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September 18, 2014

Tomorrow, Sept. 19: Human Rights Program 30th Anniversary Event

Posted by Cara Solomon

One by one, alumni are streaming in from around the world for the big day: our 30th anniversary event! Details below.

If you can’t make it, don’t worry: we’ll be live streaming it here and live tweeting under the hashtag #HRP30.

 

30th Anniversary of the Human Rights Program

HRP 30th Anniversary Poster2September 19, 2014

When: 12 p.m.

Where: Milstein East B and C

Please join us to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School. The keynote speech will be given by Harold Hongju Koh, JD ’80, former Legal Adviser of the U.S. Department of State, and one of the country’s leading experts in public and private international law, national security law, and human rights.

RSVP: hrp@law.harvard.edu

12 p.m.  Lunch and Keynote Address

Keynote Speaker: Dean Harold Hongju Koh, JD ’80

 

1:15 – 3 p.m.
Panel I: Human Rights Advocacy Across the Generations

Panelists: Rangita de Silva de Alwis, SJD ’97, Director, Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, Women in Public Service Project, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Clara Long, JD ’12, Researcher, U.S. Program, Human Rights Watch; Raymond Akongburo Atuguba, LL.M ’00, SJD ’04, Executive Secretary to the President of the Republic of Ghana; James A. Goldston, JD ’87, Executive Director, Open Society Justice Initiative; Tyler Giannini, Director, Human Rights Program and Clinical Professor, Harvard Law School; Susan Farbstein, JD ’04, Director, International Human Rights Clinic and Assistant Clinical Professor, Harvard Law School.


3:15 – 5 p.m.
Panel II: The Next Stage for UN Treaty Bodies

Panelists: Felice Gaer, Director, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, AJC; Michael Ashley Stein, JD ’88, Executive Director, Harvard Law School Project on Disability, and Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Gerald L. Neuman, JD ’80, Director, Human Rights Program, and J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, Harvard Law School; Philip Alston, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law, New York University School of Law.


5:30 p.m.  Reception

September 17, 2014

Student Perspective: Supporting the Transnational Fight to Protect Workers’ Rights

Posted by Lily Axelrod, JD '15

One January afternoon in 2012, two hundred men and women gathered at the Captain Morgan Bar in the sunny, Mexican coastal town of Topolobampo, Sinaloa. Their spirits were strong; recruiters had arrived to sign up workers for temporary H-2 visas to the United States. In a region where unemployment is high and the minimum wage is less than $5 a day, the recruiters brought hope. Applicants handed over deposits of several hundred dollars, representing years of savings or serious debt.

Weeks went by, and then months, as recruiters promised the Sinaloans that the visas were “almost ready.” But there were no jobs, and no H-2 visas. By April, it became clear: hundreds of applicants had been defrauded.

Atzin Gordillo, at left, an organizer with ProDESC, gives a presentation to the workers of the Sinaloa Coalition about their rights under the H-2 visa program.

Atzin Gordillo, at left, an organizer with ProDESC, gives a presentation to the workers of the Sinaloa Coalition about their rights under the H-2 visa program.

This summer, I had the opportunity to support the Sinaloan workers as a fellow with Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC), a human rights organization based in Mexico City. Having lived in Mexico and studied social movements there, I was drawn to ProDESC’s model, which balances a broad international vision with a focus on meaningful participation and leadership from local, marginalized communities. I contributed this summer to the organization’s Transnational Justice for Migrant Workers project, which seeks to promote humane, legal migration by protecting migrant workers’ human rights.

My work focused specifically on the H-2 temporary worker visa program, one of the few avenues for Mexicans to work legally in the United States without advanced degrees or immediate family members with status. ProDESC has been tackling abuses related to the program since 2007. Due to fear of reporting and lack of oversight, it is impossible to know how many applicants were promised visas and never received them, but ProDESC believes the problem is widespread. Even when job offers are legitimate, workers often go into debt to pay illegal “recruitment fees,” and fear blacklisting or violent retaliation if they speak up about their rights.

