genocide


LOS ANGELES – On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am honored to be spending this month at the USC Shoah Foundation, reviewing testimonies of persons who did their part to set right one of history’s terrible wrongs.

Seventy-three years ago today, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the infamous Nazi concentration camp located about 45 miles west of Kraków, Poland. Liberations of other camps by other Allied forces soon followed; among them, the U.S. liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, and the British liberation of Bergen-Belsen 4 days later.

Sixty years later, a 2005 U.N. General Assembly resolution set this date aside for commemoration of World War II atrocities (image credit); to quote the resolution, of

“… the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities …”

The resolution further:

  • honored “the courage and dedication shown by the soldiers who liberated the concentration camps”;
  • rejected “any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event”;
  • envisaged the Holocaust as “a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice”;
  • denounced “all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur”; and
  • encouraged initiatives designed to “inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide.”

Among the many such initiatives are memorial centers and foundations throughout the world – 2 of which have helped me in my own research into the roles that women played during postwar international criminal trials at Nuremberg.

In December, the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, located in Glen Cove, New York, opened its archives to me. Special thanks to Helen  Turner, archivist and Director of Youth Education, for her assistance.

This month, as the inaugural Breslauer, Rutman and Anderson Research Fellow, I am in residence at the University of Southern California, examining documents in USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. It has been a fruitful and moving scholarly experience, and I look forward to sharing my research at a public lecture on campus at 4 p.m. this Tuesday, Jan. 30, video available here (as I was honored to do last week at UCLA Law’s Promise Institute for Human Rights; video here). Special thanks to all at the foundation’s Center for Advanced Research – Wolf Gruner, Martha Stroud, Badema Pitic, Isabella Evalynn Lloyd-Damnjanovic, and Marika Stanford-Moore – and to the donors who endowed the research fellowship. (Fellowship info here.)

As reflected in the 2005 General Assembly resolution, the work of such institutions helps to entrench – and to prevent backsliding from – states’ promises to ensure and respect human rights and dignity norms, set out in instruments like the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. To this list I would add the many documents establishing international criminal fora to prosecute persons charge with violating such norms – from  the Nuremberg-era tribunals through to today’s International Criminal Court.

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.

fatou

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.

courThe 1994 genocide of nearly a million persons in Rwanda will be the subject of a trial beginning today before 6 jurors and 3 judges in the Paris Cour d’assises, or criminal court.

Charged with taking part in killings as part of an escadron de la mort, or death squad, is Pascal Simbikangwa, a 54-year-old man said to have been head of central intelligence and part of the inner circle of Juvénal Habyarimana, the Rwandan President whose April 6, 1994, death in a plane crash precipitated the genocide. The trial will involve testimony by historians, among other witnesses, and is set to be filmed in its entirety.

Le Monde‘s Stéphanie Maupas reported yesterday that this marks the 1st such trial in France, a country whose own behavior in Rwanda has been questioned. (And see here.) French authorities arrested Simbikangwa for trafficking in false papers in 2008 and subsequently refused the Rwandan government’s extradition request. A similar trial in Canada of another defendant ended last year in an acquittal; meanwhile, Belgium has convicted several such defendants in a series of trials.

Maupas’ report (available here and here) ended on a reflective note:

Le verdict devrait tomber mi-mars, juste avant les 20 ans du génocide. Vingt années durant lesquelles la France a été accusée d’offrir un exil confortable aux acteurs du génocide. Au-delà de l’histoire d’un homme, passible de la perpétuité, ce procès sera aussi le miroir des relations franco-rwandaises.

that is,

The verdict could come in mid-March, just before the twentieth anniversary of the genocide. Twenty years during which France has been accused of offering comfortable exile to génocidaires. In addition to the story of one man on trial for his life, this trial will also serve as a mirror of French-Rwandan relations.

UN_Members_FlagsEven before yesterday’s news that Israel might follow Syria in joining the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, worth noting was recent state action on treaties intended to increase international peace and security, for children and adults alike.

