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Tag: International Human Rights Clinic (page 1 of 4)

Human Rights Clinic releases report on Syrian refugees and documentation of legal status

Via HLS News

Report details challenges those living outside Jordanian camps face obtaining government documents, humanitarian assistance

securing-status-coverIn November, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and the Norwegian Refugee Council Jordanlaunched Securing Status: Syrian refugees and the documentation of legal status, identity, and family relationships in Jordan, a 45-page report that details the challenges Syrian refugees living outside refugee camps encounter obtaining official documents from the Government of Jordan that allow them to access services, such as healthcare, as well as humanitarian assistance.

Nearly 80 percent of the 655,000 Syrian refugees registered with United Nations’ refugee agency in Jordan live outside refugee camps, in Jordanian cities, towns, and rural areas. The report outlines official processes for refugees to obtain documentation, the challenges refugees encounter, and the consequences faced by those who lack documentation.

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Joint report on Syrian refugees and documentation of legal status, identity, and family relationships in Jordan

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Anna Crowe, at right, presenting at the report launch in Jordan.

Anna Crowe, at right, presenting at the report launch in Jordan.

Today in Amman, Jordan, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and the Norwegian Refugee Council Jordan launched Securing Status: Syrian refugees and the documentation of legal status, identity, and family relationships in Jordan, a 45-page report that details the challenges Syrian refugees living outside refugee camps encounter obtaining official documents from the Government of Jordan that allow them to access services, such as healthcare, as well as humanitarian assistance.

Nearly 80 per cent of the 655,000 Syrian refugees registered with United Nations’ refugee agency in Jordan live outside refugee camps, in Jordanian cities, towns, and rural areas. The report outlines official processes for refugees to obtain documentation, the challenges refugees encounter, and the consequences faced by those who lack documentation.

Former Irish President Connects Climate Change and Human Rights

Via Harvard Crimson

Former Irish President Mary Robinson

Former President of Ireland Mary T. W. Robinson speaks about climate justice at Harvard Law School on Thursday. Robinson, who has previously served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be his Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate. MEGAN M. ROSS

Mary T.W. Robinson, a former president of Ireland and current United Nations Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate, spoke about widespread human displacement due to climate change at a discussion at Harvard Law School on Thursday evening.

Law School Dean Martha L. Minow moderated the discussion in front of a packed audience. “There is nobody on earth who is more involved, who has done more on the subjects that bring us here today,” Minow said when introducing Robinson.

Robinson has previously served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Climate Change. She is also president of the Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice.

During the conversation, Robinson emphasized the need for international policies promoting sustainability, especially given the increasing vulnerability of millions of people living close to sea level. The discussion included an examination of empirical data and observations regarding the effects of climate change, as well as the suggesting of proposals for effective policy responses. …

The discussion is part of a three-day conference hosted at the Law School aiming to investigate the challenges of climate change, displacement, and human rights. The conference is sponsored by the International Human Rights Clinic, the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic.

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Alleged abuses against civilians in non-ceasefire areas may constitute violations of Myanmar’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement

Via International Human Rights Clinic

(Cambridge, MA, October 20, 2016)–  Reported abuses of civilians in non-ceasefire areas by the Myanmar military and other signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) would, if verified, constitute violations of key civilian protection provisions established by the agreement, said Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (the Clinic) in a legal memorandum released today. The military and other signatories should act immediately to address such reports, including by engaging with the mechanisms and processes established by the NCA and investigating alleged abuses.

The Clinic’s memorandum comes on the heels of the one-year anniversary of the signing of the NCA by the government and eight ethnic armed organizations (EAOs). While the agreement failed to include many of the EAOs that participated in the ceasefire talks, it was still heralded as a significant step in the country’s peace process. Over the past year, however, armed conflict has intensified in Shan State, Kachin State, and elsewhere, with reports of widespread abuse of civilians by the Myanmar military in particular.

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Clinic highlights human rights costs of South African gold mining

Via HLS News

sareportpic-232x300South Africa has failed to meet its human rights obligations to address the environmental and health effects of gold mining in and around Johannesburg, the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) said in a recently released report.

The 113-page report, The Cost of Gold, documents the threats posed by water, air, and soil pollution from mining in the West and Central Rand. Acid mine drainage has contaminated water bodies that residents use to irrigate crops, water livestock, wash clothes, and swim. Dust from mine waste dumps has blanketed communities. The government has allowed homes to be built near and sometimes on those toxic and radioactive dumps.

Examining the situation through a human rights lens, the report finds that South Africa has not fully complied with constitutional or international law. The government has not only inadequately mitigated the harm from abandoned and active mines, but it has also offered scant warnings of the risks, performed few scientific studies about the health effects, and rarely engaged with residents on mining matters.

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Clinic Highlights Human Rights Costs of South African Gold Mining

Via International Human Rights Clinic

South Africa: Protect Residents’ Rights from Effects of Mining
Government Response to Environmental and Health Threats Falls Short

sareportpic(Cambridge, MA, October 12, 2016)—South Africa has failed to meet its human rights obligations to address the environmental and health effects of gold mining in and around Johannesburg, the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) said in a new report released today.

The 113-page report, The Cost of Gold, documents the threats posed by water, air, and soil pollution from mining in the West and Central Rand. Acid mine drainage has contaminated water bodies that residents use to irrigate crops, water livestock, wash clothes, and swim. Dust from mine waste dumps has blanketed communities. The government has allowed homes to be built near and sometimes on those toxic and radioactive dumps.

Examining the situation through a human rights lens, the report finds that South Africa has not fully complied with constitutional or international law. The government has not only inadequately mitigated the harm from abandoned and active mines, but it has also offered scant warnings of the risks, performed few scientific studies about the health effects, and rarely engaged with residents on mining matters.

“Gold mining has both endangered and disempowered the people of the West and Central Rand,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior clinical instructor at IHRC and the report’s lead author. “Despite some signs of progress, the government’s response to the crisis has been insufficient and unacceptably slow.”

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Congratulations to Anna, Sara, and Vivek on their new positions

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs extends heartfelt congratulations to Anna Crowe (International Human Rights Clinic) on her new position as Clinical Instructor, Sara del Nido Budish (Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinic) on her new position as Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law, and to Vivek Krishnamurthy on his new position as Lecturer on Law and Assistant Director of the Cyberlaw Clinic.

Anna Crowe

Anna Crowe

At the Human Rights Program (HRP) and the International Human Rights Clinic, Anna Crowe LL.M ’12 has focused her work on the right to privacy and the right to a legal identity, as well as humanitarian disarmament and transitional justice. She has supervised students on research, fact-finding, and advocacy projects in these areas. She has also been a leader and mentor of the student practice organization, HLS Advocates for Human Rights.

Before she joined HRP, Anna was a Legal Officer at Privacy International, a leading human rights organization that campaigns against unlawful communications surveillance across the globe. She also spent a year in Colombia as a Henigson Human Rights Fellow, working with the International Crisis Group in the field of transitional justice.

Anna is a graduate of Harvard Law School and an alumna of the International Human Rights Clinic.  “Since Anna returned to the Clinic as a fellow in 2014, she has demonstrated a gift for teaching and a commitment to promoting human rights and international humanitarian law,” said Bonnie Docherty, Senior Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law. “She has trained clinical students in the skills of our field, earning their respect and inspiring them to perform at the highest levels.  She has published multiple reports in the areas of disarmament, privacy, and refugees, all of which have had real advocacy impact.  Outside of the Clinic, she has mentored members of HLS Advocates and collaborated with some of our visiting fellows.”

Sara del Nido Budish 

Sara served as Clinical Fellow in the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinic before becoming a  Clinical Instruction and a Lecturer on Law for the Negotiation Workshop. As a Clinical Fellow, she supervised several Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) student groups and collaborated on many special projects such as HNMCP’s new podcast, The Listening Room.

Sara is also an alumna of the Clinic and while she was a student she and her teammate created and delivered a series of customized trainings to a group of healthcare providers with a focus on communication and difficult conversations. Sara was deeply involved in the ADR community throughout law school, serving as Advanced Training Director for the Harvard Mediation Program; research assistant to Professor Robert Bordone; and Online Executive Editor for the Harvard Negotiation Law Review.

Vivek Krishnamurthy

Krishnamurty_Vivek_pressBefore joining the Cyberlaw Clinic as a Clinical Instructor in 2014, Vivek Krishnamurthy clerked for the Hon. Morris J. Fish of the Supreme Court of Canada and worked as an associate in the International and Corporate Social Responsibility Practices at Foley Hoag LLP. He specializes in the international aspects of internet governance and on the human rights challenges associated with offering new internet-based services in different legal environments around the world. Vivek is a graduate of the University of Toronto, Yale Law School, and the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Congratulations Anna, Sara, and Vivek!

Moving On: Deborah Popowski to Be Executive Director of NYU’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice

Via International Human Rights Clinic

022516_Popowski_133.JPG

Photo credit: Kris Snibbe

Today we have the mixed blessing of announcing that one of our favorite people is moving on:Deborah Popowski, JD ’08, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law, is bringing her considerable talents to New York University (NYU) School of Law as Executive Director of its Center for Human Rights and Global Justice.

It comes as no surprise to us that she was chosen for this leadership role. For the past seven years, Deborah has proven herself to be a visionary inside the International Human Rights Clinic, carving out a critical niche for U.S.-based work. In her time here, she led clinical projects on issues ranging from protest and assembly rights to the right to heal for U.S. service members and Iraqis. She also created a clinical seminar, “Human Rights Advocacy and the United States,” with the Human Rights Program’s former executive director, Clinical Professor Jim Cavallaro.

In particular, Deborah distinguished herself in recent years as a national leader in the grassroots movement to hold U.S. health professionals accountable for torture in the national security sphere. Her approach was both innovative and in-depth: through professional misconduct complaints, legislative advocacy, media outreach and academic conferences, she worked with clients to highlight the actions of psychologists at Guantánamo.

That work helped build pressure and momentum for the American Psychological Association’shistoric resolution last August to ban psychologists from national security interrogations. It was a moment many thought would never come.

