international humanitarian law

YPRES, Belgium – Beautiful vistas and bright sunlight cannot blind the visitor to the pain of this place.

This place is Flanders Fields, the name given to the part of west Belgium, close to the French border, that saw intense battles and horrendous casualties during World War I. This town – Ypres in French and Ieper in Flemish, but called “Wipers” by British WWI soldiers – played a central role. So too nearby Passchendaele/Passendale. Both towns were leveled, and like many in the region, were rebuilt in the old manner after the war ended.

During the war, upwards of half a million persons died in this area alone.

Our visit to Flanders Fields occurred on the 4th of July. Memories linger, and were sparked again by today’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1st large-scale use, in Ypres, of chemical weapons; mustard gas, to be precise. It was the 3d compound to be attempted, after chlorine and phosgene proved less reliable as lethal weapons, according to our tour guide, Raoul Saracen, a retired history teacher. Initial efforts to fight back against chemicals also were crude: before the development and widespread distribution of gas masks, Canadian troops resorted to breathing through kerchiefs soaked in ammonia-rich urine.

The cruelty of chemical warfare did not stop its use. Recording other places where chemicals have been used was a signpost in Langemark, the cemetery where German soldiers (including several with whom I share a surname) are buried. Tokyo, Japan, Halabja, Iraq, and Ghouta, Syria, receive mention, though more recent gassing sites in that last country have yet to be added.

The thousands of headstones in the many Flanders Fields cemeteries of course give pause. So too the cramped trenches, still on display at Sanctuary Wood Museum.

Yet it was a different site that stole my breath – the “dressing station,” a kind of field hospital, at Essex Farm Cemetery. The station’s cement-bunker cells were small, dark, and saddening, a truly concrete reminder of the scourge of war.

 

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.

logo-1People who’ve actually experienced war place greater value on regulating warfare than those who haven’t.

That appears to be one thought-provoking takeaway from People on War: Perspectives from 16 Countries, a report that the International Committee of the Red Cross released this morning.

More than 17,000 persons – in Afghanistan, China, Colombia, France, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, Palestine, Russia, South Sudan, Switzerland, Syria (that is, Syrians in Lebanon), Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Yemen – were surveyed between June and September countries2016, “through online, face-to-face and computer-assisted telephone interviews.”

Time and again, persons in conflict-ridden countries showed more support for international humanitarian law:

► Of them, 84% agreed that it was wrong, and not “just part of war,” to “attac[k] religious and historical monuments in order to weaken the enemy” – compared with 72% in other states.

► And 73% in conflict states agreed that it was wrong, and not “just part of war,” to injure or kill humanitarian aid workers delivering aid in conflict zones – compared with 59% in other states.

Also notable were the variation in views on torture:

► Fully 100% in Yemen said torture is wrong and not “part of war.” Percentages dropped from there. Fewer than half the persons interviewed in Israel and Palestine said “wrong”; respectively, 44% and 35%.

► As for the United States, 54% called torture “wrong.” But when the question shifted somewhat – to whether “a captured enemy combatant” can “be tortured to obtain important military information” – the percentage of persons in the United States calling that wrong dropped to 30%, the 3d lowest among countries surveyed.

The survey presented the ICRC with an opportunity to reiterate the existence and importance of laws intended to protect civilians, persons no longer engaging in combat, and persons whom conflict has put to flight. These are issues we explored in our September 23 Georgia Law-ICRC event, “Humanity’s Common Heritage: Conference on the 2016 ICRC Commentary on the 1st Geneva Convention” (posts). On the matter of torture, for example, the report states:

“Torture and all other forms of ill-treatment are absolutely prohibited by international treaty and customary law. This applies to every State and to all parties to armed conflicts. There are no exceptions, whatever the circumstances. Whole communities are impacted by the corrosive effects of torture on society, especially when it goes unpunished, generating hatred and triggering a cycle of violence. What’s more, research shows that torture does not work, as the ‘information’ that is obtained is generally not reliable.”

