Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


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The Plight of the Falun Gong

Christian Kim

“She’s awake, put her back to sleep!” muffles a man with a medical face mask on.  Inmate Zhu slowly wakes up from what feels like an eternity of sleep.  She hears a metallic clang from somewhere distant but not too distant from her.  Her eyes, not adjusted from the amount of sleep, glances over to the source of the sound.  Unable to make out the facial features of the individual, Zhu glances down at her body to see a foggy shade of red.  Zhu doesn’t remember how she got from her prison cell to this bed.  Her arms and legs refuse to listen to her commands to move, yet she feels something warm, dripping down her arms.  “We need these to be fresh!  Knock her out quickly!”  Zhu hears the scuffling of feet from the right as her head jolt violently to the left as the room slowly invites her into a lull of black.

While China’s alleged claims of ownership on the South China Sea continue to dominate international news, one major issue that hasn’t been addressed recently is the organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners.  Falun Gong was introduced to the general public in 1992.  It is considered a mix between a disciple and religion which basis most of the practice off of slow-movement meditation exercises that focuses on truthful tenants of compassion and tolerance.  Spurred by a popular growth in the early 90s, the Communist Party of China feared this huge growth spurt.[1]

Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution states that, “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.”[2]  On its face, the Chinese constitution seems to promote the freedom of religion, yet the important caveat of “The state protects normal religious activities” allows for the convenient excuse to violate any religion the government deems to be a threat.  Using this, the Falun Gong faith is not considered to be a normal religious activity and is an exception to the constitutional guarantees.   The Chinese government stated that Falun Gong practitioners were “a menace to society – a superstitious, foreign-driven, tightly organized, dangerous group of meditators.”[3]  Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Falun Gong practitioners have been arrested and targeted ever since the crackdown.[4]  While China is known for its religious freedom violations against religious minorities, the abuse against Falun Gong practitioners are even more alarming.


Many of these Falun Gong practitioners are thrown in prison and a few are executed solely because of their beliefs.  Even though Chinese Christians and Uighur Muslims are subject to the same treatment, Falun Gong practitioners are systematically targeted during these executions.  According to various reports, Falun Gong practitioners are executed on a higher percentage than other religious or political prisoners because of their faith.  Falun Gong practitioners abstain from drinking alcohol or smoking and tend to live a healthy lifestyle where meditation and exercises are practiced on a daily basis.  As a result, their organs are in high demand on a domestic and, even more so, on an international basis.  The Chinese government reports a total number of 10,000 legal transplants on an annual basis, but various investigators claim that the estimate is actually between 60,000-100,000 annual organ transplants.[5]  These investigators also allege that the difference of 10,000 to 60,000 (on a low end) are made up primarily of Falun Gong practitioners.

In order to meet the great and expensive demand for fresh organs throughout the world, the Chinese government capitalizes on this industry with the organs from Falun Gong practitioners.  As soon as the demand of an organ arises, these “political” prisoners have their organs harvested shortly thereafter.  Some of the surgeons involved in these organ harvesting operations have even admitted to ripping the requested organs out while the individual was still conscious.[6]


As the queue for organ transplant requests tends to be quite long outside of China, “organ tourists” try to capitalize on this practice.  Most of the revenue that the Chinese government obtains from this cruel practice comes from the pockets of the organ tourists.  This cannot be allowed on humanitarian grounds.

As a result of this practice, China has breached various international laws and conventions to which China has promised to follow.  One convention is Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states, “”Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom […] either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”[7]  China is a signatory to this convention, yet they have not yet ratified this convention.  International law differentiates signing a treaty from ratifying a treaty since signing is just an agreement of what text is-not ratification.  Even though this might be true, China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and as a result, has acknowledged its duty to protect the rights that are listed in the treaty.

The international community should come together to hold individuals involved in this practice accountable via the International Criminal Court (ICC).  The ICC has jurisdiction over: crimes against humanity, war crimes, the crime of aggression, and the crime of genocide.  One could argue that the practice of removing organs from Falun Gong practitioners is a form of genocide.  Genocide requires a mens rea and actus reus.  The mens rea here is the intent to destroy in whole or in part, a religious group, the Falun Gong practitioners.  The actus reus would be the systematic executions of these Falun Gong practitioners.  Since the ICC has jurisdictions over the crime of genocide, the Chinese surgeons who perform these operations can be held accountable.  If these individuals are brought to the ICC and given a significant amount of prison time, this could deter any future surgeons in partaking in illegal organ harvesting. However, there are significant procedural hurdles to overcome, since China is not a state party to the Rome Statute.


Even though there are international coalitions against the practice of organ harvesting from vulnerable groups, there’s only one organ trafficking treaty that involves fourteen European nations.[8]  Several of the world’s biggest countries have released statements condemning the practice but that is not enough.  The United States and other world powers should call on the United Nations to establish a commission to investigate the organ harvesting practice.  Under international scrutiny, this might temporarily stop the Chinese government from allowing forced organ transplants.  Another way that the international community could substantially decrease this practice would be to screen potential “organ tourists” to China.  Many of the “organ tourists” are wealthy individuals who would rather pay large fees to state-approved hospitals in China in order to bypass the legal way of receiving organs in their respective countries.  By screening such tourists, this would put a significant dent on the revenue the Chinese government receives from wealthy “organ tourist” and as a result, substantially decrease this state-wide practice.

Christian Kim is a 3L at the University of Baltimore School of Law with a concentration in International and Comparative Law.  He graduated from the University of Maryland (2012) with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice.  He served as the President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association and is currently the Chief of Staff for the Student Bar Association.  His interests are East Asian politics, international conflicts, and human rights.  Before law school, Christian worked for the Korean Ministry of Education as a TaLK (Teach and Learn in Korea) Scholar and Coordinator for two years.  He is currently a legal researcher for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and a law clerk for the Law Office of Hayley Tamburello.