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Statement On The End Of The In Re South African Apartheid Litigation

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a major corporate accountability case,Ntsebeza, et al., v. Ford Motor Co., et al., that represented the last opportunity for South Africans to achieve justice in U.S. courts for apartheid-era crimes. The U.S. corporations – Ford and IBM – were alleged to have purposefully facilitated violations of international law by enabling the denationalization and violent suppression, including extrajudicial killings, of black South Africans living under the apartheid regime. What began fourteen years ago as litigation against dozens of multinational corporations has effectively ended without ever even entering discovery.

We are deeply disappointed for our clients and the communities who suffered as a direct result of corporate complicity in violence and oppression. We are also extremely concerned about the reluctance of U.S. courts to take on powerful corporate actors that have involved themselves in human rights abuses abroad.

The U.S.-based legal team for the Ntsebeza plaintiffs was led by Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman, LLP and includes Judith Brown Chomsky of the Law Offices of Judith Brown Chomsky, and Diane Sammons and Jay Rice of Nagel Rice LLP as well as Tyler Giannini and Susan Farbstein from the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. The South African-based legal team for the Ntsebeza plaintiffs was led by Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza and includes attorneys John Ngcebetsha, Gugulethu Madlanga, and Medi Mokuena, and Advocate Michael Osborne. The Ntsebeza case was part of broader litigation known as the In re South African Apartheid Litigation, which included the companion case, Balintulo, et al., v. Ford Motor Co., et al. (formerly known as the Khulumani case).

Losing Control: The Dangers of Killer Robots

Via International Human Rights Clinic

This piece originally appeared in The Conversation on June 16, 2016

New technology could lead humans to relinquish control over decisions to use lethal force. As artificial intelligence advances, the possibility that machines could independently select and fire on targets is fast approaching. Fully autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots,” are quickly moving from the realm of science fiction toward reality.

The unmanned Sea Hunter gets underway. At present it sails without weapons, but it exemplifies the move toward greater autonomy.U.S. Navy/John F. Williams

These weapons, which could operate on land, in the air or at sea, threaten to revolutionize armed conflict and law enforcement in alarming ways. Proponents say these killer robots are necessarybecause modern combat moves so quickly, and because having robots do the fighting would keep soldiers and police officers out of harm’s way. But the threats to humanity would outweigh any military or law enforcement benefits.

Removing humans from the targeting decision would create a dangerous world. Machines would make life-and-death determinations outside of human control. The risk of disproportionate harm or erroneous targeting of civilians would increase. No person could be held responsible.

Given the moral, legal and accountability risks of fully autonomous weapons, preempting their development, production and use cannot wait. The best way to handle this threat is an international, legally binding ban on weapons that lack meaningful human control.

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Clinic Files Reply Brief in Petition for Certiorari in Apartheid Litigation

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Last week, the International Human Rights Clinic and co-counsel filed our reply brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, responding to Ford and IBM’s opposition to the petition for a writ of certiorari in the in re South African Apartheid Litigation. The reply brief points out the clear circuit splits that require the Supreme Court’s attention, flatly rejecting Defendants’ claim to the contrary.

The petition, which was filed in February, asks the Supreme Court to resolve the splits among the circuits over the standard for aiding and abetting liability under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”); the question of when claims “touch and concern” the United States; and the availability of corporate liability under the ATS. The reply notes how “IBM and Ford do not seriously dispute the existence of these conflicts.” Despite Defendants’ attempts to argue otherwise, the reply brief makes clear that the Second Circuit, in a series of decisions culminating in the Apartheid litigation opinion, has adopted “the most restrictive rules governing ATS liability.” These rules conflict with Supreme Court decisions, other circuits’ rulings, and basic principles of international law. The Supreme Court needs to take up these essential and timely issues, which are the most important ones facing current and future ATS litigation.

Video Slideshow: “Women’s Voices Matter” in Myanmar

Via International Human Rights Clinic

The International Human Rights Clinic had the great honor last month of hosting a three-day workshop in Yangon for some of the leading women advocates in Myanmar- all of them pioneers in their various fields, and all of them pushing for change. The training, facilitated by The Op-Ed Project, focused on voice and messaging in the media’s opinion sections, where women’s bylines are too rarely found.

The title of the workshop: “Write to Change the World.”

Below, some images from those three days, with thanks and appreciation for what these women have done to strengthen the world already, and what they will surely do in the decades to come.

Shining a Light on the Right to Privacy: Surveillance in Venezuela and Zimbabwe

Via International Human Rights Clinic

IHRCSince the 2013 Snowden revelations, media and civil society groups have closely scrutinized U.S. surveillance and intelligence sector law and policy, generating wide-ranging domestic and international debates on privacy, security, and the limits of state power. Less scrutinized, however, are the surveillance and intelligence sector policies and practices of countries that wield little international influence, but whose governments exercise significant control over citizens’ ability to communicate privately and speak freely.

