and C-SPAN.
Scheduled witnesses include Dr. Mohammed Ahmed (left), a Darfuri physician and peacemaker who's been honored as a Human Rights Laureate by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights. Earlier this year Dr. Mohammed visited the California International Law Center at King Hall, of which yours truly is director, to meet with students working on our ongoing joint RFK-CILC Darfur Project on transitional justice.
Also set to testify before the Foreign Relations Committee are: retired Air Force Major General Scott Gration, the President's Special Envoy to Sudan; Earl Gast, Acting Assistant Administrator for Africa at the U.S. Agency for International Development; Dr. David Shinn, former Ambassador to Burkina Faso and to Ethiopia, and now an Adjunct Professor in international affairs at George Washington University; and Susan Page (right), formerly head of the Rule of Law program for the U.N. Mission in Sudan and now Regional Director for Southern and East Africa Programs for the National Democratic Institute.
The hearing provides an occasion for review of recent developments respecting Sudan (prior IntLawGrrls posts). For example:
► Earlier this month, a 5-member arbitration tribunal issued its resolution of a boundary dispute between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, respecting the Abyei Area in South Sudan. Some in the south are said to have warned they may appeal the decision, which drew a line through the oil-rich region.
► Respecting the western region of Darfur, the indictment by the International Criminal Court of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir continues to stir controversy. Via a resolution at the African Union summit earlier this month, many leaders rallied on Bashir's behalf and railed against the ICC and its Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. But just this week, Bashir was a no-show at an African summit in Uganda. Reports are that Bashir's scheduled visit was "blocked" by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, an ICC member state. The move follows the apparent notice to Bashir that he might face arrest if he attended the inauguration of South African President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, also an ICC member state. Yet the policy of Zuma's government remains unclear. And as our Opinio Juris colleague Kevin Jon Heller's noted, Botswana's said it would adhere to its ICC obligations if the indictee entered its jurisdiction.
► Some maintain that it's not only Africa that's in disarray, but that the same could be said of Sudan policy in the United States. Last month Gration said "that the Sudanese government is no longer engaging in a 'coordinated' campaign of mass murder in Darfur," but rather what's occurring now is "' the remnants of genocide.'" The Washington Post's Colum Lynch saw in the remarks evidence of "an emerging rift between Gration and Susan E. Rice [below right], the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who accused the Sudanese leadership of genocide as recently as two days ago." An op-ed writer agreed. In testimony yesterday at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on peacekeeping, however, Rice spoke favorably of Gration's mission; her focus was pressing Sudan to allow more aid workers into Darfur. Her prepared statement included these words:

Darfur is about the size of California, with a pre-war population of 6.5 million. Only twenty thousand peacekeepers are inherently limited in their ability to patrol territory so vast, and to protect so many civilians. Imagine how much more difficult their task becomes when the host government actively hinders their efforts, the parties balk at cease-fire talks, and the peacekeepers are deployed below their full operating capacity.

Bottom line:The Committee's Senators will have much to talk about today.

Write On! Intersection of national security, human rights & international law @ AALS

(Write On! is an occasional item about notable calls for papers.) Here's a chance to take part in a program -- at AALS' 2010 Annual Meeting this January in New Orleans, Louisiana -- that will examine a particularly vibrant intersection of law. It's a cooperative effort by 3 sections of the Association of American Law Schools: the Section on National Security Law, chaired by our colleague Michael J. Kelly; the Section on International Human Rights, for which IntLawGrrl Christiana Ochoa serves as Chair; and the Section on International Law, for which yours truly has that honor this year.
We three sections are calling for papers to be presented at a cosponsored program, entitled "Cross-Currents in International Law, Human Rights Law and National Security Law," to be held from 9 to 10:45 a.m. on Sunday, January 10, 2010.
Here's the key information from our call for papers:
Recent years have seen unprecedented interactions among three areas of law: Human Rights Law, International Law, and National Security Law. A Selection Committee comprising one officer of each section welcomes abstract submissions from all scholars, with preference given to authors who belong to at least one of these AALS sections. The Committee also will give preference to papers that highlight the cross-section among two or more of these fields, and will endeavor to have a cross-section of such cross-currents represented at the session.

(Note that you do not need to claim status as a "junior" scholar in order to respond.)
Deadline for submission of abstracts no longer than 5 doublespaced pages -- e-mailed in Word or PDF format to Professor Kelly at -- is Friday, September 18, 2009.
Please join us!

(For other AALS calls for papers, check out our Write On! series)

On July 30

On this day in ...
1947, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (left) was born in Paris, France. (photo credit) In 1983, while researching retroviruses at Paris'Institut Pasteur , she discovered the HIV virus. Together with her boss, she was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discovery. She is currently the director of the Unité de Régulation des Infections Rétrovirales at the Institut. In 2009, Barré-Sinoussi wrote an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI to protes his statements that condoms are at best ineffective in combating HIV/AIDS.
1863, President Abraham Lincoln (right) issued the "eye-for-eye" order to shoot rebel prisoners under certain circumstances. (photo credit) Known as the Order of Retaliation, it stated:

It is … ordered that for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed; and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war.

