Drawing links between initiatives to increase protection of children during armed conflict & similar violence


“‘Protecting Children’: A Welcome Addition to Efforts to Redress Wartime Harms,” an essay I published yesterday at Just Security, underscores connections among a number of recent initiatives related to children and armed conflict.

The essay welcomes Protecting Children in Armed Conflict (Hart Publishing 2018), the 600-page report of the 2017 Inquiry on Protecting Children in Armed Conflict spearheaded by Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education. (I served on the Inquiry’s Advisory Panel.)

Leading a team of researchers was Shaheed Fatima QC, a barrister at London’s Blackstone Chambers, who spoke on this work at the International Law Weekend panel last month. (prior post here) My Just Security essay offers a detailed description and favorable critique of this research, noting the work’s connections with what the UN Security Council terms the “Six Grave Violations against Children in Armed Conflict.”

The essay further draws links between this work and the 2016 International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor Policy on Children, which I had the honor of helping to prepare in my ongoing service as ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict. (prior post here) The essay points to “the complementary potential of these and other initiatives,” and concludes:

Together, they may advance two essential goals: first, to articulate norms prohibiting wartime harms against children; and second, to secure redress for any such harms that occur.

My Just Security essay is here. It is part of a miniforum which began with a post last week jointly authored by Fatima and Brown, available here. The Just Security series will continue with forthcoming posts by Sarah Knuckey (Columbia Law), Alex Moorehead (Columbia Law), and Alex Whiting (Harvard Law).

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

Benjamin Zawacki, author of Thailand: Shifting Ground between the US and a Rising China, to speak at Georgia Law on Tuesday, March 20

Benjamin Zawacki bookWe at the University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center are delighted to welcome Benjamin Zawacki, a Bangkok-based human rights researcher and advocate, to campus to discuss his recently-released book, Thailand: Shifting Ground between the US and a Rising China. He will be speaking tomorrow, March 20, 2018, from 11:45-1:00 p.m. in the Larry Walker Room in Dean Rusk Hall.

Joining him in conversation will be UGA Department of History history_faculty_08Professor Ari Levine, an expert in China. Zawacki will discuss Thailand’s recent pivot towards China following decades as a key strategic ally of the United States, as well as what that means for a new administration in Washington. Levine will pose key questions and moderate a discussion with attendees.

Benji headshot

Zawacki has lived in Thailand for the past 15 years. In 2015, he was a visiting fellow in the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and a term member on the Council of Foreign Relations. He previously served as the Senior Legal Advisor for Southeast Asia with the International Commission of Jurists, the Acting Regional Representative of the International Development Law Organization, and Amnesty International’s Myanmar, Thailand, and Asian Emergencies Researcher.

The event is co-sponsored by the law school’s Dean Rusk International Law Center, the Department of History, and the International Law Society. It is presented as part of the Center’s United Nations Academic Impact partnership.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, thanks to archives preserving histories of post-WWII war crimes trials: Amann


LOS ANGELES – On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am honored to be spending this month at the USC Shoah Foundation, reviewing testimonies of persons who did their part to set right one of history’s terrible wrongs.

Seventy-three years ago today, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the infamous Nazi concentration camp located about 45 miles west of Kraków, Poland. Liberations of other camps by other Allied forces soon followed; among them, the U.S. liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, and the British liberation of Bergen-Belsen 4 days later.

Sixty years later, a 2005 U.N. General Assembly resolution set this date aside for commemoration of World War II atrocities; to quote the resolution, of

“… the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities …”

The resolution further:

  • honored “the courage and dedication shown by the soldiers who liberated the concentration camps”;
  • rejected “any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event”;
  • envisaged the Holocaust as “a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice”;
  • denounced “all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur”; and
  • encouraged initiatives designed to “inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide.”

Among the many such initiatives are memorial centers and foundations throughout the world – 2 of which have helped me in my own research into the roles that women played during postwar international criminal trials at Nuremberg.

In December, the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, located in Glen Cove, New York, opened its archives to me. Special thanks to Helen  Turner, archivist and Director of Youth Education, for her assistance.

This month, as the inaugural Breslauer, Rutman and Anderson Research Fellow, I am in residence at the University of Southern California, examining documents in USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. It has been a fruitful and moving scholarly experience, and I look forward to sharing my research at a public lecture on campus at 4 p.m. this Tuesday, Jan. 30 (as I was honored to do last week at UCLA Law’s Promise Institute for Human Rights; video here). Special thanks to all at the foundation’s Center for Advanced Research – Wolf Gruner, Martha Stroud, Badema Pitic, Isabella Evalynn Lloyd-Damnjanovic, and Marika Stanford-Moore – and to the donors who endowed the research fellowship. (Fellowship info here.)

