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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Turkey’s Breach of the Principle of Non-Refoulement

Yasmine Akkad

Non-refoulement is a fundamental principle in international law that was first laid out in the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1954.[i] Article 33(1) of the convention provides that: “no Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”[ii] Recently, Turkey breached this principle of non-refoulement by illegally returning thousands of Syrian refugees to war-torn Syria.[iii]

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According to a report conducted by Amnesty International, about 100 Syrians have been sent back to their war-torn country every day since January.[iv] This news comes shortly after Turkey struck a deal with the European Union (aimed at stemming the flow of refugees arriving in Greece), agreeing to accept refugees in return for aid and political concessions.[v] Under the agreement, all “irregular migrants” arriving in Greece from Turkey on 20 March onwards will face being sent back.[vi] The agreement further stipulates that the EU will take in one Syrian (who has made a legitimate request) for each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey.[vii] The process, which is known as “one in, one out,” is meant to discourage illegal migration into Europe.[viii]

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Amnesty says this latest report exposes the flaws in the deal between Turkey and the EU.[ix] Critics of the deal say the EU is irresponsibly returning Syrian refugees to an unsafe country, in a desperate effort to seal its borders.[x] In the Amnesty report, John Dalhuisen remarked, “in their desperation to seal their borders, EU leaders have willfully ignored the simplest of facts: Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees and is getting less safe by the day.”[xi]

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Turkey’s recent breach of international law is symptomatic of a larger issue. There is no end in sight for Syria’s civil war, and the number of people fleeing Syria will only increase. Since Syria’s civil war began more than five years ago, Turkey has taken in more refugees than any other country worldwide.[xii] Put simply, Turkey is overwhelmed. The country has struggled to accommodate the refugees, who are putting a strain on Turkey’s economy and healthcare system.[xiii] While it is not acceptable for Turkey to return refugees to war-torn Syria, it is also not acceptable for the world to sit idly by as thousands of Syrians flee the ongoing violence and hostility in Syria.

Yasmine Akkad is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. Candidate (’16). She holds a Bachelors of Science in Law and American Civilization and a minor in English from Towson University. Her primary interests include international law and international human rights law. In addition to being a CICL Fellow, she competed in the 2014-2015 Jessup International Moot Court Competition, Mid-Atlantic Region, and is an active member of the American Society of International Law.

[i] http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/international-migration/glossary/refoulement/

[ii] Id.

[iii] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35941947

[iv] Id.

[v] Id.

[vi] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/04/eu-turkey-deal-syrian-refugees-germany-istanbul-hanover

[vii] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35956836

[viii] http://www.ibtimes.com/syrian-refugees-forced-back-war-zone-turkish-authorities-eu-turkey-agreement-goes-2348127

[ix] Id.

[x] Id.

[xi] Id.

[xii] https://www.mercycorps.org/articles/iraq-jordan-lebanon-syria-turkey/quick-facts-what-you-need-know-about-syria-crisis

[xiii] http://www.ibtimes.com/syrian-refugees-forced-back-war-zone-turkish-authorities-eu-turkey-agreement-goes-2348127


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Understanding and Combatting Slavery in Mauritania

Alison Aminzadeh

Mauritania is a country in West Africa, and has become the fourth country overall and second African country to approve a UN Treaty designed to put “teeth” in its efforts to stop modern day slavery – specifically, forced labor and trafficking[1].  The 2014 Protocol modernizes the Forced Labour Convention of 1930.[2] The states that ratify the new protocol must “change laws to improve victim protection, compensation, and access to justice.”[3] . The protocol includes (1) measures to prevent modern forms of slavery and (2) to compensate victims. The International Labor Organization (ILO) seeks to have at least fifty countries sign the protocol by 2018. The ILO estimates that 21 million people are forced into labor worldwide, which is a $150 billion dollar a year industry (in illegal profits). Common places where slaves are used include: brothels, farms, fisheries, factories, construction and domestic service.[4]

Mauritania Political Map

Mauritania Political Map with capital Nouakchott, national borders, most important cities, rivers and lakes. 

However, one problem that arises when discussing slavery in Mauritania is that Americans do not have a framework for what slavery looks like in other countries.  Slavery in Mauritania looks different than slavery in American history books.[5] The slavery that dominated the southern U.S. states was based on human exploitation. Some argue that in Mauritania, in contrast, is a “rural fiefdom within an agro‑pastoral lifestyle, marked by social stratification and division of labour” rather than “systematic torture and segregation.” Slaves are still subordinate in society, but not marked by shackles and physical abuse in the way it was in the American south.[6] One particular gendered form of slavery is that girls from Mauritania are commonly trafficked to the Middle East, according to U.S. State Department’s Annual Trafficking Report.[7]

Slavery in Mauritania is also determined by a caste system. The slave caste is called the Haratin, descended from Black African ethnical groups along the Senegal River. They are usually Herders and domestic servants.[8] In contrast, the ruling caste – a minority – is the Beydanes (Arab-Berbers), who hold the wealth and political power.[9]

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Slavery is a de jure crime in Mauritania, but it is still practiced.[10] Mauritania criminalized slavery in 2007. In 2015, the government passed a new law that makes the offense a crime against humanity, doubling the prison term to twenty years.[11] However, the Global Slavery Index indicates that Mauritania has the highest prevalence of slavery in the world, with 4% of population is enslaved (Four percent of the population totals about 150,000 people).[12] Although now technically freed according to the law, majority of those not enslaved still live in slums and unemployment.[13]

Even after slavery was criminalized in 2007, those campaigning for its abolition still face many obstacles. Anti-slavery advocates allege that “complaints [that people are still being enslaved] are not properly investigated and that anti‑slavery campaigners have been arrested and jailed [for making those complaints].”[14] The jailing of these advocates is not surprising in the context of Mauritania’s judicial system, as the assertion that the justice system is failing victims of slavery in Mauritania is not unprecedented. The judicial system is heavily influenced by the government and has a reputation for being corrupt. Most of the members of the judicial system are also Beydanes, the ruling caste.[15] Nema Oumar is a journalist who wrote an article that alleged that a defense attorney had bribed three judges with 25 million ouguiyas (68,650 euros) to release a police officer and businessman accused of drug trafficking. Oumar was arrested and held for defamation as a result of his article.[16]

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Shortly before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva was set to review the “Roadmap to Combat Vestiges of Slavery” (a 49-page report published by the Mauritanian government), a group of NGOs released a report of their own. This group consisted of the Society for Threatened Peoples, in cooperation with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), Anti‑Slavery International, IRA‑Mauritania, SOS‑Esclaves, and Kawtal Ngamyellitaare. Their report, titled “Slavery in Mauritania: The Roadmap to combat the vestiges of slavery is not being implemented convincingly,”  argues that the Roadmap has failed to effectively implement any of its goals. Speaking on behalf of the group, Johanna Green of the UNPO stated that “[t]he lack of implementation of the Roadmap clearly points to the absence of political and judicial will to address the problem of slavery which is exacerbated by the Mauritanian Government’s denial of its very existence.”[17] Her statement summarizes the critical position that many have taken to the Mauritanian government’s efforts, which is that there needs to be more support among government officials, judges, and attorneys in order to effectively enforce the goals involved in ending slavery.

