July 25, 2017

Banning the Bomb: Reflections on the UN Negotiations for the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty


By Carina Bentata Gryting JD ’18, Molly Doggett JD ’17, Lan Mei JD ’17, and Alice Osman LLM ’17


Carina Bentata Gryting and Alice Osman in the UN General Assembly Hall where the negotiations opened in March 2017.

Signing up for the International Human Rights Clinic in spring 2017, we could not have imagined that it would lead us to the United Nations and global negotiations to ban nuclear weapons. With Bonnie Docherty and Anna Crowe as our clinical supervisors, we worked alongside London-based organization Article 36 as well as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the civil society coalition at the conference. We had the unique opportunity to not only witness, but also actually participate in, norm-building at the international level.

It was at times difficult to explain to those not involved in the negotiations why the ban treaty was an important or even a sensible cause. Many people questioned the impact of a treaty being boycotted by the nuclear-armed states and their allies. For those of us participating in the negotiations, however, the purpose behind the treaty was complex but clear.

Nuclear weapons should no longer be the only weapon of mass destruction not prohibited by international law. A categorical ban on nuclear weapons would increase the stigma surrounding the weapons and ramp up pressure on nuclear states to work towards eliminating their arsenals. Moreover, a strong humanitarian motivation drove the treaty. Prior conferences on the impact of nuclear weapons had led many countries to declare the catastrophic effect of nuclear weapons incompatible with any legal or practical purpose. Countries like the Marshall Islands, Algeria, and Kazakhstan suffered from years of testing and their populations have experienced decades-long harm. Victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, known as Hibakusha, along with their children and grandchildren, still deal with the health and environmental consequences of atomic bombs today. Survivors of this use and testing offered compelling testimony for why nuclear weapons should be banned.

Our team focused on ensuring that the treaty not only prohibited nuclear weapons but also held true to its humanitarian purpose by directly addressing the horrific effects of nuclear weapon use and testing. Throughout the spring semester, we prepared papers, released at the negotiations, that made the case for including relevant provisions in the ban treaty. We argued that states parties should have the obligation to remediate environments affected by nuclear explosions and to provide assistance to victims within their territories. Other states parties should in turn help affected states implement their responsibilities. These “positive obligations” would not merely mitigate hypothetical future instances of nuclear weapon use, but would require states to deal with the significant ongoing impact of historic detonations. Existing humanitarian disarmament treaties, such as the Convention on Cluster Munitions, provided precedent for such provisions.

At first, it seemed unclear exactly how our research and advocacy could possibly influence the final text of the treaty. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) had a limited status at the negotiations, and indeed, during the three-week session in June and July, the breakout working groups discussing specific articles were closed to civil society members. This was an unfortunate and unexpected development, especially given that the president of the conference, along with many states, had thanked civil society for its contributions and acknowledged that the negotiations likely would not have come about without its efforts. Furthermore, several smaller states, whose UN missions in New York had only two or three officers, relied on civil society to provide them with information about the headway of the negotiations.

While disappointed at not having full access to the negotiating rooms, we continued to make our voices heard. We presented diplomats with papers laying out our legal and policy arguments. We regularly met with diplomats over lunch or coffee to receive updates about the progress of negotiations and to analyze key developments. We did real-time research on the concerns states had about our positions and figured out ways to address them. The publications we had disseminated at the opening of the negotiations served as a foundation for our advocacy efforts: they helped us articulate our positions to both state delegates and fellow civil society actors and formed the basis of presentations, talking points, newsletter articles, and model treaty language. It was extremely rewarding to know that the work we had put in throughout the semester was able to assist Article 36 and the broader civil society coalition.

The “positive obligations” advocacy team, including IHRC students and supervisors, moments after adoption of the nuclear weapon ban treaty on July 7, 2017.

Our work ultimately had a tangible impact on the content of the treaty. A year ago, few people were thinking about including positive obligations in the prohibition convention, and the first draft of the text, released in May, was weak. But the final version included all the obligations for which we had advocated.

The last moments of the negotiations on July 7 were a dramatic affair. Against the hopes of most governments and civil society, the Netherlands objected to adopting the new treaty by consensus. In the final vote, though, overwhelming support for the treaty bolstered its credibility equally well: 122 states voted in favor of the ground-breaking convention, with only the Netherlands voting against and Singapore abstaining.

