An Australian international criminal lawyer spoke of the horrific experiences of victims and survivors of ongoing genocides in countries throughout the world at a Griffith University round table in October.
Contemporary genocide round table
The round table was part of the Australian International Criminal Law Workshop 2019: International Criminal Justice Futures – a two-day program, presented by Griffith’s Law Futures Centre.
Melinda Taylor, who also represented Julian Assange and is the cofounder of the Yazidi Asylum Project – which aims to provide assistance and raise awareness of Yazidi asylum seekers in Europe – discussed both the alleged attempted genocide by Islamic State of the Yazidi and violence in Myanmar against the Rohingya.
Law Futures Centre researcher Dr Emma Palmer said there were advantages and disadvantages to the use of the term “genocide” when trying to assist in these terrible situations.
“There continue to be accusations that genocide is being perpetrated around the world, but it remains a very controversial topic, not least because its legal dimensions can be quite different to the way the word is popularly used,” Dr Palmer said.
“I hope the round table helped to provide greater prominence to the discussions about violence against these and other groups, as it involved a rich discussion about both the benefits and challenges of the “genocide” label and debate about the justice response to genocide.”
The International Criminal Court
Taylor also presented a keynote speech which highlighted some of the flaws of the ICC, but also suggested ways other international bodies could support it.
“In just more than 20 years of operation, the ICC has been a beacon of hope and a source of inspiration… but it has carried the weight of expectation of hundreds of thousands of victims from many countries on its shoulders,” she said.
“The Court has only issued four final convictions.
“In many regards, the best way that (international bodies) can support the ICC is by lightening the load and using its own domestic systems for investigating and prosecuting any crimes which fall within its jurisdiction.
“A new breed of International, Impartial and Independent Mechanisms can play a key role by collecting evidence concerning contextual elements for crimes against humanity and war crimes which can be shared with national authorities with a view to ensuring that each state doesn’t have to recreate the wheel each time they launch a domestic investigation.
“International justice is one aspect of the obligation to prevent and punish – but it is not the only one.”
The focus of the wider workshop, held on October 28-29 at Brisbane’s Supreme Court Library Conference Centre, was the exploration and debate of the future of international criminal justice.
The workshop included a keynote speech by McGill University’s Professor Frédéric Mégret, sessions on the promise, politics and future of international criminal justice, as well as future challenges to impunity gaps, future crimes in International Criminal Law and futures beyond the trial.