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Serving Iowa Better

Via The Harvard Gazette

By Madelyn Petersen

Source: Corporate Accountability Lab and iStock

Madelyn Petersen got a crash course last year in how research in the field can sometimes yield unexpected personal insights. As a member of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, she and several other students traveled to northwest Iowa to study how the federal government’s plan to potentially privatize the U.S. Postal Service might affect the small, largely rural communities there.

“Beyond mailing letters, the post office gives people the ability to connect with their families, their friends, commerce, and health care providers, especially in smaller communities,” said Petersen. “We wanted to see if there was some way we could support smaller communities that might be at risk of being impacted by changes in service and accessibility that could come with the privatization of the post office.”

The work was personal for Petersen: A native of the region, she grew up in Spirit Lake, and her extended family, including grandparents, great aunts, and great uncles, call nearby Hartley home.

Alongside fellow student Elizabeth Gyori and clinic instructor Amelia Evans, Petersen organized community meetings, went door to door to interview residents, and spoke to community leaders to get a sense of the place the postal service had in residents’ lives and whether they were concerned about their access to it being threatened.

“We found that mailing medications was particularly critical if your town doesn’t have a pharmacy,” said Petersen. “If you’re elderly or physically disabled, you might not be able to easily travel to another town to visit the nearest pharmacy, and the local post office fills those gaps.”

But when their conversations turned to potential changes to the level of service available if the Postal Service were to be privatized, they found that people struggled to see it as an immediate threat — and that changed the research direction entirely.

“There are a lot of competing priorities for people in northwest Iowa on a daily basis,” explained Petersen. “Is my grocery store going to be OK? What is the harvest going to look like this year? Do we have access to health care?

“One thing I saw really starkly that I also saw growing up in Iowa but didn’t really realize as a child is that the people in these communities are incredibly resilient and adaptable. We often heard people say they as a community would figure out how to handle [any closures]. They would figure out how to adapt, how to help each other overcome the new challenges that would arise from reductions in service.”

Petersen and her colleagues wrapped up their work and are considering reframing the issue from the national perspective. Despite the outcome of this particular study, it reinforced one of her core beliefs.

“It’s so critical that legal advocates approach problems with humility and the understanding that, at the end of the day, we might not be the best equipped to solve a community’s problems, but we are equipped to facilitate, support, and amplify their own efforts.

“People everywhere know how to make their communities better. They know what the issues are, and they are so talented in so many ways. But they don’t always have connections to opportunities or access to systems, and the legal system is one of those. As a lawyer, my role is to try to help people connect with those systems, so that the work they are already doing to create the world I want to live in is that much more impactful and successful.”

A living witness to nuclear dystopia

Via Harvard Law Today

By Juan Siliezar

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

First came a flash. Thirteen-year-old Setsuko Nakamura felt as if she were drifting skyward. And then darkness.

Seventy-four years later Setsuko still remembers the moment of detonation after the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the first of two exploded over the island nation, a deployment that proved so horrendous the weapons have never been used since.

“That very morning I was at the military headquarters, not at the school,” she told a rapt audience at Harvard Law School on Tuesday as part of the University’s Worldwide Week. Instead of being in class on Aug. 6, 1945, Setsuko was reporting for her first day of work, as one of the thousands of students the government mobilized to provide cheap labor during the wartime shortage.

Setsuko, who now uses her married last name Thurlow, and about 30 other girls were assigned to help the army decode top-secret messages. They were about a mile from ground zero and on the building’s second floor.

“Sharp at 8 o’clock the assembly started,” she said. “Maj. Yanai was giving a pep talk: ‘This is the day you prove your patriotism to the emperor. Do your best,’ and so on. We said, ‘Yes, sir! We’ll do our best.’ Then at that second I saw the blinding blueish-white flash in the window, and I had a sensation of floating up in the air.” Then she lost consciousness.

As a living witness to the devastation and human suffering the use of nuclear weapons brings, Thurlow has been telling this story for decades now. Often she brings her listeners to tears, as she did this day.

“I speak because I feel it is my responsibility as someone who has intimate knowledge of what these horrific things can do to human beings,” Thurlow said. “I consider it my moral responsibility.”

The 87-year-old is best known for her advocacy work with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a global coalition working to make the arms illegal. As a leading figure and spokeswoman for ICAN, Thurlow was on hand to accept the Nobel Peace Prize with the group in 2017 when it was recognized for its role in the United Nations’ adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which would completely ban all nuclear arms if implemented.

To date, 32 countries have ratified the accord; 50 are needed for it to become law. None of the nine nuclear-armed nations, including the U.S., have signed on, and in fact, they actively oppose it, viewing the weapons as a way to maintain peace and assure security under the threat of mutually assured destruction.

A Survivor’s Story: From the Atomic Bomb to the Nobel Peace Prize” was organized by the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative and co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program, HLS Advocates for Human Rights, and Hibakusha Stories/Youth Arts New York. The event came at a time of heightened tensions among nuclear powers and followed years in which Iran and North Korea have aggressively pushed to develop their own weapons.

“The eyewitness accounts of Setsuko and other survivors provide a vivid reminder of the human consequences of nuclear weapons,” said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection and lecturer on law at the Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. During negotiations for the U.N. treaty, the clinic provided legal advice and advocacy support to ICAN.

The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and three days later on Nagasaki killed more than 200,000 people and practically destroyed both cities. In Hiroshima, the devastation was near-total, wiping out about 90 percent of the city while instantly killing more than 80,000 people.

Thurlow recalled the aftermath in harrowing detail. After regaining consciousness, “I found myself pinned under the collapsed building in total silence, total darkness,” she said. “I tried to move my body, but I couldn’t, so I knew I was faced with death … Then I started hearing faint voices of my classmates: ‘Mother, help me.’ ‘God, help me.’ ” She knew she was not alone. “Then all of a sudden someone started shaking my left shoulder from behind — a strong male voice: ‘Don’t give up! Don’t give up! Keep moving! Keep kicking! Keep pushing!’” He told her to crawl toward the light.