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The ILO’s Africa director (Aeneas Chapinga Chuma,) stated that the ratification of the UN Protocol is “a first concrete step in putting in place the legal framework to protect people from the scourge of human exploitation and forced labor.[18] By essentially updating the Forced Labour Convention and improving laws to focus more on victims, states such as Mauritania will have more powerful enforcement mechanisms in place for ending slavery, a practice that is woven into the fabric of its culture.

Alison Aminzadeh is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore. She is currently a Rule 16 attorney working on the Human Trafficking Project as a part of the Civil Advocacy Clinic. She is also a Senior Staff Editor for the Journal of International Law, and the former President of the Students Supporting the Women’s Law Center.

[1] The other three countries are Norway, Niger, and Britain. Jasmine Nelson, Mauritania Joins Fight Against Modern-Day Slavery, Approves U.N. Treaty to End Trafficking, Atlanta Blackstar (Mar. 16, 2016), available at http://atlantablackstar.com/2016/03/16/mauritania-joins-fight-against-modern-day-slavery-approves-u-n-treaty-to-end-trafficking.

[2] International Labour Organization (ILO), Forced Labour Convention, C29, 28 June 1930, C29, available at http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ddb621f2a.html (accessed 21 March 2016).

[3] Atlanta Blackstar, supra note 1.

[4] Id.

[5] Ahmed Meiloud & Mohammed El Mokhtar Sidi Haiba, Slavery in Mauritania: Differentiating Between Fact and Fiction, Middle East Eye (last updated Apr. 21, 2015), available at http://www.middleeasteye.net/essays/slavery-mauritania-differentiating-between-facts-and-fiction-103800371.

[6] Id.

[7]Atlanta Blackstar, supra note 1.

[8]Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Mauritania Fails to Implement Roadmap to Combat Vestiges of Slavery, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organizations (Feb. 29, 2016), available at http://unpo.org/article/18958.

[11] Atlanta Blackstar, supra note 1.

[12] Id.

[13] Middle East Eye, supra note 5.

[14] Atlanta Blackstar, supra note 1.

[15] Alexis Okeowo, Freedom Fighter, New Yorker (Sept. 8, 2014), available at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/08/freedom‑fighter.

[16] Mauritania: A Journalist and Publisher Arrested for Accusing Judges of Corruption, African Press Organization (Jul. 22, 2008), available at https://appablog.wordpress.com/2008/07/22/mauritania-a-journalist-and-publisher-arrested-for-accusing-judges-of-corruption/.

[17] Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organizations, supra note 12.

[18] Atlanta Blackstar, supra note 1.


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The Maldives: A Façade Paradise

Kia Roberts-Warren
The Maldives is a place that very few of us know about, other than that it is vacation paradise to millions of Western countries. However, the Maldives has recently been put in a rather shocking light when international human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney decided to represent former President Mohamed Nasheed on appeal in the Maldivian highest court, pro bono.[1] Nasheed has served one year of a thirteen-year sentence for terrorism charges after he ordered the arrest of a senior judge.[2]

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For thirty years, the Maldives was under the rule of Maumoon Gayoom, who repeatedly imprisoned Nasheed during this time for his political beliefs against the regime.[3] In 2005, Nasheed returned from self-exile and in 2008 ran against Gayoom and won in the country’s first multiparty election.[4] Nasheed did not finish his first term before resigning. The Maldivian government alleges that Nasheed was crushed by the opposition, but Nasheed contends that there was actually a coup d’état.  Under the threat of force, security forces loyal to Gayoom held him at gunpoint and forced his resignation.[5] Since, his resignation Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdullah Yameen has been the President.[6]

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 After the coup, Nasheed was subjected to an unfair trial, which the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention criticized for its unlawfulness and injustice.[7] However, Nasheed is not the only one in prison! President Yameen has, at the moment, imprisoned two former defense ministers, one former vice-president, one former deputy parliamentary speaker, and leaders of every opposition party in the Maldives.[8]

Since Amal Clooney has been advocating on the behalf of Nasheed, the question is why should the Western world care? If you don’t care about the political situation or human rights violations happening there, then you should care that the Maldives has the highest percentage of ISIS recruits per capita in the world.[9] Mr. Ben Emmerson, Nasheed’s other lawyer, noted that the “two hundred Maldivians [that] have gone so far to Iraq and Syria…[is] the equivalent of 36,000 Brits.”[10] He also believes that another Tunisia-style tragedy is inevitable for tourists that go to The Maldives (in June 2015, 38 people were killed at a beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia by an ISIS gunman).[11]

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This week, Nasheed was released for 30 days to go to London for spinal surgery.[12] Since arriving, he met with Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss sanctions on the Maldives.[13] Cameron stated to Parliament that “Britain was prepared to consider targeted action individuals if further progress isn’t made.”[14] Cameron and Nasheed also agreed on a Commonwealth meeting in the Maldives next month to give the Maldivian government an opportunity to have “an open dialogue and free all remaining political prisoners swiftly.”[15] On January 13, Amal Clooney visited with Obama administration officials and members of Congress to discuss sanctions to be placed on the Maldives.[16] Congress seemed to openly support the cause. Further, the Australian government asked travelers going to the Maldives to “exercise a high degree of caution.”[17]

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What is happening to Nasheed is a true travesty. Frankly, I am surprised that the Western world or even powerful, more developed Asian countries have not gotten involved. Although, no country should interfere with another country’s sovereignty, it is truly alarming that the Maldives has the highest per capita of ISIS recruits in the world and no one seems to want to take action. The United States has had this information, yet we have not made this a national security priority; although the U.S. and Britain are considering sanctions. Neither country, however, has taken affirmative action or has even stated a more solid plan if sanctions are ineffective.  While sanctions may be effective to correct the wrong against Nasheed, sanctions will not stop ISIS recruitment on the island. Preventing such recruitment should be a huge priority for the entire international community. Sanctions are not enough and the U.S. should not let the beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters cloud its judgment. Stopping terrorism should always trump tourism.

