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November 29, 2012

HRP Open House: Tonight!

Posted by Cara Solomon

Please join the faculty, staff and students of the Human Rights Program (and its International Human Rights Clinic) for… an OPEN HOUSE!

It’s happening tonight from 5-7 pm in the HRP lounge, on the third floor of the clinical wing. All students are welcome to come learn more about the seminars, clinical work and academic offerings by HRP.

If that’s not incentive enough, there’s this: light refreshments will be served!

Hope to see you soon!

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November 27, 2012

Important Victory for the Right to Education in South Africa

Posted by Susan Farbstein

In the not-so-distant past, denial of basic education to non-white citizens was a pillar of South Africa’s apartheid state.  The goal of “Bantu education” was to isolate and subjugate the black population, prevent the spread of “subversive” ideas, and prepare black students to provide labor for a white-run economy and society.  Recognizing that this system had to be eradicated if South Africa was to truly transform itself, the right to education was enshrined in the country’s new constitution during the transition to majority rule.  Basic education for all South Africans would be an immediately realizable right, essential to overcome decades of legalized discrimination and to ensure meaningful participation in a democratic society.

But absent clear standards and specific guidance about what a quality education means, the country has struggled to provide such education to most of its citizens.

A school in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Photo courtesy of Equal Education

According to the Department of Basic Education, as of 2011, of the 24,793 public schools in South Africa: 14% have no electricity; 10% have no water supply; 46% use pit-latrine toilets; 90% have no computer centers; 93% have no libraries; and 95% have no science laboratories.  We’re learning about these challenges through our partnership with Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), a law clinic set up to address what it describes as the ailing education system in South Africa.  Part of the problem is that while the South African Schools Act of 1996 empowered the Minister of Basic Education to set minimum norms and standards for all schools, such norms and standards were never established.

But last week, our partner in South Africa made measurable progress.  EELC and its sister organization, Equal Education (EE), along with the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), secured a major victory on the path to education reform in South Africa.  In an out-of-court settlement, the Minister of Basic Education agreed to promulgate binding minimum norms and standards for infrastructure of the country’s public schools. Continue Reading…

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November 21, 2012

Op-Ed: The Trouble with Killer Robots

Posted by Cara Solomon

Since its release on Monday, the Clinic’s joint report with Human Rights Watch on “killer robots” has been attracting quite a bit of attention. Check out articles in The Guardian and AFP, as well as segments on Democracy Now and the BBC.

Bonnie also wrote an excellent Op-Ed about the issue for Foreign Policy magazine, which is reprinted in full below.

The Trouble with Killer Robots

Why we need to ban fully autonomous weapons systems, before it’s too late

by Bonnie Docherty

Imagine a mother who sees her children playing with toy guns as a military force approaches their village. Terrified, she sprints toward the scene, yelling at them to hurry home. A human soldier would recognize her fear and realize that her actions are harmless. A robot, unable to understand human intentions, would observe only figures, guns, and rapid movement. While the human soldier would probably hold fire, the robot might shoot the woman and her children.

Despite such obvious risks to civilians, militaries are already planning for a day when sentry robots stand guard at borders, ready to identify intruders and to kill them, without an order from a human soldier. Unmanned aircraft, controlled only by pre-programmed algorithms, might carry up to 4,500 pounds of bombs that they could drop without real time authorization from commanders. Continue Reading…

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November 19, 2012

“The Case Against Killer Robots”: An International Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Watch Report

PRESS RELEASE

Ban Killer Robots Before It’s Too Late

Fully Autonomous Weapons Would Increase Danger to Civilians

November 19, Washington, DC – Governments should pre-emptively ban fully autonomous weapons because of the danger they pose to civilians in armed conflict, Human Rights Watch and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School said in a report released today. These future weapons, sometimes called “killer robots,” would be able to choose and fire on targets without human intervention.

