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October 27, 2016

Tomorrow, Oct. 28: “Criminal Justice Reform in Pakistan”


criminal-justice-reform-in-pakistan-a-case-study-1October 28, 2016


Criminal Justice Reform in Pakistan: A Case Study

2:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Hauser 102

Please join us for a lunchtime discussion with Professor Osama Siddique, Henry J. Steiner Visiting Professor in Human Rights, on the human rights implications of criminal justice system reform in Pakistan. In most developing countries, criminal justice reform is driven by internationally-funded efforts, which often cut out critical local actors. In Pakistan, members of the justice sector are engaged in complex and meaningful dialogue that has influenced the process and content of criminal justice reform to more sustainable effect. Professor Siddique examines Pakistan’s cutting-edge effort and considers what lessons can be drawn from it for other countries.

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October 25, 2016

Commentary: Justice is long overdue for the widows of South African mineworkers


We’re very pleased to cross-post this piece by Emily Nagisa Keehne, Associate Director of HRP’s Academic Program, who argues in The Guardian that it’s vital the court of appeals uphold a ruling that makes South Africa’s gold mining industry accountable to women whose husbands died from silicosis. Emily co-authored the piece with her former colleague, Dean Peacock, Executive Director of Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa.

 

“Justice is long overdue for the widows of South African mineworkers”

 

For decades, women in rural South Africa have shouldered the burden of caring for mineworkers who return home with silicosis contracted in South Africa’s gold mines. These women do the back-breaking and emotionally taxing work of caring for men who are dying slow and painful deaths, their lungs irreparably scarred by the silica dust they breathe in underground.

Testimony from women in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province reveals the brutal toll silicosis has taken on families. “My husband was the sole breadwinner,” recalled one woman. “If we had money, he had sent it. During his last days, he lost his strength and his chest closed up. It was difficult for him to cover himself with blankets, so I would cover him up. He could not go outside to relieve himself, so he would do it right there in the bed. I would have to throw it away. On his last day his chest closed up completely. I am left with almost nothing.”

From village to village, such stories were a recurring refrain. “I used to carry [my husband] around,” said another woman. “I used to go from house to house asking for food, we had children going to school. At times I would get piece jobs so we could eat.”

Eventually, this woman’s husband became unable to breathe. He died before he could even get in a car to go to hospital.

These conditions are the predictable outcome of deliberate mining policies.

Starting in the 1880s, when gold was first discovered, gold mining houses colluded with British colonial governments to put in place a range of taxes and legislation that forced black men to leave their land to work in the mines.

Once there, these men were forced to do dangerous jobs. Their work exposed them to malnutrition, tuberculosis and dangerous levels of silica dust. Many developed silicosis, which scars the lungs, makes breathing difficult, increases vulnerability to tuberculosis and can ultimately cause asphyxiation.

Black women, on the other hand, were required to remain in rural areas, where they carried out the work of raising workers and, often, caring for them when they later returned home desperately ill.

This exploitation remained entrenched for most of the 20th century. The mining industry corrupted the medical examination boards ostensibly in charge of mineworkers’ health. The boards then underreported cases of silicosis, decreasing workers’ eligibility for compensation. Together with the apartheid government, the industry set up a distinct and difficult to use compensation scheme. One study by Deloitte found that less than 1.5% of claims had been paid out to eligible miners.

The consequences of this arrangement were predictable. A 2009 report revealed that almost all miners interviewed in the former republic of Transkei, the largest provider of mining labour, had symptoms of respiratory illness. None were formally employed. About 92% said they went without food or experienced hunger on a monthly basis.

South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution has allowed human rights lawyers and mineworkers to begin to hold mines accountable.

In 2011, South Africa’s constitutional court issued a landmark ruling allowing Thembekile Mankayi, who had contracted silicosis working underground, to sue AngloGold Ashanti for full loss of wages, damages and medical expenses, regardless of what was already available to him under the miner-specific compensation scheme.

Human rights lawyers subsequently petitioned the courts to allow a class action lawsuit; potentially, hundreds of thousands of miners would join together to sue for as much as 20-40bn rand (roughly £1.2bn-£2.3bn).

Two South African NGOs – the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), an Aids activist group, and Sonke Gender Justice, a gender equality organisation – applied to join the case as amici curiae (impartial advisers to the court), introducing evidence on the social costs of silicosis.

TAC drew attention to the relationship between silicosis and TB. Sonke offered evidence on the gendered impact of silicosis, particularly the financial, emotional and physical burden borne by women and girls who care for sick mineworkers when they return home, often foregoing their own income and education. The amici argued for the authorisation of the class action, and the transmission of claims to widows and dependents.

Despite opposition by the mining houses, the court admitted them as amici. Sonke’s affidavit on the gendered impact of silicosis was also admitted into the proceedings.

In May this year, the Johannesburg high court granted its historic ruling. It amended existing common law to allow general damages to be transmitted to the widows and dependents of miners who died in the early stages of litigation. Prior to this ruling, if plaintiffs died before pleadings had closed their claims would become void.

The ruling sets an important precedent that affirms women’s rights and the imperative to remedy the gendered harms imposed by the mining industry. The mining companies are appealing the decision, however.

