trafficking

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Alumna Tess Davis, 2d from left, met with Georgia Law 1Ls after her lecture; from left, Hannah Williams, Ava Goble & Karen Hays. Hannah will work on cultural heritage issues this summer through a Global Externship Overseas (GEO) at the Cambodia Ministry of Culture & Fine Arts, Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

“As long as there have been tombs, there have been tomb raiders.”

So began the terrific talk on trafficking that Tess Davis, Executive Director of the D.C.-based Antiquities Coalition, delivered to a rapt University of Georgia audience a few days ago.

Having conceded the point quoted at top, Davis stressed that today the problem is much different and much greater. On the list of lucrative transnational organized crime, she asserted, antiquities trafficking places 3d, right behind arms trafficking and drug trafficking.

The threat is not simply one of criminal behavior, she continued. Rather, Davis stressed that profits from antiquities trafficking – profits believed to be in the millions of dollars – provide revenue vital for the nonstate actor waging armed conflict in Syria and Iraq. That entity calls itself “Islamic State” and is often labeled “ISIS” or “ISIL” in the media; taking a lead from diplomats in France and, recently, the United States, Davis preferred “Daesh,” the group’s Arabic acronym, for the simple reason that “they hate to be called that.”

Initially trained as an archeologist, Davis began to focus on legal means to combat antiquities trafficking while still a student at Georgia Law. Since earning her J.D. in 2009, she’s been a leader at the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage and in the American Society of International Law Cultural Heritage & the Arts Interest Group, a researcher at Scotland’s University of Glasgow, a member of Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center Council, and, as the photo above demonstrates, a mentor to Georgia Law students and other young lawyers interested in working in the field. Her efforts to help repatriate antiquities stolen from Cambodia earned multiple mentions in The New York Times.

Her talk drew links between the looting of cultural heritage during and after the 1970s Khmer Rouge reign of terror and current looting in the Middle East today. In both instances, she said, “cultural cleansing” – in the contemporary case, the destruction and thievery of monuments sacred to moderate Muslims and others – precedes and parallels efforts to erase and subjugate the humans who venerate those monuments. It’s a state of affairs documented in her Coalition’s new report, “Culture Under Threat.”

“The world failed Cambodia,”

Davis said, then expressed optimism at growing political will to do something about the Middle East. She advocated enactment of S. 1887, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act now working its way through Congress. The legislation, whose cosponsors include a Georgia U.S. Senator, David Perdue, is urgent: Davis estimated that U.S. buyers represent 43% of the current demand for looted Syrian antiquities.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes blog)

PortraitAmid an agenda chockablock with briefings on global crises, there will be an open U.N. Security Council debate on children and armed conflict this Friday morning.

The debate will occur during the month that Luxembourg presides over the Security Council. (Though just 5 days old, Luxembourg’s Presidency already has been busy, with its U.N. Permanent Representative, Ambassador Sylvie Lucas (left), chairing multiple emergency Council sessions concerning Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.)

Since 2013 Luxembourg also has held the Presidency of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, the entity that administers initiatives begun in Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) and reinforced by many subsequent resolutions. Indeed, Friday’s Security Council open debate is expected to end in the adoption of a new resolution on children and armed conflict.

According to a post at What’s in Blue, an online publication of the independent nonprofit organization Security Council Report, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister, lzJean Asselborn, will chair the debate. Scheduled speakers include: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Under-Secretary-General Leila Zerrougui (right; prior posts), the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake; Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous, Director of Peacekeeping; and a former child soldier, Alhaji Babah Sawaneh of Sierra Leone.

The afternoon before the debate, the Luxembourg U.N. Mission and UNICEF will launch a “Children Not Soldiers” campaign.

mjidTo be held at U.N. headquarters in New York, the campaign launch and debate will occur just days before other key U.N. events. According to the schedule available here, children will be the focus of March 12 and 13 meetings of the U.N. Human Rights Council, meeting this month in Geneva, Switzerland. The schedule includes a daylong session on children’s rights, as well as presentations by: Under-Secretary-General Zerrougui; Najat Maalla M’jid (above), the Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child santosPornography; and Marta Santos Pais (right), the Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Violence against Children.

NorthKoreaWeb1Children figure prominently in the parade of horribles to be found in a U.N. commission’s just-published report on North Korea.

Though sadly not surprising, this is noteworthy, not the least because the country is a charter member state of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report, by a commission composed of Michael Kirby of Australia, Sonja Biserko of Serbia, and Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia, demonstrates that North Korea operates far from the objective of that near-universal treaty.

By way of example, ¶ 21 of the 36-page Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, declares:

‘The State operates an all-encompassing indoctrination machine that takes root from childhood to propagate an official personality cult and to manufacture absolute obedience to the Supreme Leader (Suryong), effectively to the exclusion of any thought independent of official ideology and State propaganda. …’

(See also ¶ 81. The Report, which holds the U.N. document number A/HRC/25/63, is one of several documents released yesterday and available here.) (Credit for map © 2010 William Cornforth/Human Rights Watch, which accompanies a Human Rights Watch 2012 media release subtitled “New Testimonies Say Even Children Must Work or Face Detention Camps”)

Elsewhere the Report chronicles specific harms to children:

► Taking note of the regime’s effort to keep cities like the capital “‘pure’ and untainted,” the commission wrote at ¶ 41 (see also ¶ 89(j)):

‘[T]he large number of street children migrating clandestinely to Pyongyang and other cities – principally in search of food – are subject to arrest and forcible transfer back to their home provinces, experiencing neglect and forced institutionalization on their return.’

► The Report further observes, at ¶ 42 (see also ¶ 90(f)), that women who have fled to China and are forcibly repatriated suffer many human rights violations; for example, because of the regime’s “racist attitudes towards interracial children of Koreans,” repatriated women found to be pregnant

‘are regularly subjected to forced abortions, and babies born to repatriated women are often killed.’

► Violations persist even if the mother – who may have been trafficked to China “for the purposes of exploitation in forced marriage or concubinage, or prostitution” – remains in China. Her children, the Report explains at ¶ 42  (see also ¶ 90(e)), are among the estimated 20,000 who suffer a particular predicament:

‘These children are deprived of their rights to birth registration, nationality, education and health care because their birth cannot be registered without exposing the mother to the risk of refoulement by China.’

► As for children who live in North Korea itself, ¶ 47 of the Report states that commissioners are

‘particularly concerned about ongoing chronic malnutrition in children and its long-term effects.’

Foreign aid has not eased their plight, because (¶ 50):

‘The State denied humanitarian access to some of the most affected regions and groups, including homeless children.’

► Children were among the more than 200,000 persons from other countries whom the Report says (¶ 64; see also ¶¶ 67, 70-71) that regime subjected, over the decades since 1950, to

‘systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance ….’

Having catalogued such violations in this Report and accompanying documents, the commission listed numerous recommendations. The media have focused on the recommendation for a U.N. Security Council referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court (¶¶ 87, 94(a)). Given North Korea’s nonparty status and close relation to China, a veto-holding permanent Security Council member, that seems less than a nonstarter.  But any reader of the commission’s account can only hope that policymakers will find some interim means to effect change and accountability in North Korea.

Coat_of_arms_Holy_See.svgA Reuters article this week opened with a curious lead sentence:

‘Human trafficking is a crime against humanity that should be recognized as such and punished by international or regional courts, a Vatican study group said on Monday.’

The article proceeded to quote from a statement issued following a 2-day Vatican conference:

‘ “International or regional courts … should be created because human trafficking in an international phenomenon that cannot be properly prosecuted and punished at the national level.”‘

What’s curious is the omission in the article (though perhaps not at the seminar) of the fact that some acts of trafficking already fall within the jurisdiction of a permanent international court.

To be precise, Article 7(1)(c) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted in 1998 and in force since 2002, expressly lists “[e]nslavement” as a crime against humanity that the ICC may prosecute, “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” In turn, Article 7(2)(c) states:

‘ “Enslavement” means the exercise of any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership over a person and includes the exercise of such power in the course of trafficking in persons, in particular women and children ….’

The concern for migrants that Pope Francis I has voiced, and that this new Vatican report echoes, is laudable. And the Vatican, the U.N. non-member state called the Holy See, is party to scores of treaties. (credit for image of Holy See’s coat of arms) It remains to be seen whether this status and that stated concern combine to prompt the Holy See – which has a past with the ICC (here and here) – to consider joining, submitting to the jurisdiction of, and fully supporting, the court.

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.