violence

UntitledIt is the season of renewal, of anticipating the year to come. It is a time for revelry, but also for reflection. And reflection on this past year forces one to confront the grim reality of harms humans have wreaked upon other humans – on women, men, and children.

It is this last group of victims on which I have focused, in my service as International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda‘s Special Adviser on Children in and Affected by Armed Conflict. Bensouda’s office has worked this year to  prepare a Policy Paper on Children, and this year the ICC Appeals Chamber sustained the court’s first conviction, against a militia leader responsible for child-soldiering crimes. But this year also saw untold crimes against children – not only tragically quotidian crimes of domestic abuse, but also spectacular outrages like last week’s lethal attack on a school in Pakistan, and the several instances of girls’ abduction or enslavement by groups like ISIS and Boko Haram.

It is this last group of victims, moreover, that this year spurred digital artist Corinne Whitaker to publish “Cradle Song,” an online book featuring images and poetry that she created. (As I’ve posted, Whitaker is the longtime publisher of a monthly webzine, Digital Giraffe, as well as the sister of colleague Ed Gordon.)

“Cradle Song” features pages of images like the one above, juxtaposed with verse-form text. “How can I face a child / today / knowing what I know?” it begins, then continues with angry, taut descriptions of what she knows – of, that is, the awful ways that armed violence affects children. Her refrain of questions – among them, “Why doesn’t someone / anyone / care?” – reminds us that we do, we must, care. And in this time of renewal, we must resolve to act.

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.

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.

Stunned to listen to this poem by Caitlyn Clark, recited on stage at a John Legend’s Hollywood Bowl concert 2 days ago. It’s moving, heartfelt, raw, and real. She wants to make revolution not with the children who have been felled but with those who still live and can bring change to our troubled times. And, I am most proud to say, she is my cousin, daughter of my favorite first cousin, who, as she tells the world in this amazing video, did 6 months’ active duty at Bagram Prison, Afghanistan. ¡Brava, Caitlyn!

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.

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.’

aalsLogoThere’s much of interest in the just-published newsletter of the Section on Children and the Law of the Association of American Law Schools. Not the least is the recent election of: Cynthia Godsoe of Brooklyn Law, Chair; Jim Dwyer of William & Mary Law, Chair-Elect; Annette Appell of Washington U.-St. Louis Law, Secretary (not to mention superb newsletter editor); and Meg Annitto of Charlotte Law, Treasurer.

Also of interest are the 2 panels (each of which involves invitations issued to AALS members) that the section will sponsor during the AALS 2015 Annual Meeting set for January 2-5 in Washington, D.C.:

Dead Upon Birth: The Inter-Generational Cycle of Thwarted Lives in America’s Poorest Neighborhoods, 2-3:45 p.m. Sunday, January 4. One speaker is being sought via a call for papers, with submissions due August 15, via e-mail to jgdwye@wm.edu, with “CFP submission” in the subject line. Already scheduled as speakers are Elizabeth Bartholet of Harvard Law, Josh Gupta-Kagan of South Carolina Law, and Jim Dwyer of William & Mary Law; moderating will be Cynthia Godsoe of Brooklyn Law. On the panel, organizers write:

‘“The D.U.B.” is a nickname southside Chicago residents have given a neighborhood exemplifying a tragic reality in many of this country’s urban and rural areas: Children are born into struggling families in deeply dysfunctional neighborhoods and have little chance for full and flourishing lives. In some parts of America, a boy born today is more likely to end up in prison than college and a girl is more likely to become drug addicted than married. Many parents keep young children in “lockdown” at home when they are not in school, to shield them for as long as possible from gang recruitment and gun crossfire. This panel will discuss the economic, political, and cultural causes of concentrated poverty, crime, and disease and alternative strategies for sparing children from it. Panelists will address, from a child-centered perspective, issues such as “neighborhood effect” on child development, state response to parental incapacity, housing policy, relocation programs, foster care and adoption, inadequate education, school disciplinary policies, access to healthcare, employment opportunities, substance abuse and mental illness, criminal law enforcement and incarceration, and societal responsibility for the circumstances in which children live.’

► Junior-Scholar Works-in-Progress Workshop, 5:15-6:30 p.m. Saturday, January 3. Organizers write:

‘The idea is to give junior faculty who are writing on children’s issues an opportunity to present a current project at the annual meeting but in a relatively informal setting, so they can get more experience presenting their work and helpful feedback.’

The Section welcomes, from untenured faculty, submissions of full or partial drafts of papers not yet accepted for publication, and from tenured faculty, indications of willingness to serve as commentators on the selected papers. E-mail jgdwye@wm.edu, with “CFP submission” in the subject line, no later than the end of August.

Details for all Section events and calls here.