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CPIJ in the Media

Sorry John McCallum, extradition doesn’t neatly divide the courts from the politicians

By | CPIJ in the Media

The ambassador and the Prime Minister stress the role of judges in the Meng case, but experts say extradition is ultimately about political decision-making

Even after all the coverage of John McCallum’s unorthodox remarks about the strong arguments he says Meng Wanzhou’s lawyers will be able to marshal to stop the Huawei executive from being extradited to the U.S., it’s still worth looking closely at exactly what Canada’s ambassador to China actually said earlier this week when he mused aloud about the sensitive case to Chinese-language media gathered near Toronto.

The overlap of law and politics: Meng Wanzhou’s extradition explained

By | CPIJ in the Media

When John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, said this week that Chinese business executive Meng Wanzhou has “quite good arguments on her side” in her fight against extradition to the United States, he ignited a political storm. The Globe and Mail’s Sean Fine set out to explore the overlap between law and politics in a case that has set China and Canada on a collision course.

What did Canadian mining executives know about possible human rights violations in Eritrea?

By | CPIJ in the Media

Scott Anderson | CBC News

Executives at Vancouver-based mining firm Nevsun Resources have denied direct knowledge of human rights violations at their gold and copper mine in the Bisha mining district in northern Eritrea, adjacent to Sudan. (CBC)

For years, Vancouver-based mining firm Nevsun Resources has dismissed allegations that forced labour was used to build its mine in the repressive east African country of Eritrea.

Nevsun executives have denied direct knowledge of human rights violations at their Bisha mine site in a CBC interview and during an appearance before a parliamentary committee.

But company documents filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia last November and reviewed by CBC’s The Fifth Estate show executives at the highest level appear to have been informed of issues of forced labour at their mine site a decade ago.

Former Bisha mine workers are suing Nevsun in B.C. for alleged human rights violations — including forced labour, slavery and torture.

The company denies the allegations and has appealed the matter of whether the case can be heard in B.C. to the Supreme Court of Canada. Nevsun argues that the case should be adjudicated in Eritrea. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the matter on Wednesday.

The court’s decision could have a far-reaching impact on Canadian corporations operating abroad.

“The Supreme Court of Canada will be asked to rule on whether in fact it is possible in our legal system to hold a corporate citizen of Canada to account for decisions made in Canada, by a Canadian corporation, in how it will engage in business in Eritrea,” said law professor Audrey Macklin, counsel for the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program, which has intervener status in the Supreme Court matter.

Mass exodus

In recent years, there has been a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of people from Eritrea, a small country of six million in the Horn of Africa. They have fled in part because of the country’s controversial national service program, which the United Nations and human rights groups have charged involves lengthy military conscription and forced labour.

“Eritrea is a human rights pariah and the use of indeterminate conscription and forced labour has been widely reported,” said Macklin. “The question would be what kind of due diligence did Nevsun do prior to its foray into Eritrea?”

Nevsun is partners with the government of Eritrea through the Bisha Mining Share Company (BMSC). The mine is 40 per cent owned by the Eritrean National Mining Corporation (ENAMCO).

The Bisha mine opened in 2011 and has produced hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of gold, copper and zinc. For years, the mine was the only major source of revenue for the regime of President Isaias Afwerki.

But back in 2009, Nevsun was seeking financing during the construction phase of the mine when the issue of forced labour in Eritrea was raised by potential lenders.

One email filed in court, dated March 4, 2009, and written by then Nevsun CEO Cliff Davis, is headlined “Private and Confidential due to Sensitivity.”

Workers and visitors walk within the processing plant at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea on Feb. 18, 2016. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

Davis writes that the lenders “have placed another obstacle in the road to finance. They assert that the country practises involuntary labour (forced labour) and before they can lend to the project, BMSC must demonstrate that the Bisha mine will not be a benefactor in any way of such labour, either directly or via any of its contractors.”

In the same email, Davis notes “we understand there are currently some National Service people working for a key contractor working at site” and that “we are in the process of determining whether the terms of employment would constitute forced labour.” Davis suggests BMSC could hire the workers directly or offer them contracts “where they could leave on their own free will.”

But Davis goes on to say “None of these solutions are palatable to the Eritreans because: 1. another Westerner telling the Eritreans how to run their country; 2. potential disruption to the national development campaign. Politically a very sensitive topic.”

‘Permeates the whole region’

As part of its due diligence, according to the documents filed in court, Nevsun and the lenders brought in U.S. social development expert Kerry Connor to review the operation. Connor is based in Washington, D.C., and has done risk reviews for mining operations around the world.

In a March 25, 2009, email from Connor to then Nevsun vice-president Trevor Moss, she refers to a conversation she had with Stan Rogers, the manager of the mine at the time.

“Just spoke with Stan,” she writes. “He recognizes it’s forced labour and says it permeates the whole country with nearly everyone in some way associated with the “program.”

“Also says no one understands the scope of the issue viz a viz project employment of program people — so we need to concentrate on this before we can determine what can be done.”

Connor later concluded in an April 2009 report, also part of the court filing, that “the project is at risk for contravention of the prohibition on the use of forced labour, as represented by the use of NS workers.”

A truck arrives to ferry excavated gold, copper and zinc ore from the main mining pit at the Bisha Mining Share Company on Feb. 17, 2016. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

The workers in question were provided by an Eritrean state-owned subcontractor called Segen.

Connor also reported that “Segen, the only project sub-contractor, indicates that its project workforce is composed primarily of longtime Segen employees, complemented by some expatriates with special skills, and that no NS workers have been employed on the project.  A rapid assessment by BMSC social staff, however, found evidence of approximately 23 NS workers employed by Segen at various times on the project.”

“[Nevsun] were not avoiding it. They were very much aware of it,” Connor said in a recent interview. “They were somewhat aware of it in the beginning and the initial question was: ‘Well, is it even possible to employ a contractor who isn’t government?’ ”

‘No corroborating claims’

While the company documents filed in court would suggest Nevsun had been informed of possible forced labour at their mine site in 2009, company officials have not disclosed this information in the past.

In a 2016 documentary about the Bisha mine by The Fifth Estate, host Mark Kelley asked Todd Romaine, then Nevsun’s vice-president of corporate social responsibility: “You don’t believe there was any conscripted labour that was ever used in the development or operation of your mine?”

