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November 23, 2011

Dispatch from Geneva

Posted by Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, and Anna Crowe, LLM ’12

Diplomats from more than 100 countries are currently engaged in heated deliberations in Geneva over a proposed protocol, put forward by the United States and others, that would allow the use of certain cluster munitions indefinitely.  The International Human Rights Clinic has joined a group of nongovernmental organizations in arguing against the proposal, which would threaten the impact of an existing international treaty that protects civilians by absolutely banning the weapons.

Senior Clinical Instructor Bonnie Docherty consults with NGO delegates on a new version of the proposed weak treaty on cluster munitions. Photo by Gemima Harvey/CMC

If adopted, the proposed protocol would directly compete with the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty that seeks to eliminate the devastating effects of cluster munitions on civilians.  More than 108 countries have signed on to that convention, which went into force August 2010, and 66 states are full parties, bound by all its provisions.  The convention prohibits use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions and obliges states to provide assistance to victims of past use.

The United States, which is not a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, has led the charge for the new protocol over the last week at the Review Conference of the Convention for Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva.  The protocol would be attached to the CCW framework convention, an umbrella treaty with protocols governing specific types of weapons.  Protocol supporters argue that certain major stockpilers and users of cluster munitions who are not currently party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions might join this proposed protocol because it is not a complete ban.

But the Clinic argued in a paper distributed to delegates last week that the new protocol would constitute an unprecedented step backwards in terms of international humanitarian law.  The international community has never adopted a treaty that provides weaker protections for civilians from armed conflict than a treaty already in force.

Continue Reading…

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November 22, 2011

What We’re Reading Now . . .

Posted by Cara Solomon

As we wind down for Thanksgiving week, here are a few recommendations for bus/train/plane reading.  We’ve enjoyed these blogs and Web sites over the past few months—and hope you will too.

The first is a series of in-depth interviews the Harvard Law School Human Rights Journal is running on its Web site.  In the first installment, James Tager, JD ’13,  interviews Osama Siddique, an Associate Professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences, recent S.J.D. graduate from Harvard Law, and Pakistani legal scholar.  The topic:  Siddique’s recent scholarship on Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.

We’re also religiously checking the blogs by Ben Hoffman, JD ’11, and Marissa Vahlsing, JD ’11, who are helping to set up an office for EarthRights International (ERI) in Peru.  Ben and Marissa were fixtures on HRP’s blue couch last year; this year, they’re working as Henigson fellows, focusing on indigenous land rights and the environment in the Amazon.

Ben’s latest post explores the protest by thousands of indigenous people in Bolivia over a proposed highway through their territory.  Marissa most recently wrote about a trip into the Amazon to meet indigenous leaders in the Ucayali region of Peru.  The leaders’ main concern: a proposed highway that would cut through some indigenous communities, and expose others to unwanted contact with the outside world.

If you have suggestions for what we should read, and/or encourage others to read, please email me at csolomon@law.harvard.edu.  We’d love to hear from you.

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November 17, 2011

Today: A Screening of “Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today”

Posted by Victor Ban, JD '13

Please join us today at noon for a viewing of the ground-breaking film, “Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today”.  As narrative, the film captures a moment in global history that continues to shape international conceptions of justice, war, and genocide.  As historical document, the newly restored footage is a testament to the raw power of visual media, a power that certain parties might seek to suppress or manipulate.  As creative endeavor, “Nuremberg” is the triumph of a team of filmmakers committed to seeking truth.

The Harvard Law Documentary Studio—a community dedicated to creating and screening original documentaries on social and policy topics —is honored to co-sponsor this event, along with the Human Rights Program, Facing History and Ourselves, and the HLS Office of the Dean.

Victor Ban, JD ’13, is  the President of the Harvard Law Documentary Studio (www.facebook.com/harvardlawdocs)

Event Notice

“Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today”

12:00- 2:00 pm

John Chipman Gray

Introductory Remarks by Dean Martha Minow

Special guest Sandra Schulberg, restoration producer & daughter of filmmaker Stuart Schulberg, will discuss the use of motion picture evidence at the trial; the making of “Nuremberg”; and its subsequent suppression by the U.S. government.

