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

HRP Welcomes New Staff and Visiting Fellows

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Photo of Debbie Frempong and Dana Walters side by side

Debbie Frempong and Dana Walters, the new program assistants at HRP.

Now that the semester is underway, we want to extend our warmest welcome to all of the new staff and Visiting Fellows at the Human Rights Program. They are, in a word, fantastic.

Debbie Frempong, the new Program Assistant for the International Human Rights Clinic, comes to us from Harvard Divinity School, where she graduated with an MTS in Religion, Politics and Ethics. She holds a B.A. in Public Policy and Politics from Pomona College.

Debbie is taking on many of the responsibilities previously held by Katherine Young, who until recently worked as Program Associate. This summer, she was promoted to Program Manager, in charge of administrative management of the International Human Rights Clinic and the financial administration of the Human Rights Program.

Dana Walters, the new Program Assistant for the Academic Program, comes to us from the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, where she was a coordinator, and the Atlantic Media Company, where she was a fellow. Dana holds a B.A. in English and American Literatures from Middlebury College and an M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago, where she was previously pursuing a doctorate.

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Banning the Bomb: Reflections on the UN Negotiations for the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty

Via International Human Rights Clinic

photo of two students at UN

Carina Bentata Gryting and Alice Osman in the UN General Assembly Hall where the negotiations opened in March 2017.

By Carina Bentata Gryting JD ’18, Molly Doggett JD ’17, Lan Mei JD ’17, and Alice Osman LLM ’17

Signing up for the International Human Rights Clinic in spring 2017, we could not have imagined that it would lead us to the United Nations and global negotiations to ban nuclear weapons. With Bonnie Docherty and Anna Crowe as our clinical supervisors, we worked alongside London-based organization Article 36 as well as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the civil society coalition at the conference. We had the unique opportunity to not only witness, but also actually participate in, norm-building at the international level.

It was at times difficult to explain to those not involved in the negotiations why the ban treaty was an important or even a sensible cause. Many people questioned the impact of a treaty being boycotted by the nuclear-armed states and their allies. For those of us participating in the negotiations, however, the purpose behind the treaty was complex but clear.

Nuclear weapons should no longer be the only weapon of mass destruction not prohibited by international law. A categorical ban on nuclear weapons would increase the stigma surrounding the weapons and ramp up pressure on nuclear states to work towards eliminating their arsenals. Moreover, a strong humanitarian motivation drove the treaty. Prior conferences on the impact of nuclear weapons had led many countries to declare the catastrophic effect of nuclear weapons incompatible with any legal or practical purpose. Countries like the Marshall Islands, Algeria, and Kazakhstan suffered from years of testing and their populations have experienced decades-long harm. Victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, known as Hibakusha, along with their children and grandchildren, still deal with the health and environmental consequences of atomic bombs today. Survivors of this use and testing offered compelling testimony for why nuclear weapons should be banned.

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Pisar family establishes professorship and fund for International Human Rights Clinic

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Jerry Berndt

Credit: Jerry Berndt

Harvard Law School has announced that the family of the late Samuel Pisar LL.M. ’55 S.J.D. ’59, has endowed a professorship and a fund to support the International Human Rights Clinic. The funds established by Judith Pisar, Samuel Pisar’s widow, his daughters Helaina Pisar-McKibbin, Alexandra Pisar-Pinto, and Leah F. Pisar, and his stepson Antony Blinken, will be known as the Samuel LL.M. ’55 S.J.D. ’59 and Judith Pisar Professorship of Law, and the Samuel LL.M. ’55 S.J.D. ’59 and Judith Pisar Endowed Fund for Human Rights.

The professorship will have a focus on human rights in honor of Samuel Pisar, a renowned international attorney, presidential adviser, and Holocaust survivor who died in 2015. The clinical fund will support a range of activities at the International Human Rights Clinic, including research, scholarship, events, fellowships, internships, travel, and exchanges with peer institutions.