“We’ve done extensive investigations to date inside Eritrea and at the Bisha mine,” Romaine said. “There’s no corroborating claims to support any of the allegations being made.”

Todd Romaine, who was vice-president of corporate social responsibility at Nevsun Resources in 2016, told The Fifth Estate at the time that the company had done extensive investigations in Eritrea and at its Bisha mine. (CBC)

Romaine, who is no longer an official at the company since China’s Zijin Mining Group made a successful bid for it in December, declined to comment for this story.

In 2012, testifying in front of the parliamentary subcommittee on international human rights in Ottawa, Davis, then the company’s CEO, was asked by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler: “So you are not aware yourself of any human rights violations in Eritrea?”

Davis responded: “I’m certainly not directly aware at all. All I have is the same access that you have with respect to the internet, and postings on the internet, and articles.”

When Cotler asked again: “So you have received no reports of any human rights violations while you have been in Eritrea?” Davis replied: “No.”

Now retired from Nevsun, Davis did not return calls for comment.

Longstanding skepticism

The Eritrean plaintiffs have made an application to the B.C. Supreme Court to join Davis personally as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Davis’s lawyer, Stephen Schachter, said “the matter is before the court and Mr. Davis will simply advise you that that’s the case. He’s not going to be commenting on a matter before the court.”

In 2013, Human Rights Watch published a report on alleged human rights violations at the Bisha mine.

In a meeting with Human Rights Watch, “Nevsun did not acknowledge that Segen had used conscript labourers at Bisha, but neither did it rule out the possibility,” the report said.

In a January 2013 media release, Nevsun said that the company “expresses regret if certain employees of Segen were conscripts four years ago, in the early part of the Bisha Mine’s construction phase.”

But Human Rights Watch has always been skeptical of Nevsun’s position.

“It defies belief that Nevsun did not know that a state contractor would be using national service labour,” Felix Horne, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a recent interview.

“The Nevsun experience is an important lesson for the other international mining companies that are operating in Eritrea, that unless proper procedures are put in place from the beginning, you will likely be using national service labour for the development of your mine.”

More investigation

Nevsun has maintained that it screens for military conscripts — requiring proof that their workers are no longer in the national service program.

In response to concerns raised by the United Nations, Nevsun also conducted further investigation by another social responsibility expert.

“I am very confident that there’s no forced labour, there’s no national service used either in the direct workforce or in the Eritrean contractors that provide labour or transportation or security guards to the Bisha mine,” Montreal human rights lawyer Lloyd Lipsett told The Fifth Estate in 2016.

But according to the company documents filed in court last November, forced labour at its mine site was not the only possible human rights violation Nevsun executives became aware of early on. Eritrean officials were also arresting workers off their mine site without clear cause.

In a June 28, 2010, email under the subject line “Staff Arrests,” mine manager Stan Rogers writes to Davis: “Cliff, I think that brings the number to seven or eight!! We of course have no idea why they have been taken away.” Rogers signs off on the email: “Great Country…:-)”

A general view shows the sag mill and ball mill within the processing plant at the Bisha Mining Share Company. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

An Aug. 5, 2010, memorandum from a company executive to Nevsun’s audit committee reviewed “allegations of fraud” that the Eritreans apparently provided as the reason for the arrests.

“Over the past three months, five BMSC staff have been arrested by Eritrean authorities,” the memo said. “According to BMSC senior management, the Eritrean state has alleged the employees were involved in various frauds including the theft of food and fuel inventories and kickbacks on purchasing.”

But the memo goes on to report that it “should be emphasized that no evidence of fraud has been uncovered by BMSC management or received from the Eritrean state. However, ENAMCO personnel have confirmed to BMSC management that the employees have confessed to having a role in the frauds.”

At the time of publication, Nevsun had not officially responded to a request for comment.

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/amp/1.4980530

The sovereignty of states and multinational corporate accountability

By | CPIJ in the Media

Justin Ling | The National

In 1897, a U.S. citizen living in Venezuela, George F. Underhill, brought a suit in a New York court to recover damages against the revolutionary Venezuelan General Hernandez, who had occupied part of the country and had effectively tried to nationalize his business.

Damage was done, the American claimed, and he wanted to be made whole.

The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled against Underhill, in a decision that would enshrine the Act of State Doctrine as a general rule of thumb for modern Western legal systems.

“Every sovereign State is bound to respect the independence of every other sovereign State, and the courts of one country will not sit in judgment on the acts of the government of another done within its own territory,” U.S. Chief Justice Melville Fuller then wrote.

Later this month, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear Nevsun Resources v Gize Yebeyo Araya, a case that will put the Act of State Doctrine to its first test in a Canadian court.  The case will serve to gauge the extent to which international human rights law has a footing in the Canadian legal system.

Abuse, torture, conscription

To read Nevsun Resources’ profile of its Bisha mine, nothing sounds amiss at all. The mine is located in the middle of Eritrea, on Africa’s northeast coast. A joint project between Nevsun and the government of Eritrea, it extracts copper, zinc, gold, and silver.

“The government of Eritrea continues to show its strong support to the development of mining as an important sector of its national economy,” Nevsun’s website reads. It reports that the country is a “single party state,” without mentioning that Eritrea is one of the most repressive states in the world.

A 2018 Human Rights Watch report concluded that the country functions as a “one-man dictatorship” and that “it has no legislature, no independent civil society organizations or media outlets, and no independent judiciary.”

What’s more, the NGO reports, “every Eritrean must serve an indeterminate period of ‘national service’ after turning 18, with many ending up serving for well over a decade.” Often, that amounts to “work as forced laborers on private and public works projects.”

The three litigants bringing the case before the Supreme Court are refugees from Eritrea — two currently living in the United States, and one a permanent resident of Canada.

The three allege they were pressed into “national service.”

A factum filed in advance of the January 23 hearing reads: “They allege that during the construction of the mine, they were forced to work in inhumane conditions and under the constant threat of physical punishment, torture, and imprisonment.”

Those claims have not been proven in court.

Torts, existing and novel

In light of the alleged abuses visited on its workers, the three refugees sought to bring a claim against Nevsun in a B.C. court.

