United Nations

bensouda6_28oct14This silver anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child seems a fitting day to report on the “Children & International Criminal Justice,” the conference that brought to Athens, Georgia, more than 2 dozen experts from as far away as Doha, Kinshasa, and The Hague.

The experts met on October 28 at my home institution, the University of Georgia School of Law, to discuss, in a plenary session and in workshops, the experiences of children during armed violence, as well as the treatment of children and children’s issues by international criminal justice mechanisms. (Prior post) The conference served as one of several consultations being undertaken by the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor as part of its preparation of a Policy Paper on Children – a process I am honored to assist as ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda‘s Special Adviser on Children in and affected by Armed Conflict.

A centerpiece of the day was the keynote speech delivered by Prosecutor Bensouda (above). She began with a quote from a renowned humanitarian:

The Great Nelson Mandela once said: ‘We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.’

bensouda4_28oct14Bensouda then urged the assembly, which included hundreds of professors and students, members of her staff, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations and U.N. agencies:

We must indeed pool our efforts, expertise and energies to advance the rights of children and to shield them from harm in times of conflict.

She detailed the efforts of her Office on behalf of children – including the successful prosecution of former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo on child-soldiering charges, as well as the current prosecution of his erstwhile co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, on additional charges of sexual violence against children in his militia. Conviction in the latter case, Bensouda said, would

represent an important, pioneering clarification of the protection international humanitarian law offers to children and the victims of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict.

wkshop_28oct14The Prosecutor underscored her Office’s commitment to the Children’s Convention’s 4 “guiding principles” when she said:

We are also committed of respecting the rights of children with whom we interact in the course of our investigative and prosecutorial work, including their right to be heard and to have their best interests treated as a primary consideration.

The transcript of her remarks as delivered is available here; the full speech is scheduled for publication next year, in Volume 43, issue 3, of the Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law.

It’s Halloween, a day when costumes conjure playfulness among children and adults alike. To celebrate, I’m reprinting below my post from October 31, 2010, available in the IntLawGrrls archives here. The donation link at bottom still works, so consider a contribution on behalf of the world’s children.

Often completing this ‘Grrl’s Halloween costume was the tote at left.
Many a year we Midwestern children would knock on doors to “Trick or Treat for UNICEF,” seeking donations to help the United Nations help children in need. For many of us, it was an early raising of awareness — an early invitation to consider how we might respond in our own small ways to the plight of others throughout the world.
Of great interest, therefore, was the news that the woman who founded the campaign has died at age 93, just a few days short of the 60th anniversary of her achievement.
As detailed in The New York Times‘ obituary, the idea came to Mary Emma Allison, a schoolteacher long concerned about social justice, while shopping in 1949 in Philadelphia. (credit for photo of Allison and her costume-clad children) Soon she and her husband had created a global movement, called “Pennies for UNICEF” in those days of less deflated economy. Enlisted in the effort have been cultural icons ranging from Casper, the Friendly Ghost (below), to Superman, the Man of Steel. Since its founding the campaign has raised more than $160 million.
No need for a collection box to contribute in Allison’s honor; anyone can click here to donate to UNICEF this Halloween.

un_members_flagsAs it does each year while the U.N. General Assembly’s meeting, the United Nations hosted a 5-day “Treaty Event” aimed at encouraging states to consent to be bound to a range of international conventions. (Previous posts here and here; photo credit) The big news was the boost this gave to the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty; as posted, it’s now set to enter into force on Christmas Eve. Also worth mentioning are joinders to other treaties related to peace, accountability, security, to children, and more generally to human rights. Selected joinders below; the complete record of Treaty Event activities is available here.

Peace, security, accountability

► 2010 Amendments on the crime of aggression to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Latvia, Poland, and Spain ratified, bringing the total number of adherents to 18. Neither the United States nor any of the 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council is 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. This year and last, tweets from the Crime of Aggression project have named numerous other countries said to be working toward ratification: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, the Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Macedonia, New Zealand, Romania, and Switzerland. If all join, the amendments would be 1 shy of the minimum required.