Once out, she found a hellscape. Smoke and dust filled the air. Buildings crushed into piles of debris. Fires everywhere, including in the rubble she’d escaped. A procession of severely burned and disfigured people slowly emerged, “shuffling from the center of the city to the outskirts.” She and three girls who’d also escaped the collapsed headquarters walked with them. “We learned how to step over the dead bodies,” she said.

They came to an army training ground the size of two football fields “packed with dead bodies and dying people.” She stayed there the rest of the day, bringing people water from a nearby stream. “When the darkness fell we sat on the hill and all night we watched the entire city burn, feeling numbed from massive death and human suffering we had witnessed all day,” she recalled.

Her mother and father were spared, but Thurlow lost eight members of her family as result of the bombing, including her 4-year-old nephew who died four days after the explosion.”

That was only the beginning. Days, weeks, and years followed with a steady stream of deaths from injuries and illnesses from the radiation; thousands coping with homelessness; American occupation; rebuilding and memorialization efforts; and the discrimination that survivors often from fears of the long-term effects of radiation exposure.

Thurlow said these experiences formed the basis of her anti-nuclear advocacy, which began in 1954 when she spoke out during an interview about her thoughts on the news of tests of an even more powerful bomb by the U.S. in the Marshall Islands. Since then, she has testified widely, including before world leaders such as Pope Francis and hundreds of diplomats during ICAN’s campaign for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Thurlow said she was thrilled that the U.N. adopted the treaty, but admitted that it will be an uphill battle to totally eliminate nuclear weapons. And she called on listeners, especially students, to take up the cause.

“You are getting the best education,” Thurlow said. “You have a lot to return to your society, to humanity — not just to the United States, to the entire world. I am really asking you to take this issue seriously. It’s really a matter of life and death.”

The message struck a chord with many listeners, including law student Ragad Alfaraidy, who was among many who lingered after the lecture to meet Thurlow and see the Nobel medal, which she had on hand. Events like this, Alfaraidy said, inspire fresh thoughts for students wrestling with decisions about how to do something meaningful with their educations.

“We’re always torn between going to the private sector or going to the public sector,” she said, “and I believe talks like this draw important emphasis on things that we tend to forget sometimes.”

Clinic Celebrates First Year of the ACCPI

Waldman gives a talk for students on her involvement in an Amnesty International investigation into torture and executions in Syrian prisons.

Via Human Rights @ Harvard Law

By Nicolette Waldman

The Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) recently completed its first full year, and it was a banner one. Launched in March 2018, the initiative has worked both on campus and around the world to advance its goal of reducing the harm caused by war.

The ACCPI brings together students, practitioners, and academics to advocate for civilian protection, cultivate the next generation of leaders, and promote innovation in the field. It is a collaborative endeavor, led by disarmament and international humanitarian law expert Bonnie Docherty. Clinic alum Lan Mei JD ’17 and I have worked closely with Docherty to lay the foundations for the ACCPI’s ongoing success. The initiative has also received invaluable support from faculty and staff across the Human Rights Program and partnered with numerous nongovernmental organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and PAX.

Over the past school year, the team behind the ACCPI achieved a great deal. We led clinical projects on armed conflict and civilian protection; brought experts to campus for trainings, panels, and individual presentations; connected students to these and other practitioners; and created a database of potential host organizations for students. Beyond Harvard, we were especially active in the area of “humanitarian disarmament,” which seeks to prevent and remediate the human suffering inflicted by arms. We played a leadership role in coordinating cross-campaign collaboration and raising awareness of the approach.

An overview of the ACCPI’s activities from September 2018-August 2019, other than clinical projects, is provided below. In the coming months and years, the ACCPI plans to develop a track for Harvard Law students who want to pursue careers in the field and to consolidate the school’s position as center of excellence on civilian protection in armed conflict. Civilians affected by war have far too few advocates, and we aim to do all we can to address this gap.

Stay tuned this fall for updates on new events, trainings, student resources and programs, and publications!

Harvard Law School Events

Organized or co-sponsored the following presentations and panel discussions:

“Humanization of Arms Control: Paving the Way for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” October 17, 2018

“Universal Jurisdiction: Help or Hindrance in the Prosecution of War Criminals?” October 25, 2018

“International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on Crimes against Humanity,” January 2019

“Sustainable Justice: Lessons from Twenty Years of Domestic War Crimes Prosecutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” February 4, 2019

“The Destruction of Culture: The War against Culture and the Battle to Save It,” February 20, 2019

“The Human Impact of Nuclear Weapons,” March 7, 2019

“Hell on Earth: Uncovering Atrocities in Syria’s Prisons,” March 27, 2019

“Investigating Myanmar’s Atrocity Crimes: Human Rights Work Amid Conflict and Crisis,” April 5, 2019

Student Resources

Offered “Fieldcraft: Conducting Research on Armed Conflict and Mass Atrocities,” a two-part workshop by former Amnesty International researcher Nicolette Waldman, March 11 and April 1, 2019

Organized advising sessions with alumni Lillian Langford JD ’13, Chris Rogers JD ’09, and Matt Wells JD ’09, all of whom work in the area of armed conflict and civilian protection

Created a database of relevant organizations that could host interns or post-graduate fellows

Started to build a network of alumni working in the field

Humanitarian Disarmament: Publications, Events, and Messaging

Launched humanitariandisarmament.org website, October 2018

Published Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead, a summary of the ACCPI’s inaugural conference, October 2018

Hosted a strategy session for civil society leaders, New York, October 2018

Wrote and collected 18 civil society organization co-sponsors for a statement on humanitarian disarmament delivered at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, October 2018

Co-organized, with PAX, “Humanitarian Disarmament at the CCW: Examining Incendiary Weapons and Landmines through a Humanitarian Lens,” a side event at the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, Geneva, November 20, 2018

Co-organized, with the Geneva Disarmament Platform, a workshop for diplomats on humanitarian disarmament, Geneva, August 15, 2019

Published Humanitarian Disarmament, a brochure to introduce diplomats, campaigners, and others to the overarching concept, individual arms issues, and key resources, August 15, 2019

Human Rights Program’s 2018-2019 Annual Report

Via HRP 

Source: HRP Blog 

We are delighted to present HRP’s 2018-2019 Annual Report. The report showcases the global reach and impact of the Human Rights Program in its 35th year. Previews have already run on the Harvard Law School website: profiles of Paras Shah JD ’19Jenny B. Domino LLM ’18, and Anna Khalfaoui LLM ’17. In addition to celebrating these former students and fellows, the annual report explores how members of HRP contributed to a convention on crimes against humanity, innovated in clinical pedagogy, and advocated for LGBT rights. We thank all of the students, partners, and alumni who made last year so strong and look forward to engaging with our community and working on the most pressing issues in 2019-2020.

