Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Tag: HLS Advocates for Human Rights

2019 HRP Summer Fellow Reflection: Angel Gabriel Cabrera Silva, SJD Candidate

Cabrera Silva spent Summer 2019 at Colectivo Emancipaciones, in Morelia, Michoacán, México

Summer fellowships for human rights internships are a central part of the Harvard Law School human rights experience. During the summer of 2019, HRP funded five HLS students to intern abroad at nongovernmental organizations for up to eight weeks. At the conclusion of their internships, students returned to HRP with a deeper appreciation for the type of work required of human rights practitioners. Over the course of the next month while our summer fellowship application is open, we’ll be excerpting portions from their fellowship reports to provide a glimpse into the kinds of experiences open to human rights students at Harvard Law.


As an SJD candidate studying grassroots mobilizing in human rights, Angel Gabriel Cabrera Silva wanted to immerse himself in a social justice organization working in partnership with indigenous communities. He joined Colectivo Emancipaciones, an NGO that advocates on behalf of indigenous rights. In order to express its democratic goals, the Colectivo organizes itself into non-hierarchical “commissions.” Angel joined the “Litigation Commission” and the “Community Council’s Commission.” In the former, Cabrera Silva worked on strategic litigation on behalf of indigenous communities. In the latter, he worked with communities on socio-political organizing.

He described his work as follows:

“Currently, the Colectivo Emancipaciones is working alongside Community Councils of the towns of Pichátaro, San Felipe de los Herreros, Arantepacua, and Santa Fe de la Laguna to intervene in a legislative process that intends to regulate their budgetary autonomy. The axis of this strategy is to preemptively organize the social and political aspects of a process for free, prior, and informed consultation that will be reclaimed after (and if) this bill is discussed by Congress. As such, my task was to attend meetings with the various Councils, brief them about the legal elements of the strategy, listen to their opinions, and collaboratively think about how to articulate the organizational aspects (like when and how would it be easier to organize a politically efficient process of free, prior, and informed consent).”

Cabrera Silva plans to return to some of the communities that Colectivo partnered with later in his SJD to do fieldwork. Over the summer, he was particularly impressed with the community commitment of the NGO. He explained that working at Colectivo Emancipaciones provided “a clear example of how the outcomes of human rights work change when advocates have direct political commitments to specific social movements (rather than abstract normative commitments or indirect commitments with donors).”

At Colectivo, he said, “the role of lawyers was never to upkeep any norm or to advise the communities about the proper legal avenue to get a favorable decision. Instead, the lawyers were constantly reviewing the political and social usefulness of any legal action. The constant contact with community councils meant that the Colectivo was always in touch with what material solutions were needed, and their work revolved around that aspect. In fact, the very structure of the Colectivo (organized in a Commission) seems to have been learned from the way the Community Councils organize themselves.”

Angel further elaborated on how the funding structure of the NGO provided a positive influence on its culture, saying: “The fellowship also gave me a lot of insights into how NGOs are sometimes influenced by external sources of funding. The Colectivo Emancipaciones has an internal policy of not accepting any money that might condition their work. In this sense, they have almost no external donors. They mostly fund themselves through their own professional independent practice. They have also established collaborative academic research projects as a means to embolden their alliance with the communities. This mode of practice has an important influence on the power dynamics between the Colectivo, communities, and the individual members of the Colectivo, which are much more horizontal and open for reflection.”

Overall, the internship gave Cabrera Silva the opportunity to re-examine what skills are important in human rights work. “Normally, I would think that having expertise in the latest development of international standards and knowing all the international procedures was one of the most important advantages of a human rights lawyer. However, I realize how little this technical knowledge might matter in contrast to developing the skills that relate to political strategizing, community organizing, and even inter-personal support.”


Interested in learning more about HRP Summer Fellowships? Schedule an advising appointment with Anna Crowe, Assistant Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, and apply to join our 2020 cohort today! Please note that you do not need to have a confirmed placement organization before you apply for the 2020 HRP summer fellowship pool. Applications are due February 1, 2020!

Student Practice Organizations Panel 2019

Students attend 2019 SPO Panel

Student Practice Organizations often provide 1Ls with their first opportunity to gain practical legal experience at HLS. Each SPO is typically led by a student board consisting of 2L and 3L students and is supervised by a licensed attorney. Across the 11 SPOs currently active at HLS, a variety of focus areas including housing, immigration, and prison law are represented. Students participating in SPOs do not receive academic credit, however, their hours can count towards the 50-hour pro bono graduation requirement.