Two such countries, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, are the subject of reports the International Human Rights Clinic and its partners recently submitted to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The joint reports document serious challenges to the right to privacy in both countries, including inadequate legal and policy frameworks on surveillance and intelligence gathering that are compounded by the absence of a strong and independent judiciary. These reports will ultimately help the United Nations Human Rights Council evaluate the human rights situation in both countries through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The Clinic report on Venezuela, co-authored with Privacy International and Venezuelan non-profit Acceso Libre, notes a number of concerning developments since the country’s human rights situation was last assessed through the UPR in 2011: for example, the government has encouraged the emergence of “patriotas cooperantes” (cooperating patriots), anonymous informers who feed information to government officials about the activities of perceived government opponents. In a striking example of this practice, in February 2016 Reuters reported on the case of Rodolfo Gonzalez, who was arrested in April 2014 by intelligence agents and accused of masterminding protests against Venezuela’s President. The arrest was allegedly based on an audio recording provided by a cooperating patriot, in which Gonzalez discussed “destabilising actions” against the government. For nearly a year, Gonzalez was held in a facility operated by Venezuela’s major civilian intelligence agency while he waited for trial; he hanged himself in March 2015.

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Cravath fellows travel globally to experience international and comparative law

Via HLS News

Thirteen Harvard Law School students were selected as the 2016 Cravath International Fellows. The fellows traveled to 12 countries for winter term clinical placements or independent research with an international, transnational, or comparative law focus. Below are accounts of the experiences of four of the new fellows.

Crystal Nwaneri ’17

Crystal Nwaneri ’17 spent winter term in Singapore, conducting research on the legal and technological implications of a court ruling permitting a third party to retransmit over-the-air television without permission of the broadcasters. For Nwaneri, this was a chance to further explore her long-standing interest in the legal challenges brought about by rapidly advancing technology.

As an undergraduate, Nwaneri examined public policy and how legislators and private organizations shape and regulate the technology industry. Prior to law school, she worked at Dell’s government relations office in Washington, D.C., briefing their executives on the internet technology issues discussed at Congressional hearings.

Upon entering Harvard Law, she enrolled in a reading group with Professor of Practice Urs Gasser about the future of online privacy, joined the Women’s Law Association and the Harvard Black Law Students Association, and began working as an editor at the Journal of Law and Technology. As a 2L, she is focusing on the legal infrastructures that support technology innovation, which may affect access for underserved communities. She also supports clients in the Cyberlaw Clinic and is a research assistant with the Student Privacy Initiative at the Berkman Center.

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Myanmar: Investigate Use of Excessive Force Against Letpadan Protesters

Via International Human Rights Clinic

(Yangon, April 14, 2016)—While welcoming the Government of Myanmar’s recent release of political prisoners, Fortify Rights and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic urged authorities today to open a formal investigation into the violent police crackdown against protesters in March 2015 in Letpadan.

The Letpadan protesters were among nearly 200 political prisoners that the recently elected Government of Myanmar—led by the National League for Democracy (NLD)—either pardoned or dropped charges against on April 8. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi announced on her second day in office a plan to free political prisoners, activists, and students in the weeks surrounding the Buddhist New Year holiday. According to human rights groups, more than 100 political prisoners remain behind bars.

“After spending more than a year in prison for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, the Letpadan protesters are finally free,” said Matthew Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. “Their courage and tenacity is an example to human rights defenders across the world. We commend the government for prioritizing their release and urge the authorities to take swift action to hold perpetrators accountable.”

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Lessons from a post-9/11 world

Advocating for torture survivors, Law School instructor tries to hold psychologists accountable

Via Harvard Gazette

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Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Deborah Popowski, a Harvard Law School instructor, has led the effort to hold psychologists accountable for their involvement in the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. “We want lawyers and advocates who are compassionate and empathetic people,” she said.

When Deborah Alejandra Popowski, J.D.’08, was just beginning her studies at Harvard Law School (HLS), she learned a powerful lesson about the value and import of the law.

An American attorney representing a Guantanamo detainee spoke at an HLS event. The lawyer told of her client, a Saudi citizen in his early 20s, and of the regimen of inhuman treatment that he endured at the hands of U.S. military forces. For Popowski, the lawyer’s testimony brought home the human dimension of torture.

“Everybody in law school was talking about concepts and the rule of law regarding torture,” Popowski said. “That was the first time that I had ever heard somebody talking about people.”

Ever since, she has tried to follow that example and tend the people.

Since 2009, when Popowski began working as a fellow at the HLS International Human Rights Clinic, she has advocated for torture survivors as part of a movement to seek accountability for U.S. torture through both state and international courts.

Popowski, who became an HLS clinical instructor in 2011, has focused on the role that psychologists played in the U.S. torture program authorized by the Bush administration and implemented as part of its “war on terror.”

As is widely known, psychologists helped design the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which included water-boarding, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, and religious and sexual humiliation of Muslim men and boys detained by U.S. intelligence and military agencies. Psychologists also participated in interrogations as advisers.

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Killer Robots: The Case for Human Control

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Nations Convene to Discuss Fully Autonomous Weapons

(Geneva, April 11, 2015) – Countries should retain meaningful human control over weapons systems and ban fully autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots,” Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic said in a report issued today. The concept of meaningful human control will be a centerpiece of deliberations at a week-long multilateral meeting on the weapons, opening April 11, 2016, at the United Nations in Geneva.