Joining the celebrations of jubilant state delegates and civil society advocates, many of whom had been campaigning against nuclear weapons for decades, was an unforgettable experience. We all felt extremely grateful to have had the chance to be a part of this passionate community of disarmament activists during what was a major moment in the history of efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.

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June 27, 2017

Addressing Human and Environmental Impacts of Nuclear Weapons in New Ban Treaty

Posted by Alice Osman and Molly Doggett


Bonnie Docherty, associate director for armed conflict and civilian protection at the clinic, delivering statement to countries negotiating nuclear weapon ban treaty at the UN in New York. Photo courtesy of ICAN.

Member states of the UN General Assembly are currently engaged in historic negotiations of a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. At this point, nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to a categorical prohibition in international law. A team from the International Human Rights Clinic, which is participating in the negotiations in New York, has joined the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in urging countries to adopt a strong treaty that is focused on preventing and remediating the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapon use and testing.

Prohibitions on the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of nuclear weapons are necessary but insufficient components of the new treaty. In order to address the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons effectively, states parties must also adopt positive obligations to provide assistance to victims in their territory and to remediate environmental contamination caused by nuclear weapon use and testing. In partnership with London-based NGO Article 36, our clinical team has released papers arguing for the inclusion of victim assistance and environmental remediation treaty provisions.

We have been encouraged to see that the draft text of the treaty contains provisions on victim assistance and environmental remediation. However, stronger and more comprehensive provisions are necessary to ensure that the needs of victims and the environment are effectively met. We are advocating for a clear obligation on affected states parties to remediate contaminated areas; currently environmental remediation measures are merely optional. In addition, the draft text does not require all affected states parties to assist victims in their territory, and thus is inconsistent with human rights law. We are calling for strong obligations on other states parties to help affected countries meet their positive obligations.

Many countries have agreed on the need for victim assistance and environmental remediation. The main point of debate has centered on the question of who should bear the responsibility for these obligations. Some delegations have suggested that states that use or test nuclear weapons (“user states”) should bear primary responsibility for providing assistance to victims and remediating the environment. By contrast, a number of other states, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and ICAN have argued for placing primary responsibility for these activities on affected states.

We believe that responsibility for positive obligations must lie with affected states for both legal and practical reasons. First, victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations aim to ensure that the rights of people living in affected areas are protected and realized. It is a basic premise of international human rights law that each state is responsible for protecting and fulfilling the rights of individuals within its own territory. This allocation of responsibility also respects the sovereignty of affected states parties, who can set priorities and develop plans for victim assistance and environmental remediation within their territories.

Second, because of their proximity and access to victims and contaminated areas, affected states are in the best position to deliver aid to victims and to undertake environmental remediation. Moreover, there is a serious risk that placing the primary responsibility on user states, which are unlikely to join the treaty in the immediate future, will leave the needs of victims and the environment unaddressed.

Alice Osman, LLM ’17, and Molly Doggett, JD ’17, working hard at the nuclear weapon ban negotiations. Photo by Bonnie Docherty.

Finally, affected state responsibility for victim assistance and environmental remediation follows the precedent of other humanitarian disarmament treaties, such as the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Treaty.

Some countries have expressed concerns that heavily affected states with limited resources would be unable to meet their positive obligations. But affected states should not face the task of implementation alone. The strong international cooperation and assistance provision for which we are advocating would require other countries party to the treaty (including user states) to contribute to victim assistance and environmental remediation efforts. This arrangement would ensure that the treaty does not place an undue burden on affected states, while guaranteeing that the needs of the victims are in fact met.

Only seven days of negotiations remain. We will continue to engage with delegates to ensure that states fully understand the importance of positive obligations and that international assistance can decrease the burden on affected states. We are hopeful that the next version of the text will address these issues and better meet the humanitarian goals of the convention.

The Clinic’s nuclear weapons team includes: Carina Bentata Gryting, JD ’18, Molly Doggett, JD ’17, Lan Mei, JD ’17, and Alice Osman, LLM ’17. The team was supervised by Bonnie Docherty, Associate Director for Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection, and Clinical Instructor Anna Crowe.

For a full discussion of victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations, see:

Victim Assistance in the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty: A Comprehensive and Detailed Approach
(June 2017, Briefing paper)

Environmental Remediation in the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty: A Comprehensive and Detailed Approach (June 2017, Briefing paper)

For a summary of our arguments and recommendations:

Key Points: Victim Assistance in the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty (June 2017, Working paper)

Key Points: Environmental Remediation in the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty (June 2017, Working paper)

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June 16, 2017

Neither Facially Legitimate Nor Bona Fide–Why the Very Text of the Travel Ban Shows It’s Unconstitutional

Posted by Gerald Neuman

This article was first published on Just Security.