[1] http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20140714/why-china-fears-the-falun-gong

[2] http://en.people.cn/constitution/constitution.html

[3] http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-faith-column/2008/08/falun-gong-party-chinese

[4] http://endorganpillaging.org/falun-dafa-targeted-for-organ-harvesting/

[5] http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/23/asia/china-organ-harvesting/

[6]  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3257383/Thousands-religious-prisoners-China-livers-kidneys-corneas-ripped-ALIVE-sell-transplant-tourists-claims-new-film.html

[7] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/Standards.aspx

[8] https://www.thelocal.es/20150326/european-nations-sign-worlds-first-organ-trafficking-treaty


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A Tale of Two Irelands; Is Unification Possible in the Wake of Brexit?

Alexander Ayer

On June 23, 2016 the U.K. shocked the world (and arguably themselves) by voting to leave the European Union.[1] The vote has left the U.K. and Europe as a whole wondering what will come next. However, in the wake of this event one group of people in the U.K. took an unprecedented action. Following Brexit so many people in Northern Ireland filed for Irish passports that the system came under significant strain and the Belfast Post Office ran out of application forms.[2] For the first time since the separation of the countries almost a century ago, Northern Irish citizens are discussing peacefully leaving the U.K. to join the Republic of Ireland.


While England voted to leave the E.U., Northern Ireland voted 55.8% to 44.2% in favor of staying, which has caused some to question whether it might be in Northern Ireland’s best interests to split off from the U.K. as it splits off from the E.U.[3] This wouldn’t be the first time a part of the U.K. moved for independence. Just two summers ago Scotland moved to stay in the Union after a vote on independence. However, unlike the Scottish vote and for rather unique political reasons which will be discussed later, Northern Ireland might not need the approval of the current U.K. government to leave.

Historically there has been a lot of bad blood between the Irish and the British. The Irish had suffered political disenfranchisement, religious intolerance, racial prejudices, and other injuries under British rule. At the turn of the last century and in the middle of WWI, Ireland again erupted in rebellion. It has been remembered as the Easter Rising, and was organized by the Irish Republican Brotherhood. The rebellion was crushed, but the surviving members reformed, gathered support, and the rebellion soon turned into a revolution. This was the birth of the Irish Republican Army, the IRA.


Eventually, the British government agreed to negotiate, and an autonomous Irish Free State was created which would soon thereafter become the fully independent Republic of Ireland. However, when the Free State was created, six counties in the North of Ireland were excluded and left as part of the U.K. These six counties became Northern Ireland. They were excluded at the time for several reasons, both practical and philosophical, but one major issue was that Northern Ireland was mostly Protestant while the rest of the island was Catholic. [4]

However, the situation deteriorated in the 1960s. Catholics in Northern Ireland faced discrimination in many aspects of life, including employment and housing, as well as violence from Protestants. The situation eventually boiled over, Catholics took up arms, and formed the Provisional IRA. What ensued was thirty plus years of fighting, with the IRA on one side and Unionist paramilitary units and the British government on the other. The level of violence tore the North apart. The fighting was eventually ended in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement. As part of the agreement, the IRA agreed to renounce violence as a means of effecting change, Sinn Fien (which was the political wing of the IRA) would share power in the government with protestants, Catholics where guaranteed equality, Northern Ireland would stay in the U.K., but left the future possibility of unification on the table.[5]


Which leaves us where we are now. Brexit may bring the U.K. into conflict with many facets of the Good Friday Agreement. For example, one major argument for the pro-Brexit camp was that leaving the E.U. would allow the U.K. to secure its boarders.[6] However the only land boarder the UK has with the E.U. is the border between the Republic of Ireland and North Ireland. As part of the Good Friday Agreement, the U.K. promised not to limit movement across the Irish boarder.[7]  If the U.K. is going to secure its border with Europe, then it will be brought into contention with the Good Friday Agreement. Further, Northern Ireland receives aid through the Agreement from the E.U. to help rebuild after the fighting and maintain peace.[8] Many argue that Brexit is inconsistent with the Agreement, and a constitutional argument is being made before the High Court in Belfast to challenge the legality of Brexit at least as it relates to North Ireland.[9]

There have been concerns over the threat Brexit might pose to peace. The peace isn’t even 20 years old, and while most of the Provisional IRA has laid down its arms and renounced violence, most does not mean all. New offshoots of the IRA remain somewhat active, even if they are smaller than the old IRA and lack most of its capabilities.[10]

As mentioned earlier, the U.K. government might not get a say in the matter. Under the Good Friday Agreement, the possibility of unification was left open. Specifically, the Agreement states that North Ireland was granted the right to have a vote in the future to join the Republic if they so desired.[11] It was done at a time when London believed that such a strong sentiment would not exist for decades.[12] However, with Brexit and the threat it could pose to Northern Ireland’s economic and social wellbeing this provision has suddenly become relevant. If North Ireland decides to have a vote, it votes to leave, and the Republic of Ireland agrees to accept them that might be the end of the discussion. Unlike the Scottish independence vote two summers ago, Northern Ireland doesn’t require the approval of Parliament to have a vote to leave – they already have it.

Furthermore, not only could the vote happen, Sinn Fien, now one of the major parties in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, has already said they want to have the vote.[13] The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland went so far as to say that a vote for unification might happen in the wake of Brexit.[14]


It would be inspiring to see Northern Ireland, a place which has experienced so much bloodshed and division to stand unified peacefully for the benefit of all their people. However, there is still a lot of tension, and Brexit may not be enough to create a successful unification effort. However, there are some things that could help push North Ireland towards unification.

  1. If Scotland leaves. Scotland also voted overwhelmingly to stay in the E.U., and after Brexit there was a surge of interest in another independence vote. If Scotland declares its independence, or at least has another vote for independence it could encourage North Ireland to take the plunge. Further, there seems to be a sense in both Northern Ireland and abroad that if Scotland attempts independence again, the possibility of Northern Ireland leaving the U.K. substantially increases.[15]
  1. The economy begins to suffer. The U.K. economy suffered noticeably in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote.[16] While it has stabilized somewhat since then, uncertainty remains. There have been justifiable concerns that if the U.K. actually cuts ties with the E.U., it could have significant negative economic impacts.[17] If Brexit actually happens and it begins to take a toll on the economy, while Ireland remains reasonably stable, it would provide the biggest help` in pushing for unification.
  1. A guarantee of equal rights for Protestants and/or a degree of autonomy for the region. The old wounds still ache from time to time. Fear of Catholic reprisals may keep hard-core unionists or even moderate Protestants from going along with unification. While the Republic has always had a distinctly Catholic tone. Divorce was not a legally recognized right until the 1990s.[18] If the Republic of Ireland can reassure the Protestants that they shall have equal rights and access to political participation, then unification may go more smoothly. Northern Ireland may even be granted a degree of regional autonomy, which when combined with the economic and social benefits of continued E.U. membership may be enough to overcome old suspicions.[19]

If these things happen, and the U.K. actually leaves the E.U., then I think the chances of Irish Unification increase noticeably and may happen in the coming years.

Alexander Ayer  is a third year (3L) law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. His undergraduate studies were completed at Hood College, where he majored in history and graduated cum laude in 2014. Alexander is expected to graduate from the University of Baltimore School of Law in the Spring of 2017. As part of his international law background he took part in a study abroad program at the University of Aberdeen School of Law in Scotland. Alexander is drawn to international law by the comparative approach of seeing how different societies solve similar problems in different ways, as well observing how history has effected the laws and policies of various nations, and the behaviors demonstrated by counties interacting with each other on the world stage. In addition to international law, Alexander is also interested in disability law and copyright law.

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/28/a-stampede-for-irish-passports-in-the-wake-of-brexit-vote/

[3] http://time.com/4383916/brexit-vote-revived-calls-united-ireland/

[4] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-weigant/will-ireland-reunify-afte_b_10745358.html


[6] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/08/brexit-threat-northern-ireland-border-communities


[8] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/northern-ireland-brexit-challenge-involve-attorney-general-john-larkin-a7326531.html

[9] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/northern-ireland-brexit-challenge-involve-attorney-general-john-larkin-a7326531.html

[10] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-10866072


[12] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-weigant/will-ireland-reunify-afte_b_10745358.html

[13] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-northern-ireland-eu-referendum-result-latest-live-border-poll-united-martin-mcguinness-a7099276.html

[14] http://time.com/4412381/ireland-prime-minister-enda-kelly-referendum-northern-ireland/

[15] http://time.com/4383916/brexit-vote-revived-calls-united-ireland/ & http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-weigant/will-ireland-reunify-afte_b_10745358.html

[16] http://www.bbc.com/news/business-36956418

[17] http://www.bbc.com/news/business-36956418 & http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-weigant/will-ireland-reunify-afte_b_10745358.html

[18] http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Historical_Information/The_Constitution/February_2015_-_Constitution_of_Ireland_.pdf


Source: http://www.dailycal.org/2014/02/11/jeremy/

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Shifting Focus: The ICC looks to Prosecute Environmental Crimes

Jasmine Pope

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was created as a result of the Rome Statute. The ICC was not set up to replace domestic court systems. Instead, the ICC serves to complement domestic criminal systems, only prosecuting cases when States, countries that are party to the Rome Statute, are unable or unwilling to do so.[i]

What does the ICC do? How does it work?

The Rome Statute grants the ICC jurisdiction over four crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.[ii] Genocide requires “specific intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by killing its members or by other means.”[iii] Examples of genocide include the Rwandan Genocide, the Holocaust, and the Situation in Darfur. The ICC prosecutes fifteen forms of crimes against humanity, including sexual slavery, murder, enforced disappearances, apartheid, rape, and murder, which are “serious violations committed as part of a large-scale attack against any civilian population.”[iv] War crimes are considered to be violations of the Geneva conventions. Crimes of aggression are the “use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, integrity or independence of another State.”[v] The ICC only prosecutes individuals that commit any of the crimes over which it has jurisdiction. The ICC does not prosecute States.


A Landmark Policy Decision

On Thursday, September 15, 2016, the ICC made a huge announcement. The ICC will broaden its focus to include environmental crimes.[vi] In the policy paper published by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC, the OTP stated that “the Office will seek to cooperate and provide assistance to States, upon request, with respect to conduct which constitutes a serious crime under national law, such as the illegal exploitation of natural resources, arms, trafficking, human terrorism, financial crimes, land grabbing or the destruction of the environment.”[vii] This is a big deal. For decades, the scientific community and activists have talked about climate and environmental change. But let’s be clear here: the ICC is not expanding its jurisdiction—it is simply assessing existing offences in a much broader context.[viii]

Environmental destruction and environmental issues have been a hot topic in recent years. Environmental issues and concerns deal with more than just cutting down trees in rainforests, since so much of our environment is affected by our daily actions. But it goes beyond the rainforest. Many of the situations currently under investigation by the ICC, where crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed, destruction of the environment is also an element. Warlords do not just magically come into a town or village, kill a few people, and then move on. No, they destroy the towns they come across. It is even possible that the actions of Royal Dutch Petroleum in the Niger Delta could be investigated by the ICC through their now broadened scope of jurisdiction.