The 16-page report, “Killer Robots and the Concept of Meaningful Human Control,” discusses the moral and legal importance of control and shows countries’ growing recognition of the need for humans to remain in charge of the critical functions of selecting and firing on targets.

“Machines have long served as instruments of war, but historically humans have directed how they are used,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior clinical instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic and the report’s lead author. “Now, there is a real threat that humans would relinquish their control and delegate life-and-death decisions to machines.”

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Fernando Ribeiro Delgado recognized by students for integrating critical race theory into classroom

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Fernando hugs Keaton as she presents him with the award.Yesterday, it was my great honor to present Fernando Ribeiro Delgado, my former clinical instructor, with the Shatter the Ceiling Award for Excellence in Integrating Critical Race Theory into the Curriculum. The annual award, given by Students for Inclusion and the Shattered Ceiling Committee of the Harvard Women’s Law Association, is based on feedback from a student survey. Below are the comments I prepared for the ceremony, followed by the complete list of faculty honorees:

“The first time I thought ‘there may actually be a place for students like me here’ was during my 2L year in the International Human Rights Clinic.  Deborah and Tyler’s human rights seminar was intellectually engaging in ways I had never experienced at HLS and I was sure none of my other classes could compare. But my developing clinical education with Fernando was not just comparable; it was the ultimate practical supplement.

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Short Film Documents Ongoing Struggle for Safe, Quality Schools in South Africa

Via International Human Rights Clinic

The challenges are immense: schools built of mud, overcrowded and collapsing classrooms, unsanitary toilets, inadequate water supply, insufficient electricity, and a painful lack of science labs, libraries, computer access, and sports fields. For years, our partners in South Africa, Equal Education (EE) and Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), have fought for safe, quality schools—and won many important victories. Now a new short film is documenting their ongoing work, sharing the stories of affected students and highlighting how community activism and creative lawyering can bring about real change.

EE first launched its infrastructure campaign back in 2010; a hard-won court victory against the Minister of Basic Education led to the promulgation of binding norms and standards for school infrastructure in 2013; and by November 2016, all schools across the country will be required to have running water, basic sanitation, and electricity, while no schools can be built entirely from wood, mud, metal, or asbestos.

The film, made in partnership with Adam Stofsky’s (JD ’04) New Media Advocacy Project, documents infrastructure problems in the Eastern Cape in particular.  Students, teachers, parents, and principals speak about the devastating impact that poor facilities have on learning outcomes.  The piece is an inspiring testament to the power of storytelling and to the movement that EE and EELC have built.  Our Clinic is proud to have supported it since 2012.

Three clinics, one common value

Lauren Blodgett, J.D. ’16

My clinical experiences at Harvard Law School have deeply enriched and shaped my legal education. During my time at HLS, I have had the privilege of engaging with many different clinics. I participated in the International Human Rights Clinic for two semesters, as well as the Immigration and Refugee Clinic, the Child Advocacy Clinic, and an independent clinical in Tanzania. These experiences helped pave my career path and contributed to my personal and professional growth. These clinics have given me the opportunity to collaborate with clinicians and classmates on pressing issues, travel to countries across the world, and see the positive impact of our legal work on individuals’ lives.

Lauren Blodgett, J.D. '16

Lauren Blodgett, J.D. ’16

By gaining practical experience in these clinics, I learned many lessons that I hope to carry with me throughout my legal career. In the International Human Rights Clinic, I worked on two projects: one, advocating for the prosecution of senior U.S. officials for authorizing and implementing the use of torture and another, proposing stricter regulations on the use of incendiary weapons. This international advocacy taught me to stand up for what I believe in, even if it is an unpopular or controversial position. It also taught me the importance of negotiation, compromise, and teamwork when advocating for new international laws and norms. In the Immigration and Refugee Clinic, my teammate and I helped our clients through various stages of the asylum application process. This experience not only helped me improve my interviewing and writing skills, but also taught me how to be a compassionate and effective advocate when working directly with clients. Finally, through the Child Advocacy Clinic I am currently representing children with mental disabilities in their interactions with their school system. I am learning how the support of a lawyer can have such a profound impact on the realization of the rights of these children – a vulnerable population who might otherwise be voiceless.

A common value that was instilled in me from all of these experiences is the importance of public service work. These clinics strengthened my commitment and ability to dedicate my career to fighting for the human rights of others. After graduation, I will be providing representation and community outreach to child refugees in New York City. My passion and preparation for this position are directly attributable to the experiences I had in the clinical programs here at HLS.

Hostile Intent and Civilian Protection: Lessons From Recent Conflicts

Via International Human Rights Clinic
By Bonnie Docherty

ReportIs a driver speeding toward a military checkpoint launching a suicide attack or racing his pregnant wife to the hospital? Is a local man digging on a roadside at night planting an improvised explosive device (IED) or working his farm when the temperature is cooler? Is a resident who jumps up when troops burst into his home at 2am reaching for a gun or reacting in fear? In Afghanistan and Iraq, US troops have had to answer such questions repeatedly, often in split-second time. Civilian and military lives have depended on the accuracy of their determinations.