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November 16, 2011

Psychologists and Advocates Call for Annulment of American Psychological Association Report on Military Interrogations

Posted by Dr. Trudy Bond, Psychologist

A coalition of concerned psychologists and advocates is calling upon the American Psychological Association (APA) to drop an influential policy document that allows its members to participate in abusive military interrogations.  The movement to nullify the “PENS Report” has already drawn support from more than a dozen high profile advocacy groups – including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Center for Justice and Accountability, and Physicians for Human Rights – and nearly 1,000 individuals, from health professionals to military officials.

The report, by the APA’s Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS), is of critical importance because it is the defining document endorsing psychologists’ engagement in national security detainee interrogations.  Despite evidence that psychologists were involved in and helped promote abusive interrogation tactics at Guantánamo Bay Detention Center, Bagram Air Base, and CIA “black sites,” the PENS Task Force nevertheless concluded in its 2005 report that psychologists play a critical role in keeping interrogations “safe, legal, ethical and effective.”  With this stance, the APA–the largest association of psychologists worldwide–became the sole major professional health care organization to support practices contrary to the international human rights standards that ought to be the benchmark against which professional codes of ethics are judged.

The call for annulment reflects the reality that the PENS Report remains an influential and authoritative guiding operational document within the American psychology and national security establishment.  Continue Reading…

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November 14, 2011

Today, Nov. 15: “Indefinite Detention in the Obama Era”

Event Notice

November 15, 2011

“Indefinite Detention in the Obama Era”

A Panel Discussion with Gitanjali Gutierrez and P. Sabin Willett

Moderated by Deborah Popowski, Lecturer on Law & Clinical Instructor, Harvard Law School

12:00- 1:00 pm

Griswold 110

Please join us for a discussion of the legal, political, and human consequences of the current administration’s detention policies.

Gitanjali S. Gutierrez was the first habeas attorney to visit the U.S. Naval Prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  She was formerly with the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based human rights organization that has been litigating challenges to the Executive’s post-9/11 anti-terrorism policies.  Ms. Gutierrez was a member of the legal team representing detainees held in Guantánamo in U.S. Supreme Court cases Rasul v. Bush (2004) and Boumediene v. Bush (2008).  She is currently counsel for Mohammed al Qahtani, a Saudi citizen still detained in Guantánamo, who was subjected to the “first special interrogation plan,” a regime of torture and inhuman treatment authorized by former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

P. Sabin Willett, JD ’83, is a partner at Bingham McCutchen and has been active in the firm’s representation of Guantánamo detainees since 2005. He led the team that won landmark victories, including the first-ever review of a Guantánamo prisoner’s case under the Detainee Treatment Act in Parhat v. Gates, and the first-ever habeas judgment, ordering prisoners’ immediate release into the United States in Kiyemba v. Bush.

Co- sponsored by the Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights, Harvard Human Rights Journal, National Lawyers’ Guild-HLS Chapter.

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November 14, 2011

Finding the Right Summer Fit: An Interview with Brett Stark, JD ’12

Posted by Cara Solomon

Last year, the Human Rights Program funded more than 20 students to work at internships abroad.  You can meet several of them today at the International Summer Jobs Student Panel in Pound 213; they’ll be eating free burritos and dispensing their best advice there from 12:00- 1:00 pm.

Brett Stark, JD ’12, with a RefugePoint client in Kenya who was preparing for resettlement to the U.S.

In advance of the panel, we talked last week to Brett Stark, JD ’12, who worked at RefugePoint, an organization in Kenya that helps to meet the needs of people affected by war and conflict.  He described how he came to care about this work; what he learned from his first summer internship; and why his second internship proved so successful.

HRP: You have a long-standing interest in social justice advocacy. Why did you choose law school to express it?

I thought it would be the most effective way for me to be the best social justice advocate I could be—given our system, and the powers that lawyers have, and also given what I felt like my abilities were, as an oral advocate, as a person who enjoys connecting with people, and as someone who loves to write.  That stuff kind of blended together with law.

When I came here, I was trying to figure out: what’s my thing going to be?  I didn’t really know; I wanted to look around.  One of the things I did was the Immigration and Refugee Clinic, and that was really awesome.  Working with a client is an amazing experience.  With teaching, which I had done before law school, you’re connecting with students, but with clients, it’s a different kind of connection. Continue Reading…

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November 9, 2011

Online Debate: “Will Kiobel Be Just An Aberration?”