While the ICC usually prosecutes warlords, this decision opens the door for business executives, government officials, and heads of corporations to face the music, so to speak. No more outsourcing work to poor, undeveloped nations without a second thought as to the environmental consequences. The ICC can now start “holding corporate executives accountable for large-scale land grabbing and massive displacement happening during peace time.”[ix]

What Does it all Mean?

Can the ICC not only talk the talk: can it also walk the walk? That is the billion-dollar question. Instances of land-grabbing have plagued the world for decades, particularly in Africa, and in underdeveloped nations in Asia. Land grabbing deals with large-scale land acquisitions by governments and individuals, as well as domestic and international companies.[x] While land grabbing itself may not be a crime that the ICC can prosecute, the consequences of land-grabbing falls under the realm of crimes against humanity that the ICC can prosecute.

The international community is already speculating that Cambodia is the perfect place for the ICC to shift its focus.[xi] International lawyer with the international criminal law firm Global Diligence, Richard Rogers, has already filed a case with the ICC on behalf of ten Cambodian citizens. The complaint alleges that the country’s ruling elite “including government and military, has perpetuated mass rights violations since 2002 in pursuit of wealth and power by grabbing land and forcibly evicting up to 350,000 people.”[xii] If the ICC does choose to investigate the situation in Cambodia, it will be interesting to see who the ICC files charges against as having committed crimes against humanity. Does the ICC look to charge governmental officials? Does the ICC look to charge business executives? Who will the ICC deem responsible for the situation in Cambodia if they find they have jurisdiction?


This new expanding view of the ICC could open the door to prosecutions over climate change, in addition to land grabbing.[xiii]According to an ICC member who worked on the policy document, this decision allows for the ICC to “[exercise its] jurisdiction by looking at the context in which crimes are committed.”[xiv] Companies, government officials, business executives, and individuals must now think long and hard about their activities in certain countries, i.e. those that are party to and have accepted the jurisdiction the ICC. The ICC is watching, and so is the rest of the world.

Jasmine Pope is a second year law student at the University of Baltimore. She graduated from Towson University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, with a minor in History. Jasmine is extremely interested in and passionate about international human rights, particular the rights of women and children. She also participated in the Summer Study Abroad Program in Aberdeen, Scotland. She has also studied abroad in Benalmádena, Spain. Currently, she serves as the Secretary for the International Law Society. Jasmine is currently a member of the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Team. Jasmine is also a Staff Editor for the Journal of International Law and works for the Law Office of Hayley Tamburello.

[i] https://www.icc-cpi.int/about/how-the-court-works.

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id.

[v] Id.

[vi] Brittany Felder, “ICC to focus on environmental crimes”, Jurist, September 16, 2016, http://www.jurist.org/paperchase/2016/09/icc-to-focus-on-environmental-crimes.php.

[vii] https://www.icc-cpi.int/itemsDocuments/20160915_OTP-Policy_Case-Selection_Eng.pdf.

[viii] John Vidal and Owen Bowcott, “ICC widens remit to include environmental destruction cases,” The Guardian, September 15, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/sep/15/hague-court-widens-remit-to-include-environmental-destruction-cases.

[ix] Chris Arsenault, “International court to prosecute environmental crimes in major shift,” Reuters, September 15, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-landrights-icc-idUSKCN11L2F9.

[x] Stop Africa Land Grab, http://www.stopafricalandgrab.com/.

[xi] Vidal and Bowcott, https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/sep/15/hague-court-widens-remit-to-include-environmental-destruction-cases.

[xii] Id.

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] Id.


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The Democratic Republic of Congo On the Brink

Carolyn Mills

In a continent that is no stranger to violence, civil wars and post-colonial conflict, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or ‘DRC’, is currently in a state of fragility and uncertainty.  The quest for democracy on the continent of Africa is one that has been hard fought for, from freedom from colonialism to fighting rampant corruption and the tendency toward instability. Supporting and upholding democracy should be a priority for the international community and for the leaders of these nations.

Initially a Belgian colony, the DRC gained its independence in 1960 (called Zaire from 1971-1997) and was marred with issues with instability as many infant African Nations. [1] In 1965 Col. Mobutu came into power as the image of the young country’s savior yet that image turned darkly violent.[2] His reign in the country most notably came to an abrupt when joint troops from African Countries such as: Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan and Zimbabwe sent troops to topple 32 year stronghold over the country. [3] Mobutu’s reign was known as a kleptocracy, where he was notorious for pilfering money in the billions and for widespread nepotism and corruption of the country’s resources. [4]


Protesters Against Kabila

The DRC again finds itself in the middle of another power struggle and at the forefront of international headlines. As of September 28, 2016, the United States placed sanctions on two top leaders in the country.[5] The effort was seen by many as a clear message for DRC’s current President, Joseph Kabila, to respect the constitution. [6] The two leaders, Major General Gabriel Amisi Kumba and General John Numbi have both been accused by the US government as being leaders of violent repression against opposition demonstrations. [7]

The country has been wrought with violence the past few months, as its current President for the past 15 years (and counting) Kabila, is exclaiming that the country is too broke to hold free and open elections in December. [8] Leaders of the opposition are not impressed. As of last week, 32 people were killed during protests against the country’s inflammatory leader and apparent ‘foot dragging’ as some would call it[9]. During this demonstration over 368 protesters were arrested. [10] In light of the current unrest the Department of State has ordered that all US personnel leave the country. [11]

For the past 20 year DRC has been able to maintain an electoral democracy, albeit fragile. [12] President Kabila has failed to announce when and where elections will take place or to make mention of a successor. The Constitutional Court granted that Kabila could be able to stay in office through the elections —something that disturbed the opposition. [13] Kabila’s supporters have been quoted as telling the press that many Congolese are, in fact, supportive of a third term for the current President opposition is often quashed.[14]

It is no wonder that Kabila wants to continue to secure his hold on the country—he is certainly attempting to maintain his dictatorship, as he initially took office just 10 days after the assassination of his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, by one of his bodyguards. [15] At the time, the official age to become President was 35, but Kabila was only 29 years old when he assumed power. So, as any good dictator does, he changed the constitution — lowering the official age to become president from 35 to 30. [16] Much like his predecessors, he is known for his vast nepotism, and corruption and he is vastly unpopular with the Congolese majority.