 

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/12/opinions/maldives-vice-president-ahmed-adheeb/

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/amal-clooney-wins-the-day-as-un-rules-former-maldives-president-was-unlawfully-jailed-a6680986.html

[3] http://raeesnasheed.com/about

[4] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/amal-clooney-takes-maldives-human-rights-battle-washington-n496051

[5]http://raeesnasheed.com/about

[6] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/amal-clooney-takes-maldives-human-rights-battle-washington-n496051

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/amal-clooney-wins-the-day-as-un-rules-former-maldives-president-was-unlawfully-jailed-a6680986.html

[8] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[9] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[10] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[11] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[12] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354

[13] http://in.reuters.com/article/britain-maldives-nasheed-idINKCN0V51MB

[14] http://in.reuters.com/article/britain-maldives-nasheed-idINKCN0V51MB

[15] http://in.reuters.com/article/britain-maldives-nasheed-idINKCN0V51MB

[16] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/amal-clooney-takes-maldives-human-rights-battle-washington-n496051

[17] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/maldives-former-president-calls-for-sanctions-amid-terror-threat/7114354


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The Ugly Side of International Tournaments

Christian Kim

Brazil, as the hosts of the 2014 World Cup, had the opportunity to show the world that they could host a successful tournament.  Even before Brazil’s shocking 7-1 loss to Germany, many Brazilians were already displeased with the World Cup.[1]  To prepare for the tournament and the eventual 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil tried to pacify their country by tearing down the drug-infested and crowded slums known as the favelas.[2]  Although China, England, and South Africa used similar beautification tactics before their respective tournaments, the Brazilian government did this at an unprecedented rate and often in violation of their domestic law.[3]

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For one, many Brazilians were given very little notice before these evictions and almost little to no compensation for their removals.[4]  Although the World Cup and Olympic officials in Brazil claim that, “no forced evictions have been conducted… independent research by local NGOs…including Amnesty International and WITNESS have proven otherwise.”[5]  An example of these evictions is in the region of Mare, home to over 130,000 working class citizens.  Even though Mare is not as bad as some of Brazil’s notorious favelas, the military police ordered these residents to leave immediately.[6]  Instead of being offered feasible housing alternatives, thousands of families were violently thrown out onto the street to fend for themselves.[7]  As a result, many Brazilians are asking the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to address these human rights issues but the IOC has not done much.[8]  A few NGOs from other countries have pushed to revoke Brazil’s Olympic hosting rights.  With less than six months before the Olympics, even if Brazil were to give up hosting rights, finding a replacement would be logistically impossible.  Bearing the mistakes of Brazil in mind, the international community should turn their focus to future international tournaments, such as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, to prevent this occurrence from happening again.

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Unfortunately, there seems to be a correlation with international tournaments and host nations violating human rights; however, none are as bad as Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup.  The rights to host the World Cup in Qatar spurred huge infrastructure projects, at an estimated USD $100 billion.[9]  In preparations for the World Cup, Qatar invited millions of migrant workers from mostly poor South and Southeast Asian nations.[10]  Many of these migrant workers were lured into the country under false pretenses and have been paid substantially less than what was promised.[11]  These migrant workers have also been forced to sleep in unsanitary homes and subject to harsh working conditions.[12]  Studies on migrant worker’s conditions have estimated more than 1,000 accidents per year, with 10% of these workers paralyzed from the accident.[13]  A shocking report from the International Trade Union Confederation has estimated that over 4,000 laborers will die during the preparations for the World Cup.[14]  Despite complaints from various international organizations, the Qatari Football Association has denied these issues citing, “prejudice and racism” as reasons why the international community is criticizing Qatar’s preparations.[15]

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Even if migrant workers in Qatar wanted to leave, they cannot under the kafala system.  The kafala system, bars these migrant workers from leaving or changing jobs without their employers’ approval and many employers take away their passports to ensure this.[16]  Without being able to change jobs or unionize for better working conditions, Qatar is essentially trapping these migrant workers into what some NGOs are calling, “modern day slavery.”[17]  Qatar and their migrant worker plight was put under the international spotlight last year during the aftermath of the deveastating earthquakes in Nepal.  A good portion of the migrant workers come from Nepal and many had relatives affected from the earthquake.  Most, if not all Nepali migrant workers, were denied leave by their employers because of the kafala system.[18] With all of these human rights violations occurring in Qatar, many of the migrant workers are looking to FIFA for help.

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Recently, many of FIFA’s top officials, including FIFA President Sepp Blatter, were arrested on corruption charges.[19]  With Sepp Blatter’s resignation, there’s a chance for FIFA to make sure that the incoming officials will enforce better working conditions for the migrant workers in Qatar.  One way to ensure a new generation of competent FIFA officials is to have the UN Human Rights Council observe FIFA and work hand-in-hand with Qatar’s Football Association.  Since all Member States of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) compete in the Olympics and the World Cup, they should have a vested interest in Qatar’s compliance with human rights standards.[20]  The HRC’s goals are to promote and protect human rights for all.[21]  The HRC has the capacity to work with international organizations, like FIFA, and the HRC can work with FIFA to set standards, monitor, and implement better working conditions for these migrant workers.[22]  As one of the members of the HRC, Qatar should be held to a higher standard and ensure better working conditions for the migrant workers.

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Qatar is also a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and even ratified the Convention on Forced Labor.[23]  This convention defines forced labor as, “work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”  The ILO has given examples of involuntary work such as: physical confinement in the work location, deception about types and terms of work, withholding and non-payment of wages, and retention of identity documents.[24]  One of the basic principles of international law is that international agreements ought to be followed in good faith (the principle of pacta sunt servanda).  As a party to the ILO and HRC, Qatar has a duty to follow the goals of these organizations by respecting and promoting these migrant worker’s human rights.  If Qatar does not comply, pressure from the international community to withdraw Qatar’s hosting rights might work.  Unlike the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, there’s an ample amount of time to change the hosts before the 2022 World Cup.  We, as the international community, have a duty to enforce international human rights obligations.  If countries like Qatar play dirty off the pitch, why should the international community allow them to host the “beautiful game”?

Christian Kim is a 2L at the University of Baltimore School of Law and graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. He currently serves as the President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association as well as the 2L Rep for the Student Bar Association. His interests are East Asian politics, international conflicts, and human rights.  Before Law School, Christian has 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 intern at the Hermina Law Group and a law clerk for the Law Office of Hayley Tamburello.

 

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/28102403

[2] http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24248-rio-state-of-mind-favela-pacification-and-the-2014-world-cup

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/05/world-cup-favelas-socially-cleansed-olympics

[4] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2011/11/brazil-forced-evictions-must-not-mar-rio-olympics/

[5] Id.

[6] http://revolution-news.com/brazil-police-evict-5-thousand-poor-people-at-gunpoint/

[7] Id.

