Afghanistan today announced its decision to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), signaling the government’s increased efforts to weaken the power of feuding warlords, reported the Reuters English News Service. Alluding to repeated human rights violations committed by opposing warlord factions, Presidential spokesman Sayed Fazi Akbar told Reuters English, “Based on the evidence delivered to us and on the principles of the ICC, we will submit the criminals for trial.”
Afghanistan joins 87 ratifying parties and 139 signatories in supporting the Rome Statute, the treaty establishing the ICC that entered into force last July. The Bush administration has strongly opposed the ICC, claiming that it could subject US personnel to politically motivated prosecutions abroad. The United States—the only industrialized country that has not signed the treaty—has negotiated bilateral immunity agreements with several countries, including Afghanistan. The ICC has widespread support in the US from groups such as the Feminist Majority because it identifies gender crimes and the crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Article 7 of the Rome Statute presents clear language that defines rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity as gender crimes.
Afghanistan’s accession to the ICC follows President Hamid Karzai’s move Saturday, establishing four commissions tasked with disarming warlord militias and building the national army. The four commissions aim to develop a national army 70,000-strong, but skeptics question the willingness of factional fighters to disarm.
Meanwhile, Afghan women and girls continue to face uncertainty. Despite advancements such as United Nations Development Fund for Women’s (UNIFEM) creation of the country’s first association for female judges, the Afghan Women Judges Association (AWJA), women still suffer setbacks. In Herat, the warlord Ismail Khan—claiming to uphold Islamic principles—recently instituted new restrictions, banning women from privately run courses taught by men. Last year, Khan banned wedding parties in city restaurants and also prohibited women from visiting parks at night or riding in a car unchaperoned by a close male relative, according to Reuters.
The Feminist Majority and others urge the Bush administration to support the expansion of international peacekeeping troops beyond and within Kabul.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .