New International Justice Mechanisms (807R)

Atrocities continue to ravage our planet—in Syria, Iraq, Myanmar/Burma, North Korea, and Yemen, to name a few. And yet, the international community is increasingly divided when it comes to advancing the project of international justice.  Whereas earlier armed conflicts have inspired the establishment of international or hybrid tribunals (such as the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and the Special Court for Sierra Leone) or were referred to the International Criminal Court (such as the situations in Sudan and Libya), today’s conflicts have been met with a pervasive tribunal fatigue and geopolitical impasses. The U.N. Security Council in particular has been hamstrung by the propensity of Russia, sometimes with China in tow, to veto (or threaten to veto) robust accountability proposals that have been put forward. States have been able to reach consensus only around the imperative to prosecute terrorism and members of the so-called Islamic State, including foreign fighters. As a result, advocates have looked to other organs and institutions within and without the United Nations to respond to the commission of international crimes. The General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, and even the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have thus all become engines of accountability, in part because they are not subject to the veto. In addition, civil society actors (such as the Commission on International Justice & Accountability and the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization) have stepped up to undertake investigative functions that would ordinarily be performed by sovereign states or international prosecutors.

This lab will support several of these institutions in their effort to move justice processes forward. On the multilateral plane, these include the International Impartial Independent Mechanism for Syria (IIIM), established by the U.N. General Assembly; the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD), established by the Security Council; and the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), established by the U.N. Human Rights Council.  Domestically, the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice has the lead on the United States’ transitional justice policy around the globe. In addition, a number of civil society and non-governmental organizations are conducting thorough criminal investigations and forming detailed dossiers on potential perpetrators in an effort to jumpstart national proceedings, including those proceeding under extraordinary bases of jurisdiction; lay the groundwork for international prosecutions when—and if—an opening appears; and support multilateral and unilateral sanctions regimes, such as the United States’ Global Magnitsky Act.  Students will conduct both factual and legal research on behalf of partner organizations and participate in advocacy efforts to build a more robust international justice architecture.

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