[8] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/08/rio-olympics-2016-human-rights-violations-report

[9] http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33019838

[10] http://www.thenation.com/article/qatars-world-cup-preparations-could-kill-as-many-as-4000-migrant-workers/

[11] http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/20/qatar-promises-change-unpaid-migrant-workers

[12] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/qatar

[13] http://humantraffickingcenter.org/posts-by-htc-associates/a-world-cup-built-on-exploitation-and-forced-labor-in-qatar/

[14] Id.

[15] http://sports.yahoo.com/news/no-way-qatar-lose-2022-world-cup-foreign-154654987–finance.html;_ylt=A0LEVizb36pWkU4AoncPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByNXQ0NThjBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM1BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–

[16] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/qatar

[17] http://www.businessinsider.com/qatar-slavery-build-a-2022-world-cup-2013-9

[18] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/24/qatar-denies-nepalese-world-cup-workers-leave-after-earthquakes

[19] http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/05/fifa-corruption-arrests/394199/

[20] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/HRCIndex.aspx

[21] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/WhatWeDo.aspx

[22] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/HowWeDoIt.aspx

[23] https://www.hrw.org/report/2012/06/12/building-better-world-cup/protecting-migrant-workers-qatar-ahead-fifa-2022#_ftn79

[24] Id.

 

 


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Where Would You Rather Be? Protections of Victims of Human Trafficking

Raiven Taylor

The U.S. State Department keeps track of the annual numbers of trafficking victims in each country throughout the world. The State Department not only keeps track of the victims found, but also the laws of preventing trafficking, protecting victims, and prosecuting traffickers. There are a number of countries that help, in various ways, protect trafficked victims from re-victimization, while other countries do nothing at all The United States is a Tier 1 country, which simply means the government fully complies with the minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking.[i] (The last blog post goes into greater detail on the Tier categories).

The U.S. has standards in place to protect victims of human trafficking. It created the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to establish methods of not only protecting trafficked survivors, but also to prosecute traffickers and and prevent trafficking.[ii] The Act provides protections involving identifying victims, providing shelter and medical care, and repatriation.[iii] The Act authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to permit a human trafficking victim to remain in the U.S.[iv] This is done through the T-Visa. This visa allows victims to become temporary residents that may allow them to become eligible for permanent residency after three years. [v]The TPVA also offers protections by making trafficked victims eligible for witness protection programs as well as other federal and state benefits to the same extent as refugees.[vi]

TVPRA

The TPVA also attempts to protect unknown victims of trafficking. The 2008 provisions of the Act require unaccompanied minor children to be screened as possible trafficking victims and to then be transferred within 48 hours to the custody of Health and Human Services.[vii] In other forms of protection, the U.S. has federally funded victim assistance case management. The case management includes referrals to resources such as: dental and medical care, employment and training services, substance abuse treatments, and many more, including advocacy.[viii] The funding for victim assistance was increased by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). HHS enabled trafficking victims of other countries the same benefits as Refugees.[ix]  In 2013, about $7.9 million dollars went to 19 victim services across the U.S..[x]

Trafficking Blog 2

Even though the U.S. seems to do a lot, especially in funding victim services, there are non-governmental organizations (NGO) that still believe the government could do more. NGOs have concerns that the U.S. does not consistently take the victim-centered approach that it should.[xi] A victim-centered approach is an approach taken that “seeks to minimize re-traumatization associated with the criminal justice process by providing the support of victim advocates and service providers, empowering survivors as engaged participants in the process, and providing survivors an opportunity to play a role in seeing their traffickers.”[xii] There are also concerns that the employees that handle victims do not have proper training and guidance to provide the critical support that some victims need.[xiii]

Although the U.S. has things it could work on to better improve the protections offered to victims, there are other countries that do not do half of what the U.S. does. For instance, Cuba is a Tier 3 country and does not fully comply with the minimum standards of eliminating trafficking. The Cuban government has not officially reported on its protections of trafficked victims nor did it report the procedures it has in place to protect victims or guide officials in identifying victims. However, the government does have shelters for victims, although it does not keep track or verify that the victims actually receive any kind of assistance for treatment.[xiv] Recommendations for Cuba consist of: strengthening its efforts to provide special training for police and social workers to protect trafficked victims, build clear procedures on identifying victims, and continue funding victim-centered practices.[xv]

Human Trafficking BarCode

It is reported that Cuba does not comply with the minimum standards because the government is involved in human trafficking.[xvi] Cuba has offered its opinion in statements stating that this is not happening within its government. However, these statements come from very biased individuals. Cuba has been a Tier 3 country for the last twelve years and continues to not comply with standards. Although Cuba is just one of many countries that are considered a Tier 3 country, it is always difficult to tell if these countries fall in this category by choice or because they do not have the means to be able to rise out its condition. Cuba continues to tell the U.S. government that it will do better year after year, however it is never shown in their reports.

Another example is Cambodia. Cambodia was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List.[xvii] According to the State Department, Cambodia’s government has procedures in place to identify victims and refer them to NGOs. However, Cambodia is on the Tier 2 Watch List because the amount of victims identified continues to decline.[xviii] Cambodia has government operated shelters to take in victims of trafficking, but once the victims arrive, the government has very little to do with further assisting them.[xix] The majority of assistance given to trafficked victims (medical, legal, shelter, and vocational services) in Cambodia is administered by NGOs in Cambodia, instead of the Cambodian government.[xx] However, there have been reports that some NGO shelters subject their victims to even more abuse and that they cannot provide the victims adequate care.[xxi] The Cambodian government has no policy in place that allows trafficked victims to stay in the country. Victims that come from other countries are sent back to their home country without any legal alternatives.[xxii] Recommendations for Cambodia would be to create legal practices that first involve keeping victims from being returned to the county they were originally trafficked from. Another recommendation would be to give employees of shelters a practical training on how to deal with trafficked victims, as well as hire people whom are willing to help instead of re-traumatize victims. A third recommendation would be for the government to be more involved in the protection of trafficked victims instead of identifying them and completely handing them over to NGOs.

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Overall, although human trafficking is a huge issue no matter what country is being discussed, it does not go unseen. Regardless of the Tier, each country has some kind of issue in trafficking. However, the important thing is that something is being done to resolve and prevent the issue from happening. Also, this proves that just because a country is considered a Tier 1 country, does not mean that they cannot improve on ways to protect victims. However, Tier 1 countries such as the U.S., are considered to have the best practices such as shelter, medical care, and other assistance that aims to keep victims safe and free from being re-trafficked, and it should be required that all countries find a way to implement the same kind of practices.

Raiven Taylor is third year law student at the University of Baltimiore School of Law and is completing her concentration in International Law. She has an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Bowie State University. She has studied abroad in London, England and Clermond-Ferrand, France. She is an Senior Staff Editor for the Journal for International Law as well as Secretary for the International Law Society. Additionally, Raiven is a Rule 16 student attorney in the Immigrant Rights Clinic. Her passion and interest in international law is human trafficking and international human rights law.

[i] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226849.pdf

[ii] https://www.polarisproject.org/what-we-do/policy-advocacy/national-policy/current-federal-laws

[iii] http://fightslaverynow.org/why-fight-there-are-27-million-reasons/the-law-and-trafficking/trafficking-victims-protection-act/trafficking-victims-protection-act/

[iv] https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/898

[v] http://www.rescue.org/sites/default/files/resource-file/trafficking%20victims%20protection%20act%20fact%20sheet_0.pdf

[vi] Id.

[vii] Id.

[viii] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226849.pdf

[ix] Id.

[x] Id.

[xi] Id.

[xii] https://www.ovcttac.gov/taskforceguide/eguide/1-understanding-human-trafficking/13-victim-centered-approach/

[xiii] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226849.pdf

[xiv] http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2013/215447.htm

[xv] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226845.pdf

[xvi] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/salim-lamrani/cuba-the-united-states-an_b_5604799.html

[xvii] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226845.pdf

[xviii] Id.

[xix] Id.

[xx] Id.

[xxi] Id.

[xxii] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226845.pdf


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Like a Girl – Yeah, So What!?

Ali Rickart

The “Like a Girl” was a campaign started by the company, Always, as a way to boost self-confidence, equality, and empowerment.[1] The campaign began as an advertisement depicting the term “like a girl” and showing various people (men, women, boys, and girls) explain what they think the phrase means. The powerful messages shows that young girls view “like a girl” as a representing strength and equality, yet all other persons meant or understood the phrase as indicating weakness, inequality, and even as an insult. Since this campaign launched, Always has begun other campaigns such as #BanBossy, another phrase directed at girls and women that is meant as an insult, even though their male counterparts are praised as leaders when they display similar attitude and behavior. Always has partnered with the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality through education around the globe.

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8. This year’s theme: Make It Happen.[2] We must make greater equality happen by having more women in senior leadership roles, equal recognition of women in the arts, growth of female owned businesses, increased financial independence of women, more women in science, technology and engineering, fairer recognition of women in sports. We must make wage equality amongst the sexes a reality instead of an aspiration. Just like the company, Always, organizations and women around the world are working to make equality happen. This day is celebrated as an official national holiday such countries as Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.[3] The United States dedicates the entire month of March to Women’s History. As Gloria Steinem stated, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”[4]

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Feminism, also known as the women’s liberation movement, is a movement to support the equality of women. The movement began, primarily, with legal issues such as women’s suffrage and property rights. This movement soon spread to include things like equal pay, protection against domestic violence, reproductive rights, and more. Feminist scholars have divided the feminist movement into three ‘waves’, each wave gaining momentum in the fight for equality.[5] Each wave has started in the Western World, specifically the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, before spreading across the globe. The second and third waves of feminism deal with many more social, political and legal issues than the first wave of feminism. The third wave of feminism is slightly more nuanced and refers to the inclusion of sexuality as another category involving women that is lacking in equality.[6]

One of the most prevalent tools regarding women’s rights arose out of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Convention was negotiated and adopted by the General Assembly (vote: 130 to 0, with only 10 abstentions) in 1979. Through special presentation at a world conference and subsequent fast state signing, CEDAW entered into force on September 3, 1981.[7] This was the fastest a human rights convention had ever entered into effect.[8] While CEDAW is widely ratified, it has one of the largest numbers of reservations. Although reservations are not allowed to be incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention, there are often conflicts between the reservations and the states own national constitutions or laws. A majority of reservations are made on grounds of potential conflict with national laws, traditions, religion or culture. Ironically, some states that are parties to CEDAW and have made reservations have not entered such reservations to corresponding provisions in other human rights treaties.

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In an effort to gain more unity between the sexes, UN Women has launched the HeForShe campaign. This campaign promotes feminism generally and is intended to bridge the gap between women and men activism for women’s rights. The campaign describes itself as “bring[ing] together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.”[9] Men from all over the world have agreed to take a stand for gender equality. An interactive map on the HeForShe website shows the number of men in each country that have signed the pledge, totaling 232,188. The only states that didn’t seem to have any men that signed the pledge was French Guinea in South America and the autonomous province of Kosovo.[10] Some of the African countries such as Guinea, Lesotho, Chad, Burkina Faso, Congo, and a few others have fewer than ten men that have signed. Yet, that’s still a start.

Another important movement occurring in women’s rights is the Girl Rising movement. This movement is attempting to establish education for women around the world, as many countries either do not allow girls to attend school or may not have sufficient resources for them to attend school.[11] In 2013, the movement released a powerful film, titled “Girl Rising”, which documented the lives of nine different girls in nine different areas of the world. The movie is a powerful representation of the inequality of something that seems so open to developed countries yet so inaccessible in most of the world – education. The facts that the film brings to light are astounding, including the fact that educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation.[12]

One person cannot fix the world, but as Girl Rising states, “one girl with courage is a revolution.”[13] Yet, women cannot do it alone. I challenge men to have courage and help further the momentum of the revolution by joining the HeforShe movement. Everyone should get involved to fight for both equality and the right of access to education. If we start small and work towards attainable solutions within our own country, when we ban together we can gain enough momentum that we can change the world. Let’s make it happen in 2015.

Alexandra Rickart is a second-year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, planning to graduate in May 2016 with a concentration in International Law. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2013 with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in Business. Her primary interests include international law, international criminal law, and domestic criminal law.
In addition to being a CICL Fellows, she is the Secretary of the International Law Society and a Staff Editor for the University of Baltimore Journal of International Law. She competed in the 2014-15 Jessup International Moot Court Competition, Mid-Atlantic Region. During her first year of law school, she was a tutor for Baltimore elementary students as part of the Truancy Court program through the Center for Families, Children and the Courts. Alexandra is currently a law clerk for a criminal defense firm in Baltimore.

[1] Like a Girl: Boost Your Self-Confidence #likeagirl, Always, http://www.always.com/en-us/likeagirl.aspx.

[2] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ.

[3] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ (China, Madagascar, and Nepal have this national holiday for women only).

[4] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ.

[5] Linda Nicholson, Feminism in “Waves”: Useful Metaphor or Not?, New Politics (Winter 2010), http://newpol.org/content/feminism-waves-useful-metaphor-or-not.