Posted by Cara Solomon

Here’s the latest from Susan and Tyler on the Kiobel front: their opening statement in an online debate over at PENNumbra,  a publication of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

The debate poses the critical question, “Will Kiobel Be Just An Aberration?”

Next up is a response from Anthony Clark Arend, Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.  Then each side submits a closing statement.

Stay tuned!

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November 8, 2011

HRP Alumna Chi Mgbako Named to “Minority 40 Under 40” List

Posted by Susan Farbstein

Chi Mgbako (left) visits Malawi while a Crowley Fellow at Fordham Law School’s Leitner Center for International Law and Justice. Photo courtesy of Chi Mgbako.

Here’s some exciting news.  HRP alumna (and my old friend from law school) Chi Mgbako, JD ’05, was just named to the National Law Journal’s “Minority 40 Under 40” list, which celebrates the top 40 minority lawyers in the country under the age of 40.

After graduating from HLS, Chi received a Harvard Henigson Human Rights Fellowship to join the West Africa office of the International Crisis Group, where her work focused on justice sector reform in Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as political reform in Nigeria.

Since 2007, she has built and directed the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham University School of Law, where her students conduct mobile legal aid clinics and engage in legal and policy analysis, human rights trainings, submissions before human rights bodies, and public interest litigation in partnership with international human rights NGOs.  Recent projects have focused on prisoners’ rights, reproductive rights, LGBT rights, legal empowerment, sex workers rights, HIV/AIDS, and U.S. foreign policy.

Congrats, Chi, on all your amazing work and this well-deserved recognition!

Click here for a profile of Chi, and here for several of her articles on The Huffington Post.

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November 7, 2011

Today, November 8: Humanitarian Law and Nuclear Weapons

Event Notice

November 8, 2011

“Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, and Nuclear Weapons”

A Talk by John Burroughs, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

12:00- 1:15 p.m.

Lewis 302

John Burroughs, JD, PhD, is a specialist on treaty regimes and international law relating to nuclear and other non-conventional weapons.  He is both Director of the UN Office of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP).

In 1998, Dr. Burroughs represented LCNP at the negotiations on the International Criminal Court in Rome, and in 1995, he was the nongovernmental legal coordinator at the hearings on nuclear weapons before the International Court of Justice.  At this event, he will discuss the nature and prospects of the humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament.

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November 7, 2011

Setting the Terms: Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas

Posted by Sarah Fenstemaker, JD '12

In preparation for this week’s United Nations Security Council debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the International Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Watch have released a briefing paper on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

The paper examines the concept of “explosive weapons in populated areas,” an emerging term in the field of international humanitarian law.  Although the term is new, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has for decades documented and sought to minimize the significant effects on civilians of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.  Explosive weapons, which cause injury through blast and fragmentation, range from hand grenades to air-dropped bombs.  Earlier this year, HRW helped found the International Network on Explosive Weapons, which seeks to raise awareness of the concept and reduce the human suffering explosive weapons cause.

This paper released on Friday  illuminates the humanitarian problems associated with the use of explosive weapons in populated areas through three recent case studies—Sri Lanka, Somalia, and Libya.  For each, the paper provides information, drawn from past HRW research, about users and types of explosive weapons, patterns of use in populated areas, and civilian harm.

The case studies exemplify the ongoing nature of the problem as well as the range of responsible actors, categories of munitions, and location of attacks.  The case studies also shed light on the shared characteristics of the harm to civilians, which include death and bodily injury, destruction of infrastructure, and long-term effects on individual lives and livelihoods.  Commonalities in the use of these weapons and the harms they produce underline the need for the international community to focus on and address the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

The Clinic’s Explosive Weapons team—Ian Boyle Harper, LLM ’12, Anna Crowe, LLM ’12, and Sarah Fenstemaker, JD ’12—researched and drafted the paper under the supervision of Senior Clinical Instructor Bonnie Docherty.  Their work  is part of an ongoing partnership between the Clinic and HRW.

Sarah Fenstemaker, JD’12, is a member of the Clinic and a student in Bonnie’s seminar The Promises and Challenges of Disarmament.

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