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On this, the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations has just published “Child Rights, Conflict, and International Criminal Justice,” my 1st contribution to the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law. (See also here.)

The 41-minute lecture’s available in video (here) and audio formats (SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts).

After noting the particular harms that children endure in armed conflict and similar violence, the 8 November 2019 lecture proceeds to trace the developments in child rights that led to adoption, on 20 November 1989, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Next, it describes parallel developments in two other key legal fields, international humanitarian law and international criminal law. After looking at relevant provisions of the Child Rights Convention and other instruments – in particular, the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – the lecture concludes by evaluating efforts to ensure the rights of the child by preventing and punishing international crimes against and affecting children.

Also provided is a list of related materials on which the lecture relies.

My thanks to all at the Codification Division of the UN Office of Legal Affairs for the honor of commemorating the treaty, about which my lecture observed:

“As for the 1989 Child Rights Convention itself – today it has 196 parties, including the Holy See, the State of Palestine, and every UN member state except the United States of America. Because of its nearly universal acceptance, as well as its comprehensive contents, the Convention has served for the last thirty years as the pre-eminent global charter on child rights and protection.”

Over the last decade it was my honor on occasion to invite Judge Pat Wald to join in a project, to contribute a writing or to speak at an event. Invariably she accepted with the same wry caveat: “Yes, if I am still here by then.” Happily she always was still “here,” enlivening every project to which she contributed. But now she is not. News media reported that Patricia Anne McGowan Wald died in her Washington home yesterday, having succumbed at age 90 to pancreatic cancer.

Many obituaries will focus on her prodigious and inspiring career in the United States: her journey, from a working-class upbringing in a single-parent family, to practice as a lawyer on child rights and in the Department of Justice, to service, in the District of Columbia Circuit, as the 1st woman Chief Judge of a U.S. Court of Appeals, and quite recently, as an Obama appointee to the Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

We international lawyers also will recall Wald’s fierce service as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. There, she took part in noted judgments, among them a genocide conviction in Prosecutor v. Krstić and a “turning point” appellate ruling in Prosecutor v. Kupreškić.

Even after retiring from the ICTY, Judge Wald championed international criminal justice, placing particular emphasis on women. It was my privilege to welcome her interventions on these subjects, and at times to aid publication of her contributions (Pat’s computer savvy was, it must be said, rudimentary).

Just last year, our Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law was honored to publish Pat’s essay “Strategies to Promote Women’s Participation in Shaping International Law and Policy in an Era of Anti-Globalism,” based on remarks she’d given here at the University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center. They were a highlight of our 10th birthday conference for IntLawGrrls blog, not least because Pat referred to us assembled scholars and practitioners as “you ‘young people’ in the room.” She traced the beginnings of international criminal justice, then said:

“I do not suggest that the process of integrating women as upfront participants in international courts, let alone the inclusion of the crimes most commonly committed against women as worthy subjects of international criminal law jurisprudence, has been completed. More accurately, these developments had just gotten off to a reasonable start at the moment that global politics seem to have begun to shift toward a so-called anti-globalist populism. My central point, therefore, is that we must strategize in the face of a desired, yet elusive future.”

Her strategies: ally to strengthen international law, international legal education, and global-mindedness in many sectors, including the arts; “protec[t] the venues in which women have had significant impact,” including the International Criminal Court and related forums; and work globally to raise women’s awareness “about educational opportunities, rights to land ownership and profits, how to start a small business, how to farm efficiently, how to participate in voting or run for office, and about legal rights to divorce or separation.”

Issues like these were prominent in a special issue of the International Criminal Law Review, “Women and International Criminal Law,” dedicated to the Honorable Patricia M. Wald, for which I served as a co-editor along with Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Beth Van Schaack, and Kathleen A. Doty. Wald herself wrote on “Women on International Courts: Some Lessons Learned” for vol. 11 no. 3 (2011). And as shown in that issue’s table of contents, additional contributors included many whom Judge Wald’s life and work had touched: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Harvard Law Dean Martha Minow, along with Kelly Askin, Karima Bennoune, Doris Buss, Naomi Cahn, Margaret deGuzman, Katharine Gelber, Laurie Green, Nienke Grossman, Rachel Harris, Dina Francesca Haynes, Jennifer Leaning, David Luban, Rama Mani, Jenny Martinez, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Katie O’Byrne, Lucy Reed, Leila Nadya Sadat, and David Tolbert. The issue stemmed from a 2010 roundtable (pictured below) that then-Executive Director Elizabeth “Betsy” Andersen hosted at the American Society of International Law, an organization Judge Wald long supported.