(Prior July 30 posts are here and here.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guest Blogger: Lisa R. Pruitt

It's IntLawGrrls' great pleasure to welcome Dr. Lisa R. Pruitt (right) as today's guest blogger.
Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis, School of Law (Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall), Lisa's special interests include law and rural livelihoods, feminist jurisprudence, the legal profession, and torts. Her scholarship focuses on cultural differences; in particular, on the range of ways in which rural places are distinct from what has become the implicit urban norm in legal scholarship. Exposed through this research is how the economic, spatial, and social features of rural locales shape residents' lives, including their encounters the law. Most recently, as described more fully in her guest post below, Lisa has explored how rural spatiality inflects dimensions of gender, race, and ethnicity; that is, the ways in which rural lives and rural places are enmeshed with law and other forces at both national and global levels.
These are issues that Lisa examines frequently on her Legal Ruralism blog (subtitle: "A Little (Legal) Realism about the Rural"), among the "connections" links in our righthand column.
Lisa earned a Ph.D. in Laws from the University of London, where she was a British Marshall Scholar and wrote a dissertation entitled "A Feminist Reconsideration of the Legal Regulation of Speech." She earned her J.D. and B.A. degrees, both with honors, from the University of Arkanas, Little Rock, where she served as the law review's Editor-in-Chief. She was a law clerk to Judge Morris Sheppard Arnold, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, and a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and Leiden University in the Netherlands. Lisa's pre-academia career included service as a consultant to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, as a legal assistant at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, and as associate at Covington & Burling LLP, based in its London office.
Lisa is Chair-Elect of the Section on Women in Legal Education of the Association of American Law Schools. Among her honors is to have been selected for the 2002 Stanford-Yale Junior Faculty Forum, where she presented her article No Black Names on the Letterhead? Efficient Discrimination in the South African Legal Profession.

Heartfelt welcome!

Exploring a law that's all about rural women

(My thanks to IntLawGrrls for the opportunity to contribute this guest post)

