IBAHRI attends 49th session of Human Rights Council
The IBA's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) attended the 49th session of the Human Rights Council and delivered 18 statements and participated in two side events. The IBAHRI also participated in the urgent debate on the human rights situation in Ukraine at the Human Rights Council, calling for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) mandated to initiate prompt, independent and impartial investigation into all violations.
The IBAHRI delivered an oral statement on the ‘Urgent Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian Aggression’. The statement said: ‘The IBAHRI urges the Russian Federation to immediately and unconditionally cease its military invasion into Ukrainian territory. We urge all parties to ensure immediate, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access. The IBAHRI welcomes the decision of the ICC Prosecutor to proceed with opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine.’ At the session, the Human Rights Council voted in favour of a resolution to establish an inquiry to investigate alleged human rights violations in the context of Russia's aggression against Ukraine.
One of the side events that the IBAHRI held during the 49th session of the Human Rights Council was on human rights violations in Iran, with a focus on accountability and access to justice for victims. The event highlighted ongoing human rights violations in Iran, specifically relating to the right to a fair trial and due process guarantees, the application of the death penalty, the independence of the legal profession and lawyers at risk and restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The IBAHRI also took part in a side event on religious and belief minorities at risk in Afghanistan, China and Nigeria.
The IBAHRI also contributed to the negotiations of the Human Rights Council Resolution urgently establishing an independent international COI. The resolution was then adopted with the overwhelming majority of 32 votes in favour, two against and 13 abstentions.
Crimes against humanity in North Korea
The IBA War Crimes Committee and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea held a live hearing on Friday 4 March 2022 in Washington DC, to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the International Criminal Court, or a special international tribunal, to open an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed in North Korea by ‘Supreme Leader’ Kim Jong-un, high level government officials, internal security officials and low-level prison guards.
Presiding over the hearing, in connection with an Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity in North Korean Detention Centers, were four internationally renowned judges: Navanethem Navi Pillay (South Africa), Dame Silvia Cartwright (New Zealand), Silvia Fernandez (Argentina) and Wolfgang Schomburg (Germany). It is the first time during the Kim dynasty’s 74-year reign that judges of this stature have assembled to assess the potential culpability of North Korean state actors for crimes against humanity.
The judges heard testimony from experts on North Korea’s political system and six North Korean defectors, four of whom testified in person giving accounts of the crimes they assert they were subjected to while held in North Korean detention centres.
A decision is expected to be issued by the judges in June.
See more information here.
IBA co-publishes book on rule of law in 21st century
In February, the IBA co-published the second edition of The Rule of Law in the 21st Century: A Worldwide Perspective, a collaboration with Globe Law and Business.
The book, available in both hard copy and eBook format, explores what the phrase ‘the rule of law’ means and, more specifically, what it means in the context of 21st century issues and challenges. Justice Richard J Goldstone, Honorary President of the IBA’s Human Rights Institute, was a consulting editor on the book, while contributors include the IBA’s Executive Director, Mark Ellis, and Michael Maya, Director of the IBA’s North America office.
The publication of the book marks the latest in a series of collaborations between the IBA and Globe Law and Business.
The IBA has also filmed a short interview with Ellis to accompany the release of the book, in which he discusses why the rule of law is of paramount importance to the IBA and to the world more generally. This is available to view here.
To purchase a copy of the book, click here. IBA members can receive a 20 per cent discount on their purchase by entering the code IBA22 at checkout.
Ukraine: eyeWitness to Atrocities app captures potential evidence of crimes
The International Bar Association’s eyeWitness to Atrocities app is being used in Ukraine to collect potential evidence of crimes committed during Russia’s invasion. As the war continues and the allegations of war crimes grow, it has become increasingly important to capture evidence that can be used in a court of law to bring about justice.
Launched in 2015 and developed using a combination of the IBA’s extensive legal expertise and cutting-edge technology, the eyeWitness to Atrocities app ensures that images or videos captured by mobile phones can be verified before being submitted as evidence during a trial. The app authenticates, catalogues and protects these images so that each image has the appropriate metadata embedded, and a secure chain of custody is established so they can be used in court.
As a direct response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the eyeWitness team developed the Ukraine Resources Hub – in Ukrainian – which is a comprehensive resource to support civilians, journalists and civil society groups in documenting potential war crimes. The hub has information on how to identify war crimes and what photographic evidence is required for the purposes of a trial.
Wendy Betts, Director of eyeWitness, said ‘with so much disinformation surrounding the war in Ukraine, one challenge for documenters is capturing reliable potential photo and video evidence’ and that ‘given the risks that individuals are taking to gather this information, it is important that it can be used to seek justice’.
Read the full statement here
IBAHRI condemns Saudi Arabia's record execution of 81 people in a single day
In mid-March the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) published a statement strongly condemning the mass execution of 81 people in a single day in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The executions that took place on 12 March represent the largest known mass execution in the country’s modern period. It’s reported that 41 of those executed belonged to the Shiite minority and had taken part in anti-government protests in 2011–12.
IBAHRI Co-Chair and Immediate Past Secretary-General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, commented: ‘State killings on such a large scale is not only reproachful, but it also reflects blatant disregard for human rights and bears a chilling resemblance to the mass execution of 33 Shias in 2019 for their participation in the 2011–2012 protests. We call upon the State to take all necessary steps to abolish the death penalty, and to ensure fair trials and due process guarantees.’
The state news agency, Saudi Press Agency, reported that the individuals were executed for heinous crimes including ‘terrorism-related’ offences. In Saudi Arabia, offences such as terrorism are defined broadly, enabling human rights defenders and political dissidents to be charged on vague grounds. Under Article 6 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, to which Saudi Arabia has acceded, the death penalty may only be imposed for ‘the most serious crimes’.
Read the full press release here.
Madeleine Albright: In memoriam
The IBA was sad to learn of the death of Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State (1997–2001), who passed on 23 March 2022 in Washington, DC, at the age of 84. Born in Prague in 1937, Albright’s family emigrated to the US in 1948 following the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia’s coup d’état.
A leading figure in US and international politics, Albright worked for the US National Security Council and was ambassador to the United Nations from 1993–1997 prior to her appointment by President Bill Clinton as the first female US Secretary of State. She was the highest-ranking woman in the history of the US government at the time of her appointment. After leaving office, among other roles held, Albright served on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations and was Honorary Chair of the World Justice Project.
In the mid-2000s, she co-chaired the Genocide Prevention Task Force created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy and the United States Institute of Peace. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in May 2012.
Albright was a tireless advocate and protector of human rights. She was instrumental in the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. During the 1990s, she advocated for the creation of an international court to prosecute the most egregious human rights violations, despite the US never having been a state party to the Rome Statute, which formally established the International Criminal Court in 2002.
Read the full article here.
Madeleine Albright presenting at IBA Annual Conference, Boston, 2013.
IBAHRI webinar: Harnessing law in times of war
On 16 March, the IBA's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) held a webinar, ‘Harnessing law in times of war’. The webinar presented the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from a human rights and humanitarian law perspective and explored possible avenues for accountability and the role of law at the current stage of the conflict.
The discussion was moderated by IBAHRI Director, Baroness Helena Kennedy, and the panellists included Stephen Rapp, Philippe Sands, IBA Director Mark Ellis, Jennifer Trahan and journalist Lindsey Hilsum. Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown also spoke in a pre-recorded video.