As reflected in the 2005 General Assembly resolution, the work of such institutions helps to entrench – and to prevent backsliding from – states’ promises to ensure and respect human rights and dignity norms, set out in instruments like the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. To this list I would add the many documents establishing international criminal fora to prosecute persons charge with violating such norms – from  the Nuremberg-era tribunals through to today’s International Criminal Court.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann; image credit)

Student Rebecca Wackym on her GEO at Hebron Rehabilitation Committee

This is one in a series of posts by University of Georgia School of Law students, writing on their participation in our 2017 Global Governance Summer School or Global Externship Overseas initiative. Author of this post is 2L Rebecca Wackym, who spent her 1L summer as a GEO, or Global Extern Overseas.

For six weeks this summer, I lived and worked in the ancient and industrial city of Hebron (in Arabic, “Al-Khalil”) in the southern West Bank. Hebron is often touted as a “microcosm” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And for good reason: Hebron’s contested Old City district is home to both 30,000 Palestinians and 500-800 Israeli settlers, the latter protected by approximately 2,000 Israeli troops.

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At the center of the Old City and the conflict in Hebron is the Ibrahimi Mosque. It is the burial place of the patriarchs of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah. It is the oldest religious building in the world that has been continually used for its original purpose, and it is the only religious building that serves as both a mosque and a synagogue. Much like the Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock area, the Ibrahimi Mosque has been the subject of a tug of war between the Israelis and Palestinians since the occupation began.

The organization I worked for, Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC), is on the front lines of the battle for cultural heritage rights. HRC succeeded in its efforts to designate the Ibrahimi Mosque and the Old City of Hebron as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Danger. During my time in Hebron, I worked with the Legal Unit of Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, which was founded to respond to human rights violations against the Palestinian citizens of the Old City, particularly violations pertaining to personal and public property.

Wackym6.jpgThe Legal Unit of the HRC uses several legal and policy strategies to achieve this purpose. These include: filing domestic complaints against Israeli Defense Forces orders; filing complaints with various international human rights bodies; conducting international awareness campaigns; and directly educating Palestinians about their rights. I had the opportunity to work on several of these complaints. On one filed with the United Nations Human Rights Council, I did research on Israeli case law.  My research involved the exhaustion of domestic remedies requirement in the context of road closure cases, in which the courts typically do not get involved if the closure can be justified by a “security-related” reason. I also wrote a complaint to the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. For this project, I conducted interviews with victims, compiled evidence, and researched relevant military orders and case law.

The transition from living in the United States to living in a conservative, Muslim-majority place was daunting, but my supervisor, Nicole Trudeau, did everything she could to ease the culture shock. She introduced me to her Palestinian friends and invited me to eat with local residents of the Old City. I felt very welcome and even at home during my time in Hebron. The professional culture was more relaxed than in the United States – the office closed at 3 pm, and tea breaks were customary– but I was surprised to find that it was also almost as progressive. Women outnumbered men in the office and had leadership roles. It was an eye-opening to see a conservative culture value women in the workforce.

During my externship with HRC, I received an invaluable education not only in human rights, cultural heritage, and humanitarian law practice, but also in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and their respective cultures. I spent weekends traveling all over Israel and the West Bank. I spoke with members of the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian soldiers, young people in Tel Aviv and Ramallah, settlers in Hebron, and local and international activists just trying to make the situation better. The experience was absolutely incredible. And I will never forget the friends I left in Hebron. Salam!

Distinguished alumna Ertharin Cousin joins our Center Council

We are deeply honored to announce that one of our distinguished international law alumnae, Ertharin Cousin, has become a member of our Dean Rusk International Law Center Council.

Cousin has just completed a five-year term as Executive Director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme. In that role, she led the world’s largest humanitarian organization. Founded in 1961, WFP has more than 11,000 staffers, who combat hunger and food insecurity on behalf of more than 80 million persons in 82 countries. (credit for photo above)

She earned her J.D. degree from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1982. While here, she took international law classes with our Center’s namesake, Dean Rusk, who was a Georgia Law professor for many years after serving in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations as the United States’ second-longest-serving Secretary of State. Cousin also holds a B.A. degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and was one of the first women to graduate from Lane Tech, a prestigious and traditionally male-only public high school in the same city.