As the case unfolds, it is critical to remember what is at stake. A century of damage caused by the South African gold mining industry requires remedy. The mining companies must pay long overdue compensation to the workers, widows, children, and communities they impoverished.

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October 24, 2016

Tomorrow, Oct. 25: “The Importance of Institutional Design in Governing Transnational Corporations”


October 25, 2016


The Importance of Institutional Design in Governing Transnational Corporations

A Talk by Deval Desai, Human Rights Program Research Fellow


12:00 p.m.
WCC 3036


Please join us for a brown bag lunch discussion with Human Rights Program Research Fellow and S.J.D. candidate Deval Desai, on regulating transnational corporations. Drawing on his research in northern Uganda and Sierra Leone, Deval will examine the pitfalls of evidence-based approaches to the governance of transnational corporations, recast this governance challenge in terms of institutional design, and consider the lessons that human rights law might offer. Deval is also Fellow-in-Residence at the Institute of Global Law and Policy, and previously worked at the World Bank and UN as a rule of law reform expert in Nigera, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

This event is co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program and the Institute of Global Law and Policy.

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October 20, 2016

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


PRESS RELEASE

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

Legal analysis shows ceasefire’s civilian protection commitments extend nationwide

 

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

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

“Ongoing abuses in conflict zones cast doubt on the military’s commitment to the NCA and undermine the trust between Myanmar’s government and ethnic nationality populations,” said Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of the Clinic. “Myanmar military officers can’t hide behind the fact the NCA was signed with only some ethnic armed organizations to abuse civilians in non-ceasefire areas.” Continue Reading…

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October 20, 2016

Tomorrow, Oct. 21: “Addressing Climate Displacement Globally and Locally”


finalpanel-poster-2October 21, 2016

“Addressing Climate Displacement Globally and Locally”

A Panel Discussion

12:00- 1:00 p.m.
Milstein West

 

Please join us for a panel examining challenges at the intersection of climate change, human rights, and displacement. Experts from around the world will discuss international and domestic approaches to dealing with displacement driven by climate change crises, ranging from drought in Somalia to rising tides in Alaska.

The panelists are: Jane McAdam, Scientia Professor of Law and director of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at University of New South Wales (UNSW), and the leader of the UNSW Grand Challenge on Refugees & MigrantsWalter Kälin, a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Bern, envoy of the chairmanship of the Nansen Initiative, and formerly Representative of the United Nations’ Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons; and Robin Bronen, a human rights attorney, senior research scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and co-founder and executive director of the Alaska Institute for Justice. This panel will be moderated by Bonnie Docherty, senior clinical instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic.

This event is part of a three-day, mostly closed-door conference sponsored by the International Human Rights Clinic, the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic.

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October 19, 2016

Tomorrow, Oct. 20: A conversation with Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, on climate change displacement

mrharvposterv3-2October 20, 2016

Climate Change Displacement: Finding Solutions to an Emerging Crisis

A conversation between Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland;
President of the Mary Robinson Foundation- Climate Justice;
UN Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate

and

HLS Dean Martha Minow

3:00- 5:00 p.m.
Milstein West

Please join us for a conversation between Mary Robinson and Martha Minow on the topic of climate change, human rights and displacement. Ms. Robinson is formerly the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, as well as the former UN Special Envoy on Climate Change.

This conversation is part of a three-day, mostly closed-door conference sponsored by the International Human Rights Clinic, the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic examining challenges of climate change, human rights, and displacement, and efforts to address this emerging crisis in the wake of the Paris COP 21 agreement.

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October 12, 2016

Clinic Highlights Human Rights Costs of South African Gold Mining

For Immediate Release

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


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

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

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

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

The report is based on three research trips to the region and more than 200 interviews with community members, government officials, industry representatives, civil society advocates, and scientific and legal experts. It provides an in-depth look at gold mining’s adverse impacts and examines the shortcomings of the government’s reaction.

For example, although acid mine drainage reached the surface of the West Rand in 2002, the government waited 10 years before establishing a plant that could stem its flow. In addition, the government has not ensured the implementation of dust control measures and has left industry to determine how to remove the waste dumps dominating the landscape.

The Cost of Gold calls on South Africa to develop a coordinated and comprehensive program that deals with the range of problems associated with gold mining in the region. While industry and communities have a significant role to play, the report focuses on the responsibility of the government, which is legally obliged to promote human rights.

The government has taken some positive steps to deal the situation in the West and Central Rand. This year, it pledged to improve levels of water treatment by 2020. In 2011, it relocated residents of the Tudor Shaft informal settlement living directly on top of a tailings dam. The government along with industry has also made efforts to increase engagement with communities.

Nevertheless, The Cost of Gold finds that the government’s delayed response and piecemeal approach falls short of South Africa’s duties under human rights law. As a result, the impacts of mining continue to infringe on residents’ rights to health, water, and a healthy environment, as well as rights to receive information and participate in decision making.

“The government should act immediately to address the ongoing threats from gold mining, and it should develop a more complete solution to prevent future harm,” Docherty said. “Only then will South Africa live up to the human rights commitments it made when apartheid ended.”

For more information, please contact:
In Cambridge MA, Bonnie Docherty: bdocherty@law.harvard.edu

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