Doe v. Karadzic – International Human Rights and Solidarity – CCR Docket 1994-1995

In February 1993, CCR, joined by the International Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic of CUNY Law School and the International League for Human Rights, sued the self-proclaimed leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, for war crimes, genocide, torture, and other violations of international human rights standards.

This case has received considerable attention, as it builds upon an interna­ tional movement to force recognition of women’s rights as human rights, and to incorporate protections against violence against women into the international human rights framework.

The class action lawsuit filed in theU.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, relies on the precedent estab lished in Filartiga v. Pefia-Irala (seep. 11). Karadzic was served with iegal papers when he was in New York City.

The named plaintiffs are two anony­ mous women citizens of Bosnia­ Herzegovina. Jane Doe I alleges that she was raped by at least eight Bosnian-Serb soldiers while in custody in a detention camp. Jane Doe witnessed the rape and murder of her mother by two Bosnian-Serb soldiers. The two women filed the suit anonymously out of fear for their safety. They represent all women and men who have suffered rape, sum­mary execution, other torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment inflict­ed by Bosnian-Serb military forces undel Karadzic’s command and control betweer April 1992 and the present.

In May 1993, Karadzic’s U.S. attor­neys asked the court to dismiss the suit, claiming that he is immune from prosecu­tion because he was in the U.S. to par­ticipate in U.N.-sponsored negotiations. CCR maintained that neither the U.N. nor the U.S. government recognize such an immunity, and that international law requires that human rights abusers such as Karadzic be held accountable. The judge’s decision is pending.

In the mean time, the issue of rape as torture has been raised by women’s groups all over the world, particularly by the international caucus of women’s NGOs (non-governmental organizations) at the June 1993 U.N. Conference on Human Rights in Vienna.After participating in this caucus, CCR attorneys travelled to Zagreb, Croatia, and Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where they met with refugees, U.N. relief workers, and with activists in femi­ nist and peace organizations, a tiny embattled community who are organiz­ ing around the principle of “justice, not revenge.” Croatian feminists have been vilified as “witches” by the Croatian press because they have condemned the rape of women by Croatian as well as Serbian forces. Serbian peace activists have been arrested and beaten.

After participating in this caucus, CCR attorneys travelled to Zagreb, Croatia, and Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where they met with refugees, U.N. relief workers, and with activists in femi­ nist and peace organizations, a tiny embattled community who are organizing around the principle of “justice, not revenge.” Croatian feminists have been vilified as “witches” by the Croatian press because they have condemned the rape of women by Croatian as well as Serbian forces. Serbian peace activists have been arrested and beaten.

Nevertheless, Women in Black, a femi­nist, non-nationalist peace organization continues to demonstrate weekly in Belgrade.

‘Iwo amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs have been filed urging the court not to dismiss Doe v. Karadzic. One was submitted by Human Rights Watch and prepared by the law firm of Debevoise Plimpton, while the second was prepared by the law firm of Patton, Boggs & Blow for the International Human Rights Law Group. Amici include women’s groups in Portugal, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Bosnia, England, Pakistan, and the U.S.

Beth Stephens, Matthew Chachere, Jennifer M. Green, Peter Weiss, Michael Ratner, Jose Luis Morin, Jules Lobel and Ray Brescia, with Rhonda Copelan and Celina Romany, International Women’s Human Rights Clinic at CUNY Law School; and Judith Levin, International League for Human Rights