Briefing: Torture & children deprived of liberty

mendezAll who care about children and international law will want to register for “Torture of Children Deprived of Liberty: Avenues for Advocacy,” “a global online briefing” to be hosted at 12 noon Eastern Standard Time next Tuesday, May 5, by the Anti-Torture Initiative of the D.C.-based Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law.

Panelists will include:

Juan E. Méndez, American University law professor, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, and author of the 2015 thematic report on children deprive of liberty, which will form the core of the discussion (credit for photo of Méndez delivering this report to the U.N. Human Rights Council last month)

Jo Becker, Advocacy Director, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch

Ian M. Kysel, Dash/Muse Fellow and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute

► Dr. Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Vice Chairperson of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child and of the African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, as well as  a law professor at the University of Western Cape in South Africa, and Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia

Registration and further information here.

ICC Prosecutor marks International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers

Reprinted in full, “No child should be made to suffer such horrors,” the statement issued today by International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in commemoration of the 13th anniversary of the entry into force of the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict — a date known since then as the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers:

2bensoudaThousands of children around the world continue to be used as soldiers and affected by the horrors of war.  Instead of a childhood filled with tranquillity and joy, learning and play, children are far too often the primary victims of armed conflict, where they are trained and forced to kill, rape, pillage, and undertake hard physical labour.  Their traumatisation should weigh heavily on our collective conscience, and cannot be left unabated.

The daily reality for these children, boys and girls, is both appalling and traumatic. Thrust into battle zones, they must struggle to survive or perish, often through violent deaths; where they are forced to witness or commit unspeakable acts of violence against others, military or civilian, men, women or children, at times, even against their own families. They may be exposed and fall victim to horrific sexual violence.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) mandates the ICC Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – crimes which shock the conscience of humanity.  The conscription, enlistment and use of child soldiers figure amongst the most reprehensible crimes under the Rome Statute.

There is no such thing in the Rome Statute as lawful conscription of children under the age of 15 into the armed forces or groups, or their enlistment irrespective of whether the child joins voluntarily or through compulsion. Those who recruit children or use them to take active part in hostilities are committing serious crimes and must be held accountable.

The law must be a cornerstone of protection for all children in war zones. On this International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, the world owes it to our children to renew its collective resolve to prevent and end impunity for these crimes.  This is not only a moral imperative and a legal duty under the Rome Statute, but necessary to ensure the success of future generations.  A crime against a child is an offence against all of humanity.

“Associate Dean for International Programs & Strategic Initiatives”

PrintRather than approve as comment a recent IntLawGrrls post, I wish to thank Karen Hoffman and other ‘Grrls for their good wishes, apparent in the title of that post: You go ‘Grrl! Diane Marie Amann named Georgia Law Associate Dean for International Programs and Strategic Initiatives. It recounts what for me is most welcome news: Our new Georgia Law Dean, Bo Rutledge, has appointed me to the Associate Deanship described in the post’s title.

My deep thanks to the post’s author, Karen Hoffman, and from the many IntLawGrrls and others who’ve sent congratulations. I look forward to drawing on your support and good counsel as we work to continue Georgia Law’s international law tradition, which began in 1940, when Sigmund Cohn, a Berlin judge driven out of his homeland by Nazi policies, joined the faculty and began teaching international law. Other landmarks included the establishment in 1977 of the Dean Rusk Center for International Law & Policy – named, of course, after the former U.S. Secretary of State who taught here after retiring from government service – and the arrival of the 1st holder of my Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law, Louis B. Sohn. These are but 2 of the brilliant international lawyers who’ve taught here (today’s cohort includes Dean Rutledge and my colleagues Harlan Cohen and Tim Meyer).

They’ve prepared students for brilliant careers. Alums include: Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme; Luis A. Aguilar, a member of the Securities & Exchange Commission; Federal Trial Judge Valerie Caproni, former Chief Counsel of the FBI; William V. Roebuck, U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain; U.S. Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, who represents one of the five 9/11 defendants before the Guantanamo military commissions; Kit Traub, Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs (Acting), U.S. Embassy, London; Kannan Rajarathinam, Political Affairs Officer at UN Assistance Mission for Iraq; Charles A. Allen, Deputy General Counsel for International Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense; Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; and Jean-Marie Henckaerts, Legal Advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross.

I look forward to contributing to this grand tradition.

Deadline nears for ASIL Helton Fellowships

asil_logoThe American Society for International Law is accepting applications for its 2015 Helton Fellowships. The Helton Fellowship Program, established in 2004, recognizes the legacy of Arthur C. Helton, an ASIL member who died in the August 19, 2003, bombing of the UN mission in Baghdad. Helton Fellowships provide financial assistance in the form of “micro-grants” for law students and young professionals to pursue field work and research on significant issues involving international law, human rights, humanitarian affairs, and related areas.
Applications are due this Monday, January 19, 2015, and only the first 50, fully complete applications will be considered. This is a fantastic opportunity for students and new  professionals to further their career in international law.
Details here or by e-mailing fellowship@asil.org.

Specifics on Palestine accession bids

note

Given the conflicting and imprecise* dispatches on reports that Palestine seeks to join a raft of treaties including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the item above, just posted on the U.N. media website, is welcome. It states in full:

Notes to correspondents
Note to Correspondents in response to questions on documents submitted by the Permanent Observer of Palestine

New York, 2 January 2015

In response to questions, the Spokesman had the following to say about Palestinian submission of documents:

The Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations in New York has transmitted to the Secretariat copies of documents relating to the accession of Palestine to 16 international conventions and treaties in respect of which the Secretary-General performs depositary functions. These include the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The original versions of these documents were delivered on 1 January 2015 to the Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the PLO and the PA. The documents are being reviewed with a view to determining the appropriate next steps.

 

* E.g., it has not been possible to “sign” the Rome Statute since Israel and the United States became the last 2 states to do so, on Dec. 31, 2000. Both of those latter (and with them, Sudan) later attempted to “unsign,” an act previously unknown to international law. None of the three has since ratified.

“How can I face a child today knowing what I know?”: Angry plea to end violence

UntitledIt is the season of renewal, of anticipating the year to come. It is a time for revelry, but also for reflection. And reflection on this past year forces one to confront the grim reality of harms humans have wreaked upon other humans – on women, men, and children.

It is this last group of victims on which I have focused, in my service as International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda‘s Special Adviser on Children in and Affected by Armed Conflict. Bensouda’s office has worked this year to  prepare a Policy Paper on Children, and this year the ICC Appeals Chamber sustained the court’s first conviction, against a militia leader responsible for child-soldiering crimes. But this year also saw untold crimes against children – not only tragically quotidian crimes of domestic abuse, but also spectacular outrages like last week’s lethal attack on a school in Pakistan, and the several instances of girls’ abduction or enslavement by groups like ISIS and Boko Haram.

It is this last group of victims, moreover, that this year spurred digital artist Corinne Whitaker to publish “Cradle Song,” an online book featuring images and poetry that she created. (As I’ve posted, Whitaker is the longtime publisher of a monthly webzine, Digital Giraffe, as well as the sister of colleague Ed Gordon.)

“Cradle Song” features pages of images like the one above, juxtaposed with verse-form text. “How can I face a child / today / knowing what I know?” it begins, then continues with angry, taut descriptions of what she knows – of, that is, the awful ways that armed violence affects children. Her refrain of questions – among them, “Why doesn’t someone / anyone / care?” – reminds us that we do, we must, care. And in this time of renewal, we must resolve to act.