As the litigation over the travel ban moves to the Supreme Court, the most important passage in the Fourth Circuit’s en banc opinion may be a tangential footnote finding “yet another marker” of illegitimate purpose in the text of the Executive Order. Both the first version of the Executive Order (of January 27) and the second version (of March 6) include language that any informed observer would recognize as evidence that the purpose of the travel ban is to gratify and further incite hostility against Muslims.

Advocates seeking to persuade doubting Justices should not be distracted by the voluminous debates about whether candidate Trump’s statements count against the constitutionality of President Trump’s actions. For Justices inclined to interpret narrowly the standard of review in immigration cases, the explicit statement of purpose in the first EO, and the residual markers in section 11 of the revised EO, should provide the starting point.

In the first EO, the final paragraph of section 1 explained the EO’s purpose as follows:

In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.


As the Fourth Circuit noted, “Numerous amici explain that invoking the specter of ‘honor killings’ is a well-known tactic for stigmatizing and demeaning Islam and painting this religion, and its men, as violent and barbaric.” The thinly coded incitement throughout this purpose paragraph is perhaps best explained in Aziz Huq’s amicus brief for Muslim Rights, Professional and Public Health Organizations.

Consistent with that goal, section 10(iii) of the first EO directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to collect and publish “information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals…” The mandate to publish enlists the department in nothing short of an ongoing campaign of anti-Muslim agitation.

The March 6 EO, which President Trump has now dismissed in a tweet as a “politically correct” version of his real policy, deletes the explanation of purpose, but retains the collection and dissemination of data on “types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’” in section 11(iii). That directive has no conceivable relation to the alleged national security purpose of the travel ban, and it continues to reveal the true underlying purpose of both orders.

This facial evidence of illegitimate purpose has particular salience because the dispute involves immigration policy, and the Justices are likely to view it through the lens of specialized precedents that have operated in relation to substantive immigration restrictions. In the 1970s, when the Supreme Court abandoned an earlier doctrine that had made constitutional challenges to criteria for grant or denial of admission nonjusticiable, it articulated instead a diluted test of constitutionality. Kleindienst v Mandel (1972) and Fiallo v Bell (1977) required the government to show that the restriction was based on a “facially legitimate and bona fide reason.” The time may have come to move beyond this standard, but the Justices might not – and need not — make the case of Trump’s EO the occasion to do so.

The opinion of Justices Kennedy and Alito, concurring in the judgment in Kerry v Din (2015), sheds light on the meaning of the standard, explaining that the government’s reason must be legitimate on its face and the government must be acting in good faith. If the challenger makes an affirmative showing of bad faith, the court may look to additional factual details that determine the constitutionality of the government action.

While both elements are required to uphold a government restriction, it may be safer for advocates to point to indications of unlawful purpose on the face of the orders before turning to extrinsic evidence of bad faith. The January 27 version of the order is so obviously the context of the March 6 version that both should be examined together, yet even viewing the March 6 EO in isolation, the incongruous attention to honor killings cries out for further inquiry.

The Fourth Circuit rightly asserted that “we cannot shut our eyes” when evidence “stares us in the face.” The religious animus that underlies the Executive Orders is already visible in the text, and the less formal statements merely provide confirmation. That point deserves more emphasis.

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June 1, 2017

The Clinic hires human rights advocates Yee Htun and Salma Waheedi as clinical instructors


We are thrilled to announce today that the Human Rights Program has hired Yee Htun and Salma Waheedi as clinical instructors in our International Human Rights Clinic.

For the past year, Yee and Salma have worked with us as clinical advocacy fellows, supervising projects on everything from land rights and telecommunications policies in Myanmar to torture in Iraq. They also share a strong focus on gender justice.

For Yee, that focus comes from a personal place. She’s spent most of her career as an attorney working on women’s rights, often with refugee and migrant communities. Yee herself was born in Myanmar and immigrated to Canada as a government-sponsored refugee.

