The International Criminal Court Blog
November 18th, 2015 | Posted By

World Without Genocide Fellows attend International Criminal Court meetings

After the Holocaust, the Allied nations prosecuted  Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945.  Those trials, the first-ever practice of international justice, created a dream for many human rights leaders of a permanent court to adjudicate perpetrators of genocide and other atrocity crimes.  In 2002,that dream became a reality when the International Criminal Court began operating in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Court’s jurisdiction is the prosecution of individuals for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression perpetrated since 2002.

There are now 123 nations that have ratified their support for the Court, and although the United States is not yet one of those ratifying nations, the US supports the work of the Court in significant ways.

Each winter, representatives of the states parties, as the nations are called, and other entities that are involved with the Court meet to discuss and decide management and

International Bar Association

Assembly of State Parties- International Bar Association

legislative issues about the Court.

This  year’s Assembly of States Parties will be held at the World Forum in The Hague, November 18-26.

For the first time, five Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellows in Human Rights and Law from World Without Genocide will participate in these meetings as delegates with AMICC, the American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court.  The Fellows are law students Guled Ibrahim, Michelle Johnson, Megan Manion, Alejandra Sanchez, and Sarah Schmidt.

In addition, two former associates from World Without Genocide, Christie Nicoson (former Program and Operations Director) and James Petermeier, J.D. (former research associate)will attend with the delegation of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. Both Christie and James are current master’s degree students at the Rotary Peace Center, Uppsala University, Sweden.

Each of our delegates will share their experiences on this site during the meeting.  Please check their daily posts about this important international meeting.


Day One- Christie Nicoson, World Without Genocide Associate 


2015 Assembly of State Parties- Photo: Christie Nicoson

The International Criminal Court’s 14th Assembly of States Parties began today with an emphasis on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. In the coming year, the Court anticipates an unprecedented workload: four trials, involving ten accused persons, and further examinations into nine situations.

The Assembly welcomed state representatives, NGO members, and observers who contribute in many ways to the mandate of the Court. In collaboration with member states, these supporters are crucial to the international community’s pursuit of justice around the world. Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the Court, reminded members of the Assembly that their support is critical and that “the hopes and expectations of victims of atrocity crimes must weigh heavily on our collective conscience, and compel us to stay ever committed to the cause of international criminal justice.”



Day Two- Sarah Schmidt, Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law

The ASP 14 convening continued on Thursday with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court holding a briefing in which ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda addressed the room in a question and answer session.  She emphasized that her office is always open to anyone and she welcomes inquiries by anyone at any time.

The large morning session continued the General Debate, during which a number of states’ representatives stressed the need for greater cooperation with the ICC, increased

Full Assembly Meeting- Photo: James Petermeier

Full Assembly Meeting- Photo: James Petermeier

complementarity within domestic laws, the importance of the universality of the Court, and the ongoing struggle against impunity that must be fought by all states.

Thursday afternoon saw the first side sessions of the convening on the following topics: the place of victims in national procedures and the ICC; cooperation with the Court; the Justice Rapid Response’s introduction of its International Deployment Fund to strengthen investigational capacity; complementarity in Africa; the Multilateral Treaty for Mutual Assistance initiative; and digital evidence.

Capping off the day was another large plenary session comprised of a two-panel discussion on complementarity in regard to gender-based violence and crimes and victim empowerment. The panelists included Chief Prosecutor Bensouda, Swedish Minister of Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke, the Attorney Generals of Guatemala and Botswana, the Director of Prosecutors in Uganda, the founder of Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice Brigid Inder, and Irene Khan, Director of the International Development Law Organization.


Day Three- James Petermeier, J.D., World Without Genocide Associate

On day three of the International Criminal Court’s 14th Assembly of States Parties, state representatives discussed the issue of voluntary cooperation agreements between the Court and member states.  Specifically, the discussion concluded that states must work toward greater cooperation in two main areas: the enforcement of ICC sentences and the relocation and protection of witnesses.  State delegates addressed what more needs to be done to bolster these voluntary agreements.  Suggestions ranged from state hosted

Judge de Gurmendi and Director Susana SaCouto- Photo: James Petermeier

Judge de Gurmendi and Director Susana SaCouto- Photo: James Petermeier

conferences and seminars to increasing the number of states that have established these voluntary agreements.