For years, both the Mexican and American governments turned a blind eye to these abuses, leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation, human trafficking, and forced labor. But ProDESC and the Sinaloan workers have been collaborating to change the status quo. In 2013, with support from ProDESC’s community organizers and attorneys, the workers formed a coalition and brought a groundbreaking collective criminal complaint against the fraudulent recruiter operating in Sinaloa. That coalition, in turn, strengthened ProDESC’s domestic and international policy advocacy to prevent abuse in the H-2 visa program overall.

Together, their activism captured the attention of both the Mexican government, which recently issued new regulations targeting recruiters, and the U.S. Departments of Labor and State, which have committed to cooperate with their Mexican counterparts and with NGOs to educate migrant workers about their rights. Read More

September 15, 2014

Student Perspective: Protecting Freedom of Expression, in Ethiopia and Beyond

Posted by Lindsay Church, JD '16

In July 2012, Eskinder Nega was sentenced to 18 years in prison. In June 2011, Reeyot Alemu was arrested and convicted to 14 years of imprisonment, reduced to five on appeal.

Their crimes? Practicing journalism in Ethiopia.

reeyot-AlemuNega and Alemu are award-winning journalists who shared the prestigious Human Rights Watch Hellman-Hammett Award in 2012. For Nega, whose first child was born while he and his wife were in custody for treason , the arrest came days after publishing a column that criticized the Ethiopian government’s detainment of journalists as suspected terrorists. For Alemu, a former high school English teacher, the arrest came days after she critiqued the ruling political party in an independent newspaper later shut down by the government.

The basis for the charges against these journalists is Ethiopia’s 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which contains overly vague provisions that have been used by the government to silence its critics. Since the Proclamation was adopted, more than 30 journalists have been convicted on terrorism-related charges.

Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of working on behalf of Nega and Alemu as a fellow with the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI). The small London-based non-profit works directly with journalists and bloggers who have been prosecuted for exercising their protected right to freedom of expression. With the help of partner organizations, MLDI’s staff are currently working on 107 cases in 41 countries; the organization’s success rate in receiving favorable decisions hovers around 70 percent.

Courtesy: Amnesty International

Courtesy: Amnesty International

Because I studied journalism before coming to law school, I know the range of challenges American journalists face, from accessing information to protecting sources to the threat of civil liability. Still, it was always clear to me that the First Amendment by and large provides a greater amount of protection to journalists than any other national legal system. As my work at MLDI made clear this summer, freedom of expression is severely restricted in other countries—by censorship, regulations, state-operated monopolies, criminal liability, and physical threat, among others.

For example, on my very first day, I worked on a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concerning the case of Le Quoc Quan, a Vietnamese human rights lawyer and blogger who was wrongfully prosecuted on trumped up charges of tax evasion. Throughout my internship, I also researched case law from regional courts on freedom of expression, helped with an amicus curiae submission before the High Court of South Africa in a case about criminal defamation, and worked on a case in defense of a blogger in Singapore who is being sued by Lee Hsien Loong, the country’s prime minister.

When Nani Jansen, MLDI’s legal director, filed a submission to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on behalf of Nega and Alemu, I had the opportunity to do preparatory work for the submission. I also helped in the filing of submissions to international and regional courts on behalf of Nega and Alemu.

At this point, their chances for release are still unknown, but the situation remains dire. Read More

September 11, 2014

Welcome to the Fall Semester!

Posted by the Directors of the Human Rights Program

Welcome to the 2014-2015 academic year, which marks the 30th Anniversary of the Human Rights Program. We’re officially back in the swing of things and excited to see many familiar faces from last year, as well as meet the many new students arriving this year. Our first week of classes is well underway, with Tyler and Deborah teaching Human Rights Advocacy; Bonnie teaching Human Rights & The Environment; Gerald teaching International Human Rights; and Gerald and Mindy teaching the seminar on Human Rights in the UN Treaty Bodies with our LLM concentrators. Earlier this week, we met all of our clinical students, as they preferenced the 13 projects offered this semester, on topics ranging from U.S. torture prosecutions to communications surveillance to the right to education in South Africa.

