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March 26, 2015

Tomorrow, March 26: “International Criminal Courts and Tribunals: Challenges and Successes”

We’re very pleased to co-sponsor this year’s Harvard Human Rights Journal Symposium, which takes place tomorrow, Friday, March 27. The half-day event will focus on the challenges and successes of international criminal law as a response mechanism to world crises. The event panels are as follows:

“Where Has International Criminal Law Taken Us and Where Can it Go?”

Keynote Address by Serge Brammertz, Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY

12:00 – 1:00 pm, Ames Courtroom, Austin Hall
Lunch will be served

“The Laws of War: Enforcement in Human Rights Versus International Criminal Courts”
1:30 – 3:00 pm, WCC 1015

This panel will feature Judge Robert Spano of the European Court of Human Rights (graciously brought to the Symposium by Harvard European Law Association), Nema Milaninia of the ICTY in the Appeals Division of the Office of the Prosecutor, Fergal Gaynor of the International Criminal Court Victims Division, former ICC prosecutor Professor Alex Whiting, and Vanderbilt University Professor Michael Newton. The panel will discuss the pros and cons of enforcing international humanitarian law in international criminal courts versus international human rights courts. This panel is cosponsored by the Harvard European Law Association.

Coffee with the Experts
3:00 – 4:00 pm, WCC 3038

“Prosecuting a War: Justice for Syria?”
4:00 – 5:30 pm, WCC 1023

Syria triggers critical questions for the role of international criminal law. What system of justice will best address the atrocities that have been committed and documented by various actors throughout the conflict? National courts? An international tribunal? A hybrid model? What role should local forms of justice play in such a process? How can the lessons of past justice models inform the international community’s approach to Syria? What role should the US or other Western powers play? The panel will feature Emily Hutchinson and Jim Hooper of the Public International Law and Policy Group, and Federica D’Alessandra from the Harvard Kennedy School. All three panelists have been involved in Syria fact-finding missions, and Ms. Hutchinson and Mr. Cooper have participated in negotiations with key members of the moderate coalition. Susan Farbstein from the Harvard Human Rights Program will moderate the panel.

Wine and Cheese Reception
WCC 1023, HLS Pub

March 23, 2015

Student Transport Vital to Unlocking the Promise of Education in South Africa

Posted by Katie King, JD '16

I’ve always loved school. Starting from a young age, I even loved the journey to get there. It was time spent with my siblings—an opportunity to tease each other and a chance to get a taste of what felt like the grown-up responsibility of walking alone.

The students in Nqutu, a small, rural area in eastern South Africa, are often just as excited as I was about school. However, as I heard during a trip there this past January with the International Human Rights Clinic, the morning starts for many of them at 4 or 5 a.m., when they wake to fetch water, let out their family’s cows, and help their younger siblings get ready. They then set off on a walk that often exceeds 10 miles.

Some students in Nqutu walk 20 miles to and from school. See more images from the Clinic's recent trip in this slideshow.

Some students in Nqutu walk 20 miles to and from school. See more images from the Clinic’s recent trip in this slideshow.

They tease each other and gossip as I once did, doing their best to protect their uniforms and textbooks from the dirt and weather. But, as the students told us, by the time they arrive at school two hours later, their energy has worn off—and they are fully aware, as they do their best to pay attention in class, that they will have to repeat the journey all over again at the end of the day.

Factor in the additional risks of robbery, rape, snakebites, and treacherous river crossings, and it’s difficult for me to imagine that my five-year-old self would ever have been able to make it to school, let alone focus in class or have the time and energy to complete my homework, in similar conditions. I arrived well-rested and ready to learn. Can the same be said of Nqutu’s students?

Since 2009, the South African government has dragged its heels on finalizing a national scholar transport policy that would address the education system’s many transport-related problems. This is no small matter. As a result of this failure to act, the government is not fulfilling a fundamental right in South Africa’s constitution: the right to a basic education.

Our partners, Equal Education and Equal Education Law Centre, have been campaigning for a range of improvements in the educational system, taking on everything from schools without water and electricity to access to textbooks. In 2014, their student-powered movement shifted its focus to another critical piece of the puzzle: safe, affordable, and reliable school transport.

Not only has the national government failed to fix the problems it itself acknowledged in the draft national scholar transport policy, but the KwaZulu-Natal government has ignored the legal responsibilities it previously set for itself. Provincial policy requires KwaZulu-Natal to provide transportation subsidies to learners who walk more than 3 kilometers to school—a distance easily exceeded by dozens of students we talked to in our short time in Nqutu. None of the students we spoke with were receiving this assistance.

Principals told us they had submitted applications to the provincial government and never heard anything back. Determined to make sure children receive an education, some adults who live closer to school have opened their homes to students from more remote villages. Others drive trucks with more than 20 students packed into the back.

These stop-gap solutions are unsustainable; the government has the responsibility to act. Without a safe, reliable way to get to school, students’ ability to learn is compromised, and education’s promise of a better, more equitable future goes unfulfilled.

The solution may have to be multi-faceted. As we learned on our visit, though many of the difficulties students face are common, there are also different obstacles from school to school; one school may simply need a bus, while another may have learners who are so dispersed that school boarding facilities are the best response. Still, such complexities are not sufficient reason for continuing to stall—especially not when South Africa’s students, in the face of so many challenges, continue to embark upon their long walk to education every day.

View slideshow from the Clinic’s recent trip to Nqutu

Katie King, JD ’16, has been working with the International Human Rights Clinic since last September on issues related to the right to education in South Africa. She spent her 1L summer interning at Equal Education Law Centre in Cape Town.

March 11, 2015

Tomorrow, March 12: “Palestine and the International Criminal Court: Implications of Recent Treaty Actions”

March 12, 2015

“Palestine and the International Criminal Court: Implications of Recent Treaty Actions”

7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
WCC 3016


At the turn of the year, Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority, purported to take two treaty actions with respect to the Statute of the International Criminal Court. The first was to deposit an instrument of accession on behalf of the State of Palestine. The second was to a lodge a declaration of consent with the ICC Registrar, accepting the Court’s jurisdiction retrospectively. Both actions are controversial and raise complex legal and political issues. Please join us for a discussion of these issues with Professor John Cerone, the Distinguished Chair in Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Visiting Chair in Public International Law at Lund University Faculty of Law, and Visiting Professor of International Law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University).

March 10, 2015

Plaintiffs’ Victory Against Former Somali Prime Minister Allowed to Stand

Posted by Tyler Giannini and Susan Farbstein

After 11 long years of litigation, plaintiffs from Somalia learned yesterday that their $21 million judgment for damages for torture and war crimes would stand. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the appeal of the defendant, General Mohamed Ali Samantar, a former Somali Prime Minister and Minister of Defense who was implicated in the abuses. Samantar, who now lives in Virginia, can make no additional appeals.

Beyond the victory for the plaintiffs, counsel from the Center for Justice & Accountability noted this ruling is critically important because it preserves a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found egregious rights violations cannot be considered “official acts” shielded by sovereign immunity.

The ruling comes amidst ongoing debate about how the United States should treat high-ranking former foreign government officials who are accused of human rights abuses and are now living in the United States. The International Human Rights Clinic and its partners have been involved since 2007 in one such case, Mamani et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, which brings Alien Tort Statute claims against the former President and the former Defense Minister of Bolivia for their role in extrajudicial killings in 2003. Last Friday, the Mamani plaintiffs filed a brief with the Eleventh Circuit opposing the defendants’ appeal, which is considering the issues of exhaustion of remedies and command responsibility.

Like Samantar, the defendants in Mamani came to the United States after leaving power, and have remained in the country ever since.

March 10, 2015

Tomorrow, March 11: Criminal Justice & Policing After Events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, & Elsewhere: Next Steps

Criminal Justice and Policing After Ferguson-Next StepsMarch 11, 2015

“Criminal Justice & Policing After Events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, & Elsewhere: Next Steps”

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


Join small group roundtable discussions with faculty experts on concrete proposals. Facilitators: Jennifer Chacon, Andrew Crespo, Fernando Delgado, Phil Heymann, Benjamin Levin, Charles Ogletree, Deborah Popowski, Sonja Starr, Carol Steiker, Jeannie Suk and Alex Whiting.


This event will involve the participation of the HLS Ferguson Action Committee.

March 06, 2015

March 9-10: “The Role of African Women in the Post 2015 Development Agenda and +20 Beijing”

URGENT ACTION Conference Progr_Page_01March 9-10, 2015

“The Role of African Women in the Post 2015 Development Agenda &  +20 Beijing”

9:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.

Austin Hall (on March 9)

Wasserstein Milstein AB (on March 10)


Please join the Human Rights Program, Urgent Action Fund–Africa, and the Ford Foundation-East Africa Office for a two-day round table discussion on the role of African Women in the Post 2015 Development Agenda and the Beijing +20. Review the program here.The meeting brings together approximately 50 African women leaders from across socio-economic and political arenas. They, and their US-based counterparts, include women’s rights advocates, femocrats, academics, United Nations representatives, corporate and media professionals. Together they will share success stories, challenges, innovations, knowledge, and history to advance and cement women’s leadership as part of the 2015 global agenda for integration, development and social change.


ALSO on March 9, a rescheduled event:


15 01 26 Gender -Re-assignment poster“Gender (Re)assignment: Legal, Ethical and Conceptual Issues”

12:00 p.m.
Pound Hall 102

Lunch will be served


Trans and intersex individuals face a series of legal, medical, and social challenges. This panel explores these overlapping issues, including: healthcare coverage of treatments such as gender reassignment therapy, the legal recognition of trans identities, intersexuality, and asexuality. Join us for a wide-ranging panel discussion with panelists Noa Ben-Asher, Visiting Associate Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Elizabeth F. Emens, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia Law School; Gerald L. Neuman, J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, Harvard Law School; Matthew J.B. Lawrence, Academic Fellow, Petrie-Flom Center; with moderator I. Glenn Cohen, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and Faculty Director, Petrie-Flom Center.

March 05, 2015

Tomorrow, March 6: Forum on Human Rights and Everyday Governance in Thailand

We’re particularly pleased to call your attention to the event below, not just because it’s relevant to our work, but also because one of our Visiting Fellows, Benjamin Zawacki, is a featured speaker. His remarks are entitled “A Perfect Storm: Forecasting Human Rights in Thailand.”


March 6, 2015

“Forum on Human Rights and Everyday Governance in Thailand: Past, Present and Future”

9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Harvard University Asia Center
CGIS Knafel
1737 Cambridge St.,
Cambridge, MA

Please join the Asia Center for a day-long event featuring the following speakers: Graeme Bristol, Centre for Architecture and Human Rights; Pandit Chanrochanakit, Ramkhamhaeng University; Tyrell Haberkorn, Australian National University; Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University; Pinkaew Laungaramsri, Chiang Mai University; Duncan McCargo, Leeds University; Pitch Pongsawat, Chulalongkorn University; Yukti Mukdawijitra, Thammasat University; Benjamin Zawacki, George Washington University, as well as discussant Gazi Kapllani, Emerson College.

February 23, 2015

TODAY: “Mediation, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: Challenges Facing the UN’s Mediation Support Unit”

February, 23, 2015

“Mediation, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: The Challenges facing the UN’s Mediation Support Unit”

A brown bag discussion with Mark Muller Stuart, Q.C.

WCC 4059
12:00 – 1:00  pm

Light lunch will be served

Mark Muller Stuart QC currently works with the UN Department of Political Affairs Mediation Support Unit. He is a senior advocate associated with Doughty Street Chambers in London and the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh, where he specializes in public international law, criminal, terrorism and human rights related litigation. Muller regularly advises numerous international bodies on humanitarian and conflict resolution related issues.

Co-sponsors: Harvard Law and Development Society and the Harvard National Security Law Association

February 13, 2015

TODAY, Feb. 13: “Colombia’s Peace Process: Decision Time”


February 13, 2015

“Colombia’s Peace Process: Decision Time”

12:00 p.m.
WCC 3018


Please join us for a talk by Christian Voelkel, a Senior Analyst with the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict. Christian has been based in Bogotá with the Crisis Group since 2011 and focused on Colombia and the Andean region since 2004. He will offer insights into ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC, the country’s largest guerrilla group, focusing specifically on the challenges of finding a sustainable transitional justice model and managing FARC’s transition to civilian life.

February 12, 2015

Today, Feb. 12: “Law School Matters: Reassessing Legal Education Post-Ferguson” and other events

Today is packed with powerful events, starting at noon with Harvard Students for Inclusion’s two-day symposium, “Law School Matters: Reassessing Legal Education Post-Ferguson,” with a retrospective of race and social movements at HLS. In the early evening, starting at 5:15 p.m., there will be a teach-in on contextualization in legal education.

Finally, at 7:30 p.m., join the Muslim Law Students Association for dinner and a panel discussion on “The Role of Lawyers in Enabling and Justifying Torture,” featuring clinical instructor Deborah Popowski, professor of practice Alex Whiting and Center for Constitutional Rights’ Wells Dixon.