For the past several years, my scholarship has explored the legal relevance of rurality. One of my goals has been to expose rural difference — which is often also rural disadvantage — with respect to a range of domestic legal issues, e.g., abortion access, youth substance abuse, intimate partner violence, and availability of health and human services. My work reveals a pervasive presumption of the urban in culture, law and legal scholarship. Rural women have been the focus of a great deal of my writing, including an article that theorizes the intersection of gender with the rural-urban axis.
My most recent publication goes international with this “critical legal ruralist” (and feminist) project. Entitled Migration, Development and the Promise of CEDAW for Rural Women, it has just been published in Volume 30 of the Michigan Journal of International Law. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first publication to look in any systematic way at Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. If you are a human rights scholar and the mention of Article 14 leaves you scratching your head, trying to recall the topic of that provision, your response may support my point about a pervasive presumption of the urban. You may have overlooked Article 14 because it is all about rural women.
For a self-proclaimed ruralist like me, Article 14 was a very exciting find. I am delighted that a recent symposium of the Michigan Journal of International Law, entitled “Territory without Boundaries”, provided a timely opportunity to write about it. While U.S. law largely ignores the rural-urban axis, here in an international human rights instrument is an express legal recognition of rural difference — accompanied by a call to action.
My new article looks at the travaux préparatoires to explore how this marginalized population got included in CEDAW and how drafters determined which particular concerns of rural women got addressed. Several developing nations first put rural women on the CEDAW agenda, and they were apparently motivated to do so because of women’s role in food production. What ultimately became Article 14 was sponsored by Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Thailand, and — interestingly — the United States.
The fact that an international human rights instrument such as CEDAW expressly acknowledges rurality and rural difference should not be a great surprise to us. The United Nations attends to rural people and places in many contexts. Some examples are here, here, and (implicitly) here. This U.N. attention seems highly appropriate, given that about half of the world’s population is still rural. (Compare that to just under a fifth of the population of the United States, where rural interests get systematic government attention only within the U.S. Department of Agriculture). After all, “rural” is to some degree synonymous with undeveloped and primitive, just as “urban” connotes civilization and development. Plus, a great deal of the content of international human rights law arguably targets developing nations, compelling them to adopt the norms of the developed world. In the same way, CEDAW’s Article 14 seeks to secure for rural women the same rights urban women get, e.g., healthcare and education, while also recognizing rural-specific needs.
A very recent U.N. recognition of the significance of rural women came with the United Nations’ observance of the first International Day of Rural Women on October 15, 2008. According to the U.N. declaration, the day’s designation recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.” (See this post on my Legal Ruralism Blog.) In the developing world, rural and agricultural are much more nearly synonymous than in the developed world. Indeed, the focus of my new publication is the Article 14 guarantees that are linked closely to women’s roles as the so-called architects of food security. These rights include land ownership, inclusion in development planning and implementation “at all levels,” and access to credit, marketing facilities and agricultural technology and extension services. To better understand the potential of CEDAW to enhance rural women’s livelihoods, I examine the most recent country reports of four member states: China, Ghana, India, and South Africa. All have significant rural and urban populations; in a sense, all are simultaneously developed and developing.
My discussion of CEDAW’s Article 14 is situated in the context of massive rural-to-urban migration worldwide. In fact, its publication comes just months after demographers report that, on a global scale, urban dwellers began to outnumber those living in rural areas. As globalization creates conditions that induce migration, causing the populations of cities to burgeon and their territories to sprawl, those same forces shape rural places, too. Although that which is rural is often thought of as quintessentially local, rural livelihoods around the world are buffeted by economic restructuring, migration, and climate change. I thus consider CEDAW in relation to migration’s consequences for the women who are left behind: enormous challenges, but also opportunities for empowerment.
Among other observations, I laud the priorities and framework of CEDAW’s Article 14 in terms of the ways in which they seek to foster women’s agency and material well-being. Many of the enumerated rights are of the socioeconomic variety rather than of the civil and political type. It is thus not surprising that Member States’ responses to Article 14 tend to be more often programmatic than in the nature of law reform.
I also discuss the potential for CEDAW’s Article 14 to accommodate legal pluralism, which can be particularly relevant in rural places, where custom and local sources of authority tend to be more entrenched and influential than in urban locales. I further suggest that the population churn associated with migration represents an opening for the renegotiation of gender roles and other cultural practices in rural places. I argue that migration enhances the prospect of raising the collective consciousness of rural communities regarding national and international legal norms, while also facilitating enforcement of rural women’s rights by fostering their access to formal legal actors and institutions at higher scales, usually in urban places. Finally, throughout the Article, I consider parallels between developing and developed nations with regard to rural-urban difference, population trends, the industrialization of agriculture, and the social and economic consequences of these phenomena.
Migration, Development and the Promise of CEDAW for Rural Women is hardly the last word on CEDAW’s Article 14. My analysis of the intersection of development, migration and human rights law for rural women raises many more questions than it answers:
► Among these questions is the impact of rural spatiality — including a relative absence of formal legal institutions and actors — on the ability of rural women to realize the promise of international instruments such as CEDAW and the domestic laws and programs that respond to its mandate.
► Another is the extent to which development efforts entail or encourage urbanization and how CEDAW’s vision for empowering rural women might influence the trajectory of development.
► A third is the wisdom of development strategies that fuel migration’s urban juggernaut by promoting the industrialization of agriculture. Such strategies — which I argue reflect an urban bias — seem wrong headed at a time when the developed world’s food production priorities are shifting to value and emphasize sustainable agriculture.
I hope other scholars who are interested in gender, how we feed ourselves and the planet, and maybe even rurality, will join me in exploring these and other issues related to Article 14 of CEDAW.

(Cross-posted at Legal Ruralism Blog.)

On July 29

On this day in ...
1994 (15 years ago today), British chemist Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (left) died in Ilmington, Warwickshire, England. Among her most influential discoveries was the structure of vitamin B12, for which she was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 1969, after 35 years of work, Hodgkin was able to decipher the structure of insulin, which she considered her greatest scientific achievement. She cooperated with laboratories active in insulin research and traveled to give talks about insulin and diabetes. Hodgkin also was concerned about social inequalities and stopping conflict: from 1976 to 1988, she was President of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organization that works toward reducing the danger of armed conflict and global security threats. (credit for 1996 British stamp honoring Hodgkin as 1 of 5 “20th Century Women of Achievement")
1987, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (below, at left) and Sri Lankan President J. R. Jayawardene (below, at right) signed the Indo-Lankan Pact, also known as the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord. (photo credit) The agreement aimed to end ongoing anti-insurgent operation by Sri Lankan forces in the Northern peninsula. Sri Lankan troops were to withdraw to their barracks, and the Tamil rebels (mainly the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the Tamil Tigers) were to disarm. India agreed to end support for the Tamil separatist movement and recognize the unity of Sri Lanka. Under the accord, India pledged military assistance to promote peace. The pact did not in fact put an end to conflict. Just this past May, the Sri Lankan military crushed Tamil Tiger rebels, in operations that, as IntLawGrrl Jaya Ramji-Nogales posted here and here, raised humanitarian law concerns.