[6] Rebecca Walker, Becoming the Third Wave, Ms. (January/February 1992).

[7] Short History of CEDAW Convention, United Nations, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/history.htm.

[8] Id.

[9] HeForShe Campaign, UN Women, http://www.heforshe.org.

[10] Id.

[11] Girl Rising, Girl Rising, http://girlrising.com.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.


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The Drones are Coming, the Drones are Coming…

Matthew Matechik 

A man drives his beat up old Toyota truck down a dirt road meandering through sparse terrain. Unbeknownst to him, his every move is being watched. For a brief, almost imperceptibly, short moment he hears a loud noise. A flash! And just like that, the man is instantly dead. His body is disintegrated amidst the rubble that was his truck. A missile fired from an unseen unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or “drone”) has eliminated its target with ruthless efficiency. The strike is the successful culmination of countless hours spent finding the man, confirming his identity, confirming his affiliation, analyzing his movements, considering the legality of a strike, and finally identifying an opportunity that minimizes non-combatant casualties.

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This scene or something like it has played out numerous times during America’s post 9/11 “War on Terror.” Drones target terrorist combatants in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen (where just last week an American drone strike reportedly killed senior al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Harith bin Ghazi al-Nadhari[i]).

The drone program has been effective. According to some unconfirmed reports, drone strikes have killed as many as 2,000 combatant terrorists in Pakistan alone and the frequency of strikes has increased dramatically since President Obama entered office.[ii]  The drone has become a proven weapon in the ongoing fight against global terrorism. The US government has asserted that the strikes are legal under international law because they are carried out in self-defense against persons who present a continuing imminent threat and are affiliated with al-Qaida and associated forces with which the US is at war. The US further asserts that the strikes are in accordance with the Geneva Convention because the drone’s advanced technology, most notably its precision, minimizes civilian casualties and collateral damage.[iii]

The UN has criticized the US position as being based on too broad a definition of “imminence,” which must exist in order for self-defense to be legally justified.[iv] The UN critique exposes a potential problem the US has created by setting this precedent. Other nations, perhaps as many as 87 of them, are quickly building or already have their own drone fleets.[v] What will happen when these nations’ drone technology catches up to that of the US? What if those nations are hostile toward the US or its allies? Will they rely on the US understanding of self-defense to likewise justify anonymous killings of persons located outside their territory?

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Consider the Chinese, whose drone capabilities are rapidly catching up to those of the United States.[vi] China could easily apply the American legal argument to justify killing someone they claimed to be a Uighur separatist located in Kazakhstan, for example. What about an ethnic Uighur who happens to be a United States citizen? Could China use the American self-defense argument to justify killing this American? It would appear so as long as China deemed the American to be associated with a fighting force that China is engaged in armed conflict with. Take the logic a few steps further and it quickly becomes clear that any country could feasibly kill persons located abroad using drones by stretching the self-defense argument to suit the needs of the day.

The hypotheticals above are not far fetched. The drones are coming. The drones are coming and currently there is no formalized body of international law to regulate them beyond the general laws of war. We have the American precedent to go on but not much else.

russian-drones-omg

An international treaty governing the use of combat drones could alleviate concerns of widespread death from above. The drones do not represent the first time that technology has evolved faster than international law. At one time for example, the US was the only nation with nuclear weapons. As other nations gained the same technology, the nuclear-armed nations were able to form international treaties to regulate their use. Even enemies came to the table in the interest of humanity. So far the regulations have, thankfully, worked, at least in the sense that humans have not wiped themselves off the Earth yet. Perhaps a similar spirit of cooperation can inspire international regulation of drone warfare, although success could be difficult to come by given the high number of nations with drones.

The drones are coming. When they do, where will the battlefield be? Who will be targeted in self-defense? Can international law find a way to regulate the situation before it gets out of control? Time will tell. In the meantime, keep your eye on the sky. The drones are coming.

Matthew Matechik is an Evening J.D. student at the University of Baltimore School of Law (Class of 2016). He currently works full-time for the U.S. Federal Government as a Counterterrorism Analyst. He has a Bachelors of Arts (Magna Cum Laude, 2008) from Florida State University. All views in this blog post are Matthew’s own views and do not represent that of the U.S. Government. 

[i] http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/05/world/yemen-violence/index.html

[ii] This number is an estimate. Casualty estimates vary wildly. Official reports are not available. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/drone-strikes-killing-more-civilians-than-us-admits-human-rights-groups-say/2013/10/21/a99cbe78-3a81-11e3-b7ba-503fb5822c3e_story.html

[iii] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125206000; http://jurist.org/forum/2013/10/jordan-paust-drones-justification.php

[iv] http://www.globalresearch.ca/drone-warfare-findings-of-u-n-reports-on-extrajudicial-and-arbitrary-executions/5355601

[v] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/nov/10/skys-the-limit-for-wide-wild-world-of-drones/?page=all

[vi] http://rt.com/news/china-stealth-drone-flight-127/


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International Law Society at the United Nations

Natalie Krajinovic

On January 23, 2015 the International Law Society (ILS) from the University of Baltimore School of Law visited the United Nations (UN) in New York City. The Presbyterian Ministry at the UN hosted ILS, arranged for a number of speakers to discuss human rights law, and facilitated a tour of the UN.* The overall theme of the visit suggested that greater cooperation and action is needed across both legal and social regimes in order to enhance the strength of human rights law internationally.

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Our first speaker was Shulamith Koenig, the Founding President of the People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning (formerly known as People’s Decade for Human Rights Education). She founded the Movement in 1988 with the goal of creating, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “a new political culture based on human rights—and to enable women and men alike to participate in the decisions that determine their lives, and live in community in dignity with one another, moving from charity to dignity guided by the holistic human rights framework.”[1] Mrs. Koenig’s invigorating discussion focused on the inalienability of human rights. She asserted that in order to address human rights abuses, we need to consider human rights as a “framework”, not an “approach.” This framework ultimately requires that every human have the knowledge that they hold human rights and are entitled to dignity. As a strategy for human, social and economic development, Mrs. Koenig advocates for meaningful grassroots discussions to effect change through learning about human rights as a way of life.

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“Human Rights is about recognizing the humanity of the other as your own.” Shulamith Koenig

Renzo Pomi then spoke to our group regarding Amnesty International’s role in the preservation and promotion of human rights. Mr. Pomi is a human rights lawyer with over 30 years experience in the field. He is currently Amnesty International’s Representative at the United Nations, covering areas of human rights and humanitarian law in armed conflict and post conflict settings, international justice and accountability, among others.[2] He is also responsible for Amnesty International’s institutional work at the Organization of American States, in particular the strengthening of the Inter-American Human Rights System. Mr. Pomi spoke about the importance of a legal education in the field of human rights. He further addressed how an international human rights framework is critical to the development of human rights law.