Pat’s support for IntLawGrrls predated this event. In 2009, she had contributed a trilogy of essays to the blog: 1st, “What do women want from international criminal justice? To help shape the law”; 2d, “What do women want? Tribunals’ due attention to the needs of women & children”; and 3d, “What do women want? International law that matters in their day-to-day lives”.

In keeping with the blog’s practice at that time, Pat dedicated her IntLawGrrls posts to a transnational foremother, “a wonderful German/Jewish woman, Gisela Konopka,” a University of Minnesota social work professor with whom Pat had collaborated in a lawsuit against the Texas Youth Authority. In her lifespan of 93 years, Konopka, Wald wrote, “fought in prewar Germany for children’s rights, was put in a concentration camp, managed to get out and work her way through occupied Europe to America, where she became the champion of children, especially girls, who got in trouble with the law.” Explaining how Konopka had influenced her, Judge Wald penned a sentence that today does service as her own epitaph:

“She inspired me as to what an older woman can do right up to the point of departure to help those behind.”


“‘Protecting Children’: A Welcome Addition to Efforts to Redress Wartime Harms,” an essay I published yesterday at Just Security, underscores connections among a number of recent initiatives related to children and armed conflict.

The essay welcomes Protecting Children in Armed Conflict (Hart Publishing 2018), the 600-page report of the 2017 Inquiry on Protecting Children in Armed Conflict spearheaded by Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education. (I served on the Inquiry’s Advisory Panel.)

Leading a team of researchers was Shaheed Fatima QC, a barrister at London’s Blackstone Chambers, who spoke on this work at the International Law Weekend panel last month. (prior post here) My Just Security essay offers a detailed description and favorable critique of this research, noting the work’s connections with what the UN Security Council terms the “Six Grave Violations against Children in Armed Conflict.”

The essay further draws links between this work and the 2016 International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor Policy on Children, which I had the honor of helping to prepare in my ongoing service as ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict. (prior post here) The essay points to “the complementary potential of these and other initiatives,” and concludes:

Together, they may advance two essential goals: first, to articulate norms prohibiting wartime harms against children; and second, to secure redress for any such harms that occur.

My Just Security essay is here. It is part of a miniforum which began with a post last week jointly authored by Fatima and Brown, available here. The Just Security series will continue with forthcoming posts by Sarah Knuckey (Columbia Law), Alex Moorehead (Columbia Law), and Alex Whiting (Harvard Law).

NEW YORK – Ways to redress offenses against children during armed conflict formed the core of the panel that our University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center sponsored last Friday at International Law Weekend, an annual three-day conference presented by the American Branch of the International Law Association and the International Law Students Association. I was honored to take part.

► Opening our panel was Shaheed Fatima QC (top right), a barrister at Blackstone Chambers in London, who led a panel of researchers for the Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict, an initiative chaired by Gordon Brown, former United Kingdom Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

As Fatima explained, the Inquiry focused on harms that the UN Security Council has identified as “six grave violations” against children in conflict; specifically, killing and maiming; recruitment or use as soldiers; sexual violence; abduction; attacks against schools or hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access. With regard to each, the Inquiry identified legal frameworks in international criminal law, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law. It proposed a new means for redress: promulgation of a “single instrument” that would permit individual communications, for an expressed set of violations, to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the treaty body that monitors compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three optional protocols. These findings and recommendations have just been published as Protecting Children in Armed Conflict (Hart 2018).

► Next, Mara Redlich Revkin (2d from left), a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Yale University and Lead Researcher on Iraq and Syria for the United Nations University Project on Children and Extreme Violence.

She drew from her fieldwork to provide a thick description of children’s experiences in regions controlled by the Islamic State, an armed group devoted to state-building – “rebel governance,” as Revkin termed it. Because the IS sees children as its future, she said, it makes population growth a priority, and exercises its control over schools and other “sites for the weaponization of children.” Children who manage to free themselves from the group encounter new problems on account of states’ responses, responses that Revkin has found often to be at odds with public opinion. These range from the  harsh punishment of every child once associated with IS, without considering the extent of that association, to the rejection of IS-issued birth certificates, thus rendering a child stateless.

► Then came yours truly, Diane Marie Amann (left), Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law here at the University of Georgia School of Law and our Center’s Faculty Co-Director. I served as a member of the Inquiry’s Advisory Board.

Discussing my service as the Special Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Children in and affected by Armed Conflict, I focused on the preparation and contents of the 2016 ICC OTP Policy on Children, available here in Arabic, English, French, Spanish, and Swahili. The Policy pinpoints the crimes against and affecting children that may be punished pursuant to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and it further delineates a “child-sensitive approach” to OTP work at all stages, including investigation, charging, prosecution, and witness protection.

► Summing up the conversation was Harold Hongju Koh (2d from right), Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School and former Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State, who served as a consultant to the Inquiry.