(Prior July 29 posts are here and here.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In search of Miss McGeachy

The search started due to an offhand comment in the memoir of a mid-20th C. U.S. diplomat, respecting a then-much-talked-about report co-authored by Miss McGeachy at the British Embassy. A certain snark in the comment, coupled with its reference to a woman in the Foreign Office at that time, sparked curiosity.
No online biographical info on Mary Craig McGeachy (left) immediately available, the search required resort to books.
Most interesting was the entry at pp. 430-32 of Current Biography Yearbook 1944. That year, with the Allies still locked in global battle against the Axis Powers, McGeachy had been appointed Director of the Welfare Division of the United Nations' Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. She bore a dual responsibility: 1st, to assure that "'specially dependent groups such as the aged, children, and nursing and pregnant women'" received necessary aid as soon as Allied troops freed the territories in which they lived; and 2d, to rebuild the "'welfare organizations'" in those territories so that they could resume providing care, to displaced and returning persons, as soon as possible.
As would be expected, the unnamed author of the 1944 entry detailed McGeachy's background:
► Born in Ontario, Canada, she'd earned degrees in history and philosophy at the University of Toronto, and then studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and the Graduate School of Higher International Studies at the University of Geneva.
► In 1930 she'd joined the Permanent Secretariat of the League of Nations, working in its section on public health, social welfare, and economic studies, and serving as the League's liaison with British dominions and with women's groups.
► In 1940 she'd moved to Britain's Ministry of Economic Warfare, beginning in London, and then transferring to Washington, D.C.
► On October 1, 1942, she was appointed the 1st Secretary of the British Embassy in the United States, the 1st woman diplomat so to represent Britain (as the entry put it, the "first woman to receive an appoinment as a full-fledged British diplomat to a major power"). The only other woman said to have held even "a comparable post in the British diplomatic corps" had been Gertude Bell, in Iraq.
Clearly, at the time of her UNRRA appoinment, McGeachy was up to the task. Interesting, then, the extent to which the unnamed author focused on the fact that McGeachy was not a man.
Of McGeachy, who, it said, turned 40 in 1944, the entry made references to "the blond Canadian," "the young diplomat," and "'that competent young woman'" (twice, the 1st time quoting New York's Herald Tribune). And then there was this paragraph:

The young executive who will administer this great work is not only capable but attractive. A woman interviewer described her as 'disarming,' and a man wrote that she is 'remarkably pretty.' Her eyes are piquantly slanted under strong, arched brows, and her firm-jawed face has an expression of quite humor. Her skin is fair, as befits the copper-blond hair ...
It went on, praising her clothes, her cooking, and her hostessing, then ended with a wee mention that, as of December 1944, Miss McGeachy was married.
Little surprise that a recent profile reads rather differently.
Vol. 35, pp. 393-94 of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), indicates without further comment that McGeachy -- birthday November 7 as stated in the 1944 entry -- was in fact born in 1901, and thus was a few years older than the author of that entry had thought. In this new profile, entry author Mary Kinnear (right) remarks not at all on appearances. Kinnear begins by giving McGeachy the worthy title "international civil servant," then reports that she continued as UNRRA's welfare director till the agency shut down in 1946. Thereafter McGeachy devoted her time to the International Council of Women. A nongovernmental organization founded in 1888 by suffragists like Susan B. Anthony and May Wright Sewall, the ICW now holds U.N. consultative status; McGeachy served as its President from 1963 to 1973. McGeachy endured a private life that, in Kinnear's words, "was not smooth," and died on November 2, 1991, in Keene, New Hampshire.
In her entry Kinnear -- a University of Manitoba historian and the author of Woman of the World: Mary McGeachy and International Cooperation, the 2004 biography depicted above left -- concludes:

McGeachy's life sheds light upon the contrasting twentieth-century conventions affecting men and women. ... At a time when married women were expected to retire from paid work she saw voluntary work as a way for women to serve society as citizens.
The life story of this pathbreaking diplomat is well worth contemplating in our new century.

(A very deep tip of the hat to Peg Durkin, Head of Public Services at the Mabie Law Library, the University of California, Davis, School of Law, whose research helped make this post possible.)

On July 28

On this day in ...
2005, Joan Finney (right), Kansas governor, died at age 76 in Topeka. In addition to being the state's 1st female governor, she was its 1st Roman Catholic Governor, its oldest governor, and also one of the few pro-life Democratic Governors of her time. (photo credit) Finney'd served as State Treasurer from 1975 to 1991, and then was elected Governor, becoming the 1st woman to defeat an incumbent Governor in a general election. In 1996, she ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Presidential candidate Bob Dole.
2005, The Irish Republican Army (Óglaigh na hÉireann in Irish) called an end to its 30-year-long armed campaign in Northern Ireland.
From its statement:
All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms.
All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.
In September 2008, the 19th report of the Independent Monitoring Commission stated that the IRA was "committed to the political path" and no longer represented "a threat to peace or to democratic politics," and that the IRA's Army Council was "no longer operational or functional." (photo credit)

(Prior July 28 posts are here and here.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Torture Lite"

Much ink has been spilt attempting to identify the distinction between torture stricto sensu, which is punishable under 18 U.S.C. §2340, and other forms of cruel treatment, which may not generate the same opprobrium or have the same legal implications.

