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Tag: International Human Rights Clinic (page 1 of 6)

Mamani: Lessons and Learning From a Decade-Long Struggle for Justice

From L to R: Nicole Antoine (’18), Lindsay, Elisa, Kelsey Jost- Creegan (’17), Amy Volz (’18), and Lisandra outside of the court- house in Fort Lauderdale. Antoine, Jost-Creegan, and Volz previ- ously worked on the case.

From L to R: Nicole Antoine (’18), Lindsay, Elisa, Kelsey Jost- Creegan (’17), Amy Volz (’18), and Lisandra outside of the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. Antoine, Jost-Creegan, and Volz previously worked on the case.

By: Lindsay Bailey, J.D. ’19, Lisandra Novo, J.D. ’19, and Elisa Quiroz, J.D. ’19

Having grown up, lived, or worked abroad for several years in Ghana, Chile, and Cuba, among other locations, the three of us came to Harvard Law School excited about pursuing international law. We had ideas about what a career in this field might look like and were eager to get involved with clinics and student practice organizations. But prior to joining the International Human Rights Clinic and working on the Mamani case, we didn’t really understand what practicing intentional human rights law meant.

Since the fall of our 2L years, we have worked together on Mamani et al v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, a federal lawsuit against the former president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and the former Minister of Defense, Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, for their respective roles in planning and ordering security forces to use deadly military force against unarmed civilians to suppress popular protests against government policies. In 2003, security forces under their leadership slaughtered 58 citizens and injured more than 400, almost all from indigenous Aymara communities.

On April 3, 2018, following a month-long trial, the jury issued a historic verdict and found both men liable for extrajudicial killings under the Torture Victim Protection Act, awarding our plaintiffs—the parents, husbands, wives, and siblings of individuals who were killed—$10 million in damages. The judge subsequently overturned the jury’s verdict after a Rule 50 motion, and the case is currently on appeal in the Eleventh Circuit.

We have continued to work on the appeal well into our last semester as HLS students. And though our time on the case will at some point come to an end, we are certain the long- lasting effects of this experience will continue to shape our lives and careers.

Our time on Mamani contributed significantly to our lawyering skills and career paths. Between the three of us, we traveled to Bolivia to conduct interviews of witnesses that would testify at trial; helped lawyers from HLS and Akin Gump  take and defend depositions of expert and lay witnesses prior to trial, in locations ranging from Washington D.C. to Ecuador; and spent, collectively, hundreds of hours in two weeks between the hotel “war room” and the federal courthouse in Fort  Lauderdale,  Florida, working on the first civil trial in U.S. courts against a living former head of state for human rights abuses committed abroad. We learned how to interview plaintiffs, conduct depositions, review evidence, and prepare nervous witnesses, who had traveled thousands of miles to an unfamiliar place, for a historic trial.

More importantly, however, Mamani shaped our identities as lawyers. With our clinical instructors – Susan Farbstein, Tyler Giannini and Thomas Becker – we were lucky to experience firsthand how to be an effective lawyer while retaining compassion, humility, and humanity. We observed Thomas treating plaintiffs and witnesses not just as clients, but as equals and friends. We watched how Tyler was able to bring peace of mind to a nervous plaintiff, who had witnessed the death of his father, and remind him that the truth was his  own. We learned from Susan about the importance of caring for each other during tough times and working as a team, which became a true family.

Our time in the human rights clinic confirmed our passion for and commitment to international law. Next year we will be pursuing a Fulbright in Spain to research the creation of a Truth Commission to investigate Franco-era crimes; litigating cases of universal jurisdiction in Geneva, Switzerland; and continuing to pursue human rights litigation in U.S. courts. Through these new and challenging experiences, we will bring with us the frustrations, joys and lessons we learned on Mamani wherever we go.

Radhika Kapoor: ‘I want to be able to help develop transitional justice norms’

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Heratch Photography

By: Audrey Kunycky

After consecutive internships at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court, Radhika Kapoor LL.M. ’19 came to HLS to take advantage of Harvard’s institutional expertise in international law, humanitarian law, and post-conflict stability. “I really wanted to equip myself with tools that would let me explore questions that had come up during my internships. For example, I think there are a lot of countries that have concerns about acceding to international instruments like the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. How could they be self-sufficient in addressing issues of transitional justice?” Kapoor asks.

As she wraps up her LL.M. studies, Kapoor can readily identify the ways in which her LL.M. coursework has sharpened her thinking. She took a course on the Nuremburg trials, with Professor of Practice Alex Whiting, which “asked the question of whether an international court is the best stage to process large-scale humanitarian or human rights violations. I came away from it thinking that courts are perhaps best seen as a complement to a system of transitional justice and not necessarily the only way forward.” Kapoor also especially enjoyed a class on “Geopolitics, Human Rights and Statecraft,” with Professor of Practice and former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power. “I learned that it’s possible to think about foreign policy in humanistic terms,” she recalls, adding with a laugh that “we got to see somebody we had only seen on TV, in class, cold-calling on us.”

She also immersed herself in clinical opportunities at HLS. Last fall, for HLS Advocates for Human Rights, one of the law school’s student practice organizations, she led a team monitoring the trial of Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of the Côte d’Ivoire, for crimes against humanity. This spring, in the law school’s International Human Rights Clinic, she worked on two projects, both conflict-related and related to gender, but through very different lenses. One of the projects concerned accountability for sexual violence perpetrated against detained men and boys in conflict situations. The other was an arms and gender project that brought her, classmate Terence Flyte LL.M. ’19, and their clinical instructor, Anna Crowe LL.M. ’12, to Geneva, Switzerland, where they joined signatories and NGOs in working meetings to discuss ways forward for implementing the United Nations’ landmark Arms Trade Treaty. At the conference, Crowe presented “Interpreting the Arms Trade Treaty: International Human Rights Law and Gender-based Violence in Article 7 Risk Assessments,” a paper co-authored by Kapoor and three other HLS students enrolled in the International Human Rights Clinic. The clinic has been collaborating with ControlArms, an international NGO, in advocating for countries to restrict arms exports if there is a risk that the weapons will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law, with a specific focus on gender-based violence.

Credit: International Human Rights Clinic Radhika Kapoor LL.M. ’19 and Terry Flyte LL.M. ’19 at the Working Group Meetings of the 5th Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty.

Credit: International Human Rights Clinic
Radhika Kapoor LL.M. ’19 and Terry Flyte LL.M. ’19 at the Working Group Meetings of the 5th Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty.

Participating in these working sessions “really brought to the fore how important it is to really listen to different countries’ concerns and circumstances when it comes to helping them implement treaty provisions. We got to know concerns that we hadn’t known about before, like constraints that operate, and different shackles [on] political capacity even when there is political will. I went away with a much more comprehensive understanding of why states behave the way they do,” Kapoor observes. “Being in that conference room in Geneva, while states actively debated how to interpret the treaty, was a mind-blowing experience,” she adds. “The clinic gives you opportunities to do things that you would otherwise only engage in at an advanced stage of your career.”

This spring, in another partnership with ControlArms, Kapoor and the IHRC clinical team travelled to Latvia to deliver a training to Eastern and Central European weapons export officials on how to implement the gender-violence provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty.

These types of opportunities were not even on Kapoor’s radar when she started her studies. In fact, she first decided to study law because of her love of reading. As a child growing up in Lucknow in northern India, “I was really into Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton,” she recalls. Later, “I went on a crusade where I only read authors of color. These were the best two reading years that I had, because I came across so many new treasures of literature.” So when it came to university, “I knew I wanted to study something where I could read a lot, and law of course allows you to do that,” she explains. When she enrolled in the B.A./LL.B. program at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), “I wasn’t really sure what to expect, because nobody in my family was a lawyer. But it was love at first sight.”

While at NLSIU, “I started thinking about conflict, and how countries grapple with it. That’s what led me down the path that I’m on now,” Kapoor adds. Armed conflict is “rampant in Asia, where I’m from. What struck me was that often when these conflicts were over, there was hardly any thinking on how to move past it. These conflicts were often bloody; they involved extreme factionalism, or ethnic or religious hatred; it’s not as though these things are just buried. They’re going to flare up again. What happens after the conflict is over?”

After graduation, she expects to focus on this question, working on projects relating to Sudan and Myanmar. Recently named a Public Service Venture Fund Kaufman Fellow, Kapoor plans to work at Public International Law and Policy Group in Washington, D.C., a global pro bono law firm that works with clients to further their capacity to achieve transitional justice.

Outside of class, she has continued to read voluminously, turning more to nonfiction while at HLS. She also found time to feed her lifelong love of travel, joining friends on a spring break road trip to Charleston, Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta and New Orleans over spring break. “It was so amazing, because I’ve read a lot of books about growing up in the American South. There was so much natural beauty there — and so much history.”

All of these experiences have been deeply meaningful for Kapoor. “I want to be able to carry forward the learning from this year, which has been immense, and establish a career in my home country, or my home region, in helping to develop transitional justice norms,” she explains. Looking back, “it really has been the best year of my life.”

Three students win the David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Team Award

Via Harvard Law Today 

David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Team Award winners pictured left to right: Lisandra Novo ’19, Lindsay Bailey ’19, Elisa Quiroz ’19 Credit: Lorin Granger

By: Alexis Farmer

Lindsay Bailey ’19, Lisandra Novo ’19 and Elisa Quiroz ’19 are the winners of the 2019 David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Team Award. The award, named in honor of the late Clinical Professor of Law David Grossman ’88, a public interest lawyer dedicated to providing high-quality legal services to low-income communities, recognizes students who have demonstrated excellence in representing individual clients and undertaking advocacy or policy reform projects.

The trio was honored for their exceptional work with the International Human Rights Clinic on a complicated lawsuit, Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín. The Mamani case was litigated in U.S. federal court on behalf of the family members of Bolivian citizens who were killed by the Bolivian military in 2003. The suit brought claims against Bolivia’s former president and minister of defense for their roles in orchestrating these killings.

