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Good morning, this is Paula, with the latest news round-up from the world of international justice, in partnership with Civitas Maxima. Among the leading stories this month, Argentina’s judicial system comes to the aid of Myanmar’s Rohingyas.

Elsewhere in Geneva, the World Health Organization may soon be issuing a health warning to fans of Diet Coke and other products containing one of the world’s most common artificial sweeteners.

And the US soft power was back on display at this week's star-filled events.

photo journaliste

Paula Dupraz-Dobias


War crimes round-up

Photo article

Protesters support the Rohingya outside the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, 10 December 2019. (Keystone/EPA/Sem Van Der Val)

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, victims are seeking justice against the perpetrators of the atrocities that forced 750,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee Myanmar in 2017. Argentina's constitution provides for universal jurisdiction for international crimes, through which the judiciary was able to open its investigations in 2021. This case is a prime example of how vital this legal principle is: These atrocities are not being prosecuted in Myanmar, so victims of international crimes are turning to South America – confirming once again that Argentina is a pioneer of international justice, and reminding us that the exercise of universal jurisdiction is not solely a European-led practice.
- Alain Werner, director of Civitas Maxima

Geneva Solutions (EN)

Here’s what else is happening

Out on the town

Photo article

Singer, activist and artist Joan Baez and US ambassador Michele Taylor on 27 June 2023. (Flickr/US Mission/Eric Bridiers)

US cultural diplomacy on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council. Clawing back from diplomatic limbo after regaining its seat in 2021 at the Human Rights Council, the United States put its soft power into full swing in Geneva this week, mid-way into the body’s 53rd session. US artists – on canvas and in the flesh – were at the centre of two days of celebrating a programme started 60 years ago by president John Kennedy to bring loaned artworks to US ambassadors' residences around the world, and which was touring select pieces in several cities.

The programme had been discontinued by former president Donald Trump but is now directed by Megan Beyer, the wife of a former US ambassador to Switzerland. Legendary singer, songwriter and activist Joan Baez told ambassadors and other guests on Tuesday that they should “make good trouble” and take real risks to fight against abuses and today’s existential threats. She was speaking at the residence of ambassador Michèle Taylor, the US representative at the council, where one of her own artworks, a portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady and head of the drafting committee of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was part of the diplomat’s private collection.

Baez shared that she was planning a humanitarian trip to Ukraine, where she hoped to meet and “dance” with president Volodymyr Zelensky. She told Geneva Solutions that she worried about the lack of substantial reaction by society to gun violence and human rights abuses in the US. Kal Penn, former television series actor who also served as a liaison to the art community under president Barack Obama, was also on hand at events that included the inauguration of an exhibit at the Xippas gallery in Geneva’s Quartiers des Bains. He told Geneva Solutions that he worried about the current threats to free speech and democracy in the United States, including through book banning. “That is such a shame and really dangerous to a vibrant democracy, because I don’t want to have to agree with everything I am reading and seeing and everyone I am meeting. What a world that would be if that was the case.” On Tuesday, a Pew Research survey showed that global impressions towards the United States are much more favourable than during the Trump presidency.

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