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.

radianceTimes of war are marked by yearnings for peace. The landmark 1863 Lieber Code regulating combat thus said, with reference to “nations and great governments”:

‘Peace is their normal condition; war is the exception. The ultimate object of all modern war is a renewed state of peace.’

But what “peace” means is a question that lingers after combatants put down their arms. This is a point that many thinkers have made (in a recent essay I referred to the positive v. negative peace and direct v. structural violence concepts of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Galtung). And it is a point that Ishmael Beah makes, beautifully, in his just-published novel, Radiance of Tomorrow.

Beah is best known for A Long Way Gone, his 2008 memoir of child-soldiering during the 1990s civil war in his homeland, Sierra Leone. (Prior postscredit for January 2014 photo of Beah at Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta) Some child soldiers figure in the new novel, Radiance, as well. They are now veterans:

‘Children and young people came by themselves with no parents. In the beginning they came one at a time, then in pairs, followed by four, six, or more in a group. They had been at various orphanages and households that had tried to adopt them. Some had even been at centers to learn how to be “normal children” again, a phrase they detested, so they had left and become inhabitants of rough streets in cities and towns. They were more intelligent than their years and had experienced so much hardship that each day of their lives was equal to three or more years; this showed in their fierce eyes. You had to look closely to see residues of their childhood.’

beahLong after the fighting has ended, these youths and other persons of all ages return to the village of Imperi – a name that shares roots with “empire” – in “Lion Mountain,” the anglicized name for Sierra Leone. Together they try to rebuild.

But a  new force invades even as they endeavor to retie the bonds of what had been a traditional, agrarian society. It is the outside world, capitalism in the forming of a mining company. It extracts valuable minerals first from the surrounding area and eventually from the town itself. Schools and story-telling lose support as the town center fills with bars and brothels. The resting place of ancestors is dug up even as new casualties of hazardous work are buried.

The old ways will not survive. The hoped-for “radiant tomorrow” of the book’s title will occur in a new place – even in a new voice. In the novel Beah renders into English poetic phrases from his mother tongue, Mende. As he explained in the foreword:

‘For example, in Mende, you wouldn’t say “night came suddenly”; you would say “the sky rolled over and changed its sides.” Even single words are this way – the word for “ball” in Mende translates to a “nest of air” or a “vessel that carries air.”’

The technique works exceptionally well in the novel’s first part, which is rich in imagery: “the dark spots where fire had licked with its red tongue,” for example, and “the day that war came into her life.” It seems to wane as the novel unfolds, however. This erosion of prose-poetry may be intended to mimic the depletion of Imperi and its people.  The prosaic replacement may reflect the people’s new and different life – as Beah puts it in passages with which the novel begins and ends, their new story. Beah thus provides a thought-provoking answer to the post-conflict question of the meaning of peace.

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.

zaOfficials have taken a step toward making it easier for refugees of armed conflict to find refuge in the United States.

Accounts of the world’s too-many civil wars often include astronomical numbers of persons in flight: nearly half a million in Central African Republic, more than 2 million in Syria, and so on. Precious few such refugees have found safety in the United States – only 31 Syrians last year, though camps like Zaatari in Jordan (right) house hundreds of thousands. (photo credit)

This is due in part to 8 U.S.C. § 1182, which bars anyone deemed to have given material support to listed armed or terrorist groups. The list of such groups is extensive. So too the list of what U.S. officials have deemed acts of “material” support – by way of example, an act as unavoidable as “pay[ing] a toll or tax to a terror group to pass through opposition-occupied territory.” Some 3,000 persons already in the United States are said to fear ouster based on this bar, which has prevented untold others from entering the country.

But the list of proscribed acts was trimmed last Wednesday, when a joint notice was published in the Federal Register. The notice stated that the heads of the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and State had determined that the terms of Section 1182

‘bar certain aliens who do not pose a national security or public safety risk from admission to the United States and from obtaining immigration benefits or other status.’

Accordingly, the three Secretaries announced they would exercise their discretion to exempt from the statutory barrier persons “who provided limited material support to” a listed organization or one of its members. It defined “limited material support” as:

  • “certain routine commercial transactions or certain routine social transactions (i.e., in the satisfaction of certain well-established or verifiable family, social, or cultural obligations),”
  • “certain humanitarian assistance, or”
  • “substantial pressure that does not rise to the level of duress ….”

Among other caveats in the Secretaries’ Notice of determination, such acts must have been performed absent any intent to aid terrorist activity.

The notice is not explicit on the extent to which the new ease-up might apply to certain refugees mentioned on page 1 of this 2007 report; that is, children who, in time of civil war, were forced to provide an array of services to rebel or terrorist groups.