During one of the day’s breakout sessions, World Without Genocide associates listened as ICC President Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi and Director of the War Crimes Research Office at Washington College of Law at American University Susana SáCouto discussed possible amendments to the ICC’s pretrial confirmation of charges process.  The two examined whether it is more effective to strengthen the process by lengthening or expediting the pretrial confirmation process.

Day three closed with an unusual session in which the Assembly allowed the countries of South Africa and Kenya to discuss several grievances that they wished to express to the Court.  These grievances revolved around the Court’s interpretation of key provisions of the Rome Statute.


Extending Justice: The International Criminal Court Beyond The Hague

Reflection by Christie Nicoson, World Without Genocide Associate

The International Criminal Court is one of today’s most successful examples of broad cooperation between countries. To date, 123 countries have signed the Rome Statute, making them a state party to the Court. They have joined a powerful network of countries dedicated to justice, a global community committed to holding criminals accountable.

To some, the Court seems lofty – an impossibly high ideal of prosecuting the most heinous crimes in a place far removed from where most of these crimes are committed. The

Highlight Film- Photo: Nicoson

Highlight Film- Photo: Christie Nicoson

crimes, criminals, victims, witnesses, and evidence are scattered around the world; the Court is in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

At the 14th Assembly of States Parties, members, supporting countries, and members of civil society sought to close this gap. It has begun a shift toward a greater presence in the field.

A new approach is changing the way the Court operates. The ICC Registry is working to build a meaningful presence in the field by reaching out to the communities it serves to build trust, search for justice, and build lasting relationships.

This means establishing field offices in many locations around the world. The ICC works with local partners and communities to create a presence that is mutually beneficial. They use the Internet, social media, radio broadcasts – the media that best serve local populations to spread the news about prosecutions and improve the visibility of justice. They conduct interviews and collect evidence to build strong cases. Fieldwork brings the Court to the people.

When the Court began, it was isolated in The Hague. Today, although the Court remains headquartered in the Netherlands, it operates with a much wider reach and with field offices in countries around the world. Through this new approach, the Court not only builds stronger cases, it establishes foundations for the rule of law in far reaches of the globe. The Court is already a powerful force for justice. Its field presence will ensure that the Court continues toward its goal of ending impunity and bringing justice to victims.


Day Four- James Petermeier, J.D., World Without Genocide Associate

The first few days of the ICC’s 14th Assembly of State Parties has been an interesting look at the likely concerns of the ASP for the next few years, including the expanding workload of the Court, and the need for cooperation by states in victim protection and sentence enforcement.  Only through great cooperation of states will the Court be able to realize its mandate.  This is especially true with the world as it is today and as it will be in the future.

The most noteworthy experience I had at the ASP was to sit in on a panel discussing victim reparations.  Panelists explained the need to include the victim’s voice during trial.  One panelist discussed how allowing victims to tell of their traumatic experiences in the trial can have a healing effect.  This healing effect is greatest when the victim feels that his or her testimony leads to justice being served.  However, if victims feel that justice has not been served, reliving the traumatizing experiences in court can actually be more traumatizing.  A second panelist, a survivors’ advocate, explained how incredibly challenging it can be to represent these survivors. The advocate explained that long before the trail begins, he finds himself without the time or resources necessary to adequately incorporate the survivor’s voice. These challenges include matters as simple as explaining his role in the matter to matters as complicated as properly explaining how the victim’s inclusion will influence reparations.

Given the varying perceptions victims can have regarding their participation, the challenges explained by this advocate lead to the question of whether victims should even be included.  On the one hand, early challenges experienced by victims can lead to diminished perceptions of justice and greater re-traumatization in the long run. On the other hand, success after great adversity can lead to an enhanced feeling of justice.  While the perceptions of justice are in the eyes of the survivor, perhaps the answer to this question is in the hands of the Assembly.  If it is such a feat to include the voices of these victims, perhaps the Assembly should make the rules more flexible to encourage and allow easier inclusion of the victim’s voice.


Day Five – Megan Manion, Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law

The Assembly of States Parties is the central forum for governance of the International Criminal Court.  It also provides a setting for the Court’s participants, advocates, and civil society stakeholders to discuss critical issues facing the Court and their work in relation to it. This year, “gendered legacies” of the International Criminal Court and sexual and gender-based crimes have been a consistent thread throughout the Assembly. To many, this is a long-awaited affirmation of importance of gender justice both in principle and practice.

