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International Justice in the News

The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life brings you a monthly selection of news about the people involved in the work of international courts and tribunals, significant developments in international justice, and publications and resources of interest. We hope that this brief selection will help you keep abreast of the field and lead you to sites where you can inform yourself further.


June 2018


This month we are in Oslo, Norway where we are convening the Brandeis Institute for International Judges (BIIJ), in partnership with the PluriCourts Centre for the Study of the Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order. We are pleased to be hosting 15 judges from 13 international courts and tribunals, and our discussions around the legitimacy challenges facing participants’ respective institutions are progressing well. We are also very pleased to be joined by judges from two criminal institutions whose work is just beginning – the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) and the Special Criminal Court of the Central African Republic.

The institute includes a public event, featuring the remarks of four international judges around the theme “International Courts in the Face of Increasing National Criticism.”

This month’s newsletter is necessarily brief, given its scheduling overlap with the BIIJ, but we offer you a few highlights of recent events and publications below. We will be back in July with a full issue.



People in the News


This month, our people section is devoted to stories at the intersection of gender and international law and affairs.


fTwo judges with extensive BIIJ experience are leaving the International Criminal Court (ICC) after more than nine years of service. Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng of Botswana (BIIJ 2004, 2012, & 2013) joined the ICC after serving as Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. She also sat on the benches of the High Courts of The Gambia and Swaziland. A volume honoring Judge Monageng, to be published by Intersentia, is currently under preparation. An interview about her life and work by the International Association of Women Judges, with a focus on gender, is available at this link.

dJudge Christine Van den Wyngaert of Belgium (BIIJ 2015 & 2016), who previously served as a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, will be a member of the KSC judges’ roster after leaving the ICC. She recently received her 5th honorary doctorate, this time at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. She will soon receive the 2018 World Peace through Law Award by the Washington University School of Law in Saint Louis. An edited volume, Liber Amicorum Chris Van den Wyngaert, was recently published in her honor. A video where Judge Van den Wyngaert discusses the experience of women on the ICC bench can be viewed here.


To honor their important contributions to both domestic and international affairs, the American Society for International Law (ASIL) has posthumously awarded membership to Belva Ann Lockwood and Jane Addams. As an IntLawGrrls blogpost explains, Lockwood (1830-1917) was an attorney-activist who gained admittance to the District of Columbia bar in 1873. She later became the first woman to appear on an official ballot as a candidate for U.S. President, and also the first to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Addams (1860-1935) was best known for her groundbreaking social work in Chicago and her efforts on behalf of women’s suffrage. She chaired the 1915 International Congress of Women at The Hague, served as the first president of the International League for Peace and Freedom, and earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Neither woman was a member of ASIL, established in 1906, during her lifetime, nor were women admitted to the Association until 1921. As a final symbolic gesture, outgoing ASIL President Lucinda Low decided to redress the exclusion of these pioneering women from the Society during its early years, along with “any other women whose applications for membership were denied from 1906-1921.”

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                                Jane Addams      Belva Ann Lockwood

Such advances toward inclusion notwithstanding, the professional exclusion of women continues in many quarters. A recent Mail and Guardian article reports the existence of “professional apartheid for women” at the African Union (AU) commission, as described in a memo from female AU employees. “Central to the complaint is alleged discrimination in recruitment at the commission, where experienced women employees are regularly passed over for more senior roles in favour of men. The memo claims this problem is most pronounced in the peace and security department, considered the AU’s most significant department.” The new AU chairperson claims that he is taking measures to address the purported recruitment issues in the peace and security department, including a freeze on hiring senior staff until these complaints have been dealt with. He is, however, constrained by AU procedures which do not allow unilateral action. 

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dThe #MeToo movement has caught up with the world of international justice. Judge Roberto F. Caldas of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) has submitted his letter of resignation following the revelation of allegations of domestic violence against him by his ex-wife, and claims of sexual harassment by two former domestic workers. Caldas, of Brazilian nationality, was elected to the IACtHR bench in 2013. According to the International Justice Resource Center, “the President of the Inter-American Court emphasized that the Court condemns all forms of violence against women. The Inter-American Court has ruled on several cases concerning the prevention of violence against women over the years.” Read the IACtHR press release (in Spanish) here.



Developments in International Justice


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        The aftermath of Hurricane Maria
        in Puerto Rico, 2017
        Credit: Climate Home News
What responsibility should developed nations bear for the impacts of climate change, largely due to their own past energy consumption patterns, on countries with less robust economies? A recent meeting in Bonn demonstrates, reports the New Internationalist, that efforts need to be made “from below” in order for climate justice to become a reality. At the Bonn Climate Change conference (30 April to 10 May 2018), delegates from Sudan, Botswana and other developing countries “insisted on the need for concrete proposals to address already occurring and ‘exploding’ climate risks and harms before the next COP (COP24), to be held from 3–14 December this year in Poland… French, Swiss, British, American and Canadian delegates have been silent on financing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events.” Germany, the host of the conference, was the exception to this resistant attitude on the part of developed nations.  It is estimated that early industrial powers were responsible for more than three times as many greenhouse gas emissions between 1850 and 2002 than developing countries, while the latter are home to approximately 85% of the world’s population.


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                        Credit: News Hub
The world watched with bated breath last week as Ireland voted to repeal a constitutional provision prohibiting abortion. The referendum demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of Irish citizens no longer hold to the dictates of the Catholic Church. This referendum followed another landslide one in 2015 that enshrined marriage equality for same-sex couples. The New York Times asserts that the recent referendum represents “the culmination of a fundamental shift in Irish society — and one that has come about with stunning speed… The culture of silence and deference to religious authority that long dominated Ireland is gone. The country that has emerged is an unlikely leader of liberal values.” In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held, in A., B. and C. v. Ireland, that Ireland had failed to implement its own constitutional right to a legal abortion in situations where a woman’s pregnancy posed a risk to her life, also noting the uncertainty of how these circumstances were assessed. More generally, Irish women had long been required to leave their home country in order to terminate a pregnancy safely, and the applicants in the ECtHR case argued that Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws stigmatized and humiliated them.


