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February 6, 2019
With the semester already off to a great start, we’d like to extend the warmest welcome to our new spring staff! We have two new members of the International Human Rights Clinic. Read below to learn more about them and make sure to stop by and introduce yourself.
Nicolette Waldman, Senior Clinical Fellow
Nicolette Waldman is a Senior Clinical Fellow for the Spring 2019 term. Previously, she was a researcher on Iraq and Syria for Amnesty International; a researcher for the Center for Civilians in Conflict, covering Gaza, Somalia, Libya and Bosnia; a legal fellow at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kabul; a program manager for Save the Children in the West Bank and Gaza; a Fulbright scholar in Jordan; and a senior associate in the legal and policy division at Human Rights Watch in New York. Waldman has a B.A. in International Affairs and English Literature from Lewis & Clark College, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and is a member of the State Bar of New York.
Jim Wormington, Clinical Instructor
Jim Wormington is a Clinical Instructor for the Spring 2019 term. He is also a researcher at Human Rights Watch in the Africa Division, where he covers West Africa. He was previously an attorney at the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, where he conducted research to inform rule of law and human rights development programs, and implemented programs in West and Central Africa. Wormington has also worked at the International Crisis Group and the War Crimes Chamber of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is an English-trained barrister, an associate member of QEB Hollis Whiteman Chambers, and was educated at Cambridge University (MA) and New York University School of Law (LLM). He is fluent in French.
January 30, 2019
On Jan. 11-12, dozens of experts convened at Harvard Law School to provide commentary on draft articles for a future convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity. In a post for the Harvard International Law Journal blog, Gerald Neuman, HRP Co-Director and J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, explained the importance of establishing more clarity on the definition of “crimes against humanity” following the Rome Statute.
“A key issue in establishing state obligations to prosecute international crimes involves the choice of a definition that is appropriate to the obligations that are being imposed,” Neuman says. “The notion of ‘crimes against humanity’ has a long history, but its definition has evolved over the years. The definition negotiated for the Rome Statute, which created the ICC—an international tribunal with a limited capacity to prosecute and adjudicate—may not provide the right definition for an obligatory system of consistent national prosecution.”
Establishing a convention on crimes against humanity would give clarity to states’ obligations to enforce the prohibition against crimes against humanity, among other benefits. Read the full post on the International Law Journal website.
The Crimes Against Humanity workshop was organized by the Human Rights Program and led by Professor Neuman and Sean Murphy, Manatt/Ahn Professor of International Law at The George Washington University School of Law and Special Rapporteur for Crimes Against Humanity at the International Law Commission.
Professor Murphy will visit the Human Rights Program on April 4th for a public talk about the draft articles. Stay tuned to our events page for more.
January 14, 2019
The Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School invites applications for its post graduate fellowships: the Henigson Human Rights Fellowship in Human Rights and the Satter Human Rights Fellowship in Human Rights. Applications are due March 15, 2019. These fellowships are open to graduating LLMs, JDs, and recent alumni holding clerkships or public interest fellowships. Come to our information session on Wednesday, January 30 in WCC 3018 to learn more and speak with advisors.
About the Henigson Fellowship
The Henigson Fellowship was made possible by a generous gift from Robert and Phyllis Henigson. The fellowship is awarded annually to present HLS students or recent graduates with a demonstrated commitment to international human rights. It supports individuals with an interest in exploring a career as an academic, activist, official, or practitioner in which human rights plays a significant role.
The Henigson Fellowship supports ten to twelve months of work in the developing world, usually with a nongovernmental organization (NGO). Each full fellowship carries a stipend of $27,000 and $1,500 toward international health insurance. Fellows may supplement the fellowship from other grants and awards up to a limit of $18,000.
About the Satter Fellowship
The Satter Fellowship has been made possible by a generous gift by Muneer A. Satter ’87. Students are awarded Satter Fellowships annually to work with organizations promoting human rights defense in response to mass atrocity or widespread and severe patterns of rights abuse.
The Satter Human Rights Fellowship focuses on human rights violations in countries classified as “Not Free” (rated 7) in the Freedom House index. The fellowship is limited to work on the following areas: 1) situations of mass atrocity; 2) situations of widespread and severe violations of human rights such as crimes against humanity that may be associated with civil conflict, failed states, authoritarian leaders or other highly repressive regimes; 3) situations of transition in the aftermath of conditions that meet the criteria outlined in (1) or (2). Preferred fellowship locations are for work in the Middle East and Africa. Other locations (e.g., Myanmar) that meet the above criteria may also be considered.
The fellowship carries a stipend of up to $45,000 for the twelve-month fellowship period.