Kabila Supporters

According to Transparency International, a non-governmental agency that monitors corruption abroad, the DRC maintains an illustrious reputation as being one of the most corrupt countries in Africa. [17] Further, when respondents were asked by Transparency International if any of them had given a bribe within the past 12 months 54% responded to paying a bride to the judiciary, 40% to education services, and most alarmingly 78% to the police.[18] Further, when respondents were asked about the effectiveness of their government 46% responded (a nearly overwhelming majority) they felt they were ineffective.

This survey only lends itself to a clearer picture of how many Congolese feel about their government and its leaders. Kabila’s hardline stance toward the opposition coupled with his 15 year reign give few confidence about their country’s leadership. The crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations has drawn the attention of not only Human Rights Watch, but of many different foreign governments—some of which say that it is simply a “wait and see game” to learn the fate of the country and its democracy. [19] Some have even argued that Africa’s conception of democracy cannot be comported with that of the West, and the continent’s implementation of it is wholly and entirely different.[20]  For example, author William Gumede asserts that, “…the African style democratic leader becomes like a traditional chief. Winning means and state resources are the spoils, part of which you may use for yourself.” This hypothesis could clearly account for much of the corruption seen in many of these nations including the DRC.  However realized, however conceptualized, there should be freedoms guaranteed without the fear of retaliation and violence.

President Kabila looks on during signature ceremonies.

President Kabila looks on during signature ceremonies.

We have to assess whether or not we are going to hold the DRC to western standards of democracy or if we are going to sit back and allow autocratic dictators to continue with their corrupt ways.

[1] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cg.html

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2974/Seko-Mobutu-Sese.html

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/28/us-sanctions-drc-officials-democratic-republic-congo

[6] http://time.com/4514140/democratic-republic-congo-us-families/

[7] http://www.africanews.com/2016/09/30/us-issues-travel-alert-for-restive-drc-kinshasa-fires-back-over-sanctions/

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] http://aa.com.tr/en/africa/drc-opposition-seeks-justice-over-deadly-protests/654466

[11] http://time.com/4514140/democratic-republic-congo-us-families/

[12] http://africanarguments.org/2016/07/21/dr-congo-can-anyone-stop-joseph-kabila/

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/joseph-kabila-takes-power-in-congo/

[16] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4840388.stm

[17] http://www.transparency.org/gcb2013/country/?country=democratic_republic_of_the_congo

[18] Id.

[19] https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/09/18/democratic-republic-congo-precipice

[20] http://www.publicseminar.org/2015/02/african-style-democracy/#.V_KIHk-FOJA

Imdad Ali’s wife, Safia Bono, holds a picture of her husband on death row in central Pakistan to spread awareness of unjust execution of the mentally ill.  Photo Credit: Asghar Ali; Souce: AP (http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/man-declared-insane-has-execution-halted-in-the-race-for-his-life/news-story/778891a7e5361c43df77145eb75dc5c4).


Thinking Out Loud: Injustice to Imdad Ali, Paranoid Schizophrenic

Margie Beltran

“[W]hen a mad man is executed, [it would] be a miserable spectacle, both against law, and of extreme humanity and cruelty, and can be of no example to others.”

Sir Edward Coke[i]

Pre-Emption: Courts have recognized the execution of a person with a mental illness causing the person unable to determine right from wrong and not understand the repercussions of their actions is an unfair punishment since the early 1600s.[ii]


Imdad Ali’s wife, Safia Bono, holds a picture of her husband on death row in central Pakistan to spread awareness of unjust execution of the mentally ill. Photo Credit: Asghar Ali; Souce: AP (http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/man-declared-insane-has-execution-halted-in-the-race-for-his-life/news-story/778891a7e5361c43df77145eb75dc5c4).


Imdad Ali, convicted in a 2001 murder case in Pakistan for killing a religious teacher, was slated to be punished via death penalty on September 20, 2016.[iii]  Nearly a decade and a half following the conviction, 50 year-old Ali, diagnosed by Pakistani prison officials with paranoid schizophrenia in 2012, faced execution despite the agreement Pakistan made to protect those with disabilities.[iv]  Pakistan has now been in direct violation with their previous UN agreement.

About two decades ago, Ali’s family and friends watched as his mental processing began to deteriorate.[v]  Ali became withdrawn, often found talking to himself, or to inanimate objects.[vi]  His wife, Safia Bano, tried desperately to have mental health professionals or hospitals treat Ali, but the price for mental health made access to care nearly impossible.[vii]  Before long, Ali’s illness took the wheel and he fatally shot a man.  Seeing the desperation and struggle of Ali and his family, many of his neighbors at the time of the shooting have offered to testify that Ali was a victim of his crippling schizophrenia.[viii]


Justice Project Pakistan Executive Director, Sarah Belal, fights for Imdad Ali’s justice, “Executing Imdad will exemplify Pakistan’s failure to abide by its international legal commitments [under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] that forbid the death penalty for persons suffering from mental disabilities.  Knowing what [Pakistan does] about his condition would make his hanging a most serious crime.”[ix]  In 2011, ten years after Ali’s conviction, Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.[x]  Upon ratification, they agreed to uphold the rights of individuals with disabilities.[xi]

On the day of his scheduled execution, the Pakistani court granted a one-week reprieve to investigate the case and potentially change their mind.[xii]  The week following, on September 27, the Supreme Court of Pakistan dismissed any further halts on the execution.[xiii]  Now, Ali is slated to be executed as early as October 4, 2016.[xiv]

The justification?