Their factum lays out their argument that Nevsun was complicit in “assault, battery, conversion, unlawful confinement, and negligence.” Those are, they note, existing torts in Canadian common law.

And this is where the argument gets interesting. The claim is seeking to enter in an array of other claims, based in customary international law. They’re alleging not just that Nevsun is guilty of allowing forced labour, slavery, crimes against humanity, and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, but that such actions are actionable in Canadian courts.

François Larocque is a law professor at the University of Ottawa and serves as counsel with Power Law and has written the book — in fact, several books — on how international human rights can be incorporated into Canadian law. He is also serving as co-counsel for Amnesty International, who has been granted leave to intervene on the Nevsun case.

“There is a definitely a tort here,” he argues. The real question, he says, is whether this case, should it be allowed to proceed, should rest only on “garden-variety torts,” or whether it can enter in these new torts rooted in international law.

“I have long held the view that Canadian courts can and should use their inherent jurisdiction to recognize new categories of liability based on customary international law,” he says. He cites R v Hape, from 2007, a case in which the majority concluded that “customary international law should be incorporated into domestic law in the absence of conflicting legislation.” Says Larocque: “Our side believes that Nevsun is such a case.”

The Act of State Doctrine

Nevsun sought to have the case dismissed at its first stage.

The company countered that the Act of State Doctrine protects it from such claims; that the torts based in customary international law could not be litigated; that Canadian courts were not the appropriate forum; and that the suit could not be considered a representative action.

At trial, Nevsun failed in its effort to have the case dismissed either on the basis of the Act of State Doctrine or on the basis that the torts being alleged couldn’t be entered into Canadian common law. The British Columbia Court of Appeal also rejected Nevsun’s appeal to dismiss the suit.

Nevsun’s claim of forum non conveniens was rejected by both courts and isn’t being appealed to the top court. The respondents abandoned their claim that the suit is a representative action and have instead added 80 plaintiffs, over 10 separate actions.

Nevsun’s invocation of the Act of State Doctrine is novel in Canadian courts, but — as the 1897 suit against the Venezuelan general shows — it’s a very old concept. The company contends in its written arguments that the case can’t even be heard, as “adjudicating those claims will inevitably require a Canadian court to rule on the lawfulness of the official acts of the State of Eritrea.” It’s an argument, Nevsun says, that is central to international comity. Ruling on the lawfulness of Eritrea’s national conscription service would turn Canadian courts into “arbiters of foreign states’ international and domestic obligations.”

Nevsun also invokes R. v Hape, in which the majority court wrote that “to preserve sovereignty and equality, the rights and powers of all states carry correlative duties, at the apex of which sits the principle of non-intervention.”

And non-intervention is the best policy here, Nevsun says.

At the Supreme Court of British Columbia, that application of the doctrine was labelled as “draconian” by the presiding justice.

“I think it’s going to be a hard road for them,” says Penelope Simons, an associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa who is Larocque’s co-counsel representing Amnesty International at the Supreme Court later this month. “It’s not something the Canadian courts have ever applied.”

Larocque also figures there is little judicial appetite for the doctrine. Frankly, he says, it’s not crucial to Canadian law. “Most cases in which it can potentially be said to arise can be dealt with under the law of state immunity, which is a much more established framework.”

What’s more, as the respondents point out, the United Kingdom and Australia have already limited the doctrine in almost precisely the manner that is being requested here.

Open the floodgates?

Should the Supreme Court take the same view, limiting the application of the Act of State Doctrine, the conclusion would be that torts based in customary international human rights law can be tried in Canadian courts. This would represent a significant shift in the law, especially for the mining companies that call Canada home.

The outcome of two other cases before the courts could be affected, depending on how the court finds in Nevsun — one against Tahoe Resources, and another against Hudbay Resources.

Should the respondents carry the day, it will represent one of the first times that a case of this nature will actually proceed to the merits.

“It would be important because it could potentially eliminate some of the obstacles in bringing some of these cases to Canada,” Simons says.

If those obstacles are to be dismantled, Nevsun argues, it should be up to Parliament to decide. Even recognizing those torts based in international law is “a major and complex revision to domestic common law.”

Simons pushes back on this reasoning. “Not all cases of corporate misdemeanour can be turned into civil suits,” she told CBA National. “You’re not going to have the facts for some of these types of cases.” Never mind that the prohibitive cost of bringing these cases forward before they can even be argued on the merits.

According to Larocque, it’s not going to be a free-for-all if the plaintiffs win. He adds that a lot will be determined by the top court’s phrasing. If they craft an opening for these new, international, torts, “I expect they will do so cautiously and with clear parameters for the future.”

Even then, there are limitations on what types of international law could be deployed in Canadian common law. Not every UN treaty can be wedged into a tort, Larocque says. To be employed in such a way, a prospective litigant would need to establish that, “the treaty has been fully implemented by Canada through legislation; the treaty contemplates the possibility of civil remedies through the courts; and the treaty applies [to] the specific alleged violation.”

Also, limiting the scope of the Act of State Doctrine and entering those torts into the common law doesn’t necessarily mean a flood of cases are on the way.

“There are legal obstacles, but there are also practical obstacles,” Simons says.

Daniel Baum, a lawyer with Langois in Montreal, says Nevsun v Araya may not be one-of-a-kind — but it’s pretty close. “The facts here are quite specific,” he says. Finding these kind of situations are like “catching lightning in a bottle.”

A blinking radar

Ultimately, what the court says, and how it says it, is going to mean a lot for Canadian-based companies operating abroad.

If the court allows the case to proceed on its merits, virtually every Canadian company carrying on business in states with poor human rights records may have to significantly reassess their liability.

“The radar is already blinking,” Baum says. “Now it’s a matter of waiting for how the court is going to pronounce itself, so companies can have a better sense on how to react to this.” He emphasizes that it’s not a matter of will companies react to the decision, it’s how.

Even if the litigants lose, companies will need to start preparing. Short of the court writing a unanimous decision endorsing the Act of State Doctrine — an unlikely scenario —the courts appear to be leaning towards some integration of international human rights law into Canadian common law.

Liability will drive companies to draft guidelines, policies, and procedures to minimize that risk, Baum expects. But could also dictate how, and where, companies pursue new ventures.

“Right now, uncertainty is at its height.”