Over the course of two years, the students were involved in many aspects of the case — from discovery and depositions, to summary judgment, to a month-long trial, to the current appeal.

Professor Susan Farbstein praised their advanced level of legal analysis, judgment, creativity, and empathy with clients. “Together, Lindsay, Lisandra, and Elisa have demonstrated all the hallmarks of thoughtful, critical, and reflective human rights advocacy,” she said. “They have done it as a team which is, in fact, the only way real change ever happens. Each of them is whip smart, passionate, and committed, and can be depended on to tackle the toughest assignments with rigor and produce the highest quality of work. Yet together, they are even greater than the sum of their individual talents.”


Lindsay Bailey

Lindsay Bailey has long been actively involved in international human rights focused organizations. Prior to HLS, she spent three years in Ghana working with municipal governments to improve project planning, budgeting, and municipal taxes. In Ghana she worked for a variety of organizations, including Engineers Without Borders Amplify Governance, Global Communities, and UNICEF.

Since beginning law school, she has spent four semesters in the International Human Rights Clinic, volunteered with HLS Advocates for Human Rights for two years, and has been a research assistant at the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (HLS PILAC). She currently serves as the co-president of the Harvard Law and International Development Society (LIDS).

Bailey spent a winter Independent Clinical with the Public International Law and Policy Group in Jordan as part of the Reginald F. Lewis Internship Program. She also was an article editor on the Harvard Human Rights Journal, and an article editor and community development director for the Harvard International Law Journal, in which she published an article, “Can There Be an Accidental Extrajudicial Killing? Understanding standards of intent in the Torture Victim Protection Act” last August. Next year, Bailey will continue her work in human rights litigation at the Center for Justice and Accountability.


Lisandra Novo

Born in Cuba, Lisandra Novo narrowed her interest in international human rights and criminal law early on, focusing particularly on accountability for human rights violations committed by state officials. She was awarded a Chayes Fellowship in 2017 to work at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica. There she worked primarily on cases related to the justiciability of social, cultural and economic rights. In her first year at HLS, she was a member of the Harvard Immigration Project’s Removal Defense Project (HIP’s RDP), an interpreter for the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC), co-communications chair for the Harvard European Law Association (HELA), and an article editor for the Harvard International Law Journal’s Online Symposium on the crime of aggression. She spent the fall semester of her third year at the Graduate Institute for International Law and Development in Geneva, Switzerland. Novo and Quiroz both participated in a spring break pro bono trip in Puerto Rico for hurricane relief work in March 2019. After graduation she will be conducting independent research on enforced disappearances in Spain as a Fulbright Fellow.


Elisa Quiroz

Elisa Quiroz had an interest in pursuing a career in international human rights work long before coming to HLS. Her childhood in Chile exposed her to human rights issues early on. “If you grow up in a country that has lived through a dictatorship, you hear the stories all the time, and that makes human rights law very tangible in a way that maybe countries that are more removed from that experience don’t know,” she told Harvard Law Today. In 2017, Quiroz was also awarded a Chayes Fellowship to work in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva (OHCHR). At OHCHR, Quiroz worked on projects with the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, independence of judges and lawyers, the right to health, and the right to education. During her 2L year, she was awarded a Human Rights Program travel grant to conduct research in Chile examining the government’s legislative and policy responses to the country’s rapid rise in migration. Next year, she will be working as a legal fellow at TRIAL International in Geneva, Switzerland.

Clinic Reports Show Benefits of Joining the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty Outweigh Concerns

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

Source: Pixabay

By: Bonnie Docherty

As countries engage in national debates about joining the 2017 treaty banning nuclear weapons, they should focus on the treaty’s humanitarian and disarmament benefits.

To inform these discussions, the International Human Rights Clinic has released a new briefing paper and two government submissions that highlight the advantages of ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and seek to alleviate concerns some states may have.

Countries affected by nuclear weapon use and testing have much to gain from the TPNW’s provisions on victim assistance and environmental remediation. In a 9-page paper, the Clinic presents 10 myths and realities regarding the TPNW’s so-called “positive obligations.” It aims to raise awareness of these provisions and correct misconceptions and misrepresentations about their content.

The briefing paper explains how the TPNW spreads responsibility for assisting victims and remediating contaminated areas across states parties. While affected states should take the lead for practical and legal reasons, other states parties should support their efforts with technical, material, or financial assistance.

The paper also shows how the positive obligations can be effectively implemented and make a tangible difference, despite the devastating effects of nuclear weapons.

In recent government submissions, the Clinic has addressed the situation of countries that are members of or partners with NATO. It has called on Iceland and Sweden in particular to join the TPNW, but the arguments apply to any states in a comparable position.

Ratifying the TPNW would further these countries’ long-standing support of nuclear disarmament and promote compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. At the same time, members or partners of NATO or a similar alliance should not face legal obstacles to joining the TPNW. While a state party to the TPNW would have to renounce its nuclear umbrella status, it could continue to participate in joint military operations with nuclear-armed states.

The Clinic released related reports focusing on the Marshall Islands and Australia in 2018.

As of April 30, 2019, the TPNW had 70 signatories and 23 states parties. It will enter into force when 50 states have become party.

Clinical students Molly Brown JD ’19, Maria Manghi JD ’20, and Ben Montgomery JD ’20 worked on these publications under the supervision of Bonnie Docherty, associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection.

Clinic Publishes Paper with Control Arms on “Interpreting the Arms Trade Treaty”

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

Radhika Kapoor LLM ’19 and Terry Flyte LLM ’19 at the Working Group Meetings of the 5th Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty.

This week, the International Human Rights Clinic published “Interpreting The Arms Trade Treaty: International Human Rights Law and Gender-Based Violence in Article 7 Risk Assessments” with Clinic partner Control Arms. Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law Anna Crowe LLM ’12 presented the paper in Geneva today at a preliminary meeting of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty.

The paper takes a close look at the human rights risk assessment Article 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty requires States Parties to undertake whenever an arms export is proposed. Article 7 requires States Parties to assess the potential that any proposed exports could be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights law, including serious acts of gender-based violence (GBV). Within that assessment, States Parties must also consider the potential that the weapons would contribute to or undermine peace and security. If there is an overriding risk of harm, the export must be denied.

The paper provides interpretive guidance on a number of key terms in the Arms Trade Treaty with a focus on considering gender and risks of GBV in each part of the Article 7 risk assessment, particularly with respect to serious violations of international human rights law.

Clinical students Radhika Kapoor LLM ’19 and Terry Flyte LLM ’19 joined Crowe in Geneva. Jillian Rafferty JD ’20, Natalie Gallon JD ’20, and Elise Baranouski JD ’20 are co-authors of the paper, along with Kapoor.

Yee Htun Honored by Harvard Women’s Law Association as a Woman Inspiring Change

Via the International Human Rights Clinic 

By: Susan Farbstein

We’re thrilled to share this happy news: in honor of International Women’s Day 2019, the Clinic’s very own Yee Htun has been selected by the Harvard Women’s Law Association as a “Women Inspiring Change.” To say this honor is well deserved would be an understatement.

Yee Htun was honored by her colleagues and students at the WLA reception on Monday, March 11. From left to right: Program Coordinator Dana Walters, Delphine Rodrik JD’20, Elise Baranouski JD’20, Rez Gardi LLM’19, Anna Rembar JD’19, Yee Htun, Lecturer on Law Anna Crowe LLM’12, Eun Sung Yang JD’20, Luna Borges Pereira Santos JD’19, and Isabel Pitaro JD’20.

Since joining the Clinic in 2016, Yee has guided teams of students as they engage with some of the gravest and most pressing human rights issues facing her native Myanmar: ending violence against women and girls, decriminalizing sodomy laws and enshrining LGBTQI rights, repealing or revising laws that encroach on freedom of expression, documenting hate speech and designing strategies to promote tolerance, spearheading coordination between local and international organizations seeking accountability for atrocities, and improving land rights for the rural poor.

Yee’s personal story is also inspiring. Yee fled Myanmar as a young child in the late 1980s, following the military junta’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.  After five years in a Thai refugee camp with her mother and sisters, the family emigrated to Canada as government-sponsored refugees. Yee would go on to earn a J.D. specialized in international law, to be selected by the Nobel Women’s Initiative to lead the first-ever international campaign to stop rape and sexual violence in conflict, and to serve as the inaugural director of the Myanmar Program at Justice Trust.

But Yee’s dazzling resume, strategic judgment, and legal accomplishments pale in comparison to who she is as a person.  She earns your respect and admiration without an ounce of ego. Students are in awe of Yee without being intimidated by her. She’s a hug and a shot of adrenaline, all rolled into one.

My co-director, Tyler Giannini, echoes this sentiment: “There are people who just naturally connect with others and inspire them to action—Yee is one of them.  She has a tremendous ability to bring people together, which is so critical in a place like Myanmar where the military has tried to divide people for so long. She leads with her energy, which is contagious. And she leads with her commitment to justice, which is unwavering.”

In January 2019, Yee (right) traveled to Myanmar with her clinical team. From right to left, Paras Shah JD’19, Judy Beals, Assistant Director, Religious Literacy Project, Delphine Rodrik JD’20, Chloe Do JD’19, and Ginger Cline JD’20.

I have watched, again and again, as clinical teams working with Yee are transformed by the experience—discovering not just their passion for human rights but also the confidence to act, speak, and lead in ways that they might never have imagined without her support and mentorship.

So it comes as no surprise that Yee’s students nominated her for this recognition, singling out her “courage, empathy, and tenacity” as particularly inspiring. Describing a recent trip to Myanmar, the students emphasized her incomparable “optimism and relentless advocacy” as she balanced strategizing with local partners, drafting human rights reports, and leading workshops, all while mentoring and training them.