► 2010 Amendment to Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Latvia, Poland, and Spain likewise ratified 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 21. The treaty entered into force as to some states as early as 2012. Neither the United States nor any of the 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council has approved these amendments.

► 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment: Eritrea acceded, bringing to 156 the total number of parties – among them, the United States and, indeed, all 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

► 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance: Angola signed this treaty, which entered into force in 2010. It now has 94 signatories and 43 parties. Of the Security Council’s 5 permanent members, France is a state party, and the only state either to have signed nor ratified.

Treaties relating specifically to children

unicef_children► 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Guinea-Bissau ratified this treaty, which entered into force in 2002. That brings to 157 the total number of parties; among them, both nonmember states of the United Nations, the Holy See and the State of Palestine. The United States and, indeed, all 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are states parties to this treaty.

► 2011 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure: Andorra, Ireland, and Monaco joined this treaty, which allows children to file complaints with the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. That brings the total number of states parties to 14. The treaty entered into force in April of this year. Neither the United States nor any of the 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council has either signed or ratified this treaty.

► 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime: Eritrea acceded to this treaty, which entered into force in 2003. The treaty has 163 parties, including the United States and, indeed, all 5 permanent members of the Security Council.

Human Rights

dis► 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Guinea-Bissau ratified and Samoa signed this treaty, which entered into force in 2008. It now has 151 parties and 159 signatories. Four of the Security Council’s permanent members are states parties; the 5th, the United States has signed but not ratified. The U.S. Senate refused to give the requisite 2/3 approval in 2012, and just a few weeks ago, Republicans blocked a new effort to win the Senate’s advice and consent. (Prior posts)

► 2006 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Denmark acceded to this treaty, which allows individuals to file complaints with the U.N. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. That brings the total number of states parties to 85. The treaty entered into force in 2008. Of the Security Council’s 5 permanent members, France and Britain are states parties; the other 3 have neither signed nor ratified.

Fatou Bensouda-ICC-043-bwshPleased to announce that “Children & International Justice,” an international experts’ conference, will be held Tuesday, October 28, here at my home institution, the University of Georgia School of Law in Athens. Delivering the keynote address will be Fatou Bensouda (left), Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, whom I am honored to serve as Special Adviser on Children in and affected by Armed Conflict.

Joining us will be more than 2 dozen experts in children’s rights, international criminal law, and transitional justice, who will address a range of issues in a public morning session and in closed afternoon workshops. Experts will be drawn from academia and the practice; from international organizations like UNICEF and the Office of the Special Representative to the U.N. Secretary-General for Children & Armed Conflict; and from nongovernmental organizations like Human Rights Watch, the International Center for Transitional Justice, the International Committee of the Red Cross, No Peace Without Justice, Protect Education in Insecurity & Conflict, Save the Children, and The Carter Center. They will consider legal doctrines, field research, and policy options.

These discussions will assist advising in the ongoing process of development of the Office of the Prosecutor Policy Paper on Children.

The keynote address and the plenary presentations, along with student rapporteurs’ Chatham-House-Rules accounts of the breakout sessions, will be published in the Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law.

Sponsors, in addition to the journal and the law school, are the law school’s Dean Rusk Center for International Law & Policy, the Georgia Law Project on Armed Conflict & Children, the African Studies Institute of the University of Georgia, for which I serve as an affiliated faculty member, the Planethood Foundation, and the American Society of International Law-Southeast.

