High-level Event: Strengthening the Rule of Law and Human Rights to Achieve Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies

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(Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/justice-statue-dublin-ireland-626461/)

The UNPD, UNESCO, the Permanent Mission of Argentina, and the Permanent Mission of Austria co-organized such an event on the eve of High-Level Political Forums (HLPF) to set the tones for further discussion on SDG 16 and concerning issues. Ms. Ana Maria Menendez considered the HLPF to be the timing for taking stocks of all efforts reviewing the progress done so far. The forum should also investigate the linkages between SDGs, in particular, goal 5, 10, and 16 concerning the topic of today. On gender equality, society should strive to establish norms and mechanisms to address the problems women and girls face in accessing justice and human rights protection. Goal 10 establishes the principle of non-discrimination in all institutions while goal 16 similarily calls for access to justice for all.

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International Criminal Tribunals and Justice after Civil War




In this session, the General Assembly discussed the many challenges facing the international tribunals formed in response to the civil wars in Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Mr. Agius stated that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) wishes to resolve all remaining cases regarding inhumane crimes by 2017. The ICTY has already finished proceedings against 154 individuals charged for serious violations of international humanitarian law. Mr. Meron stated that since the tribunals have been established, there has been a “new age of accountability,” within the community. The social movement aids the tribunal in appropriately and accurately convicting responsible individuals.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) executed the other functions of the ICTY since the conclusion of the Rwanda Tribunal in 2015. Mr. Meron stressed the importance of cooperation and support by Member States for the success of the MICT and ICTY in regards to the remaining cases. Most of the convicted individuals in Rwanda have been acquitted or released in the United Republic of Tanzania. Serbia was claimed to also surrendered many indicted individuals. A debate arose, and the Representative of Croatia argued otherwise. He emphasized that all arrest warrants are currently pending, thus expressing concerns of “failures” within the tribunals. The Representative of the United States expressed that the support of judges and staff can be helpful in the tribunals following through on indictments.

Meeting: General Assembly Plenary, Seventy-First Session, 44th Meeting, “Report of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.”

Date/Location: Wednesday, 9 November 2016; 10:00 to 13:00; United Nations Headquarters, General Assembly Hall

Speakers: Mr. Theodor Meron, President of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals; Carmel Agius, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

Written By: Ashley Lee, WIT Representative

General Elections in the General Assembly


Today, there was a meeting held by the General Assembly. It was divided into three parts: the election of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Appointment of the judges of the UN Dispute Tribunals, and the Appointment of the judges of the UN Appeals Tribunals.

Mr. Mogens Lykketoft led the meeting on the voting and announcements of various positions. Mr. Filippo Grandi of Italy was elected as the High Commissioner for Refugees. The distinguished representatives of the Pacific, European Union, and the Gulf spoke their congratulations and support for Mr. Grandi’s election. His term will begin on January 16th, 2015 and end on December 1st, 2020. His responsibilities are to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve their problems internationally.

This is relevant to the current problem in Syria, which is the largest refugee crisis since World War II. The Office was created in 1950, and since then, it has helped nearly 55 million internally displaced and stateless refugees and returnees.

The Internal Justice Council recommended the judges of the Tribunals, who were appointed today by the Assembly. The statutes of the Tribunals were adopted and amended in resolution. There was a written ballot on the election for the Appeals and Dispute Tribunals, following the rules of procedure. Because the terms of the current judges are expiring, new judges who are eligible for election were voted for consideration. There are currently four vacancies on the Appeals Tribunal and three on the Dispute Tribunal from July 1st, 2016, to be voted for positions, which can be either full-time or half-time. This procedure for identifying suitable candidates enables the Council to place in an informal roster to possibly serve for the next scheduled term of judges.

Meeting: General Assembly 57th Plenary Meeting

Date/Location: Wednesday, November 18th, 2015; 11:00-11:30; General Assembly Hall

Speakers: Mogens Lykketoft, President of the United Nations General Assembly

Written By: WIT Representative Jin Yoo

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

The enforcement of international judicial and arbitral decisions

International_Peace_Day_logoThe meeting opened with the moderator, Cabactulan, mentioning that there is an increase in international peace and security amongst international communities. Professor Murphy discussed the seven trends in interstate judicial and arbitral decisions. The first trend is the increase/resurgence in court and tribunal decisions (case law) during the post cold war era. The second trend recognizes that investment disputes are now dealt with private investors bringing claims against opposing states themselves. Instead of the investor’s state getting involved and dealing with interstate arbitration, the investors are making the claims and taking pressure off of government officials.

The third trend displays, the continuance of states’ compliance with interstate judicial and arbitral decisions. Professor Murphy stated that most states care about and believe in the law. So, although a state may not like a ruling, the state will usually respect it. Murphy provides the counterpoint that some courts might influence their own decisions to appease both states involved, to ensure compliance. The fourth trend exposes the abandoned use of the Security Council to enforce judicial or arbitral decisions. The council only has the power to agree with a judgment; they cannot enforce one legally. The fifth trend demonstrates the abandonment of using the International Court of Justice to enforce arbitral decisions. Following, the sixth trend outlines the continuing impediments of enforcing rulings made by international courts and the potential of involving national courts.