In passing the Military Commission Act in 2006, Congress amended a then-10-year-old statute, the War Crimes Act. Congress in effect shrank the spectrum of conduct punishable as a war crime, by defining torture and cruel treatment in terms of a high degree of severity and seriousness, and by limiting the ability to prosecute degrading or humiliating acts, as further discussed here. The infamous "torture memos" similarly focused on whether particular techniques -- such as sensory and sleep deprivations -- generated pain severe enough to constitute torture (the memos concluded that they did not).

Interrogation techniques such as sleep deprivation, stress positions (so-called “self-inflicted pain”), isolation and sensory deprivation, temperature and dietary manipulation, noise bombardment, psychological humiliations (forced nudity, disguised rape (e.g., body cavity searches), prevention of personal hygiene, forced grooming, denial of privacy, and infested surroundings), threats against self or family, witnessing or hearing the abuse of others, attacks on cultural values or religious beliefs, and mock executions, have been described as “torture lite,” because they do not at first consideration bear the hallmarks of brutality associated with ancient forms of torture or of today’s notorious authoritarian regimes. These forms of abuse—which are also called “clean torture”—do not physically mutilate or maim the victim’s body, leave permanent traces, require direct contact between the victim and the individual utilizing the particular technique, or cause pain immediately. And yet, are such techniques truly less severe than the rack and screw of yesteryear? Might the combined effects of such techniques be more disruptive and damaging than a short but brutal beating?

A 2007 study of victims of torture compared the long-term psychological effects of “torture lite” techniques and more physically violent torture. See "Torture vs Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment: Is the Distinction Real or Apparent?", published in 2007 in the Archives of General Pyschiatry. The authors -- Dr. Metin Başoğlu, Head of the Section of Trauma Studies at the Institute of Psychiatry (IOP), King’s College London, and Director of the Istanbul Centre for Behaviour Research and Therapy in Turkey; Dr. Maria Livanou, IOP Lecturer; and Dr. Cvetana Crnobarić, IOP Researcher and Head of the Department of Pyschiatry, Zvezdara Clinical Centre, University of Belgrade -- conclude:

Ill treatment during captivity, such as psychological manipulations, humiliating treatment, and forced stress positions, does not seem to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the severity of mental suffering they cause, the underlying mechanism of traumatic stress, and their long-term psychological outcome. * * * These findings suggest that physical pain per se is not the most important determinant of traumatic stress in survivors of torture. * * * These findings [also] imply that various psychological manipulations, ill treatment, and torture during interrogation share the same psychological mechanism in exerting their traumatic impact. All three types of acts are geared toward creating anxiety or fear in the detainee while at the same time removing any form of control from the person to create a state of total helplessness.

(Indeed, declassified CIA-funded research from the 1950s and 1960s found that such techniques could be very effective at breaking prisoners. See Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation (1963)). According to these researchers, what mattered most in terms of longterm effects were subjective factors, such as the victim’s level of distress, feelings of helplessness, and the perceived degree of uncontrollability of the situation. This hearkens back to the canonical eggshell skull rule of torts, whereby the tortfeasor is liable for all harm to the victim, even if the victim suffered unanticipated damage due to some idiosyncrasy like an eggshell skull.

These research findings are underscored by a letter, submitted to the U.S. Senate by the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture (PSOT), and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which presented findings that the uncertainty inherent to indefinite detention has acute mental health consequences, including severe depression, vegetative symptoms, anxiety, detachment, and incidents of suicidal thoughts -- even if the individual is not ill-treated while in captivity.

All this research suggests that the assessment of whether conduct is "severe" should turn not only on the degree of immediate suffering by victim, but also on whether the conduct may cause long-term physical or psychological effects in light of the victim’s personal circumstances, age and general state of physical and mental health, support network, length of detention, etc.
For a definitive study of the insidious impact of “torture lite” on the prohibition against torture — and the way in which the concept may alter how victims, perpetrators, policy-makers, and the general public interpret the legality, efficacy, and morality of particular interrogation techniques — see "The Myth of “Torture Lite," published this year at 23 Ethics and International Affairs 47-61. In this article the author, Dr. Jessica Wolfendale (below right) (photo credit), writes:

[T]the use of terms like "torture lite" and the nature of such techniques encourage a moral psychology in which the violence and cruelty of torture is denied, the victim's suffering is hidden, minimized and doubted, and the torturer's responsibility is diminished. As such, the use of torture lite techniques is likely to encourage the normalization of torture. * * * The distinction between the methods referred to as torture lite and so-called real torture serves a further aim: it is sometimes used to distinguish not only between types of torture methods but also between the moral character of torturers and their motivations. According to this view, torturers who use such methods as beatings and mutilations are clearly brutal and sadistic, whereas those who use torture lite techniques can be portrayed as professionals motivated by the need to gain intelligence essential for saving lives. * * * By creating a false distinction between torture (understood as violent, brutal, and physically mutilating) and torture lite (with its connotations of minimal harm, minimal force, and minimal violence), those who authorize the use of torture and those who carry it out are able to portray their actions (to themselves and to observers) as something other than real torture, with all the negative connotations of that word. * * * Terms such as "torture lite" and "enhanced interrogation" neutralize the violence of these techniques and downplay the suffering they cause. Such euphemisms can also have a strong impact on how those using these terms (interrogators, public officials, and the general public) perceive the morality of the techniques thus described.

