Representational Power of International Criminal Courts

This post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly

Joachim Savelsberg recently spoke at a symposium on power in international criminal justice. The event, held in Florence, Italy, and organized by the Centre for International Law Research and Policy and the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, included judges from the International Criminal Court (ICC) and from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as well as representatives from the United Nations and NGO experts.

Savelsberg argued that international human rights courts hold substantial representational power, defined as the probability to impress on a global public, even against resistance and competing narratives, an understanding of mass violence as a form of criminal violence. The argument is urgent as international criminal justice institutions are under fire from many sides. Most recently, Burundi was the first country to withdraw from the Rome Statute on which the ICC is based. Savelsberg presented empirical evidence from Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur to support his argument.

His analyses of the Darfur case show that international criminal justice institutions and their supporters in civil society are engaged in struggles with competing forces. The latter include diplomats who privilege representations that open up spaces for mediation and negotiation, and humanitarian aid organizations advancing narratives that allow for collaboration with the perpetrator state in the interest of the delivery of humanitarian aid. Yet, international criminal justice representations dominate in media reporting in all eight countries under investigation. They prevail over frames of the violence as armed conflict or as a humanitarian emergency, especially after the onset of institutional intervention. Sources of this dominance likely include control over rituals, access to channels of communication, and legitimacy based on procedure.

The representative power of human rights courts faces constraints, however, that color their message. They include the court’s focus on the role of individual actors (at the neglect of structural forces); limiting evidentiary rules; neglect of historical context; and a simplifying binary logic of guilty versus not guilty. They further include the need to satisfy institutions and states that exert power by controlling funding and the statutory basis of the court. The ICC also needs to be on good terms with permanent members of the UN Security Council on which it partially depends for the referral of cases and for enforcement action. The result of such tension is a treacherous journey between Scylla of formal-rational justice and Charybdis of practical concerns in the highly politicized environment of international relations. Finally, international criminal justice depends on the diffusion of its representations through mass media that follow their own rules of the game. Some of these rules induce selectivity.

Despite such constraints, theoretical arguments suggest, and Savelsberg’s analysis documents, substantial representational power of international criminal courts. Will this power advance a reduction of international human rights crimes, long-term pacification in the realm of international relations? When powerful leaders with responsibility for mass violence are repeatedly represented as criminal perpetrators, international criminal justice may then become imbued with symbolic power. A resulting broad-based understanding of such leaders as criminal perpetrators could quite possibly contribute toward a diminished role of naked violence in the international realm. Yet, the jury is still out, as they say—and that jury includes those engaged in continued scholarship.

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During the ASC conference on Thursday, November 16, see Joachim discuss the Punitive Term and the Justice Cascade. And see Joachim’s previous work on genocide from Armenia to Darfur, the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and the cultural consequences of international criminal justice intervention.


Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur by Joachim J. Savelsberg is available as a free Luminos Open Access e-book as a free download.


The US Elephant in the Salvadoran Room

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the Latin American Studies Association taking place April 29-May 1 in Lima, Peru. #LASA17

by Matt Eisenbrandt, author of Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Oscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice

As I’ve spoken to audiences about my new book, Assassination of a Saint, over the last few months, I’ve been interested to see that people are really knowledgeable about the geopolitical context in which the murder of El Salvador’s Oscar Romero occurred. People are very cognizant of the often detrimental role the US government has played in El Salvador. Many, however, incorrectly blame Ronald Reagan for Romero’s death.

In fact, Jimmy Carter was president at the time, and Reagan would not take office until the year after the 1980 assassination. Moreover, while we can be rightly critical of US policy that led to the development and flourishing of the death squads in El Salvador, I am not aware of any compelling evidence that US government officials had a direct hand in Romero’s murder.

The Carter administration had a complex and sometimes contradictory policy toward El Salvador. Carter famously emphasized human rights in his foreign policy, and his ambassador to El Salvador in March 1980, Robert White, believed that Romero was an indispensable figure for holding the country together and preventing a civil war. At the same time, Romero himself openly criticized Carter for considering aid to the Salvadoran military that was responsible for the repression the archbishop denounced in his Sunday homilies. In return, top US officials wanted the Vatican to tamp down Romero’s criticisms. The aid Romero decried was approved shortly after his death.