Judges claimed, due to the vast numbers of prisoners diagnosed with mental illness, it is unreasonable to remove Ali’s sentence because this would set a precedent of letting anyone with a mental health disorder be free of their sentences.[xv]

So, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, knowing full well that both Pakistani law and International law, has ruled that because there are so many prisoners with mental health afflictions that it would lead to the release of all prisoners with mental illnesses on death row.  The court made a slippery slope argument to justify their law-breaking sentencing.


The Supreme Court of Pakistan.  Photo Credit: http://www.baaghi.tv/supreme-court-of-pakistan-press-release/

Ali’s illness is what caused the homicide, not Ali.  Yes, a man was murdered.  He will live only as a memory and that is devastating.  However, the court’s argument is only exacerbating the underlying stigmatism and prejudice against those suffering from mental health problems.

The theory behind criminal punishment is to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes by having them reflect on their wrongs and reshape them into productive members of society.  In Ali’s case, like many others suffering from hallucinations and delusions, he cannot physically reflect on what he has done because he did not have the capacity to decipher right from wrong.  Physically speaking, Ali committed a heinous crime, but a person is not themselves when suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

The Court’s ruling is unlawful and unjust.  Aside from complete disregard of the Pakistani, he judges are stripping an entire minority population in Pakistan from their human rights.  Ali should be provided mental health care not put to death, as should his fellow prisoners on death row suffering from mental illness.  These prisoners are already prisoners of their own minds.

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been.  What kind of hell would that be?”

 – A Beautiful Mind, 2001 (film)

Margery Beltran is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law (Candidate for J.D., May 2017).  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Family Science with a minor in Psychology from Towson University.  Her interests include mental health and disability law and international alternative dispute resolution. Margie currently serves as the Volume V Comments Editor for the University of Baltimore’s Journal of International Law. She participated in the 2016 Summer Abroad Program at the University of Aberdeen School of Law in Aberdeen, Scotland.  She is currently an intern in Washington D.C. for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Alternative Dispute Resolution Division.

[i] A Digest of the Criminal Law of England, as altered by the Recent Statutes for the Consolidation and Improvement of it: Volume II by Edward E. Deacon (1831). (Sir Edward Coke was an English barrister and later, a judge in the early 1600s).

[ii] Id.

[iii] https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2016/09/18/pakistan-faces-call-to-spare-mentally-ill-man-on-death-row.html

[iv] http://www.voanews.com/a/pakistan-set-to-execute-mentally-unfit-man/3514427.html

[v] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/death-row-pakistan-schizophrenic-prisoner-waits-hangmans-noose-1582998

[vi] Id.

[vii] Id.

[viii] Id.

[ix] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/pakistan-execute-mentally-ill-man-islamabad-imdad-ali-justice-project-pakistan-a7313496.html

[x] http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/gadocs/a_67_281.doc

[xi] http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/gadocs/a_67_281.doc

[xii] http://tribune.com.pk/story/1189913/appeal-dismissed-top-court-upholds-death-penalty-mentally-ill-man/

[xiii] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pakistan-court-upholds-death-penalty-for-mentally-ill-man-imdad-ali/

[xiv] Id.

[xv] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/pakistans-highest-court-dismisses-final-appeal-case-mentally-ill-death-row-prisoner-1583608

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“They Who Shall Not Be Named”: The Unspoken Situation in Myanmar

Kia Roberts-Warren

On September 14, 2016, State Counsellor, Aun San Suu Kyi, came to visit the United States hoping to get the rest of the U.S. imposed sanctions lifted. The United States announced that it planned to lift the rest of the sanctions and reinstate trade benefits after a meeting between Suu Kyi and President Obama. In May, President Obama had lifted some sanctions due to the political reforms in Myanmar that began five years ago.[1] This announcement has been seen as another great victory for Myanmar. First, Myanmar has successfully transitioned from a military regime to a democracy. Second, the country’s de facto leader is a 71-year-old, a Nobel Peace Prize winner woman.[2]

The country has really transformed and improving for the better, right!? Well, this isn’t entirely true. Myanmar has a dark horrifying situation that has been going on for decades,  serious human rights violations that could amount to crimes against humanity against: the Rohingya.




Myanmar has recognized 135 minority groups within its country. However, it refuses to accept its 136th: the Rohingya. The Rohingya, are a Muslim group located in the Rakhine State of Myanmar and make up one third of Rakhine’s population.[3] While, Myanmar is a predominately Buddhist country and the Rakhine State is the poorest and least developed state in Myanmar.The poverty and religious differences are part of the conflict between the Buddhists and the Rohingya. However, the Buddhist population claim that due to the belief that the Rohingya are descendants of Bengali migrants that were used as laborers and later fighters during British  Occupation.[4] However, the Rohingya claim they are indigenous to the Rakhine State.[5]