In the course of last week’s U.N. Treaty Event, lots of press was given to the United States’ lone show of support in this area; that is, Thursday’s signing of the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty. Yet at least as significant as that tentative show of support – also made by more than a score of other states – were countries’ full joinders of various pacts. (photo credit) Here’s what happened with regard to some other treaties of interest:

Peace, security, accountability

► 2010 Amendments on the crime of aggression to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Andorra, Cyprus, Slovenia, and Uruguay ratified or accepted, bringing the total number of adherents to 11. The United States is not among them. As detailed in posts here and here, these amendments cannot take effect any earlier than 2017, and then only if 30 states have accepted and a further vote has been taken. According to tweets from the Crime of Aggression project, countries working toward ratification include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, the Czech Republic, Finland, New Zealand, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland. If all join, the amendments would be 6 short of the minimum required.

► 2010 Amendment to Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Andorra, Cyprus, Slovenia, and Uruguay ratified or accepted this treaty, which would enumerate as crimes in non-international armed conflict certain acts now prohibited only with respect to international armed conflict. The total number of adherent now stands at 14. The United States has not approved these amendments, which cannot take effect any earlier than 2017, and then only if 30 states have accepted and a further vote has been taken.

► 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty: Guinea-Bissau ratified, bringing the total number of parties to 161. Despite the high level of participation, this treaty cannot enter into force unless certain countries have joined. Among those is the United States, which signed in 1996 but has not ratified, the Senate having rejected the treaty in 1999.

► 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment: Guinea-Bissau ratified, bringing to 154 the total number of parties – the United States among them. Angola signed; the treaty has 80 signatories.

► 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide: Guinea-Bissau acceded, bringing to 143 the total number of parties – the United States among them.

► 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance: Guinea-Bissau signed this treaty, which entered into force in 2010. It now has 93 signatories and 40 parties. The United States has neither signed nor ratified.

Children’s rightsUnicef_Children

► 2011 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure: Montenegro and Portugal ratified this treaty, which would allow children to bring complaints to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. That brings the total number of adherents to 8; the treaty cannot enter into force until after the deposit of 10 instruments of ratification or accession. Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, and Seychelles signed, bringing the total number of signatories to 42. The United States has neither signed nor ratified this treaty.

► 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: the Russian Federation ratified this treaty, which entered into force in 2002. That brings to 165 the total number of parties. The United States is among them.

Complete record of Treaty Event activities here.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit stands out as a story for older children. Peter Jackson’s just-released film does not.

hobbitIn my ‘tween years, the tale told in the voice of a hobbit, a humane though not human creature, offered a humor-laced journey through Middle Earth, an imagined world at once arcane and familiar. (photo credit) A standalone delight, it also drew me in to more Tolkien works – the well-known Ring trilogy, of course, as well as the little-regarded Silmarillion. Years after, these latter tomes defied read-aloud attempts, even as The Hobbit served as a beloved bedtime book for my child.

Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a different story altogether. Early on in the film, the hobbit’s voice is replaced by an all-seeing 3D eye that is prone to abrupt shifts in scene. Lost is the hobbit’s wondering focus. Lost too is much humor, save for food fights and the sort of snot jokes that serve as Hollywood staples these days.

Unutterably lost is the humaneness that the hobbit brought to The Hobbit.

The film’s characters speak often of “adventure,” yet they seem only to have one kind: Combat, repeated, and repeated, and repeated, over the 166 minutes of the movie. This is no child’s combat, either. There is much wielding of swords, much crunching of bones, much slicing of flesh. The wizard Gandalf shows viewers a nonchalance – almost a wink – as he beheads a goblin. A film orc unknown to the novel exhorts his troops to destroy every last dwarf.

These celebrations of violence, this call to genocide, appear stripped of moral content. No character wrestles with his choice to kill, none feels remorse after wreaking harm. Though the lethal power of avarice and the blinding lure of othering are much on display, nothing invites the viewer to consider, to judge these characters, let alone to reflect on the presence of these evils on the real Earth.

In this month of reflection on violence, however, such consideration is in order – by those who made this Hobbit, and by the patrons, old and young, who have made it the world’s #1 film.