You can view our annual report in several different modes: a flipbook version, a color PDF, and a black-and-white PDF.

Read the introduction below, which highlights the words of the Human Rights Program and International Human Rights Clinic Co-Directors:


The Human Rights Program: Reflecting on 35 Years

Founded by Professor Emeritus Henry Steiner in 1984 as a center for human rights scholarship, Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program (HRP) enters its 35th year in 2019. Concurrently, the International Human Rights Clinic celebrates its 15th anniversary. HRP was founded as a place of reflection and engagement and a forum that brings academics and advocates together. Since 1984, HRP has only deepened its commitment to this endeavor. With this past year marking the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly, it is a particularly opportune time to take stock of human rights at Harvard Law School (HLS) and how the Program’s impact has reverberated beyond the university.

“The Universal Declaration set forth a vision of liberty and equality and social solidarity that has never been fully achieved; it continues to inspire people around the world as we strive to fulfill its mission,” said Gerald L. Neuman JD ’80, Co-Director of HRP and the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at HLS. “The Program has always been about critical involvement with human rights. In a time when human rights face extreme challenges globally, that means thinking more deeply about what changes are needed and  how we can contribute to the system, scholarship, and the world.”

Today, HRP comprises the Academic Program and the Clinic, which together bridge theory with practice and engage with pressing human rights issues around the world. As a center for critical thinking, the Academic Program organizes conferences and other events; publishes working papers and books; offers summer and post-graduate fellowships to launch students in human rights careers; and draws human rights advocates and academics from across the globe as part of the Visiting Fellows Program.

Over the past decade and a half, the Clinic has engaged more than 1,000 students in an analytical and reflective approach to human rights lawyering. While devoting itself to the training of future practitioners, the Clinic has promoted and protected human rights through scores of projects around the world. This work includes pushing for global equity in the realm of gender and sexuality, litigating landmark accountability cases, and helping to negotiate treaties that ban nuclear weapons and cluster munitions.

“The formal founding of the International Human Rights Clinic 15 years ago is really consequential; it recognizes the diversity of ways that people can contribute to the human rights movement,” said Susan H. Farbstein JD ’04, Co-Director of the Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law. While not all clinical students pursue careers in human rights, they often cite their clinical education as influential and formative. For many, clinics are the one place at HLS where they have the opportunity to engage in real-world preparation and see their efforts make an impact. “We’re training students in critical approaches to human rights practice, emphasizing cross-cultural sensitivity and how to be guided by the clients and communities we serve. We hope this leads to better, more effective human rights advocacy,” Farbstein said.

This year, HRP recognizes the anniversary of the Program, the Clinic, and the UDHR with both celebration and humility. After decades of training students and building a network of HRP fellows and partners, it is inspiring to step back and glimpse the network that we’ve built. “It’s not about one particular year but about the cumulative impact,” said Tyler R. Giannini, Co- Director of HRP and the Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law. “When we see the success of our students, alumni, partners, and fellows, it’s a testament to the power of this community.”

Human Rights Program Summer 2019 Highlights

Via HRP

Human rights work doesn’t stop for the summer. HRP staff, however, do take a moment to pause and regroup, taking the necessary time to recharge and plan before their project and teaching work picks up full steam in the Fall. Staff spent the summer on mountains, at the opera, and at the beach. We also developed new classes focused on women’s leadership and taught human rights and populism in Berlin.

Read on to see what we’ve all been up to this summer!


Following the release of Clinical Instructor Thomas Becker’s IHRC report “Femicide and Impunity in Bolivia” last year, the Bolivian government implemented a ten point emergency plan this summer to tackle the high rate of femicides in the country. In other news, after two months of climbing, Becker summited Mount Everest. With temperatures reaching as low as -40 degrees on the mountain, he thinks he is finally prepared for winter in Cambridge. Following Everest, Thomas’s work led him to a slightly warmer destination, the Sahara, where he spent several weeks meeting with human rights activists, women’s groups, and social movement leaders in refugee camps in Algeria.

Anna Crowe accomplished an intra-Cambridge move in July and submitted a book chapter on a disarmament topic to be published later this year.

Bonnie Docherty spoke at the International Symposium for Peace in Hiroshima on the advantages of the humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament and why Japan can and should join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (check out a transcript of her remarks here!) She also had meetings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki with civil society advocates, student activists, and doctors who have treated the hibakusha who survived the atomic bombings. On her recent work trip to Geneva for killer robots meetings at the UN, she carved out a weekend for mountains and marmots. She visited the alpine peaks of Chamonix and met some furry friends in the hills above Montreux. Hiking buddy Elizabeth Minor of Article 36, longtime Clinic partner, even brought her tote bag from ACCPI’s humanitarian disarmament conference.

Susan Farbstein developed new teaching modules on women’s leadership to pilot in the advanced Human Rights Careers Workshop this fall. She was lucky to work with one of the Clinic’s alumni, Salomé Gómez Upegui LLM ’18, as well as current SJD student Regina Larrea Maccise, to review and curate materials and build the sessions. She’s excited to see how the 3Ls will respond to what they’ve put together. She also spent a lot of time with her family, swimming, hiking, riding bikes, flying kites, building sand castles, and eating fried fish and ice cream across New England (and in Canada!).

After being on sabbatical Spring semester, Tyler Giannini went to Berlin to conduct a human rights simulation with Yee Htun. He also had the opportunity to visit members of the extended HRP family in the Netherlands and got to learn about their work at the ICC (Juan Calderson-Meza, former clinical fellow) and innovative work on business and human rights (Fola Adeleke, former clinical fellow; Deval Desai LLM ’08, SJD ’18, former research fellow; and Amelia Evans LLM ’11, former clinical instructor). With his family, Giannini also visited his roots in Ireland and in Lucca, northern Italy, for the first time, where they met long-lost cousins they never knew existed. 

