Genocide Event in the 21st Century – Jewish World Watch
Last week, Jewish World Watch (JWW) co-sponsored a conference at Loyola Law School titled “New Challenges for Justice: The Genocide of the 21stst Century. âThe event kicked off with the Thursday evening screening ofâ Amae, Thamee, Ama (Mother, Daughter, Sister), âa documentary by Jeanne Hallecy on the Burmese military practice of using rape as a weapon of war. The film juxtaposes the heartbreaking testimonies of several Rohingya survivors of rape forced to flee to camps in neighboring Bangladesh, with a group of internally displaced Kachin women facing loss and persecution within Burma Little by little, the women of both groups regain some of their free will, and we witness laughter and joy in the two dismal settings.
But what is unique about this film is that it connects the two groups of women – a Muslim, a Christian – and shows them how they are united in the same struggle for the protection and control of their bodies and their lives. their fate. The film defends these alliances, these bridges, as the key to building civil society in Myanmar and increasing everyone’s calls for change.
The screening was followed by a panel discussion with director Ann Durbin, Jewish World Watch (JWW) Director of Advocacy and Grants, and attorney Michael Ghilezan. They discussed why Myanmar’s August 2017 military crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority amounted to genocide, the next steps to ensure the safe return of the Rohingya people from Bangladesh, and how to prevent further persecution in Bangladesh. other minority groups like the Kachins who still live in fear within Myanmar’s borders.
On Friday there were two more panels as well as a keynote address at lunchtime. The first panel dealt with the challenges to ensure post-conflict justice. David Akerson, an international lawyer who has played a key role in international criminal tribunals both in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, spoke of the evidentiary challenges posed by these international prosecutions. He pointed out two themes in the courts regarding evidence: irregular militias or rebel groups that fail to document their policies or chains of command, and government-organized atrocities, documented in meticulous military records – which all need to be translated, cataloged, and evaluated. He noted the need for greater efficiency in collecting evidence as well as the need to develop better chain of custody practices to establish the authenticity and reliability of evidence in a world dominated by social media.
Sam Garkawe from Southern Cross University in Australia discussed the challenges of victim participation in international tribunals and before the International Criminal Court. Article 68 (3) of the Rome Statute establishing the ICC allows victims to have their own representation before the Court. However, to avoid this becoming too cumbersome, the ICC requires that these lawyers be supervised by a common representative who serves as a liaison between victims and the court. Mr. Garkawe also touched on some of the challenges of enforcing sentences and securing reparations for victims. Despite these shortcomings, he argued that the victim participation project is interesting because it gives them the opportunity to be heard and proactive in the fight against impunity for the abuses they have suffered.
Margarete Myers Feinstein, a Holocaust historian from Loyola Marymount University, gave a fascinating historical presentation on how to bring victims beyond revenge and towards justice and reconciliation. She juxtaposed different types of revenge tactics used by Holocaust victims (e.g., inflicting bodily harm, destroying or acquiring the assets of attackers, hiring perpetrators for manual labor, creating a Jewish state) with approaches retributive and seeking justice, embodied by the courts. honor set up in camps for people displaced by Jews. She stressed that the protests of the two revenges were largely driven by the survivors’ need to assert and regain power. However, grievance procedures in Jewish honor courts have shown that the agency’s restoration can also be satisfied through justice mechanisms, thereby reducing self-defense. Feinstein stressed that the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg was weak on the issue of victim participation, as evidenced by its very small number of surviving participants and its refusal to accept testimony in Yiddish.
All of the panelists recognized the importance of involving victims in order to meet their agency demonstration needs without resorting to out-of-court solutions. Akerson suggested a two-track system in which separate processes for victims (such as peace and reconciliation commissions or local gacaca-type courts) run concurrently with criminal prosecutions that would limit victims’ participation due to the myriad of obstacles posed by their inclusion. Myers and Garkawe, while acknowledging the vicissitudes of victims’ involvement in criminal proceedings, believed the effort was still worth it, especially given the symbolic importance of these high-level prosecutions to survivors.
The opening lunch hour speech was delivered by Holocaust reparations lawyer and Chapman University professor Michael Bayzler. He spoke of a law in Poland criminalizing statements attributing responsibility to Poland for crimes committed by the German Third Reich during the Holocaust. While Poland was effectively occupied by the Nazis and many Poles risked their lives to protect their Jewish neighbors, other Poles abandoned their friends and neighbors, thus aiding the Nazis in their extermination plan. Frustrated by the use of phrases such as “Polish concentration camp” to describe Auschwitz, the Polish government instituted the law, threatening civil and criminal penalties. Bayzler has strived to rule over this law, and although deprivation of liberty has been removed as a potential sanction, the possibility of civil litigation remains. Bayzler commented that the battle over whether a situation of atrocity amounts to genocide is unnecessary and boils down only to blocked interventions as states bicker, both internally and externally, over that determination.
The second panel of the day focused on the challenges of advocacy for genocide prevention. Burmese lawyer, producer and activist Michael Ghilezian spoke about his experiences working with local groups on the ground in Myanmar and said the most effective advocacy technique for engaging in the Rohingya crisis was to empower the community. local civil society. He also spoke of the need to connect different persecuted minority groups, such as the Rohingyas and the Kachins, so that they can be more united and benefit from their shared experiences.
Ann Strimov Durbin discussed the various advocacy techniques and strategies that JWW and other genocide prevention organizations employ, including education and advocacy for the legislation among members of Congress; calling for various actions by the US government, including the designation of genocide and the disengagement of aid to countries responsible for atrocities; draft letters and legislation to legislative officials on urgent matters; editorial writing; conduct online campaigns; and organize the March to End the Genocide. She agreed with Ghilezian that empowering survivors to defend themselves and move from survival to prosperity is the most powerful advocacy mechanism. Durbin also spoke about the importance of a genocide designation not only because of the international attention and pressure to act that such a label generates, but also because of the significance it holds for the people. affected.
Dydine Umunyana, author, speaker and child survivor of the Rwandan genocide, spoke about storytelling as a plea. She shared her journey from survival to prosperity, but made it clear how difficult this transition is for most survivors of mass atrocities. She underlined the importance of testimony and being heard and shared her thoughts on alternative transitional justice mechanisms used in Rwanda, such as gacaca courts and the Commission for Peace and Reconciliation. Umunyana argued that the participation and action of victims are crucial ingredients for any lasting peace.
In terms of advocacy wins, panelists acknowledged that prevention is difficult to measure. Ghilezian shared that the greatest success of his Burma-related advocacy was connecting two different minority groups so that they could unite and build on each other in a common struggle against the Tatmadaw. Durbin has spoken of helping to switch Noura Hussein’s death sentence as a plea victory, while acknowledging the fight is not over. She said the biggest victory in advocacy work is seeing young people in war-affected countries themselves become visionaries, agents of change and peacemakers. Dydine agreed that the overarching goal of all of this work is to empower survivors to be their own advocates through education and skills building. Panelists also discussed the importance of mass information campaigns to counter the use of the media as a means of disseminating hate speech and propaganda as well as fomenting violence (e.g. radio in Rwanda and Facebook in Burma / Myanmar).
Overall, the conference was extremely informative with a diverse set of panelists from various disciplines. JWW looks forward to partnering with Loyola Law School and other educational institutions for these types of events in the future.