Friday, December 31, 2010

On the Brink of Genocide?

On Wednesday, Youssoufou Bamba, the Ivory Coast's newly minted Ambassador to the United Nations, warned that his country was "on the brink of genocide." Bamba, who was appointed by Alassane Outtara, the internationally recognized victor in the country's recent elections, voiced concern over massive human rights violations in recent weeks. (The BBC offers an excellent summary of the post-election crisis here.)
Should Bamba's statement be taken at face value? The signs are certainly concerning. Last week, the UN deputy human rights commissioner reported the deaths of nearly 200 Outtara supporters in the post-election violence, as well as many cases of arrest, detention, and torture. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as the UN has been prevented from investigating many serious allegations of human rights abuses. In one example, the UN Operation in Cote d'Ivoire was blocked from investigating a possible mass execution site north of Abidjan.
Senior UN officials have expressed concern over "incitement to hatred and violence" through the national radio and television and some private newspapers. Bamba noted that some houses have been marked according to their residents' ethnic background, a claim echoed by UN officials. Gbagbo has told the UN to leave and his youth minister, Charles Blé Goudé, has warned ECOWAS not to intervene. In his chilling words:
'They should prepare themselves very well because we are thinking about totally liberating our country, and soon I will launch the final assault.'
The forced migration dimension of the story leaves little doubt about the gravity of the situation. On Tuesday, UNHCR reported that 19,000 Ivorians had fled to Liberia. The refugees, largely women and children, are primarily supporters of Outtara but also include some pro-Gbagbo; all sides fear the consequences of a civil war. Most come from western Ivory Coast, a region already known for lawlessness and severe sexual violence prior to the election. While UNHCR has provisions for just over 10,000 additional refugees, humanitarian needs may soon eclipse their capacity.
In the new year, the European Union will tighten sanctions against Gbagbo and his supporters. As indicated in Diane's post yesterday, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo has warned that "leaders who are planning violence will end up in the Hague," a call welcomed by Outtara, who has invited an ICC investigation. More to the point, ECOWAS has given Gbagbo a deadline of January 3 to step down or face forcible removal. One can only hope that these international efforts will be sufficient to pull the Ivory Coast back from the brink.

'Nuff said

(Taking context-optional note of thought-provoking quotes)

So should we, perhaps, be content with the virtual moratorium on nuclear testing?
No, because commitments that are not legally binding can easily be violated.

-- Mikhail Gorbachev, the last President of the Soviet Union and winner of the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize. These 2 sentences from Gorbachev's New York Times op-ed pithily point out the importance of treaties, on much the same reasoning as in a prior post by yours truly. Gorbachev's objective? He begins by welcoming the just-before-Christmas approval by the U.S. Senate of the New Start disarmament treaty (prior posts), which Russia's expected to ratify next month. Then he moves quickly to his main goal: secure U.S. ratification as well of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Russia and 34 others of the 44 "nuclear technology holder states" have ratified. The United States is among the holdouts, the Senate having refused to give its advice and consent in 1999. U.S. approval of CTBT would break the logjam, Gorbachev argues, and so make way for "the next step to a world free of nuclear weapons"-- a stated goal of the current American President and many who have preceded him.

On December 31

On this day in ...
... 1980 (30 years ago today), Radio Tehran threatened that 52 American hostages could face execution. As posted (and see here), the hostages had been seized during the takeover of the U.S. embassy on November 4, 1979. (credit for 2004 photo of defaced U.S. seal at the former embassy building) Earlier that same year, revolutionaries had ousted Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who'd been the Shah of Iran since 1941. On this same day 3 years earlier, in 1977, President Jimmy Carter had given a New Year's toast in Tehran, "reiterating American support" for the shah, "and calling him 'an island of stability' in the troubled region." The hostages would be released the following month, minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as Carter's successor.

(Prior December 31 posts are here, here, and here.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Look On, Read On: Can watching & reading stop a renewal of Sudan's other war?