'Nuff said.

'Nuff said

(Taking context-optional note of thought-provoking quotes)
[A]lthough it was based on the provisions of the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003, the Lawyers' Clothing Statute of 1930 and what it calls 'common righteous norms,' as mentioned in its preamble, the decision violates the constitution and the law and undermines women's rights and personal freedoms ensured by the constitution ....

-- Press release entitled "Decision to Impose Traditional Robes and Veils on Female Lawyers in Gaza Is Illegal," issued yesterday by the Gaza-based nonprofit Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (logo below). One of the women affected, attorney Subhiya Juma, told the Associated Press that "the judge's decision would affect only 10 or so lawyers — since the vast majority of the 150 registered female lawyers already cover their hair." Juma is among those who do not.

On July 27

On this day in ...
1884 (125 years ago today), divorce was reestablished in France. Divorce first became legal in France on September 20, 1792. The divorce law, which was extremely liberal even by modern standards, reflected the French Revolution's commitment to the rights of the individual and its antipathy to Roman Catholicism. In 1816, with the rise of Napoleon and the return of Roman Catholicism, divorce again was abolished. Judicial separation became the only option. When France's aristocracy voted against the divorce bills proposed during this time, their votes were as much a rejection of the revolutionary heritage as of the social effects of divorce. The law passed on this day departed from the liberal model of 1792 and instead was conservative, based on Napoleonic law.
1740, Jeanne Baré (below right), botanist and explorer, was born. She was probably the 1st woman to have circumnavigated the globe. Disguised as a man, Baré enlisted as personal valet and botanical assistant to the expedition's physician and naturalist shortly before it sailed from France in 1766. (image credit) According to the account of the expedition's master, Baré proved an expert botanist who had a reputation for courage and strength, and who went cheerfully on the most troublesome excursions over rugged terrain. Her companions did not learn that Baré was a woman until they reached Tahiti; there she confessed that she knew when she boarded that the ship would go around the world, and that such a voyage had raised her curiosity.

(Prior July 27 posts are here and here.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

ABA to honor Zimbabwean lawyers

This coming Saturday, August 1, at a luncheon meeting in Chicago, the Rule of Law Initiative of the American Bar Association will honor Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights with its 2009 Rule of Law Award.
The Zimbabwean group -- a public interest litigation organization operating in one of Africa's most treacherous environment's for human rights defenders -- is being recognized for its efforts at advancing the rights of persons in the country. Its impressive portfolio includes:
► Representing indigent individuals who have been illegally denied citizenship;
► Providing emergency legal aid to detained human rights defenders;
► Training legal practitioners, teachers, and traditional leaders on human rights; and
► Preparing lawyers for a future transitional justice project.
In addition to honoring the courageous lawyers and advocates who protect human rights in Zimbabwe, the giving of this award also provides an opportunity to reflect upon the state of human rights in that country in recent years:
► In June 2008, the U.N. Security Council condemned Zimbabwe's intimidation of political opponents, which resulted in the deaths of opposition activities and displacement of thousands. Despite the creation of a coalition government between President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the Movement for a Democratic Change leader earlier this year, Zimbabweans continue to struggle against an oppressive Mugabe regime in their quest to realize their human rights.
► On June 18, 2009, four members of the nongovernmental organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise were detained by police for peacefully demonstrating in commemoration of World Refugee Day. The women were assaulted while in custody, and then denied medical treatment for their injuries.
► On July 13, 2009, Mugabe supporters disrupted a national conference to draft a new Constitution, which would include provisions to curtail executive power.
Established in 1994, the Rule of Law Award is granted to leaders and countries that take "significant steps towards implementing democratic and market reforms" on the domestic level. Past award recipients of the Rule of Law Award include Pakistan's lawyers and judges who protested that country's purging of its judiciary; U.S. Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Anthony M. Kennedy; and Nataša Kandić, Founder and President of the Humanitarian Law Center based in Belgrade, Serbia.
Heartfelt congratulations to the courageous members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and their peers!