Under the US Standing Rules of Engagement (SROE), troops are allowed to fire in self-defense if they encounter someone demonstrating hostile intent, i.e., the “threat of imminent use of force.” Identifying such a threat presents challenges, however, especially when enemy forces blend in with the local population. Mistaken determinations of hostile intent were a major cause of civilian casualties attributable to the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2014.Tackling Tough Calls, a new report by the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, examines this problem. Drawing on interviews with combat veterans and current servicemembers as well as open source research, it shows how the US military could better protect civilians from such errors without jeopardizing the lives of its troops.

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Clinic Files Petition for Certiorari in Final Attempt to Hold Two U.S. Corporations Accountable for Supporting Apartheid

Via International Human Rights Clinic

IHRL Clinic

The Clinic and its partners today filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in the In re South African Apartheid Litigation suit, asking the Court to clarify the circumstances under which defendants may be held accountable in U.S. courts for human rights violations. The case, which involves the actions of U.S. corporations IBM and Ford, raises questions about whether a defendant’s knowledge is sufficient to establish aiding and abetting liability, or whether specific intent or motive must also be demonstrated. It also concerns how closely a human rights violation must be connected to the United States in order to sue under the Alien Tort Statute(ATS), and whether corporations can be held liable at all under the ATS.

The petition argues that through their actions, and decades-long support for violations associated with apartheid, defendants IBM and Ford purposefully facilitated violations of international law by enabling the “denationalization and violent suppression, including extrajudicial killings, of black South Africans living under the apartheid regime.” According to the petition, “IBM and Ford purposefully designed, sold, and serviced customized technology and vehicles for the South African government that they knew in advance would be used to racially segregate and systematically oppress black South Africans.”

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Moving on from the Human Rights Program (a note from Mindy Jane Roseman)

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

After ten years as Academic Director at the Human Rights Program, and many years before that as a collaborator at the Harvard School of Public Health, I write to let you know that I am leaving HRP, effective February 5, 2016.  I will be joining Yale Law School as Director of both its International Programs and its Gruber Program on Global Justice and Women’s Rights. This was not an easy decision, especially since it means I will be warming the bench from the other side of the basketball court.

There are many communities at Harvard Law School that are dear to me, but I cherish HRP – its work, staff, faculty, students, alumni – perhaps above all. I’ll still be on campus this semester (teaching a seminar), and my email will be active through June.

I hope to stay in touch and wish you all the best of luck.

Fondly,

Mindy

Extinguishing the Use of Incendiary Weapons

By Sarah Abraham, J.D. ’17; Lauren Blodgett J.D. ’16;
and Danae Paterson J.D. ‘16

Incendiary weapons rank among the cruelest means of armed conflict. Through the production of fire and heat, these weapons cause excruciating burns that are difficult to treat and can lead to long-term psychological harm and severe disfigurement. Despite the horrific effects of incendiary weapons, existing international law provides very weak protections against the use of such weapons. Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) purports to regulate incendiary weapons, but in reality is ineffective due to definitional loopholes and textual inconsistencies. Today, we live in a world where these weapons can essentially be used without any consequences, with recent use seen in Syria and Ukraine, and allegations of use in Libya.

As part of the International Human Rights Clinic, we were able to contribute to the fight to regulate – and ideally ban – the use of incendiary weapons. For our clinical project, we partnered with Human Rights Watch to write a memo to States Parties attending the annual CCW meeting in November 2015. The memo outlined the recent use of incendiary weapons, the horrific injuries these weapons cause, and the shortcomings of Protocol III in providing protection from incendiary weapons. The memo looked at developments surrounding incendiary weapons over the past five years and highlighted how over three dozen countries have spoken out against this issue during that time period. In light of five years of discussions and criticism surrounding incendiary weapons, our memo, “From Condemnation to Concrete Action,” called on states to take concrete steps towards strengthening Protocol III. In particular, we proposed specific amendments that State Parties could support to alter Protocol III and provide more protections for civilians.

To make our advocacy more effective, our clinical supervisor (Bonnie Docherty) and one of our team members (Sarah Abraham) travelled to Geneva to attend the CCW meeting in person. In Geneva, they reinforced the message outlined in our memo through formal and informal discussions with state delegates and civil society. Ultimately, 15 state delegates made formal, public statements addressing incendiary weapons. Many states said they were open to discussing potential amendments to Protocol III. This momentum comes at a crucial time, since next year the CCW will be holding a “Review Conference” which occurs once every five years. These review conferences have traditionally been a place for concrete action to take place. We hope that our memo has helped contribute to the push for amending Protocol III during this session.

Through this project, we learned about the importance of international law and UN treaty mechanisms for protecting civilians during armed conflict. These slow and complex processes, however, are frustrating in light of the urgency of the issue of incendiary weapons and the horrors faced by victims and survivors of these attacks. Learning how to navigate this system and be an effective advocate has been indispensible to our legal educations and has enabled us to contribute to this crucial fight against incendiary weapons.

Fighting for disarmament

Via Harvard Gazette

Researcher calls for stronger regulation of incendiary weapons, ban on killer robots

Bonnie Docherty

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Bonnie Docherty, a senior instructor at Harvard’s International Human Rights Clinic, traveled to Geneva to advocate for stronger regulations on incendiary devices, which she calls “exceptionally cruel weapons.” “These are weapons that create fire or injure by burning,” she explained, showing examples of inert incendiary weapons and cluster munitions.

After researching the devastating humanitarian effects of the deadly cluster munitions used in Afghanistan in 2002, Bonnie Docherty joined a worldwide campaign to eliminate them.

Six years after she started her probe, cluster bombs were banned. Her investigation on the use of cluster munitions in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq and Lebanon, was highly influential in a 2008 treaty signed by 117 countries banning these weapons.

For Docherty, a lecturer on law and a senior instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, the battle to protect civilians from unnecessary harm continues.

Last month, Docherty traveled to Geneva to advocate for stronger regulations on incendiary devices, which she calls “exceptionally cruel weapons” that have been used in Syria, Libya, and Ukraine.

Docherty, who is also a senior researcher in the arms division at Human Rights Watch, recently sat down for an interview to talk about these weapons, killer robots, and her guiding principle: to protect civilians from suffering caused by armed conflicts.

GAZETTE: Before you became a disarmament advocate, you were a reporter for a local newspaper. Can you tell us about this part of your life?

DOCHERTY: After college, I was a reporter for The Middlesex News, now the MetroWest Daily News, outside of Boston, for three years. I covered mostly local news, government meetings, environmental issues, but I had the opportunity to go to Bosnia and embed with the peacekeepers for about 10 days in 1998. There was an Army lab in my town, that’s how I got the invitation to go to Bosnia. I had been interested in armed conflicts, but that trip definitely increased my interest in that field.

GAZETTE: How did you make the jump from suburban journalism to human rights and disarmament issues?

DOCHERTY: After I left the newsroom, I went to Harvard Law School. Right after graduation, I went to Human Rights Watch, which was a perfect mix of journalism and law because you go out in the field and you apply the law to what you find. My start date was Sept. 12, 2001, by happenstance, so whatever was planned was changed. Six months later, I was in Afghanistan researching the use of cluster munitions, which was my first exposure to disarmament issues.

GAZETTE: What are cluster munitions, and why are they so dangerous?

DOCHERTY: Cluster munitions are large weapons, such as bombs or rockets that contain dozens or hundreds of small munitions called submunitions. They’re problematic because they have a broad area effect — they spread over the size of a football field — and because many of them don’t explode on impact and lie around like landmines and explode in years or decades to come.

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Commentary: The Horror of Incendiary Weapons and the Need for Stronger Law

Via International Human Rights Clinic
By Bonnie Docherty

This post, “Unrivaled Cruelty: The Horror of Incendiary Weapons and the Need for Stronger Law,” was originally published in Jurist

Incendiary weapons inflict almost unrivaled cruelty on their victims. Photos taken after an incendiary weapon attack on a Syrian school show the charred bodies of children, who must have experienced unimaginable agony. The weapons cause excruciatingly painful burns, and treatment for survivors requires sloughing off dead skin, which has been likened to being flayed alive. While individuals often react to accounts of such suffering with horror, government efforts to minimize the harm from these weapons by strengthening international law have been unacceptably slow.

Many countries have expressed outrage at the use of incendiary weapons over the past five years, including at meetings of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), the treaty that regulates the weapons. The voices of these countries are crucial and they should continue to raise the issue. But it is time to move from condemnation to concrete action. A major disarmament conference scheduled for next year presents an excellent opportunity for progress.

Incendiary weapons produce heat and fire through the chemical reaction of a flammable substance. They can be designed to burn people or materiel, serve as smokescreens or provide illumination. People who survive attacks with incendiary weapons not only experience physical injuries, but also frequently endure psychological trauma, permanent disfigurement and difficulties reintegrating into society.

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Joint Clinic Report: Company’s Remedies for Rape in Papua New Guinea Deeply Flawed

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Geneva & New York, November 19, 2015—A controversial process created by one of the world’s largest gold mining companies to compensate women for rapes and gang rapes in Papua New Guinea was deeply flawed, said human rights investigators and legal experts at Columbia and Harvard Law Schools in a study released today.

The three-year study of Barrick Gold’s remedy mechanism at its Porgera gold mine found that the effort to provide packages to 120 rape survivors was flawed from the start and fell far short of international standards.

“These are some of the most vicious assaults I have ever investigated,” said Professor Sarah Knuckey, one of the lead authors of the report, and the Director of the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Institute. “The women and local communities had to struggle for years just to get the company to admit what happened.”

Most women were offered less than $6,000 USD each in compensation, and were also given some counseling and healthcare. Knuckey continued, “They had been suffering for far too long, and deserved much more.”

For several years, security guards at the Porgera mine physically assaulted and sexually abused members of the community. It was only after repeated pressure by local and international groups that the Canadian mining company finally acknowledged the sexual violence and launched an internal investigation in 2010. The company created a remedy mechanism to handle claims by survivors two years later.