Even Reagan, with his catastrophic underwriting of the Salvadoran Armed Forces throughout the civil war and his administration’s attacks on those who reported the military’s role in massacres, had a hand in developments in the investigation of Romero’s assassination. Among other things, the US government financed a Salvadoran investigative unit that tracked down the getaway driver for the murder, leading to his secret testimony before a Salvadoran judge. The FBI supported the investigative unit, including on polygraphs like one given to the driver. The US government eventually put the driver in the witness protection program and arrested and sought to extradite one of Romero’s killers, Álvaro Saravia, to El Salvador.

As my book documents, there is plenty of criticism to go around. Even so, there are also many layers of complexity with regard to the US government and the Romero assassination.


Matt Eisenbrandt is a human-rights attorney who has devoted his career to finding legal means to prosecute war crimes. In the early 2000s, he served as the Center for Justice and Accountability’s Legal Director and a member of the trial team against one of Óscar Romero’s killers. He is an expert in the field of U.S. human-rights litigation and now works for the Canadian Centre for International Justice.


A Human Rights-Based Approach to Women’s Health

Today, on International Women’s Day, people and organizations around the world pay tribute to women’s contributions to our social, economic, cultural and political lives. But we also recognize that progress on gender parity continues to face obstacles. Health care is one area where women’s and girls’ ability to make decisions about their own bodies affect their ability to improve their health and future.

Women’s Rights as Human Rights

In Women’s Empowerment and Global Health: A Twenty-First-Century Agenda, editors Shari L. Dworkin, Monica Gandhi, and Paige Passano—with the support of the University of California’s Global Health Institute’s (UCGHI) Center for Expertise (COE) on Women’s Health and Empowerment (WHE)—bring together work on women’s empowerment in health. The book shows how the idea of women’s rights as human rights is not new, coming into view during:

… the flurry of international activity in the 1990s, spurred largely by women’s rights organizations from around the globe, that international instruments recognized the links between women’s health and gender equality. For example, these instruments began to recognize sexual and reproductive health and rights and the right to be free from gender-based violence as key components to full realization of women’s human rights. The approach of the 1990s represented a more inclusive approach, emphasizing the right to health services as well as the right to access key material and social determinants such as clean water and adequate housing, sanitation, and nutrition. This human rights–based approach to health used sexuality and reproduction as central themes in shaping gender inequality, while also addressing violations of women’s human rights by directing attention to the issue of bodily integrity. It emphasized laws, policies, and programs that would both advance gender equality and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights. …

Part of the challenge of linking health, human rights, and gender equality is the sometimes stark difference in perspectives, approaches, methodologies, and language used by those in the health sciences and the social sciences and those working in the realms of law, policy, and human rights advocacy.

The volume includes several short videos, produced by local filmmakers, that highlight the immediate need from a human rights perspective.

Now and For the Future

The editors and contributors discuss key findings, which include:

  1. realizing that it is not adequate to view global health programs through the lens of a one-size-fits-all strategy
  2. the necessity to meaningfully involve local community members to ensure that problem definitions and solutions emerge from those who are most affected by a lack of resources, agency, and achievements
  3. understanding the mechanisms and pathways through which empowerment shapes health and vice versa
  4. the need for multi-sectoral work, whereby sectors that may or may not have previously worked together join forces to make change.

The next generation of work will also need to press beyond global health approaches with women and men that focus exclusively on gender; it will need to consider the racialized, classed, and sexualized nature of empowerment and health. Intersectionality reveals how it is not just gender relations but also its simultaneity with race, class, sexuality, age, and other key axes of inequality and marginalization that matter for empowerment and health outcomes. For example, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women have issues that impact them as women and also as sexual minorities; a gender analysis is necessary but not sufficient, to understand the health implications of these intersecting forces. Global health scholars have been slow to embrace intersectional think-ing, which in contrast emerged over twenty-five years ago in law, in the humanities, and in the social sciences. It took until 2005–2006 to focus on intersectionality as key to understanding health outcomes and it remains critical to continue to understand this.

Learn More

Learn more about UCGHI’s Center for Expertise (COE) on Women’s Health and Empowerment (WHE) and how it was established to help push scholars and practitioners to expand their perspectives, and work collaboratively to produce knowledge and educational programs that benefit from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

Stay up-to-date with World Health Organization’s for Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health.

And read our other posts on Women Authors and Their Pledge for Parity and A Clear Path for Women’s Rights as Human Rights.


A Clear Path for Women’s Rights as Human Rights

Women's March SFThis past Saturday, across the globe, people of all walks of life marched peacefully to show their solidarity with their partners, children and community for the protection of women’s rights, safety, health, and families. With such momentum after an historical event, many want to ensure that the spirit of the march does not end and that there is a “path from protest to power.” And ideas of what to do now are surfacing, ensuring that those who believe in respect and dignity for all have a clear path of action to continue the cause and ensure a productive end.

We at the UC Press believe the work of addressing society’s core challenges–including persistent inequality–can be accelerated when scholarship assumes its role as an agent of engagement and democracy.

Below are just some of the many titles that attempt to address women’s rights as human rights.

ross-solinger.reproductivejusticeReproductive Rights: An Introduction by Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger

“Controlling reproduction and the bodies of women seems to be the first step in every hierarchy. That’s why reproductive justice—women having power over our own bodies—is the crucial first step toward any democracy and any justice.” —Gloria Steinem

Read what others are saying about Reproductive Rights.

 

 

dworkin-womensempowermentandglobalhealth

Women’s Empowerment and Global Health: A Twenty-First-Century Agenda edited by Shari Dworkin, Monica Gandhi, Paige Passano

Research was completed with the support of University of California Global Health Institute’s (UCGHI)Center of Expertise (COE) on Women’s Health, Gender, and Empowerment.

Women’s Empowerment and Global Health makes a major contribution toward not only the analysis but also the achievement of global health.”—Kim M. Blankenship, Chair of the Sociology Department and Director of the Center on Health, Risk and Society, American University

 

Owen.InSearchOfSafety

In Search of Safety: Confronting Inequality in Women’s Imprisonment by Barbara Owen, James Wells, Joycelyn Pollock

“This book shows the profound neglect and violence women face in the criminal justice system, and the unique ways in which gender compounds the punishment of confinement. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to see justice-involved women regain their human and civil rights in the United States and beyond.”—Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison

 

 

pomerantz-smartgirlsSmart Girls: Success, School, and the Myth of Post-Feminism by Shauna Pomerantz, Rebecca Raby

Smart Girls is unexplored territory. Pomerantz and Raby have conducted a superbly balanced mix of interviews and analysis for a post-feminist and neoliberal age to help us understand why the stereotype of the ‘smart girl’ holds such sway in our culture and how to put girls back on the political and social agenda.”—Leslie C. Bell, author of Hard to Get: Twenty-Something Women and the Paradox of Sexual Freedom

Read what others are saying about Smart Girls. 

 

 

What do you think the largest challenge will be regarding women’s rights as human rights? And how do you anticipate addressing those challenges in your own community?

 


Human Rights Day: A Focus on Prison Reform

Today is Human Rights Day, which commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We felt moved to turn this year’s focus on prisoner’s rights after the African American Intellectual History Society just released their Prison Abolition Syllabus, which highlights prison organizing and prison abolitionist efforts, from the 13th Amendment’s rearticulation of slavery to current resistance to mass incarceration, solitary confinement, and prison labor exploitation. Several UC Press titles are featured on the syllabus, which you can browse below:

The United States has the highest incarceration rates in the world. Just yesterday TIME released an incarceration report stating that 39% of prisoners should not be in prison. In the book Incarcerating the Crisis, which is included in the syllabus, and in a recent post on our blog, author Jordan Camp argues that the roots of the carceral crisis to the rise of neoliberal capitalism.

And overcrowding, violence, sexual abuse, and other conditions pose grave risks to prisoner health and safety, coupled with the mistreatment of prisoners based on race, sex, gender identity, or disability. Terry Kupers, author of the forthcoming UC Press book Solitary (publishing Fall 2017), discussed ADX-Florence, the “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado known for its use of solitary confinement as a way to manage mental illness, with WNYC this week while law expert Hadar Aviram, whose book Cheap on Crime is also included in the syllabus, recently spoke with the Los Angeles Times about how California’s promises to speed up the death penalty are impossible to meet.

Tens of thousands of prisoners are held in long-term isolated confinement in “supermax” prisons and similar facilities. The devastating effects of such treatment, particularly on people with mental illness, are well known.

In addition to the above listed titles, we recommend the following titles to round out your reading:


Gratitude and Freedom

As we celebrate thankfulness today, we’re reminded of how grateful we are for our hard won rights and freedoms. We are thankful for our rights to religious liberty, free speech and assembly, a free press and privacy, and for the right to petition our government.

To look back at how some of these battles for social progress, equality, and other freedoms were gained, we’ve selected some reading material to continue to inspire and spur change.

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for reading.

activists handbook

The Activist’s Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century
Randy Shaw

This hard-hitting guide to winning social change details how activists can best use the Internet and social media, and analyzes the strategic strengths and weaknesses of rising 21st century movements for immigrant rights, marriage equality, and against climate change.