The day’s schedule begins with a public plenary session from 9:15-11:15 a.m. in the law school’s Hatton Lovejoy Courtroom, as follows:

drumbmalone-48► 9:15 a.m. Welcomes will be followed by a panel on “Children & International Criminal Justice: An Overview,” featuring Professor Mark A. Drumbl (right), Washington & Lee University School of Law, on Children, Armed Violence and Transition: Challenges for International Law & Policy; Kerry L. Neal (middle right), Child Protection Specialist, Justice for Children, UNICEF, on Child Protection in Time of Armed Conflict; Professor Linda A. Malone (above left), College of William & Mary/Marshall-Wythe School of Law, on Interrelation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; Alec Wargo II (middle left), Program Officer, Office of the Special neal_kerrywargo_alecRepresentative to the U.N. Secretary-General for Children & Armed Conflict, on Securing Prevention and Accountability for the Six Grave Violations against Children; and Jo Becker (bottom right), Advocacy Director, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch, on Civil Society’s Role with Respect to Children in Armed Conflict. Moderating will be Jo BeckerjallohProfessor Charles C. Jalloh (left), Florida International University School of Law.

► 11:30 a.m. Following introduction by Georgia Law Dean Rebecca H. White, Prosecutor Bensouda will deliver the keynote address.

► The afternoon will feature workshops sessions open only to expert invitees and moderated by my Georgia Law colleagues Harlan G. Cohen and Andrea L. Dennis, as well as me. Topics to be discussed include:

►► Regulatory Framework (Child-specific and child-related crimes, such as recruitment and use of children, sexual violence / trafficking, education, attacks on hospitals / denial of humanitarian access; legal instruments / jurisprudence other than rome statute; children’s rights and human rights law; humanitarian law; law of peace / weapons control treaties; gravity: charging and sentencing)

►► Witnesses, Testimony, and Witness Protection (Identifying and preparing child witnesses, in general, and with relation to specific offenses like sexual violence, against girls and boys; living conditions of children in conflict/postconflict zones; support and witness protection issues; enhancing child witness reliability / challenging of factfinding reparations)

►► Global Child (Children’s vulnerability/victimhood/agency; developmental factors / difficulty of drawing age line; children’s convention: rights and best interests; child protection and child participation: issues of consent; children in militias / conflict zones: roles and experiences; child-friendly dissemination and education)

Experts who will participate in these workshops: Gloria Atiba Davies, Head, Gender and Children Unit, ICC Office of the Prosecutor; Véronique Aubert, Senior Conflict & Humanitarian Policy and Research Adviser, Save the Children, London, England; Hrair Balian, Director of Conflict Resolution Program, Carter Center, Atlanta; Shamila Batohi, Senior Legal Adviser and Head, Legal Advisory Section, ICC Office of the Prosecutor; Dr. Tamora A. Callands, Assistant Research Scientist, Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, College of Public Health, University of Georgia; Rachelle Carnesale, Chief Assistant District Attorney, Cherokee County, Canton, Georgia, former head of the Georgia Division of Family & Children Picture1Services, and former Acting Director and Deputy Director of the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate; Dr. Nathan B. Hansen, Associate Professor and Department Head, Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, College of Public Health, University of Georgia; member of Legal Advisory staff, International Committee of the Red Cross, Washington, D.C.; Francesca Jannotti, Political Officer, Office of the Special Representative to the U.N. Secretary-General for Children & Armed Conflict, New York; Virginie Ladisch, Head, Children & Youth Program, International Center for Transitional Justice, New York; Sharanjeet Parmar, independent consultant on child-crime accountability, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Mark Richmond, Director, Protect Education in Insecurity & Conflict, Education Above All Foundation, Doha, Qatar, and formerly a Director in UNESCO’s senior education team in Paris; Karin Ryan, Senior Adviser on Human Rights, Carter Center, Atlanta; Manoj Sachdeva, Trial Attorney, ICC Office of the Prosecutor; L. Alison A. Smith, International Criminal Justice Director/Legal Counsel, No Peace Without Justice, Brussels, Belgium; Professor Jonathan Todres, Georgia State University School of Law, Atlanta; and Yayoi Yamaguchi, Associate Legal Advisor, Legal Advisory Section, ICC Office of the Prosecutor.

Details here; registration here.

The Arms Trade Treaty will take effect on December 24, 2014.