“Women’s rights for me is not an abstract concept but a cause to which I have dedicated most of my life’s work to,” said Yee. “Whether it is coordinating and launching the first ever global campaign with Nobel Peace Laureates to stop sexual violence in conflict or offering legal counsel to women’s organizations seeking to enact a prevention of violence against women law, I have done it out of the belief that only when we give power to women and girls do we advance the human rights for all.”

Until recently, Yee was the Myanmar Program Director for Justice Trust, a Yangon-based international legal non-profit organization that provides support to communities. This year, she worked with clinical students to elevate the voices of women human rights advocates in the country; convene workshops on law reform in Myanmar with LGBTQI activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and lawyers; document land policy that discriminates against women; and examine the country’s new telecommunications law, which has had a chilling effect on free speech.

Salma came to the Clinic this year as a joint fellow with the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change, where she focused on women’s rights in Islamic legal systems and issues of legal reform and gender justice in Muslim family laws. This past year, she and her students worked with women’s rights lawyers and advocates across different Muslim countries, documenting legal obstacles to women’s equality, advocating for an end to discriminatory policies and practices, and engaging with the committee of the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to foster deeper and more productive dialogues with the states.

In the Clinic, Salma also plans to focus on business and human rights concerns in the Middle East, particularly with respect to issues of corporate accountability and economic justice. Before entering the legal profession, Salma worked in her native country of Bahrain as Economic Planning and Development Director at Bahrain’s Economic Development Board, and later served as a consultant on economic policy and international development around the world.

As a lawyer, she continued to advocate for social and economic justice through community development and legal assistance programs in the United States and abroad.

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May 26, 2017

Thank you, Class of 2017! Plus, pictures from our Commencement Party

 

Dear Class of 2017,

CONGRATULATIONS! You made it!

And you did it not just with intelligence, but with heart, which makes it all the better. So today, we send you off with two things: Gratitude, for all that you brought to our community, and hope, that you work with humility and heart to strengthen all the other communities you make your home.

We also want to send a special shout out to Mana Azarmi, who won the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA). Our very own Kenna Graziano, Lan Mei, and Loren Voss won the Dean’s Award for Community Leadership. And to the many clinical students who gave more than 1,000 hours of pro bono work during their time at HLS: Sarah Abraham, Mana Azarmi, Roi Bachmutsky, Torrance Castellano, Laura Dismore, Roni Druks, Kenna Graziano, Kelsey Jost-Creegan, Alice Kim, Lan Mei, Michael Perloff, Silvia Ruiz, Leora Smith, Marin Tollefson, Daniel Traficonte, and Danielle Young.

And now, for scenes from our annual commencement party with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic and the Food Law and Policy Clinic, with big thanks to Jordana, Gabbie and Katherine for organizing!

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May 23, 2017

Small Moments Add Up


A post by Tyler Giannini


(left) Gildardo Tuberquia, member of Comunidad de Paz “community of peace”, speaking at the press conference (middle) Kelsey Jost-Creegan JD’17 and (right) Jimena Reyes, FIDH.

A few years ago, I wrote about the many small moments that carry so much significance for us in this Clinic and in our work. Graduation time always brings me back to that place of appreciation for those moments, and last week in Colombia, my work was full of them.

At a press conference in Bogotá last Thursday, the Clinic and its partners, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the complicity of executives of Chiquita Brand International in crimes against humanity. It took years to get to that moment: Juan Pablo Calderon Meza, a former clinical advocacy fellow and Colombian himself, had come up with the vision and driven it forward inside the Clinic for almost two years. More than two dozen students worked on the communication submitted to the ICC this week, as well as myself and Susan and Anna.

Sometimes, on a project with so much vision and such a broad scope—a project that requires this amount of mental energy and grunt work, poring over endless sources, lining up the facts just right—it is difficult to imagine the moment when it will come alive in the wider world. But arriving in Colombia, it did.

Kelsey Jost-Creegan JD’17 and Kenna Graziano JD’17.

I watched two of my long-time students, Kenna Graziano and Kelsey Jost-Creegan, hammering out the final details with our partners and communities who live with the effects of the paramilitaries’ destruction to this day. I listened to attorneys from CAJAR as we sat together over meals and spoke about decades of struggle alongside communities to end violence. Despite the sacrifices, it was clear that they would all do it again in an instant.

Then there was the actual press conference, when Kelsey, who speaks Spanish, represented the Clinic in a way that fits into the best tradition of what we were trying to do: she knew the issues inside and out, but she showed a humility and poise that hid the fact it was her first press conference. (It certainly was not her last.) I sat admiring in the audience with Kenna, who herself had put in an uncountable number of hours as we made last-minute adjustments against the swirl of the ever-changing backdrop surrounding Colombia’s evolving peace process.

