November 8, 2017

Tomorrow, Nov. 9: “Decriminalization and Human Rights”


Thursday, November 9, 2017

“Decriminalization and Human Rights”

A panel discussion

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Hauser 102

Lunch will be served.

Many ongoing debates address whether certain criminal offences should be decriminalized, from the use and possession of drugs, to homeless people sleeping in public spaces. This panel will explore how International Human Rights Law fits into the discussion. Panelists will examine the jurisprudence on decriminalization at the U.N. human rights bodies, offer legal philosophical perspectives, and consider critical issues in this arena like the criminalization of poverty.

Panelists include Carol Steiker, Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program at HLS; Douglas Husak, Professor of Philosophy and Law, Rutgers University; and Emily Nagisa Keehn, Associate Director, Academic Program of the Human Rights Program at HLS. The panel will be moderated by Gerald Neuman, Co-Director the Human Rights Program and J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at HLS.

This event is co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program and the Criminal Justice Policy Program at HLS.

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November 7, 2017

Student Perspective: Fighting for Human Rights with HLS Advocates

Posted by Thaya Uthayophas, JD ’18


This piece first appeared on the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs blog

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

Group photo of HLS Advocates for Human Rights, including co-president Thaya Uthayophas JD ’18, fourth from the left in the front row.

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

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

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

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

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November 6, 2017

Statement from more than 35 Harvard Law School student groups on racially charged incident last week

Posted by The International Human Rights Clinic


In a statement released today, more than 35 student groups at Harvard Law School responded to a racially charged incident on campus last week. In solidarity, we reprint their statement below about what appears to have been a coordinated campaign:

Dear Community,

On the evening of October 31, stickers with the words, “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE,” were posted around the entrance of WCC. Similar stickers appeared around Cambridge and other parts of the United States and Canada. According to an online forum, the stickers were intended to convey a “harmless” message that would leave “the media & leftists frothing at the mouth” and turn public opinion against them.

We condemn this attempt to divide us along the lines of race and politics. Instead, we have come together as law student groups representing individuals of many backgrounds and identities. We emphatically assert that we remain committed to maintaining a community where we respect and embrace our differences.

The stickers’ message may seem innocuous, but it ignores a national history replete with discrimination against underrepresented groups and implies that promoting equality threatens white people. Equality is not a zero-sum game.

Coming together today, the undersigned organizations affirm our belief that “it’s okay” to be whoever you are and to aspire to grow into whoever you want to become. We welcome people to our community irrespective of background or identity.

With love and support,

Advocates for Education
American Constitution Society
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Canadian Law Students Association
Food Law Society
Harvard African Law Association
Harvard Black Law Students Association
Harvard Defenders
Harvard Immigration Project
Harvard International JD Students Society
Harvard Italian Law Association
Harvard National Lawyers Guild
Harvard Negotiation Law Review
Harvard Women’s Law Association
HLS Advocates for Human Rights
HLS China Law Association
HLS Homelessness Coalition
HLS Justice for Palestine
HLS Urbanists
Human Rights and Business Law Student Association
In Vino Veritas
Jewish Law Students Association
La Alianza
Lambda
Law and Behavioral Science Student Association
Law and International Development Society
Mexican Law Students Association
Middle East Law Students Association
National Security Law Association
Native American Law Students Association
Queer Trans People of Color
Reparatory Justice Initiative
South Asian Law Students Association
Student Mental Health Association
Tenant Advocacy Project
West Coast Law Students Association

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