Looking at the impact of specific strategies on campaigns across the country, from Occupy Wall Street to battles over sweatshops, the environment, AIDS policies, education reform, homelessness, and more, author Randy Shaw shows that with a plan—whether it’s by building diverse coalitions, using ballot initiatives, or harnessing the media, the courts, and the electoral process—positive social change can be achieved.

9780520272590

The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century
Grace Lee Boggs and 
Scott Kurashige

A vibrant, inspirational force, the legendary Grace Lee Boggs participated in all of the twentieth century’s major social movements—for civil rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and more. In this powerful, deeply humanistic book, her words resonate now more than ever.

Drawing from seven decades of activist experience, and a rigorous commitment to critical thinking, to redefine “revolution” for our times, The Next American Revolution offers ways to create the radical social change we need to confront new political, economic, and environmental realities. Hers is a manifesto for creating alternative modes of work, politics, and human interaction that will collectively constitute the next American Revolution.

9780520280830America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century
Gabriel Thompson

Raised by conservative parents who hoped he would “stay with his own kind,” Fred Ross instead became one of the most influential community organizers in American history. His activism began alongside Dust Bowl migrants, where he managed the same labor camp that inspired John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. During World War II, Ross worked for the release of interned Japanese Americans, and after the war, he dedicated his life to building the political power of Latinos across California. Labor organizing in this country was forever changed when Ross knocked on the door of a young Cesar Chavez and encouraged him to become an organizer. In America’s Social Arsonist, author Gabriel Thompson provides a full picture of Ross, recovering a forgotten chapter of American history and providing vital lessons for organizers today.


Threats to Human Rights in Times of Fear

During his campaign, Donald Trump floated the idea of a Muslim registry and famously called for a complete ban of Muslims entering the United States. Now with recent comments from Reince Priebus and Carl Higbie, talk of a registry is back at the forefront of national discussion—with Japanese internment cited as grounds for how Muslims could be treated today.

Now more than ever it is crucial to look back at the days of internment, for which Congress formally apologized, along with a history of marginalized groups threatened by wartime hysteria and panic. We’ve compiled a selection of titles that look at these events and the lessons—and regrets—to be gleaned from them today.

After CampAfter Camp: Portraits in Midcentury Japanese American Life and Politics
Greg Robinson

In the years that followed WWII and the internment of Japanese Americans, former camp inmates struggled to remake their lives, excluded from the wartime economic boom and scarred psychologically by their wartime ordeal.

After Camp sheds light on various developments relating to Japanese Americans in the aftermath of their wartime confinement, including resettlement nationwide, mental and physical readjustment , and their political engagement, most notably in concert with other racialized and ethnic minority groups.

 

Justice at War

Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese-American Internment Cases
Peter Irons

Through exhaustive research of one of the most disturbing events in U.S. history, author Peter Irons uncovers a government campaign of suppression, alteration, and destruction of crucial evidence that could have persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down the internment order. Justice at War documents the debates that took place before the internment order and the legal response during and after the internment.

 

 

 

9780520098602National Insecurity  and Human Rights: Democracies Debate Counterterrorism
Alison Brysk & Gershon Shafir (Editors)

How can democracies cope with the threat of terror while protecting human rights? How do we prevent fears for our safety from turning into panic that put our rights at risk?

Human rights is all too often the first casualty of national insecurity. Comparing the lessons of the United States and Israel with the “best-case scenarios” of the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, and Germany, National Insecurity and Human Rights demonstrates the important options for threatened democracies and that democratic governance,  the rule of law, and international cooperation are crucial foundations for counterterror policy.

 

Atlas of Human RightsThe Atlas of Human Rights: Mapping Violations of Freedom Around the Globe
Andrew Fagan

In the post-9/11 world, governments use the threat of terrorism to justify tightening national security and restricting basic human rights. As intolerance threatens diversity nationally and on a global scale, The Atlas of Human Rights serves as a crucial intervention to preserving and extending freedom.

Inspired by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, author Andrew Fagan considers the nature of the state, national identity, and citizenship, charting both the progress and limitation of free expression and media censorship. Vividly illustrated with colorful maps and charts, The Atlas of Human Rights charts both the progress and limitation of free expression and media censorship. It displays the areas that are beset with wars, conflict, migration, and genocide; details the geographic status of sexual freedom, racism, religious freedom, and the rights of the disabled; focuses on women’s rights, sex slavery, and the rights of the child.

A timely read when thinking of today’s human rights inequities and the consequences of those inequities worldwide.