“We are immensely grateful to the Pisar family for their generous support of our faculty and the International Human Rights Clinic, which will honor a tireless champion for the rule of law, global governance, and human rights,” said Martha Minow, Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor at Harvard Law School. “When I addressed the graduating Class of 2016 at Commencement, I chose to highlight Sam’s career and life. His courage, brilliance, hope, and creativity made such a difference across the globe; he advised leaders in the United States and in France, in government and in the private sector. As a survivor of the Holocaust, he showed enormous strength and also later wrote a powerful memoir, and collaborative works of art with Leonard Bernstein. Honored in three continents for his service to international relations and to human rights, he remains an inspiration to me. Through this gift, he will continue to inspire human rights lawyers, advocates, and scholars in the years to come.”

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Addressing Human and Environmental Impacts of Nuclear Weapons in New Ban Treaty

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Bonnie Docherty, associate director at the Clinic, delivering statement to countries negotiating nuclear weapon ban treaty at the UN in New York. Photo courtesy of ICAN.

Bonnie Docherty, associate director at the Clinic, delivering statement to countries negotiating nuclear weapon ban treaty at the UN in New York. Photo courtesy of ICAN.

Member states of the UN General Assembly are currently engaged in historic negotiations of a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. At this point, nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to a categorical prohibition in international law. A team from the International Human Rights Clinic, which is participating in the negotiations in New York, has joined the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in urging countries to adopt a strong treaty that is focused on preventing and remediating the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapon use and testing.

Prohibitions on the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of nuclear weapons are necessary but insufficient components of the new treaty. In order to address the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons effectively, states parties must also adopt positive obligations to provide assistance to victims in their territory and to remediate environmental contamination caused by nuclear weapon use and testing. In partnership with London-based NGO Article 36, our clinical team has released papers arguing for the inclusion of victim assistance and environmental remediation treaty provisions.

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The Law and Happiness in Bhutan

Via Harvard Law Bulletin

A new law school in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Stephan Sonnenberg ’06 has been helping to design the law school’s curriculum and will be one of the 11 faculty members.

Credit: Kristen DeRemer
Stephan Sonnenberg ’06 has been helping to design the law school’s curriculum and will be one of the 11 faculty members.

Among the rugged mountains and the swiftly flowing rivers of Bhutan, new legal institutions are taking root. Soon this small country—with just over 750,000 inhabitants—will open its first law school.

In recent years, the Himalayan nation, wedged between China and Tibet to the north and India to the south, has undergone significant political and cultural transformations. In 2006, the nation’s fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, announced that he would step down in favor of his son and he set in motion the drafting of a new constitution to replace an absolute monarchy with a constitutional one. In 2008, a new constitution was ratified. Now, nine years later, the Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law will open its doors to its first class in July.

Envisioned by the current king to honor his father and his father’s guiding development philosophy for Bhutan, which he called Gross National Happiness, or GNH, Jigme Singye Wang­chuck School of Law will operate under the motto “Justice, Service, Wisdom.”

GNH may sound a bit hedonistic to some, but its origins are Buddhist. It makes collective happiness the goal of government and emphasizes harmony with nature and traditional values. Where the United States has its “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Bhutan has the four pillars of GNH—economic self-reliance, environmental conservation, cultural preservation and promotion, and good governance.

“The school is the means of bringing GNH and justice to fruition,” says Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck LL.M. ’07, honorable president of Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law.

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Neither Facially Legitimate Nor Bona Fide–Why the Very Text of the Travel Ban Shows It’s Unconstitutional

Via International Human Rights Clinic

This article was first published on Just Security.

International Human Rights ClinicAs the litigation over the travel ban moves to the Supreme Court, the most important passage in the Fourth Circuit’s en banc opinion may be a tangential footnote finding “yet another marker” of illegitimate purpose in the text of the Executive Order. Both the first version of the Executive Order (of January 27) and the second version (of March 6) include language that any informed observer would recognize as evidence that the purpose of the travel ban is to gratify and further incite hostility against Muslims.Advocates seeking to persuade doubting Justices should not be distracted by the voluminous debates about whether candidate Trump’s statements count against the constitutionality of President Trump’s actions.  For Justices inclined to interpret narrowly the standard of review in immigration cases, the explicit statement of purpose in the first EO, and the residual markers in section 11 of the revised EO, should provide the starting point.