On July 26

On this day in ...
... 1909 (100 years ago today), began Tragic Week (in Catalan la Setmana Tràgica, in Spanish la Semana Trágica), a series of bloody confrontations between the army and the working classes of Barcelona and other cities of Catalonia, who were backed by the anarchists, socialists and republicans. (above, demonstration during this week, credit) In mid-July, military reserves had been called to active duty due to renewed military-colonial activity in Morocco. Many reservists were desperately poor and stridently anti-colonial Catalan workers who were not willing to risk their lives for the wealthy. Antiwar feeling ran high throughout the country, and resulted in a general strike throughout Spain. In Catalonia, the strike degenerated into riots, convent burnings, and street fighting. By the end of the week, the army and the police had lost 8 dead and 124 wounded, while 104 civilians were reported killed.
1906, Irena Morzycka-Iłłakowicz (right) was born in Berlin, Germany. She would become a Polish second Lieutenant of the National Armed Forces, a polyglot, and an intelligence agent. (photo credit) After the 1939 invasion of Poland by Germany, she joined the Polish resistance movement. She began service as an intelligence agent, and was assigned to conduct military, economic and information reconnaissance in Berlin, as she was a fluent German speaker. Between 1941 and 1942, the Germans destroyed her intelligence section, She was arrested by the Gestapo but was freed after being subjected to harsh interrogation. Later she returned to Warsaw and started working on the Soviet intelligence network in Poland. She was murdered under unknown circumstances in October 1943.

(Prior July 26 posts are here and here.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

US to Sign Major Human Rights Treaty

On 24 July 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States of America will sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The announcement was timed to coincide with the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the groundbreaking federal legislation on disability civil rights.
A Post-Disability America?: Not Yet
Noting the growing attention to disability issues and social changes in the U.S. since passage of the ADA, President Obama recognized that more is needed:

Despite these achievements, much work remains to be done. People with disabilities far too often lack the choice to live in communities of their choosing; their unemployment rate is much higher than those without disabilities; they are much likelier to live in poverty; health care is out of reach for too many; and too many children with disabilities are denied a
world-class education.
Implications for International Human Rights Law in the U.S. and Beyond
The signing of the CRPD is great news for persons with disabilities in the United States, for U.S. civil rights and political economy more broadly, and for the international community as a whole. The signature reflects the widening “paradigm shift” in human rights recognition and protection that the CRPD represents.
There’s hope that it also indicates a break in the historical logjam of U.S. resistance to, or ambivalence toward, becoming party to international human rights legal standards. See, for example, posts here, here, and here, and our series on Disability Human Rights .
The CRPD is an important addition to the list of core international human rights treaties. It benefited from input by disability NGOs as well as from governments throughout the world. It builds on the key principle that human rights extend to all persons and elaborates on specific rights and approaches to ensure the effective enjoyment of those rights by PWD. Persons with disabilities, like all human beings, have the right to human dignity and to have their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural human rights respected, protected, and fulfilled.
In the U.S., disability human rights issues include access to, and reasonable accommodations in, housing, education, employment, and health care. Discrimination against PWD, which can take many forms and which is further intensified by racial, gender, class, religious, and sexual orientation discrimination, is prohibited and must be effectively addressed.
Failures in preventing or redressing rights violations create or solidify barriers to the full participation of PWD in political, social, and economic life. Yet the implications extend beyond wasting the socio-economic potential of millions at a time when the US and global economies need innovation and commitment from all sectors. More fundamental are the moral and ethical implications of abusing and excluding members of our society.
Deepening the Core
A Human Rights Watch press release hailed the signing as a potential sea change in US policy:

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006 and was signed by 82 countries when it opened for signature on March 30, 2007. Today 140 countries have signed, and 61 have
ratified. It requires governments to prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities and support their dignity, autonomy, and full participation in society.…
The United States has signed six of the nine core international human rights treaties, but ratified only three: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [see IntLawGrrls series on the CERD and Race in the US]; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment...
Core international human rights treaties await ratification by the US (click on treaty names to read IntLawGrrls posts on the treaties and related issues):
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW);
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC);
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);
Convention against Enforced Disappearance;
Mine Ban Treaty;
Convention on Cluster Munitions;
Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture;
International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families.
According to the HRW press release, the CRC and CEDAW are also “under active review” by the U.S. Department of State.
Next: Ratification and Making it Real
Let’s hope the CRPD moves quickly from presidential signature to Senate Foreign Relations committee and full Senate approval, ratification, and effective implementation. The struggle to make disability human rights an everyday reality in the US will continue, but we've made a beginning.

