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Friday, March 29, 2013

Is the International Criminal Court (ICC) striving to discourage the filing of austerity complaints under article 7(k)?

Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, ICC Prosecutor
Information and Evidence Unit
Office of the Prosecutor
International Criminal Court
Post Office Box 19519
2500 CM The Hague
The Netherlands

Dear Ms. Bensouda,

I am a 56-year-old Disability Studies specialist from Montreal, Canada who has been reporting frequently, for the past sixteen months, to United Nations officials on the crisis for the United Kingdom's sick and disabled. Austerity measures, consisting of  draconian welfare reforms and "sham" means-testing (Atos Healthcare U.K. and the Department for Work and Pensions) are ostensibly to blame for their plight—with disability hate crime and inflammatory media attacks factored into this mix. 

According to a October 2, 2012 letter that I received from the OTP Information Desk, the International Criminal Court "may only address the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as defined by Articles 6 to 8 of the Rome Statute."

Frankly, the OTP Information Desk response, omitting article 7, is puzzling. As you are well aware, the Rome Statute is the document under which the ICC was established. Article 7, which covers crimes against humanity, states: “For the purpose of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

“(k) Inhumane acts … intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”

Article 7 (k) is a perfect description of what the DWP and its ministers are trying to achieve. Is the ICC striving to discourage the filing of austerity complaints?

I would like to bring the following to your attention:

A German human rights lawyer has brought charges to the International Criminal Court (ICC): austerity enforced on Greece is a crime against humanity.
 Human rights lawyer Sarah Luzia Hassel-Reusing submitted charges to the ICC at the Hague. She accused the heads of government and international financial institutions responsible for Greece’s austerity of crimes against humanity. These were submitted in late November. Using the Rome Statute article 7, Hassel-Reusing’s indictment related to the destruction of Greek healthcare and incidents of starvation. Those accused are
  • Christine Lagarde (Director of the International Monetary Fund, IMF),
  • Jose Manuel Barroso (President of the EU Commission),
  • Herman van Rompuy (President of the European Council),
  • Dr. Angela Merkel (German Chancellor),
Hassel-Reusing’s submission asserts how stipulations of austerity, set by the Troika, are causing a humanitarian crisis. Greeks are denied access to vital medicine and healthcare, suffer a massive reduction in health service provision, whilst under conditions of mass unemployment. The human rights lawyer’s charges rely on statistics and media reports, showing that even before the 2009 imposition of austerity – many Greeks lived below the poverty line. Thus she presented that by reducing the rights, welfare, employment and state provisions: austerity has made a bad situation far graver.
In legal terms, a crime against humanity is judged if someone purposefully attacks a population or acts knowing this will happen. This is why she is is focusing on the removal of health provision, and the impact Troika’s measures are having against the Greek’s access to food. Both healthcare and the universal right to food are protected by UN articles. The charges assert that the policy of financial stability is a smokescreen, deceiving the public about the real human disaster that these measures are causing.
Hassel-Reusing is arguing that Greece is being used as an experiment, to see how far austerity can be implemented to attack public services and increase privatisation. The motive of those implementing the austerity she argues, is to create a transfer of wealth by squeezing the poor. The submission asserts how this even risks the disintegration of the European Union. The charges broadens too, to  include financial powers, both political and international bankers, especially Goldman Sachs, Bilderberg, and Deutsche Bank.

Furthermore, there is growing recognition by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that

Austerity measures may violate human rights
Half a decade has passed since the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States developed into a global financial crisis. In response, many countries undertook large-scale “bailouts” of virtually bankrupt banks. With the bailouts and other knock-on effects of the financial crisis, public deficits have risen sharply in many countries.
Students in a rally in Spain © EPA/JAVIER CEBOLLADAGovernments, notably in Europe, have responded to mounting deficits with “austerity” measures - making drastic reductions to public expenditure.
Austerity has entailed rapid decreases in standards of living as cuts have been made to public services and social protection, while unemployment levels have risen dramatically.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 23 October 2012, the Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay, noted that although States face tough decisions when dealing with rising public deficits, austerity measures are potentially violations of the legal obligations of States Parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“All States Parties should avoid at all times taking decisions which lead to the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights,” Pillay said, citing an open letter to States Parties from the Committee earlier this year. The letter elaborated the Committee’s position on austerity measures.
By ratifying the Covenant, States Parties have a legally binding obligation to progressively improve, without retrogression, universal access to goods and services such as healthcare, education, housing and social security and to ensure just and favourable conditions of work, without discrimination, in accordance with established international standards.
These rights must be achieved by using the maximum of available resources. However, Pillay pointed out that austerity measures are also a disincentive to economic growth and thereby hamper progressive realization of economic and social rights.
The Committee had pointed out that social insecurity and political instability, as seen in parts of Europe today, were also potential effects of the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights. The poor, women, children, persons with disabilities, older persons, people with HIV/AIDS, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees were particularly at risk, the Committee had noted.
In a recent statement, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed concern over rising social tensions inflamed by the effects of the economic crises in Greece and Spain and the broader adverse impacts of austerity measures on the most vulnerable.
Several United Nations human rights experts have recently highlighted how austerity measures are incongruent with economic, social and cultural human rights and called for banking sector reforms and human rights-based approaches out of financial and economic crises. (2 November 2012; see