She returned to Georgia Law’s Athens campus last month to receive our alum association’s Distinguished Service Scroll Award. While here, she discussed her work at WFP and her ongoing commitment to end hunger to a group of students now enrolled in international law classes. Cousin stressed that even as direct food aid was provided in the short term, over the long term communities must be given opportunities to provided for themselves, remarking:

“I never met a mother in all the places I’ve visited who wanted to stand in line to feed her children.”

Anticipating her departure from WFP, which took place on April 4, Cousin told students that she planned to continue strategizing to bring an end to hunger as a Visiting Fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute. She said:

“I’m just changing chairs.”

Immediately before taking up the post at WFP, Cousin served in Rome, by appointment of President Barack Obama, as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, and as head of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. Agencies in Rome. Her career also included many private- and public-sector posts. During the centennial Olympic Games, held in 1996 in Atlanta, she served as Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

In becoming a member of the Dean Rusk International Law Center Council, Cousin joins other Georgia Law graduates, faculty members, and friends who advise and support the work of the Center.

FT profiles alumna Ertharin Cousin’s continued efforts to end hunger

cousin-1Among our most distinguished Georgia Law alumnae is Ertharin Cousin, who earned her Juris Doctor degree in 1982. She has served since 2012 as the Executive Director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme – an appointment that followed service as a U.S. ambassador on food insecurity issues. Based at the 53-year-old Programme’s headquarters in Rome, Italy, Cousin leads the world’s largest humanitarian organization: its 11,000-plus staffers combat hunger and food insecurity on behalf of more than 80 million persons in 82 countries.

The London-based Financial Times acquainted its readers with Cousin earlier this month, featuring her in a “Q&A with Ertharin Cousin” in its FT Weekend Magazine. Amid a mix of personal and professional topics, Cousin noted that she was a member of the 1st class of girls at Chicago’s Lane Tech High School and an undergraduate at the University of Illinois before becoming a law student at the University of Georgia. Asked about politics, she said:

“Everyone should recognise the importance of the political process and the election of good people, regardless of party, who can represent the vulnerable.”

Her greatest achievement?

“When the conflict began in South Sudan, two and a half, three years ago, the NGO community, working together, avoided a famine.”

Continuing ambition?

“Ending hunger. The mission of most of my adult life has been giving people access to affordable, nutritious food wherever they are.”

We at Georgia Law were honored to welcome Cousin as the keynote speaker at the 2013 symposium of our Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law (pictured above), and we look forward to March 2017, when our Law School Association will give her a Distinguished Service Scroll Award.

Distinguished jurist Pillay discusses state sovereignty, human rights

duo“The biggest violators of human rights are states themselves, by commission or omission.”

This quote by Navi Pillay aptly summarized her talk on “National Sovereignty vs. International Human Rights.” Pillay, whose renowned legal career has included posts as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and as a judge on the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, spoke this morning at the University of Georgia School of Law Atlanta campus.

Elaborating on the quote above, Pillay decried national legislation aimed at restricting the activities – and with it the effectiveness – of local nongovernmental organizations. Such anti-NGO laws already have passed in Russia and are pending in Pillay’s home state of South Africa, among other countries. That said, she welcomed new means of speaking law to power; in particular, social media that permit human rights advocates to reach millions. Also welcomed were accountability mechanisms that the United Nations has developed in recent decades, such as Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council, reporting processes of treaty bodies, and reports by special rapporteurs.

amann_pillayI was honored to give welcoming remarks at the breakfast. Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center, which I lead, cosponsored this Georgia WILL event with the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and Georgia State University’s Global Studies Institute. (We owe special thanks to Judge Dorothy Toth Beasley for her hospitality this week.)

Conversing with Pillay was World Affairs Council President Charles Shapiro. They began by speaking of Pillay’s childhood in Durban, where she grew up the daughter of a bus driver. She spoke of how testifying as a 6-year-old in the trial of a man who’d stolen money from her helped spark her desire to become a lawyer – and how donations from her community helped make that dream a reality.

Shapiro then asked about capital punishment, noting a scheduled execution. Pillay acknowledged the absence of any universal treaty outlawing the death penalty, but found evidence of U.N. opposition both in the decision not to permit the penalty in U.N. ad hoc international criminal tribunals and in the growing support for the oft-repeated U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment.

“It started with just 14 states against the death penalty, and is now more than 160,” said Pillay, who currently serves on the International Commission against the Death Penalty.

img_0335On this and other issues, she said, advocates endeavor to encourage states first to obligate themselves to respect and ensure human rights, and then to implement the undertakings they have made in this regard:

“The United Nations was formed by states. It is a club of governments. Look how steadily they have adopted treaties and agreed to be bound by them. That doesn’t mean we are transgressing sovereignty.”