Kelsey Jost-Creegan JD’17 prior to her first press conference.

And while I do not speak Spanish myself, I didn’t need to when Gildardo Tuberquia from the “community of peace” spoke. You could feel the emotion as he described the killings through the years – including one just a few weeks ago.

Juan, the visionary behind the communication, was unable to come; he is now working at the ICC in The Hague. But in a moving turn of events, his father, Ernesto, was able to attend the press conference on behalf of his son. And later that day, in another moment that will stay with me, we Skyped Juan in Geneva and raised a glass to his dedication and his vision, on behalf of the affected communities and all of us in Colombia.

As instructors in this Clinic, we all have stories like this—not just this semester, or this year, but in all the years of our teaching. It’s so much of why we do what we do. Thanks to all who support that work, and make those moments that add up to change.

 

 

 

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May 21, 2017

A disarming leader: Bonnie Docherty recognized for contributions to human rights, clinical community


A post by Cara Solomon


When Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, began the daunting work of documenting torture and mass hangings in a Syrian prison, she was prepared. She knew how to interview survivors of trauma. She knew how to protect the security and confidentiality of witnesses. She knew, when her 50th interview was done, just how to connect the dots.

“There I was, with my pieces of paper all around me, with different highlighters for each different fact I was trying to establish,” said Nicolette, a researcher for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “That’s basically me modeling what Bonnie taught me to do.”

Over the course of her career, as Bonnie Docherty has emerged as an international expert on civilian protection in armed conflict, she has also mentored scores of clinical students, from field researchers in conflict zones to advocates inside the halls of the UN in Geneva.

Her biggest alumni fans call themselves “the Bonnie mafia.” When they heard of her recent promotion to Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection at the International Human Rights Clinic, the reaction could best be summed up in one word: jubilation.

“This is the best news I’ve heard in a while,” said Lauren Herman, JD ’13, a fellow at Make the Road, NJ, an immigrants’ rights organization. “I am just thrilled for Bonnie and the Clinic and all of Harvard.”

The promotion gives Bonnie room to deepen and expand her work on civilian protection. She plans to increase support for civil society organizations working in the field, create a track for students interested in careers in civilian protection, and provide a forum for experts to develop practical innovations.

A senior researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch as well as a Harvard lecturer on law, she’ll continue to dedicate much of her time to humanitarian disarmament, which seeks to eliminate civilian suffering from problematic weapons. It’s an area Bonnie has been working in for 16 years.

“It’s a time of great expansion in humanitarian disarmament, but also a time of challenges,” said Bonnie. “I’m hoping we can bolster the advocacy of the NGOs, and provide some fresh thinking.”

Nobody is better poised to do that work. With her experience in the field, and her expertise in international humanitarian law, she is, her colleagues say, unquestionably one of the keenest legal minds in the humanitarian disarmament movement — known for her deep knowledge, her sharp legal analysis, and her strategic thinking.

“If someone asks you who is the best lawyer in the world to go to on cluster munitions — and now killer robots — Bonnie is at the top of the list,” said Steve Goose, who heads the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch.

***********

Bonnie never imagined this career for herself. In college, she immersed herself in the study of history, partly for the love of individual stories, convinced she would pursue a PhD. Then she decided she wanted to see history unfold in real time, and turned towards journalism.

It was there, as a reporter for the Middlesex News, that she saw the aftermath of war up close. When the Department of Defense offered media trips to embed with the US-NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia in 1998, Bonnie, whose job included covering an Army lab in Natick, lobbied her editor to go.

The ten-day trip was a series of firsts: working with a translator, interviewing victims of human rights abuses, going on patrol with the military, seeing the remnants of weapons of war. Along the way, she picked up tricks of what would later become her trade — interviewing an Air Force pilot in a pitch-black cockpit, for example, scribbling her notes in the dark.

“I just tried to space the notes out broadly enough, and kept flipping pages quite aggressively — and hoped,” she said.

She’d applied to Harvard Law School months earlier, partly because she was tired of asking other people to answer her legal questions. In typical Bonnie form, she wanted to study the source of the information for herself. Then, the week she left for Bosnia, she got the acceptance letter.