Source: http://www.nationalmagazine.ca/Articles/January-2019/The-sovereignty-of-states-and-multinational-corpor.aspx

Penelope Simons on getting companies to respect human rights

By | CPIJ in the Media, News

Yves Faguy | CBA National

This week, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) published its 2018 report, concluding that most of the 100 companies reviewed are failing to live up to their duties under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  Prior to the report’s release, CBA National interviewed Professor Penelope Simons of the University of Ottawa and the recipient of the 2018 Walter S. Tarnopolsky Award, recognized for her contribution to human rights, domestically and internationally, about how to address corporate complicity in human rights abuses.

CBA National: Can you give us a sense first of where we’re at in terms of corporate accountability for human rights violations?

Penelope Simons: This issue has been debated globally for decades. But in the early 2000s, the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights adopted the Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises which were submitted to what is now the Human Rights Council. The HRC rejected them. The Norms were drafted in mandatory language and were essentially a blueprint for a treaty that would impose binding legal obligations on business actors. Both states and businesses were strongly against the development of such obligations. However, the HRC did appoint, Harvard professor John Ruggie, as the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Business and Human Rights. He developed a policy framework and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) to operationalize the policy framework. In 2011 the Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles. This was an important step forward, to have widely accepted document addressing business and human rights. However, the UNGPs are also flawed in a number of ways.

N: How so?

PS: They did not significantly alter the status quo, in the sense that they outline the binding human rights obligations of states to protect individuals and groups from violations of human rights by business actors. At the same time the “obligations” delineated in the Guiding Principles for businesses to respect human rights are based in social not legal responsibility. In order to demonstrate that they are fulfilling this obligation to respect human rights, businesses are supposed to engage in human rights due diligence, among other things. But unless this is mandated by a state, or mandated by international law, then they may or may not do so. In other words, their social obligation is self-regulation. Additionally, the Guiding Principles articulated a very conservative view of the obligation of home states to regulate the transnational activities of their corporate nationals beyond their territory.

N: So home states – and not just host states – should be enforcing these as legal obligations?

PS: Yes, home states should be taking action to regulate corporate nationals to ensure that they do not violate human rights when operating in other countries.

N: So how is Canada faring in all of this compared to other countries?

PS: I don’t think there is any country that is doing enough. France probably has the most progressive law, where companies of a certain size have an obligation to prepare a vigilance plan and implement it within their corporate group and their supply chain. In Canada, we’ve had 20 years of advocacy and UN bodies calling on Canada to regulate its extractive industry and to provide access to justice in Canadian courts and other non-judicial fora. This year, the Liberal government announced the creation of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. This is an important step forward. People claiming to be victims of corporate-related human rights violations by Canadian extractive and garment companies operating abroad will be able to bring a complaint to this ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson is supposed to have the power to compel witnesses and documents. However, the office hasn’t been established, and so we still don’t know whether or not it will have those powers. Without those powers, it will not be a credible and effective complaint mechanism. Another point is that, Canada continues to use the same 2014 policy for corporate social responsibility in the extractive sector that it inherited from the previous government. The policy is vaguely worded, and is based on self-regulation. It encourages businesses to “align their practices as applicable” to a range of intergovernmental and multistakeholder initiatives. And it doesn’t meet the requirements of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We need to deal with that.

N: How?

PS: There are many ways in which the government supports business abroad — through the Canada Pension Plan, through support by Export Development Canada, through corporate law rules that facilitate the creation of complex corporate structures and allow corporate groups to minimize their exposure to liability, even where such liability arises from serious human rights violations. We also support our companies through trade missions, and by negotiating international investment agreements with countries, including those in which Canadian extractives operate. These latter agreements create strong protections for investors and allow them to avoid domestic courts and to take host states directly binding international arbitration. If we’re supporting businesses in all of these ways without regard for their behaviour, then as a country we are complicit in those human rights violations.

N: So governments should exercise more leverage over those companies?

PS: Yes, there are many ways to do this. For example, as a condition of support EDC should require companies to engage in rigorous human rights due diligence and should itself undertake a human rights impact assessment of a proposed project. If it’s clear that that a project cannot be undertaken without violating human rights, then should we actually be supporting that company?

N: So what needs to change for governments – here in Canada or elsewhere – to decide they need to incentivize companies in this manner?

PS: That’s the big question. How do we develop political will for this? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report is a wake-up call. The IPCC has called on us to change the way we live and do business if we want to avoid a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report notes that sustainable development is key and that “[s]ocial justice and equity are core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways … as they address challenges and inevitable trade-offs, they widen opportunities, and ensure that options, visions and values are deliberated between and within countries and communities, without making the poor and disadvantaged worse-off”. The action that we take has to be focused on that. Here in Canada we have to think about how extractive companies contribute directly to climate change, particularly oil and gas and coal, but also how they contribute to indirectly. Many of them operate in a way that is unsustainable, through their impacts on the environment and on the human rights of individuals and communities.

N: What would be a first good step to ensure better corporate accountability?

PS: The first step would be for Canada to adopt a comprehensive legislative framework that requires companies to respect human rights and to engage in human rights due diligence, and the latter should be overseen by an independent monitoring body. It should also include a range of incentive mechanisms —we’ve talked about some already. We also need to establish parent company or even enterprise liability in Canadian courts for companies that violate human rights abroad, and maybe certain reporting obligations. Finally, where companies commit or are complicit in criminal activity — like slavery, torture, forced labour, gang rape – then we need criminal sanctions to allow prosecution of corporations and the senior officers responsible for decisions that led to such conduct.

The Tarnopolsky Award is given by the Canadian Section of the International Commission of Jurists each year to a Canadian resident who has made an outstanding contribution to human rights, domestically or internationally. The selection committee is comprised of one representative from the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Judges’ Conference, the Canadian Society of Law Teachers and the ICJ.

Source: http://nationalmagazine.ca/Articles/November-2018/Penelope-Simons-on-getting-companies-to-respect-hu.aspx

News Release – Canadian Human Rights Commission welcomes new part-time Commissioner

By | CPIJ in the Media, News

Press release of the Canadian Human Rights Commission

November 22, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) is pleased to announce the appointment, by Order in Council, of a new part-time Commissioner, Dr. Joanna Harrington, effective immediately.