The SPO Panel, held earlier this week, provides an opportunity for students to hear directly from the students boards and members of SPOs. During the 2019 SPO Panel, representatives from all 11 SPOs spoke on focus areas, levels of commitment, attorney supervision and particularly emphasized the communities formed in each individual SPO through the work that they do.

“Community is one of our main priorities. It was a game changer for me. I met some of my closest friends, it reminded me why I decided to come to law school.” said Emma Broches, co-president of HLS Advocates for Human Rights, on her experience with SPOs.

President of Harvard Defenders Martina Tiku also noted how SPOs encourage members to interact with other students and individuals in the field who are committed to and passionate about the work that they do, reflecting the sentiments of several other panel participants.  “You get a chance to talk to people who are passionate about their work.” she said.

For students interested in joining an SPO, the organizations hold information sessions and open houses are coming up. All SPOs require some form of registration or sign-up, with several requiring separate applications. While all SPOs accept students in the fall, some  accept members during the spring term. Information session, open house, and registration/application deadline dates can be found on the  Opportunities for Student Practice Matrix.

Resources:

SPO Skills Matrix

SPO Sign-Ups

SPO Student Reflections

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.”

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.

Rand Paul Must Reverse His Position On Judge Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court Nomination – Or Betray His Anti-War Legacy

Via Take Care Blog

By: Daniel Levine-Spound

On July 30th, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced his support for Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Although he had initially voiced concerns regarding Kavanaugh’s “record on warrantless bulk collection of data and how that might apply to very important privacy cases,” Paul ultimately backed President Trump’s choice.

Whatever one makes of Rand Paul’s waffling on privacy issues, his support for Kavanaugh speaks to an arguably deeper betrayal of his principles: opposition to the United States’ ever-expanding and seemingly interminable “War on Terror.” For few judges have shown themselves less willing to impose limits on American war-making, or more flexible in deferring to the Executive Branch on issues related to armed conflict, than Kavanaugh.

In June 2018, Paul chaired a Senate hearing on the Corker-Kaine Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a bill meant to replace the 2001 AUMF and provide new legal authority for US counterterrorism operations abroad. In his Opening Statement, Paul noted that when the 2001 AUMF was passed, “no one in Congress believed they were voting for a worldwide war on ‘terrorism’ in twenty some odd countries that would go on for decades.” Rather than limiting “the scope of war,” the proposal, Paul explained, would do the opposite, “expand[ing] the current theaters of war” and flipping the Constitution “on its head.” Although the bill references “reassert[ing] the role of Congress,” Paul’s assessment is correct: the bill’s passage would have further ceded Congress’s constitutional war-making authority, allowing “the president to wage war against six enumerated groups and add new groups in the future, all without any geographic or time constraints.”

Paul’s opposition to the Corker-Kaine bill aligns with his long-standing principles. Since his 2011 election, Paul has remained one of the Senate’s staunchest critics of the “Forever War” and unchecked executive power. In 2013, he conducted the “longest talking filibuster in recent Senate memory,” speaking from the Senate floor for over twelve-hours to block the Obama Administration’s nomination of John Brennan as head of the CIA due to his role in Obama’s drone strike program. In September 2017, Paul called explicitly for the repeal of the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, lambasting the “trillions spent in seemingly endless conflicts in every corner of the globe.” He asserted that, when Congress allows the Executive Branch to “unilaterally” declare war, it “abdicates” its Constitutional responsibilities.

For anyone concerned about the “Forever War,” Paul’s past actions are laudable. But in supporting Kavanaugh, Paul has undermined over a decade of advocacy aimed at restraining US military action abroad. At a time in which the Trump Administration has publicly declared its intention to keep Guantanamo open, and has further escalateddrone strikes, supporting Kavanaugh’s accession to the Supreme Court is particularly inconsistent with Paul’s publicly-stated principles.

Perhaps no issue more clearly highlights the difference between Kavanaugh and Paul than Guantanamo Bay, the infamous prison camp opened by the Bush Administration at the onset of the “War on Terror.” In 2013, Paul was one of three Republican Senators willing to back an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) loosening restrictions on transferring detainees out of Guantanamo—part of President Obama’s efforts to shrink the Guantanamo prison population. In light of that vote and other actions, Paul was characterized in 2015 as a “rare Republican presidential candidate willing to buck the party’s traditional position on an issue of national defense.”