The last trend focuses on the increased use of countermeasures to induce compliance. A countermeasure is when a wrongful act is committed by a state, but it’s excused because the other state did something wrong in the first place. The professor concluded that the steady level of compliance in interstate judgments has exerted less stress on governments. When states fail to comply with a ruling or award, there has been more reliance on unilateral self-help.

Meeting: “The enforcement of international judicial and arbitral decisions” (organized by the Permanent Mission of the Philippines)
Date: October 29th, 2014
Location: Conference Room 6, UN Headquarters, New York
Speakers: Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law Sean David Murphy, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Philippines Libran N. Cabactulan, Philippines Representative Eduardo A. De Vega, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Philippines Irene Susan Navtivdad, and Philippines Representative Acting Director of the Office of Legal Affairs in the Department of Foreign Affairs Igor G. Bailen.
Written By WIT Representatives: Ellie Guner and Paige Stokols

Edited by WIT Representative: Aslesha Dhillon

Advancement of Women’s access to Justice around the World


Ambassador Mamabolo highlighted the South African constitution’s provisions on gender equality, and detailed the extent to which provisions are translated into practice. One novel practice is the impending legislation that mandates the government and private institutions to achieve a 50:50 gender ratio in the makeup of the employees, especially those at the decision-making level. Another practice is the establishment of specialized Sexual Offences Court, which provides expedient judicial process with regards to gender-based crime.

Dr. Hofmeister celebrated the Austrian accomplishments in implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and also listed the domestic reform on family, labour and criminal law that give effects to the convention. However, she also cautioned the audience that the Fritzl case of a girl being locked in a basement reminds us not to be complacent in ensuring women enjoy their full rights. Dr. Hofmeister highlighted the positive role of women jurists in advancing women’s access to justice, a point which Ms. Duncan expanded on when explaining the importance of involving women in the justice chain.

Ms. Duncan commended the practices in judicial reform tailored for women in Austria and South Africa, and explained how these policies are reformulated and emulated elsewhere around the world. She added that UN-Women and other organizations focus on helping countries to undergo gender-based judicial reform, develop legal aid, train judges to be gender-sensitive, and cultivate effective informal dispute resolution mechanisms. In reminding the audience that the work on women’s access to justice is unfinished, she said that a number of countries still allow customary laws to prevail over women’s fundamental entitlement to inheritance, marriage and employment.

Ambassador Sajdik concluded by urging the audience to passionately champion for women, “for not a single country can claim that it has achieved gender equality between women and men” yet.

Meeting Title: 12th Session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals
Speakers: H.E. Dr. Martin Sajdik, Permanent Representatives of Austria to the United Nations; H.E. Mr. Jeremiah Nyamane Kinglsey Mamabolo, Permanent Representatives of South Africa to the United Nations; Dr. Lilian Hofmeister, Substitute Judge at the Constitutional Court and CEDAW-candidate, Austria; Ms. Beatrice Duncan, Justice and Constitutional Advisor, UN Women.
Location: Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, United Nations HQ, New York
Date: June 23th, 2014
Written by WIT representative: Harrison Chung
Edited by WIT Representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark 

Doing Justice to Sustainable Development

Integrating the Rule of Law into the Post 2015 Agenda 

Professor Michael Doyle explained that law is a valuable reflection of human dignity and must be preserved for equality. Democracy based rule of law, entrenched with human rights is essential to ensure that laws are not changeable by any majority in a way that violates equality and social inclusion. Judit Arenas emphasised that rule of law and the sustainable development goals have to go beyond words on paper to ensure that this transformative agenda is actually changed for the better.


Judith Arenas summarized the IDLO report that has been posted online explaining that the key points in the document include legal frameworks for sustainable governance of resources, access to fair market trade to stimulate the economy, and legal rights that ensure transparency and participation. The recommendations from Rio +20 require that economic growth creates employment and decent work to ensure the eradication of poverty; strong legal institutions promote investment and encapsulate development.

Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, via video statement, said that environmental degradation is an existential threat to all of us, and although it touches all, it will particularly affect the poor, vulnerable and indigenous people. The wealthy and developed nations’ citizens have the ability to move between countries but millions of poor and vulnerable people have to face climate change as a threat to their existence.

Justice Antonio explained that to have the legal framework in place is one thing, however as a society we need to ensure goals are actually fulfilled. In order to do this the world requires good governance, more than legislative text, but rather interlinked goals alongside systems of compliance and enforcement. Justice Antonio also declared that judges can not be influenced by political and economic pressure, they should not be afraid of favoring weaker parties for their legal rights.