The gender justice advocates have had a consistent platform to frame the creation of the ICC and advancement of international criminal law as a discipline that has not developed in a vacuum. Its origins and conceptions are necessarily within the larger framework of historical patriarchy and gender bias. It is heartening to note the platform for which these issues have been taken up at ASP 14. Side events have highlighted issues from around the world and have included the foremost experts on law and gender justice. Earlier in the Assembly, we saw a plenary session with experts from around the world, including Madame Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and her Special Gender Advisor, Brigid Inder of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice. This panel focused on the International Criminal Court’s role in complementing national criminal procedures using sexual and gender- based crimes to highlight the advances and the difficulties of this fundamental principle.

Further sessions deepened delegates’ understanding of gender and the Court through discussions of the misconceptions and biases in prosecution and judging at the International Court, ad hoc tribunals, and national courts. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda pointed out the advances she seeks within her own office.  Her commitment to prosecuting sexual and gender-based violence are just one contribution among the many that are needed. One of her reforms requires that, even at the initial investigation stage, an investigator must justify his or her reasons for not undertaking an investigation of sexual and gender-based crimes. The 14th ASP has not only highlighted the factual failures and successes in domestic courts of member states in redefining sexual and gender-based crimes, but has also critically brought gender mainstreaming, meaning the valuing and analysis of both male and female perspectives and qualities, into functional conversations like the budget to advocate for renewed attention to the equitable appointment of professionals at the Court as envisioned in the Rome Statute.

This is not to say, however, that the work is done. Many delegates have emphasized that we must move beyond gender mainstreaming and the recognition of sexual and gender-based crimes. The Court still fails to undertake “the bold judging” required to challenge ingrained assumptions about the inherently gendered nature of many crimes under its jurisdiction. Additionally, the conversations undertaken by the Court on gender quotas raises questions as to why such fundamental guarantees for all genders within the Rome Statute still require justification. It is clearly a time for great change. There are many opportunities for meaningful reform to dispel the systemic failures of international criminal law and its implications for both women and men.

Politics of Gender at the ICCLouise Chappell, an internationally-renowned expert on gender and the International Criminal Court, notes in her book, which notably launched this week at the 14th ASP, “the Court’s poor record in prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes reflects continuing legacies and silences of international law and that the Court’s mixed record on gender justice is a risk to its ongoing legitimacy.” The risk noted by Ms. Chappell is one that is being mitigated by the very undertakings we are seeing at this 14th ASP.

*All quotes referencing Ms Louise Chappell’s book, The Politics of Gender Justice at the International Criminal Court: Legacies and Legitimacy, or her remarks made at her book launch.

Minnesota State Bar Association passes Conflict-Free Initiative
April 28th, 2014 | Posted By

Minnesota State Bar Association Passes Conflict-Free Initiative

On Friday, April 25, 2014, the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) passed a resolution to limit the purchase of electronics that use ‘conflict minerals’ mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Conflict minerals

For almost two decades, Congo has suffered conflict driven by armed groups struggling for control over minerals used in all small electronics. Over six million civilians have died in the deadliest conflict since World War II.

The Enough Project, a policy organization in Washington, D.C., has initiated a campaign called the ‘conflict-free initiative’ to generate city, state, business, and private support for clear-sourcing mineral and electronic purchases. Three cities, two states, several hundred colleges and universities, and many organizations around the world support this policy.

MSBA is the first bar association in the country to support the initiative; the MSBA will purchase electronics from sources that are moving toward conflict-free status.

This action was initiated by World Without Genocide.

Learn more about the Conflict Free Initiative and the Enough Project.

Auschwitz and Justice
January 27th, 2014 | Posted By

Auschwitz and Justice

by Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., Executive Director

World Without Genocide at William Mitchell College of Law

We all know the name Auschwitz, one of six extermination sites during the Holocaust where Jews were murdered in gas chambers and then turned into ashes in crematoria.

Auschwitz, near Krakow, Poland, was actually a whole network of concentration camps: a main camp, a forced-labor camp, an extermination site, and 45 satellite camps.  As many as 1.3 million people were sent to this complex, including Poles, Roma and Sinti, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah’s witnesses – and, of course, Jews.


Shocking research from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum revealed that the Nazis had organized more than 42,500 concentration camps throughout the occupied areas.  But Auschwitz is perhaps the most horrific of all these camps because it was at Auschwitz where more than a million Jews perished, 90 percent of all who were killed at the camp.  Those who were not murdered in the gas chambers died of starvation, torture, medical experimentation, individual execution, and disease.

Extermination operations at Auschwitz occurred from 1941, when the Nazis put into place the ‘Final Solution’ of what to do with the Jews of Europe, until the end of 1944.  Auschwitz was finally liberated by the Soviet army on January 27, 1945.

It is estimated that nearly 7,000 German SS members were on the staff at Auschwitz.  What happened to them after the war?

Many people know about the trials at Nuremberg, Germany in 1946 at which 23 top-ranking Nazis were prosecuted, with most found guilty of terrible crimes and many of the guilty executed.  Although the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolph Höss, was not on trial at Nuremberg, he gave detailed testimony that was used in subsequent trials.

In May 1946, the first of several prosecutions was held in Poland for those culpable with the terror at Auschwitz.  Höss was put on trial for murder. During his trial, he was accused of murdering three and a half million people.  Höss replied, “No. Only two and a half million—the rest died from disease and starvation.” He was sentenced to death and hanged in April 1947 adjacent to the crematorium at Auschwitz.

Six months later, Polish authorities put 40 former Auschwitz staff on trial including Maria Mandel, head of the Auschwitz women’s camp and known as “The Beast,” who was responsible for the deaths of at least 500,000 women; and Therese Brandl, charged with crimes against humanity for her part in the selection process that sent people to the gas chambers.  Both women were hanged, as were 19 others; one person was acquitted; and the rest were imprisoned, most for life.

Nearly twenty years later, another series of trials was held to prosecute mid- to lower-level Auschwitz officials.  These trials ran from December 1963-August 1965 and charged 22 defendants under German penal law.  The proceedings were held in Frankfurt, Germany, and are known as the ‘second Auschwitz trial’ or the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials.  Most of the accused were imprisoned, although some were acquitted and released.

Fritz Bauer

The chief prosecutor was Fritz Bauer, who had been interned in a concentration camp himself.  Although the trial attracted a great deal of publicity in Germany, Bauer was extremely upset with the media’s portrayal of the proceedings.  The perpetrators were characterized as abnormal and as monsters, which allowed the general German public to distance themselves from any culpability with the genocide.  Bauer himself commented about the German people, “There were virulent nationalists, imperialists, anti-Semites and Jew-haters. Without them, Hitler was unthinkable.”

The vast majority of SS and other personnel who had served at the Auschwitz complex were never brought to justice. Only sixty-three of approximately 7,000 SS personnel were tried after the war.

Today, 69 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we join around the world in acknowledging the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  We remember those who perished at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators:  6 million Jews, 2 million Roma and Sinti, 15,000 homosexuals, and millions of others.

There will be many ceremonies of memory, but we also need tributes in action.  We also must honor those who attempted to find justice for the victims and their families not only at Nuremberg and at the Auschwitz trials, but also at trials that occurred for decades throughout Europe – and we honor those who are dedicated to making ‘never again’ truly mean ‘never.’

Ben Ferencz
At the Nuremberg Trials in 1945 (right) and in 2002 (left)

One of those people to honor is Benjamin Ferencz.  Ferencz prosecuted the notorious Nazi mobile killing squad, the Einsatzgruppen, responsible for the shooting deaths of more than a million Jews.  He went on to dedicate his life to creating a permanent international court to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.  That tribunal, the International Criminal Court, began operating in 2002.

Ben Ferencz, age 94, continues to be a strong and vocal advocate for the Court.  The legacy of the Holocaust, and of the Nuremberg and Auschwitz trials, is not only memory and remembrance; it is also justice.

Fully 126 nations of the world have ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the principles that guide the Court’s operation.  It is the hope of people like Ben Ferencz that the United States will soon join in supporting global standards to prevent and prosecute mass atrocities.

The Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellowships in Human Rights and Law, sponsored by World Without Genocide, are forming the next generation of lawyers to follow the many who acted for justice in the past and those who work for justice today.

Martin Luther King Day and Genocide
January 20th, 2014 | Posted By

Martin Luther King Day and Genocide

Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., Executive Director

World Without Genocide at William Mitchell College of Law

The United States was charged with genocide in 1951. An organization called the Civil Rights Congress presented a document to the United Nations titled We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government against the Negro People.  In this document the US is accused of genocide against the African-American  people.

The Genocide Convention, which had been ratified by the UN only three years earlier, defines genocide as the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. The Civil Rights Congress document asserted that the lynching of blacks in the US, totaling 3,437 murders between 1882 and 1951, and the systematic and  legal discrimination in education, health care, employment, voting, and virtually every sector of public life, constituted genocide.

This was not the first time African-American supporters had appealed to the UN.  The National Negro Congress had submitted a statement in 1946 and the NAACP presented a plea in 1947.

Did the UN label the treatment of American blacks as genocide?

The UN never even acknowledged receiving We Charge Genocide and American media gave the document no coverage.

After all, these were the years of the Cold War.  America’s leaders were committed to presenting a positive and idealized picture of life in the US, a picture that certainly didn’t include the word ‘genocide’ to describe relations between blacks and whites. The US, the most influential member state in the UN, insured that the race issue was never addressed.

Not only was the possibility of genocide not raised, but African-Americans were actually accused of alliances with the Communists for portraying American life in a negative light.  Leading members of African-American groups advocating to be heard were punished or intimidated in a variety of ways.

How much have race relations changed since that document in 1951?  Today, on the anniversary of King’s birthday, we celebrate his courage in challenging the structural inequalities faced by American blacks.  But today, nearly half a century after King’s assassination, American blacks continue to be critically disadvantaged in education, health, politics, housing, and economic life.

We must acknowledge our own complicity in tolerating a society that is so uneven, unequal, and unjust.  We must ask ourselves what we can do to dismantle the structures of discrimination and prejudice. And then we must act.

Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  We must help bend that arc.


Genocide of the American Indians
January 15th, 2013 | Posted By

by Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D.

In 1948, the United Nations passed the Genocide Convention, making it a crime to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.  Forty years later the Convention finally was ratified by the United States Senate, and then only because of truly heroic efforts by Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin.  Proxmire gave 3,211 speeches on the floor of the Senate, a speech a day for 19 years, every one of them unique, until the Convention was finally passed in 1988.

Why did it take forty years for the Senate to ratify the Convention?  One reason was that our leaders were afraid that the United States would be accused of genocide. [1]

In 1455 Pope Nicholas V proclaimed that Portugal and Spain could conquer North America in the name of Christian expansion. This ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ was used to justify stripping Indian tribes of their lands and their ways of life.

Indian Land For Sale

The resulting genocide of the American Indians was carried out against every aspect of their existence.  The buffalo, essential to the Indian way of life for food, clothing, weapons, decoration, shelter, fuel, and spiritual practice, was almost completely wiped out.  Tens of thousands of Indians were sold as slaves alongside African slaves and were even sold to other colonies in the Caribbean and South America.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced almost 50,000 Indians off their lands in the southeastern part of the country and marched them to present-day Oklahoma; thousands died of starvation and disease on this Trail of Tears.  Thousands more were housed in three concentration camps and an insane asylum.

From the 1850s to the early 1900s, Indian land was even further reduced by the Dawes Act; 90,000 more Indians became homeless and 90 million acres of Indian land were lost.

Dakota hangings, 1862

Mass executions occurred throughout the country.  Soldiers massacred women and children at Sand Creek, Colorado in 1812; no one was ever held responsible.  The U.S. 7th Cavalry killed hundreds of Lakota Sioux in 1890 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, with impunity; and of course the largest mass execution in the United States – 38 Dakota were hanged in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862, ordered by then-President Abraham Lincoln only one month before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Genocide includes not only extermination but also the transfer of children of the group to another group.  Indian children were taken from their parents and their communities to be raised in white-run boarding schools where they were forced to assimilate to white Christian culture. Native religions were outlawed until 1978.

The trauma continued on into the 20th and, now, the 21st centuries.  In the 1970s the U.S. Government Indian Health Services forcibly sterilized 25-50 percent of American Indian women.  And the centuries of brutality reverberate today in a legacy of familial violence, human trafficking, alcoholism, and disease.

The City Councils of Minneapolis and St. Paul have resolved to rectify some of the wrongs that were committed here in Minnesota.  We must all support efforts to bring truth, honor, and justice to those whose lives and cultures were so brutally destroyed.


[1] The Genocide Convention Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Foreign Relations.  United States Senate, 1950, Eighty-first Congress, Second Session on the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 204-205.

Genocide in Guatemala
July 25th, 2012 | Posted By

by Ellen J. Kennedy, Executive Director, World Without Genocide


View from Rio Negro community

Two nights ago I slept at a place in Guatemala that felt haunted.  In 1982, nearly 200 women and children were marched five miles up the steep mountain hillside – and then brutally killed and buried in a mass grave.  I heard their screams and cries in my dreams.

I came to Guatemala a few weeks ago to learn more about the genocide that happened here between 1960 and 1996, a period when 200,000 people perished; 100,000 more disappeared without a trace; and more than a million others were displaced from their homes and their communities.  Nearly all of this terror was carried out by the Guatemalan government’s army.

Most of us in the US know very little about this conflict that the United Nations has called genocide.  Beginning in the 1960s, the Guatemalan dictatorial government, faced with a challenge to its power and control by rising left-wing groups of indigenous people, intellectuals, union supporters, and others, responded with tactics of horrific cruelty.

The Commission for Historical Clarification, in its 1999 report, declared, “In the majority of massacres there is evidence of multiple acts of savagery.  Acts such as the killing of defenseless children, often by beating them against walls or throwing them alive into pits where the corpses of adults were later thrown; the amputation of limbs; the impaling of victims; the killing of persons by covering them in petrol and burning them alive; the extraction, in the presence of others, of the internal organs of victims who were still alive; the confinement of people who had been mortally tortured, in agony for days; the opening of the wombs of pregnant women, and other similarly atrocious acts, were not only actions of extreme cruelty against the victims, but also morally degraded the perpetrators and those who inspired, ordered or tolerated these actions.”

Massacre site memorial

A report by Human Rights Watch from 1984 discussed “the murder of thousands by a military government that maintains its authority by terror. One example is the massacre of over 160 civilians by government soldiers in the village of Las Dos Erres in 1982. The abuses included burying some alive in the village well, killing infants by slamming their heads against walls, keeping young women alive to be raped over the course of three days. This was not an isolated incident. Rather it was one of over 400 massacres documented by the truth commission – some of which, according to the commission, constituted “acts of genocide.”

Although the conflict technically ended in 1996, the government continues to target those who advocate for indigenous rights, land reform, an end to corruption, and a commitment to the enactment of the rule of law.

Today I’m in the small town of Huehuetanengo, a community that was particularly targeted during the genocide.  Thirty years after that conflict, the human rights leaders here today want the same things that their mothers and fathers fought for a generation ago.  There are laws to protect innocent civilians, enhance democracy, and preserve indigenous rights and cultures – but the laws are not enforced and the government and its army remain in full control of the political and economic sectors.

Genocides destabilize communities, countries, and regions for decades and for generations.   Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum earlier this week and affirmed the United States’ commitment to genocide prevention.  The opportunity is ours – to leave a legacy of a world without genocide.

World in Guatemala
July 10th, 2012 | Posted By

Greetings from Guatemala! Executive Director Dr. Ellen J. Kennedy and Program and Operations Coordinator Rachel Beecroft are traveling in Guatemala until July 26, in partnership with Rights Action, a human rights organization based out of Washington, D. C. and Toronto, Canada. Check out the work Rights Action does here.

We will spend time at the site of Marlin gold mine in the Department of San Marcos and the Chixoy Dam in the Department of Baja Verapaz, the site of the Rio Negro Massacre between 1980 and 1982.  We will have the immense privilege of hearing the stories of the Mayans who struggle against exploitation and atrocity testimony.

The Marlin gold mine is located in eastern Guatemala. Discovered in 1998 and developed into a working mine shortly thereafter, the mine has both open-pit and underground operations. Production will continue until at least 2017. Roughly 1,900 people work at the mine – half are locals and nearly all (98%) are Guatemalan. In addition to environmental concerns, there are allegations that development of the mine did not adequately consult the indigenous people and that existence of the mine is in violation of those peoples.

The Chixoy Dam is a concrete dam and power plant on the Chixoy River in central Guatemala. It was built in the 70s and 80s, and generates roughly 15% of the country’s power. Construction displaced over 3,445 people from several communities. The government orchestrated forced relocations from fertile agricultural lands to surrounding highlands. Over 440 Maya Achi were killed in the village of Rio Negro in as a result of the forced relocations and thousands were raped, kidnapped, and killed by paramilitary and military officials between 1980 and 1982, known as the Rio Negro Massacres. Claims relating to the Massacres have not yet been settled.

Upon return to Minneapolis, Kennedy and Beecroft will participate in an ‘It’s a Woman’s World’ taping and broadcast addressing the issues they investigated in Guatemala.

Stay tuned for more information on the broadcast and on World in Guatemala!

NYC – D.C. Human Rights Tour: A Lesson in Phenomenal Work and Human Rights
March 20th, 2012 | Posted By

By Emerson Beishline

Over spring break, Ellen Kennedy, Director at World Without Genocide, headed a five-day trip to New York City and Washington, D.C. that gave a small group of us the privilege to engage in lengthy dialogue with some of the most brilliant minds in national security policy, international law, and the wide-reaching field of international human rights.

On the first day of our trip we toured the United Nations while it was in session and then met with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ External Relations Officer. He spoke with us for an hour, giving us a quick lesson in the UNHCR’s purpose and objectives, the status of displaced people, asylum seekers, and refugees around the world, and closed with a discussion of all the durable solutions currently being implemented by the organization. After the awe-inspiring tour of the UN (while the General Assembly was in session, no less) and our conversation with the officer, we met with the Convener and Deputy Convener for the American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC) and the Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University. We discussed the purpose and objectives of the International Criminal Court and parsed the Rome Statute and the related concerns of legitimacy and membership. That evening we had free time.   I explored Harlem, a place of interest given my Finnish heritage; it was a Finn enclave in the early 1900’s.

On Tuesday we visited Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and learned about their respective priority campaigns around the world and, of course, internship opportunities for law students. I think the biggest thing I personally took away from our meetings with people at the two organizations was how vastly different their approaches to human rights are. Amnesty International is a grassroots organization that focuses on educating and mobilizing the public, while Human Rights Watch approaches policymakers at the highest levels of government. Both approaches are essential and combine to create the synergy of bottom-up and top-down advocacy. After this fruitful day, I spent the evening at  Godspell on Broadway with a fellow law student.

Wednesday morning, we met with the Director of the International Women’s Program at the Open Society Foundation, and learned about the organization’s grant-making mission, discussed the Violence Against Women Act at length, and talked about the Israel-Palestine conflict. That afternoon we headed for D.C. by train and ended the evening with a  walking tour of the monuments on the National Mall.

On Thursday we visited the Holocaust Museum in the morning and then spent the rest of the day meeting with representatives of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience, The Enough Project, and United to End Genocide. The Committee on Conscience staff talked with us about the organization’s hybrid role as a public-private institution and programs to increase awareness among the general public and to provide perspective to influential think tank. People from the Enough Project explained their campaign for ethical supply chain management and conflict-free products, and programs to help reduce the violence happening in the northeast part of the Congo, where more than 6 million people have perished. United to End Genocide’s director of their national student movement ended the afternoon by focusing on worldwide activities to bring attention to mass atrocities in Sudan, Syria, and other parts of the world. We ended the day by solving the murder in Shear Madness, the long-running play at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

On the last day of our trip we toured the Supreme Court. We then went to meet with key staff at the offices of some our elected officials:  Representative Keith Ellison’s Legislative Assistant for Foreign Affairs, Senator Al Franken’s National Security Advisor and Deputy Legislative Director, and Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Chief Counsel. We talked about everything from national security to VAWA to the possibility of using drones for human rights abuses monitoring to internship and job opportunities on the Hill. We then visited with a lawyer from the Office of the General Counsel at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Fittingly, we ended the trip with a visit to the U.S. Institute of Peace and learned all about its mission and efforts to help de-escalate conflict situations.

So, you, the persevering reader, might wonder if the trip was worth it. Make that an emphatic “Yes!” The trip was remarkably engaging. It was incredibly formative and life-changing. I finished this trip with a more complete understanding of how much  impact each of us can have in the realm of international human rights. I currently intern for a civil liberties organization that deals primarily with abuses that occur  here in Minnesota. I am also a Finnish citizen and have lived abroad for several years. This trip helped me realize more than ever that to become a truly conscientious global citizen, I need to dedicate myself to providing solutions both at home and abroad. Take this trip, gain some perspective; see if it changes you.

(Note from World Without Genocide:  Next year’s trip dates are Sunday, March 3 – Friday, March 8, 2013.  For more information call 651-695-7621 or contact   The trip is open to all William Mitchell students.)