December 12, 2017

Student Perspectives on Working in the International Human Rights Clinic


We’re so pleased to reprint below two student perspectives on the International Human Rights Clinic, published recently on the blog for the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. First, Salomé Gómez Upegui LL.M. ’18, reflects on her work on women’s rights in the Arab world. Next, Zeineb Bouraoui LL.M. ’18, describes her work on detention-related abuses in Yemen. Both students worked under the supervision of clinical instructor Salma Waheedi.

Great work, all!

 

My Time at the International Human Rights Clinic
by Gómez Upegui LL.M. ’18



I believe in law as an instrument for social change, and I came to Harvard interested in focusing on that. A year is not much time, and as any LL.M. student can confirm, we all suffer from “fear of missing out”.  I’m happy to say the International Human Rights Clinic, was perfect to curb this fear. In a short time I was able to do so much more than I expected. It was a unique opportunity for hands-on learning, while engaging in public service, and making a difference.

Salomé Gómez Upegui LL.M. ’18

Women’s rights are something I particularly care about, and when I got into this clinic I was eager to learn more about how International Human Rights Law is relevant to feminism. Thankfully, I joined Salma Waheedi’s team for a project on this subject, and my expectations were exceeded. We worked in coordination with Musawah, an NGO advocating for equality of Muslim women. In this project, creative thinking was at the center; using comparative law, alternative interpretations of Islamic law, and human rights standards, we drafted thematic shadow reports on women’s rights for the Committee of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. I had the opportunity to travel to Geneva and participate in the 68th CEDAW Session at the United Nations, where the reports we drafted where presented. This trip was a rare chance to network and learn first-hand how international institutions, governments, and NGOs serve to advance (or sometimes set-back) feminist agendas.

The International Human Rights Clinic allowed me to strengthen fundamental lawyering skills. I especially enjoyed learning innovative advocacy strategies, and I have to say I was happily surprised by the people I met. Working alongside individuals with such passion and dedication to human rights was the highlight of this experience. I felt part of something meaningful from day one, there is a real sense of community, and the value of teamwork is constantly stressed. In a world where individuality is the rule, this was an exceptionally wonderful learning environment, and I’m so grateful to have been part of it.


“Advancing Human Rights in the Middle East”
by Zeineb Bouraoui LL.M. ’18

 

Following the escalation of the Syrian Civil War in 2012, I began working for the Syrian American Medical Society in Washington DC, assisting Syrian refugees in emigrating to the United States, mainly through public policy initiatives. This experience greatly influenced my desire to apply to law school. I was craving the opportunity to acquire effective tools that would allow me to fight back against the injustices that outraged me and to advance economic and social equality in my native region, the Middle East and North Africa.

Zeineb Bouraoui LL.M. ’18

At Sciences Po Law School, I focused my studies on international investment law and economic development, and graduated in 2016 with a masters’ degree in Economic Law and Global Business Law and Governance. I then started working at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, working on policy coordination efforts in order to help governments resist protectionist pressures and develop effective policies to respond to legal concerns raised by international investment.

It was especially important to me to pursue my commitment to advance human rights in the MENA region at Harvard Law School, leveraging the numerous tools that the university provides to its students, in order to conduct the most effective research, and hope to have the most effective impact on the region.

At the International Human Rights Clinic, I am working on the Yemen project. My team, led by Salma Waheedi, is contributing to a Human Rights Watch report on the growth of the missing file in Yemen. Since 2014, Yemen has become home to one of the most violent non-international armed conflicts in the world. Egregious human rights violations are being committed there on a daily basis. My team focuses mainly on investigating detention-related abuses currently being carried out by all sides to the conflict. We are in the process of mapping the network of secret prisons, and outlining the human rights abuses committed in them. We will then determine the international legal obligations of state and non-state actors involved in the conflict, and investigate enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

The Clinic constituted an eye-opening experience to me, allowing me to understand firsthand the challenges that human rights lawyers and activists are routinely facing with funding, media outreach and advocacy, or even the simple act of gathering accurate and reliable information. It was particularly challenging to work on a non-international armed conflict, as raising awareness on a conflict happening on the other side of the world, with very little interest for the United States can be at times frustrating.

I particularly enjoyed conducting in-depth factual research and interacting with local Yemeni NGOs such as Mwatana, which are doing an incredible job in producing exhaustive accounts of the human rights violations committed throughout the course of the civil war, often at the peril of their lives.

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December 4, 2017

Tomorrow, December 5: Realizing Access to Effective Remedy


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

“Realizing Access to Effective Remedy”

A report-back from the 6th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

5:00-7:00 p.m.
Lewis 202

Please join Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of the Human Rights Program and its International Human Rights Clinic, and Malcom Rogge, SJD Candidate and Teaching Fellow at HLS and Harvard Kennedy School, for a report-back from the 6th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights.  The Forum is the global platform for yearly stock-taking and lesson-sharing on efforts to move the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights from paper to practice. The central theme of the 2017 Forum was “Realizing Access to Effective Remedy.”

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November 29, 2017

Tomorrow, Nov. 30: Joint Conference on Ethics and Human Rights in U.S. Prisons


November 30- December 1, 2017

“Behind Bars: Ethics and Human Rights in U.S. Prisons”

A conference organized by the Human Rights Program, the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics and the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics

Harvard Medical School campus

Registration required

The United States leads the world in incarceration. The “War on Drugs” and prioritizing punishment over rehabilitation has led to mass imprisonment, mainly of the nation’s most vulnerable populations: people of color, the economically disadvantaged and under-educated, and those suffering from mental illness. Although these social disparities are striking, the health discrepancies are even more pronounced. What can be done to address this health and human rights crisis?

This conference will examine various aspects of human rights and health issues in our prisons. In collaboration with educators, health professionals, and those involved in the criminal justice system—including former inmates, advocates, and law enforcement—the conference will clarify the issues, explore possible policy and educational responses, and establish avenues for action.

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November 20, 2017

Clinic and HRW Document Use of Incendiary Weapons by Coalition of Syrian Government and Russian Forces


PRESS RELEASE

 

(Geneva, November 20, 2017) – Countries should respond to reports of new use of incendiary weapons in Syria by working to strengthen the international law governing these exceptionally cruel weapons, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 28-page report, “An Overdue Review: Addressing Incendiary Weapons in the Contemporary Context,” documents use of incendiary weapons by the coalition of Syrian government and Russian forces in 2017. It urges countries at a UN disarmament meeting, held in Geneva from November 22 to 24, 2017, to initiate a review of Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). This protocol, which regulates incendiary weapons, has failed to prevent their ongoing use, endangering civilians.

“Countries should react to the threat posed by incendiary weapons by closing the loopholes in outdated international law,” said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection at Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, which co-published the report. “Stronger law would mean stronger protections for civilians.”

Docherty, who is also senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch, presented the report’s findings at a side event at the United Nations in Geneva today.

Incendiary weapons produce heat and fire through the chemical reaction of a flammable substance. They can be designed for marking and signaling or to burn materiel, penetrate plate metal, or produce smokescreens. Incendiary weapons cause excruciating burns, disfigurement, and psychological trauma, and they start fires that destroy civilian objects and infrastructure.

For the first time in nearly four decades, countries that are parties to the 1980 treaty have devoted a specific session at their annual meeting to Protocol III. The meeting will also address fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots.”

States parties should seize this opportunity to hold robust discussions about the harm caused by incendiary weapons and the adequacy of Protocol III, Human Rights Watch said. They should condemn recent use, support a formal review of the protocol, with an eye to strengthening it, and set aside more time for in-depth discussions in 2018.

In 2017, Human Rights Watch documented 22 attacks with incendiary weapons across five governorates of Syria by Syrian government forces or their Russian allies. From 2012 to 2016, Human Rights Watch documented at least 68 attacks by the same forces, as well as several cases of severe civilian harm. While Syria is not a party to Protocol III, Russia is.

As recently as November 12, photographs and video reportedly taken in Syria’s Idlib governorate as well as a report from Syria Civil Defense field workers indicate the use of air-delivered incendiary weapons, although Human Rights Watch has been unable to confirm these specific attacks.

The continued use of incendiary weapons in Syria shows that countries, including Syria, need to join Protocol III and comply with its restrictions on use in populated areas, Human Rights Watch said. The use also demonstrates the need for stronger norms, which can increase the stigma against the weapons and influence even those not party to the protocol.

Protocol III has two major loopholes. First, its definition excludes multipurpose weapons, such as those with white phosphorus, which may be primarily designed to provide smokescreens or illumination, but can inflict the same horrific injuries as other incendiary weapons. White phosphorus, for example, can burn through human flesh to the bone and reignite days after treatment if exposed to oxygen.

In 2017, the US-led coalition used white phosphorus while fighting to retake Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq from the Islamic State. While Human Rights Watch has not confirmed casualties from these incidents, the New York Times reported that munitions containing white phosphorous hit an internet café, killing approximately 20 people.

Second, while the protocol prohibits the use of air-dropped incendiary weapons in populated areas, it allows the use of ground-delivered models in certain circumstances. All incendiary weapons cause the same effects, however, and this arbitrary distinction should be eliminated. A complete ban on incendiary weapons would have the greatest humanitarian benefits.

In recent years, a growing number of countries have condemned the use of incendiary weapons and called for revisiting or strengthening Protocol III. At the meeting in Geneva, they should expand on their positions, and new countries should add their voices to the debate.

“Existing law on incendiary weapons is a legacy of the US war in Vietnam and a Cold War compromise,” said Docherty. “But the political and military landscape has changed, and it is time for the law to reflect current problems.”

The new report was researched and written by clinical students Allie Brudney, JD ’19, Sofia Falzoni, JD ’19, and Natalie McCauley, JD ’19, under the supervision of Bonnie Docherty.

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November 17, 2017

Clinic Releases Joint Report on Challenges and Significance of Documentation for Refugees in Nairobi

Posted by Anna Crowe


The International Human Rights Clinic and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Kenya released a report today in Kenya detailing the challenges refugees in Nairobi face in obtaining the official documentation needed to secure their status and identity, as well as the significance of documentation to their daily lives. Most of the nearly half a million refugees in Kenya live in refugee camps, but approximately 64,000 live outside the camps, in Nairobi.

Somali refugee student shows her documentation at home in Nairobi, Kenya. Copyright: UNHCR

The report, “Recognising Nairobi’s Refugees,” highlights refugees’ experiences in Nairobi with registration and refugee status determination – processes that lead to documentation. The challenges refugees described included stalled or suspended processes; inconsistency in requirements and information; substantial delays in receiving documentation; and confusion about the next steps to take in a process. The report relies on interviews with more than 30 refugees living in Nairobi, as well as with representatives of local and international non-governmental organizations; the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; and the Kenyan government’s Refugee Affairs Secretariat.

In interviews, refugees described the critical importance of documentation to establishing a sense of security in the lives, as well as to proving their identity in official and informal settings. Without documentation, many reported frustration, stress, and even a feeling of hopelessness. Refugees lacking documentation also reported problems with police, such as harassment, which in turn led them to restrict their movements.

In their joint report, the Clinic and NRC recommend that, among other things, the Government of Kenya should continue to register refugees living outside camps; recognize refugees’ right to freedom of movement within the country; produce and widely disseminate clear guidance on registration and refugee status determination procedures; and undertake measures, such as training of relevant officials, to ensure refugees can live without fear or restriction in the city.

Today’s report is part of the Clinic’s ongoing focus on legal identity and refugee documentation. In previous years, the Clinic has collaborated with NRC to examine the challenges and significance of documentation – such as birth certificates and ID cards – for Syrian refugees living in Jordan.

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November 16, 2017

Clinic Partner Releases New Business and Human Rights Tool


MSI Integrity, a non-profit organization that the International Human Rights Clinic helped to incubate, has released a comprehensive tool to evaluate multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs), which are voluntary efforts that bring together industry, civil society, and governments to fill governance gaps.