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                        Credit: TIME
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has received a referral from the Government of the State of Palestine, requesting that the Court open an investigation into the situation in Palestine since June 2014 with no end date. The New York Times reports that the Palestinian referral document reinforces the Palestinian view “that there is sufficient compelling evidence of the ongoing commission of grave crimes [by Israel] to warrant an immediate investigation.” A statement by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda explains: “Since 16 January 2015, the situation in Palestine has been subject to a preliminary examination in order to ascertain whether the criteria for opening an investigation are met. This preliminary examination has seen important progress and will continue to follow its normal course… as Prosecutor, I must consider issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice in making this determination.” In the meantime, the Israeli Supreme Court has unanimously rejected a petition by a group of NGOs challenging the legality of the Rules of Engagement used by the Israeli Defense Forces in the violent clashes that took place near the fence separation the Gaza Strip and Israel in the last two months. Read an analysis of this judicial decision allowing lethal force in Gaza from Just Security


dA powerful movement to bring former Gambian dictator, Yahya Jammeh, to justice is underway in Ghana. Jammeh2JusticeGhana was spurred by the 2005 execution of 44 innocent Ghanaian migrants by a paramilitary unit under Jammeh’s control. These are not the only crimes that can be laid at Jammeh’s door – Human Rights Watch reports that “Jammeh’s 22-year rule was marked by widespread abuses, including forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention.” In January 2017, the former dictator went into exile in Equatorial Guinea after losing the December 2016 presidential election to another candidate. Jammeh’s prosecution would require his extradition to Ghana, which is not impossible, according to international criminal justice expert Reed Brody, who was himself instrumental in bringing about the prosecution of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré at the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal. Watch a video interview with Brody where he analyses the chances of Jammeh’s extradition to Ghana, with reference to the Chadian case.



Publications and Resources of Interest


sBelow is this month's featured excerpt from the Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project. This project aims to preserve the voices of individuals who worked to bring justice to the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and who contributed to the development and “institutionalization” of international criminal law during the early years of the ICTY and ICTR.

Isabelle Lambert started as a personal assistant to the ICTY Registrar in 1994, and continues with the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals till today. In between, she held a wide array of administrative positions. In this excerpt, she describes the casual atmosphere of the ICTY in the early days and how its real work got underway after the detention of its first accused person, Duško Tadić.

d“[The atmosphere] was actually very, if I can say that, ‘non-UN.’ I've always been in the UN, since 1986. There's always some formal behavior, especially coming from Headquarters in New York… Whereas here it looked more like a peacekeeping operation in the field when the Judges were away, and when they were here, we got some kind of a more formal attitude somehow. But the rest of the time, it was quite open and very easy-going, I guess because the population of the tribunal was very different from what you see in the UN system. We had a lot of military and policemen in the OTP… And then the big event was when Duško Tadić was transferred, because then you had the impression that things were moving forward and we were unstoppable, in a way. Nothing could stop us, nothing could close this office down. So it was quite interesting, because he got transferred from Germany… The Germans brought him from Munich, I think, all the way to the border, and then [ICTY staff] went by car with Dutch police officers to pick him up… But I remember that it was just so — it looked like just a flash, you know, one day we knew that Duško Tadić was coming, the next day he was here. And I'm sure it took a lot longer than that, but in my memory that's the way it feels.”

Access Ms. Lambert’s full transcript here. Visit the interview collection page to explore the full range of available transcripts and the Brandeis Institutional Repository to conduct a keyword search across the collection. We hope that educators will use the collection to teach their students about the Ad Hoc Tribunals and the critical role they played in the development of international criminal justice.


dA newly published book, Perpetrating Genocide: a Criminological Account (Routledge 2018), offers readers the first comparative criminological treatment of genocide. Author Kjell Anderson focuses on the relationship between the micro level of perpetrator motivation and the macro level normative discourse around this crime. He draws on his original field research, based substantially on interviews with perpetrators and victims of genocide and mass atrocities, combined with wide-ranging secondary and archival sources. Read Anderson's blog post about his interview process here.


dA recent commentary by law scholar Mary Dahdouh makes the argument that the U.S. Alien Tort Statute (ATS) can help in prosecuting those who destroy cultural heritage. She notes that crimes against cultural heritage, especially in the context of conflict, are on the rise: “In the last decade alone, Sufi religious and historic sites have been destroyed and graves desecrated in Libya; cultural and religious sites, artifacts, and manuscripts have been destroyed during the occupation of northern Mali; temples, monasteries, shrines, and milleniums-old sites, such as Palmyra, have been destroyed in the Syrian Arab Republic; Coptic churches and monasteries in Egypt, Jewish sites in Tunisia, and hundreds of shrines belonging to the Sufi sect of Islam across Northern African  have all been targeted and destroyed.” An ongoing case involving the 1990 attack by Liberian rebel commander Moses Thomas, which killed 600 unarmed persons in a church, is testing how the U.S. judicial system will deal with such crimes. With the help of the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), group of Liberian survivors has brought a suit against Thomas – who now lives in the U.S. – asserting that his attack on a religious institution is a violation of international law. Dahdouh concludes, “CJA’s suit against Thomas is an important reminder that we have the ability – within bounds – to domesticate international law under the ATS to open the door for reparations in the face of slow-moving accountability or worse, flagrant impunity, in other jurisdictions.”



International Justice in the News
is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society.

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