Guest Blogger: Julie Veroff

It's IntLawGrrls' great pleasure to welcome as a guest blogger Julie Veroff (right), who recently finished her MPhil in Development Studies at the University of Oxford, which she pursued on a Rhodes Scholarship.
Julie is now the Executive Director of FACE AIDS, a non-profit organization dedicated to mobilizing and inspiring young people to fight AIDS and global health inequities. She earned her B.A. with Honors and Distinction from Stanford University in 2007. In the future, Julie plans to go to law school and pursue a career in public service.
Julie first worked in a refugee camp in 2006, when she established a women’s center and leadership training program in Mwange Refugee Camp in Zambia as a Project Facilitator with the nongovernmental organization FORGE. She has since interned with Human Rights First’s refugee protection and lifeline for Iraqi refugees program and at the U.S. Department of State.
Julie became interested in refugees’ access to justice while working in Mwange. Teenage girls often spoke of teachers demanding sex in exchange for good grades. When Julie asked whether they had anyone to report the problem to, they laughed. Her recent research in Meheba Refugee Settlement, Zambia, which formed the basis of the dissertation for which Oxford awarded her distinction, is discussed in her guest post below. Rather than look just at the rules and procedures of justice systems in refugee camps, Julie explored how refugees viewed and interacted with these systems in order to capture the socio-legal aspects of justice administration in a protracted encampment environment.
Heartfelt welcome!

Justice Administration in Meheba Refugee Settlement: Refugee Perceptions, Preferences, and Strategic Decisions

(Many thanks to IntLawGrrls for the opportunity to contribute this guest post!)

Though access to justice is enshrined in international refugee and human rights law instruments, including Article 16 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, many refugees do not have access to, or do not choose to utilize, the host state justice system. Camps and settlements are often characterized by a plurality of legal institutions, operated by the host state, the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nongovernmental organizations, and refugee actors. Many of these institutions do not comply with international or host state laws, thus leaving refugees without adequate legal protection.
The UNHCR has long recognized that the lack of functioning law and order systems in refugee camps and settlements has serious consequences for violence and human rights. Yet as a senior official recently told me in an interview, UNHCR is still “a little bit at a loss about what is really needed in the field.” This is in part because the existing body of academic and practitioner literature on justice administration in refugee camps and settlements is very small and focused on procedural and legalistic questions. (As one example, see this report.) Almost no attention has been paid to the perceptions, preferences, and strategic decisions and behavior of refugees themselves with regard to justice administration.
The aim of my research was to go beyond rules-based analysis, toward a socio-legal study that engaged with justice systems as dynamic social institutions heavily influenced by popular perceptions and actions. To this end, from July to September of 2008 I conducted fieldwork among three communities in Meheba Refugee Settlement in Zambia, which hosts 14,181 refugees primarily from Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. Through focus groups, individual interviews, and participant observation, I sought to understand the types of crimes and conflicts that refugees thought to be most common and of greatest concern in their communities; their opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of the various justice institutions available; how they decide whether to take a case to a justice institution and, if so, how they decide which one to go to first; and what they believe the objective(s) of pursuing justice are. Working in three different administrative areas of the settlement, I found significant variation in the way groups of refugees perceived and used various justice institutions.
I argue that four factors help to explain these variations:
  • Population composition and heterogeneity, in terms of gender, age, and country of origin
  • Physical location in the settlement and proximity to authorities (e.g. UNHCR, Zambian Ministries, police) and social services (e.g. schools, clinics, Mobile Court)
  • Socio-cultural characteristics, namely witchcraft beliefs, employment backgrounds, and attitudes towards the rule of law
  • Long-term durable solution (i.e. resettlement, repatriation, or local integration) preferences.
More generally, what emerged is that, to the refugees in Meheba, justice is often about more than simply seeking a resolution to a single crime or conflict. Personal reputation, community image, monetary costs, pride, fear, shame, manipulation, and the pursuit of a particular durable solution or long-term goal all affect refugees’ strategic decision-making processes about whether and where to pursue justice. With such variation in the perceptions of and preferences for different justice institutions among refugees in the same settlement, it is clear that one-size-fits-all policies and programs to improve access to justice will be ineffective.

(This post is based on my dissertation for the Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at the University of Oxford. It is available in full here.)

On July 25

On this day in ...
1946, the United States detonated an atomic bomb at Bikini Atoll in Micronesia in the first underwater test of the device. The impetus for the test, which was known as "the Baker explosion" (left), was President Harry S. Truman's December 1945 directive stating that joint testing of nuclear weapons would be necessary "to determine the effect of atomic bombs on American warships." Bikini was chosen because of its isolated location. (photo credit) In February 1946, the Bikinians agreed to leave the atoll temporarily so that the United States could begin testing atomic bombs for "the good of mankind and to end all world wars." The U.N. strategic agreement that gave trusteeship of the area to the United States also allowed further bombing in the area, and so precipitated the Bikinians’ dire health situation. Today, the people of Bikini remain scattered throughout the Marshall Islands and the world as they wait for the radiological cleanup of Bikini to begin in earnest.
1905, Winona Grace MacInnis (right), Canadian politician and feminist, was born. She was the 1st woman from British Columbia elected to the Canadian House of Commons. She served as a Member of Parliament from 1965 until her retirement in 1974. During her tenure, MacInnis championed issues such as family planning, affordable housing, abortion rights and women's equality. In 1974, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of her service. In 1990, she was awarded the Order of British Columbia. She died in 1991. (photo credit)

(Prior July 25 posts are here and here.)