Dr. Harrington has been a career law professor for almost 20 years, having taught at the University of Nottingham, Western University and the University of Alberta, where she currently serves as a Full Professor within the Faculty of Law.

Her teaching and research activities focus on topics at the intersection of constitutional law and international law, with her published work examining matters of foreign relations law, the law of international organizations, the interplay between national bills of rights and international human rights law, and issues of international and transnational criminal law.
A former Scholar-in-Residence with Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, she has also participated in the negotiation of new international instruments at the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

She is well published on a variety of topics and is an award-winning legal scholar, having received the Canadian Association of Law Teachers Prize for Academic Excellence in 2018. Dr. Harrington has also worked as a consultant with international and national institutions, participated in outreach programs with NGOs, and contributed to training programs in international law for judges, diplomats and military officers.

She holds a B.A. from the University of British Columbia, a J.D. from the University of Victoria, and a Ph.D. in Law from the University of Cambridge. Dr. Harrington was called to the bar of British Columbia in 1995 and the bar of Ontario in 2002.

Source: https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/eng/content/news-release-canadian-human-rights-commission-welcomes-new-part-time-commissioner-1

Murdered Honduran Activist Berta Cáceres Deserves Open Justice

By | CPIJ in the Media, News | No Comments

Cáceres’ assassination in 2016 was one in over 130 targeted killings of environmental defenders in Honduras since the 2009 coup d’état

By Amanda Ghahremani and Leah Gardner | The HuffPost

The long awaited first trial for the murder of renowned Indigenous environmental defender Berta Cáceres was set to open on 17 September 2018 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Cáceres’ assassination in 2016 was one in over 130 targeted killings of environmental defenders in Honduras since the 2009 coup d’état, including various members of her organization, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organization of Honduras (COPINH). Her case has become emblematic of this tragic state of affairs, and of the struggles facing human rights activists around the world.

Two and a half years into the process to prosecute eight men accused of carrying out Berta’s murder, lawyers for her family made what was likely a painstakingly difficult decision to request the recusal of the three-judge Tribunal hearing the case. This drastic step, taken on the day the trial was set to begin, alleges abuse of authority and obstruction of justice by the judges, in part for failing to sanction prosecutors for withholding evidence.

Garifuna women protest demanding justice in the case of the murder of the Lenca indigenous leader Berta Caceres, in Tegucigalpa, on May 25, 2017. (Orlando Sierrs/AFP/Getty Images)

The victims’ lawyers submitted several other constitutional injunctions before the hearing, one of which requested that the public have greater access to the trial through a live audio transmission of the proceedings; a request that had been previously denied. The court rejected this request once again on Friday.

It is no surprise that live streaming is important to the victims in this case. Beyond a mere technical issue, diversified access to judicial proceedings lies at the heart of the concept of open justice — the idea that courts should be open, public, and accessible — and meaningful victim participation.

Honduran legislators have acknowledged the importance of open justice by guaranteeing the right to a public trial and providing some victims legal standing before the court. Honduras has also incorporated international treaties into national law through its constitution. These treaties oblige States to hold public, open trials in adequate facilities. According to the UN, the purpose is to ensure “the transparency of proceedings” and to provide “an important safeguard for the interest of the individual and of society at large.”

Before her murder, Berta was recognized around the world and throughout Honduras for her work to protect the Gualcarque River, sacred to the Lenca people, from a hydroelectric project. These same people will be deeply affected by the outcome of the trial and deserve access to the courtroom. There is also a massive transnational solidarity movement of environmental and human rights activists who are closely following this public-interest case.

Unfortunately, the Tribunal will record audio of the trial as a matter of protocol, but not for public diffusion. It is unclear when, if ever, the public would have access to the trial recordings. The inability to hear what is going on in the courtroom in real-time substantially decreases the value of a recorded hearing by impeding contemporaneous observation and participation by victims and the public. This is especially important after the first day of trial proved there were insufficient seats for many members of Berta’s community, who were forced to wait outside.

Providing overflow rooms can help rectify this inaccessibility, but there are many legitimate reasons why victims may be unable to physically attend court, including travel costs, safety concerns, psychological trauma, and the inability to adjust schedules to an unpredictable judiciary. A live broadcast would ensure access for the greatest number of people.

A live transmission is also easily attainable with advances in technology. Countries like Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and India, have all moved towards live broadcasting proceedings that are in the public interest. This practice is also prevalent at the Inter-American Court, the European Court of Human Rights, and various international criminal tribunals.

Seven of the accused on the murder of indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres sit in court on Sept. 17, 2018 in Tegucigalpa. (Orlando Sierrs/AFP/Getty Images)

The Tribunal’s failure to take steps to provide overflow rooms or allow live streaming must be viewed in the larger context of this case. In addition to allegations of abuse of authority and withholding evidence, lawyers for the victims, members of the media, and the victims themselves have been repeatedly attacked and targeted in highly dangerous smear campaigns aimed at criminalizing and intimidating them.

The day the trial was set to begin, a prominent freelance journalist for the Guardian, and the only English-language reporter covering the trial on the ground, Nina Lakhani, was targeted online in a smear campaign by a fake group with alleged links to the Honduran intelligence, which falsely claimed she was involved in violent insurgency. Lakhani was previously targeted after publishing an article in which a former soldier claimed that Berta’s name had appeared on a U.S.-trained special forces hit list. At the hearing, three security guards informed her that the courtroom was closed to the public before she was eventually allowed to enter.

The Honduran judiciary had an opportunity last week, with the world watching, to demonstrate its willingness to ensure open courts and meaningful access to justice. Live streaming the court proceedings would have gone a long way towards greater transparency and public confidence in a judiciary facing serious allegations of misconduct. Sadly, the Tribunal failed to act.

Amanda Ghahremani is the Legal Director of the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ), a Canadian non-profit that supports survivors of international crimes to seek legal redress. Leah Gardner is currently a volunteer lawyer at CCIJ. The authors were in Honduras as members of an international legal observation mission to monitor the Berta Cáceres murder trial.

Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amanda-ghahremani/berta-caceres-murder-trial_a_23547813/

Neighbors Refer Venezuela to Criminal Court in ‘Historic’ Rebuke

By | CPIJ in the Media, News | No Comments

By Ernesto Londoño and Marlise Simons | The New York Times

President Nicolás Maduro, center, in Caracas this week. The crisis in Venezuela “demands collective action,” the president of Peru said. (Photo Miraflores Press Office)

 

Five Latin American countries and Canada on Wednesday urged the International Criminal Court to consider prosecuting senior officials in Venezuela for extensive human rights abuses, the first time that member nations have referred another member to the tribunal.

In a region where leaders tend to avoid criticizing one another publicly, the step by Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru represented an extraordinary rebuke of President Nicolás Maduro.

Governments in the region have become increasingly alarmed about the economic and political crisis in Venezuela. Acute shortages of food and medicine have prompted millions to migrate, largely to neighboring countries.

The referral gives The Hague-based tribunal a renewed sense of urgency to investigate abuses in Venezuela.

“The leaders of these six countries have taken a historic step today, unprecedented in the history of the Americas, creating a crucial milestone in the interests of justice, accountability, non-repetition and reparation to the victims of the Venezuelan dictatorship,” said Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, in a statement.

Here are some facts about the referral to the international court and what it could mean for Venezuela:

Why did the other countries refer Venezuela?

Venezuelan migrants walking to Colombia this month. (Photo by Federico Rios Escobar for The New York Times)

They’re overwhelmed by the unrelenting exodus of Venezuelans, which has accelerated amid soaring inflation. The United Nations estimates that 1.6 million Venezuelans have left since 2015 and that as many as 1.8 million could migrate this year.

In recent years Venezuela’s neighbors have had an open-door policy, but it has come at a political cost as communities feel increasingly besieged by migrants, many of whom arrive with no savings and with serious health problems.

“The magnitude of this exodus is unprecedented in our region,” President Martín Vizcarra of Peru told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, noting that his country has taken in some 450,000 Venezuelans. “It demands collective action by the international community.”

How unusual is this step?

“The magnitude of this exodus is unprecedented in our region,” President Martín Vizcarra of Peru told the United Nations General Assembly. (Photo by Richard Drew/Associated Press)

Highly. The court has never opened a case brought by one government against another, and governments in Latin America for decades have adhered to an unspoken rule: Stay out of the messy internal affairs of neighbors. But several have begun to see Venezuela’s economic unraveling as a growing regional threat. The tide of migrants has led to spikes in crime and strained the health and education systems of other countries.

“This is a significant, historic event,” said Fernando Cutz, a former senior White House official who worked on Latin America policy in the Obama and Trump administrations. “Ten years ago, it would have been impossible to think of the region turning on one of its own.”

What’s the gist of the referral?

Protesters during clashes with the Venezuelan police last year. (Photo Meridith Kohut for The New York Times)

In a letter signed by the six heads of state this week in New York, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, the countries asked the international court’s top prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to investigate human rights abuses committed by the Venezuelan government since February 2014. During that month, the government used harsh tactics to clamp down on mass protests.

The letter notes that human rights experts have documented abuses that include arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, torture and sexual crimes.

Isn’t the International Criminal Court already investigating Venezuela?

“Hunger!” and “Dictatorship” are scrawled on a security door in Caracas. (Photo by Meridith Kohut for The New York Times)

Yes. Ms. Bensouda announced in February that her office had launched a “preliminary examination” into allegations of large-scale human rights abuses in Venezuela. That step can lead to a formal investigation and criminal charges.

The court said it is investigating allegations that security personnel have used excessive force against demonstrators, detained members of the political opposition and subjected prisoners to “serious abuse.”

The court was established in 2002 as a tribunal of last resort for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Since its inception, it has indicted only Africans and has won only a handful of convictions.

How long will an investigation take?

Venezuela issued new currency in response to runaway inflation. People waited in long lines last month in Caracas to get the bills. (Photo Meridith Kohut for The New York Times)

It’s unclear. Court investigations have tended to last for years, and experts said it would be highly unlikely for charges to be filed any time soon.

“Time frames at the I.C.C. are measured in years, not months,” said Todd Buchwald, a former senior State Department official who oversaw global criminal justice matters from 2015 to 2017.

But the sense of urgency conveyed by neighboring countries may prompt the court to make the case a priority.

People visiting a so-called red spot in Caracas, where voters presented a special identity card to receive boxes of food. (Photo Meridith Kohut for The New York Times)

“It does telegraph to the prosecutor these states are keen to provide access to people who have fled” and may have relevant information, said Joanna Harrington, a law professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in international criminal law.

Several of Venezuela’s neighbors have sought to isolate Mr. Maduro’s government as he has become increasingly authoritarian in recent years.

They also have tried to create rifts within Venezuela’s ruling party.

The threat of being prosecuted in The Hague “will most likely galvanize those in the inner circle to pull together,” said Mr. Cutz, the former White House official. But it could prompt others on the periphery of power to turn on the government, he added

President Trump described the crisis in Venezuela as a “human tragedy,” but he also challenged the authority of the International Criminal Court. (Photo Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

Washington has long called on Latin American leaders to take a harder line against Venezuela. But Wednesday’s referral to the court is not a move the Trump administration can endorse.

During his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, President Trump described the crisis in Venezuela as a “human tragedy.” But in the same address he also lashed out at the International Criminal Court, saying that “as far as America is concerned,” the court has “no legitimacy and no authority.”

This echoes comments made this month by John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, who called the court “ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed, outright dangerous.” Mr. Bolton’s criticism was in response to a preliminary review of allegations of abuses in Afghanistan, which may include acts committed by American military or intelligence personnel.

The State Department would not specify whether the United States supports efforts to hold Venezuelan officials accountable at The Hague.

“We encourage thorough and transparent investigations into all credible reports of abuses,” the State Department said in a statement. “The crisis in Venezuela will only be resolved through the restoration of democratic governance, realistic economic policies, the rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/26/world/americas/venezuela-international-criminal-court.html

A chance at justice for the Rohingya?

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Following Canada’s declaration that crimes against the Rohingya constitute ‘genocide,’ Payam Akhavan asks: Do the refugee camps in Bangladesh hold the key to prosecutions by the International Criminal Court?

By Payam Akhavan | OpenCanada

Kutupalong refugee camp. Photo by Yousuf Tushar.