The 50-page report, “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots,” outlines concerns about these fully autonomous weapons, which would inherently lack human qualities that provide legal and non-legal checks on the killing of civilians. In addition, the obstacles to holding anyone accountable for harm caused by the weapons would weaken the law’s power to deter future violations.

“Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. “Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimizing civilian deaths and injuries.”

“Losing Humanity is the first major publication about fully autonomous weapons by a nongovernmental organization and is based on extensive research into the law, technology, and ethics of these proposed weapons. It is jointly published by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic.

Human Rights Watch and the International Human Rights Clinic called for an international treaty that would absolutely prohibit the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. They also called on individual nations to pass laws and adopt policies as important measures to prevent development, production, and use of such weapons at the domestic level.

“It’s critical to take action now,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior clinical instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic and senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The technology is alluring, and the more nations invest in it, the harder it will be to convince them to give it up.” Continue Reading…

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November 14, 2012

Tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 15: The Rule of Law at Home and Abroad

Event Notice

November 15, 2012

“Rule of Law at Home and Abroad – A Critical Perspective”

A Panel Discussion

12 – 2 pm

Wasserstein 3019

Promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels is at the heart of the United Nations’ mission. It is also a principle that is embedded throughout the Charter of the United Nations and most constitutions of national states. But there is much friction among Member States as to the definition of the rule of law, with assertions of hidden agendas.  In addition, there is mounting skepticism among donors and international organizations regarding rule of law promotion.

Please join us for an inter-active discussion on these issues with panelists: Gerald L. Neuman, J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard; Ivan Šimonovi?, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; and Robert O. Varenik, Director of Programs, Open Society Justice Initiative.

The moderator will be David Marshall, LL.M ‘02, Visiting Fellow, Harvard Human Rights Program, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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November 13, 2012

Today: The Guatemala STD Inoculation Studies; Human Rights and the Supreme Court of India

Event Notice

November 13, 2012

“The Guatemala STD Inoculation Studies: What Should We Do Now?”

12:30-2 pm

Wasserstein 3019

Lunch will be served

In the late 1940s, US and Guatemalan researchers conducted a host of experiments on vulnerable Guatemalan subjects, purposefully exposing them to and infecting them with a number of STDs without their consent.  The experiments were kept hidden for more than half a century, until they were discovered and exposed only recently by historian Susan Reverby.  The US government has since apologized for what happened, but a class action suit brought on behalf of the Guatemalan subjects was dismissed in June and efforts to directly compensate the victims have not been forthcoming.   Please join Harvard Law School’s Petrie-Flom Center and Human Rights Program for a panel discussion of the study and possible legal and political responses that may be available now, both domestically and from an international human rights perspective.

Panelists will include:  Susan Reverby, Marion Butler McLean Professor in the History of Ideas, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Wellesley College; I. Glenn Cohen, Assistant Professor of Law, Faculty Co-Director, Petrie-Flom Center, Harvard Law School; Holly Fernandez Lynch, Executive Director, Petrie-Flom Center, Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School; Wendy Parmet,  George J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law; Fernando Ribeiro Delgado, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law, Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School.

And later today:

“The Supreme Court of India

and the Implementation of Human Rights”

A Panel of Distinguished Guests

5- 7 pm

Wasserstein 1010

This panel discussion, moderated by Professor Mark Tushnet of Harvard Law School, will feature: Chief Justice Altamas Kabir of the Supreme Court of India; Justice Swatanter Kumar of the Supreme Court of India; Justice Arijit Pasayat, of the Supreme Court of India; Shri Salman Khurshid, Honourable Minister for Law and Justice; G.E.Vahanvati, Attorney General of India; T.K. Viswanathan, Secretary General of the Indian Parliament; Rakesh Munjal, Senior Advocate; and Professor S. V. Sivakumar, Director of the Indian Law Institute.

This event is being co-sponsored by International Legal Studies and the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research.