Yesterday marked the launch of the Satellite Sentinel Project, which aims to use technology to provide early warnings and raise public awareness about violence in Africa's largest country (map credit), and so to try "to deter the resumption of war between North and South Sudan."
Satellite Sentinel's a partnership of Hollywood celebrities (George Clooney et al.), corporate America (Google et al.), nongovernmental organizations (the Enough Project and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative), and intergovernmental organizations (agencies of the United Nations). It promises to provide corroborated information
in near real-time (within 24-36 hours), with the aim of heading off humanitarian disaster and human rights crimes before they occur.
A core objective -- to use this information to prod the public to pressure public officials -- is apparent in the Project's slogan: "The world is watching because you are watching."
Can it work?
At the least, it may make more difficult a full-scale return to Sudan's other war -- not Darfur, the western Sudan (green on the map) turmoil that continues to simmer even as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir continues to evade an International Criminal Court warrant, but rather the civil war that ravaged the southerly regions of Sudan for 20 years before the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. The agreement granted the south some autonomy and provided for a future referendum on full independence from the government in Khartoum (in the orange region on the map). Voting is just around the corner: January 9, 2011, in Southern Sudan (blue) and Abyei (red). Backers of Satellite Sentinel hope that the Project's eyes in the sky -- commercial satellites -- and voices on the ground will help to avoid violence during or after the election.
(Unstated is another potential use of these data. Should proactive efforts fall short, surveillance footage and contemporaneous reports would create a trove of evidence for prosecution of perpetators. To name a possible forum, the International Criminal Court is keenly interested these days in election-related violence. (And see here.)
Missing from the Project mix?
In contrast with Darfur, the history of North-South troubles is largely unknown. This absence of background knowledge may make it harder to push the public to push their officials. But there is much background information available.
In addition to any number of weighty tomes, here are a few mass market treatments that provide contexts for what is to come:
Emma's War: An Aid Worker, a Warlord, Radical Islam, and the Politics of Oil--A True Story of Love and Death in Sudan (2002) by Deborah Scroggins, formerly a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The title pretty much says it all: this is the biography of Emma McCune, a Briton whose art history studies led her to Southern Sudan, 1st as an aid worker, then as an independence advocate, and ultimately to marriage with a rebel leader and death, in a Nairobi car crash, at age 30. McCune's trajectory sweeps with it much about the war.
Acts of Faith (2005) by Philip Caputo, a onetime Chicago Tribune reporter and Pulitzer Prizewinner. Readers of Emma's War will find in this novel a familiar charater -- a lost young woman, American rather than British, who arrives in Sudan as an aid worker and eventually marries a rebel warlord. She's easier to understand than McCune, perhaps because the fictional format allowed the author more free rein. Acts benefits too from other characters and other subplots, all woven around a large and complex story of Western involvement (charitable and otherwise) in the civil war and the warriors' practice of enslaving captives.
What Is the What (2006) by Dave Eggers. In this book Eggers, the subject of a prior post, writes the autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, born in the midst of the civil war. Deng's tragic journeys include a short stint as a child soldier and a much longer one as a "Lost Boy," wandering with other unfortunates in a wilderness that leads 1st to a refugee camp in Kenya and ultimately to a new and strange life in the United States. This is the best written of the 3 books, but the reader will better understand it if informed as well by the other 2.

On December 30

On this day in ...
... 1990 (20 years ago today), outcry over a decision announced the day before prompted the Greek government to announce that "it would not go ahead with plans to pardon Greece's jailed former military dictators." who had seized power in the 1967 coup d'état commemorated in the poster at right (image credit), until 1974, when the 1st free elections in a decade were held. The dictators were in prison following conviction on charges including treason, torture, and murder of dissidents.

(Prior December 30 posts are here, here, and here.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2 tacks to combat piracy

Year's end finds 2 countries setting different courses to combat the recent spate of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia.
In the United States, just before Thanksgiving, a federal jury in Virginia returned convictions for piracy and other offenses against 4 Somali defendants. (credit for detail from 2010 courtroom sketch by Alba Bragoli/AP) The verdict came one month after the judge in the case, United States v. Hasan, sustained a charge brought under 18 U.S.C. § 1651. The statute provides, in language dating to 1819:

Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.
Yet in the same courthouse a few months earlier, a different federal judge, in the case of United States v. Said, had dismissed a piracy charge brought against 6 other Somali men. Tripping the latter judge up was Congress' reference in § 1651 to "the law of nations."
The opposite rulings reflect uncertainties about whether an old legal framework presents the proper way to proceed against 21st C. pirates. It's a puzzle addressed in this discussion by our OJ colleagues, and in many IntLawGrrls posts available here.
In the United States, the discrepancy next awaits consideration by the Virginia-based Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
France, meanwhile, has taken another tack.
France also has been involved in policing piracy in the Gulf of Aden. (credit for March 2010 of French naval vessel, with "Somali pirate skiffs" in foreground) France also has found that its old laws fell short -- and so it's opted for a legislative fix.
Shortly before Christmas, the Sénat voted unanimously in favor of the Loi de lutte contre la piraterie et d'exercice des pouvoirs de police de l'Etat en mer -- a bill to ease the pursuit and punishment of pirates that the legislature's lower house already had approved.
Key components:
► An 1825 French antipiracy law having been abrogated in 2007, the newly adopted law reintroduces into the penal code the crime of piracy -- a crime may be pursued via universal jurisdiction. The new law applies to acts of piracy "within the meaning of" the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, "committed ... on the high seas," "in maritime spaces outside any state's jurisdiction," and "when international law permits, in a state's territorial waters." That Convention is an artifact of the law of nations to which France has been a state party since 1996, but to which, as posted, the United States does not belong.
► The new statute further establishes a legal regime for detaining suspects onboard French naval vessels while they are being transported to judicial authorities. These Mesures prises à l'encontre des personnes à bord des navires respond to a March 2010 judgment, Affaire Medvedyev et Autres c. France, in which the European Court of Human Rights held that France had violated the guarantee of liberty and security of person in Article 5 of Europe's human rights convention by its high-seas detention in 2002 of members of a ship's crew who were suspected of trafficking in drugs.

(Deep thanks for invaluable assistance with this post to University of California-Davis LL.M. student Johann Morri, on leave this year from his post as a French administrative law judge.)