 

26 September 2018 –“A wild elephant killed him,” an aid worker explained.

Having survived the scourge of the notorious Tatmadaw, the Myanmar military that slaughtered his people and drove them into exile, the 12-year-old boy — Shamsu Uddin — was trampled to death by the enormous beast as he slept.

Just two years ago, in 2016, Kutupalong was a wildlife refuge where endangered animals roamed freely in pristine forests. Now, it is the largest refugee camp in the world, an ocean of misery comprising some 700,000 Rohingya who have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State to face an uncertain future in neighbouring Bangladesh. The mere existence of this city of sorrow is mute testimony to what the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

As I walked through the camp in June, reflecting on the cruel irony of the boy’s fate, there were countless other children just like him, wandering in the dirt roads amidst the makeshift bamboo and tarpaulin shelters on the deforested hills they now called home. Their playful smiles masked the unspeakable horrors they had witnessed. Their experience was captured by that most potent of words, “genocide,” invoked by UN reports and, as of last week, Canadian parliamentarians alike, to condemn these monstrous atrocities. In terms of concrete action, what is most significant in the House of Commons’ September 20 motion is the call for punishment of the perpetrators before the International Criminal Court (ICC). But, as Canadian officials will no doubt see, the process to get there is long and complicated.

My visit to Kutupalong some months earlier was in pursuit of justice against seemingly impossible odds. I was there at the invitation of the Bangladesh government, gathering facts, speaking to people on the ground, trying to see what could be done. Some time before, I had hosted Bob Rae, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special envoy to Myanmar, for a lecture at McGill University. In the Q&A, students had asked what Canada could do to ensure accountability. The fundamental question that emerged from those exchanges was: Does the ICC have jurisdiction over these crimes, and if so, on what basis?

The discussion was sadly an all too familiar ritual for those of us who toil in the human rights world. The vows of “never again,” the expressions of regret, the lectures on lessons learned, the condemnation of genocide, the calls for justice at The Hague; these exhausted moral mantras are soon overtaken by new abominations, and the cycle of recrimination and remorse repeats itself again and again — Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo, Darfur, Iraq, Syria, and now, Myanmar.

Places we never knew existed are now seared into our consciousness as sites of grief and rage, mourned and condemned for a time, only to be forgotten in the fleeting attention span of the news cycle. The calls for accountability after the fact may be all that we can pursue given the power realities of global politics, but what does justice mean against the overwhelming gravity of such atrocities? Is it ever possible to punish genocide? There is nothing like listening to survivors to remind us of both the inadequacy and utter necessity of struggling for whatever measure of justice can be achieved. In the case of Myanmar, that struggle takes place within the manifest constraints of that feeble court in The Hague that we invariably look to in desperation as a beacon of hope.

It is easy to despair and give up, but talking to the people in Kutupalong reminded me of the power of empathy, or rather, of how indifference makes us an accomplice to injustice. The impact of meaningful engagement is easily forgotten in our privileged corner of the world, far removed from the realities that most convincingly demonstrate the consequences of our choices. Sometimes our role models are found in the most unlikely places.

When the mass-exodus of the Rohingya began in late August 2017, the hapless survivors arrived in Bangladesh traumatized, starved and dehydrated. Many of them had terrible wounds, caused by bullets and machetes, while some had missing limbs because of land mines. There were no international relief agencies to receive them. It was the poor local farmers who took it upon themselves to help as best as they could with their meager supplies of food, clothing and medicine. Some cooked whatever rice they had and brought it to the desperate refugees in Tuk-Tuk rickshaws. Others hosted them in their modest homes. These accounts of selfless generosity were humbling. They put to shame the narcissistic currents of xenophobia and apathy in the prosperous Western world; our indifference to the suffering of others. The example of these compassionate first responders was an inspiration, a reminder that when confronted with suffering, there is no room for despondence, that we must do what we can, however inadequate it may be.

During my trip earlier this year, after meetings with the border guards and refugee agency officials, I was told that my next meeting would be with a group of women who wished to share their stories. It was with some apprehension that I entered the room, my heart racing with dread. I knew that what I was about to hear would be deeply disturbing. I also knew that I would probably be seen as the outside saviour by those desperate for hope. I was acutely aware that beyond listening with empathy, there wasn’t much I could do to heal their wounds.

Just two years earlier, I had visited the Yazidi camps in northern Iraq, listening to the heartbreaking account of two teenage sisters who had been enslaved by their ISIS captors. It reminded me of Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s when I worked with the UN. Across these divergent contexts, the accounts of sexual violence against women and girls were disturbingly similar; the weaponization of male narcissistic rage to humiliate, degrade and destroy. In meeting these anguished women, it was not lost on me that the Rohingya are by and large traditional Muslims, and that I found myself in their midst during the sacred month of Ramadan.

The meeting room at the Kutupalong reception centre was full of women, their faces covered by black niqabs. With only their eyes visible, it was difficult to gauge their facial expressions, but the piercing stares conveyed the enormity of their suffering. Mindful that they may not feel comfortable with a man, I didn’t pose any questions, letting them choose what they wished to share with me. I was soon surprised. In a striking display of defiance, they stood up one by one, walked towards me in sequence, and removed their head cover so I could see their face. With an astonishing dignity, they told their stories, bearing witness to the truth, an attempt to reclaim their voice, and their humanity. The horrors they conveyed were beyond words. “They threw my baby in the fire,” one of the women told me, speaking through the translator. The tears streaming from her eyes conveyed the deeper meaning of her words. It didn’t take long to notice that several of them were pregnant, visibly in their third trimester.

I confirmed later that as I had suspected, these were mostly children conceived as a result of rape. The women told me their stories because they wanted the world to know what had befallen them. They expected the UN to punish the perpetrators. I didn’t have the heart to tell them about the political cynicism that time and again left survivors with no justice. It was time for us to leave. I didn’t know how to say goodbye, what to promise them to give them a bit of hope. One of the women had an infant in her arms. I caressed his little head, smiling at his mother, trying to pretend that somehow, everything would be fine.

The author, Payam Akhavan, during his visit to the Kutupalong refugee camp. Photo by Yousuf Tushar.