I first met Yee at a staff meeting when I returned from a semester of leave and was immediately drawn in by her confidence, sincerity, and good humor. As she discussed the work that she and her students had undertaken that term, I was overwhelmed by how much she had accomplished, and energized by her warmth and enthusiasm. I still feel that way every time we speak—impressed, inspired, and invigorated.

Yee, thank you for giving so much of yourself to your students and your work. Thank you for being not only a generous colleague, but also a friend and a true role model. Thank you for motivating us all to rise to your level.

Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems: Recent Developments

Via Lawfare 

Source: Flickr

By: Hayley Evans, J.D. ’19 and Natalie Salmanowitz, J.D. ’19

On March 25-29, the U.N.’s Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) will meet for the third consecutive year to discuss developments and strategies in the field of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS). As a subsidiary body of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), the GGE brings together High Contracting Parties, state signatories, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations and academic bodies in an effort to define LAWS, debate best practices, and recommend steps to address the potential development and use of LAWS in the future. It’s been six months since the GGE last met, and this will be the first of two GGE meetings taking place in 2019 (for more information on the GGE’s prior meetings, see here and here). This post will cover all you need to know about where relevant stakeholders stand leading up to the March meeting.

Background on LAWS

As a general matter, LAWS are weapons that can select, detect and engage targets with little to no human intervention. Though there is no singularly accepted definition of LAWS, the term typically covers a broad array of potential weapons systems, ranging from fully autonomous weapons that can launch attacks without any human involvement to semi-autonomous weapons that require affirmative human action to execute a mission. Critics of LAWS focus primarily on fully autonomous weapons, dubbing LAWS “killer robots” and questioning their ability to respect human life and comply with international humanitarian law (IHL). Others, like the U.S. government, foresee potential advantages of the technology, arguing that LAWS’s automated targeting features might actually augment states’ abilities to meet IHL requirements through increased accuracy and efficiency. While it’s too soon to tell whether LAWS’s capabilities are a feature or a bug, the GGE’s ultimate decisions may have profound consequences for the development and use of LAWS.

Global Developments

Before reviewing the GGE’s and High Contracting Parties’ most recent meetings, it’s worth surveying the global pulse on attitudes toward LAWS and highlighting key developments in the public and private spheres.

To start, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (CSKR)—two of the chief proponents of a preemptive LAWS ban—have kept busy on the advocacy front. In August 2018, HRW published a report in conjunction with Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) entitled, “Heed the Call: A Moral and Legal Imperative to Ban Killer Robots.” As in its earlier reports—see hereand here—HRW called for a preemptive ban on the development, production and use of LAWS. But this new report went one step further, arguing that fully autonomous weapons would contravene the Martens Clause, which was introduced into the preamble to the 1899 Hague Convention (II) on the Laws and Customs of War on Land, and effectively guarantees a base level of protection under IHL even in the absence of specifically applicable treaties. According to HRW and the IHRC, fully autonomous weapons would be unable to comply with “principles of humanity” and “dicates of public conscience”—the Martens Clause’s two fundamental pillars.

A few months later, HRW and CSKR probed this idea of public conscience further, releasing results from a market research study on the strategic, legal and moral implications of LAWS. The study found that 61 percent of adults surveyed across 26 countries oppose LAWS—a 5  percent increase from survey results in 2017. Moreover, a majority of survey respondents in 20 of these countries expressed disapproval of LAWS, including those in countries whose governments have opposed a preemptive ban. Accordingly, CSKR concluded that “public opinion is in line with [CSKR’s] call for action to prevent the development of killer robots.” Although these surveys do not directly inform analyses under international law (unless, as HRW and the IHRC suggest, they contribute to an understanding of the “dictates of public conscience”), they do provide an interesting proxy for how opinio juris—a state’s belief that something is legally obligatory—is developing with respect to LAWS.

Apart from HSW and CSKR’s efforts, at the Paris Peace Forum marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres explicitly called for a ban on LAWS, stating, “Imagine the consequences of an autonomous system that could, by itself, target and attack human beings. I call upon States to ban these weapons, which are politically unacceptable and morally repugnant.” And in mid-February, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting, participants expressed dissatisfaction with the GGE’s overall progress. In particular, CSKR declared its intention to refocus its advocacy efforts domestically given the relative inaction and “diploma[tic] … fail[ures]” at the international level.

Meanwhile, in the private sector, LAWS have garnered significant attention as well. In June 2018, Google came under fire as thousands of its employees signed a petition urging the company to cease involvement in Project Maven—a contract with the Department of Defense to develop artificial intelligence for analyzing drone footage (which Google employees feared could one day facilitate the development or use of LAWS). Facing pressure from employees and technology experts across the globe, Google subsequently announced its decision not to renew its contract for Project Maven and vowed not to “design or deploy AI … [for] technologies that cause or are likely to cause overall harm.” In July 2018, over 200 organizations and 3,000 individuals (including Elon Musk, Google DeepMind’s founders and CEOs of various robotics companies) followed suit, pledging to “neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.” In light of these highly publicized events, the Defense Department recently tasked the Defense Innovation Board (comprising high-profile Silicon Valley tech leaders) with developing ethical principles to guide the department’s use of AI in military weapons and operations. The board has already concluded its first meeting and plans to publicly release its recommendations this June.

Highlights from the GGE’s August 2018 Meeting

While members of the private and public sectors have started to take concrete actions against LAWS, the same cannot be said of the GGE, despite increasing opposition to such weapons.

By the time the GGE met last August, 26 states supported a ban on fully autonomous weapons systems—four more than at the April 2018 meeting. However, 12 states—including Russia, the U.S. and the U.K.—opposed even negotiating a treaty on LAWS.

In advance of the August meeting, eight states submitted working papers. Though the papers discussed a wide variety of issues—ranging from the proper terminology and characterizations of LAWS to suggested approaches for regulating their development and use—the most commonly discussed issue concerned the concept of meaningful human control. While multiple papers reiterated the importance of holding humans accountable for their decisions to develop and deploy LAWS, some states expressed differing views on the proper way to conceptualize human control. For instance, whereas Brazil viewed human control as inextricably tied to the weapon’s level of autonomy, the U.S. sought to refocus the debate on human “judgment,” arguing that the key question is not the extent of control a human retains over the weapon, but whether “machines [can] effectuate the intention of commanders” and “enable personnel to exercise appropriate levels of judgment over the use of force.” According to the U.S., fewer opportunities for human control (and higher degrees of automation) can lead to greater alignment between human intentions and actual outcomes. Meanwhile, France appeared to express a middle-ground view, acknowledging that autonomy can improve the decision-making process, but expressing concern with operators’ ability to take charge of LAWS given their potentially inexplicable and unpredictable nature. States expressed a similar variety of positions during the meeting itself, and the GGE ultimately decided to continue these discussions at the next meeting. (Ljupčo Jivan Gjorgjinski, the chairman for the 2019 meeting, has specifically included discussions on human control and human-machine interactions in the March agenda.)

In an effort to convert their discussions into action items, states and organizations also proposed three main avenues to address the future development and use of LAWS. On one end of the spectrum, Austria, Brazil and Chile urged the GGE to “negotiate a legally-binding instrument” to address LAWS. The majority of delegations favored this option, with some states and organizations renewing their support for a ban, while others advocated for some degree of regulation (albeit in an unspecified form). Notwithstanding this widespread support, five states—the U.S., Russia, Australia, South Korea and Israel—effectively quashed further conversations on the matter. (As CSKR noted in its discussion of the survey mentioned above, these countries’ opposition to negotiating a legally binding instrument is particularly interesting given that—with the exception of Israel—a majority of survey respondents in each of these countries oppose “the use of [LAWS] in war.”) On the other end of the spectrum, a number of states—including Australia, the U.K. and Argentina—proposed continuing discussions “of existing obligations under international law” and elucidating best practices under IHL, specifically under Article 36 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.

As a third, intermediate approach, Germany and France suggested a political declaration to formally express areas of consensus and elaborate guiding principles regarding human control and accountability. At least 10 states’ delegations voiced support for this option, with some (such as Spain and Sri Lanka) viewing it as a stepping stone toward restrictions on LAWS, and others (such as Ireland and Poland) expressing general interest in the idea. By the end of the August meeting, the GGE voted to include a fourth and final option in its report—namely, a recognition that “no further legal measures were needed” since “IHL is fully applicable to potential [LAWS].” However, the GGE ultimately kicked the can down the road, recommending that it meet in 2019 under the current mandate, declining to formally adopt any of the proposed measures.

The August meeting was notable for two final reasons. First, according to commentary on the meeting by Reaching Critical Will (the disarmament division of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a frequent commentator on CCW meetings), the U.S. and Russia shocked other members of the GGE by doubting the relevance of international human rights law to autonomous weapons systems—even though prior GGE meetings appeared to take the applicability of such law as a given. In response, multiple states—such as Costa Rica, Panama, China and Cuba—pushed back, proposing a variety of solutions ranging from maintaining an explicit reference to international human rights law to mentioning the U.N. Charter. The GGE’s report—per the recommendation of China—“affirmed that international law, in particular the United Nations Charter and [IHL] as well as relevant ethical perspectives, should guide the continued work of the Group.” Second, much of the GGE’s debate centered on broader messaging concerns. Whereas some states, like the U.S., urged the GGE to discuss the benefits of LAWS (such as the capacity for greater targeting precision and less collateral damage), others fervently opposed any mention of such benefits absent an accompanying explanation of the associated risks. Similarly, a handful of states stressed the importance of “avoid[ing] the image that states believe” LAWS “are already in operation”—or “that these systems will be in operation one day.”