January 9, 2019
The Human Rights Program Summer and Visiting Fellowship applications are due February 1st. These Fellowships are but two of the opportunities the Academic Program offers to scholars and students to conduct research and work in the human rights field. Summer fellowships are offered to Harvard Law School returning JD students and SJD students. Visiting fellowships give scholars and practitioners with a substantial background in human rights the chance to spend a semester or an academic year conducting research on a human rights topic related to their expertise.
About the Summer Fellowship
Summer fellowships for human rights internships are a central part of the Harvard Law School human rights experience and provide rich professional, personal, and intellectual opportunities. Interns work for at least eight weeks with nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations concerned with human rights, exclusively outside the United States. The Program encourages interns to work in organizations in the developing world that are actively involved in monitoring and responding to human rights violations, grass roots mobilization, or similar activities. Before applying, students must meet with Emily Keehn, Associate Director of the Academic Program, for advising.
About the Visiting Fellowship
The Visiting Fellowship Program gives thoughtful individuals with a demonstrated commitment to human rights an opportunity to step back and conduct serious inquiries in the human rights field. Individuals who become fellows at the Program are usually scholars with a substantial background in human rights or experienced practitioners and activists. Typically, fellows come from outside the United States. They form an essential part of the human rights community, engage in a Fellows Lunch Colloquium, and devote the majority of their time to research and writing. During this time, they may also audit courses in human rights and related subjects.
January 4, 2019
How Facebook is Reconfiguring Freedom of Speech in Situations of Mass Atrocity: Lessons from Myanmar and the Philippines
Posted by Jenny Domino LLM'18
Jenny Domino is a Satter Human Rights Fellow (funded through the Human Rights Program) working with ARTICLE 19 to counter hate speech. In an article for OpinioJuris, she argues that Facebook’s secrecy around its community standards and its intermediary status as a hosting “platform” detract from international law’s ability to hold the corporation accountable for its role encouraging harmful rhetoric that fuels mass atrocity. Find the full text of the article below and at OpinioJuris.org. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and not the views of ARTICLE 19.
Facebook has been described as a service to democracy. This perception arguably peaked during the Arab Spring uprisings, touted as Facebook’s crowning glory in its mission to connect people. The past two years have effectively undermined that rhetoric, as serious lapses in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the Russian hacking in the 2016 US Presidential election have shown.
In Southeast Asia, we don’t need to look far to see how Facebook has been used to oppress. The OHCHR Fact-Finding Mission in Myanmar recently concluded that Facebook was instrumental in the dissemination of hate speech against the Rohingya. In the Philippines, disinformation on Facebook has enabled the triumph and reign of Duterte, whose war on drugs has reportedly claimed thousands of civilian lives. Notably, both situations are under preliminary examination at the International Criminal Court. If Facebook has failed in a mature democracy such as the United States, it has all the more failed in struggling democracies. Rather than bringing the world closer, Facebook has facilitated the spread of divisive rhetoric even within borders.
This year, Facebook finally published its Community Standards in an effort to be more transparent. It has also started to publish a report of their Community Standards enforcement. These were announced during the first Asia-Pacific Facebook Community Standards Forum held last month in Singapore, which I attended.
Conspicuously, relevant information on how these rules operate remain shrouded in secrecy. We have the applicable rules and the results of their implementation, but we are left in the dark as to what happens in between. Facebook did disclose the type of people they hire as content moderators (ranging from counter-terrorism experts to previous law enforcers), or the fact that they use human labor and algorithms to review content, but when pressed about the details on the process, they invoke their content reviewers’ safety in refusing to disclose any information on this aspect.
This seems odd. If Facebook has chosen to disclose the type of people they are hiring, why can’t they disclose their procedure on content moderation, which is arguably less likely to reveal the identity of their content reviewers and thus expose them to physical risk?
This is crucial in monitoring Facebook’s efforts to improve its operations in situations of mass atrocity. Information on procedure would help civil society monitor social media companies’ timely detection and moderation of hate speech posted on their platform, which could prevent further escalation of violence or abuse towards a victim group. This, in turn, could strengthen the normative force of the Genocide Convention’s preventive provisions, including the crime of direct and public incitement to commit genocide.
Information on procedure can also shed light on how a certain situation will be prioritized over others. During the forum, Facebook admitted that the company prioritizes certain content over others, but there is no information on how these priorities are decided. The situation in Myanmar is unique in that the UN itself made a finding on Facebook’s enabling role; what metric does Facebook plan to use moving forward? This will be crucial in the work of the ICC, whose recent statementson potential situation countries include references to incitement to violence, where the battle is increasingly being fought on Facebook.