On December 29

On this day in ...
.... 1890 (120 years ago today), in South Dakota, U.S. cavalry troops entered an encampment of Lakota Sioux. A shot was fired and a gunfight ensued. When the Wounded Knee Massacre was over, more than 150 Lakota children, women, and men were dead -- indeed, the actual death toll may have been twice that; another 47 children and women, plus 4 men, were wounded. (credit for 2003 photo of tombstone marking mass grave, on Pine Ridge reservation) U.S.military casualties: 25 dead, 39 wounded. Eyewitness accounts may be found here.

(Prior December 29 posts are here, here, and here.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Go On! IntLawGrrls at AALS

(Go On! is an occasional item on symposia and other events of interest)

The Association of American Law Schools will be holding its 2011 annual meeting in San Francisco from January 5-8th. This year's theme is: Core Educational Values: Guideposts for the Pursuit of Excellence in Challenging Times.
If you are attending, be sure to check out IntLawGrrls and IntLawGrrl guests/alumnae in action. As detailed in the annual meeting program, they are:

Wednesday, Jan 5th
► At 2:00 pm, Afra Afsharipour will be speaking at the Law and South Asian Studies Section's panel: Lawyers as Social Change Agents in South Asia.
► Also at 2:00, Michele Bratcher Goodwin will speak on the Biolaw Section's panel: Synthetic Biology Meets the Law, and Penelope Andrews will moderate the Africa Section's panel: U.S. Africa Policy at the Midpoint of President Obama's First Term.

Thursday, Jan. 6th
► At 9:00 am, Stephanie Farrior, Hari M. Osofsky, Christiana Ochoa, Annecoos Wiersema, Leila Nadya Sadat, and Cindy Galway Buys will be participating in the International Law Section's panel: International Law Year in Review.
► At 2:00, Penelope Andrews will be speaking on the Constitutional Law Section's panel: American Constitutionalism in Comparative Perspective.
► At 2:30 pm, Lisa R. Pruitt will take part in a panel on Class, Socio-Economics, and Critical Analysis.

Friday, Jan. 7th
► At 8:30 am, Caroline Bettinger-López and Alexandra Huneeus will present at the
New Voices in Human Rights panel of the Section on International Human Rights.
► At 10:30 am, yours truly, Rebecca M. Bratspies, and Hari M. Osofsky will be participating in the Hot Topics panel: The BP Blowout Oil Spill and Its Implications.
► Also at 10:30, Laurel S. Terry will be speaking on the Education Law Section's panel: Immigration and Higher Education.
► At 4:00, Michelle Oberman will be speaking on the Law, Medicine and Health Care Section's panel: Women's Choices, Women's Voices: Legal Regimes and Women's Health.

Saturday, Jan. 8th is an action-packed IntLawGrrls day:
► At 7:00 in the morning, Laurel S. Terry will be speaking at the AALS Workshop and Continental Breakfast for 2010 and 2011 Section Officers.
► At 8:30 am, yours truly, Rebecca M. Bratspies, will be speaking on the Animal Law Section's panel: Treatment and Impact of Farmed Animals.
► At 1:30 pm, Elizabeth L. Hillman will be speaking on the National Security Section's panel: The Relationship Between Military Justice, Civil/Military Relations and National Security Law.
► Also at 1:30 pm, Jenia Iontcheva Turner will be speaking on the Comparative Law Section's panel: Beyond the State: Comparative Approaches to Group Political Identity in the Age of the Transnational.
► At 3:30 pm, Christiana Ochoa, will be moderating the International Law Section's panel: Was Medellin Wrongly Decided?
► Also at 3:30 pm, Jennifer Kreder will speaker on the Section on Law and Anthropology panel entitled The Role of Cultural Property Across Cultures and Legal Regimes.

As always, I am struck by the wide range of interests that our fearless leader Diane Marie Amann has brought together under the IntLawGrrls umbrella.

FYI: Because the Hilton is embroiled in a labor dispute with UNITE HERE, Local 2 (the hotel's workers have been working without a contract for over a year), registration and most of the AALS events have been moved to other nearby hotels. There may be other last-minute changes, so be sure to go by the locations in the schedule you receive at check-in rather than the brochure that circulated last month. See you in San Francisco.

(credit for 2010 poster of San Francisco by Kevin Dart)

'Nuff said

(Taking context-optional note of thought-provoking quotes)

'I'm most comfortable wearing slacks, and well, for a woman to come on the floor in trousers was viewed as a seismographic event.'
-- U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (right), recalling her 1st day in the chamber of the Senate, following her election in 1986. The Maryland Democrat's comment came in a interview. The occasion?

When she is sworn in for a fifth term in January, Mikulski will become the longest serving woman in Senate history, breaking the 24-year record held by the late GOP Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine.

On December 28

On this day in ...
... 1894, Burnita Shelton Matthews (right) was born near Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Sent to a conservatory so that she could learn to be a music teacher, she soon switched to the law, enrolling in 1917 in what's now the George Washington University Law School. Though she passed the D.C. bar exam in 1920, the district's bar association refused her application for membership. She responded helped to founding the Woman's Bar Association of the District of Columbia and the National Association of Women Lawyers and helping to edit the Women Lawyers Journal. She taught several years at Washington College of Law, now affiliated with American University. Founder of an all-woman law firm in the 1930s, she was counsel to the pro-suffrage National Woman's Party, the property of which was condemned to build the U.S. Supreme Court. "Matthews successfully obtained the largest condemnation settlement awarded by the U.S. government at the time, $299,200." According to the website for her papers, Shelton Matthews

was active in drafting legislation to secure equal rights for women, including a law allowing women to serve on juries, laws eliminating preferences for males in inheritance, laws requiring equal pay for teachers regardless of sex, and, in 1931 and 1934, amendments to the nationality laws of the United States extending to women citizenship rights previously accorded only to men.
In 1950, having been appointed by President Harry S. Truman, Shelton Matthews became the 1st woman U.S. District Judge. (photo credit) She served in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Shelton Matthews took senior status in 1968, and served in that capacity till her death in 1988.