And so, with the curiosity of a journalist and the long view of a historian, Bonnie went to law school, studying human rights and international humanitarian law, and landing at Human Rights Watch after graduation. Her first day on the job was September 12, 2001.

***********

Over the years, Bonnie has documented human rights abuses and civilian casualties in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones, at some of the most dangerous times, from Afghanistan in 2002 to Baghdad in 2003, three weeks after the city fell.

In 2005, when she interviewed for the job of clinical fellow at the International Human Rights Clinic, she called in on a rental cell phone during a layover on the way to a three-week mission in Darfur.

Bonnie on a fact-finding mission in Iraq.

With clinical students in tow, she’s investigated the use of cluster munitions in Lebanon; documented the ongoing needs of civilian victims of Nepal’s armed conflict; and most recently, examined the use of explosive weapons in populated areas of Ukraine.

From the very beginning, she thrived on the work.

“It’s a chance to make a difference in the world, which I always wanted to do,” she said. “It’s also an opportunity to be a part of history.”

What Bonnie saw out in the field then pushed her into another world, of diplomats and treaty negotiations. She began working intensively, often in Clinic-Human Rights Watch collaborations, to ban weapons that disproportionately affect civilians.

She’s been a leader in efforts to ban fully autonomous weapons, otherwise known as “killer robots,” and to strengthen international law on incendiary weapons. Perhaps most famously, she’s known as the legal expert behind the campaign for an absolute prohibition on cluster munitions, which started as a dream, and a decade later led to a treaty.

“It’s just amazing that someone is so capable of teaching and doing and showing students the ropes in those very different worlds,” said Brian Kelly, JD ’14, who now works at the U.S. Department of State. “I still reach out to her with questions.”

Bonnie consults with NGO delegates at a UN conference on cluster munitions in Geneva. Photo by Gemima Harvey/CMC

The process of improving civilian protection is slow moving and full of setbacks. To stay the course, she says, you need patience and stamina and plenty of faith.

For her part, Bonnie takes inspiration from studying the patterns of history. And then there’s always her memory of that day in 2008 when almost 100 countries gathered in Oslo to sign the treaty banning cluster munitions.

“It does give me patience when I’m doing all my other work to say: I know this can lead somewhere,” Bonnie said.

*******

By the time the ban on cluster munitions was signed, Bonnie had been a teacher in the International Human Rights Clinic for three years. So when it happened, she had students by her side. Chris Rogers, JD ’09, was one of them.

It was a day he will never forget.

“You had individuals who were really part of a movement for years, from victims of cluster munitions in Cambodia to arms control groups in Latin America and the Middle East to human rights organizations in Europe,” said Rogers, now a senior policy analyst with the Open Society Foundations’ Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia Program. “For me, someone who was just starting out in his career in this field, to see such an impressive victory by civil society, it was very influential.”

Ask any student under Bonnie’s supervision, and they’ll tell you: they learn on the job. They’re up all night with her drinking Diet Mountain Dew and parsing treaty language before a meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons. They’re preparing presentations on the dangers of killer robots for UN side events.

Ask Ken Rutherford, co-founder of the Landmine Survivors Network, and he’ll tell you: Bonnie’s students are rock stars.

“They’re not traveling around the world trying to get free cups of tea,” said Ken, a professor of political science at James Madison University. “They’re singularly focused on niche areas of international humanitarian law that need to be re-evaluated, re-examined, and opened up for further discussion or refinement.”

By now, inside the tight-knit community of advocates that work on protecting civilians in armed conflict, there’s an expectation of excellence from Bonnie.

It’s just a given: Every few months, she and her students will churn out a meticulously researched publication. It will be on a topic foundational enough, or cutting edge enough, to push any given campaign forward.

Bonnie will draw large crowds to her side events at international weapons conferences. And you will see in the audience so many nodding heads, as she lays out in a straightforward and compelling manner the case for what civilians need.

“Sometimes we take it for granted,” said Miriam Struyk, Program Director of Security and Disarmament at PAX, who grew up in the humanitarian disarmament movement alongside Bonnie. “But we shouldn’t, because it’s still remarkable.”

************

When Bonnie joined the Clinic, she had eight projects, 16 students, and very little teaching experience. She was something of an introvert then, as she is now, and she wondered: Would she connect?

Her colleagues in the Clinic knew she would. Her passion, her dedication, and her caring caring were all contagious.