Renzo Pomi, Amnesty International

John Washburn spoke to ILS regarding the need for the U.S. to ratify the Rome Statute and become a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC).[3] Mr. Washburn has an extensive career in diplomacy and international governmental and non-governmental organizations. He was a director in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and thereafter was a director in the Department of Political Affairs at the United Nations. He is currently the Convener of the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC), co-chair of the Washington Working Group on the International Criminal Court (WICC), and a past president of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. Mr. Washburn’s discussion on the validity of the ICC focused on the legitimacy of the Court. He emphasized the secular nature of the Court and its focus on justice. He categorized the Court’s aim of justice as punitive justice that is redemptive. For proponents of the ICC, the ICC allows for international acknowledgement of the harm done by perpetrators, which ultimately provides reprieve to victims of crimes when moving forward with their lives.

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Finally, we met with Janette Amer, Human Rights Adviser of UN Women,[4] who discussed equality and gender balance as a human rights issue. She discussed the importance of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), its achievements and the challenges ahead. In particular, Ms. Amer identified the need for sustainable equality efforts under both the UN and other entities. “The humanity of women alone is insufficient to ensure human rights,” Ms. Amer noted. Ms. Amer emphasized the importance of campaigns, such as HeForShe, in enhancing the substantive opportunities women have. These types of campaigns emphasize not only that women be equal under the law, but also in reality, with their everyday experiences and opportunities. These types of campaigns are of particular importance given the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action this year.

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The seminars’ emphasis on human rights reminds us of one of the purposes of the United Nations: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”[5] The seminars demonstrated the intermingling of various parties’ perspectives regarding human rights. It showed how activists, NGOs, judicial bodies and the UN itself react and promote human rights laws across the globe. The most effective way of achieving these purposes is ultimately through the domestic implementation of international human rights law.

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*The International Law Society would like to sincerely thank the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, specifically The Rev. W. Mark Koenig, Director, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, for organizing this wonderful event.

Natalie Krajinovic is a University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. candidate (’15), with a concentration in Business Law. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts in English and East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto, St. George. Natalie has always had an interest in international law and policy. While studying at the University of Toronto, she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Toronto Globalist, an international relations magazine with chapters across the globe. She currently serves as the President of the International Law Society and as the Comments Editor for the Journal of International Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Natalie is also a law clerk for John H. Denick & Associates, P.A., a business law firm in downtown Baltimore and is an intern with International Rights Advocates in Washington, D.C.

[1] Shulamith Koenig, PDHRE: The People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning, http://www.pdhre.org/people/shulabio.html (last visited Jan. 31, 2015).

[2] Who We Are, Amnesty International, http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are (last visited Jan. 31, 2015).

[3] About the Court, International Criminal Court, http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/about%20the%20court/Pages/about%20the%20court.aspx (last visited Jan. 31, 2015).

[4] About UN Women, UN Women, http://www.unwomen.org/en/about-us/about-un-women (last visited Jan. 31, 2015).

[5] U.N. Charter art. 1(2).


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Time to Break the Silence:  Shining a Light on the Conflict in the Central African Republic

Jillian Bokey

International human rights violations are the modern-day plague—wiping out hundreds of thousands of people in short periods of time and the international community is facing so many of these plagues today.  Unfortunately, a large portion of the world is unaware of the atrocities taking place every day across the globe.  The most well known violations are taking place in Ukraine and Syria—it seems that there is new coverage every day on Ukraine.  Every once in a while the media catches us up on Syria, where a civil war has taken the lives of well over 100,000 people and displaced millions.[1]  Recently, barrel bombs were dropped on a school, killing young children, two men were crucified in the streets, and the use of sarin and other poisonous gases has become more and more regular.[2]  It is the politically charged actions that get the most attention in the media.  But what about the rest of the world?

Ukraine and Syria are not the only places with human rights issues; they plague the entire world.  This post seeks to shed a little light on the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR)—a place we never hear about and a people entrenched in havoc and tragedy.  It is important that we break the silence on the crisis and give a voice to the people that desperately need help. 

Image Source: BBC News

Brief Introduction of the Role of Human Rights in International Law 

I think it is fair to say that when people think of international law, they probably think about a couple of different topics:  war, terrorism, foreign policy and relations, and human rights.  Of course I make this statement without having conducted any poll or survey.  Human rights have become an extremely relevant and important topic in modern international law.[3]  The atrocities that took place during World War II prompted a change in international law—a change that brought human rights concerns to the forefront, starting with the creation of UN.[4]  The UN Charter included the importance of fundamental human rights, the dignity and worth of each human person and the equal rights of men and women.[5]  Numerous conventions centering on human rights quickly followed, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.[6]  Rights and responsibilities recognized under human rights law include the right to self-determination, the right to equality and nondiscrimination, the right to life, the right to not be enslaved or forced labor, the right to not be tortured or ill-treated, the right to fairness in the criminal process and the administration of justice, the right to not be detained or imprisoned, the right to privacy, the right to travel, the right to seek asylum and refugee status, the right to citizenship or nationality, the right of protection for family, the right to own property, freedom of religion and belief, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, the right to participate politically and vote, and many more.[7]  The recognition of fundamental human rights has had a dramatic effect on the treatment of peoples and public opinion across the globe.

Ignorance in the Media

It is unfortunate that media outlets, specifically those in the United States, do not share the stories of human rights violations.  Only those that are “popular” are shared with the American public.  That is a problem.  The United States, along with the international community, has a responsibility to stand for and respect fundamental human rights, to be the voice for others that cannot share their own stories, to be the people that somehow find a way to give others hope in their own future even if they are located in another country.  It is important that a conversation about these global human rights violations is started and shared throughout the world in order to educate our global society about the injustices taking place in and outside of the places we all live.  Picking and choosing the topics of discussion on human rights violations is just perpetuating an ignorance and false impression about the status of the people of our world.