(Prior December 28 posts are here, here, and here.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Imagine if 2010 hadn't been the Year of Biodiversity

"Biodiversity is life. Biodiversity is Our Life" That is the slogan of the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity, which draws to a close in just over a week. When Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the opening of the Year of Biodiversity, he cautioned:

A failure to protect the world's natural resources is a wake-up call for people everywhere.
The U.N. General Assembly certainly ushered the International Year .of Biodiversity out with a bang-- voting on December 21 to establish the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
This new Intergovernmental Platform will be modeled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and is intended to be a mechanism for integrating scientific knowledge about biodiversity into policy-making.
The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services was established just in time for the International Year of Forests which begins in January 2011, and the International Decade of Biodiversity, also beginning in January 2011. Let us hope it has more success in galvanizing global action targeted at stemming our losses of biodiversity than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has had in getting global agreement on actions to stem carbon emissions.
Establishment of the Intergovernmental Platform was a bright spots in a year otherwise riddled with bad news for biodiversity.
Biodiversity loss is rapid and ongoing. Over the last 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems faster and more extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history. We are losing tropical forests, wetlands, coral reefs and grasslands at a rapid clip. Species extinctions are orders of magnitude over expected rates. The causes are clear:
►habitat loss
►invasive species
►climate change
Unfortunately, these drivers of biodiversity loss show no signs of abating. As a result, we are losing species at rates three orders of magnitude greater than would otherwise be expected.
The IUCN Red List (prior IntLawGrrls posts here, here, and here) reported that 1/5 of vertebrate species, ranging from 13% of birds to 41% of amphibians, are threatened with extinction. A similar report by the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens suggests that one-fifth of plants are similarly threatened. This is terrifying! As the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment documented, biodiversity is the foundation on which human life depends.
In 2002, the Convention of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the Strategic Plan for the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Strategic Plan set what's come to be known as the 2010 Biodiversity Target -- a commitment by the 191 parties to the Convention to
achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth.
This biodiversity target was subsequently endorsed by the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the United Nations General Assembly at the 2005 World Summit Meeting, and was incorporated into the Millennium Development Goals. These developments marked an official international recognition that biodiversity loss is closely associated with environmental degradation, poverty and ill-health. This prompted the General Assembly to declare 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity.
Unfortunately, the Convention of the Parties acknowledged earlier this year that it had failed to meet the 2010 Target for halting the losses of biodiversity. The European Union similarly missed its targets. The Global Biodiversity Outlook reports deforestation continues at an alarming rate, coral reefs show major declines, and abundance has plummeted for many species. This is not to say there have been no successes.
At the Cancun meeting earlier this month, delegates were cheered that Brazil announced it had reduced tropical rainforest destruction and CO2 emissions to record low levels, and that some species, mostly charismatic macrofauna, have shown signs of recovery. As the IUCN Red List reminds us, the news is not all grim. For the first time, scientists have documented that conservation can really make a difference in stemming biodiversity loss. There is still hope. But, the time for action is now!

On December 27

On this day in ...
... 1945 (65 years ago today), the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development Articles of Agreement, drafted the previous summer at the U.N. Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, took effect. The Articles established what's come to be known as the World Bank, an international organization that provides loans to developing countries. Headquartered in Washington, D.C. (left) (photo credit), it now has 187 states parties.

(Prior December 27 posts are here, here, and here.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

UN Forum: Minorities and Effective Participation in Economic Life

UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues and IntLawGrrls contributor Gay McDougall (photo, right) organized and convened the Third Session of the Forum on Minority Issues at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on 14-15 December.
This year’s session focused on “minorities and effective participation in economic life”—a timely and significant topic given the ravages of the global economic crisis on minority groups throughout the world. (See coverage by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) here.)
According to Forum Chair Dr. Gita Sen, Professor, Indian Institute of Management and Adjunct Professor, Harvard School of Public Health,
Times of economic crisis can be particularly difficult for minority groups that may already be subject to societal discrimination and stigma, and who may be undocumented or migrant workers. Societal pressures to blame those who are the most vulnerable can become explosive unless governments play a moderating role and act as guarantors of protection from violence and abuse.