Kavanaugh could hardly be more different. In a lengthy concurrence in Al-Bihani v. Obama, a 2010 case in which a Yemeni citizen captured in 2002 challenged his continued detention in Guantanamo, Kavanaugh disputed the notion that the international law of armed conflict places any restriction on US wartime detention. Both the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions—signed and ratified by the United States—strictly limit the permissible length and conditions of detention in armed conflict. But in spite of the Supreme Court’s recognition of these obligations, Kavanaugh would have rejected his court’s ability to enforce them on the President. In his view, “it is hard to conceive of a task less appropriate for U.S. judges…than judicial invocation…of uncertain and changing international-law norms to restrain the President and the U.S. military in waging a congressionally authorized war abroad.”

Three years later, in Razak Ali v. ObamaKavanaugh again disputed the notion that courts, or international law, can regulate the length of detention in Guantanamo: “It is not the Judiciary’s proper role to devise a novel detention standard that varies with the length of detention. The only question before us is whether the President has authority under the AUMF to detain Ali. In conducting that analysis, we must apply the same standard in 2013 that we would have applied in the aftermath of Ali’s capture in 2002.” Following Kavanaugh’s logic, there is no reason why an individual captured in 2002 could not be held until 2030 or 2050, provided the ill-defined armed conflict authorized by the 2001 AUMF continues. For Kavanaugh, the United States’ international obligations regarding wartime conduct appear largely irrelevant: “When Congress has broadly authorized the President to take certain actions, and that broad authorization encompasses actions that might in turn violate international law, courts have no legitimate basis to invoke international law as a ground for second-guessing the President’s interpretation.”

In an op-ed tracing Kavanaugh’s national-security jurisprudence, Professor Stephen Vladeck observes: “Kavanaugh’s many opinions concerning Guantanamo and related matters make it crystal clear that his confirmation would make the court far more deferential to the president’s exercise of aggressive war powers.” Vladeck highlights several decisions animated by the same principle seemingly at work in Al-Bihani: extreme deference to the executive on matters related to armed conflict. In Saleh, et al. v. Titanet al., a federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of over 250 Iraqi civilians tortured by private US military contractors at Abu Ghraib, Kavanaugh joined a majority decision “barring state-law tort claims against a private military contractor.” Saleh’s majority focused on concerns that liability could hinder the war-effort: “Allowance of such suits will surely hamper military flexibility and cost-effectiveness.” As in Al-Bihaniand Razak Ali, Kavanaugh’s opposition to judicial involvement in armed conflict—and his extreme deference to the executive branch—dictated his vote.

As the “War on Terror” trudges into its 17th year, Rand Paul faces an important choice: will he vote “yes” on the nomination of a judge committed to seemingly unfettered executive power in all matters related to wartime conduct? Or will he uphold the constitutional principles he has long espoused, and refuse to assent to Kavanaugh’s nomination?

His legacy of opposing endless war and advocating checks on presidential power may depend on the answer.

Students honored at 2018 Class Day ceremony

Via Harvard Law Today

Class Day 2018 3

Credit: Heratch Ekmekjian

Tabitha Cohen (left) and Edith Sangueza, two of the many students recognized during the Class Day 2018 ceremony for various accomplishments during their time at Harvard Law School. Cohen and Sangueza (along with Annie Manhardt, not pictured) were awarded with the Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Award, given each year to students who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to improving and delivering high quality volunteer legal services in low-income communities.

A number of Harvard Law students from the Class of 2018 received special awards during the Class Day ceremony on May 23. They were recognized for outstanding leadership, citizenship, compassion and dedication to their studies and the profession.


Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award

This year’s Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award was presented to Tabitha Cohen, Annie Manhardt and Edith Sangueza. (Read more)

Edith Sangueza contributed nearly 2,000 pro bono hours by working with three student practice organizations – Harvard Immigration Project (HIP), Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights, and Project No One Leaves – in addition to working as a student attorney for four semesters with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB). She spent her 2016 Spring Break volunteering with South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project, in Harlingen, Texas, and her 2017 Spring Break volunteering with American Gateways, in San Antonio. Her commitment to social justice also extended throughout her summers – she worked with Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración, in Mexico City, and with the Bronx Defenders, in New York.

Three students win Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Awards 1

Credit: Lorin Granger

Tabitha Cohen and Annie Manhardt

At Harvard Law School, Tabitha Cohen and Annie Manhardt both participated in the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) and the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI). At PLAP, they spent hundreds of pro bono hours as co-executive directors, managing a multitude of daily internal governance and programming issues. Throughout their time, they demonstrated tireless effort and dedication to advocating for the needs of prisoners by conducting investigations, counseling and interviewing clients, and presenting compelling arguments at hearings.