 and recognition, from the prestigious British medical journal "The Lancet", that European austerity is costing lives:


03/27/2013 05:08 PM

Shredded Social Safety Net

European Austerity Costing Lives

As the euro crisis wears on, the tough austerity measures implemented in ailing member states are resulting in serious health issues, a study revealed on Wednesday. Mental illness, suicide rates and epidemics are on the rise, while access to care has dwindled.
The rigid austerity measures brought on by the euro crisis are having catastrophic effects on the health of people in stricken countries, health experts reported on Wednesday.
Not only have the fiscal austerity policies failed to improve the economic situation in these countries, but they have also put a serious strain on their health care systems, according to an analysis of European health by medical journal The Lancet. Major cuts to public spending and health services have brought on drastic deterioration in the overall health of residents, the journal reported, citing the outbreak of epidemics and a spike in suicides.
In addition to crippling public health care budgets, the deep austerity measures implemented since the economic crisis began in 2008 have increased unemployment and lowered incomes, causing depression and prompting sick people to wait longer before seeking help or medication, the study found.
The countries most affected by this have been Portugal, Spain and Greece, the latter of which saw outbreaks of both malaria and HIV after programs for mosquito spraying and needle exchanges for intravenous drug users were axed. There were also outbreaks of West Nile virus and dengue fever.
"Austerity measures haven't solved the economic problems and they have also created big health problems," Martin McKee, a professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who led the research, told news agency AP.
It will take years to understand the health consequences of the euro crisis and the policies it has prompted, but some effects are already clear, the study said. Not only has there been an increase of mental disorders in Greece and Spain, but the number of suicides for those younger than 65 has increased in the EU since 2007 -- "reversing a steady decrease." In Greece, the Ministry of Health reported a 40 percent jump in suicides between January and May 2011, compared to the same period the year before.
Officials Accused of Ignoring Problems
While budget cuts have restricted health care access with increased costs for patients in these three nations, Greece has also seen shortages in medication, hospital staff and supplies, according to the study, commissioned in part by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, a partner of the World Health Organization.
The study authors also accuse European officials of failing to address these issues, writing that "public health experts have remained largely silent during this crisis."
"There is a clear problem of denial of the health effects of the crisis, even though they are very apparent," lead researcher McKee told Reuters, comparing their response to the "obfuscation" of the tobacco industry. "The European Commission has a treaty obligation to look at the health effect of all of its policies but has not produced any impact assessment on the health effects of the austerity measures imposed by the troika."
The troika, made up of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, has been in charge of bailing out ailing European economies -- most recently in Cyprus -- and of policing the implementation of the austerity measures the study blames for deteriorating health in these countries.
But it doesn't have to be that way, the study suggests, citing Iceland as a success story. Though the country was one of the first to be hit by the financial crisis, it "rejected the economic orthodoxy that advocated austerity … and invested in its people who, evidence suggests, have had very few adverse health consequences."
kla -- with wire reports

In closing, I believe that I am owed an explanation as to why your office will not prosecute austerity cases under article 7(k).

I look forward to receiving your response at the earliest possible convenience.

Samuel Miller

Samuel Miller
Blog: Hephaestus: Disability Studies
Blog: My Disability Studies Blackboard

1 comment:

  1. It seems that today the UK govt is attempting to remove the last vestiges of equality from disabled citizens:

    Repeal of part 1 s3 General Duty of the Equality Act 2006