Meeting Title: Doing Justice to Sustainable Development: Integrating the rule of law into the post-2015 agenda
Speakers: H.E. Riitta Resch Ambassador of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland; Professor Michael Doyle, Foreign and Security Policy Columbia University; Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, National High Court of Brazil; Professor Dalee Sambo Dorough, Chair of UN Permanent forum on Indigenous Issues; Nury Montiel, Director of Human Rights for Supreme Court of Justice of Paraguay, Andres Vazquez Coordinator Human Rights Projects for Supreme Court of Justice of Paraquay, Judit Arenas Director of External Relations IDLO
Location: United Nations UN, Conference Room 5 NLB, New York
Date: 17 June 2014
Written by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark

ESCWA: Briefing on the Strategy and Programme of work

escwa            The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) hosted an event to outline the strategic framework for the biennium 2016-2017.  Dr. Khouri outlined the plan, focusing on objectives in inclusive development, regional integration, and good governance and resilience. Inclusive development will be tackled through a uniform level of rights, resources, and services that seek to accomplish goals in social justice, employment, and sustainable natural resources.

Social justice will be implemented through programs such as First Arab Poverty Report, which will give accurate measurements that allow for economic plans to hopefully eradicate poverty in the region. Programs such as the Second Arab Development Outlook will look to provide data necessary in creating better employment opportunities. To further regional integration, Dr. Khouri spoke about the importance of policy coherence and cooperation, both of which can be achieved through an increased dialogue between regionally located member states. With agreements and strategies that partner the different governments of the regions, challenges in regional development will be made much easier.

In the last priority area, good governance and resilience, Dr. Khouri discussed the need for development of economic, public, and governing institutions. Furthermore, he mentioned indicators such as the Second Social Development Report that will help them better gauge participation and citizenship, particularly in the female population. Lastly, Dr. Khouri expressed a need lessen the effects of regional conflict and disasters, specifically through support to the Palestinian people and an increased number of Arab-Palestinian partnerships in both government and the private sector. To close the event, Mr. Alvarez-Rivero commented on the increased level of requested assistance from member states. To help handle these new levels, ESCWA has narrowed down there program from 12 goals in the previous biennium to 8 for the current framework, which they hope will allow them to provide focus and support to all members.

Meeting Title: Briefing on the Programme of Work of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
Speakers: Dr. Nadim Khouri, Deputy Executive Secretary ESCWA; Mr. Tarcisio Alvarez-Rivero Chief of Strategic Planning and Coordination ESCWA
Location: United Nations HQ, Conference Room B, NY
Date: 11 June 2014
Written By: Zachary Halliday


Post-Genocide Justice: Reconciliation in Rwanda


Today, the Rwandan government hosted an event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and to discuss the need for justice and reconciliation as important pillars in rebuilding Rwandan society. Ambassador of Rwanda, H.E. Nduhungirehe began the discussion by pointing out the main challenge of genocide reconciliation: how to provide redress for victims, while at the same time holding perpetrators accountable and restoring harmony among Rwandans. One way this was achieved was through the establishment of the Gacaca Courts across Rwandan towns and villages.

The Gacaca courts are a traditional community-run court system established in order to find out the truth about what happened during the genocide, and hold those responsible accountable. Over a 7-year period after the genocide, the courts successfully tried 1.3 million suspects, with convictions and sentences decided by community leaders with a focus on reconciliation. Next, Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, the Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs, and Mr. Jallow, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), gave statements on the trials and convictions at the ICTR. Besides holding individuals accountable for their crimes, the ICTR also left a legacy of jurisprudence for international criminal law, which included finding individuals guilty of rape as a crime of genocide, and finding individuals guilty of incitement to commit genocide. The ICTR indicted 93 persons, 63 were convicted.

Mr. Minah, the permanent representative of Sierra Leone, then gave a statement about his country’s experience with justice and reconciliation after 11 years of civil strife. Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Sierra Leone, survivors were able to publicly tell their stories, and perpetrators had the chance to admit their crimes and ask for forgiveness. Mr. Minah ended his statement by pointing out that true reconciliation is achieved through restorative, not retributive justice. Ending the discussion, Ms. Murekatete, a genocide survivor, shed light on the situation from her unique perspective. She pointed out that while the Gacaca Courts and ICTR had many successes, there were also many shortcomings. She suggested increased protection and trauma counseling services for those who testified at the Gacaca Courts, and for the proceedings of the ICTR to be made more transparent for genocide survivors.

Meeting Title:
Symposium on the Contribution of Post-Genocide Justice to Reconciliation in Rwanda
Speakers: Mr. Olivier Nduhungirehe, Deputy Permanent Representative of Rwanda; Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs; Mr. Hassan Boubacar Jallow, Prosecutor for ICTR; Mr. Vandi Chidi Minah, Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone; Ms. Jacqueline Murekatete, Rwandan Genocide Survivor
Location: United Nations HQ, ECOSOC Chamber
Date: 3 June 2014
Written By WIT representative: Marli Kasdan
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark