ASP 2017
January 10th, 2018 | Posted By

World Without Genocide and the International Criminal Court

Introduction.  The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an international tribunal in The Hague in the Netherlands. It has a unique jurisdiction:  to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

The ICC is intended to complement countries’ existing legal systems and is to be used only when a country is either unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the UN or individual countries refer specific cases to its jurisdiction.

The ICC has a long legacy, harkening back to the model of the international Nuremberg trials that followed World War II.  For the next fifty years, however, there was no permanent court to address the most egregious crimes on the planet.













To address this gap, the United Nations created ad hoc tribunals to prosecute perpetrators of the genocides in Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, and elsewhere, but these courts had no jurisdiction beyond the specific cases of mass atrocities that were the ad hoc courts’ charges.

The ICC came into being in 1998 with the ratification of the Rome Statute, a document that outlines the court’s foundation and procedures.  The Court began functioning in 2002 and addresses cases occurring from 2002 forward.

Currently, there are 123 nations that are parties to the Rome Statute, and therefore members of the ICC.  The United States is not one of those nations.













Assembly of State Parties.  Every year, representatives of the 123 nations that are members of the ICC participate in a two-week administrative meeting called the Assembly of State Parties (ASP).  The ASP is held alternately either in The Hague, Netherlands, where the ICC is located, or at United Nations headquarters in New York.

Attendance at ASP includes not only members of the state parties but also representatives of those countries that are not yet members, such as the US, and also non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  It is in that context that World Without Genocide is involved.

For the past four years, we have participated with the AMICC delegation, the American NGO Coalition for the ICC.  This year, two of our Ferencz Fellows joined Dr. Ellen Kennedy for the meetings. Sarah Erickson, J.D., served as the delegation’s Deputy Convener. She and Helena Sung, third-year student at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, attended key meetings and prepared reports that will be distributed to NGO leaders throughout the US.

ASP issues included victims’ rights; gender issues in justice; budgetary and procedural decisions; election of new judges; and much more. Our two rapporteurs have written blog posts about issues that were particularly important to them, and we invite you to read their remarks below. Please share comments with us at

Group Photo, Cropped

Helena Sung, Ellen Kennedy, and Sarah Erickson at the Assembly of State Parties, 2017, held at the United Nations, New York.


Role of Victims in the Fight against Impunity

Helena Sung

Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law

World Without Genocide

Victims play a central part in the International Criminal Court (ICC). When the Court was formed,  the Rome Statute, which specifies the ICC’s procedures, gives victims the right to participate in trials and establishes victims’ rights to seek and receive reparations, which include both monetary compensation and rehabilitation. The first side event during the 16th session of the Assembly State Parties (ASP), titled “Victims’ Reflections on Reparative Justice – the Voice and Role of Victims on the Fight Against Impunity for Core Crimes Under International Law,” highlighted the importance of victims from various perspectives.

Darfur village burning.

Burning Darfur village

A Darfuri victim recounted his experience as a survivor and refugee. Before the attack on his village in Darfur, Mohmed was a volunteer teacher. When the attack happened, Mohmed lost his brother and was forced to leave his family behind to seek safe refuge. ICC proponents often underscore the ICC’s role to provide justice for victims, and Mohamed emphasized this importance in his testimony.  He stated that the ICC is the only hope for justice for victims and survivors just like him, and this is why he participates in the ICC proceedings.

Joseph Akwenyu Manoba is a legal victim representative. He, too, emphasized that victims view the ICC as the only credible option for justice. He said that victims aren’t able to trust the local justice system. Mr. Manoba further highlighted that local civil societies and victim advocates have faith in the ICC, and they share this belief with the victims. Legal representatives and victim advocates are often the first contact that a victim has before any ICC proceedings begin. The lerepresentatives and advocates become the bridge between the ICC and the victims. Because of the trust built from these relationships with the victims, the legal representatives and advocates become invaluable partners of the ICC institution.

Joseph Akwenyu Manoba, Victim Representative

Joseph Akwenyu Manoba, Victim Representative

The ICC was created with the foresight of reparative justice for victims. Although the trauma and damage of the atrocities can never be fully repaired and restored, the ICC works to that end.  The panel ended with a reminder by Dr. Yael Danieli that reparative justice is not an endpoint but a process by which victims need to be treated with dignity and respect. A continued commitment for reparative justice is needed to make it a reality for victims.

Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice

Sarah Erickson, J.D.

Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law

World Without Genocide

Brigid Inder, Special Advisor on Gender

Brigid Inder, Special Advisor on Gender

Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice is an international organization working to bring justice for women and communities affected by armed conflict. Gender Justice has played an integral role in creating and maintaining an independent and effective International Criminal Court since the Court’s inception. Its Executive Director, Brigid Inder, served as Special Advisor on Gender to Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensounda, helping the Prosecutor implement policies aimed at reaching gender equity at all levels and in all areas of the Court’s functions

Gender Justice staff documents incidents of sexual and gender-based crimes and publishes reports based on the data. The latest publication, The Compendium, is an analysis of the Court’s cases: each of the twenty-five cases that the Court has prosecuted, all cases currently in process, and each of the preliminary examinations. The analysis examines each in turn, notes the status of the case and any gender-based crimes charges, and provides implications of these charges in short descriptions and easy- to-comprehend charts.

Legacy Wall

At this year’s Assembly of State Parties, the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice launched the Legacy Wall, pictured right. This wall is a living memorial made up of individual tiles that create a mosaic commemorating people who have worked and continue to work tirelessly to advance global gender justice. As global justice continues to progress, the wall will grow to include the next generations of human rights leaders. The Legacy Wall will be installed later this year at the ICC’s permanent location in The Hague, Netherlands.

Honorees include human rights giants Angelina Jolie, Navi Pillay, United States Supreme Court Justice Ruther Bader Ginsberg, International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, and Nuremburg prosecutor and lifelong ICC advocate Benjamin Ferencz. The honorees also include individuals whose names we will never know: courageous men and women who are known only by witness numbers that were assigned to them when they testified against heinous perpetrators of sexual and gender-based crimes.

I am humbled and inspired by these brave people who are standing up to protect those who are the most vulnerable.


Personal Reflection: Making Reparative Justice into Reality

Helena Sung

Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law

World Without Genocide

I had dreamed of attending the 16th Assembly of State Parties of the International Court.  The reason is that the ICC includes victims as part of the international legal framework, which I feel is critical to justice. I wanted to witness and learn firsthand the progress and challenges faced by implementing the reparative justice framework.

The ICC has demonstrated its commitment to victims by the large number of victims participating in trials and the recent development of reparation mandates ordered by the Court. As of September 2017, over 12, 985 victims have participated in proceedings before the Court. The Court also expects that an additional 7,400 victims will apply for participation and reparations in 2018.

Despite the ICC’s encouraging progress with victim involvement, however, there are also continued challenges.  One of those challenges is the lack of a clear legal aid system to ensure victims’ choice of legal representation.  A second challenge is that the Trust Fund for Victims, tha fund of voluntary contributions for victims’ reparative justice, has decreased sharply.  The Fund is supported solely through these voluntary gifts The grave need for an improved victim legal representation infrastructure and the dire need for state parties to increase their donations to the Fund demonstrate the difficulties of making reparative justice a reality.  On the other hand, state parties, victims, and victims’ advocates all expressed a dedication to making reparative justice a true reality. One recommendation is to link contributions to reparative justice to the particular country where that justice is most needed, and to have countries support these efforts at greater levels for their own nations.

Although the US is not involved as a state party, we can draw important lessons about reparative justice from the ICC efforts. For example, there are specialty courts across the US based on the concept of restorative justice, a unique effort in our justice system that is almost completely based on retributive justice, or punishment.

Trust Fund for Victims

Personal Commentary on the Assembly of States Parties, 2017

Sarah Erickson, J.D.

Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law

World Without Genocide

I have attended the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court, or ASP, for the past three years on behalf of World Without Genocide. For the first two years, the meeting was held in The Hague, Netherlands at a major conference center called The World Forum. This year the meeting was at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The difference between the two venues was noticeable. The politics that come in to play during meetings of the UN seemed to carry over into ASP in terms of more formality and fewer opportunities for connecting with people from other countries.

Although the meeting is an ‘assembly of states parties,’ meaning that it is a gathering of representatives of the 123 nations that have ratified the Court’s Rome Statute, members of civil society are allowed and, indeed, encouraged to attend as well. People from NGOs, journalists, aid workers, researchers, and others come from all over the world to share their experiences, with a hope and a belief that the Court will make a difference in seeking justice for targeted people everywhere.

The official ASP delegates negotiated some very important issues this year. They elected new judges, passed the operating budget, and concluded the long-awaited activation of the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.  However, much of this negotiation happened behind closed doors and without the input of NGOs and other civil society members. I have become very engaged in these issues over the past years, especially the prospect of the Court announcing the activation of the crime of aggression. it was disappointing that I couldn’t attend these important discussions.

Tickets to daily session

Tickets to daily session

This unusual structure had a very positive outcome. Members of NGOs, unable to attend delegates-only meetings, gathered together in the hallways, and conversations occurred between people who might otherwise would not have met. Even if official delegates did not always find mutual ground, their civil society representatives were often able to do so. The previous two years’ ASP meetings may have been easier to navigate, both physically and politically, but this year I saw civil society members from nations with opposing politics state their positions unapologetically and find a way to overcome significant differences.

For the third consecutive year, I came away inspired, re-invigorated to continue advocating for United States participation in the ICC, and proud to be able to advocate for the only court in the world that holds individuals accountable for the gravest of crimes.

The Constitution and the Travel Ban
September 6th, 2017 | Posted By

Professor Anthony Winer, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, recently discussed “The Constitution and the Travel Ban,” the administration’s travel ban affecting six Muslim-majority countries and potential areas of constitutional conflict.

Download (PPTX, 57KB)

10 Steps to Change the Climate
September 5th, 2017 | Posted By

Change the Climate

People think that climate change can be stopped only by big efforts:  switching to electric cars, wind power, etc.  But every single one of us can make a difference – and if we all do a few of these simple things, the impact will be enormous.

  1. Showers. Refugees in a refugee camp get 20 liters of water a day. Period.  That’s for cooking, washing, bathing, everything.  The average American uses 65 liters in a single shower.  So get wet, turn off the water while you soap up, then turn the water on for a quick rinse.  Don’t waste our scarcest resource.
  2. Straws. Americans use 500 million straws every day, 182,500,000,000 every year. They wind up in the oceans, where they kill sea life and change marine ecosystems.  Don’t use a straw.
  3. Plastic bags. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil are used to make the 30 million plastic bags that Americans use each year, the equivalent amount to the supply in our Strategic Oil Reserve.  This is a wasteful use of oil.  But even worse is the buildup of plastic in the oceans. At least 100,000 marine animals die each year from suffocating on or ingesting plastic bags.  And littered bags break up into pieces that enter our waterways.  The toxins in these waste particles affect our food supply.  And as the plastic breaks up, it releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  The worldwide consumption of plastic bags is nearly a trillion a year. Carry a reusable bag when you shop.
  4. Food. Diets that focus on meat from cows, sheep, and goats are major drivers of climate pollution.  These grazing animals require a lot of pasture land that could be forested, soaking up carbon from the air.  Give up meat, including chicken and turkey, a few days a week.
  5. Reduce, re-use, recycle. These opportunities are pretty simple:  use less stuff.  Use it over again. And when you’re through with it, recycle it.
  6. Plant a tree. If you have a yard, plant a tree.  If you don’t have a yard, donate a tree to be planted somewhere else.  Watch it grow.
  7. Travel differently. Walk and bike more. Carpool.  Use mass transit.  Stay home.
  8. Unplug. We use electricity when we turn devices off but keep them plugged in.
  9. Doggie bags. Bring your own when you go to a restaurant.  The restaurant ones usually aren’t recyclable.
  10. Say no to the glass of water at a restaurant if you don’t drink it. It’s that simple.


This sculpture in Tromsco, Norway, the Tavaha Wale, is made of marine litter found in the nearby waters. 'Tavaha' in Norwegian means 'take care of the ocean.'

This sculpture in Tromsco, Norway, the Tavaha Wale, is made of marine litter found in the nearby waters. ‘Tavaha’ in Norwegian means ‘take care of the ocean.’

Genocide is an Iceberg
September 5th, 2017 | Posted By

Genocide is an Iceberg

Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D.

Executive Director


The Titanic sank when it hit an iceberg.  An iceberg’s appearance is deceptive.  Only a small part is above the water line but it goes far under the ocean, invisible and deadly to an extent that people on the surface don’t anticipate.

What is the relationship between an iceberg and genocide?

On the surface, we think that genocide is caused by the factors in the UN Genocide Convention: “the intent to exterminate, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” Genocides have been labeled with these characteristics:  Armenian Christians persecuted in the Muslim Ottoman Empire; Jews exterminated by Aryan Nazis; Tutsis in Rwanda persecuted by Hutu neighbors; Muslims slaughtered by Serbs in Srebrenica; Yazidis in Syria killed by Muslims; Uighurs in China targeted by the Han; etc.

We tend to believe that people kill others because of competing backgrounds and beliefs.

But there are many places in the world where people see the world differently, have different backgrounds and experiences, and yet live together in harmony.

So why does genocide happen in some places and not in others?

Those defining characteristics are only the visible tip of the iceberg. Skin color.  Ethnicity and national origin, discernable through language.   Religion, labeled by clothing or other outward signs.

It’s easy to see the manifestations on the tip of the iceberg and to categorize people accordingly.  And when we can categorize them, we single them out as being different, as “other” from us.

But these characteristics, by themselves, don’t create hate, fear, or polarization, and they don’t lead to genocide.

What’s below the tip of the iceberg does that.

The potentially deadly factors are under the iceberg’s tip:  political instability and economic turmoil.  These are the ultimate causes of genocide. They motivate a weak ruling elite to rally a majority population that is desperately fearful about an uncertain future.  The leaders blame a vulnerable racial, religious, ethnic, or national minority for everything unfortunate that is happening and encourage the majority to target the minority.  Politics and economics drive hatred and violence.

If we go further yet below the iceberg’s surface, we find a ‘force multiplier’ and a trigger, a factor that makes a country’s internal turmoil even worse:  climate change.  Famines from floods, droughts, and other natural disasters can push an already-shaky government to take desperate measures.

Climate experts document conditions that indicate a likelihood of violence connected with extremes in temperatures and rainfall:

  • communities that are vulnerable to adverse climatic conditions,
  • communities where institutions can’t respond effectively to agricultural devastation and the flight of hungry rural people to the cities, and
  • communities where people at risk can’t obtain essential services.

We must look below the surface to prevent violence.  We must be watchful of hate-filled messages that take root during political and economic upheaval. We must strengthen civil society in vulnerable communities, promote practices in rural areas to withstand the ravages of drought and flood, and, ultimately, we must address climate change, the hidden ‘force multiplier’ of violence.

ASP 2016
February 13th, 2017 | Posted By

Ferencz logo


Accountability for Syria

by Shannon Jankowski

Since 2011, stories of Syrian atrocities have horrified the world. As the conflict raged on, many looked to the International Criminal Court as a means of attaining justice. However, Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute, leaving the ICC with limited avenues for gaining jurisdiction. The United Nations Security Council can refer the situation to the ICC, but to date, Russia has blocked attempts to do so. Some countries have prosecuted perpetrators fleeing Syria under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, yet those prosecuted are mostly low-level perpetrators, with the most powerful remaining out of reach.

In the absence of immediate options, the international community gathered at the Assembly of States Parties to discuss efforts to facilitate future accountability. Organizations such as the International Commission for Missing Persons and the Syrian Justice Accountability Center are working with refugees to gather DNA-based evidence for the future identification of victims and the locations of possible mass graves. Through witness interviews, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability is linking high and mid-level officials to specific crimes. The UN, Europol, and the Netherlands are also pursuing a joint investigative effort for evidence collection and documentation. With most predicting that accountability for Syria may take 20-25 years post-conflict, collecting this evidence now is critical to ensuring that those responsible are brought to justice and that victims receive reparations. Though access to justice is currently blocked, through its work, the international community is striving to ensure that justice delayed will not be justice denied.

The World Before 1993

by Amanda McAllister

This November, I was part of an NGO delegation to the 15th Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. I attended a session entitled “The ICC and Crimes Against Humanity.”

Sir Geoffrey Nice, while explaining the requisite elements for ensuring accountability for war criminals and oppressive regimes, stated that, many of us, because of our youth, didn’t know a “world before 1993:” the year the criminal tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was established. The establishment of the ICTY was groundbreaking and opportunistic in the thawing of relations after the Cold War.

Yet, he pointed out, my generation didn’t know that world, where there was no expectation that bad regimes or unlawful wars would be held to account; a world where there was no Hague to send war criminals to.  Rather, those of us of who didn’t know that time grew up with the belief, and the expectation even, that leaders of regimes like the DPRK can and should be held to account. In law school, I had learned about the history of international criminal law, but I hadn’t truly considered how much this expectation informed my worldview.

He finished by stating that the hopes and expectations of the ordinary citizen “cannot be allowed to die.” While significant obstacles remain, as the recent withdrawals from the Court demonstrate, I feel gratitude for those whose hopes and expectations weren’t tempered by what seemed to be political impossibilities and whose dreams constructed “a world after 1993.”


Modern Slavery

by Shannon Jankowski

It is estimated that 20 -45 million people live in slavery. Yet justice remains elusive: in relation to the millions of victims, only about 5,000 prosecutions have occurred. A side event at the Assembly of States Parties sought to raise awareness of this issue and explore the role of international criminal justice in the fight against modern slavery.

The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over crimes of enslavement and sexual slavery, but only when committed as part of a widespread or systematic civilian “attack”, or when committed as part of a plan or policy during armed conflict. This high threshold fails to capture many perpetrators of contemporary slavery.

Panelists therefore stressed the importance of assisting domestic governments in implementing anti-slavery legislation and in educating citizens and law enforcement. Uganda, a nation facing significant trafficking issues, created an awareness campaign designed to reach potential victims through billboards and the media. It also launched training for transnational corporations and entered into multi-national agreements regarding fair labor standards. Yet the impunity gap remains: a Ugandan representative confirmed that out of 108 investigations, only 5 resulted in prosecutions. Many nations either do not have legislation against slavery, or struggle to define slavery due to religious and tribal customs condoning sexual slavery and forced marriage.

While there is hope that international anti-laundering laws and the UN’s commitment to end slavery through its 2030 Sustainable Development initiative will bring progress, much work remains to ensure that victims of slavery have access to freedom and justice.


The Long Reach of Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea

Amanda McAllister

During my experience as an NGO delegate to the 15th Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court, I attended a side-event entitled “The ICC and Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea.” This side event was one of the most powerful sessions I attended. It spoke deeply to the strength of the human spirit, the power of the individual in demanding accountability, and the obligation of states to listen to those voices.

The session began with the testimony of a biophysicist from North Korea who defected to South Korea. After illegally listening to South Korean radio for one week, he experienced a watershed moment, describing it “as if a castle was pushed over by a wave.” One week was all it took to “open his eyes” to the nature of liberal democracies and of dictatorships. He described the feeling as a profound sense of loss and betrayal, where forty years of values, ideas, philosophies, and patriotism were demolished, having been built on the fragile ground of authoritarian-fabricated lies. He knew the severity of punishments for listening to South Korean radio, and had to keep the revelations to himself.

After Kim Jong-un took power, he planned to escape North Korea. Before he was able to execute his plan, however, he was detained, beaten, and tortured by authorities. After he was released, he attempted again to escape and successfully defected to South Korea.  He concluded his remarkable story by imploring the ICC address human rights violations in North Korea.

Action Paralysis
February 10th, 2017 | Posted By

Action Paralysis

Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D.

Governor Mark Dayton said recently, “This is a hard time for human rights. Are we going to stand back or are we going to stand up?”

Of course we’re going to stand up. But stand up for what?

Every morning I wonder what the day’s news will bring: which human right will be abridged, which group of people will be increasingly marginalized, which effort at global peace and justice will be at gravest risk of being dismantled. What will I do today, I think; which issue needs attention most desperately?

Lack of access to health care. Poverty. Violence against women. Hunger. Genocides on three continents. Denial of women’s reproductive rights. Child soldiers. Sex trafficking. Corruption, political instability, and widening economic inequality. Climate change. Xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Muslimism. The worst refugee crisis in world history. Racial inequities in housing, education, and the law. Unequal treatment of those who identify as LGBTQ. Denial of access to voting. The list is endless, and rights that were so hard-won only yesterday might be gone tomorrow.

The problems are local and global, inter-connected and complex.  If we think about that long list, we can become paralyzed in a cycle of rage, despair, fear, and inaction.  So how do we move forward?

For me, it’s simple. I think about William Proxmire, the late senator from Wisconsin.

The Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide was passed in the United Nations in 1945. In the mid-1960s, the US still hadn’t ratified it, a process that requires 67 ‘yes’ votes in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Proxmire took on the task of getting it ratified, something he assumed would be easily accomplished.

He 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 ratified in 1988 – forty years after its ratification by the UN.

Senator Proxmire kept standing up.

Imagine that. All those speeches, all those years – and he didn’t give up. We can’t give up, either. Pick your issue. Stand up. And keep standing up, just like Senator Proxmire.


Albert Einstein World Destroyed

Stand With for Our Muslim Neighbors
January 27th, 2017 | Posted By

Petition Image

During the presidential campaign, Trump often called for a national registry of all Muslims living in the US.

All Jews were registered throughout Nazi-controlled Europe during the Holocaust.  The purpose?  To be able to find them, round them up, and eventually, to exterminate them.

Fred Amram is a Holocaust survivor. He will willingly put his name on a national registry of Muslims, if there is one. So will I. So will Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State.

The City of Minneapolis passed a resolution committing to protect all citizens from attempts to create a national registry based on ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation.

Let us know if you’ll take a stand against a national registry. And will you join Fred and me in signing up with our Muslim friends and neighbors, if it comes to that? Sign the pledge here.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Stand up against hate in remembering the Holocaust.

Denying The Truth
January 23rd, 2017 | Posted By

A school in Croatia was hosting an exhibit about Anne Frank, presented by a local organization in partnership with the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam.  The school director complained that the exhibit unfairly portrayed Croatian fighters during World War II, the Ustasa, as villains, and he demanded that the exhibit be removed.

The exhibit was, indeed, removed. And the Ustasa were, in truth, villains.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum website has the following information: “The Ustasa were pro-German Croatian fascists. After the Axis invasion and partition of Yugoslavia in April 1941, the Germans established a dependent Croatian state. The Croatian regime began a genocidal campaign against minority groups and killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs and tens of thousands of Jews in Croatia.”

The exhibit depicted Anne Frank’s life and also highlighted crimes committed against Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascist by the Ustasa.

There have been 23 successful exhibitions in Croatia so far, seen by over 40,000 visitors.

We can’t allow revisionists to change the truth of the past.

Anne Frank