In a precedent-setting case for an elderly disabled parole client Cohen argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court whose ruling extended the Americans with Disabilities Act to mentally and physically disabled prisoners seeking parole. As a result of the case, the state must now help parolees get support systems in place in the community.

While at HLS, Manhardt also worked with Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts and the Office of the Defender General in Vermont. Cohen worked with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program , the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Florida and La Fundacion para el Acceso a la Justicia de Puerto Rico in San Juan.

The Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award is granted each year in honor of Professor Andrew Kaufman ’54, who has been instrumental in creating and supporting the Pro Bono Service Program at HLS.  J.D. students in the graduating class who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to pro bono work receive the award and an honorarium.

HLS requires all students to perform 50 hours of pro bono services but most go far beyond. This year, 10 students exceeded 2,000 hours of service and 112 students volunteered more than 1,000 hours.

In total, the Harvard Law School Class of 2018 contributed 376,532 hours of pro bono legal work.

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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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Fighting for human rights with HLS Advocates

By Thaya Uthayophas J.D. ’18

Group photo of HLS Advocates for Human Rights

Group photo of HLS Advocates for Human Rights

I came to Harvard Law School because I wanted to make a difference. As an international student from Thailand, however, I wasn’t originally sure how that would manifest. Should I make a lot of money in corporate law to help my family? Should I become part of legal academia, thinking of new philosophical frameworks that could change the way we think about the world? Or should I be an activist for my people back home in an effort to finally establish a permanent constitution and democratic Thailand?

These are all big dreams. And they are all valid in their own ways. As I’ve come to learn through working with Student Practice Organizations and the clinical programs, however, our dreams can be difficult to put into practice. But therein also lies the magic:  that no one’s dream can stand alone. What ultimately inspires me to pursue the dream of becoming a human rights lawyer is not so much the size of my dream or the grandeur of my narrative, but the people, the events, and the projects — the fact that we’re all doing it together as part of something larger, fighting for a seemingly impossible and ever-changing set of ideals that is human rights. And I learned all this by being part of the Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights.

The day-to-day work of an individual Advocates member (and any lawyer, really) borders more or less on the mundane. While it was exciting to see my own project draw fruition with our letter to the UN special rapporteurs on a human rights violation connected to a gold mine in Thailand, I think focusing on the victories misses the point. In order to get the UN letter drafted, my individual team members had to first learn about UN systems, read up on the many violations connected with the mine, and research individual special rapporteurs and the best ways to approach them. Then we had to come together and compile all this information in an accessible form for our partner organization Fortify Rights. It was all very time-consuming, and, at times, it felt like we had to trust our client to know what best to do with the information we provided them. The fact of the matter, however, was that we did trust them — this non-governmental organization more than 8000 miles away. We trusted that their work would eventually help local villagers who suffered from cyanide poisoning and violent attacks because we trusted them as part of the human rights movement, fighting together for a better world.

For this Fall term, Advocates leaves the same kinds of trust to organizations fighting for land rights in Liberia, advocating for waste pickers in Latin America, documenting human rights violations of asylum-seeking children in Israel, empowering mining-affected communities in Guinea, countering violent extremism in Tanzania, and holding people accountable for War crimes in Iraq. Our project leaders and members similarly know that it’s not about each of us making individual difference but all of us making differences as a team, and beyond. And it’s not just the project people who are cognizant of this fact. Our events team, for instance, has created a Human Rights Training Series, knowing that many students lack understanding about the fundamental building blocks of a different facet of international human rights. Our directors of organizing and direct action constantly seek out opportunities with other organizations on campus to make an impact on the ground.

As for me, as co-President, I’m little more than a facilitator, making sure things go along and confidentiality forms are filled out. It’s a good job. At the very least, I get to write and talk about all the wonderful things Advocates is doing as part of something larger that is human rights.

 

HLS Advocates for Human Rights: Finding a Community

A group of this year’s Advocates project members.

A group of this year’s Advocates project members.

By MacKennan Graziano, J.D. ’17

I came to law school with the express purpose of working in international human rights law. Immediately upon starting at HLS, I realized that this was not going to be a straightforward or easy career path. Flooded by corporate firm events and constant appeals to participate in the Early Interview Program (EIP), it became incredibly important for me to find a community of people dedicated to human rights advocacy. I wanted a group of peers with whom I could navigate an uncertain career path. I have found that community in HLS Advocates for Human Rights.