The MSI Evaluation Tool was developed collaboratively by MSI Integrity and the Clinic through a five-year process of extensive research, practical pilot-testing, and global consultation with the public and experts on MSIs. It provides a framework to evaluate multi-stakeholder initiatives and the effectiveness of their institutional design, structure, and operational procedures. The tool began as a clinical project, and was carried forward by Amelia Evans, LLM ’11, who went on to found the Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity, or MSI Integrity.

Read more on MSI Integrity’s website.

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November 16, 2017

HRP invites applications for its 2018-2019 Visiting Fellows Program

Posted by Emily Nagisa Keehn


The Human Rights Program invites applications for its Visiting Fellows Program for the 2018-2019 academic year. The Visiting Fellows Program gives individuals with a demonstrated commitment to human rights an opportunity to step back and conduct a serious inquiry in the human rights field. Visiting Fellows are usually scholars with a substantial background in human rights, experienced activists, or members of the judiciary or other branches of government.

Typically, fellows come from outside the U.S., and spend from one semester to a full academic year in residence at Harvard Law School, where they devote the majority of their time to research and writing on a human rights topic. The Program currently has a particular interest in fellows working on the United Nations Treaty Bodies in their research, though applications are not limited in this regard.

The fellows form an essential part of the human rights community at Harvard Law School, and participate in the Human Rights Program’s bi-monthly Visiting Fellows Colloquium, as well as a number of other activities.

The Human Rights Program provides approximately four fellows annually with a shared office space, access to computers, and use of the Harvard library system. As a general matter, the Human Rights Program does not fund fellows. However, applicants who are nationals of low or middle income countries are eligible for the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellowship, which offers a stipend to help defray the cost of living.  In order to profit from the fellowship, fluent spoken English is essential.

The deadline to submit applications is February 1, 2018. Click here for more information on how to apply or write to Emily Nagisa Keehn, the Associate Director of the Academic Program, at ekeehn@law.harvard.edu.

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November 15, 2017

Tomorrow, Nov. 16: The Israeli Asylum System


Thursday, November 16, 2017

“The Israeli Asylum System: Refugee Exclusion in the Land of Refugees”

A talk by Tally Kritzman-Amir, Senior Lecturer, College of Law and Business, Israel

12:00- 1:00 p.m.
WCC 3013

Please join us for a brown bag lunch by Dr. Tally Kritzman-Amir on Israel’s asylum system. Kritzman-Amir will situate the exclusionary policy’s paradoxical relationship to the country’s founding narrative as a state for refugees, discuss the impact of this policy on refugee rights, and analyze the role the courts play within the current asylum regime. Kritzman-Amir is a Senior Lecturer of Immigration and International Law at the College of Law and Business, Israel, and a current Human Rights Program Visiting Fellow.

This event is being co-sponsored by the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

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November 14, 2017

Introducing HRP’s 2016-2017 Annual Report


We are very pleased to announce that HRP’s 2016-2017 annual report is now online. We hope it gives you a window into some of our work last year, on topics ranging from the rights of foreign nationals to accountability litigation to women’s rights. Thanks to all of the students, partners, and alumni who made the year so strong.

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November 13, 2017

Tomorrow, Nov. 14: A Clash of Good Intentions: NGOs vs. the UN


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

“A Clash of Good Intentions: NGOs vs. the UN”

12:00- 1:00 p.m.
Hauser 102

Non-pizza lunch will be served

Join us for a discussion about what happens when a non-profit lawyer goes up against an established international organization responsible for protecting the public. Beatrice Lindstrom, Staff Attorney with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (2017-2018 Wasserstein Fellow), will discuss her lawsuit against the U.N. for bringing cholera to Haiti through untreated wastes discharged from a peacekeeping base. Rick Hertz, Senior Litigation Attorney with EarthRights International, will discuss his lawsuit again the World Bank/IFC for funding a power plant that devastated fishing villages in India.  Professor Susan Farbstein, Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, will moderate.

Co-sponsored by OPIA and the Human Rights Program

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