The kind and depth of information that Facebook chooses to disclose regarding its Community Standards reflect the ease with which corporations can evade accountability through the use of the “platform” nomenclature. Tarleton Gillespie has written about how intermediaries manipulate the ambivalent, multi-layered meanings of the term “platform” to serve different constituencies – ordinary citizens, businesses, policymakers, and so forth. Though platforms seem to only “facilitate” expression, there is nothing neutral about the curating, filtering, and “orchestrating” of posted content that they take on. As mediators of content, platforms also crucially mediate relations among users, between users and the public, between users and sellers, and even between users and governments.
Facebook’s earlier reference to itself as a neutral platform could explain its previous indifference to the impact of its operations in Southeast Asia, but it also continues to frame corporate policy on public engagement. Because the term “platform” does not carry with it a clear, corresponding set of obligations for accountability on Community Standards enforcement, Facebook can conveniently choose what to disclose depending on what their interests dictate at a given point in time – whether improving public image, expanding operations, or fulfilling the demands of the UN.
This is worrying. While our demand for transparency from our public officers is guaranteed by law, our expectation from Facebook is not. We can only know what Facebook lets us know despite the impact of their Community Standards enforcement to situations of mass atrocity. Continue Reading…
December 20, 2018
We are pleased to present HRP’s 2017-2018 Annual Report. The report showcases the global reach and impact of the Human Rights Program in its 34th year, featuring work on populism, armed conflict, and accountability litigation. It spotlights fieldwork undertaken by students and alumni, and details pedagogical innovations and new research.
We thank all of the students, partners, and alumni who made the year so strong.
Click below to open the Annual Report as a flipbook or download the PDF.
December 15, 2018
Defense Alliance with US not Legal Bar to Ratifying New Treaty
(Cambridge, MA, December 14, 2018) – Australia’s alliance with the United States need not stand in the way of Australia joining the 2017 treaty banning nuclear weapons, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic said in a report released today.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) would require Australia to end its reliance on US nuclear arms for defense. But it would not undermine the countries’ broader collective security agreement established under the 1951 ANZUS Treaty.
“Australia has long claimed to support nuclear disarmament,” said Bonnie Docherty, lead author of the report and the Clinic’s associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection. “Joining the ban treaty would advance that goal without creating insurmountable legal obstacles to ongoing military relations with the US.”
The 13-page report “Australia and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” explains why Australia can renounce its nuclear defense arrangement with the US (under the so-called “nuclear umbrella”) while maintaining military ties to its ally. The report also shows the compatibility of the treaty with Australia’s disarmament commitments under other treaties and policies.
The Labor Party is expected to discuss the TPNW at its national conference from December 16 to 18, 2018. The conference will provide a forum for Labor to develop a new party platform. In its last platform, adopted in 2015, the Labor Party called for negotiations of a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Continue Reading…
December 11, 2018
Salma Waheedi, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at the International Human Rights Clinic and Associate Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change, has co-authored a book chapter with Kristen A. Stilt, Professor of Law and Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program, that appeared in the recently-published volume Comparative Judicial Review, edited by Erin F. Delaney and Rosalind Dixon. The chapter, titled “Judicial Review in the Context of Constitutional Islam,” identifies and examines different models of judicial review in countries with constitutional Islam clauses.
The chapter begins by providing a brief background to Islamic law and constitutional design. The authors develop a classificatory scheme that outlines the different institutional design models for constitutional interpretation in Muslim countries. These include a secular model, an Islamic model, and a hybrid model, with different countries falling along a spectrum of variations. The authors consider several case studies, including Kuwait and Egypt for the secular model, Iran and Saudi Arabia for the Islamic model, and Malaysia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan for the hybrid model. The chapter concludes by highlighting ways in which the political context and certain choices in constitutional drafting can foster one system or another along the spectrum.
December 10, 2018
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—a groundbreaking document that established the modern foundation of today’s human rights movement. As we reflect on the movement’s achievements over the last seven decades, we can see the lasting impact of the declaration across laws, theory, and practice, including here at Harvard Law School through the Human Rights Program. Our Program, which is entering its 35th year, commemorates and celebrates the Universal Declaration, and now more than ever, re-affirms its ongoing importance to equality and justice for all people.
November 27, 2018
Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law Yee Htun was profiled in the Harvard Gazette on November 19, 2018. The article explored Htun’s personal journey fleeing persecution in her birth country of Myanmar and returning there to help advance law reform efforts After years spent in the field working to end sexual violence in conflict, among other issues, she came to the the International Human Rights Clinic in 2016 where she now teaches human rights advocacy and works on projects focused on women’s rights, hate speech, and de-escalation of communal tensions in Myanmar and neighboring countries. As she states:
“We want to show that the law cannot only be a tool for oppression,” said Htun. “What drew me to law was the fact that it is a crucial tool for change and can play a key role in safeguarding democracy and enshrining rights. That’s the lesson I have learned in my personal journey and one that I hope to share with my students and the communities we serve.”
Read the full piece on the Harvad Gazette website.
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