Since the 1960s, the Rohingya had to flee to Bangladesh to escape the human rights abuses they suffered at the hands of the army and government. In 1982, the Myanmar government passed a law denying the Rohingya citizenship. The Rohingya have suffered torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment, extra-judicial killing and summary execution, arbitrary arrest and detention, rape, destruction on homes, forced labor, forced relocation and eviction, confiscation of land and property.[6] Since the 1980s, many mosques and religious schools have been demolished and repairs to any mosque are often prohibited. Also, Muslim cemeteries, monuments, places and historical sites are often appropriated by the government or destroyed. In the 1990s, the State, Peace, and Development Council policies have been using discriminatory practices aimed at reducing the Rohingya in the Rakhine State.[7] Since 2001, traveling restrictions have been placed on the Rohingya. They are required to have a traveling pass to travel within the townships and outside of the Rakhine State.[8]

In 2012, tension turned into violence. A Rakhine State Buddhist woman was raped and murdered, allegedly by a group of Rohingya men. Buddhists nationalists burned Rohingya homes and killed more than 280 people and tens of thousands of Rohingya were displaced. Currently, more than 120,000 Muslims are being housed in forty internment camps.[9]  The Ma Ba Tha, a group of radical Buddhists, have since been on a campaign of ethnic cleansing. They will target anyone offering a different opinion or speaking for non-discrimination, although their attacks and threats are primarily directed against the Rohingya[10]


In 2012, 86,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring countries. The Rohingya have been denied resettlement in Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Australia.[11] The Rohingya are, essentially, stateless. They are denied basic rights-freedom of movement, access to education and services, employment, property, and healthcare. Since they are not considered citizens of Myanmar, they lack the proper identification documents needed to become a citizen anywhere else. On March 31 2015, all temporary registration cards, the main identification document held by Rohingya expired. In June, the Government announced that those who had submitted their card by the deadline (approximately 469,000 people) were eligible to apply for new identity cards.[12] However, many Rohingya do not trust the government and therefore have not gotten new cards. The only identification some Rohingya have managed to have is a household registration card. The situation became dire between January 2014 and May 2015 when more than 88,000 Rohinya fled to the Bay of Bengal. This resulted in thousands being abandoned and stranded at sea.


In May 2015, due to international pressures over the migration crisis Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia have been playing a game of Maritime ping pong.[13]

  • Bangladesh: more than 32,000 Rohingya have been registered refugees and it is believed that more than 200,000 additional unregistered Rohingya refugees are there but the refugee camps are horrific which caused many to flee to the Bay of Bengal.
  • Malaysia: In June 2016, Malaysia reported 150,700 registered refugees; 90% are Rohingya but have no legal status and therefore unable to work and denied the same rights
  • Indonesia: the numbers are relatively low and under international pressure admitted 1,000 Rohingya with emergency assistance and protection.


“CHANGE’S A COMING??”robertswarren_blog1_photo1

In August, one month before her visit to the United States, Suu Kyi announced the establishment of a nine-person committee, led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to provide options and suggestions to the government for resolving the ethnic conflict in the Rakhine State.[14] The final report of the committee is due at the end of August 2017.[15]

   While this represents a step forward, there are no Rohingya on the committee and the Rakhine State is one of the most xenophobic areas in the world. This could cause a problem for Mr. Annan as the new Myanmar government has not taken an active role in taking a stance for the Rohingya. In fact, Suu Kyi instructed the new U.S. ambassador not to use the term Rohingya and she herself has never addressed the Rohingya as Rohingya.[16] Furthermore, in the past Suu Kyi stated that “she didn’t know if the Rohingya could be considered citizens” and recently “that everyone who was entitled to citizenship should get it.”[17] However, her feelings are not just targeted at the Rohingya, but have more of an anti-Muslim sentiment, in general.[18] It will be interesting to see if this committee will be effective at all in assessing and resolving the situation.

Kia Roberts-Warren is a 3L at UB Law. She is concentrating in international law. Kia graduated from Temple University receiving a BA in East Asian Studies during that time she spent a semester in Tokyo, Japan. Kia has an interest in international trade and human rights. She is also interested in fashion law and art law in the international context. Last year, she held the position of Career Development Director of the International Law Society and participated in the 2016 Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition. She recently attended UB’s Aberdeen Summer Abroad Program.  

[1] http://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2016-09-14/sanctions-relief-on-agenda-as-myanmars-suu-kyi-meets-obama

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/un-general-assembly-speech-aung-san-suu-kyi-pledges-to-uphold-minority-rights-in-un-speech-but-a7322051.html

[3] http://www.cfr.org/burmamyanmar/rohingya-migrant-crisis/p36651

[4] https://thinkprogress.org/us-myanmar-rohingya-898dbe242c0e#.di5fy9qx0

[5] https://thinkprogress.org/us-myanmar-rohingya-898dbe242c0e#.di5fy9qx0

[6] http://www.cfr.org/burmamyanmar/rohingya-migrant-crisis/p36651

[7] http://minorityrights.org/minorities/muslims-and-rohingya/

[8] http://minorityrights.org/minorities/muslims-and-rohingya/

[9] http://www.cfr.org/burmamyanmar/rohingya-migrant-crisis/p36651

[10] https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/055/13/PDF/G1605513.pdf?OpenElement

[11] http://www.amnesty.org.au/refugees/comments/35290/

[12] https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/055/13/PDF/G1605513.pdf?OpenElement

[13] http://www.cfr.org/burmamyanmar/rohingya-migrant-crisis/p36651

[14] http://www.cfr.org/burmamyanmar/rohingya-migrant-crisis/p36651

[15] http://www.cfr.org/burmamyanmar/rohingya-migrant-crisis/p36651

[16] https://thinkprogress.org/us-myanmar-rohingya-898dbe242c0e#.di5fy9qx0

[17] https://thinkprogress.org/us-myanmar-rohingya-898dbe242c0e#.di5fy9qx0

[18] https://thinkprogress.org/us-myanmar-rohingya-898dbe242c0e#.di5fy9qx0


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Nowhere to Call Home: The sad state of the Island of Hispaniola

Carolyn Mills

Many know it as a beautiful vacation paradise, the Dominican Republic wrought with its lush greenery and beaches, perfect beach getaways and Groupon vacation packages. This summer a disturbing, and not very publicized trend, was happening—the Dominican Republic deported nearly 130,000 Haitians (with whom it shares the island). Why? The answer may alarm you.