In the first EO, the final paragraph of section 1 explained the EO’s purpose as follows:

In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.  The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law.  In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

As the Fourth Circuit noted, “Numerous amici explain that invoking the specter of ‘honor killings’ is a well-known tactic for stigmatizing and demeaning Islam and painting this religion, and its men, as violent and barbaric.”  The thinly coded incitement throughout this purpose paragraph is perhaps best explained in Aziz Huq’s amicus brief for Muslim Rights, Professional and Public Health Organizations.

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A disarming leader: Bonnie Docherty recognized for contributions to human rights, clinical community

Via International Human Rights Clinic

When Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, began the daunting work of documenting torture and mass hangings in a Syrian prison, she was prepared. She knew how to interview survivors of trauma. She knew how to protect the security and confidentiality of witnesses. She knew, when her 50th interview was done, just how to connect the dots.

“There I was, with my pieces of paper all around me, with different highlighters for each different fact I was trying to establish,” said Nicolette, a researcher for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “That’s basically me modeling what Bonnie taught me to do.”

Bonnie on a fact-finding mission in Iraq.

Bonnie on a fact-finding mission in Iraq.

Over the course of her career, as Bonnie Docherty has emerged as an international expert on civilian protection in armed conflict, she has also mentored scores of clinical students, from field researchers in conflict zones to advocates inside the halls of the UN in Geneva.

Her biggest alumni fans call themselves “the Bonnie mafia.” When they heard of her recent promotion to Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection at the International Human Rights Clinic, the reaction could best be summed up in one word: jubilation.

“This is the best news I’ve heard in a while,” said Lauren Herman, JD ’13, a fellow atMake the Road, NJ, an immigrants’ rights organization. “I am just thrilled for Bonnie and the Clinic and all of Harvard.”

The promotion gives Bonnie room to deepen and expand her work on civilian protection. She plans to increase support for civil society organizations working in the field, create a track for students interested in careers in civilian protection, and provide a forum for experts to develop practical innovations.

A senior researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch as well as a Harvard lecturer on law, she’ll continue to dedicate much of her time to humanitarian disarmament, which seeks to eliminate civilian suffering from problematic weapons. It’s an area Bonnie has been working in for 16 years.

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Clinic and partners call on ICC to investigate role of Chiquita executives in contributing to crimes against humanity

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Bogota, Colombia, May 18, 2017 – Today, on behalf of affected Colombian communities, a coalition of human rights groups called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the complicity of executives at Chiquita Brands International in crimes against humanity. To date, no executive has been held to account despite the company’s admission that it funneled millions of dollars to Colombian paramilitaries that killed, raped, and disappeared civilians. If the ICC takes up the case, it would be the first time it moved against corporate executives for assisting such crimes.

In their submission to the court, the coalition of local and international human rights groups traces the executives’ involvement with payments made to the paramilitaries between 1997 and 2004. Even after outside counsel and the U.S. Department of Justice said such payments were illegal under U.S. law, the payments continued. The submission includes a confidential, sealed appendix that identifies by name fourteen senior executives, officers, and board members of Chiquita who the coalition argues should be the focus of the Prosecutor’s investigation.

The coalition, which consists of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), relied on internal Chiquita documents and assistance from the National Security Archive at George Washington University to identify the Chiquita officials and show how they were involved with the crimes.

“The executives who oversaw the funding of paramilitaries should not be able to sit comfortably in their houses in the United States as if they did nothing wrong,” said a member of the Peace Community of San José de Apartado, which submitted a letter to the ICC about how the paramilitary violence personally affected them. “Families across Colombia have been waiting for accountability for too long.”

Chiquita could have acted differently, or could have left the country years before it did, but instead decided to continue its lucrative business while paying paramilitaries for so-called ‘security’ in the banana-growing regions. By 2003, Chiquita’s subsidiary in Colombia was its most profitable banana operation in the world.

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WEBINAR: Human rights and Myanmar’s transition from military rule

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Several weeks ago, Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, and Yee Htun, Clinical Advocacy Fellow, presented a webinar for Harvard Law School alumni on human rights and Myanmar’s transition from military rule. The talk was so popular, the school asked if it could feature it as part of its bicentennial celebration.

Great work, Tyler and Yee.

Op-Ed: UN investigation can help Myanmar down the path of democracy

Via International Human Rights Clinic

This opinion piece by Clinical Advocacy Fellow Yee Htun and Tyler Giannini, co-director of the International Human Rights Clinic, appeared in The Irrawaddy on March 29, 2017.

At first glance, the UN Human Rights Council resolution passed on Myanmar looks like a rebuke of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) government. The resolution calls for an international investigation into “alleged recent human rights violations by the military and security forces,” singling out Rakhine State in particular for scrutiny.

Given her muted public response to the violence, her government’s denials, and the lack of any serious domestic investigation to date, it would be easy to lay a lot of the blame at Aung San Suu Kyi’s door. But the real story remains in plain sight: there are roadblocks that prevent her and the civilian government from investigating and controlling the abuses of security forces. These roadblocks are rooted in the country’s Constitution, adopted by the military in 2008, and until they are removed, domestic and international maneuvering will be necessary to pressure the military to change its violent ways.

This is not the first time that we have seen Myanmar’s Constitution fail its citizens. Despite her party winning the first open elections in a generation, Aung San Suu Kyi herself was denied the presidency under the Constitution. She and her party had to resort to creating a new position – State Counselor – that has made her the de facto leader of the government. It was a creative, and necessary, move to bring a just outcome to the election.

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Tracking a remnant of war in Kosovo

Via International Human Rights Clinic

By Jared Small, J.D. ’18

Tomorrow, my Harvard Law School colleagues and I will board an airplane for Kosovo. Our goal: track down remnants of a war that ended nearly two decades ago.

Damage from depleted uranium penetrators in Gjakova/Đakovica. Credit: Naomi Toyoda / ICBUW

The Kosovo War ended in 1999 after a months-long NATO airstrike crippled Yugoslav and Serbian forces and paved the way for an internationally monitored Kosovan autonomy.  Kosovo has since declared independence, and is moving forward towards what it hopes will become full membership in the European Union.

But there is an invisible part of this story that has largely escaped the public eye over the past decade and a half.  Our team from the International Human Rights Clinic will travel to Kosovo to better understand potential environmental and human health impacts that linger from the war.

During the course of the NATO airstrikes, United States aircraft deployed at least 5,723 kg of Depleted Uranium (DU) ammunition at Serbian and Yugoslav targets.  As an incredibly dense by-product of the process of enriching uranium, DU is often used by militaries in armor-piercing shells and bullets. American A-10 Thunderbolts fired DU at more than 100 ground targets during the campaign against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was attempting to cleanse Kosovo of its nearly 90% ethnic Albanian population.

In addition to penetrating armored vehicles, DU rounds ended up in areas now returned to civilian use, including bucolic buildings and urban streets. Even 18 years after the end of the war many of these penetrators remain scattered around Kosovo.

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Stuck in legal limbo

Via Harvard Gazette

Challenges for Syrian Refugees

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Anna Crowe, clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program, spent two semesters in Jordan interviewing Syrian refugees about the difficulties of obtaining legal documentation and the precarious existence of living and traveling without papers.

Some Syrian refugees in Jordan lack documentation, so they wait and wait

When human rights clinical instructor Anna Crowe first began documenting the legal challenges faced by Syrian refugees in Jordan, she found a tangled system that put their lives on hold. Thousands of refugees, stuck in legal limbo, were vulnerable to risks ranging from statelessness to relocation to refugee camps.