Together, he said, the presentations comprised “5 I’s: Inquiry, Iraq and Syria, the ICC, and” – evoking the theme of the conference – “international law and why it matters.” Koh lauded the Inquiry’s report as “agenda-setting,” and its proposal for a means to civil redress as a “panda’s thumb” response that bears serious consideration. Koh envisaged that in some future administration the United States – the only country in the world not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child – might come to ratify the proposed new  protocol, as it has the optional protocols relating to children in armed conflict and the sale of children.

The panel thus trained attention on the harms children experience amid conflict and called for redoubled efforts to secure accountability and compensation for such harms.

Honored to be a contributor to Human Rights and Children, an anthology of works in the field edited by Hofstra Law Professor Barbara Stark.

The collection’s just been issued by Edward Elgar Publishing, which writes:

“This volume provides a comprehensive overview of children’s human rights, collecting the works of leading authorities as well as new scholars grappling with emerging ideas of ‘children’ and ‘rights.’ Beginning with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world, this book explores the theory, doctrine, and implementation of the legal frameworks addressing child labor, child soldiers, and child trafficking, as well as children’s socio-economic rights, including their rights to education.”

My own contribution is listed in this compendium as: “Diane Marie Amann (2013), ‘A Review of Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy in Mark A. Drumbl, Oxford University Press’, American Journal of International Law…” On my SSRN page, I describe this book review as follows:

“This essay reviews ‘Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy’ (2012), in which author Mark Drumbl examines legal doctrine, global activism, and social science research respecting underaged combatants.”

Additional contributors to this collection, besides Professor Stark and me: Philip Alston, Jo Becker, Maria Bouverne-De Bie, Claire Breen, Geert Cappelaere, Cynthia Price Cohen, Katherine Covell, Mac Darrow, Martha F. Davis, Michael J. Dennis, Janelle M. Diller, Sara A. Dillon, Mark A. Drumbl, Nienke Grossman, Martin Guggenheim, Stuart N. Hart, Kamran Hashemi, R. Brian Howe, David A. Levy, Janet McKnight, Tendai Charity Nhenga-Chakarisa, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Roslyn Powell, Alison Dundes Renteln, Marilia Sardenberg, William A. Schabas, David M. Smolin, Murray A. Straus, Laura Thetaz-Bergman, John Tobin, Jonathan Todres, Geraldine Van Bueren, Wouter Vandenhole, Eugeen Verhellen, and Barbara Bennett Woodhouse.

Children have become the unwilling emblems of armed conflict and extreme violence.

Searing images have surfaced in news stories, aid workers’ alerts, and rights groups’ dispatches: a 5 year old pulled from Aleppo rubble, orphans at a Goma children’s center, a young Colombian woman struggling to readjust after years as a child soldier, and, face down on a Turkish beach, a drowned 3-year-old refugee. Images of this nature were shown yesterday at the International Criminal Court, during the opening statement in Ongwen, with Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda herself warning “that some of these images are extremely disturbing.”

There is no better time than now to press for strategies both to combat such harms and to bring the persons responsible to justice. Presenting an important step toward those goals is the Policy on Children of the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor.

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Prosecutor Bensouda launched the Policy on Children at an event during last month’s meeting of the ICC Assembly of States Parties. Bensouda quoted from the U.N. expert Graça Machel’s pathbreaking 1996 report on children and armed conflict, then commented:

“[I]t is indeed unconscionable that we so clearly and consistently see children’s rights attacked and that we fail to defend them.
“It is unforgivable that children are assaulted, violated, murdered and yet our conscience is not revolted nor our sense of dignity challenged. This represents a fundamental crisis of our civilisation and a failure of our humanity.
“By adopting the Policy on Children, which we launch today, we at the Office of the Prosecutor seek to ensure that children suffering the gravest injustices are not ignored. That through the vector of the law, we do what we can to protect and advance the rights of children within the framework of the Rome Statute.”

Leading the event was journalist Zeinab Badawi. Among the many others who offered live or video interventions were: Mamadou Ismaël Konaté, Mali’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Republic of Mali; Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights; Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; Nobel Peace Prizewinner Leymah Gbowee; Lieutenant General Roméo-Dallaire, Founder of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (see also IntLawGrrls post by Kirsten Stefanik); Marc Dullaert, Founder of KidsRights and the Netherlands’ former Children’s Ombudsman; and Coumba Gawlo, U.N. Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador and National Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

screen2I am honored also to have offered brief remarks – and am especially honored to have assisted in the preparation of this Policy in my capacity as the Prosecutor’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict, working alongside a dedicated Office of the Prosecutor team led by Shamila Batohi, Gloria Atiba Davies, and Yayoi Yamaguchi. Preparation included experts’ gatherings at the University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center, at Leiden Law School, and at the ICC itself, as well as consultations around the globe with young persons who had endured armed conflict. (Legal research produced by my students, in seminars on Children & International Law and through the work of the Georgia Law Project on Armed Conflict & Children, also was invaluable.)