The full report is available here.

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Why IntLawGrrls?

The need for an online forum giving voice to women who work in international law and policy began to take shape 10 years ago this autumn.

An issue of the day was Guantánamo; specifically, what was the United States to do now that the U.S. Supreme Court, in a June 2006 decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, had ruled President George W. Bush’s military commissions unconstitutional?

Many women had worked, spoken, or written on GTMO – not only in law review articles, but also in court pleadings. I was one of them, having published “Guantánamo” in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law in 2004 and served in 2006 as principal author of the amicus brief in Hamdan filed jointly by the National Institute of Military Justice and the Bar Association of the District of Columbia.

And yet, when Congress convened post-Hamdan hearings, witness after witness was exclusively male. Worse still, the perspectives these men advanced by no means covered the spectrum – no surprise given that all of them had served in the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, and only one staked any claim to expertise in human rights law. Nothing approximating either a nongovernmental or feminist perspective surfaced in those sessions on Capitol Hill.

News accounts of such manels got me thinking about launching a blog.

Opinio Juris, founded in November 2004, had revealed an international law community rife with readers and contributors. But posts by women were few, as was then and remains today the case on digital platforms. I imagined that a blog open only to women might attract women – that women would see it as both an invitation and an obligation to contribute. Going pink would set a strong contrast with OJ‘s baby-blue image.

The name? “IntLaw” was easy, and for obvious reasons.

“Grrls” was obvious too. The spelling’s angry “grr” owes much to the circa-1990s Riot Grrrls; the concept, to the Guerrilla Girls, a group that since 1985 has been wreaking feminist havoc in the male-dominated art world. (Years later, we would recognize Pussy Riot, a band-turned-movement that, like Guerrilla Girls, remains active.)

dowomenhavetobenaked2005smallrgbAs the Guerrilla Girls’ website recalls:

“They assumed the names of dead women artists and wore gorilla masks in public, concealing their identities and focusing on the issues rather than their personalities.”

And so did IntLawGrrls. Well, not the gorilla masks (at least not in public). But in the infant months after our birth-day on March 3, 2007, each of us assumed the name of a foremother as our pseudonym, and posted in her honor. I was Gráinne Ni Mháille, or Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate who also would be embraced by contributors Fionnuala Ní Aoláin and Gráinne de Búrca. A charter contributor, Beth Van Schaack, took the name of her distant relative, Eleanor Roosevelt. It will come as little surprise to learn that others followed suit in honoring ER, who remains our blog’s proto-foremother. Another early contributor, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, posted in the name of the 19th Century Indian queen Lakshmi Bai.

A half-dozen months and scores of contributors later, we ‘Grrls began posting in our own names, though we continued to name foremothers both in introductory posts and in an honor roll posted online. Kathleen A. “Kate” Doty, for example, thus paid homage to Queen Lili‘uokalani, the last monarch of Hawai‘i.

clearerwicl_posterOver time, Beth, Jaya, Kate, and I evolved into the editors of IntLawGrrls. Our collaboration included hosting a conference at Tillar House, the American Society of International Law headquarters, and publishing a special issue of the International Criminal Law Review, dedicated to Judge Patricia M. Wald, on “Women and International Criminal Law.” We worked together through December 2012, when the blog took a couple-months’ hiatus and then revived. It’s been wonderful to watch the replenishment of energy and contributors at this new URL, thanks to Cecilia Marcela Bailliet and many others.

Then as now – nearly 10 years, hundreds of contributors, and thousands of posts later – IntLawGrrls mentors new voices and fosters community among contributors at all stages of their careers. Our periodic group photos are evidence of that. (At top is our photo from last spring’s ASIL annual meeting, when IntLawGrrl Betsy Andersen, 2d from right in top row, earned the Prominent Woman in International Law Award.)