The date was set today, after a spate of treaty actions during this whirlwind week of activities at the United Nations’ New York headquarters. Earlier this morning, the Arms Trade Treaty status page in the U.N. Treaty Collection database indicated that 45 states had joined the treaty, 5 short of the 50 needed. That same page now shows 52 states parties, each of which will become bound to the treaty’s terms when it enters into force on Christmas Eve.

fireToday’s joinders by Argentina, Bahamas, Portugal, the Czech Republic, St. Lucia, Senegal, and Uruguay made the difference. They join as states parties 2 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Britain and France, along with Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Romania, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Many more states have signed but not ratified, the United States among them. The remaining 2 members of the P-5, Russia and China, have done neither; reasons here.

Fully half of the 20 arms-exporting countries have joined (specifically, Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Norway, South Korea, South Africa, Belgium); 4 have signed (the United States, Ukraine, Netherlands, and Switzerland); and 6 remain fully outside the treaty regime (Russia, China, Israel, Canada, Uzbekhistan, and Belarus).

As previously posted, the treaty – adopted on April 2, 2013,  by the U.N. General Assembly – aims to curb trafficking in “conventional arms.” The term covers not only heavy weaponry and ammunition, but also small arms and light weapons; these latter constitute a leading cause of attacks that civilians endure in today’s armed conflicts. (credit for UN photo of burning of AK-47s handed over in 2009 South Sudan disarmament process) As stated in Article 2(3) of the treaty (full text text available here), each state party has obligated itself not to

‘transfer of conventional arms …, if it has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva  Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a Party.’

Here’s hoping these newly assumed treaty obligations advance that worthy goal.

schabas3

Readers no doubt are well aware that in July the U.N. Human Rights Council resolved to set up

an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Soon after, the Council’s President, Ambassador Baudelaire Ndong Ella of Gabon, announced appointments to the Gaza Commission: as finally constituted, the commission comprises a chair, Professor William A. Schabas of Canada, who holds academic posts at inter alia London’s Middlesex Law and the Netherlands’ Leiden Law, along with 2 members: Dr. Doudou Diène of Senegal, who has served in the past as the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and also as its Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire; and Mary McGowan Davis of the United States, formerly a state trial judge and federal prosecutor in New York.

The appointment of Schabas, my longtime colleague, was met with astounding commentary from some sectors. In the 9-minute video pictured above and available here – an interview broadcast yesterday on CNN – Schabas responds to that critique. He further outlines the work of the commission going forward, as well as its potential interrelation with the work of the International Criminal Court.

refugeechildrenww1Seldom do we see footage made during the 20th C.’s 1st global conflict. That fact makes especially valuable these images, from a 3-minute video of scenes from World War I, which began 100 years ago this summer and continued for another 4 years thereafter.medalgirlww1

As one might expect, the video includes battle scenes, trench warfare, aerial combat, and torpedoes fired at sea. There are images of bombed-out homes and bereft refugees, evidence of war’s effects refugeecoldww1on civilians. And as these screenshots indicate, there are scenes of children and war: Children made to play the part of soldiers. Children stunted by starvation. Child refugees, shivering in an unsheltered winter. childrenww1

Kudos to European Film Gateway and the United Nations for this sad reminder of how little some things change.

kivu“[F]or targeting children in situations of armed conflict, including through killing, rape, abduction and forced displacement,” yet another Congolese armed group has been added to the United States’ sanctions list.

On Tuesday, the Department of the Treasury announced sanctions against the Allied Democratic Forces, which it described as a group of “1,200 to 1,500 armed fighters” that in 2013 began attacking civilians in North Kivu, a province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that borders Uganda. (credit for (c) Associated Press map) The militia’s actions against children reportedly include:

  • “brutal attacks on women and children in several villages, including acts of beheading, mutilation, and rape”
  • “kidnapping as well as recruiting children, allegedly as young as 10 years old, to serve as child soldiers against the Ugandan government”

As this list of all Treasury sanctions indicates, the Allied Democratic Forces join many other designated groups and individuals; to name a few, persons pursued (with varying results) via the International Criminal Court Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, such as Germain Katanga, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Callixte Mbarushimana, Sylvestre Mudacumura, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, and Bosco Ntaganda. All were put on the list following the implementation of a decree signed by President George W. Bush in 2006, Executive Order 13413, “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Section 1(a)(ii)(D) of that Executive Order expressly calls for sanctions against persons whom the Secretaries of State and the Treasury determine

to have committed serious violations of international law involving the targeting of children in situations of armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction, and forced displacement ….