Clinical Instructor Yee Htun completed a book chapter on populism in Thailand and Myanmar for an edited collection to be out next year from Cambridge University Press. She also taught a module entitled “Human Rights Under a Military Dictatorship: A Case Study on Myanmar/Burma” at the Lucerne Academy on Human Rights Implementation as well as presented at “Gender Matters: A Summer Workshop for Educators” organized by the Asia Center, the Center for African Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator, and the Religious Literacy Project of Harvard University.  In personal news, Htun is feeling a little lighter after donating 14 inches of her locks to Wigs for Kids.

Beatrice Lindstrom joined HRP as a Clinical Instructor at the end of August. Her summer was busy moving from New York and closing out nine years with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). She worked on responding to a deteriorating human rights situation in Haiti, including preparing a request for precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights for victims displaced by a brutal massacre in La Saline. She also published a chapter in the book Emerging Threats to Human Rights that came out in July. Before the move, Lindstrom got to spend some time with family on a lake in Maine.

Gerald Neuman presented his work on populism and human rights at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin in June, during a two-week stay at that social science research institute. While in Berlin he found something he has wanted for years at the Pergamon Museum – a working facsimile of a Babylonian cylinder seal. He will not be using it, however, for HRP correspondence.

New Clinical Instructor Aminta Ossom moved here from Geneva, finishing up her work with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and joined the Clinic. Before she left, she had the opportunity to cross off some items from her Geneva bucket list, including spending a day on a “funky jazz and blues boat” at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July and enjoyed a sunrise concert from the aubes musicales (“musical dawns”) concert series on the shores of Lake Geneva before work, which is a Geneva summer tradition. 


We hope you all had relaxing and productive summers! We look forward to picking up threads of old projects and meeting some new faces this year.

Paras Shah ’19, fostering inclusion and creativity in human rights

Via Harvard Law Today

By: Elaine McArdle

Source: Harvard Law Today

Paras Shah’s approach to human rights centers on inclusion. In his four terms with the International Human Rights Clinic, Shah has encouraged an international coalition to ban killer robots to integrate diverse perspectives into its campaign, and collaborated with grassroots activists to counter hate speech and de-escalate ethnic and religious ultra-national rhetoric in Myanmar. As a student in the Advanced Skills Training in Strategic Human Rights Advocacy seminar, Shah and two other classmates also designed and led a workshop to increase student leadership, promote self-care, and build bridges between the Clinic and other programs at the Law School.

“I was born legally blind and grew up in the U.S., where the law has always played an important role in making sure I have equal opportunities like everyone else,” said Shah, who was previously the John Gardner Fellow at Human Rights Watch, where he focused on the rights of refugees with disabilities. “I want to use the law to create that kind of opportunity for other people.”

“Heed the Call: A Moral and Legal Imperative to Ban Killer Robots,” co-published by Human Rights Watch, is one of the most complex reports the Clinic has written, said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection and lecturer on law in the IHRC. Shah was “an integral part of the team helping to build the case for why we need the ban.” His work was so outstanding during his first trip to Geneva, Switzerland that the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots invited Shah to return.

“Paras showed an intuitive understanding of and ability to articulate complicated issues,” said Docherty. “It was not just this, but his engagement with campaigners from all over the world, his enthusiasm for the work, his sense of humor, and his commitment to making the world a better place that made such an impression.”

Over J-term 2019, Shah and a team of three other students traveled with Yee Htun, lecturer on law and clinical instructor in the IHRC, to Myanmar and Thailand and met with religious leaders, women’s groups, and LGBTQ+ activists to test a workshop they had developed related to countering hate speech. “Paras rose to every challenge we faced. He was a sounding board and reliable interlocutor for new ideas,” said Htun. “He has the rare ability to think outside the box.”

In addition to his clinical work, Shah recently published an article in the Harvard Human Rights Journal about the use of deadly force against people with disabilities; he also writes for the prestigious national security blog Lawfare.

“The Clinic has been the most important thing I’ve done in law school,” said Shah. He said it sharpened his research skills, and taught him to consider the audience he wanted to reach and message he wanted to convey. “Although I frame an issue differently when briefing a diplomat in Geneva who is likely bound by instructions from her capital than when I discuss an idea with a grassroots activist who might have to later explain it to hundreds of other people in a specific local context, I always strive to understand their perspective and find common ground.”

For Shah, the Clinic was also a home and community. “The classmates I met became my close friends and the instructors became my mentors. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to issues I care about and make a small impact on people’s lives.”

Shah is going to be an associate at O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C.

This profile is a preview of the 2018-2019 Human Rights Program Annual Report.

Setting the Stage for Humanitarian Disarmament Season

Via Human Rights@Harvard Law

By: Jillian Rafferty JD ‘20

The disarmament season in Geneva begins in earnest this month with diplomatic meetings on killer robots, the arms trade, and cluster munitions. To provide a frame for these discussions, Harvard Law School’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) and the Geneva Disarmament Platform (GDP) recently organized a humanitarian disarmament workshop for diplomats.

The event, which was held last week, aimed to raise awareness and increase understanding of humanitarian disarmament. This approach to governing weapons seeks to reduce arms-inflicted human and environmental harm through the establishment and implementation of norms. Representatives from about two dozen national missions in Geneva participated.

At the workshop, the ACCPI and PAX released a jointly published brochure that examines this cross-cutting approach to disarmament and introduces key arms-related issues to which it has been applied. A new tool for diplomats and campaigners, the brochure also provides a definition of humanitarian disarmament, a timeline, list of key players, and selected resources.

The workshop opened with an examination of the history, definition, and characteristics of humanitarian disarmament, distinguishing this people-centered approach from more traditional, security-focused framings of disarmament. The first session also addressed the effectiveness of humanitarian disarmament and ways in which diplomats can use it to advance their disarmament agendas. Maricela Muñoz, from the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica, guided the discussion with:

  • John Borrie, UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR);
  • Bonnie Docherty, ACCPI; and,
  • Wen Zhou, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Setting aside their national positions, participants then engaged in a simulation. In small groups, diplomats reviewed the security-focused disarmament language of mock statements and discussed how to reframe rhetoric and positions in humanitarian terms.