To celebrate our utterly unexpected achievement, we’re throwing a party.

georgiawill_logoBeth, Jaya, Kate, and I have reunited to organize IntLawGrrls! 10th Birthday Conference. We welcome all of our vast IntLawGrrls community to join us on Friday, March 3, 2017 – on the precise date of our 10th birthday – at my home institution, the Dean Rusk International Law Center, University of Georgia School of Law, Athens, Georgia USA, which is hosting as part of our Georgia WILL initiative.

Details and our call for papers are available at our conference website and in the item Jaya posted last week. Suffice it to say that we welcome proposals, in English, French, or Spanish, from all in our community. Topics may include any issue of international, comparative, foreign, or transnational law or policy. We especially welcome contributions from subfields traditionally dominated by men. Academics and practitioners, students and professors, advocates and policymakers alike are most welcome to submit.

We’re planning a plenary aimed at getting us through the next several years – title is “strategies to promote women’s participation in shaping international law and policy amid the global emergence of antiglobalism” – and we hope to organize a few more according to participants’ interests. We look forward to an opportunity to network, to meet old friends and make new ones, to celebrate our accomplishments and lay plans for greater achievements in the coming decade.

I thank all of you for your support of our efforts this last decade, and look forward to seeing many of you here in March.

‘Nuff said.

(Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls blog)

I’ve just posted at SSRN the chapter I published at the beginning of the year in The Cambridge Companion to International Criminal Law, edited by Professor William A. Schabas.

policyThe chapter, entitled “Children,” aims to look back at developments in the area since World War II, and then to cast a forward glance at the comprehensive approach now under way at the International Criminal Court – where, incidentally, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor Policy on Children will be launched on November 16, 2016. I was privileged to help with drafting in my capacity as Special Adviser to the Prosecutor on this issue. (prior posts) The date coincides with the start of the annual meeting of the ICC Assembly of States Parties.

Here’s the abstract for my article:

cambridgeThis chapter, which appears in The Cambridge Companion to International Criminal Law (William A. Schabas ed. 2016), discusses how international criminal law instruments and institutions address crimes against and affecting children. It contrasts the absence of express attention in the post-World War II era with the multiple provisions pertaining to children in the 1998 Statute of the International Criminal Court. The chapter examines key judgments in that court and in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, as well as the ICC’s current, comprehensive approach to the effects that crimes within its jurisdiction have on children. The chapter concludes with a discussion of challenges to the prevention and punishment of such international crimes.

SSRN e-journals where this abstract may be found (thanks to always-welcome assistance from TJ Striepe of Georgia Law’s Alexander Campbell King Law Library) include the University of Georgia School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series and the Dean Rusk International Law Center Research Paper Series.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes)

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Humanity’s Common Heritage – norms codified in international humanitarian law treaties to which all countries of the world belong – will be the topic of a conference this Friday, September 23, at the University of Georgia School of Law in Athens, Georgia.

The conference title derives from this observation about those treaties, the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, by Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross:

“We know that the values that found expression in the Geneva Conventions have become an essential part of our common heritage of humanity, as growing numbers of people around the world share a moral and legal conviction in them. These contradicting realities challenge us to act: to react to the suffering and violations of the law, and to prevent them from occurring in the first place.”

At the core of this daylong event will be the Commentaries on which the ICRC is now working. Published online earlier this year was the initial Commentary, covering the Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, as well as the articles common to all 4 Conventions. (Prior posts here, here, and here.) Experts will examine this 2016 Commentary and its role in the development, promotion, and implementation of contemporary international humanitarian law.

thumbnail_p1130913We’re honored that the Georgia Law alumnus leading that project, Geneva-based ICRC legal adviser Jean-Marie Henckaerts (LLM 1990), will keynote our conference, and also that the ICRC is cosponsoring the conference, along with our Center and our Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law. This student-run review, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, will publish papers by the assembled experts and Georgia Law student rapporteurs.