Highlights from the High Contracting Parties’ November 2018 Meeting

Following the GGE’s August 2018 meeting, “all CCW States parties” convened for the Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the CCW Nov. 21–23, 2018. Since the Convention and its Protocols cover all sorts of weapons and weapons systems, only a fraction of the November meeting dealt specifically with LAWS. But there were two developments of note. First, the International Committee of the Red Cross submitted a working paper prior to the meeting, which recommended that states develop an understanding of human control—a focus dictated by law and ethics—and provided questions to help inform the development of a practical understanding of the concept. Second—and perhaps most importantly—El Salvador and Morocco each called for a LAWS ban during the meeting, raising the number of states officially in support of a ban from 26 to 28.

Looking Ahead

So what to expect this March? According to Chairman Gjorgjinski, the “IHL prism” is the name of the game: IHL principles will “permeate all areas of [the GGE]’s focus. While the tentative agenda does not include general debate, it does provide for discussions on the impact of LAWS on IHL with a premium on “precis[ion] and specific[ity].” But building consensus may prove especially difficult this time around—unlike previous meetings, which lasted for 10 days, the GGE will meet for just seven days this year, only five of which will involve substantive debate. And as CSKR pointsout, all it takes is “one state [to] block agreement sought by the rest,” an outcome that may be all the more likely given the highly condensed opportunities for meaningful discussion.

On March 8, stakeholders will submit working papers to the CCW (which can be found here). If past is prologue, these working papers will set the tone for the March meeting as states and organizations stake out their positions on various topics and identify likely pressure points in the upcoming debate.

HRP Welcomes New Spring Staff to the International Human Rights Clinic

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

With the semester already off to a great start, we’d like to extend the warmest welcome to our new spring staff! We have two new members of the International Human Rights Clinic. Read below to learn more about them and make sure to stop by and introduce yourself.

Nicolette Waldman, Senior Clinical Fellow

Nicolette Waldman is a Senior Clinical Fellow for the Spring 2019 term. Previously, she was a researcher on Iraq and Syria for Amnesty International; a researcher for the Center for Civilians in Conflict, covering Gaza, Somalia, Libya and Bosnia; a legal fellow at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kabul; a program manager for Save the Children in the West Bank and Gaza; a Fulbright scholar in Jordan; and a senior associate in the legal and policy division at Human Rights Watch in New York. Waldman has a B.A. in International Affairs and English Literature from Lewis & Clark College, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and is a member of the State Bar of New York.

 

Jim Wormington, Clinical Instructor

Jim Wormington is a Clinical Instructor for the Spring 2019 term. He is also a researcher at Human Rights Watch in the Africa Division, where he covers West Africa. He was previously an attorney at the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, where he conducted research to inform rule of law and human rights development programs, and implemented programs in West and Central Africa. Wormington has also worked at the International Crisis Group and the War Crimes Chamber of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is an English-trained barrister, an associate member of QEB Hollis Whiteman Chambers, and was educated at Cambridge University (MA) and New York University School of Law (LLM). He is fluent in French.

 

Report: Australia Should Join Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

Source: Pixabay

Australia’s alliance with the United States need not stand in the way of Australia joining the 2017 treaty banning nuclear weapons, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic said in a report released today.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) would require Australia to end its reliance on US nuclear arms for defense. But it would not undermine the countries’ broader collective security agreement established under the 1951 ANZUS Treaty.

“Australia has long claimed to support nuclear disarmament,” said Bonnie Docherty, lead author of the report and the Clinic’s associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection. “Joining the ban treaty would advance that goal without creating insurmountable legal obstacles to ongoing military relations with the US.”

The 13-page report “Australia and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” explains why Australia can renounce its nuclear defense arrangement with the US (under the so-called “nuclear umbrella”) while maintaining military ties to its ally. The report also shows the compatibility of the treaty with Australia’s disarmament commitments under other treaties and policies.

The Labor Party is expected to discuss the TPNW at its national conference from December 16 to 18, 2018. The conference will provide a forum for Labor to develop a new party platform.  In its last platform, adopted in 2015, the Labor Party called for negotiations of a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

“Labor should continue to back a nuclear weapons ban and urge Australia to sign and ratify this landmark treaty,” Docherty said.

The TPNW was adopted at the UN by 122 countries on July 7, 2018. The United States, Australia, and most other nuclear-armed and nuclear umbrella states boycotted the negotiations.

Nevertheless, many Australian parliamentarians and the larger public have expressed support for the ban treaty. In 2017, the Senate passed a Labor-initiated motion urging the government to participate in the negotiations. Since then, two-thirds of the current Shadow Ministry have pledged to work toward the treaty’s signature and ratification. A survey of Australians, released last month, found that almost 80 percent of the public supported joining the treaty.

The TPNW requires its states parties to renounce their nuclear umbrella arrangements. Such arrangements would violate the treaty’s prohibition on encouraging other countries to possess nuclear weapons.

But as the Clinic’s new report explains, the ANZUS Treaty makes no reference to nuclear weapons. Australia’s public claims to protection under the nuclear umbrella are based on policy statements that began in 1994.

An affirmative rejection of the nuclear umbrella would not breach Australia’s ANZUS Treaty commitment “to act to meet the common danger” in the case of an attack on an alliance member or in the Pacific. It would also allow Australia to comply with the relevant TPNW prohibition. While the US could object to Australia’s new position and use nuclear weapons in Australia’s defense, the TPNW does not hold states parties responsible for their allies’ choice of weapons.

The TPNW allows parties to participate in military alliances and joint operations with nuclear armed states.  If Australia ratified the treaty, it could not assist the US with certain nuclear-weapon-related activities, such as the planning of strikes with nuclear weapons. But it could continue to provide intelligence for counter-terrorism efforts or engage in non-nuclear military operations, such as those of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan.

According to the new report, the TPNW is consistent with some of Australia’s other legal and policy commitments. The TPNW helps states parties, such as Australia, meet their obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to work toward nuclear disarmament, including in the form of a treaty. The TPNW strengthens the NPT’s safeguard measures to ensure countries do not develop nuclear weapons.

Australia has also committed to nuclear disarmament through government policy papers and ratification of the Treaty of Rarotonga, which establishes a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone.

“By signing and ratifying the nuclear ban treaty, Australia would join with its regional neighbors in the Asia-Pacific and become a disarmament leader among nuclear umbrella states,” Docherty said.

For more information, contact Bonnie Docherty, bdocherty@law.harvard.edu. Read the full text of the report here.

Clinical students Molly Brown, JD ’19, Samantha Fry, JD ’20, and Thejasa Jayachandran, JD ’20, worked under Docherty’s supervision to help write this report.

Salma Waheedi Co-Authors Chapter on Judicial Review in the Context of Constitutional Islam

Via the International Human Rights Clinic 

Pexels

Source: Pexels

Salma Waheedi, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at the International Human Rights Clinic and Associate Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change, has co-authored a book chapter with Kristen A. Stilt, Professor of Law and Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program, that appeared in the recently-published volume Comparative Judicial Review, edited by Erin F. Delaney and Rosalind Dixon. The chapter, titled “Judicial Review in the Context of Constitutional Islam,” identifies and examines different models of judicial review in countries with constitutional Islam clauses.

The chapter begins by providing a brief background to Islamic law and constitutional design. The authors develop a classificatory scheme that outlines the different institutional design models for constitutional interpretation in Muslim countries.  These include a secular model, an Islamic model, and a hybrid model, with different countries falling along a spectrum of variations. The authors consider several case studies, including Kuwait and Egypt for the secular model, Iran and Saudi Arabia for the Islamic model, and Malaysia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan for the hybrid model. The chapter concludes by highlighting ways in which the political context and certain choices in constitutional drafting can foster one system or another along the spectrum.

After Fifteen Years, the Bolivian Struggle for Justice Continues in the United States

Via the Human Rights Program

By: Thomas Becker

Téofilo Baltazar places flowers on the tomb of his wife, Teodosia, who was shot and killed during Black October.

On October 12th, students from the International Human Rights Clinic arrived at the Villa Ingenio Cemetery on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia to celebrate the lives of those killed in Bolivia’s “Black October.” Despite the somberness of the drizzly afternoon, the cemetery was adorned with the bright colors of the family members’ aguayos (blankets) and polleras (traditional billowy skirts worn by Bolivia’s Aymara women). Today was a special occasion.

Téofilo Baltazar was one of the family members present at the cemetery. Fifteen years ago to the day, Bolivian soldiers shot and killed his pregnant wife Teodosia while she was praying inside her sister’s home. As Téofilo placed flowers on his wife’s tomb, he stated, “Hasta el último momento lucharé por la justicia.” (“Until the last moment, I will fight for justice.”)

Téofilo, like so many relatives of the roughly 500 casualties during Black October, is Aymara. Historically, the country’s indigenous people have been excluded from justice, but Téofilo and his friends were determined to change this.

In 2007, nine Aymara Bolivians launched a landmark lawsuit in U.S. federal court against Bolivia’s ex-President Gonzalo “Goni” Sánchez de Lozada and ex-Defense Minister Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, who fled to the United States after Black October and have lived here ever since. The case sought to hold both men responsible for the role they played planning and organizing the mass killings that took their family members.

After years of legal obstacles, the lawsuit went to trial in March of this year, marking the first time ever a former of head state was forced to directly face his accusers in a U.S. courtroom. The victims’ family members made history when, after a three-week trial and a week of deliberations, the ten-person jury unanimously held Goni and Sánchez Berzaín liable for the killings and awarded the plaintiffs $10 million. This was the first human rights verdict in the United States against a living head of state.

Unfortunately, in May, a judge overturned the historic jury decision. The judge upheld the defendants’ Rule 50 Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, which argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict. This decision forced the families back to court.

Teodosia’s tomb with photos and flowers honoring her life during the memorial.