Our team looks a bit different this year. We said goodbye to a few gems this summer: Yennifer Pedraza, Meera Shah and Kaitlyn Hennigan, all of whom moved on to other great opportunities. In their stead, we’ve welcomed three terrific members to our team: Gabbie Follett, Program Assistant; Katherine Talbot, Program Associate; and Anna Crowe, Clinical Advocacy Fellow. We’re also excited about this year’s Visiting Fellows, scholars and practitioners we know will enrich our community: Teng Biao, Mark Gould, Nina H. B. Jørgensen, Machiko Kanetake, Su-ming Khoo, and Benjamin Zawacki.

At our standing-room only Human Rights Program Orientation yesterday (pictures below), we flagged a few upcoming events, which we’ll do here as well: look out for a discussion with Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa this Friday afternoon; the Human Rights Program’s 30th anniversary celebration next Friday, Sept. 19, which will feature outside speakers and gather HRP alums from around the world; a panel discussion with Harvard faculty about Gaza, International Humanitarian Law and human rights on Sept. 22; and a Sept. 30 talk by Pakistani jurist Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, who will provide insight on the religious persecution of the Ahmadis in Pakistan.

We’re looking forward to all of it, and hope very much that you are, too.

Gerald, Tyler, Susan and Mindy

Deborah at left, with student

Deborah, at left, with student

Read More

September 11, 2014

Tomorrow, Sept. 12: “Albie Sachs and the New South Africa”

September 12, 2014

“Albie Sachs and the New South Africa”

A film screening and discussion with Justice Sachs

3:00- 5:30 p.m.

Austin Hall North

ILS Poster-Albie Screening

 

Please join us for a screening of the documentary “Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa,” followed by a discussion with Justice Sachs, the legendary judge at the Constitutional Court of South Africa, as well as the filmmaker, Abby Ginzberg. Albie Sachs served for 15 years as a Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and has played a prominent role in the country’s struggle for justice. An anti-apartheid activist, Justice
Sachs was exiled for 23 years and survived an assassination attempt. He is the recipient of the inaugural Tang Prize for Rule of Law.

This event is being organized by HLS International Legal Studies and co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program

September 09, 2014

Tomorrow: HRP Orientation

September 10, 2015

Human Rights Program Orientation

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

2009 WCC

 HRP Orientation Posteredited

Join us for pizza and an overview of the Human Rights Program and how you can get involved! We’ll give you information on our International Human Rights Clinic; summer funding for human rights internships; post-graduate fellowships; events and conferences; and the larger human rights community at Harvard Law School. Then it’s your turn: mix and mingle with instructors from the Clinic, Visiting Fellows from the Academic Program, as well as representatives from student groups focused on human rights, such as HLS Advocates for Human Rights.

September 03, 2014

Cluster Munitions Ban: National Laws Needed

Posted by Cara Solomon

This afternoon, the International Human Rights Clinic released a joint report with Human Rights Watch urging countries to enact strong laws to implement the treaty banning cluster munitions. The report, “Staying Strong: Key Components and Positive Precedent for Convention on Cluster Munitions Legislation,” was researched and written primarily by Senior Clinical Instructor Bonnie Docherty, as well as clinical students Amy Tan, Fletcher ’14, and Nick Sansone, JD ’15.

Bonnie presented the report in Costa Rica today at the annual meeting of countries that have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. For more information, see below for the press release from Human Rights Watch.

 

PRESS RELEASE

 

Cluster Munitions Ban: National Laws Needed

Annual Treaty Meeting Opens in Costa Rica

 

(San Jose, Costa Rica, September 3, 2014) – Countries around the world should enact strong laws to implement the treaty banning cluster munitions, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today at an international meeting of nations party to the treaty.