Other presenters discussed the inclusive nature of humanitarian disarmament, emphasizing the importance of partnerships among governments, international organizations, and civil society. The speakers highlighted the need for open communication and close collaboration across these sectors. Moderated by GDP’s Richard Lennane, the panel included:

  • Austrian Ambassador Thomas Hajnoczi;
  • Beatrice Fihn, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN); and,
  • Hector Guerra, International Campaign to Ban Landmines-Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC).

The workshop set the stage for the Geneva meetings on three disarmament issues that are frequently framed as humanitarian. This week, states parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons discussed options for dealing with lethal autonomous weapons systems. Also known as killer robots, these systems raise serious humanitarian, moral, and accountability concerns because they would select and engage targets without meaningful human control.

Next week, countries party to the Arms Trade Treaty will hold their fifth annual conference. The theme this year is gender and gender-based violence (GBV), and the conference president will seek agreement on recommendations for states parties to improve gender diversity, understand and address the gendered impact of the arms trade, and improve implementation of the GBV risk assessment mandate by the treaty.

Finally, during the first week of September, states parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions will convene for their annual meeting. This treaty exemplifies humanitarian disarmament’s combination of prohibitions on the production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of problematic weapons and obligations to remediate the harm caused by past use.

 

As Satter Fellow, Anna Khalfaoui L.L.M. ’17 assisted in trial of Congolese militia leaders

Via Human Rights@Harvard Law

By: Elaine McArdle

Between 2010 and 2014 in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), rebels from the Nduma Defence of Congo (NDC) militia murdered, raped, and looted hundreds of civilians and forced children to become soldiers. In November 2018, the trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity against NDC’s militia leader Ntabo Ntaberi, who goes by the war name “Sheka,” commenced before the Operational Military Court of North Kivu.

As a 2018-2019 Satter Fellow in Human Rights, Anna Khalfaoui LL.M. ’17 spent the year in the DRC working with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) to assist survivors and their lawyers through the trial, acting as a liaison in support of the justice system.

“After nine years, to finally have a trial that looks at these incidents is so important,” said Khalfaoui, a British-trained French attorney who chose Harvard Law School for its human rights training. “Being part of the team supporting survivors who’ve waited so long to tell their stories is an incredible learning opportunity.”

Khalfaoui also assisted survivors and their lawyers in the historic trial of militia leader Marcel Habarugira Rangira. With the support of a coalition of local and international actors, including ABA ROLI, Habarugira was convicted in February 2019 of the war crimes of rape and of conscription, enlistment and use of children as soldiers. The conviction for conscripting and using child soldiers was notably the first such conviction in the DRC.

These cases are very challenging, Khalfaoui noted, explaining that there is tremendous pressure on survivors to recant their stories. Diverse actors, from the military justice and local organizations, to NGOs like ABA ROLI and the UN peacekeeping forces in the DRC have worked together to make these trials possible. They are nevertheless expensive, often lengthy, and incredibly complex. Given the instability and insecurity in Eastern DRC, these trials face critical challenges from the lack of an effective investigative and prosecutorial strategy to difficulties providing protection for the survivors and witnesses.

Still, Khalfaoui is determined to continue working on these important issues. “I think it’s become clearer as I work on this trial that I’m more and more interested in doing direct legal work with people who are affected by human rights violations,” she said. During her fellowship, Khalfaoui is also supporting ABA ROLI’s early warning system for preventing atrocities, which allows people to alert security forces when there are signs of impending violence against civilian populations. The system, which is also being used in response to an Ebola breakout, is being expanded to new zones in Eastern DRC and to include conflict prevention activities to reduce community conflict.

After the fellowship, Khalfaoui plans to continue working on international human rights and international humanitarian law litigation.

The Satter Human Rights Fellowship is designed to support and promote human rights defense in response to mass atrocities. The fellowship is made possible by a generous gift from Muneer A. Satter J.D./M.B.A.’87. This profile is a preview of the 2018-2019 Human Rights Program Annual Report, which will be available soon on the HRP blog. You can also read this post on the HLS Today website.

HRP Welcomes New Clinicians for 2019-2020

Via Human Rights@Harvard Law

The International Human Rights Clinic is thrilled to welcome two new faces, and one familiar one, to our team this year. Two impressive human rights practitioners, Beatrice Lindstrom and Aminta Ossom JD ’09, have joined the International Human Rights Clinic as Clinical Instructors. Coming to us with an extensive background in accountability litigation and advocacy, Beatrice will split her time between supervising projects as a Clinical Instructor and overseeing the student practice organization HLS Advocates for Human Rights. Aminta arrives from the United Nations, where she previously supported the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council as a Human Rights Officer. We are also pleased to welcome back Thomas Becker JD’08 as a Clinical Instructor. Becker was previously a Clinical Instructor during the 2018-2019 school year, where he worked on projects focused on accountability litigation and femicide in Bolivia, and he has played an integral role in the Clinic’s Mamani case for more than a decade.

Read more about Beatrice, Aminta, and Thomas below, and be sure to welcome them to HLS!


Beatrice Lindstrom is a Clinical Instructor in the Human Rights Program and the Supervising Attorney of Advocates for Human Rights. Her work focuses on accountability of transnational actors, obligations of international organizations, and access to remedies.

Prior to joining Harvard Law School, Lindstrom was the Legal Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, an organization that works in partnership with Haitian lawyers to bring grassroots struggles for human rights to the international stage. For nearly a decade, her work has focused on path-breaking advocacy to secure accountability from the UN for causing a devastating cholera epidemic in Haiti. She was lead counsel in Georges v. United Nations, a class action lawsuit on behalf of those injured by cholera. For her work on the cholera case, she received the Recent Graduate Award from the NYU Law Alumni Association and the Zanmi Ayiti Award from the Haiti Solidarity Network of the Northeast.

Lindstrom has extensive experience advocating in the UN human rights system, lobbying governments, and speaking in the media. She has appeared regularly in the New York Times, BBC, and Al Jazeera English.