akandeDr. Henckaerts will be part of a public panel from 9:15 a.m.-12 noon in Georgia Law’s Hatton Lovejoy 0042401-14ABCourtroom. Speaking in that morning session will be: Oxford Law Professor Dapo Akande; Emory Law Professor Laurie R. Blank, an IntLawGrrls contributor; Major-General Blaise Cathcart, Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces; New York University Law Professor Ryan Goodman; and the cathcartmoderator, yours truly, Diane Marie ryan_goodman_photo_horizontalAmann, Associate Dean for International Programs & Strategic Initiatives and Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law at Georgia Law, and also the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict.

Joining them in closed sessions during the afternoon will be additional international humanitarian law experts experts: Georgia Law Professor Harlan G. Cohen; Houston College of Law Professor Geoffrey S. Corn; American University Law Professor Jennifer Daskal; Jonathan Davis, a University of Georgia international affairs graduates and U.S. Department of State Attorney-Advisor; IntLawGrrl Kathleen A. Doty, our Center’s Director of Global Practice Preparation; Julia Grignon, Université Laval Law; Rutgers Law Professor Adil Haque; Christopher Harland, Legal Adviser at the ICRC’s Washington, D.C., office; Eric Jensen, U.S. Department of Defense; Michael Meier, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps; Naz K. Modirzadeh, Harvard Law; Nicholas W. Mull, U.S. Marine Corps Judge Advocate General Corps (ret.); Vanderbilt Law Professor Michael A. Newton; Sasha Radin, U.S. Naval War College; Professor James K. Reap (JD 1976) of the University of Georgia, who’s just been named to the State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee; IntLawGrrl and Georgia State Law Professor Shana Tabak; and Creighton Law Professor Sean Watts.

Full description and details about the conference here.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes, the Dean Rusk International Law Center blog)

draftpolicyIt is my great honor to note today’s release for public comment of the draft Policy on Children of the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor.

Since my December 2012 appointment as Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s Special Adviser on Children in and affected by Armed Conflict, I’ve had the privilege of helping to convene consultations and taking part in the construction of this draft Policy. As part of that process, as noted on page 11 of the draft, we at the Dean Rusk International Law Center, University of Georgia School of Law, were honored in October 2014 to host the Prosecutor, members of her staff, and nearly 2 dozen other experts from academic, nongovernmental groups, and intergovernmental organizations. Our “Children & International Criminal Justice” conference featured a morning public plenary and Prosecutor’s keynote (pictured below), followed by an afternoon of closed-door breakout sessions. (Proceedings from that event, to appear in our Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law, are nearing publication.)

Addressed in the draft Policy, which spans 37 pages, are:

► Overarching concerns, such as the nature of a child and childhood, the experiences of children in armed conflict and other contexts within the jurisdiction of the ICC, and how the Rome Statute of the ICC and other documents treat crimes against and affecting children; and

► Practical concerns, such as how the Office of the Prosecutor engages with children, in all aspects of its work, including preliminary examination, investigation, charging, prosecution, sentencing, reparations, and external relations.

As stated in the press release accompanying today’s publication:

In highlighting the importance of the Policy, Prosecutor Bensouda stated: “when I assumed 8_events2the role of Prosecutor in June 2012, one of the principal goals I set for the Office was to ensure that we pay particular attention not only to ‘children with arms’, but also ‘children affected by arms.’ This Policy demonstrates our firm commitment to closing the impunity gap for crimes against or affecting children, and adopting a child-sensitive approach in all aspects of our work bearing in mind their rights and best interests. It is also our hope that the Policy, once adopted, will serve as a useful guide to national authorities in their efforts to address crimes against children.”

The Office welcomes public comment on the draft. Such comments should be e-mailed to OTPLegalAdvisorySection@icc-cpi.int, no later than Friday, August 5, 2016.

Following revisions based on the comments, the Office of the Prosecutor expects to publish the final Policy on Children in November of this year.