The result is a Policy on Children spanning 47 pages, published simultaneously in Arabic, English, French, Spanish, and Swahili. Identifying children as persons under eighteen (paragraph 16), it covers a gamut of issues related to children and the work of the Prosecutor; for example, general policy, regulatory framework, and engagement with children at all stages of the proceedings. Among many other landmarks, the Policy:

► Embraces a child-sensitive approach grounded in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty ratified by every U.N. member state save one: the United States, which is also an ICC nonparty state. (My remarks happily noted that my other state of citizenship, the Republic of Ireland, is a state party to both the Child Rights Convention and the ICC’s Rome Statute.) Paragraph 22 of the Policy on Children thus states:

“In light of the foregoing, the Office will adopt a child-sensitive approach in all aspects of its work involving children. This approach appreciates the child as an individual person and recognises that, in a given context, a child may be vulnerable, capable, or both. The child-sensitive approach requires staff to take into account these vulnerabilities and capabilities. This approach is based on respect for children’s rights and is guided by the general principles of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child: non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and the right to express one’s views and have them considered.”

► Views children, like all human beings, as multi-faceted individuals and, simultaneously, as members of multi-generational communities. (See, for example, paragraph 100.) Paragraph 25 states:

“Children, by the very fact of their youth, are frequently more vulnerable than other persons; at certain ages and in certain circumstances, they are dependent on others. Notwithstanding any vulnerability and dependence, children possess and are continuously developing their own capacities – capacities to act, to choose and to participate in activities and decisions that affect them. The Office will remain mindful, in all aspects of its work, of the evolving capacities of the child.”

► Acknowledges in paragraph 17 “that most crimes under the Statute affect children in various ways, and that at times they are specifically targeted” – and then pledges that “the Office will, in order to capture the full extent of the harm suffered, seek to highlight the multi-faceted impact on children, at all stages of its work.” The regulatory framework thus enumerates a range of crimes against and affecting children:

  • recruitment and use by armed forces and armed groups of children under fifteen as war crimes (paragraphs 39-43);
  • forcible transfer of children and prevention of birth as acts of genocide (paragraphs 44-46);
  • trafficking of children as a form of enslavement constituting a crime against humanity (paragraphs 47-48);
  • attacks on buildings dedicated to education and health care as war crimes (paragraph 49);
  • torture and related war crimes and crimes against humanity (paragraph 50);
  • persecution as a crime against humanity (paragraph 50); and
  • sexual and gender-based violence as war crimes and crimes against humanity (paragraph 52).

► Details the Office’s plan for applying the child-sensitive approach, with respect both to all stages of proceedings, including preliminary examinations, investigations, and prosecutions, and to cooperation and external relations, institutional development, and implementation.

Even as cases involving crimes against and affecting children, like Ongwen, go forward, the Office is working on implementation of its new Policy on Children. The implementation phase will include developing versions of the Policy accessible to children. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to contribute this phase – and to hearing others’ views on the Policy.

Since accused Lord’s Resistance Army leader Dominic Ongwen surrendered to the International Criminal Court in January 2015, there’s been much discussion of the effect, if any, of reports that he was abducted as a child into the Uganda rebel group, and eventually committed international crimes himself.

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ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (© ICC-CPI)

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda responded in her opening statement this morning,  on the 1st day of trial in Prosecutor v. Ongwen (transcript, video, and audio available here). First she discussed the crimes with which he is charged, against children and adults alike. Then Bensouda turned to the accused himself:

“One aspect of this case is the fact that not only is Ongwen alleged to be the perpetrator of these crimes, he was also a victim.”

About this, Bensouda said:

“The reality is that cruel men can do kind things and kind men can be cruel. A hundred percent consistency is a rare thing. And the phenomenon of the perpetrator-victim is not restricted to international courts: it is a familiar one in all criminal jurisdictions. Fatherless children in bleak inner cities face brutal and involuntary initiation ordeals into gang life, before themselves taking on a criminal lifestyle. Child abusers consistently reveal that they have been abused themselves as children.

“But having suffered victimization in the past is not a justification, nor an excuse to victimise others. Each human being must be considered to be endowed with moral responsibility for their actions. And the focus of the ICC’s criminal process is not on the goodness or badness of the accused person, but on the criminal acts which he or she has committed. We are not here to deny that Mr. Ongwen was a victim in his youth. We will prove what he did, what he said, and the impact of those deeds on his many victims.

“This Court will not decide his goodness or badness, nor whether he deserves sympathy, but whether he is guilty of the serious crimes committed as an adult, with which he stands charged.”