Back at home, in the conference circuit of the human rights academics and activists, those of us in the business of global justice were marking the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the ICC Statute. Upon the conclusion of the Rome Diplomatic Conference in July 1998, this pivotal moment was hailed as a triumph for international law, the beginning of the end for an entrenched culture of impunity in global politics. The ICC was built on the relatively successful precedents of the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR), established by the UN Security Council in 1993 and 1994 respectively.

Twenty years later however, with only a handful of “small fish” convicted, the court has proved to be a disappointment to those who envisaged a robust institution with teeth. The lack of political support by the erstwhile champions of a rule-based international order — demonstrated recently by US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s scathing attack against the ICC — and the attendant resource constraints are compounded by a bureaucratized and inefficient institution that is perceived even by its most vocal supporters as being in need of a significant overhaul.

Yet, for those in pursuit of global justice, the ICC is often the only available option where, as in Myanmar, the prospect of national trials occurring is slim to none. Of course, the states with the most appalling human rights records — such as Syria and Sudan — are least wont to sign the court’s statute, because to do so invites scrutiny of political and military leaders who devise and act in furtherance of criminal policies such as “ethnic cleansing” and genocide.

Myanmar (also) does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction, which should not come as a surprise. The only way around this limitation is for the UN Security Council to refer a situation based on its enforcement powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charter — the basis for establishment of the ICTY and ICTR in the 1990s, and the referral of Sudan and Libya to the ICC in 2005 and 2011 respectively. In fact, Canada’s House of Commons is calling for the referral of Myanmar on this same basis. But given the spread of myopic nationalism, the consequent retreat of multilateralism, and the intensifying power struggles among the Council’s permanent members (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US) — each wielding a veto power — there is little prospect that this will happen.

This is where the location of Kutupalong is decisive for the pursuit of justice.

Unlike Myanmar, Bangladesh is a party to the ICC Statute. Thus, there it falls under ICC jurisdiction if crimes against humanity have been committed on the territory of Bangladesh. Some creative lawyering led to the conclusion that although the underlying crimes of murder, torture, rape, and wanton destruction of towns and villages occurred on the territory of Myanmar, the mass-expulsion of the Rohingya across the boundary with Bangladesh through these coercive acts qualified as the crime of “deportation,” which was in fact completed on the territory of Bangladesh. Kutupalong is not only the most significant source of witness testimony for a potential investigation; its very existence is a basis for the court’s jurisdiction, at least over some if not all of the crimes.

In fact, Myanmar’s pretext for mass-expulsion has been that the Rohingya are in fact “illegal” Bengali immigrants rather than nationals of Myanmar. Thus, in April of this year, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made an unusual request to a pre-trial chamber, asking for an opinion as to whether the court had jurisdiction over the crime of deportation based on the territory of Bangladesh. On September 6, a decision was rendered, declaring that the court did in fact have jurisdiction over deportation (and related crimes) based on the territory of Bangladesh, and calling for an expeditious preliminary examination of the evidence with a view to an investigation.

The House of Commons’ motion welcomes this decision, which may be the only viable option given the likely failure of the UN Security Council to make a Chapter VII referral. Meanwhile, following the decision, the ICC prosecutor has declared her intention to conduct a “preliminary examination” as a prelude to a formal investigation. Given the resource constraints and problems of efficiency faced by her office, perhaps the Government of Canada should consider contributing investigative resources to expedite what could otherwise be a prolonged and time-consuming process.

It may be tempting for the cynic to dismiss these efforts as purely symbolic and ineffective. Nobody would disagree that it is far from an ideal situation where the perpetrators could be promptly arrested and prosecuted. It is noteworthy however, that Myanmar has gone to great lengths to challenge the court’s jurisdiction, issuing press statements resembling a legal brief, and even seeking to make surreptitious submissions to the court through front non-governmental organizations seeking to demonize the Rohingya as “terrorists.” There have also been official statements to the effect that Myanmar’s willingness to repatriate refugees is inconsistent with a policy of “ethnic cleansing.” It is notable that beyond deportation, the ICC decision also includes denial of the right of return of refugees as an additional crime against humanity, also based on the territory of Bangladesh. Surely, Myanmar leadership is aware that even if arrest warrants cannot be executed on its territory, the indictment of the most senior ranks of the Tatmadaw for crimes against humanity will be a significant long-term liability.

To make matters worse for Myanmar, a UN independent fact-finding mission concluded in late August not only that the crimes against the Rohingya constituted genocide, but also that six senior Tatmadaw officials were suspects. This includes the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces, Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, and the former commander of the western region, Major-General Maung Maung Soe, who is also subject to targeted sanctions under Canada’s Special Economic Measures Act, in addition to similar EU and US lists. In fact, his recent dismissal has led to speculation that it may be linked with his international stigmatization and Myanmar’s pariah status.

It remains to be seen whether and how such naming and shaming, combined with the ICC process, will impact Myanmar’s behaviour, especially if it achieves any degree of deterrence against the “ethnic cleansing” of the up to half million Rohingya that remain in the country, or the prospects, however unlikely, of the voluntary repatriation of at least some proportion of the refugees in Kutupalong. But we owe it to the survivors in Kutupalong to at least try and do what is feasible.

Hannah Arendt famously said of the 1946 Nuremberg judgment that the crimes of the Nazis “explode the limits of the law;” that for genocide, no punishment is enough. Yet, despite the enormity of the crimes against the Rohingya, it would seem that some justice is better than no justice at all, and it remains to be seen what effect historical truth and the vindication of international law will have on the future of this tormented people.

As I read the decision of the court establishing its jurisdiction, anticipating an investigation and arrest warrants in the coming months, and two weeks later, the House of Commons’ motion, I wondered what this would all mean to those back in Kutupalong. Was it at least a ray of hope for future generations, a small redemption of the humanity of those who, robbed of everything they once had, can only hope to reclaim a semblance of their dignity? My mind wandered back to a striking image upon my arrival at the camp. There, amidst the misery and squalor, was a surreal sight, a tower of joy: children on a makeshift wooden carousel, circling in bliss, touching the sky, dreaming of other worlds.

Kutupalong refugee camp. Photo by Yousuf Tushar.

 

The comments in this article are only those of the author in his personal capacity and do not necessarily represent the view of either the ICC or the Bangladesh government.

Source: https://www.opencanada.org/features/chance-justice-rohingya/