Taken in conjunction with Monday’s U.N. Security Council imposition of a travel ban and assets freeze against the group – sanctions that also cite the group’s offenses against children – the U.S. sanctions will block “[a]ll property and interests in property in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which the ADF has an interest”; moreover, “U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with the ADF.”

boscoPower politics managed to control the direction of the International Criminal Court in its 1st decade, but whether that dynamic will persist over the long haul remains to be seen: so concludes David Bosco in his superb book, Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics (Oxford University Press 2014).

Bosco is an Assistant Professor of International Politics at American University in Washington, D.C., so it’s no surprise that Rough Justice theorizes a range of ways that relevant players might have behaved in the wake of the 1998 adoption by 120 states of the ICC’s Rome Statute. Of interest to him is the response of powerful states – in particular, the 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – when confronted with the ICC, an institution whose formal rules give considerable power to weak states. Bosco posits that the major powers could have taken, to greater or lesser degrees, any of three paths:

  1. Marginalization, aimed to “ensure that the court remains weak and ultimately fades into irrelevance.” (p. 13)
  2. Control, not only “to keep the court within its mandate but also to ensure that the court does not interfere with important state political or diplomatic interests.” (p. 15)
  3. Acceptance, an embrace of the court likely brought on by pressure from other states and nongovernmental organizations, as well as the court’s own cultivation of a deservedly good reputation. (p. 16)

In the end, Bosco determines that marginalizing tactics by the court’s most vocal early opponent, the United States, fell short of their goal. But then, Bosco argues, the U.S. government and some other states succeeded in exercising control, by means including narrowly defined Security Council referrals and “informal signaling” of state preferences. (Some of my writings on issues Bosco raises may be found here, here, and here.) Looking at how actors within the ICC responded, Bosco finds that Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo took a “strategic” approach to his choice of situations. And Bosco asks whether Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who took over in 2012, will “chart a dramatically different course.” (pp. 181-87) (By way of beginning an answer, the new Prosecutor has revisited some policies subject to Bosco’s critique; reversing a 2006 decision by her predecessor (p. 119), for example, Bensouda reopened a preliminary investigation into allegations of abuse during the 2003-08 period of war in Iraq.)

These theoretical chapters bookend an outstanding chronology of the ICC’s origins and early years. Even close followers of post-Cold War efforts at international criminal justice will learn from Bosco’s concise, well-told, and exhaustively researched account.

Following a raft of ratifications this week, the Arms Trade Treaty is 4/5 of the way toward entry into force.

Paying-the-priceDepositing their instruments of ratification on Tuesday were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Samoa. They join 30 other countries that’ve become full members of the treaty since its adoption by the U.N. General Assembly on April 2, 2013. Ten more joinders are needed for the treaty to take effect.

In its 28 articles, the Arms Trade Treaty provides for states parties’ regulation of traffic in a range of arms, from battle tanks to light weapons. (Prior posts available here.) As indicated by the Control Arms poster above, regulating the latter is a principal aim of treaty proponents. (image credit)

Among the 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (among them major arms-exporting states), Britain and France have ratified. The United States signed last September, but the treaty has not been presented to the Senate for consideration. China has not signed; Deutsche Welle reported this week:

‘China has indicated that it would consider signing if the US ratified, which is unlikely to happen.’

And in late May, the Voice of Russia reported that the Russian Federation would not sign, for the following reasons:

‘Russia considers this document to be not completely thought through. It also discriminates against the Russian military-industrial complex.’