Christian anti-balaka attack the property of Muslim civilians in an effort to destroy everything in their commumity

Image Source: The Telegraph 

Starting a Conversation about the Crisis in the Central African Republic

The current conflict in CAR can be traced back to the coup in 2003 that removed then President Ange-Félix Patassé from office.[8]  François Bozizé, the army’s chief of staff, formed a relationship with Chad’s President Déby, and seized control of CAR, remaining in power for the next eight years with the help of Déby and the Chadian troops.[9]  When Bozizé began to change the dynamic of the business relationship, and sought connections with South Africa, Déby began to encourage a coalition of Muslim rebels—The Seleka—from CAR to take over the country.[10]  The Seleka was comprised of factions of different organizations.[11]  The Seleka’s campaign to overthrow the government and President Bozizé started in December of 2012, stating that they sought to “liberate the country and bring peace and security to the people.”[12]  Violence ensued, resulting in the Seleka taking control of the capital of CAR, Bangui, and fifteen of the sixteen CAR provinces.[13]  One of the leaders of the Seleka appointed himself as interim president.[14]  The Seleka members have destroyed rural villages, looted all over CAR, have raped women and girls, have deliberately killed numerous women, children, and elderly individuals, deliberately destroyed homes, destroyed and stole food and seed stocks creating a massive food shortage, and have left residents to fend for themselves without clean water or shelter.[15]  The Seleka do not seem to be the only guilty party as there are reports of major human rights abuses taking place under the Bozizé government.[16]  The abuses by the Seleka forces prompted Christian militias to organize counterattacks and defenses—the groups are known as anti-balaka fighters.[17]  They too have committed abuses, but against the Muslim population.[18]  The anti-balaka fighters attack those they believe are supporting the rebel coalition.[19]  The use of child soldiers has been a widespread issue as well.[20]

Soldiers drag the lifeless body of a suspected Seleka rebel after he was killed. (Jerome Delay/AP)

Image Source: The Washington Post 

Some of the accounts of violence are shockingly brutal.  Human Rights Watch tells of a story of how one Muslim woman was forced to watch the anti-balaka fighters slit the throat of her three-year old son, two other young boys, and an adult relative.[21]  The organization also recounted the story of an adult man who witnessed anti-balaka fighters slitting the throats of 13 of his loved ones.[22]  Seleka fighters sought revenge by ravaging a Christian village killing numerous people and destroying homes.[23]  Although this sounds like a religious conflict, pitting Christians against Muslims, the violence is, at the root of it, economic and political. CAR ranks at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index (ranked 180 out of 187).[24] 

Although the Seleka are no longer in power and a transitional government has been put into place, violence continues and the forced enlistment of child soldiers has not ceased.[25]  International efforts are woefully inadequate in addressing the issues, and the international community has not been keeping up with the crisis, even with troops on the ground.[26]  HRW calls upon the United Nations to deploy a full-scale peacekeeping effort in the region in order to provide protection to the civilians and provide aid to the displaced.[27]  The international community is slowly starting to be cognizant of the abuses, taking action one step at a time.  On May 13, 2014, President Obama ordered sanctions against five individuals tied to the violence and abuses and made way for the potential of future sanctions or penalties.[28]  In issuing the sanctions, President Obama noted that over 2.5 million people, which accounts for half of the population of CAR, need humanitarian assistance, and over 1 million are displaced.[29] 

Conclusion

The international community needs to do more to educate themselves on the status of the conflict in CAR.  Widespread atrocities, from killings to rape to the use of child soldiers are taking place daily.  The international community has a responsibility to act to help put an end to the human rights violations taking place in CAR.  The fighting between the anti-balaka fighters and the Seleka will not stop on its own—too much has happened for a ceasefire to be possible without international influence.  With over half the country in need of humanitarian assistance and a fifth of the country’s citizens already displaced, the time to act is now.  The more people that know about the conflict, the more support an international peacekeeping mission would receive, and the quicker that the millions of innocent CAR civilians can receive the aid, protection, and dignity that they so desperately need and deserve.

 

[1] Loveday Morris, 3 Grim Statistics from 3 Years of Conflict in Syria, Washington Post (Mar. 14, 2014 9:55am), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/03/14/3-grim-statistics-from-3-years-of-conflict-in-syria/

[2] Salma Abdelaziz, Death and Desecration in Syria:  Jihadist Group Crucified Bodies to Send Message, CNN (May 2, 2014 3:11pm), http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/01/world/meast/syria-bodies-crucifixions/; Holly Yand & Saad Abedine, 25 Children Killed in Elementary School Bombing, Syrian Activists Say, CNN (April 30, 2014 7:47am), http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/30/world/meast/syria-civil-war/index.html?hpt=imi_c2; Claims of New Poison Gas Attack in Syria, BBC News (Apr. 12, 2014 11:15am), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27001737.

[3] Dinah Shelton, Remedies in International Human Rights Law 1 (2nd ed. 2005).

[4] Dinah Shelton, Remedies in International Human Rights Law 104 (2nd ed. 2005).

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 105.

[7] David Weissbrodt & Connie de la Vega, International Human Rights Law:  An Introduction 30-119 (2007).

[8] Human Rights Watch, “I Can Still Smell the Dead”:  The Forgotten Human Rights Crisis in the Central African Republic, p. 29 (Sept. 2013).

[9] Graeme Wood, Hell is an Understatement:  A report from the bloody, crumbling Central African Republic, New Republic (Apr. 30, 2014), http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117519/central-african-republic-conflict-africas-bloodiest-fight.

[10] Id.

[11] Human Rights Watch, “I Can Still Smell the Dead”:  The Forgotten Human Rights Crisis in the Central African Republic, p. 29 (Sept. 2013).

[12] Id. at 5.

[13] Id.

[14] Id. 

[15] Id. at 5-6.

[16] Id. at 7.

[17] Human Rights Watch, “They Came to Kill”:  Escalating Atrocities in the Central African Republic, p. 1 (Dec. 10, 2013), http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/12/18/they-came-kill.

[18] Id.

[19] Human Rights Watch, Central African Republic: A Country In Turmoil, One Year On, Security, Aid, Justice Remain Essential (Mar. 23, 2014), http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/23/central-african-republic-country-turmoil.

[20] Obama Orders Sanctions Against 5 Over Central African Republic Violence, Wall Street Journal (May 14, 2014 12:18am), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304081804579560532520785604.

[21] Human Rights Watch, “They Came to Kill”:  Escalating Atrocities in the Central African Republic, p. 5 (Dec. 10, 2013), http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/12/18/they-came-kill.

[22] Id.

[23] Id. at 6.

[24] Jim Wallis, Don’t Blame the Central African Republic Conflict on Religion, Time (Apr. 9, 2014), http://time.com/55813/dont-blame-the-central-african-republic-conflict-on-religion/.

[25] Obama Orders Sanctions Against 5 Over Central African Republic Violence, Wall Street Journal (May 14, 2014 12:18am), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304081804579560532520785604.

[26] Human Rights Watch, Central African Republic: A Country In Turmoil, One Year On, Security, Aid, Justice Remain Essential (Mar. 23, 2014), http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/23/central-african-republic-country-turmoil.

[27] Id.

[28] Obama Orders Sanctions Against 5 Over Central African Republic Violence, Wall Street Journal (May 14, 2014 12:18am), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304081804579560532520785604.

[29] Id.