Lindstrom was previously an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights and a Haiti country expert for Freedom House. She holds a JD from NYU School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholar, and a BA from Emory University.


Aminta Ossom is a Clinical Instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic. She focuses on equality, inclusion, and economic and social rights. She also has research interests in human rights diplomacy, the role of identity in advocacy, and symbioses between civil and human rights movements.

Ossom was previously a human rights officer at the United Nations, where she supported the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council in fact-finding, advocacy and training in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Europe.

Before joining the UN, Ossom taught international human rights at Fordham Law School as a Crowley Fellow in International Human Rights and Adjunct Professor of Law.  There she designed and led a field study examining barriers to education faced by persons with disabilities in Rwanda. She has also served as a supervising attorney for independent clinical and externship students.

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2009, Ossom focused on transitional justice, including as a Satter Human Rights Fellow with Amnesty International in West Africa. While at HLS, she was a dedicated member of the International Human Rights Clinic. She holds a Masters in African Politics from SOAS, University of London, and a BA from the University of Oklahoma.


Thomas Becker is a Clinical Instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic. He is an attorney and activist who has spent most of the past decade working on human rights issues in Bolivia. As a student at Harvard Law School, he was the driving force behind launching Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada, a lawsuit against Bolivia’s former president and defense minister for their role in the massacre of indigenous peasants. After graduating, he moved to Bolivia, where he has worked with the survivors for over a decade. Last spring, Becker and his co-counsel obtained a $10 million jury verdict for family members of those killed in “Black October,” marking the first time a living ex-president has been held accountable in a U.S. court for human rights violations. The verdict was overturned by a federal judge and is currently being appealed in the Eleventh Circuit of Appeals.

Becker’s human rights work has included investigating torture and disappearance of Adavasis in India, documenting war crimes in Lebanon, and serving as a nonviolent bodyguard for the Zapatista guerrillas in Chiapas, Mexico. When he is not practicing law, Becker is an award-winning musician and songwriter who has recorded with Grammy-winning producers and toured throughout the world as a drummer and guitarist.

Defending and promoting freedom of expression in Myanmar

Via Harvard Law Today

By: Elaine McArdle

Photo Courtesy of Jenny Domino / Domino returned to Harvard Law School in February 2019 for a talk about her Satter Fellowship research on Facebook community standards and hate speech.

After graduating from Harvard Law School, Jenny Domino LL.M. ’18 was awarded a Satter Human Rights Fellowship from the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School for the 2018-2019 year. A lawyer from the Philippines, Domino spent her fellowship year with ARTICLE 19, a human rights organization focused on the defense and promotion of freedom of expression and information. Over the last year, she has worked to strengthen ARTICLE 19’s response to hate speech in Myanmar, specifically as it incites and provokes violence against the Rohingya community.

Among other things, Domino wrote a human rights-based report analyzing the sufficiency of Facebook’s responses to criticism that it had failed to moderate hate speech in a timely manner in Myanmar. Her report has significantly informed ARTICLE 19 Asia’s engagement with Facebook regarding its content moderation policies. She also organized a regional workshop in spring 2019 on hate speech on social media, bringing together human rights defenders from the ASEAN region to discuss common themes of disinformation, attacks on the press, and weak social media policy.

Facebook’s community standards are the same throughout the world, but a problem occurs when rules are enforced without sufficiently taking into account the geopolitical contexts in which such content is shared, said Domino, who has dedicated herself to deepening the commitment to international human rights law in the ASEAN region. Before heading to HLS, she applied international accountability standards to help facilitate human rights documentation of the civilian killings arising from the Philippine war on drugs.

“When you enter a market and you don’t understand the political context of where you’re operating, that can be a problem,” she said. “The way certain speech is received or acted upon in one context—let’s say, the U.S. or the Netherlands—is different in a place like Myanmar or the Philippines. This distinction is more pronounced when the political context of a specific country involves atrocity crimes or systematic violence against civilians.”

The year has been “very meaningful for me,” said Domino, who will continue to specialize at the intersection of freedom of expression, corporate responsibility, and international human rights law, at the International Commission of Jurists, following her fellowship.

“I’ve learned a lot, not just in terms of substantive knowledge but the practical—and sometimes grim—aspects of working in the NGO scene. I am still trying to figure out through which capacity I can serve best, one where I can make the most impact as a lawyer. For now, I am content to have discovered a cause I deeply care about.”

The Satter Human Rights Fellowship is designed to support and promote human rights defense in response to mass atrocities. The fellowship is made possible by a generous gift from Muneer A. Satter J.D./M.B.A.’87. This profile is a preview of the 2018-2019 Human Rights Program Annual Report.

Back to Myanmar with fresh insights

Via The Harvard Gazette 

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

By: Liz Mineo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salma Waheedi Co-Authors Article on Muslim Family Law Reform

Via the Human Rights Program

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

The co-authors state:

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

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

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

By: Daniel Levine-Spound, JD ’19

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

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

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

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

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

I will miss it deeply when I am gone.

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

Via the International Human Rights Program

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

Continue reading

Clinicians Celebrated at the 3rd International Women’s Day Exhibition

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs offers its heartfelt congratulations to Mindy Roseman (Human Rights Program) and Patricia Whiting (Harvard Legal Aid Bureau) on being honored for their significant contributions to their respective areas of the law and policy at the 3rd Annual Harvard Law International Women’s Day.

Via Women Inspiring Change

Senior Clinical Instructor at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Former fellow and Clinical Instructor at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center, practicing in the areas of housing law and consumer bankruptcy.

Patricia Whiting is a Lecturer on Law and Senior Clinical Instructor at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, where she has been an attorney, teacher, mentor, and advocate for low-income tenants throughout the Boston area since 2006.  As part of her practice at the Legal Aid Bureau, Ms. Whiting supervises eight second- and third-year law students in the Housing Practice, while also coordinating the Bureau’s participation in the Attorney for the Day Program in Boston Housing Court, which provides on-the-spot legal assistance to the hundreds of low-income tenants facing the loss of their homes each week.  In the past year alone, Ms. Whiting has guided her students through oral argument at the Supreme Judicial Court and the Massachusetts Court of Appeals, as well as through countless hearings, motions arguments, and negotiations, while also advocating to preserve tenants’ legal rights and protections in the Massachusetts State Legislature and working to expand access of low-income clients to appellate fora through the Access to Justice Pro Bono Appeal pilot project.