Advocates is a place for students to work on semester and year-long projects on various human rights topics. Our projects are designed and led by the students themselves under the supervision of an attorney from a partner organization who works in the field. These student-initiated projects give students a chance to work on the human rights issues they are most passionate about.

I joined Advocates as a 1L project member and continued 2L year as a project leader. With the help of six amazing students, I ran a project in partnership with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which looked at local laws across Massachusetts that affect homeless people. This project involved meticulously going through municipal codes and working with local governments to get their records on arrests and fines under those laws. Together we were able to engage with the local communities using international human rights as a framework. Advocates projects are a place where as early as 1L year you can start to develop practical human rights skills and learn what it is like to do human rights work on a day-to-day basis.

Now as Co-President, I have the honor and privilege of overseeing the work of our dedicated project teams. This year we have projects on a myriad of topics, all timely and important within the human rights world. These include corporate accountability in Israel/Palestine, sexual violence in South African prisons, engagement with the UN on business and human rights issues in Thailand, domestic non-consensual pornography legislation, international criminal law violations in Syria, and human rights compliance by non-state actors. In Advocates, I have found not only a space to develop my skills as a human rights advocate, but a community of people who care deeply about human rights and who have helped me navigate a more uncertain life path.

A Profile of Two Students

Via HLS Advocates for Human Rights 

Danae Paterson, J.D. ‘16, and Brian Klosterboer, J.D. ‘16, met one another at the start of their 1L year while working on a project in Advocates for Human Rights. Now in their final year of law school, they have applied the human rights strategies they learned in Advocates to their work in the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) and with human rights organizations in Syria, the West Bank, Turkey, Uganda, and Washington, DC.

Advocates for Human Rights is a student practice organization that enables students to hone their human rights skills and gain practical legal experience, while simultaneously fostering an active and aware human rights community at Harvard Law School. Historically, Advocates was a hotbed of student activism, spearheading campaigns to oppose the Iraq War and U.S. torture programs. Today, Advocates performs legal work on behalf of nongovernmental organizations and works to advance human rights in Boston and around the world.

Both Danae and Brian entered law school with a strong interest in human rights. Within the first few weeks of school, they joined in Advocate’s project called “Thinking Big.” Working with teams, they began to think critically of the systemic problems in human rights. And, throughout the year, they helped develop an anti-sex trafficking project and reading group, which culminated in a “gap analysis” of anti-trafficking organizations in Boston.

Before starting Harvard Law, Danae served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Rwanda, and earned an MSc in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics, where she specialized in nationalism and conflict. Both experiences fueled her interest in human rights and served as a foundation for engaging in work related to conflict-affected areas and human rights.

Building on the experience she gained in Advocates, Danae worked as part of a legal team with the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) in Washington, D.C. to support the state of Yemen and United Nation Envoy to Yemen in their constitution-drafting negotiations. She also went on to work on incendiary weapons treaty negotiations in Geneva as well as principles of assistance to conflict victims in IHRC. During Winter Term, Danae went back to work with PILPG’s Syria team in Gaziantep, Turkey, to support peacebuilding and local negotiations with Syrian community activists.

Before law school, Brian studied African history at Centre College in Kentucky and studied abroad in China and Cameroon. He then traveled to Uganda as a Fulbright Research Fellow to study the media and the military. There, he also worked as a journalist for a Ugandan newspaper that was shut down by the military and co-founded a bar and restaurant in Kampala.

Brian used the skills he learned in Advocates to return to Uganda during his 1L summer and work for the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), a local nonprofit that successfully overturned Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in the Constitutional Court. As a 2L, he worked on the Alien Tort Statute Project with IHRC and went on to work as a Summer Associate at Cohen Milstein in Washington, D.C., a plaintiff-side firm with practice areas in human rights and civil rights.

This year, Danae and Brian serve as co-presidents of Advocates and continue to be involved in promoting and enforcing human rights. They have both continued their work with the International Human Rights Clinic, Danae has continued to support PILPG’s Syria Team, and has worked to debut at Harvard the Caesar Project, a series of photos by a defected military forensic scientist exposing systemic torture in Syria, and Brian is co-authoring a book on the Ugandan gay rights movement.