Last month, as Bolivians celebrated the lives of those killed in Black October, the plaintiffs submitted an appellate brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit arguing that the district court applied the wrong legal standard for extrajudicial killings and the jury verdict should be reinstated. Additionally, current and former U.N. Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executionsretired U.S. military commanders, and law of war scholars submitted amicus briefs on behalf of the plaintiffsEarly next year, the Defendants will file their opposition brief and Plaintiffs will file their reply; oral argument is expected in spring 2019.

Though the struggle has been long, the families remain steadfast in their fight for justice. It is the memories of their loves ones that keep them going. At the cemetery, Téofilo shared with the Clinic’s students the importance of their victory and its significance for survivors throughout the world. “The jury is the voice of the American people, and the people have spoken. No court can change that. No court can change the message it sends to the world,” he told the students, adding: “But the struggle continues.”

The Clinic and co-counsel from Center for Constitutional Rights, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, LLP, and Schonbrun, De Simone, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman, LLP have represented the plaintiffs from the outset in the case. Clinical students Luna Borges Pereira Santos LLM ’19 and Kevin Patumwat JD ’19 traveled with clinical instructor Thomas Becker JD ’08 to Bolivia in October to commemorate 15 years since Black October.

Back to Myanmar with fresh insights

Via The Harvard Gazette 

Yee Htun, Myanmar native lawyer who teaches a human rights advocacy course at HLS. Here she works inside 6 Everett St, WCC, Human Rights Program in Wasserstein Hall. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

By: Liz Mineo

When Myanmar’s military junta tightened its grip in the late ’80s to quash a nationwide democracy movement, Yee Htun fled the brutal crackdown on dissent along with her mother, a doctor turned human rights activist, and three siblings. After five years in a refugee camp in Thailand, they immigrated to Canada as government-sponsored refugees, unsure of when they might return home.

It turned out to be decades. After the junta transferred power to a civilian government and opened Myanmar to the world, Htun went back. She had grown up in Vancouver and was an up-and-coming attorney, and was hoping to reconnect with her roots. She did more than that. Htun ended up staying in Myanmar for four years, working as a human rights advocate for local farmers, journalists, and activists, and training local lawyers on strategic litigation and international law.

“It was the perfect opportunity,” said Htun, who worked as director of the Myanmar Program for Justice Trust until she came to Harvard Law School (HLS) in 2016. “I wanted to go back to Myanmar and use my legal education to do my part to help the country move forward.”

Harvard Law students have also had the chance to do their part in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, an unlikely destination to practice law. Htun took her students from the International Human Rights Clinic of the Human Rights Program at HLS to Myanmar four times. The students met with community activists and lawmakers to work on women’s rights, LGBTQI rights, advancing legal reform around land rights for vulnerable communities, and changing criminal defamation provisions that allow the government to target activists and journalists.

On another trip, students went to refugee camps in neighboring Thailand, where hundreds of thousands of refugees from the conflict in Myanmar have been living for more than 30 years, waiting for peace and a chance to return home.

For Htun, teaching Myanmar human rights advocacy to Law School students is a full-circle experience.

“Growing up in a refugee camp in Thailand, I was exposed to humanitarian work and service,” said Htun, now a clinical instructor and lecturer on law. “There is no doubt in my mind that my formative childhood shaped me and made me believe in the need to serve and use our freedom and privileges to make a contribution.”

This fall, Htun is teaching a human rights advocacy course covering fact-finding, media and political advocacy, and how students can become effective, ethical human rights advocates and practitioners.

She expects to continue working to improve human rights in Myanmar, as the country struggles with the legacy of a long military dictatorship, a problematic legal system, and lack of accountability for crimes committed by the armed forces.

Ha Ryong Jung, J.D. ’18, traveled to Myanmar with the clinic led by Htun. He said the experience was an eye-opener because it helped him learn how to analyze and spot gaps in laws.

“One thing that really stuck out to me while doing the work was how the law can be abused to target specific populations,” said Jung. “It is unclear if the laws were drafted in that manner to specifically enable this form of violence, but nonetheless it forced me to think outside of the box when reading any law thereafter to spot those loopholes.”

Given the magnitude of the Rohingya refugee crisis, Htun hopes that her students’ future work will include protecting the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, promoting tolerance, and peace-building.

Women’s rights have also been on the agenda because they’re close to Htun’s heart. In 2011, Htun worked as a coordinator with the Nobel Women’s Initiative to launch the first international campaign to end sexual violence in armed conflicts. Part of her students’ work has focused on working with local partners to draft a law to prevent violence against women, and also on building community support for what would be a historic milestone for the country.

“Even though women and girls have been adversely affected by the conflict in Myanmar, women’s rights are rarely deemed a priority,” said Htun. “The law will be the first of its kind and is a crucial step for advancing women’s rights in Myanmar and ensuring that survivors have protection and redress under the law.”

By having students work on the ground with activists, government officials, and legislators, Htun hopes to make the work of a human rights advocate come to life for students. The work is challenging but also rewarding, she said.

“We want to show that the law cannot only be a tool for oppression,” said Htun. “What drew me to law was the fact that it is a crucial tool for change and can play a key role in safeguarding democracy and enshrining rights. That’s the lesson I have learned in my personal journey and one that I hope to share with my students and the communities we serve.”

Clinic, Human Rights Watch Call for Urgent Action on Incendiary Weapons

Via the International Human Rights Law Clinic  

Source: Pixabay

Countries at an upcoming United Nations disarmament conference, faced with evidence of 30 new incendiary weapons attacks in Syria, should agree to strengthen the international law that governs their use, the International Human Rights Clinic said in a report released this week.

The 13-page report, “Myths and Realities About Incendiary Weapons,” counters common misconceptions that have slowed international progress in this area. Incendiary weapons produce heat and fire through the chemical reaction of a flammable substance. While often designed for marking and signaling or producing smokescreens, incendiary weapons can burn human flesh to the bone, leave extensive scarring, and cause respiratory damage and psychological trauma. They also start fires that destroy civilian objects and infrastructure.

“The excruciating burns and lifelong disabilities inflicted by incendiary weapons demand a global response,” said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of conflict and civilian protection at the Clinic. “Simple changes in international law could help save civilian lives during wartime.”

The report details the exceptionally cruel harm caused by incendiary weapons, explains the shortcomings of existing law, and lays out steps countries should take in response. The report, designed as an accessible overview of the incendiary weapons issue, was jointly published with Human Rights Watch.

Countries that are party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) are scheduled to address incendiary weapons at the UN in Geneva from November 19 to 23. Protocol III to this treaty imposes some restrictions on the use of incendiary weapons, but it does not provide sufficient protections for civilians.

In 2018, the Syrian-Russian military alliance used incendiary weapons in at least 30 attacks across six governorates of Syria, based on Human Rights Watch research. The majority of these attacks involved ground-launched rockets, but air-dropped weapons have also caused harm. For example, an incendiary airstrike on March 16 in Eastern Ghouta killed at least 61 people and injured more than 200.

Human Rights Watch documented an additional 90 incendiary weapons attacks in Syria from November 2012 through 2017. The total number is most likely higher. Syria has not joined Protocol III, but Russia has.

The countries at the UN meeting should address the weaknesses of Protocol III as well as articulate their policies and practices. They should also establish a forum dedicated to reviewing the protocol more formally in 2019 with the intention of strengthening its protections for civilians.

Government support for action against incendiary weapons has grown significantly in recent years, although a small number of countries that view existing law as adequate have opposed proposals to amend the protocol.

Protocol III has two major loopholes that have weakened its impact. First, its definition excludes multipurpose weapons, such as those with white phosphorus, which may be primarily designed to provide smokescreens or illumination, but which can inflict the same horrific injuries as other incendiary weapons. White phosphorus, for example, can continue to smolder in bandaged wounds and reignite days after treatment if exposed to oxygen. In 2017, the US-led coalition used white phosphorus while fighting to retake Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq from the Islamic State. The United States is party to Protocol III.

Second, while the protocol prohibits the use of air-dropped incendiary weapons in populated areas, it allows the use of ground-delivered models in certain circumstances. Because all incendiary weapons cause the same effects, this arbitrary distinction should be eliminated. A complete ban on incendiary weapons would have the greatest humanitarian benefits.

“Nations should make strengthening international law on these weapons a priority for the disarmament agenda,” said Docherty, who is also a senior researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. “Stronger obligations would limit the conduct of treaty countries and, by increasing stigmatization of incendiary weapons, influence the behavior of other countries and non-state armed groups.”

Docherty will present the report’s findings at a side event at the United Nations in Geneva at 1:15 p.m. on November 20 in Conference Room XXII.

Clinical students Molly Brown, JD ’19, Samantha Fry, JD ’20, and Thejasa Jayachandran, JD ’20, worked under Docherty’s supervision to help write this report.

For more on the Clinic’s work on incendiary weapons, please visit:
http://hrp.law.harvard.edu/areas-of-focus/arms-armed-conflict/incendiary-weapons/

Salma Waheedi Co-Authors Article on Muslim Family Law Reform

Via the Human Rights Program

Salma Waheedi, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at the International Human Rights Clinic and Associate Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change, has co-authored an article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender with Kristen A. Stilt, Professor of Law and Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program, and Swathi Gandhavadi Griffin, practicing attorney. The article, “Ambitions of Muslim Family Law Reform,” examines Islamic legal arguments and strategies used to support family law reform.

The co-authors state:

“Family law in Muslim-majority countries has undergone tremendous change over the past century, and this process continues today with both intensity and controversy. In general, this change has been considered “reform,” defined loosely as the amendment of existing family laws that are based on or justified by Islamic legal rules in an effort to improve the rights of women and children. Advocates seeking to reform family law typically make legal arguments grounded in Islamic law, thus explicitly or implicitly conceding the Islamic characterization of family law. This ‘reform from within’ approach has grown in recent years and the legal arguments have become more ambitious as women’s groups have become more involved and vocal.”

