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International Human Rights

Accountability of Private Military and Security Contractors in the International Legal Regime


Huskey, Kristine A. 2012. Accountability of Private Military and Security Contractors in the International Legal Regime. Criminal Justice Ethics 31(3): 193-212.

Author: Kristine Huskey


The rapidly growing presence of private military and security contractors (PMSCs) in armed conflict and post-conflict situations in the last decade brought corresponding incidents of serious misconduct by PMSC personnel. The two most infamous events one involving the firm formerly known as Blackwater and the other involving Titan and CACl engendered scrutiny of available mechanisms for criminal and civil accountability of the individuals whose misconduct caused the harm. Along a parallel track, scholars and policymakers began examining the responsibility of states and international organizations for the harm that occurred. Both approaches have primarily focused on post-conduct accountability of the individuals who caused the harm, of the state in which the harm occurred, or of the state or organization that hired the PMSC whose personnel caused the harm. Less attention, however, has been paid to the idea of pre-conduct accountability for PMSCs and their personnel. A broad understanding of accountability for PMSCs and their personnel encompasses not only responsibility for harm caused by conduct, but responsibility for hiring, hosting, and monitoring these entities, as well as responsibility to the victims of the harm. This article provides a comprehensive approach for analyzing the existing international legal regime, and whether and to what extent the legal regime provides accountability for PMSCs and their personnel. It does so by proposing a practical construct of three phases based on PMSC operations Contracting, In-the-Field, and Post-Conduct with which to assess the various bodies of international law.


Keywords: private military and security companies, accountability, international human rights law, International Humanitarian Law, Montreux Document, International Criminal Law, U.N. Draft Convention on Private Military and Security Contractors

Topics: International Law, International Criminal Law, International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law IHL, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Security Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2012

Sexual Minorities in Conflict Zones: A Review of the Literature


Moore, Melinda W., and John R. Barner. 2017. “Sexual Minorities in Conflict Zones: A Review of the Literature.” Aggression and Violent Behavior 35: 33-37.

Authors: Melinda W. Moore, John R. Barner


In civil and ethnic conflict, sexual minorities experience a heightened risk for war crimes such as sexual violence, torture, and death. As a result, sexual minorities remain an invisible population in armed conflict out of a need for safety. Further study of sexual minorities in conflict zones confronts matters of human rights, war crimes, and the psychosocial effects of war. This article reviews the existing research on sexual minorities in conflict zones, examines the findings on human rights, war crimes, and the psychosocial effects of war and violence on sexual minority populations, and reviews the barriers to effectiveness faced by intervention programs developed spe- cifically to aid post-conflict societies. The article concludes with a summary of findings within the literature and further considerations for research on aggression and violent behavior with sexual minority groups in conflict zones.

Keywords: violence, aggression, Sexual minorities, gender, war, armed conflict, human rights

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender-Based Violence, International Law, International Human Rights, Justice, War Crimes, LGBTQ, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, SV against men, SV against women, Torture, Sexual Torture, Violence

Year: 2017

Translating and Internalising International Human Rights Law: The Courts of Melanesia Confront Gendered Violence


Zorn, Jean G. 2016. "Translating and Internalising International Human Rights Law: The Courts of Melanesia Confront Gendered Violence." In Gender Violence & Human Rights: Seeking Justice in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, edited by Aletta Biersack, Margaret Jolly, and Martha Macintyre, 229-70. Australia: ANU Press.

Author: Jean G. Zorn


"CEDAW has had a salutary effect on the island nations of the South Pacific, including Papua New Guinea. To say that, however, is not to say very much. To date, CEDAW’s effect has been limited— and the problems of women’s subordination and of widespread, systemic violence against women remain obdurate and intractable. Nevertheless, it is a beginning. Guided by the analyses of Meyersfeld and Koh, who pointed out that the first impact of an international law on the politics, economy and social ordering of any culture will most likely be found in the legal practices of that culture, I sought for evidence of CEDAW in the decisions handed down by judges of the state courts. And, indeed, I found a number of cases—still scattered, but potentially influential—in which judges have not only mentioned CEDAW’s existence, but have actually relied upon it in framing the common law and in applying domestic statutes. In other words, in the Meyersfeld/Koh terminology, judges are aiding the infiltration of this crucially important piece of international law into the domestic legal system" (Zorn, 2016, p. 262).