The 81-page report, “Staying Strong: Key Components and Positive Precedent for Convention on Cluster Munitions Legislation,” urges countries to pass robust national legislation as soon as possible to carry out the provisions of the treaty. The report describes the elements of a comprehensive law and highlights exemplary provisions in existing laws. The report was jointly published by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.

“To maximize the global cluster munition treaty’s impact, all countries should adopt national laws that apply its high standards at home,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior researcher in the arms division at Human Rights Watch and lead author of the report. “Prohibitions that can be enforced in domestic courts can help ensure that these deadly weapons don’t harm civilians.”

bonniereportCluster munitions are large weapons that disperse dozens or hundreds of submunitions. They cause civilian casualties during attacks, especially in populated areas, because they blanket a broad area with submunitions. In addition, many of the submunitions do not explode on impact and thus linger, like de facto landmines, killing or injuring civilians long after the initial attack.

Representatives from governments, UN agencies, and the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) are convening in San Jose, Costa Rica, from September 2 through 5, 2014, for the Fifth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. They will discuss a range of matters relating to the status of the convention, including national legislation.

The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions obliges states parties to enact national laws that penalize violations of its absolute prohibition on cluster munitions with imprisonment or fines. The treaty also requires destruction of stocks, clearance of remnants, and victim assistance. As of August 2014, 84 countries were full parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and another 29 countries had signed it.

According to “Cluster Munition Monitor 2014,” an annual report on the status of the treaty, 22 states parties have enacted national legislation dedicated to implementing the convention, while another 19 are in the process of drafting, considering, or adopting national legislation. Twenty-six states parties view other, more general national laws as sufficient to enforce the convention’s provisions.

While no single law represents best practice, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Clinic highlighted provisions of existing implementation statutes that offer support for each essential element of legislation. National legislation should incorporate both the prohibitions and the positive obligations to minimize the humanitarian harm caused by cluster munitions, the groups said. Read More

August 21, 2014

Fernando Ribeiro Delgado Discusses Criminal Code Reform in Brazilian Media

Posted by Cara Solomon

One of Brazil’s biggest daily newspapers quoted Clinical Instructor Fernando Ribeiro Delgado this past Sunday in an in-depth cover story on criminal code reform. The article in the Folha de São Paulo presents perspectives on a proposal gaining steam before congress that would harden criminal sentencing and close off several avenues for early release.

Brazilmedia

In a front page article in one of Brazil’s leading newspapers, Fernando Ribeiro Delgado is quoted on the topic of criminal code reform.

Delgado warns that Brazil is “following the path of failed crime policies,” drawing reference to U.S. “war on crime” laws that produced skyrocketing incarceration rates, a comparison he discusses further in a companion piece that ran in the Folha the same day.  Delgado points to one prison in particular, Aníbal Bruno, as “a symbol of the catastrophe of mass incarceration underway in Brazil.”  Though officially designed to detain some 1500 men, Aníbal Bruno Prison now commonly holds over 6000.

The Folha piece has an entire subsection based on a 2013 brief co-authored by the Clinic in the Aníbal Bruno Prison case, which is currently before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The Clinic has been working for the past four years with a civil society coalition in Brazil to push for widespread reform in Aníbal Bruno Prison and beyond.  This past May, the Inter-American Court issued its first legally binding resolution in the Aníbal Bruno case, ordering Brazil to take provisional measures to protect the life, personal integrity, and health of all persons at the prison. The order also mandates steps to reduce over-crowding and end the routine practice of strip searching family visitors at the notorious pre-trial detention center.  The coalition is currently focusing efforts on monitoring the implementation of the order.  A first set of periodic reports are due to the Court in the coming months, and a meeting between the parties and state agencies is scheduled for August 28 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.

August 20, 2014

HRP Alumni in the News

Posted by Cara Solomon

We use all kinds of strategies here at the International Human Rights Clinic to push for change. Litigation. Treaty negotiation. Documentation and reporting.

As Communications Coordinator, I’ve always been partial to advocacy. Media advocacy, to be more precise. This summer, our alumni are putting it to great use in outlets all over the world.