“Bonnie’s just a natural,” said Tyler Giannini, co-director of the Clinic. “From the very beginning, the students have been inspired to follow her lead.”

Quiet and understated, Bonnie is not the kind of advocate whose voice swells when she talks about victims. Her caring comes through in other ways — in the literature she assigns her students to read, in the tributes she writes to beloved colleagues who have passed away.

Bonnie with Anna Crowe, LLM ‘12, now a clinical instructor

Almost above all, it was her humility that struck Anna Crowe, LLM ’12, when she arrived in the Clinic, knowing Bonnie only by reputation. Anna was prepared to be intimidated. And then, surprisingly, she wasn’t.

Here was a human rights advocate who strayed so far from the stereotype in her mind. Someone who had made a career, and a community for herself, by being superb at her job, and generous.

“You don’t need to be this showy person who’s constantly hustling and advocating for themselves, which is a little bit how I imagined it had to be,” said Crowe, now a clinical instructor and lecturer on law at Harvard Law School. “That was one of the major revelations of the year.”

More than a decade after she began teaching, the “Bonnie mafia” now stretches far and wide, roughly 40 alumni strong. Some work in government. Others at law firms. Many have moved into the fields of disarmament, or civilian protection, or other areas of human rights advocacy.

Many owe their first job to her, and often, the job after that. To them, Bonnie’s influence cannot be overstated.

“Without Bonnie, I wouldn’t be who I am and doing the work I am doing today,” said Rogers. “There is a direct line between Bonnie and the laws and policies I’ve helped to pass in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Those words come from a letter several alumni wrote to the senior leadership of Harvard Law School a few years ago, calling attention to the ways in which Bonnie prepared them to practice law, and strengthened the contributions they would make to the world. It gave Bonnie goose bumps to read it. She’d never heard some of those stories before.

When she was promoted this spring, Bonnie got to hear it all again, in notes that came from all corners of the country and the world. It’s something far more than praise to her; it’s a gift.

“They’ve made such a difference in my life,” said Bonnie. “It’s nice to think I could give them something in return.”

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May 18, 2017

Clinic and partners call on ICC to investigate role of Chiquita executives in contributing to crimes against humanity


PRESS RELEASE

Human Rights Coalition Calls on ICC to Investigate Role of Chiquita Executives in Contributing to Crimes against Humanity

Communities in Colombia Seek Accountability after two decades of impunity

 

Bogota, Colombia, May 18, 2017 – Today, on behalf of affected Colombian communities, a coalition of human rights groups called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the complicity of executives at Chiquita Brands International in crimes against humanity. To date, no executive has been held to account despite the company’s admission that it funneled millions of dollars to Colombian paramilitaries that killed, raped, and disappeared civilians. If the ICC takes up the case, it would be the first time it moved against corporate executives for assisting such crimes.

In their submission to the court, the coalition of local and international human rights groups traces the executives’ involvement with payments made to the paramilitaries between 1997 and 2004. Even after outside counsel and the U.S. Department of Justice said such payments were illegal under U.S. law, the payments continued. The submission includes a confidential, sealed appendix that identifies by name fourteen senior executives, officers, and board members of Chiquita who the coalition argues should be the focus of the Prosecutor’s investigation.

The coalition, which consists of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), relied on internal Chiquita documents and assistance from the National Security Archive at George Washington University to identify the Chiquita officials and show how they were involved with the crimes.

“The executives who oversaw the funding of paramilitaries should not be able to sit comfortably in their houses in the United States as if they did nothing wrong,” said a member of the Peace Community of San José de Apartado, which submitted a letter to the ICC about how the paramilitary violence personally affected them. “Families across Colombia have been waiting for accountability for too long.”

Chiquita could have acted differently, or could have left the country years before it did, but instead decided to continue its lucrative business while paying paramilitaries for so-called ‘security’ in the banana-growing regions. By 2003, Chiquita’s subsidiary in Colombia was its most profitable banana operation in the world.

“At the time, Colombian paramilitaries were notorious for targeting civilians, among them banana workers and community leaders,” said CAJAR, “but Chiquita’s executives decided to continue giving money to paramilitaries anyway.”

The Chiquita corporation already pled guilty in a U.S. federal court in 2007 to illegally funding Colombian paramilitaries. But accountability for the executives who oversaw and authorized the payment scheme has been elusive: while civil litigation is pending in U.S. courts against Chiquita executives, no criminal prosecution is on the horizon. Colombia has not been able to get jurisdiction over them, and there is no indication that the United States would extradite the executives.