Advocates has grown since Danae and Brian’s first year of law school and this semester has five active projects. The Criminalization of Homelessness in Massachusetts project investigates how municipal codes in Massachusetts affect people who are homeless. The Corporate Accountability and Legislative Action team is working to pass a bill in the Massachusetts legislature that will open legal channels to individuals who have suffered human rights abuses. The Accountability for the Rohingya project works with local activists in Myanmar to examine and explore legal mechanisms that provide accountability for human rights abuses on behalf of the Rohingya people. And there are two projects on Corporate Accountability for International Crimes in Latin America, one of which focuses on tort liability and another on international criminal law. In addition to these projects, Advocates is also continuously developing projects for the future and hosting speakers, workshops, and events designed to enrich the human rights community at Harvard Law.

Event 3/26: A Decade of War

For Us, The Wars Aren’t Over: The Right to Heal Initiative
Tuesday, March 26
7:00 – 9:00 pm
Harvard Law School, Wasserstein Hall, Room 2012

Ten years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program joins organizations from across the Harvard and Boston communities to mark the anniversary with speakers from two groups still living the consequences of the last decade of U.S.-led wars: Iraqis and U.S. veterans and service members.  Members of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will speak about the costs of war they share.  Together with attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights and Harvard Law School, they will discuss the Right to Heal Initiative, the partnership they have formed to fight for redress.

Speakers:
Yanar Mohammed, President, Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq
Ms. Mohammed is the founder of OWFI, a nongovernmental organization that promotes women’s rights and interests in Iraq.  She will speak about OWFI’s work in an Iraqi town near a U.S. military base that has seen dramatic increases in the incidence of birth defects, cancers, and other severe health ailments.

Matt Howard, Member, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Mr. Howard served two tours in Iraq with the Marine Corps.  He will discuss the costs of war for U.S. service members and veterans, particularly the obstacles that prevent too many from receiving proper medical and mental health care.  IVAW and its subcommittee, Afghan Veterans Against the War, have advocated for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and for reparations to Iraqis for the costs of war.

Pamela Spees, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
Ms. Spees will discuss CCR’s role as a support player in the Right to Heal’s collaborative project to ensure the U.S. takes concrete steps for health care, accountability, and reparations.

Moderator:
Deborah Alejandra Popowski, Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School

Dinner will be served.

Co-Sponsored By: HLS Advocates for Human Rights, Harvard National Security and Law Association, Islamic Society of Boston, National Lawyers Guild (Mass. Chapter), Veterans for Peace (Ch. 9, Smedley D. Butler Brigade), BC Law Holocaust/Human Rights Project, HKS Human Rights Professional Interest Council, HLS American Constitution Society, HLS Democrats, HLS Human Rights Journal, Harvard International Law Journal, HLS Muslim Law Students Association, Harvard Women’s Law Association, HSPH Muslim Student Group, MIT Amnesty International, MIT Center for International Studies, MIT Muslim Student Association, Northeastern Univ. Arab Student Association, Human Rights Caucus at Northeastern Univ. School of Law, Tufts Univ. New Initiative for Middle East Peace, Tufts Univ. Fletcher School Human Rights Project

Clinical Events: Feb 20-24

As many of you know, there’s always an event (or two or three) to attend at HLS. A few clinical events are highlighted below but for a complete listing of HLS events, please visit the HLS calendar.

A Year after David Kato: The State of Ugandan Gay Rights Today
Tue, Feb 21, 12–1pm
WCC B015

HLS Advocates for Human Rights hosts a commemorative event in honor of the Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato, who was found murdered last January. Val Kalende, a fellow Ugandan and gay rights activist, and Mindy Roseman, Academic Director of the Human Rights Program, will will speak about Kato’s work and the current state of gay rights in Uganda today. From 1:30-2:30pm, Kalende will lead a discussion based on issues raised during the talk.

The Promises of Web-based Social Experiments
Tue, Feb 21, 12:30–1:45pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor

The advent of the internet provides social scientists with a fantastic tool for conducting behavioral experiments online at a very large-scale and at an affordable cost. It is surprising, however, how little research has leveraged the affordances of the internet to set up such social experiments so far. In this talk, Jerome Hergueux will introduce the audience to one of the first online platforms specifically designed for conducting interactive social experiments over the internet to date.

Prosecuting the Recruitment of Child Soldiers as a War Crime before the International Criminal Court. A Critical Reading of the Lubanga Case
Thu, Feb 23, 12–1pm
WCC Suite 4133

As part of the Child Advocacy Program (CAP) Working Paper Lunch Series, visiting researcher and Fulbright grantee Mahyad Hassanzadeh-Tavakoli will discuss how the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute – which stipulates that the recruitment and enlisting of children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces, or using them to participate actively in hostilities, is to be regarded as a war crime – has been handled by the Court in the Lubanga Case.