On Monday, The Huffington Post ran a column by Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, a Satter fellow with the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), documenting the devastating toll the conflict in Gaza is taking on civilians. For the column, Nicolette spoke by phone with Gazans she met last year while researching civilian perspectives on involvement, status, and risk in armed conflict, including in Libya, Bosnia, and Somalia.

In “No Safe Place in Gaza,” she writes:

A young woman described the crippling fear she had experienced over the last four weeks: “The worst of all is the night time,” she said. “There is no power, no electricity, and there are tens of drones in the sky. Whenever you hear a rocket, you think it’s targeting your house. You are running from one room to another. I know this is silly — if your house is hit, it won’t matter which room you were in.”

Each night, her family of six gathered on mattresses that they had pulled together in the middle of the living room, “far away from the windows, so that they don’t break,” she said. This way, if their house was hit, the whole family would be killed together. “We don’t want one of the family to survive and then have to grieve for the rest of us,” she said.

At the end of the column, Nicolette lists several strategies the Israeli government and Hamas could use to limit civilian suffering.

Closer to home, as police in combat gear clashed last week with protesters in Ferguson, MO, Sara Zampierin, JD ’11, a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, was quoted in a New Yorker article, “The Economics of Police Militarization.” The article attributed some of the tension in Ferguson to the underlying problem of “criminal justice debt,” which can often pit law enforcement against residents.

Now, across much of America, what starts as a simple speeding ticket can, if you’re too poor to pay, mushroom into an insurmountable debt, padded by probation fees and, if you don’t appear in court, by warrant fees…What happens when people fall behind on their payments? Often, police show up at their doorsteps and take them to jail.

From there, the snowball rolls. “Going to jail has huge impacts on people at the edge of poverty,” Sara Zampierin, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told me. “They lose their job, they lose custody of their kids, they get behind on their home-foreclosure payments,” the sum total of which, she said, is “devastating.” While in prison, “user fees” often accumulate, so that, even after you leave, you’re not quite free.

And earlier this summer, Clara Long, JD ’12, an immigration and border policy researcher with Human Rights Watch, waded into the heated debate over the surge of migration at the southeastern US border. In an Op-Ed she co-authored for The Guardian, Clara railed against the Obama administration’s plans to open more family detention centers. The headline read: “Obama pledged to limit the practice of detaining minors. What happened?”

It appears that the White House has come to view being “thoughtful and humane” as a political liability. The new move to ramp up family detention comes in response to criticism that the administration’s lax immigration enforcement “created a powerful incentive for children to cross into the United States illegally”, as Senator John Cornyn of Texas put it last week.

Obama’s move is all the more disappointing because effective alternatives to detention exist and are used in countries facing similar migration surges. Countries like Italy and Malta, prime entrances for migrants to the EU, have open reception facilities where migrant and asylum-seeking families can come and go at will – and Malta pledged to end immigration detention of children altogether in 2014. Though neither country has a spotless record – Italy summarily returns to Greece some unaccompanied migrant children and Malta sometimes detains unaccompanied migrant kids while authorities try to figure out their ages – their examples show that detaining kids with families is a choice, not a necessity.

Clara wrote another column for The Guardian on border removals in April.

In response to this flurry of activity, we at HRP have just two things to say: Thank you. And well done.

August 11, 2014

Clinic Files Proposed Amended Complaint in the Apartheid Litigation

Posted by Susan Farbstein and Tyler Giannini

Last Friday, the International Human Rights Clinic filed a proposed amended complaint in the Apartheid Litigation against two defendants, Ford and IBM.

The amended complaint demonstrates how the claims “touch and concern” the United States as required by the Supreme Court’s Kiobel decision, as well as how the Defendants acted with the purpose to aid and abet the South African government’s violations of international law, as required by the Second Circuit’s Talisman decision. In particular, the complaint alleges that, through policies and decisions made in the United States, Defendant Ford directed and controlled the sale of specialized vehicles to the South African security forces to suppress the black population, while Defendant IBM created and maintained an identity card system to denationalize the black population.