Draft Recommendations
Consultations centered on the associated Draft Recommendations on Minorities and Effective Participation in Economic Life. The draft served as a platform from which we could explore the roles of minority groups as economic actors and as participants in their own empowerment. Governments, business enterprises, international financial institutions, and other actors share the responsibility to provide the necessities and rights that sustain all groups and individuals. But they also bear affirmative responsibilities to remove barriers to minority groups’ own efforts to build a sustainable and human rights-based future.
Previous sessions of the Minority Issues Forum resulted in recommendations on “Minorities and the Right to Effective Political Participation” (2009) (see also Gay McDougall’s post on the session here) and recommendations on “Minorities and the Right to Education” (2008).
The Diversity of Minorities
The meetings bring together individuals from minority groups and civil society, diplomats from UN and regional organizations, and academic experts to share ideas and to make action-oriented recommendations. The Forum’s mandate is to assist in the further implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Linguistic and Cultural Minorities
This year’s session was attended by approximately 500 participants, including 300 members of minority groups or their representatives, as well as attendees from government permanent missions. The proceedings follow a participatory and inclusive approach, encouraging oral and written interventions by as many participants as time permits.
The fact that many women were represented among the key speakers and participants was perhaps not surprising given McDougall’s leadership, but very welcome nevertheless. The presence of women was not merely symbolic, since minority group issues that have special impact on women were prominent on the agenda and in the draft recommendations. An intersectional perspective, in which both minority status and gender implications are taken into account, was evident throughout the program.
As noted above, the Forum was chaired by Dr. Gita Sen. UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navanethem (Navi) Pillay (photo, left) opened the proceedings along with the President of the Human Rights Council, H.E. Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketeow.
“Economic Life” in Multiple Dimensions
The Draft Recommendations and Forum addressed a wide range of issues, evidencing the fact that “the economy” implicates all aspects of life, including civil, political, social, and cultural spheres.
Key themes reflected from the Draft Recommendations included:
► Sustainable Livelihoods;
► Work and Social Security;
► Meaningful Consultation/Participation;
► Capacity-Building for Effective Participation;
► Poverty Reduction and Development Strategies;
► Minorities and the Millennium Development Goals; and
► Discrimination and Positive Measures/Affirmative Action.
The presenters highlighted barriers to the effective participation of minorities in economic life. Failure to protect and promote the language rights of minorities, for example, also prevents full participation in education, training, and employment. Gender discrimination, in combination with racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural discrimination, marginalizes or exploits women’s roles in economic and social development. Religious, ethnic, or racial restrictions on land ownership, use, transfer, or title may lead to entrenched poverty among minority groups. Violence and the promotion of hatred against racial, ethnic, or national minorities may marginalize or exclude their participation in the building of society as a whole or exacerbate broader conflict. See McDougal’s recent statement on links between protection of minority rights and the prevention of violence and conflict here. Unsustainable or top-down farming or land distribution practices prevent pastoralists, indigenous peoples, and other minority groups from pursuing sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families. Such practices may also destroy cultural traditions and ways of living that sustained groups for generations. Policies pursued by business enterprises and international financial and trade institutions may intensify the impact of human rights violations or exclude minority groups from the benefits of human and social development efforts.
Participants also noted some positive developments and best practices. For example, a participant described recent successes in providing effective compensation for African-American farmers damaged by racial discrimination in the United States of America, although more remains to be done for Native American, Latino, and women farmers.
Side Events
Side events on the first day of the Forum included a “Panel on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Application of the Minorities Declaration” organized by the Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. A panel on “Minorities and Natural Resources” was co-sponsored by the Underrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and Minority Rights Group International.
A preparatory workshop organized on 13 December by the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Minority Rights Group, included several moving presentations on national conditions for minority groups from Uganda, Iraq, Lebanon, Ireland, the United States, and Pakistan.
Formal presentations at the Forum itself were followed by a series of brief interventions by other participants.
Minority groups from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas highlighted concerns or made comments on issues to be addressed by the Draft Recommendations, including
►The status of women pastoralists in Uganda;
►Access to economic participation, land, and employment for Palestinian minority groups;
►Evictions and demolition of public housing, mortgage abuses, violations of land rights, gentrification, and unemployment disproportionately affecting African-Americans and other minority groups in the United States;
►Deportations, displacement, lack of access to employment, education, and health care among Roma peoples in Europe;
►Displacement and other abuses against Ahwazi Arabs, the Oromo and the Degar (Montagnards) (see UNPO report here).
As chair of the Forum, Dr. Sen is responsible for preparing a summary of the proceedings and submissions that will be made available to the participants and members of the public early in 2011. Independent Expert McDougall will present the Forum’s final recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2011.
The first photo below shows 3 U.S.-based participants during a break (from left) Dr. Carol Anderson, Professor of African-American Studies and History, Emory University, Ms. Kaleema Haidera Al-Nur, Director, Kindred Afro-American Alliance ( ), and (spending too much time with her nose in her computer) yours truly, IntLawGrrl Hope Lewis , Professor of Law and Chair, Committee on Global Law Programs, Northeastern University School of Law. Pictured below (and very much involved in the consultations) is colleague Margaret Burnham, Professor of Law and Director, Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, Northeastern University School of Law.