The article identifies and examines the landscape of legal arguments that are used and are needed to support change and analyzes the ambitious, possibilities, and limitations of reform in Muslim family law today.

Clinic Students Support International Advocacy to Advance Rights of Women in Mauritius

Via the International Human Rights Clinic 

In October, the Musawah Movement for Equality in the Muslim Family submitted a thematic report to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee advocating for codification of family law provisions to protect the rights of Muslim women in Mauritius. International Human Rights Clinic students Samantha Lint JD’20 and Natalie McCauley JD’19 contributed to drafting the report and developing its legal recommendations, working in close collaboration with Mauritian attorney and family law expert, Narghis Bundhun.

As the report notes, a major cause of the lack of rights protection and inequality for Muslim women in Mauritius is the absence of a clear legal framework that protects rights in the context of religious marriages. The report highlights this legal ambiguity and key resulting inequalities that harm Muslim Mauritian women and in turn damage families, communities, and society as a whole. The report encourages the State of Mauritius to leverage its robust framework of diversity and inclusion to promote equality for Muslim women and take concrete steps to ensure all women in Mauritius enjoy full legal protection.

The report will be considered by the CEDAW Committee in its Constructive Dialogue with the Government of Mauritius.

Harvard Trio Studies Post Office Needs

Via NwestIowa.com  

Source: Flickr.com

By: Mark Mahoney

N’West Iowa residents who are worried about the future of their respective post offices will have a chance to voice their viewpoints to a group of Ivy League scholars this weekend.

A three-member team from Harvard Law School in Cambridge, MA, that is working to protect U.S. post offices will be in the region Saturday-Monday, Oct. 13-15, to visit with residents, especially during community meetings in Calumet and Hartley.

Team members — such as 24-year-old Madelyn “Maddy” Petersen, a third-year law student who has ties to Hartley and Spirit Lake — are holding community meetings to conduct research for Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.

“Our project and our clinic believe in the universal service of the post office,” Petersen said. “We know that some towns in northwest Iowa have seen closures and then also there have been a bunch of towns that have experienced reductions in services, reductions in hours or kind of a shift in how the mail is delivered.”

‘Really listen’

The main goal of the Harvard Law School team’s trip to N’West Iowa is to have conversations with residents to understand how they have been affected by post office closures and reductions of hours and services that the U.S. Postal Service has implemented during the past decade.

Petersen, fellow third-year law student Elizabeth “Liz” Gyori, 27, of New York City and clinical instructor Amelia Evans of the International Human Rights Clinic want to report the stories and perspectives of area community members to a wide audience and key stakeholders.

“We do want to look into what else could this massive infrastructure of the post office kind of do or serve or be in communities, particularly in smaller communities in northwest Iowa,” Petersen said. “Sometimes there aren’t always the services there that those communities need.”

Evans explained more about the Harvard Law School team’s project to protect U.S. post offices.

“One of the things that we really want to do with this is really listen to what communities want us to do,” she said.

“Rather than coming in and deciding that we’re going to have a report, we’ve decided that what we’re going to do is come in and ask some questions and really listen and then go away from there and figure out what’s best,” she said.

A Northwest Iowa Development study — titled “Impact of the Closure of Post Offices in Northwest Iowa” — from April 2012 was one reason why the Harvard Law School team decided to focus on the region as part of its project.

“We saw that and thought that kind of provides a little bit of a baseline of information that we could then kind of follow up on,” Petersen said.

‘Badly affected’

Petersen’s ties to N’West Iowa — she attended elementary and middle school in Spirit Lake and her parents, Matt and Laurinda Petersen, graduated from high school in Hartley — were another reason why the Harvard Law School team’s first trip for its project is to the northwest corner of the Hawkeye State.

“I was kind of drawn to wanting to go back and report on some of these places,” the younger Petersen said. “When looking at some of the communities that were being talked about, I was like, ‘Oh, those are the communities I grew up around.’ It was an easy choice to kind of come in and see if we could talk to some more people about what happened.”

According to the Harvard Law School team, 572 U.S. post offices across Iowa — including in Alton, Alvord, Archer, Ashton, Boyden, Calumet, Doon, Granville, Harris, Hospers, Ireton, Larchwood, Lester, Little Rock, Maurice, Melvin, Ocheyedan and Sutherland — have had their business hours reduced during the past decade.

In addition, 34 U.S. post offices across the state have been closed, which — plus the reduced business hours at others — led Evans to note, “Iowa has been pretty badly affected by this.”

The Harvard Law School team is interested in the noneconomic value of U.S. post offices and their employees to N’West Iowa residents and the places they live, as well as the economic impact of the changes that have been made to many of the federal facilities.

“What sort of community function does it play?” Evans said. “We’ve heard a lot of interesting stories about people who have a relationship with their mail person, where if they haven’t cleared their mail for a while, they have permission to knock on the door and see if that person is OK.

“It’s those qualitative aspects that we feel are really important to capture, too, so as much as we’re interested in what are the economic consequences, what we’re really interested in is what’s the really human experience of public post offices and what it could be,” she said.

SPO Student Reflection: “IHRC Has Been at the Heart of My Growth as a Human Rights Practitioner and Social Justice Advocate”

By: Daniel Levine-Spound, JD ’19

It is no exaggeration to say that my experience in the Human Rights Program has been the highlight of my time in law school. Since arriving at HLS in the Fall of 2016, I have served as Director of Programming and as a project participant in HLS Advocates for Human Rights, spent two semesters in the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), conducted independent research with IHRC professors, and taken as many international human rights-related courses as possible. Now, as I begin my third consecutive semester in the International Human Rights Clinic, and begin my work as Co-President of HLS Advocates, my 3L schedule largely revolves around the Human Rights Program – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The breadth of clinical offerings, SPO projects, and coursework in the Human Rights Program allows students to explore a broad range of pressing human rights issue-areas, and to identify and focus on the subjects about which they are most passionate. Most recently, as a 2L clinical student, I spent two semesters working on a lengthy investigation of refugee rights in the Kakuma refugee camp in North-Eastern Kenya, with a specific focus on freedom of movement. Working in a team of students under the supervision of Clinical Instructor Anna Crowe, I conducted months of research on movement restrictions in Kakuma, analyzing the functioning and effects of a complex and often opaque governance regime in light of domestic, regional, and international law. In November 2017, I traveled to Nairobi and Kakuma with Anna and one other student, conducting dozens of interviews with refugees, NGO workers, government employees and experts. Our research, reflected in a lengthy internal report and recently published briefing paper, provides a clear analysis of the significant consequences of movement restrictions on refugees in Kakuma, demonstrates the incongruence of said restrictions with Kenyan and international law, and offers a number of necessary recommendations. Now, as I enter into my third semester in the IHRC as a 3L, I am thrilled to be working on a project centered on assisting victims of environmental damage in armed conflict with Bonnie Docherty, Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection.

Outside of my clinical work, I have had the opportunity to take courses, and conduct independent research, on a number of subjects related to international human rights. Over the course of my time at HLS, I have explored questions of international humanitarian law, public international law, corporate accountability, human rights litigation in US Courts, disarmament, the UN human rights system, regional human rights courts, and emerging international law around LGBTQ rights and protections.

Undoubtedly, the most meaningful part of my experience in IHRC and Advocates has been the opportunity to work closely with clinicians. As project supervisors, classroom instructors, SPO advisors, and mentors, IHRC clinicians are the reason why Harvard Law School is an exceptional place to learn and grow as a human rights practitioner and lawyer. Supportive and affirming, inspiring and encouraging, and committed to the values of human rights and social justice, IHRC clinicians are dedicated to developing the next crop of human rights lawyers and activists. And at an extremely precarious moment for human rights, both in the United States and across the world, their work could not be more vital.

At a large and often intimidating institution like HLS, IHRC is a home for students on campus committed to fighting for a more just, humane, and democratic world. Even when I don’t have anything scheduled in the IHRC, I often find myself walking around the clinic, chatting with clinicians and other social justice-oriented students, and feeling re-charged and rejuvenated, ready to get back to the human rights work for which I came to HLS in the first place. As I enter into my final year of law school, it is clear that IHRC has been at the heart of my growth as a human rights practitioner and social justice advocate, providing me with the tools and inspiration I need to begin a career as a human rights lawyer.

I will miss it deeply when I am gone.

HRP Welcomes New Staff to the International Human Rights Clinic

Via the Human Rights Program

With the semester start, we’d like to extend the warmest welcome to our new staff! We have four new members of the International Human Rights Clinic. Read below to learn more about them and make sure you swing by to introduce yourself.

Thomas Becker

Clinical Instructor

Thomas Becker is a Clinical Instructor at the Human Rights Program. He is an attorney and activist who has spent most of the past decade working on human rights issues in Bolivia. As a student at Harvard Law School, he was the driving force behind launching Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada, a lawsuit against Bolivia’s former president and defense minister for their role in the massacre of indigenous peasants. After graduating, he moved to Bolivia, where he has worked with the survivors for over a decade. This spring, Becker and his co-counsel obtained a $10 million jury verdict for family members of those killed in “Black October,” marking the first time a living ex-president has been held accountable in a U.S. court for human rights violations. The verdict was overturned by a federal judge and is currently being appealed in the Eleventh Circuit of Appeals. Becker’s human rights work has included investigating torture and disappearance of Adavasis in India, documenting war crimes in Lebanon, and serving as a nonviolent bodyguard for the Zapatista guerrillas in Chiapas, Mexico. When he is not practicing law, Becker is an award-winning musician and songwriter who has recorded with Grammy-winning producers and toured throughout the world as a drummer and guitarist.

Amelia Evans

Clinical Instructor

Amelia Evans is an international human rights lawyer and an expert on business and human rights. She co-founded MSI Integrity in 2012 and continues to spearhead its development. Amelia has investigated and reported on business and human rights-related issues in a number of countries, most particularly in the Central African and Asia-Pacific regions. Previously, she was the Global Human Rights Fellow at Harvard Law School and was a clinical supervisor at Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. She also clerked at the New Zealand Court of Appeal, and worked at the Crown Law Office in New Zealand and the Victoria Government Solicitor’s Office in Australia. Amelia obtained her LL.M. from Harvard Law School, and LL.B. (Hons.) and B.C.A. (Economics and Finance) from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Amelia also works on nonfiction / documentary film projects.

 

Emma Golding

Program Assistant

Emma Golding is the Program Assistant for the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. Prior to joining the Clinic, she worked in research administration at Boston Children’s Hospital. She has also spent time as an editorial assistant, faculty assistant, legal secretary, bartender, waitress, hostess, busser, catering manager, circus performer, au pair, natural history & ecology educator, and Audubon Society counselor.  She holds a B.A. in Journalism & Political Science from UMass Amherst.

 

Kelsey Ryan

Program Coordinator

Kelsey is the Program Coordinator for the International Human Rights Clinic. Prior to joining HRP, she worked in the Dean’s Office at Harvard Law School. She holds a B.A. in International Studies and Spanish Language from Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. From 2014-2015 she lived in Athens, Greece while completing a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship Grant. She is currently finishing her master’s in International Relations through Harvard Extension School, and returns to Crete, Greece, each summer to assist with Emmanuel College’s Eastern Mediterranean Security Studies Program.

HRP Awards Four Post-Graduate Fellowships in Human Rights for the 2018-2019 Year

Via the International Human Rights Program

The Human Rights Program is pleased to announce its cohort of post-graduate fellowships in human rights. This year, Conor Hartnett, JD’18, and Alejandra Elguero Altner, LLM’17, have been awarded the Henigson Human Rights Fellowship and Jenny B. Domino, LLM’18, and Anna Khalfaoui, LLM’17, have been awarded the Satter Human Rights Fellowship.

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New Clinic Reports Call on NATO Members, Sweden to Join Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

As preparations for a US-North Korea summit highlight the ongoing threat posed by nuclear weapons, proponents of nuclear disarmament should increase their support for the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Momentum has been building. In May alone, three more countries ratified the treaty, bringing the total to 10; another 48 have signed. In addition, several countries have initiated national processes that represent an important step toward coming on board.

In this context, the Clinic is releasing two papers demonstrating why it is legally possible for even allies of nuclear armed states to join the TPN.

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An advocate for children, Michael Jung ’18 has taken a wide view

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Lorin Granger

When he was in high school in his native South Korea, Ha Ryong (Michael) Jung ’18 volunteered at a custodial facility for neglected children. “It was wonderful and at the same time heartbreaking,” he remembers. “It seemed like they were isolated from the system and society. I was young at the time myself, so I didn’t really know what I could do as a person. But the more I gained work experience, the more I saw the need for law to help protect these children and their rights.”

A burgeoning interest in poverty and development led him to major in business administration at the University of Michigan; a summer research project on regional poverty and education in Ghana was so engaging that he and his fellow students learned traditional Ghanaian music and dance so that they could perform on campus to raise funds for girls who wanted to go to school. Returning home after college, he completed an internship with Korea’s National Assembly and his mandatory two-year service in the South Korean army, and worked with UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding.

Throughout, “children were still nagging at my heart,” he recalls. “I continuously came across instances where legal frameworks existed, and there was functioning law enforcement, but children were being sidelined. I wanted to understand what the international and national mechanisms were that exist to protect our children, and it was this curiosity that was really my primary motivation for coming to law school.”

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Understanding Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

By Bonnie Docherty

The humanitarian impact of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) depends on both its comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons and its obligations to assist victims and remediate the environment affected by use and testing. The former aims to prevent future harm, while the latter addresses harm that has already occurred.

The Clinic is releasing new papers on victim assistance and environmental remediation in order to increase awareness of these elements of the treaty. The short publications provide an overview of the provisions in the TPNW and guidance from other humanitarian disarmament treaties as to how they might be implemented.

The TPNW’s so-called “positive obligations” establish a framework of shared state responsibility for helping victims and cleaning the contaminated environment

During last year’s treaty negotiations at the United Nations, the Clinic worked closely with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. A team from the Clinic, along with advocates from Article 36, Mines Action Canada, and Pace University, played a leading role in ensuring that the treaty included the positive obligations.

In Clinic Case, Jury Finds Former Bolivian President Responsible for Extrajudicial Killings of Indigenous People; Awards $10 Million in Damages

Via International Human Rights Clinic

April 3, 2018 – In a landmark decision today, a federal jury found the former president of Bolivia and his minister of defense responsible for extrajudicial killings carried out by the Bolivian military in September and October 2003. The decision comes after a ten-year legal battle spearheaded by family members of eight people killed in what is known in Bolivia as the “Gas War.” It marked the first time in U.S. history a former head of state has sat before his accusers in a U.S. human rights trial. The jury awarded a total of $10 million in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs.

Both the former Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and his former defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, have lived in the United States since they fled Bolivia following the massacre known as “Black October.”  During that period, more than 50 people were killed and hundreds were injured. In Bolivia, in 2011, former military commanders and government officials who acted under Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín’s authority were convicted for their roles in the killings. Both Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín were indicted in the same case, but could not be tried in abstentia under Bolivian law.

The lawsuit originated in the International Human Rights Clinic, and dozens of students have worked on the case since 2006.

“After many years of fighting for justice for our family members and the people of Bolivia, we celebrate this historic victory,” said Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, a plaintiff and member of the indigenous Aymara community of Bolivia, who were victims of the defendants’ decision to use massive military force against the population. “Fifteen years after they fled justice, we have finally held Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín to account for the massacre they unleashed against our people.”

In Mamani v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, the families of eight Bolivians who were killed filed suit against Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín in 2007. Today’s verdict affirms the plaintiffs’ claims that the two defendants were legally responsible for the extrajudicial killings and made decisions to deploy military forces in civilian communities in order to violently quash opposition to their policies.

“To me, it was the biggest honor of my life to work with the plaintiffs and learn from them in their struggle for justice,” said Thomas Becker ’08, who brought the idea for the lawsuit to IHRC after spending time in Bolivia and learning about the massacre there. “It’s an extraordinary privilege to witness this and be a small part of this.”

The three-week trial included the testimony of 29 witnesses from across Bolivia who recounted their experiences of the 2003 killings. Twenty-three appeared in person. Eight plaintiffs testified about the deaths of their family members, including: Etelvina Ramos Mamani and Eloy Rojas Mamani, whose eight-year-old daughter Marlene was killed in front of her mother when a single shot was fired through the window; Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, whose pregnant wife Teodosia was killed after a bullet was fired through the wall of a house; Felicidad Rosa Huanca Quispe, whose 69-year-old father Raul was shot and killed along a roadside; and Gonzalo Mamani Aguilar, whose father Arturo was shot and killed while tending his crops.

One witness, a former soldier in the Bolivian military, testified about being ordered to shoot at “anything that moves” in a civilian community, while another recounted witnessing a military officer kill a soldier for refusing to follow orders to shoot at unarmed civilians. Witnesses recounted how tanks rolled through in the streets and soldiers shot for hours on end. Others testified about how the president and minister of defense committed to a military option instead of pursuing dialogue with community leaders to reach a peaceful resolution.

In 2016, a U.S. appeals court held that the plaintiffs could proceed with their claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), which authorizes suits for monetary damages in U.S. federal court for extrajudicial killings. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín then sought and were denied a review by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017, and the case moved forward in U.S. District Court. After a review of the evidence gathered by both sides, District Court Judge James I. Cohn ruled on February 14 that the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

“There are just no words for what the plaintiffs have done over the past ten years to seek justice for their lost loved ones as well as many others who were killed in Bolivia,” said Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. “Today the jury gave the plaintiffs a huge victory, and showed that the former president and his defense minister are not above the law.”

“When I heard the verdict, I almost couldn’t believe it,” added Susan Farbstein, Co-Director of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. “The only thing I could think of was: We didn’t let down the plaintiffs, we didn’t disappoint them, we did our jobs.”

The plaintiffs and their litigation team.

The plaintiffs and their litigation team.

As co-counsel, the International Human Rights Clinic has been involved in all phases of the litigation from the outset, including researching and drafting for the complaint and various motions and briefs, assisting with oral arguments, and undertaking more than a dozen investigative missions to Bolivia since 2007. Over the past year, during the discovery phase, students traveled to Bolivia numerous times, and assisted with document review, interrogatories, and the depositions of plaintiffs, witnesses and experts; more than a half dozen students worked on every facet of the case during the three weeks of trial.

“It was fascinating to work under the legal team and have complete faith in their talent and ability to manage such a complex case,” said Amy Volz ’18, who traveled to Bolivia on four fact-finding trips. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

After the jury announced its verdict, the defendants made a motion asking the judge to overturn the jury’s finding of liability against both defendants. Both parties will submit briefing on this issue in the coming weeks.

“We’re not one to leave halfway through the fight,” said Baltazar Cerro. “We will struggle until the last moment.”

In addition to the Clinic, a team of lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firms of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman, LLP, and Akerman LLP are representing the family members. Lawyers from the Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia) are cooperating attorneys.

Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead

Via Harvard Law Today

Experts gather to reflect on a growing movement to end the international proliferation of inhumane and indiscriminate weapons

Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead 1

Credit: Heratch Ekmekjian
In early March, international experts gathered for “Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead,” the inaugural conference of the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) at Harvard Law School.

Earlier this month, about two dozen international experts gathered for “Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead,” the inaugural conference of the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) at Harvard Law School.

Drawing on their own involvement in creating international law, conference participants reflected on the development of the humanitarian disarmament movement, which strives to end civilian suffering caused by inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, and discussed where the movement should go from here. Humanitarian disarmament is a key focus of the ACCPI, which formally launched under the leadership of Associate Director Bonnie Docherty ’01 on March 5.