Topics: Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Law, International Human Rights, Rights, Women's Rights, Sexual Violence, SV against women, Violence Regions: Oceania Countries: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu

Year: 2016

The False Choice between Universalism and Religion/Culture


Nayak, Meghana. 2013. “The False Choice between Universalism and Religion/Culture.” Politics & Gender 9 (01): 120–25. doi:10.1017/S1743923X12000785.

Author: Meghana Nayak


I seek to engage the authors in a deeper interrogation of their claims, particularly that societies can mitigate the evolutionary legacy of patriarchy by limiting the influence of religious/cultural enclaves and instead promoting universalism, as exemplified in CEDAW and international law. I challenge and politicize this alleged “choice” between universalism and cultural/religious enclaves/relativism, as it ultimately rests on a series of too-easy dichotomies (secular/religious, western/nonwestern) that may inadvertently stymie collaborative attempts between “western” and “non-western” feminists to challenge inequitable family law and gender violence. Hudson, Bowen, and Nielsen (2011) do offer critiques of western states. They are careful to point out nuances, subtleties, and complexities with their concept of religious/cultural enclaves. They also convincingly broaden the concept of gender equality beyond formal political rights to the kind of social, legal, and economic justice encapsulated in equitable family law and freedom from violence. And, they provoke an examination of why and how gender equality and gender violence are linked. But I suggest that their empirical research might have better traction by taking seriously two problematic implications of championing the “universal” as necessarily progressive: the failure to recognize patriarchy as part of universalism; and the inattention to why and how religious/cultural enclaves are patriarchal.

Topics: Feminisms, Patriarchy, International Law, International Human Rights

Year: 2013

Gendered Violence and International Human Rights: Thinking Non-discrimination Beyond the Sex Binary


McNeilly, Kathryn. 2014. “Gendered Violence and International Human Rights: Thinking Non-Discrimination Beyond the Sex Binary.” Feminist Legal Studies 22 (3): 263–83. doi:10.1007/s10691-014-9268-y.

Author: Kathryn McNeilly


The concept of non-discrimination has been central in the feminist challenge to gendered violence within international human rights law. This article critically explores non-discrimination and the challenge it seeks to pose to gendered violence through the work of Judith Butler. Drawing upon Butler’s critique of heteronormative sex/gender, the article utilises an understanding of gendered violence as effected by the restrictive scripts of sex/gender within heteronormativity to illustrate how the development of non-discrimination within international human rights law renders it ineffective to challenge gendered violence due to its own commitments to binarised and asymmetrical sex/gender. However, the article also seeks to encourage a reworking of non-discrimination beyond the heteronormative sex binary through employing Butler’s concept of cultural translation. Analysis via the lens of cultural translation reveals the fluidity of non-discrimination as a universal concept and offers new possibilities for feminist engagement with universal human rights.

Keywords: gendered violence, Non-discrimination, Sex/gender, Judith Butler, heteronormativity

Topics: Gender Analysis, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Law, International Human Rights, LGBTQ, Women's Rights, Violence

Year: 2014

Feminist Legal Method and the Study of Institutions


O’Rourke, Catherine. 2014. “Feminist Legal Method and the Study of Institutions.” Politics & Gender 10 (04): 691–97. doi:10.1017/S1743923X14000506.

Author: Catherine O'Rourke


Consistent with feminist scholarship more broadly, feminist legal methodology is more clearly unified by a common objective—revealing and challenging the role of law in exacerbating women's inequality—than specific methods per se. Nevertheless, common methods and approaches to the feminist legal study of institutions can be discerned. This brief intervention will focus on describing these common methods and approaches, explaining how they differ from feminist political science, and conclude with some reflections on how feminist legal studies might enrich feminist political science study of institutions in order to inform strategies for change.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender Analysis, Constitutions, International Law, International Human Rights, Justice, Post-Conflict

Year: 2014

International Feminist Strategies: Strengths and Challenges of the Rights-Based Approach


Zwingel, Susanne. 2013. “International Feminist Strategies: Strengths and Challenges of the Rights-Based Approach.” Politics & Gender 9 (03): 344–51. doi:10.1017/S1743923X13000226.