Her tireless dedication to her students and her clients shines through everything that she does, leaving a lasting mark on the lives of those who have had the immense privilege of learning from and working with her.  Ms. Whiting holds an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a J.D. from Boston College Law School.

In the words of some of the HLS community members who nominated her,

“Pattie is an exceptional teacher and clinical instructor but where she excels and inspires most is in her role as a lawyer and an advocate. During my time at the Legal Aid Bureau, I have witnessed Pattie run to the aid of tenants who desperately needed representation but could not get it from a student at the Bureau or other legal services organization. Arguing motions on behalf of a pro se tenant with little or no notice is not part of her job description but her empathy, compassion, and passion compels her to do so and she does so with little praise or fanfare. Students at the Legal Aid Bureau and low-income tenants in the Boston area have benefited immensely from her advocacy. I am a better person and lawyer because I have had the opportunity to work with her, learn from her and watch her.”

“Pattie has been the single most influential person in my law school career. She has been a teacher, advisor, friend, and role model to me in our two years together, and I know that she will continue to shape the way I approach the world even after leaving HLS. Her relentless advocacy for low-income tenants across Boston is legendary to those who know her, but even beyond advocacy, Pattie shines. She is a patient and caring teacher who thinks nothing of taking a student’s panicked midnight call the night before a hearing. She is a mentor who deeply cares about her students’ personal and professional well-being. And she is an amazing example of how female attorneys can be tough, passionate, and compassionate a the same time. I know that, as I begin my legal career, I will be looking to Pattie’s example often, and endeavoring to be more like her.”

“Pattie inspires me every single day. It’s so rare to have the opportunity to meet someone who genuinely cares as much as she does about correcting situations that aren’t right, and who actually does something to make that happen. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to learn from her. She takes on the toughest cases no one else is willing to take on, and she truly leads by example with her commitment, compassion, composure, sense of humor, and firm loyalty to her clients, students, and colleagues. Thank you, Pattie!”

“Pattie is not only one of the most brilliant attorneys I’ve ever seen, she is also dedicated to empowering her students to seek social justice. While some are content to dedicate their lives to public service through the challenging–and often overwhelming–work of poverty law, Pattie is both an unbelievably effective legal aid attorney and a stunningly kind, thoughtful, supportive teacher. I have seen her work firsthand, as she spent two years opening my eyes to the injustice of the housing system in Boston while empowering me to think critically and creatively about how to serve my clients. Time and again, I have watched Pattie simply refuse to let a client or a student down. When a person facing an eviction had run out of every conceivable option; when other legal services organizations had closed their doors and other advocates turned aside, Pattie would be there, bringing her brilliance, strategy, and courage to bear in service of clients others had deemed indefensible. This is the greatest lesson I learned in law school; that to be an advocate extends beyond the courtroom and the classroom–that it is a way of life.”

Director of International Programs and Gruber Program on Global Justice and Women’s Rights at Yale Law School. Former Academic Director at the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School. Former staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York.

In the words of the HLS community members who nominated her,

“For decades, as an advocate, teacher and scholar, Mindy Jane Roseman has been shaping the way we talk and think about women’s health, sexuality, and reproductive rights, in the United States and around the world. She has led trailblazing work with UN agencies and NGOs in these fields, with her expertise on HIV/AIDS, gender, maternal health, and criminal law. Mindy is a clear-eyed visionary, an idea encapsulator, a subtle agenda-setter. And you will never find her alone. Wherever she goes, she draws a community of intelligent and supportive women with and around her. Indeed, she is an inspiration as much for the creativity, passion and brilliance that she pours into her legal and academic work as she is for the patience, generosity and kindness with which she supports others. Generosity of spirit is not to be taken for granted in any workplace, but in the highly competitive and hierarchical legal field, it can be particularly hard to come by. A mentor to generations of women, Mindy is exceptional in her willingness to treat colleagues and students of all levels the same way: as people with tremendous abilities and potential to give.”

Human Rights Program Celebrates 30 Years of Advocacy

Via the Harvard Crimson

Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program celebrated on Friday afternoon the increased awareness surrounding issues of human rights since its founding three decades ago and detailed the next steps for activists in the field.

The afternoon program included two panels—“Human Rights Advocacy Across Generations” and “The Next Stage in United Nations Treaty Bodies”—and a keynote address by former Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh ’75.

“It is wonderful to look back at the graduates we’ve had go on to have distinguished careers, the scholarship we have produced, and the engagement we’ve had in projects,” said Gerald L. Neuman ’73, director of the Human Rights Program. “We are looking back but also forward to the problems of the day.”

After the luncheon and keynote address by Koh, which focused on the future direction of human rights advocacy, attendees listened to the two panels before a reception closed out the celebration.

For Law School Dean Martha L. Minow, who served as an adviser to the program at its inception, the celebration displayed the success of activists in bringing human rights issues to the forefront of public discourse.

“Human rights once upon a time was just a phrase, then it became a movement, then it became law, then it became something we talk about at dinner tables,” Minow said at the ceremony.

Continue reading the full story here.

A Warm Welcome to Gabriela Follett

Gabriela Follett, Program Assistant, Human Rights Program

Gabriela Follett, Program Assistant, Human Rights Program

Via the Human Rights Program 

Gabriela Follett is the Program Assistant for the Human Rights Program. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of Vermont, where she studied Environmental Studies with a focus on Food Justice. Gabbie’s passion for advocacy work about gender-based sexual violence on college campuses began while she was an undergraduate student at the University of Vermont. She worked closely with the Women’s Center on the launch of a campaign, “You Could be the First to Know,” a video guide for friends who are the “first to know” about an assault.

In her current position, she assists with the administration of post-graduate and summer fellowships, organizes various conferences and events, and supports the Visiting Fellows Program.

Winning on School Infrastructure, Honoring Mandela

Members of Equal Education march to the Department of Education in Pretoria to demand norms and standards. (Photo courtesy of Equal Education)

Via the Human Rights@Harvard Law Blog | By: Susan Farbstein

As South Africa and the world remember Nelson Mandela, there is perhaps no greater way to honor his legacy than to continue the struggle for social justice. A quality education for all children must be at the core of such efforts, as Mandela himself recognized. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” he said. In the week before his death, real progress was made on the education front in South Africa.

After three years of sustained campaigning by our South African partners, Equal Education (EE) and Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga finally released binding norms and standards for school infrastructure on November 29th. The norms represent a significant victory for future generations of South African students, and for South Africa itself.

The norms—which are legally binding—mandate substantial changes to public schools across the country, many of which must be realized on a relatively short time horizon.

Continue reading the story on the Human Rights@Harvard Law Blog

A Step Closer to Basic School Infrastructure for South African Students

Photo courtesy of Equal Education Law Centre

By: Melissa Shube, JD ’15

After soliciting feedback from hundreds of South African students and parents, Equal Education (EE) and Equal Education Law Center (EELC) have submitted comments on the South African Minister of Basic Education’s second draft of minimum regulations for public school infrastructure. While the submission recognizes that the Minister’s draft represents important progress, EE and EELC raise significant concerns with respect to the draft’s long timeline for implementation. As Moto Singulakka, a Grade 10 learner at Oscar Mpetha High School in the Western Cape, asked, “What about now? Where are the learners going to learn?”

The legacy of Apartheid is still palpable in South Africa’s education system, where many rural and township schools lack basic infrastructure to provide students with a safe environment conducive to learning. Binding norms and standards will help promote equality in education for South Africa’s historically disadvantaged students by requiring all public schools to meet minimum thresholds in relation to physical facilities.

Please read the full story on the Human Rights Program Blog.

Clinic and Human Rights Watch Urge International Talks on ‘Killer Robots’

Via the Human Rights @ Harvard Law Blog

Senior Clinical Instructor Bonnie Docherty is in Geneva today at the annual meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, making the case for a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots.” By her side are two students from the International Human Rights Clinic: Lara Berlin, JD ’13, and Ben Bastomski, JD ’15.

The Clinic has been working closely with Human Rights Watch (HRW) for more than a year on the threat of fully autonomous weapons, which would have the ability to identify and fire on human targets without intervention. Today, they released their latest joint paper on the topic and urged international talks to begin. Thanks to Bonnie, Lara, Ben, and Elina Katz, JD ’14, for their work on the paper.

Please read the full post by Cara Solomon on the Human Rights @Harvard Law Blog

Opportunity with Human Rights Program

Part-time paid research assistant position for the summer and into the fall semester to work on comparative criminal justice and rule of law matters for Mindy Roseman, Academic Director of the Human Rights Program. Learn more…

Human Rights panel discusses cost of Iraq invasion, 10 years after: Video

The Human Rights Program at HLS, brought together representatives from Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, and the Center for Constitutional Rights to discuss the launch of the Right to Heal Initiative, a partnership they formed to “fight for redress.” Read more or watch below.

Human Rights panel

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

Event: Human Rights Program Orientation – Sep 12

Stop by WCC 2009 on Wed, Sep 12 for the Human Rights Program Orientation.


Join the Harvard Human Rights Program (HRP) in WCC 2009 on Wed, Sep 12 from 12-1:30pm for pizza, an overview of HRP opportunities, and how you can get involved.

Learn more about:

  • The International Human Rights Clinic
  • Summer funding for human rights internships
  • Post-graduate fellowships
  • Events and conferences
  • The larger human rights community at Harvard Law School

Get to know:

  • Clinical Instructors
  • Visiting Fellows from the Academic Program
  • Representatives from student groups focused on human rights, including HLS Advocates for Human Rights.

For more information, stop by WCC 3139 or email  hrp at law.harvard.edu. Hope to see you there!

Roundup: Updates from HLS Human Rights Program

One of three reports released by HLS Human Rights Program this past week

In the past week, HLS Human Rights Program staff and students have been in the news with three reports:

Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street
From the HLS International Human Rights Clinic blog:
“The first report in our multi-clinic Protest and Assembly Rights Project series calls on New York City authorities to stop the pattern of abusive policing of Occupy Wall Street protests. Lead authored by our partners at NYU and Fordham, the report released today documents in painstaking detail how the New York police and other city officials violated the rights of Occupy protesters.”

Additional Reading:
14 Specific Allegations of NYPD Brutality During Occupy Wall Street (The Atlantic)
Accusations of Police Misconduct Documented in Lawyers’ Report on Occupy Protests (The New York Times)

At the Hospital There Are No Human Rights: Reproductive and Sexual Rights Violations of Women Living with HIV in Namibia
From the HLS International Human Rights Clinic blog:
“Despite repeated calls for reform, the Government of Namibia’s inaction raises serious concerns about violations of the sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV, according to a report released today at the International AIDS Conference by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, the Namibian Women’s Health Network, and Northeastern Law School.”

Additional Reading:
The Day After Victory: More Work Needed to Protect Rights of Namibian Women Living with HIV (HLS International Human Rights Clinic blog)

Explosive Situation: Qaddafi’s Abandoned Weapons and the Threat to Libya’s Civilians
From the HLS International Human Rights Clinic blog:
“Abandoned weapons that were once part of Muammar Qaddafi’s vast arsenal threaten civilian lives in Libya, according to a report released today by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), in partnership with CIVIC and the Center for American Progress.”

Additional Reading:
Report Finds Gaddafi Weapons Pose Threat to Civilians (The Tripoli Post)
Libya after Khadafy is littered with massive amounts of abandoned deadly weapons (The Boston Globe)
REPORT: Weapons Left Over from Qaddafi’s Arsenal Pose Serious Threats to Libyans (ThinkProgress)

Snapshot: Clinical Fair

Tyler Giannini (R), Human Rights Program Clinical Director and Clinical Professor, chats with a student during last week’s Clinical Fair (photo courtesy of HRP)

Thanks to all the clinics and students who made last week’s Clinical Fair a success! While Clinical Registration only comes once each year, the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs is available year-round to answer your clinical and pro bono questions. Don’t be shy about getting in touch!

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.