November 9, 2012

International Experts Criticize U.S. Response to Occupy; Clinic Presents at Conference on Protest Rights

PRESS RELEASE

International Experts Call for U.S. to Respect Protest Rights; Criticize Officials’ Responses to Occupy Movement

(Vienna, Austria, 9 November 2012) – Today, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issued a report finding that some U.S. authorities’ responses to the Occupy Wall Street movement involved excessive police force, unjustified mass arrests, disproportionately large numbers of police, and violated the rights of journalists.

“The OSCE report confirms recent findings by U.S. groups of violations of protest rights, and demonstrates the urgent need to reform the way some cities, including New York, regulate and police protests,” said Professor Sarah Knuckey of New York University (NYU) School of Law, who co-led an eight-month investigation by law school clinics into the treatment of Occupy Wall Street in New York.

The OSCE findings result from the organization’s first investigations of assembly rights in the United States, and were presented at a meeting of government and civil society representatives from over 50 countries. The United States is a member state of the OSCE, and has committed to guarantee the freedom of peaceful assembly.

The OSCE report issued today recommends that U.S. authorities ensure the right to free assembly, including by facilitating protest camps and marches as much as possible, limiting police use of force, promptly investigating police misconduct, and not dispersing assemblies merely for lack of permits.

The OSCE’s findings follow extensive U.S. civil society reporting of protest rights violations, including a detailed report by law clinics at NYU and Fordham Law Schools, Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street. Professors and students from NYU and Harvard Law School were invited to the OSCE this week to present their findings, and to discuss concerns and reforms with civil society and representatives from governments, the OSCE, and the United Nations. The Clinics, on behalf of U.S. groups, also voiced support for OSCE work monitoring freedom of assembly, and called for continued OSCE work in the United States.

“Attending the OSCE forum gave us an opportunity to hear accounts from people around the world who, like the U.S. Occupy movement, are using public space to voice dissent. These accounts made clear that while peaceful protests are proliferating, so are governments’ tactics of repression,” said Deborah Popowski, Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.

“There is no part of the world where suppression of protest is not a problem, and the U.S. is no exception,” said Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, who attended the OSCE meetings.

“Fighting for a meaningful right of free assembly is vital because there can be no democracy without this right. There is no choice – we have to succeed if we want to leave the world a better place for those who come after us,” said Kiai.

Further information:

About the work of the law clinics here

About OSCE’s work on assembly rights, and its Monitoring Report here.

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November 2, 2012

Talk on Monday: “The Future of Economic and Social Rights”

Event Notice

Monday, November 5, 2012

“The Future of Economic and Social Rights”

A Book Launch and Discussion with Katherine Young

12- 1 pm

WCC 4059

Harvard Law School

Please join us for a book talk by Katherine Young, SJD ’09, Senior Lecturer, Australian National University College of Law, Australia, with commentary from Lucie White, Louis A. Horvitz Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Food, water, health, housing and education are as fundamental to human freedom and dignity as are privacy, religion or speech. In recent years, these rights have been increasingly recognized as legal rights. Young’s recent book, “Constituting Economic and Social Rights,” examines how such rights become meaningful in legal systems.

This talk is being co-sponsored by the International Legal Studies Program.

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November 1, 2012

Today, Friday, Nov. 2: The International Job Search; Event on Syria Cancelled

Posted by Cara Solomon

Unfortunately, today’s event on Syria and the limits of human rights advocacy has been cancelled, and likely rescheduled for December 7. We’ll keep you updated on that. But please note there’s another important event at noon today, geared mostly toward 1Ls who are interested in a public interest job abroad. Details below:

“The International Job Search”

An Informational Session with Representatives from HRP, OPIA, International Legal Studies and the Office of Student Financial Services

12- 1 pm

Austin West

This session is designed to provide advice to 1Ls seeking summer public interest opportunities abroad. Topics for discussion include:

• How to determine what kinds of jobs to pursue
• How to research employers
• How to land a summer job
• Application logistics, including timing
• Summer funding programs, including the Chayes International Public Service Fellowship and Human Rights Program Summer Internships

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