What’s happening?

Since May 2015, nearly 106,000 Haitians were deported or left the Dominican Republic. [1] In 2013, a Dominican court ruling said that, anyone born in the Dominican Republic to “parents without legal residency would no longer be considered Dominican.” [2] As a result of this ruling, nearly 250,000 people became stateless. Those affected were offered a one year, temporary residency card even though they had been born and spent their entire lives in the Dominican Republic. [3] Unfortunately, many of those stripped of their Dominican citizenship are not citizens of Haiti either. [4]

After the court ruling, the legislature made a lackluster effort to ameliorate the devastation caused by enacting Law 169-14. The law placed the burden on the victims, demanding they provide record of their birth in the Dominican Republic.  [5] This, seemingly, good faith measure to assist those disenfranchised Dominicans is hardly altruistic, as many Haitians were denied the ability to register the births of their children simply because they were of Haitian descent. [6] When the registration deadline expired under Law 169-14, many were forced flee to Haiti, or were rounded up by police and forcibly deported. [7] These laws closely mirror that of The Nuremburg Laws of 1935, which essentially stripped the Jews living in Germany of their German citizenship.   It is alarming that a court decision in 2013 can be so reminiscent of such days.  If left unchecked, it’s unimaginable what the ramifications could be. 


Further, the court ruling is a direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 15 states, “Everyone has the right to a nationality, and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” [8]  Additionally, the United Nations in 1954 Convention Relating to the Statelessness of Persons and defined statelessness and established a minimum number of rights for these individuals including: education, employment and housing—all of which have been deprived from those of Haitian descent who are being forced to leave their homes and communities. In 1961, the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness went on stress the importance of states establishing measures in which to avoid stateless persons; establishing the right to nationality.


Called the Dominican Republic’s “most serious human rights problem,” [9] discrimination against Haitians and those of Haitian descent finds its roots in history.[10] The two nations maintained a close relationship, with many Haitians supporting the growing Dominican economy by providing labor for sugar plantations, and development of infrastructure. There was a history of disdain for Haitians in the Dominican and in 1937 it came to an ugly head when, the government conducted a mass genocide of nearly 30,000 Haitian immigrants and their Dominican children, known as the Parsley Massacre. [11]  The massacre was spearheaded by former dictator Rafael Trujillo who was a staunch xenophobe. During the massacre, military officials were instructed to ‘test’ those suspected of being Haitian by holding up a sprig of parsley and asking them what it was. If the person did not roll the ‘r’ in the word, (“perejil”) they were killed.


This ethnic cleansing, while no longer of genocidal proportions, has become a form of institutionalized racism.  The sad part is, there has been little to no oversight. With a country as poor as Haiti, there is little that can be done to remedy the damage that has been caused. Most recently the Dominican Foreign minister stressed importance, “for each state to exercise its sovereign right to determine whose admitted to its territory…” [12] reinforcing their stance on this issue.

What needs to be done?


The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has decried the Dominican’s practice.[13] The Dominican Republic has also faced pressure from the United States Department of State and such prominent NGOs as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Amnesty has characterized the mass deportations as, “catastrophic” as there is no real capacity for Haiti to provide protection to the vulnerable masses. [14] This harm, left without remedy, will allow impunity for government leaders and leave a generation in limbo. One route for displaced Haitians to take is to launch a complaint with the Human Rights Council, an organ of the United Nations. This organ comprised on 47 member states is responsible for the strengthening, promotion and protection of human rights and allows for individual complaints. [15] Additionally, both the UN High Commission for Human Rights and the UN High Commission for Refugees have been vocal about the Dominican court ruling, but with little effect. [16] Without the intervention of the international community, there may be no foreseeable solution to the centuries of strife between the two nations.

Carolyn Mills is a 3L at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Carolyn is a graduate of Bowie State University with a degree in Political Science. Carolyn was previously  2L representative for the International Law Society. She is currently the President of the Immigration Law Society. Her interests and focus areas are on Central America and West Africa. Last semester, Carolyn was a law clerk for the Department of Homeland Security’s Human Rights Law Section.This past summer she studied abroad in Ghana at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Affairs (GIMPA) in conjunction with Fordham’s Law School. Additionally Carolyn is a Rule 19 Student Attorney for the Immigrant Rights Clinic. Her interest in international law is international human rights law and its application abroad.  

[1] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/130000-Haitians-face-deportation-from-Dominican-Republic/articleshow/52844684.cms

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/35519-the-dominican-republic-is-deporting-its-haitian-residents

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/deported-their-own-country

[8] http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html

[9] http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper

[10] http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/deported-their-own-country

[11] Id.

[12] http://www.dominicantoday.com/dr/local/2016/9/20/60646/Dominican-Republic-stresses-its-right-on-immigration

[13] http://www.statelessness.eu/blog/inter-american-court-condemns-unprecedented-situation-statelessness-dominican-republic

[14] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/06/haiti-dominican-republic-reckless-deportations-leaving-thousands-in-limbo/

[15] http://www.ohchr.org /EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/AboutCouncil.aspx http://www.democracynow.org/2015/6/17/the_dominican_republics_ethnic_purging_edwidge

[16] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49285#.V-64FogrLcs; http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51198#.V-61aYgrLcs; http://www.unhcr.org/558417759.html