In Jordan, Syrian refugees must register with the interior ministry to obtain identity cards, which allow them access to health care, education, work permits, and humanitarian assistance. But to obtain the cards, the refugees need to show their original Syrian identity documents, which many lost in transit. They are caught in a catch-22.

“In theory, everyone or most people should be able to get the card,” said Crowe. “But there are practical challenges refugees face, which means that tens of thousands don’t actually have those cards.”

Lack of documentation is an aspect of the Syrian refugee crisis that doesn’t grab the same headlines as the harrowing scenes of people rescued from the rubble of a bombed city or drowned in the Mediterranean while fleeing to Europe. But the consequences for stranded refugees can be crippling.

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Student perspective: Reflections of a newcomer to the CCW Review Conference

Via International Human Rights Clinic

By Anna Khalfaoui, LL.M. ’17

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 12.25.30 PMThe Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) was a great success for advocates of a ban on fully autonomous weapons. Held at the United Nations in Geneva in December 2016, the Conference was also an opportunity for me to discover and reflect on the processes and challenges of the CCW, to which I was a newcomer.

I became involved when I attended the Conference as part of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC).  I also contributed to a report that IHRC co-published with Human Rights Watch the week before the Review Conference. Making the Case: The Dangers of Killer Robots and the Need for a Preemptive Ban rebuts the major arguments against a prohibition on the development and use of fully autonomous weapons. These weapons, also known as killer robots and lethal autonomous weapons systems, would be able to select and engage targets without human intervention.

The Review Conference was a key step toward a ban because states parties agreed to formalise talks on killer robots by establishing a Group of Government Experts (GGE), which will meet for 10 days in 2017. This GGE creates the expectation of an outcome as past GGEs have led to negotiation of new or stronger CCW protocols. It provides a forum for states and experts to discuss the parameters of a possible protocol which hopefully will take the form of a ban. The Review Conference also showed that support a ban is gaining traction around the world. Argentina, Panama, Peru and Venezuela joined the call for the first time at the Conference, bringing to 19 the number of states in favour of a ban.

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Student Perspective: Documentation dilemmas for Syrian refugees living in Jordan

Via International Human Rights Clinic

By Katherine Gonzalez, J.D. ’17

Two Syrian schoolmates hold up their MoI cards. Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council/Lian Saifi

Two Syrian schoolmates hold up their MoI cards. Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council/Lian Saifi

It may be difficult to believe that a simple piece of paper can carry so much weight. But for Syrian refugees living in host communities in Jordan, marriage certificates, birth certificates, and government-issued identity cards are essential to securing basic human rights.

Several months ago, I traveled with a team from the International Human Rights Clinic to interview dozens of Syrian refugee families about their experiences with obtaining these documents in Jordan. Like the vast majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan, these families lived outside of refugee camps, their legal status dependent on whether they had new government-issued identity cards, otherwise known as “MoI cards.” Without the cards, refugees lived in situations of legal uncertainty, without access to essential services, and at risk of arrest, detention, forced relocation to refugee camps, and possible refoulement.

The families we interviewed described a variety of experiences, but one theme was common throughout: lacking proper documentation can have cascading consequences for Syrians who already occupy a marginalized and vulnerable position.

For one Syrian mother, getting a new MoI card for her infant son, who was born in Jordan, seemed nearly impossible. In order to get the card, she needed proof of identity for her son, in the form of a birth certificate issued by Jordanian authorities. But she couldn’t get the birth certificate until she got a marriage certificate. And she couldn’t get the marriage certificate because the woman and her husband, who wed in Syria two years prior, could not provide sufficient proof that they had been married in Syria.

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Evan Mawarire, of the #ThisFlag Movement, Should Be Immediately Released by the Government of Zimbabwe

Via International Human Rights Clinic
by Susan Farbstein

Back in November, I was pleased to moderate a conversation with pastor Evan Mawarire, the leader of the #ThisFlag movement, which in 2016 channeled citizens’ frustrations into large-scale protests against corruption, human rights abuse, and economic decline in Zimbabwe.  It was therefore deeply distressing to learn that he was arrested last Wednesday at Harare International Airport when he returned to the country.  He continues to be held at Harare Central Police Station.