Go On! "Law & Memory"

(Go On! is an occasional item on symposia and other events of interest)

Law and Memory is the subject of a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the University of Southern California Center for Law, History and Culture, to be held February 25 and 26, 2011, at the USC Gould School of Law, 699 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. Organizers write:

While scholarship on history and memory has exploded in recent years, and much of it has centered on the role of trials and other legal processes in shaping collective memory, only recently has work in the new field of law and humanities begun to explore the intersections of law and memory more self-consciously.
Law as a means to remember or forget the past will be examined not only by jurists, but also by scholars of history, psychology, literature, communications and cultural studies. Keynote speaker will be Robert W. Gordon (Yale, Stanford), the keynote speaker. Among the many others taking part will be IntLawGrrls Elizabeth Hillman (Hastings) and guest/alumna Mary L. Dudziak (USC) (hat tip), as well as Elaine Scarry (Harvard), Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard), and Cheryl Harris (UCLA).
There's a nominal fee for attendees; registration and program details here.

On December 26

On this day in ...
... 1933, delegates at the 7th International Conference of American States, held in the capital of Uruguay, signed the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States. Notable among its provisions were these:

The state as a person of international law should possess the following
qualifications: a ) a permanent population; b ) a defined territory; c ) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.
The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states. ...

The inter-American treaty thus embraced the declaratory theory of statehood, in contrast with the constitutive theory that makes other states' recognition the marker of statehood.
The Montevideo Convention entered into force exactly 1 year later; the United States was a charter member state. Among the 6 listed members of the U.S. delegation at Montevideo was Dr. Sophonisba Breckinridge (photo credit), a political scientist and attorney profiled in an earlier IntLawGrrls post.

(Prior December 26 posts are here, here, and here.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holiday cheers

(Credit for early 1940s U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information photo of "Christmas trees and wreaths in store window display," location and photographer unspecified. Courtesy of the Library of Congress' American Memory digital archive)

On December 25

On this day in ...
... 1890 (120 years ago today), a daughter, Lila, was born into a Presbyterian cleric's family in Virden, Manitoba, Canada. The family moved to the midwestern United States, where she grew up. In 1917 she earned a degree from the University of Oregon and became a social worker. A few years later she married a book salesman, and together they founded the Reader's Digest. An active editor, Lila Bell Acheson Wallace (right) owned 48% of the magazine. The couple received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1972. She also served as a director of the New York Central Railroad from 1954 to 1959 -- the 1st woman to serve as a railway director in the United States. She won a 1992 National Medal for her arts patronage. When she died in New York in 1984, her estate was valued at half a billion dollars. (credit for portrait of Wallace by Marguerite Stuber Pearson)

(Prior December 25 posts are here, here, and here.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tearing Apart Immigrant Families

As many of us prepare to reunite with our families over the holidays, the Women's Refugee Commission has released a new report, Torn Apart by Immigration Enforcement: Parental Rights and Immigration Detention, that describes the horrific consequences of the interaction of the immigration enforcement and child welfare systems in the United States.
While hard data are difficult to come by, there are at least three million children living in mixed families in the United States -- that is, families with a US citizen child and an undocumented parent. Between 1998 and 2007, over 100,000 non-citizen parents of US citizen children were deported. For some, this results in painful decisions about whether to leave the child in the US or bring the child with them. But those are the lucky families; many parents do not ever even get this choice. In the worst cases, undocumented immigrants' parental rights are terminated without their knowledge.
The report breaks down the problem into several stages. To start, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) apprehend undocumented immigrants, their protocols are insufficient to identify parents and prioritize them for release. Indeed, the guidance for agents who encounter juveniles during fugitive operations directs officers to contact child welfare services, which can complicate parents rights. In any case, there are no procedures to ensure that parents can make care arrangements for their children before they are detained.
Once undocumented parents are detained, it becomes extremely difficult to communicate with their children and the child welfare system due to limitations on telephone access and frequent distant transfers of immigration detainees. Not only does this pose serious obstacles to ensuring safe care for immigrants' children, it may contribute directly to termination of parental rights. For example, the child welfare system's family reunification plan may require regular phone calls and contact visits that are all but impossible for detained parents. Detained parents are also often unable to participate in family court proceedings, either because child welfare services cannot locate them so they do not receive notice of the hearing or because they are unable to be present at the hearing.
Finally, when undocumented parents are deported, the dearth of information provided by ICE about the timing of deportation can make reunification very difficult. Parents are often notified of their deportation at the very last minute -- too late to make travel arrangements for their children -- or ICE changes travel plans after parents have already purchased expensive, nonrefundable tickets for their children to accompany them. This and the other failures of coordination between immigration and child welfare systems described above result in the long-term and in some cases permanent separation of families, inflicting serious psychological trauma on the citizen children of undocumented immigrants.

(Hat tip to my student, Jessica Jones, who worked on the Women's Refugee Commission report this summer and is currently writing a research paper on the interaction of the child welfare and immigration enforcement systems under my supervision.)

On December 24

On this day in ...
... 1906, judgment was issued following the only criminal trial ever conducted by the Supreme Court of the United States. In the case, United States v. Shipp, a sheriff and his deputy, plus 4 members of a lynch mob, were convicted of criminal contempt arising out of the killing of "an almost certainly innocent black man" in Chattanooga, Tennessee, hours after the town learned that the Court had stayed the man's scheduled execution following conviction for capital rape. Trial took place in the Court's former headquarters, the old Senate chamber above right. (photo credit) The tragic story was told in this recent ABA Journal article.

(Prior December 24 posts are here, here, and here.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Different sort of punto final

'No hablo de guerra sucia, prefiero hablar de guerra justa.'
that is,

'I do not speak of dirty war, I prefer to speak of just war.'