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Pivotal Elections in Myanmar

Via International Human Rights Clinic

By Roni Druks, J.D. ’17, and Sharon Yuen, LL.M. ’16

Today, Myanmar held its first contested general election in 25 years — one that will have major implications for human rights. As vote counting starts, everyone is waiting to see whether the current ruling party, the military-backed United Solidarity and Development Party, or the National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, will win control of the parliament. There is a long history between military-backed parties and the NLD, dating to 1990, when the NLD won a landslide victory that was never recognized. In 2010, after decades of military rule, the country held elections again, leading to a USDP victory in parliament and the appointment of former general Thein Sein as president. But the NLD boycotted the 2010 vote, which was largely considered illegitimate.

Today, as the USDP, NLD, and other parties face off, seats in both the upper and lower houses of the national legislature, as well as at the state and division levels, are at stake. Despite concerns about whether the election will be free and fair, the key question is whether the NLD or USDP will win a victory and be able to control parliament—either alone or in a coalition. The winning party should control the selection of the next president, who will have a major influence over the course of human rights in the country over the next few years.

The outcome of the election will prove especially crucial since the president and newly elected parliament will bear responsibility of advancing a challenging peace process. Although the Myanmar government signed a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with eight ethnic armed organizations on October 15, 2015, the agreement remains neither nationwide nor a ceasefire. (For more on that, see the recent piece by our fellow clinic student, Roi Bachmutsky, JD ’17). Fighting has continued in several ethnic areas, raising concerns about the displacement of ethnic communities and other human rights violations.

Beyond the elections, Myanmar’s human rights record was under scrutiny this past Friday through the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is evaluating Myanmar’s progress on human rights since 2011. Regrettably, Myanmar appointed Lt. Gen. Ko Ko to head the committee responsible for Myanmar’s UPR process. Ko Ko has a long track record of alleged involvement in human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity as the International Human Rights Clinic previously documented in a four-year investigation.

The Clinic made a UPR submission in March highlighting that the Myanmar government has not taken any steps to investigate the allegations against Lt. Gen. Ko Ko. In a major development, more than 500 groups from Myanmar (who must remain anonymous for fear of retaliation) have signed a petition calling for international action to hold Lt. Gen. Ko Ko accountable due to inaction at the national level. In response, the Clinic, along with eight other organizations, released a statement echoing the need for an end to impunity.

Whether on the election front, in its peace process, or on issues of accountability, it is a pivotal time in Myanmar. Along with the world, the people of Myanmar wait to see whether a new chapter for human rights is on the horizon or whether it will be more of the same.

Clinic and HRW Urge Strengthening of International Law Governing Incendiary Weapons

Via International Human Rights Clinic

(Washington, DC, November 5, 2015) – Countries should take concrete steps to strengthen international law governing incendiary weapons, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today, ahead of a diplomatic meeting devoted to incendiary and other weapons that will be held in Geneva November 9-13, 2015.

A video posted to YouTube by activists from Quseir, Syria shows ZAB 2.5 incendiary submunitions burning in the playground of the Ghaleb Radi school following an airstrike on December 3, 2012. © 2012 Private

A video posted to YouTube by activists from Quseir, Syria shows ZAB 2.5 incendiary submunitions burning in the playground of the Ghaleb Radi school following an airstrike on December 3, 2012. © 2012 Private

The need is urgent in light of new reported uses of incendiary weapons, which cause excruciatingly painful burns that are difficult to treat and can lead to long-term psychological harm and severe disfigurement.

The report, “From Condemnation to Concrete Action,” provides a five-year review of developments related to incendiary weapons. It lays out evidence of recent use, including in Syria, Libya, and Ukraine, as well as allegations of use in Yemen in 2015. It also examines the evolution of countries’ policies and positions regarding the use of incendiary weapons.

“Countries have been voicing concerns and condemning use of incendiary weapons for five years, but it is time for more tangible progress,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior clinical instructor with the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Countries should seize the opportunities at upcoming diplomatic meetings to strengthen the law curbing the use of these exceptionally cruel weapons.”

A protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, an international treaty, regulates the use of incendiary weapons. But it has significant loopholes that have undermined its effectiveness and failed to deter ongoing use, the report said.

At their annual meeting in Geneva next week, countries that are party to that treaty should agree to initiate discussions to review current law. Such discussions would lay the groundwork for efforts to amend the law at the 2016 review conference, a major diplomatic gathering held every five years.

The joint report is co-published by Human Rights Watch, where Docherty is also senior arms researcher. Sarah Abraham, JD ’17, Lauren Blodgett, JD ’16, Danae Paterson, JD ’16, contributed research to the report.

The World’s Role in Burma’s Peace Process

By Roi Bachmutsky, J.D. ’17, student in the International Human Rights Clinic

There is a joke in Burma* that George Orwell unintentionally wrote a trilogy about the country: Burmese Days about its colonial era, Animal Farm about its road to socialism, and 1984 about its military dictatorship. With Burma’s national elections coming up in just one week, President Thein Sein has been using smoke and mirrors to persuade the world that dystopian Burma is history. The final act is the recent signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the Ethnic Armed Organizations that have long been plagued by armed conflict with the regime. Burma has changed, the story goes: it is a democracy, it has made peace. Enticing though it may be, this narrative is just not true.

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