Mawarire was initially charged with subverting a constitutionally-elected government and was expected to appear in court for a hearing and the opportunity to make bail.  However, additional charges of insulting the Zimbabwean flag and inciting violence were added in an apparent attempt to prolong his detention and suppress his cause.  He is expected back in court on February 17.  If the case proceeds to trial he could face 20 years in prison.

Mawarire was previously arrested for treason last July.  After thousands protested outside the courthouse, the charges were dismissed and he was released.  He left soon after for South Africa and, subsequently, the United States, fearing for his safety.

Zimbabwe’s criminal justice system should not be used to intimidate citizens who speak out against abuse or target activists who organize peaceful resistance.  Mawarire should be released and the charges against him dropped.

Investing in International Human Rights in the Age of Trump

Via International Human Rights Clinic

By Emily Nagisa Keehn, Anna Crowe and Yee Htun

It is now well trodden discourse that the election of Donald Trump, like the rise in nationalist movements in Europe, is both creating and reflecting paradigmatic shifts in the way we view global institutions. These shifts point to pressing concerns for the international human rights project. The xenophobic, rights-abusive platform of the Trump campaign put the human rights community on notice, and we have assumed a defensive stance to protect the potential roll-back of hard-won progress. In the era of Trump, we believe the U.S. human rights community must continue to draw on international human rights law as an advocacy and accountability tool, partnering with international movements and actors to stop rhetoric from becoming reality.

For U.S. scholars, lawyers, policymakers and activists committed to the defense of human rights, the rhetoric and fledgling policies of the incoming administration have raised strategic and existential questions. In this new era, we are examining and debating critical concerns about the state and utility of international human rights law, and questioning where to place our resources. For those of us working within law schools, we face added questions from students, some of whom feel a crisis of conscience about where best to stake their social justice careers. From our perspective we must continue to invest in international human rights.

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Clinic and HRW call for formal talks on “killer robots,” aim for preemptive ban

Via International Human Rights Clinic

(Geneva, December 9, 2016) – Governments should agree at the upcoming multilateral disarmament meeting in Geneva to formalize their talks on fully autonomous weapons, with an eye toward negotiating a preemptive ban, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 49-page report, “Making the Case: The Dangers of Killer Robots and the Need for a Preemptive Ban,” rebuts 16 key arguments against a ban on fully autonomous weapons.

Fully autonomous weapons, also known as lethal autonomous weapons systems and ‘killer robots,’ would be able to select and attack targets without meaningful human control. These weapons and others will be the subject of the five-year Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) from December 12-16, 2016.

“It’s time for countries to move beyond the talking shop phase and pursue a preemptive ban,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. “Governments should ensure that humans retain control over whom to target with their weapons and when to fire.”

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

Via HLS News

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

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

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

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

Via International Human Rights Clinic

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

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

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

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

Former Irish President Connects Climate Change and Human Rights

Via Harvard Crimson

Former Irish President Mary Robinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Via International Human Rights Clinic

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

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

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Clinic highlights human rights costs of South African gold mining

Via HLS News

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

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

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

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Clinic Highlights Human Rights Costs of South African Gold Mining

Via International Human Rights Clinic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anna Crowe

Anna Crowe

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

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

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

Sara del Nido Budish 

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

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

Vivek Krishnamurthy

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

Congratulations Anna, Sara, and Vivek!

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

Via International Human Rights Clinic

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Photo credit: Kris Snibbe

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

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

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

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

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

Via International Human Rights Clinic

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

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

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

Losing Control: The Dangers of Killer Robots

Via International Human Rights Clinic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Clinic Files Reply Brief in Petition for Certiorari in Apartheid Litigation

Via International Human Rights Clinic

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

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

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

Via International Human Rights Clinic

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

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

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

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

Via International Human Rights Clinic

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

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

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

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