Thus spake defiant former Argentine dictator Jorge Videla (above), before a national court. Many of his 28 codefendants -- all members of the brutal military regime that ruled in the 1970s and 1980s --delivered similarly unrepentant speeches.
But the court in Córdoba had the final word, imposing sentences of life in prison for crimes against humanity. (credit for EFE photo) Yesterday's relegation of once-powerful men to una cárcel común ("a common prison") was the latest in a string of national prosecutions in Argentina; IntLawGrrls' prior posts on this accountability process are available here.

On the Job! CICC Program Director

(On the Job! pays occasional notice to interesting intlaw job notices)

The Coalition for the International Criminal Court, a partnership of 2,500 civil society organizations in 150 countries, seeks applications for its New York-based Program Director.
As detailed here, the Program Director inter alia works with the CICC Convenor on strategy, advocacy, and policy; supervises a global staff of about 35 person; supports fundraising efforts; and manage strategic relationships among CICC members, States, United Nation officials, ICC officials, and others.
Qualifications sought include:
► Postgraduate degree in political/international relations studies, human rights or related field, plus exposure to the International Criminal Court.
► At least 7 years of extensive experience in a comparable role and organization, and a depth and breadth of management and organizational skills, including the demonstrated ability to lead a team of talented professionals in multiple global locations.
► Superior interpersonal skills.
► A proactive mindset; excellent political judgment; exceptional English writing and editing abilities (additional language capabilities preferred); the capacity to appropriately plan and prioritize and to manage multiple, sometimes competing demands efficiently in a challenging, fast-paced environment.
Applications, which will be reviewed on a rolling basis and must be received no later than January 15, 2011, should be sent, in English, by e-mail (with "CICC Program Director" in subject line) to They should include a cover letter, CV, and 3 references.
Details on this and other CICC positions here.

On December 23

On this day in ...
... 1979, Peggy Guggenheim (right) died at age 81 in a hospital near Venice, Italy, the city where she'd lived for more than 3 decades. (photo credit) She'd been born in 1898 in New York City, a child of wealth, and grew up on the east side of Central Park. As a young woman she married, gave birth to 2 children, divorced, married, and led a "Bohemian" life in Europe, amid notables like Isadora Duncan, Samuel Beckett, Emma Goldman, and Max Ernst. She collected art. As World War II broke out, she sent paintings to the United States for safety, labeling the shipment "household goods." The Peggy Guggenheim Collection remains intact at her palazzo in Venice -- and in this 'Grrl's humble opinion, deserves its claim to be "among the most important museums in Italy for European and American art of the first half of the 20th century."

(Prior December 23 posts are here, here, and here.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guest Blogger: Kim Thuy Seelinger

It's IntLawGrrls' great pleasure to welcome Kim Thuy Seelinger (left) as today's guest blogger.
Kim directs the Sexual Violence & Accountability Project at the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. The Project pursues interdisciplinary strategies to address impunity for sexual violence.
Prior to joining the Human Rights Center, Kim was a staff attorney and clinical instructor at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. There she co-taught the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic with our Hastings colleague Karen Musalo (prior IntLawGrrls posts). Kim also represented asylum seekers who were fleeing gender-based violence. She's also served as a Yale-China Association Legal Education Fellow in southwest China and as immigration staff attorney with Lutheran Family & Community Services in New York City. She earned her J.D. from New York University School of Law, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.
Kim's scholarship focuses on issues of gender-based violence, persecution based on sexual orientation, and developments in asylum jurisprudence. Most recently, this year she published "Violence Against Women and HIV Control in Uganda: A Paradox of Protection? ," in the Hastings International and Comparative Law Review. Her sample-based analysis of asylum claims involving forced marriage is forthcoming. Ki'ms current interests include the relationship of legal and medical sectors in the prosecution of sexual violence, as well as the intersection of women's rights and health status in general. In her guest post below, Kim discusses a range of efforts to address sexual violence in Kenya.
She writes the following dedication:

Kim dreams her international foremother to have been Trưng Trắc, a Vietnamese village woman born in the 1st century. Under the strain of Chinese Han control over North Vietnam, Trưng Trắc and her younger sister (atop elephants), led a predominantly female legion to temporarily expel Han dynasty forces from the northern prefectures.

Today Trưng (image credit) joins IntLawGrrls' other foremothers in the list just below the "visiting from..." map at right.

Heartfelt welcome!

Beyond the ICC: Addressing Sexual Violence in Kenya

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

Last week, two very interesting things happened in the world of accountability for sexual violence.
► First, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, requested that six high-ranking Kenyans present themselves to The Hague. He charged three of the six with organizing and inciting political strife – including sexual violence – in the wake of Kenya’s 2007 general election.
► Second, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1960 (2010), condemning sexual violence in zones of conflict and political unrest. This new resolution on women and peace and security calls for, among other things, commanders in armed conflict to explicitly prohibit sexual violence by their subordinates. It also requests support of civil society groups to coordinate resources, information, and efforts relating to widespread sexual harm.
This pair of events reminds me of Kenya, where I spent the month of October, speaking with government and civil society leaders about the problem of impunity for sexual violence.
Kenyan lawyers, parliamentarians, hospital staff, and grassroots advocates assured me that the problem is great – both for the politically motivated rapes of 2007-2008 and for cases of sexual violence in general. (above photo: mural on wall overlooking the Rift Valley, which suffered greatly during the post-election violence)
For example:
In early 2008, the Nairobi Women’s Hospital Gender Violence Recovery Centre alone handled nearly 700 cases of election-related sexual attack. Fully 90% of the rape cases reported involved multiple perpetrators. Several victims were children. A few cases of male victimization were also reported – mostly in the form of forced circumcision of men and boys from the Luo ethnic group, which does not practice circumcision. Depending on their ethnic loyalties, police had stood by and watched. Some police even participated.
Three years later, not one of these attackers has been convicted.
As one survivor was quoted in the report available here:

'[We] meet our perpetrators every other day, they are our neighbors. It’s tough knowing that they are still very safe from the arm of the law.'

Meanwhile, findings of the 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey revealed that 44% of married, divorced, or separated women ages 15 to 49 reported had experienced physical or sexual abuse at least once by their husband or partner. Of these women, 29% had suffered such harm in the past calendar year.
The Nairobi Women's Hospital, which sees hundreds of survivors of sexual assault every year, estimates that one person is raped every thirty minutes in Kenya.
Perhaps surprisingly, Kenya has the legislation it needs to prosecute sexual violence in both scenarios.
Kenya has had a Sexual Offences Act in effect since 2006. In 2008, when the government commission inquiring into the post-election strife confirmed that politically motivated rapes had occurred, it specifically urged that the 2006 Act be fully implemented before the 2012 elections. Later that year, the Kenyan legislature passed the 2008 International Crimes Act, enabling domestic prosecution of international crimes like widespread, politically motivated rape.
There are signs of progress on the ground, as well.
For example, a few police stations have set up “gender desks” to provide specialized response, while Kenya’s health ministries drafted new guidelines for health professionals handling sex assault cases. Civil society groups have launched rights awareness campaigns about the Sexual Offences Act. A government task force was even created to oversee the Act's implementation.
Still, lack of political will, resources, and linkages cripples progress:
► Many police, doctors, even judges are still unfamiliar with the 2006 law.
► The few existing police “gender desks” are frequently unstaffed.
► Victims cannot access counseling or protection.
► Investigative procedures remain weak, and the government forensics lab is under-resourced to the point of being nonfunctional.
Civil society efforts have been valiant, but need coordination and government support. (photo at left: poster on wall at the Gender Violence Recovery Center at Kenyatta National Hospital)
A critical but missing step is dialogue and coordination among stakeholders – urban and rural, medical and legal, government and non-government. In response, the Sexual Violence & Accountability Project that I direct at the Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, has agreed to facilitate a workshop in Nairobi in 2011. Our aim is to bring key actors together to improve and coordinate response to sexual violence. We hope not only to create a space to troubleshoot implementation of the 2006 Sexual Offences Act, but also to brainstorm ways to increase capacity to handle widespread, politically motivated rape -- in time for the 2012 elections.
Of course, the question remains as to what to do about the mass rapes of 2008.Certainly, the ICC has kept sexual violence in its crosshairs as it pursues the architects of Kenya’s post-election violence. But the reach of the ICC is limited to persons with “greatest responsibility” for crimes within its jurisdiction.
How will Kenya sweep up lower-level perpetrators?
Kenya’s International Crimes Act, domesticating Rome Statute provisions regarding sexual violence, is not retrospective. Accordingly, it can’t be used to prosecute lower-level perpetrators of 2007-2008 crimes. Demands for a domestic tribunal received no traction. And as detailed in IntLawGrrls posts available here, Kenya’s Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission is still struggling to legitimize itself after a birth marked by allegations of corruption and lack of confidence.
No one seems sure of what comes next.
For our part, we’re taking our cues from colleagues in Kenya and standing by to support in whatever ways they ask. In the meantime, the words of one Kenyan woman – recounting her country’s two most recent elections – is stuck in my head on replay:

'I was raped in 2002, again in 2008, and I will be raped again in 2012. Where is the justice in that?'

On December 22

On this day in ...
... 1779, the 1st midwife was appointed to the staff of a hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu, in Montmorency, France, established in 1207. Appointed was Elisabeth Bourgeois, wife of a male surgeon at the hospital. In the century to follow, however, her profession would become discredited by Western physicians, a situation that has seen change only recently. (credit for image of 1956 German stamp honoring midwives)

(Prior December 22 posts are here, here, and here.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Nuff said

(Taking context-optional note of thought-provoking quotes)

Leaders from Britain, the United States, France and China -- along with Russia, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- have all visited India in the last six months, securing contracts worth a total of around $50 billion.

-- A Reuters report today from New Delhi, where Dmitry Medvedev, President of one of the P-5 countries listed in the snippet, declared Russia's support for giving India a permanent seat on the Security Council of the United Nations. (image credit) Medvedev's announcement follows the New Delhi statement earlier this month, when President Nicolas Sarkozy said France too now supports adding India as a "P-6" -- not to mention President Barack Obama's announcement in November, as we then posted, that "a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member" is the United States' goal as well. The lining up of these ducks in a row makes for a fascinating study in politico-market emergence.