“We request that the ICC expands its current inquiry in Colombia to specifically include Chiquita’s executives and officials,” said Dimitris Christopoulos, the President of FIDH. “The weight of the evidence should lead the Office of the Prosecutor to act if Colombian authorities are not able to.”

If Colombian authorities do not move ahead with this case, the submission asks the Prosecutor to request formal authorization from its Pre-Trial Chamber to open an investigation into Chiquita’s corporate executives.

The communication comes at a critical time in Colombia, as the country begins to implement an historic peace agreement after nearly half a century of conflict. The coalition’s submission urges the Office of the Prosecutor to monitor local Colombian proceedings to ensure its meets ICC standards, particularly with regards to the private sector support for the paramilitaries and business’ accountability.

“In times of transition to peace, corporate actors too often escape accountability for their egregious behavior in the past,” said Professor Tyler Giannini, a Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. “The prosecution of Chiquita officials for their payments to the paramilitaries would send a powerful message that impunity is no longer business as usual.”

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For media inquiries: 

Tyler Giannini (English), Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School +1 617 669 2340
Dimitris Christopoulos (English, French Greek), FIDH President : + 33 6 75 76 69 32
Jimena Reyes (Spanish, French, English) – FIDH Americas Desk director : +32 493 61 72 64 (jreyes@fidh.org)
Sebastián Escobar, CAJAR: +57 3143776026

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May 18, 2017

Clinic and PAX document harm to health care in Ukraine caused by use of explosive weapons in populated areas

Posted by Bonnie Docherty

Since armed conflict broke out in Ukraine in 2014, the use of explosive weapons has directly damaged hospitals, destroyed ambulances, and killed or injured health workers. It has also indirectly affected the health care system by shutting down infrastructure—causing loss of electricity, heat, water, and communications—and creating travel risks for ambulances, medical personnel, and civilians in need.

These impacts have interfered with the provision of health care to local civilians and forced many to go without.

A new report, Operating under Fire: The Effects of Explosive Weapons on Health Care in the East of Ukraine, documents the situation, drawing on field research conducted in communities along the front line. The report was jointly released today by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and the Dutch peace organization PAX.

As the report makes clear, the harm attributable to explosive weapons’ use in populated areas has infringed on the availability, quality, and accessibility of health care, which are three elements of the right to health.

For example, structural damage and shattered windows have forced hospitals to abandon buildings and cut back on services. Doctors have treated patients in frigid conditions and operated by operated by candlelight due to heat and power outages. Health workers and civilians alike have had to dodge shells and risk their lives to reach local clinics.

The health care problems have exacerbated the conflict-related difficulties faced by civilians in the east of Ukraine. They also exemplify one of the many humanitarian problems associated with using explosive weapons in populated areas.

Explosive weapons encompass a range of munitions, including air-dropped bombs, artillery projectiles, rockets, and missiles. Especially when such weapons have wide area effects and are used in cities and towns, they are likely to hit civilians and the infrastructure upon which their lives depend.

In addition to spotlighting the impacts on health care in Ukraine, Operating under Fire makes the case for an international political commitment that would help minimize future harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Download the full report.
Download the summary and recommendations.

For more information, contact Bonnie Docherty: bdocherty@law.harvard.edu

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May 12, 2017

Paul Hoffman, expert in constitutional and civil rights litigation, to teach in the Clinic this fall semester

Posted by Susan Farbstein and Tyler Giannini


We are extremely pleased to announce that a human rights advocate we have long admired, and worked alongside, will join us at the International Human Rights Clinic for the fall semester. Paul Hoffman, an expert in constitutional and civil rights litigation, will teach the Clinic’s Human Rights Advocacy seminar, as well as supervise students on several clinical projects.

Paul-Hoffman-218x300Paul has been an incredible mentor to each of us, in terms of his knowledge of the law, his ability to think creatively and strategically, and the passion and love he brings to his work. He is, without a doubt, the leading Alien Tort Statute (ATS) litigator in the country, and yet he carries that distinction with so much humility and openness to others.

The Clinic has worked closely with him on several recent ATS cases, including the In-Re South African Apartheid litigation and Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, which Paul argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. We also collaborated on two other landmark cases, Unocal and Wiwa, both of which resulted in settlements. Paul also argued the first major ATS case, Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, before the Supreme Court. Continue Reading…

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