“I was thrilled to have the key players in humanitarian disarmament on campus, and the energy they brought was inspiring,” said Docherty. “It was the perfect way to kick off the ACCPI.”

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Susan Farbstein Honored in Harvard Women’s Law Association’s International Women’s Day Exhibit

Via International Human Rights Clinic

A portrait of Susan Farbstein, Co-Director of our International Human Rights Clinic, on display at Harvard Law School this week in celebration of International Women’s Day.

On this International Women’s Day, and every other day, we’re full of gratitude for all the women who push for change around the world. But we’re feeling particularly happy and proud today to see our very own Susan Farbstein honored in this year’s International Women’s Day portrait exhibit, organized by the Harvard Women’s Law Association (WLA).

Susan, who co-directs our International Human Rights Clinic, is among 25 luminaries celebrated in the Wasserstein Hall exhibit for their “astounding contributions” in the areas of law and policy.

They include Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist and the creator of “Me Too,” a phrase invented to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse in society; Zainah Anwar, a leading feminist activist and scholar in Malaysia, and the current Director of Musawah; Sarah McBride, an LGBT rights activist who serves as the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign; Losang Rabgey, the co-founder of Machik, a nonprofit dedicated to social innovation in Tibet through educational development and capacity building; and Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, and the first woman elected to head a major professional sports union in North America.

It comes as no surprise to us that Susan stands among them. As an expert in Alien Tort Statute litigation, among other things, she has been co-counsel in such landmark human rights cases as Wiwa v. Shellin Re: South African Apartheid Litigation, and now Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada and Sanchez Berzain. That historic case, which began trial in Federal District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Monday, marks the first time a former head of state stands trial in a civil case in U.S. court for human rights abuses.

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International Human Rights Clinic represents relatives of slain Bolivians in landmark case

Via Miami Herald

Landmark case in Florida pits Bolivia’s ex-leader against villagers attacked by his army

Etelvina Ramos Mamani, far left, and her husband, Eloy Rojas Mamani, and their children in Bolivia. They are suing the country’s former president over the death of their 8-year-old daughter, Marlene. Thomas Becker Center for Constitutional Rights

Etelvina Ramos Mamani, far left, and her husband, Eloy Rojas Mamani, and their children in Bolivia. They are suing the country’s former president over the death of their 8-year-old daughter, Marlene. Thomas Becker Center for Constitutional Rights

On a rocky and impoverished rural slice of Bolivia, the noise sounded like corn popping loudly.

Etelvina Ramos Mamani was lying on her bed, weak and feverish. She heard a scream from next to the window. Her 8-year-old daughter, Marlene, suddenly collapsed and tilted her head back, desperately trying to suck air into her lungs — pierced by a bullet fired by Bolivian soldiers.

“Blood was coming out of her chest like a fountain,” Ramos testified Tuesday.

Outside, the government soldiers were charging through the small village, firing away. Hours passed before the shooting stopped. By then, as her relatives held an impromptu wake in the dark, Marlene was dead — an innocent victim of the violent unrest that wracked Bolivia in the fall of 2003.

Ramos took the witness stand Tuesday not in South America, but 3,000 miles away in a Fort Lauderdale federal courtroom.

Her testimony marked the start of a landmark court battle that pits relatives of the poor, mostly indigenous people killed in the chaos against Bolivia’s ex-president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and his former defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzain.

Tuesday’s testimony marked the first time that a former head of state of a foreign country faced trial in a U.S. civil court for human rights abuses, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing the Mamani family.

“My daughter was innocent. She had not even gone out. She was playing inside the house,” said Ramos, who sported two long braids, a pink sweater and a turquoise skirt typical to the indigenous people of her region.

Her husband, Eloy Ramos Mamani, recalled soldiers chasing and firing on unarmed villagers. “Like scared rabbits they escaped to the hills,” he told jurors.

The couple belongs to one of eight families suing the former Bolivian government leaders under the U.S. Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows suits for extrajudicial killings in foreign lands. The suit was filed in South Florida, where the two former politicians now live after fleeing Bolivia in 2003.

The legal wrangling over the case has lasted for nearly a decade, and the trial is expected to last several weeks before U.S. Judge James Cohn. The relatives of the slain Bolivians are represented by lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and several high-powered private law firms.

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One win against weapons could fuel another

Via Harvard Gazette

Successful campaign banning landmines could provide blueprint against nuclear arms, panel says

During "From Landmines to Nuclear Weapons," a panel featuring Steve Goose (from left) and Beatrice Fihn and moderated by Bonnie Docherty of the Law School addressed the origins and evolution of humanitarian disarmament while reflecting on their roles negotiating treaties that ban landmines, cluster munitions, and nuclear weapons.

During “From Landmines to Nuclear Weapons,” a panel featuring Steve Goose (from left) and Beatrice Fihn and moderated by Bonnie Docherty of the Law School addressed the origins and evolution of humanitarian disarmament while reflecting on their roles negotiating treaties that ban landmines, cluster munitions, and nuclear weapons.
Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

When the movement began in 1992, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was considered quixotic, its proponents unrealistically idealistic, its efforts doomed to fail. Twenty-five years and one Nobel Peace Prize later, more than 180 countries have signed its 1997 treaty, agreeing not only to avoid using the weapons but to help remove them from areas where they have been abandoned and remain a danger to life, limbs, and livelihoods.

Nuclear weapons, now a reality of our modern world, could go the same way, say the activists behind the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Indeed, humanitarian rights activists say, they must. On Monday at Harvard Law School’s Austin Hall, the anti-nuclear campaign’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, joined Steve Goose, co-founder of the landmines-ban group and executive director of Human Rights Watch’s arms division, to discuss the origin and evolution of the mine campaign, and how the tactics of the first can be applied to the next.

“Everybody said it was impossible to do,” said Goose, looking back at the long road to the 1997 landmine treaty. “After we finally did it, people said, ‘Oh, that wasn’t that hard. It was a one-off. Circumstances allowed that to happen.’” They also, he reported, said its success could not be replicated.

Monday’s discussion was designed to prove that false. Indeed, this first public event of Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead (moderated by Bonnie Docherty, associate director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection at Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic) started off by outlining the similarities — and the successes — of other recent campaigns.

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Bonnie Docherty Launches Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Bonnie Docherty, Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection, talking with colleagues.

The International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) is thrilled to announce the launch of the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI), which aims to reduce the harm caused by armed conflict through targeted advocacy, leadership development, and the generation of innovative solutions.

The ACCPI will be led by Bonnie Docherty, Lecturer on Law and Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection, who is an internationally renowned leader in the field of humanitarian disarmament. Docherty has worked at the heart of almost every major civil society campaign to ban inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, or curtail their use to minimize the impacts on civilians. She was a critical player in the 2008 cluster munitions ban, as well as the nuclear weapons ban, adopted in July of last year.

“Today’s armed conflicts are causing countless civilian casualties, destroying infrastructure and the environment, and driving people from their homes,” said Docherty, who also works as a Senior Researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. “This initiative represents a unique opportunity to provide focused support to the movement dealing with these issues, as well as to students interested in making a career in the field.”

Since she arrived at the Clinic in 2005, Docherty has put clinical students at the heart of her advocacy, supervising them on everything from field research in Lebanon to lobbying at the UN. Under her leadership, and through her mentorship, students have gone on to work as field researchersadvocates in peace negotiations, and policy analysts, actively working to protect civilians from the effects of armed conflict.

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Clinic’s case against former Bolivian president for role in 2003 massacre to proceed to trial

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Plaintiffs Eloy Rojas Mamani and Etelvina Ramos Mamani and their children, Rosalia Rojas Ramos, Heide Sonia Rojas Ramos, Nancy Rojas Ramos, Maruja Rojas Ramos, and Marlene Rojas Ramos (named after her sister who died), with Thomas Becker, JD ’08, at top right.

February 20, 2018, Miami, FL – A federal judge has ruled that the former president of Bolivia and his minister of defense must face trial in the United States in a civil case alleging that the Bolivian military massacred more than 50 of its own citizens during a period of civil unrest in 2003. This is the first time that a former head of state will sit before his accusers in a civil human rights trial in a U.S. court. Last week, the judge rejected the defendants’ final effort to avoid trial, denying a motion filed by the former Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and his former defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, both of whom live in the United States. The trial will begin in the federal court in Fort Lauderdale on March 5, 2018.

“The former president and his minister of defense must now listen as we testify about what happened,” said Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, a member of the indigenous Aymara community of Bolivia, which led the protests where the government security forces opened fire. “We look forward to this historic opportunity to have our day in court.”

In Mamani v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, as detailed in the Court’s February 14 order, the families of eight Bolivians killed filed suit against Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, alleging that they planned the extrajudicial killings. The lawsuit alleges that, months in advance of the violence, the two defendants devised a plan to kill thousands of civilians, and intentionally used deadly force against political protests in an effort to quash political opposition. In addition to the deaths, more than 400 unarmed civilians were shot and injured.

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The Nobel Peace Prize Celebrations: Recognition and Reinvigoration for Humanitarian Disarmament Advocates

Via International Human Rights Clinic

By Bonnie Docherty, Associate Director, Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection and Lecturer on Law

ICAN Director Beatrice Fihn speaks at 2017 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo City Hall. Photo credit: Ralf Schlesener.

On December 10, 2017, at 1 p.m., uniformed musicians on the grand staircase of Oslo City Hall brought their gleaming trumpets to their lips and the audience to its feet. The clarion salute they sounded heralded the arrival of the king and queen of Norway and a new era of nuclear disarmament.

In front of dignitaries, diplomats, and dozens of civil society campaigners, myself included, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

The award honors ICAN for having “given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigour.” In particular, the prize recognizes the civil society coalition’s “ground-breaking” work to realize a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

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