Author: Susanne Zwingel


Claiming the rights of women in a world of blatant gender hierarchies is an international feminist strategy that has been around for a long time. Rhetorically, it has been part of the human rights framework since its very inception, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 already contains important elements of gender equality, thanks to the lobbying efforts of a handful of women's rights advocates at the time. But it took the wave of global consciousness regarding gender inequality that swept the world in the 1970s to make women's rights relevant enough to codify them in a human rights treaty: the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). A decade and a half later, the Vienna Conference on Human Rights (1993) coined the slogan “women's rights are human rights” and thus emphasized the centrality of women's experiences for a holistic understanding of human rights. In the time since then, the human rights discourse has become increasingly intersectional and inclusive. While the scope and content of human rights remain contested, many women's rights activists around the world rely on this framework in their struggles for global justice.

Topics: Gender Analysis, International Law, International Human Rights, Justice, Women's Rights

Year: 2013

Women, International Law and International Institutions: The Case of the United Nations


Gaer, Felice. 2009. “Women, International Law and International Institutions: The Case of the United Nations.” Women’s Studies International Forum 32 (1): 60–66. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2009.01.006.

Author: Felice Gaer


This final article considers the evolution of women's rights concepts and mechanisms within the United Nations. Gaer writes about this subject both as an historian of and a longstanding activist for women's human rights. She provides a critical history of how “women's” rights have been separated from and connected to “human” rights within the UN. 

Gaer examines how the Commission on the Status of Women, the original UN division which inherited the agenda of the first wave of international feminism, dealt with many of the challenges raised by the activists and organization that proceeded it: making the shift away from great power, Euro American leadership; facing new political environments raised by anti colonial and third world national developments; and expanding the feminist agenda beyond political and civil rights. By ending with an examination of the dilemma of enforcement that the UN still faces with respect to women's human rights, Gaer makes it clear that the subject of international feminism presents challenges that go beyond the academic, and is continuously linked with the efforts and freedom of the world's women.

Topics: Gender, Women, International Law, International Criminal Law, International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law IHL, International Organizations, Justice, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 2009

Overcoming the Gender Gap: The Possibilities of Alignment between the Responsibility to Protect and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda


Hewitt, Sarah. 2016. “Overcoming the Gender Gap: The Possibilities of Alignment between the Responsibility to Protect and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.” Global Responsibility to Protect 8 (1): 3–28. doi:10.1163/1875984X-00801002.

Author: Sarah Hewitt


This article examines the relationship between the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). R2P remains ‘gender-blind’, inadequately addressing gender issues encompassed within the WPS agenda. Currently, women are limited by gendered structural inequalities and marginalisation in conflict, where the WPS agenda has failed to be incorporated in R2P and broader conflict mechanisms. I argue that the WPS agenda and R2P are mutually beneficial and complementary in their protection mandates to enable lasting peace. I identify three common intersecting commitments of these two normative frameworks to provide a more holistic, gender-sensitive approach to conflict. These are prevention and early warning systems, protection and gender-sensitive peacekeeping, and women’s participation in peace processes. I conclude that identifying common areas of engagement could potentially effect positive changes for women and men on the ground in conflict prevention and protection, and post-conflict reconstruction.

Keywords: responsibility to protect, UNSC Res. 1325, gender-sensitive indicators, women's participation, peace processes, Women Peace and Security agenda

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Gender Analysis, International Law, International Human Rights, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS, UNSCR 1325 Countries: Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Solomon Islands

Year: 2016

Spectacular Rhetorics: Human Rights Visions, Recognitions, Feminisms


Hesford, Wendy. 2011. Spectacular Rhetorics: Human Rights Visions, Recognitions, Feminisms. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Author: Wendy Hesford


Spectacular Rhetorics is a rigorous analysis of the rhetorical frameworks and narratives that underlie human rights law, shape the process of cultural and legal recognition, and delimit public responses to violence and injustice. Integrating visual and textual criticism, Wendy S. Hesford scrutinizes “spectacular rhetoric,” the use of visual images and rhetoric to construct certain bodies, populations, and nations as victims and incorporate them into human rights discourses geared toward Westerners, chiefly Americans. Hesford presents a series of case studies critiquing the visual representations of human suffering in documentary films, photography, and theater. In each study, she analyzes works addressing a prominent contemporary human rights cause, such as torture and unlawful detention, ethnic genocide and rape as a means of warfare, migration and the trafficking of women and children, the global sex trade, and child labor. Through these studies, she demonstrates how spectacular rhetoric activates certain cultural and national narratives and social and political relations, consolidates identities through the politics of recognition, and configures material relations of power and difference to produce and, ultimately, to govern human rights subjects.

(Duke University Press)

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gendered Discourses, Genocide, International Law, International Human Rights, Rights, Human Rights, Trafficking, Sex Trafficking

Year: 2011


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