ICC asked to investigate Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers

by Rosemary Grey

Rosemary Grey joins Beyond The Hague again with a post on recent steps taken in Australia to bring the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers before the ICC. Rosemary Grey is a PhD Candidate at the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales. Rose can be reached at r.grey@unsw.edu.au and here

Andrew Wilkie, Independent Member for Denison. Source: http://www.andrewwilkie.org/

“Andrew Wilkie takes Australia to international criminal court”, the Guardian announced on Wednesday. Well yes, in a manner of speaking. Australia itself can’t be taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals rather than States. And there are many, many steps that the ICC Prosecutor would need to take before any individual Government ministers could be summoned to The Hague.

But Andrew Wilkie, an independent of member parliament in Australia, has taken an initial step to bring the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers before the ICC, as the Guardian’s report continued to explain.

Specifically, Mr Wilkie has sent a letter to the ICC Prosecutor, asking her to investigate whether members of the Australian Government, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Minister for Immigration & Border Protection Scott Morrison, may be individually responsible for crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute.

The request

Mr Wilkie’s letter focuses on the Australian Government’s policies of transferring asylum seekers arriving by boat to offshore detention facilities in our pacific neighbours of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.  The letter also says the Government has put ‘large numbers’ of asylum seekers at risk by sending them back to countries from which they have fled, including Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Continue reading

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The Ntaganda confirmation of charges decision: A victory for gender justice?

by Rosemary Grey

Rosemary Grey is a PhD Candidate at the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales. She has previously written for Beyond The Hague on the possibility of trying persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation under the Rome Statute. Rose can be reached at r.grey@unsw.edu.au and here.

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Nyankunde, Ituri District, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ituri experienced some of the bloodiest fighting of the Congo Wars. Source: Peter Dixon

On Monday, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed the charges against alleged war criminal Bosco Ntaganda, the former commander of an armed group active in the Ituri District of the Democratic Republic of Congo called the Union des Patriotes Congolais/Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo (UPC-FPLC). For some background on the Ituri conflict, see previous BTH posts here and here.

The Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision considers several important issues, including the sexual exploitation of child soldiers by their commanders. While the case has been underway since 2006, the charges of sexual violence against the child soldiers are a relatively recent development.

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Hate Crime Against Humanity? Persecution on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation under the Rome Statute

by Rosemary Grey

Rosemary Grey joins Beyond The Hague today with a post that questions the ‘constructive ambiguity’ of the gender language in Article 7(3) of the Rome Statute and asks whether persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation can be considered a crime under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Rose is a PhD Candidate at the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales. She can be reached at r.grey@unsw.edu.au and here.

The Sochi Games has focused international attention on Russia’s human rights record, particularly its laws that discriminate and sow prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) people. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nodded at this issue in his address to the Olympic Committee on February 6, stating:

We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face.

Ban’s call to action reflects the fact that in recent years, the UN has become increasingly vocal in promoting LGBTI rights. For example in 2011, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published its first report on discrimination and violence on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The report documents targeted killings, rapes, and assaults of LGBTI people, and highlights decisions and general comments of treaty bodies that confirm that discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is prohibited under international human rights law.[1]  Building on this momentum, in 2013 the Human Rights Office launched the  “Free and Equal” campaign, aimed at combating discrimination against LGBTI people worldwide.

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August 2013 Protest in Amsterdam. Source: AFP

Meanwhile, discrimination against LGBTI people under domestic law continues in many states, and in some places is getting worse. Russia is not an isolated example: several States Parties to the Rome Statute are also moving backwards on LGBTI rights. For example, Uganda, which in 2004 became the first State Party to refer a situation to the ICC and in 2010 had the privilege of hosting the Rome Statute Review Conference, is in the process of enacting legislation that prescribes life imprisonment for people convicted of homosexual acts.  Nigeria, another State Party, has recently enacted anti-homosexuality laws that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay describes as “draconian.”

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