The International Criminal Court (ICC) turns 18 years old in 2020. As such, we can look back on the Court’s ‘childhood’ and forward to its first year as an adult. Like all childhoods, there have been ups and downs, successes and lessons learned. There have been four final convictions against individuals for crimes against humanity and war crimes, and reparations ordered for hundreds of victims in three cases. There have also been acquittals (most recently of Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ble Goude regarding crimes during post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire) and cases terminated (such as those in the Kenya situation). The Court has drawn criticism for its lengthy and expensive trials, limited success rate, and faced allegations of politicisation and double-standards. While States continue to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute (like Kiribati most recently), two States have withdrawn – Burundi and the Philippines. While criticism has, of course, come from those outside the Rome Statute system, in 2019 many of the Court’s greatest supporters raised their own critiques. Given this backdrop, five issues to follow in 2020 include: 1) an independent expert review of the ICC; 2) the election of a new Prosecutor and Judges; 3) investigations in Myanmar/Bangladesh and (potentially) Afghanistan; 4) conclusion of the cases against Mr Ongwen and Mr Ntaganda; and 5) the unexpected.
Reparations are an old concept in both domestic and international law. Victims have long been repaired in some way for the harms they suffered themselves, to their families or property. Following World War II, victims received some type of reparation, usually paid by the State, for their profound losses, and just last year the Dutch Railways NS announced that it would pay reparations to victims for its role in transportation for the Nazi regime. In the USA there have been enduring discussions about the yet unpaid reparations for slavery. Along with these developments, there have been changes to the approaches taken to reparations. Firstly, reparations have been recognised as part of a victim’s right under international law. Secondly, critiques have arisen regarding the traditional approach of reparations that seeks to restore victims to the position they were in before the harm occurred. Academics and practitioners have criticised this approach as failing to address socio-economic disparities and unequal power structures, which may have led to the victimisation in the first place. The recent transformative justice movement, and transformative reparations in particular, grew out of the belief that it is ineffectual to place marginalised victims back into positions of marginalisation following serious harm. This blog, based on a recently published article, critically examines transformative reparations within the human rights and criminal context, and explores whether the concept of transformation is changing the game.
On 17 July 2018, the Rome Statute (RS) creating the International Criminal Court (ICC) celebrated its 20th anniversary. The ICC is a permanent court that investigates serious international crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, and prosecutes individuals believed to be most responsible. In this way, the ICC promotes the rule of law internationally and seeks to end impunity for the most heinous crimes. The Statute’s agreement was a remarkable achievement many decades in the making. In the last 20 years, the ICC has grown from small beginnings into a fully-fledged court of international law. Progress has not, however, always been smooth, with many issues and obstacles arising, including in relation to culture. While international law (including international criminal law) is typically portrayed as objective and not limited or bound by a particular culture, as revealed especially in practice, law and culture cannot be so clinically separated. Culture influences our view of the law, of the facts to which it applies, and the fairness of any outcome. From the substantive charges and their defences to the scope and content of reparations and the operation of the criminal process, the impact of culture can be problematic given the nature and context of the ICC’s work. And, yet, culture and the ICC has not been comprehensively addressed in scholarship. Continue reading
This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This document continues to represent a landmark achievement of the international community. Since 1948, much progress has been achieved, with numerous human rights treaties and instruments adopted nationally, regionally, and internationally. Despite this momentum, human rights continue to be violated in all states around the world, revealing the gap between law and practice. The challenge of implementation – of making legal norms a lived reality – is now most pressing. How to address this challenge was the focus of my PhD research completed earlier this year. This research focused on criticisms of state-centricity in international human rights law, as well as its tendency to take a legalistic approach to implementation. Identifying the shortcomings of state-centric legalism, my research proposed involving informal social institutions the domestic implementation of human rights due to their cultural embeddeness and ability to guide human behaviour.
The 14th Asian Law Institute conference was hosted by the College of Law of the University of the Philippines from 18 to 19 May 2017 in Manila. Qiao Cong-rui, Julie Fraser, and Niu Ming, PhD Candidates and researchers with the Montaigne Centre, participated in the conference. The conference brought together academics and professionals from Asia and the world to discuss issues related to the theme “A Uniting Force? – ‘Asian Values’ and the Law.” Over 100 papers were presented relating to this theme, addressing a wide range of legal fields including commercial law, constitutional law, criminal law, and international law. The conference was divided into six sessions and comprised 36 panels. Academics and professionals contributed to the discussions concerning the concept of ‘Asian values’ by looking at legal and institutional arrangements or systems of key Asian countries.
Six weeks of melting humidity, spicy food, tropical vegetation, and endless traffic. I was in Indonesia to research how women’s reproductive rights and family planning are protected, with a particular focus on the role of Islamic laws and institutions. This is a complex topic, requiring expertise in matters of women’s rights, public health, demographics, and Islamic law. My visit to Indonesia was part of a crash course in all these fields – a type of sink or swim scenario. My experience there highlighted the role of non-state actors in the promotion and protection of human rights, and the need for domestic constituents working within their communities to secure such rights. I chose Indonesia as my case study as it is the largest Muslim state in the world, has strong plural legal systems and Islamic institutions, and has faced barriers in promoting and protecting women’s reproductive rights. As it turned out, Indonesia was an excellent choice, and a good teacher.
The Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI) held their 16th annual conference on 21-22 September 2015 in Serbia, hosted by the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights. This blog gives a brief overview of my experiences at the conference. The theme of the conference was Human Rights and Universality, in acknowledgment of the new ways emerging to approach the universality of human rights. This theme reflected on discussions about what are common human values, and how human rights should be interpreted in the different cultural contexts. Continue reading