Close

Contact Us

loading

Human Rights @ Harvard Law

Blog

Blog

April 15, 2015

Tomorrow, April 16: “Should There Be Liability If…”

 

April 16, 2015

“Should There Be Liability If…”

1:00 p.m.

Suffolk University Law School (Room 375)

120 Tremont Street, Boston

 

Join Tyler Giannini and Ariel Nelson of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School for a discussion about the live issues in Alien Tort Statute (ATS) litigation, including whether torturers and other human rights abusers can use U.S. soil to shield themselves from accountability. Giannini and Nelson will examine current trends in the courts in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel in 2013. Since that time, the Clinic has authored numerous amicus briefs in major ATS cases around the country, and is co-counsel in two major ATS cases—one stemming from corporate complicity in Apartheid-era crimes and the other involving alleged extrajudicial killings that occurred in Bolivia in 2003.

April 10, 2015

Australian Radio Interviews Tyler Giannini on Mining Company Settlement with Rape Survivors

Posted by Cara Solomon

Earlier this week, Australian radio interviewed Tyler Giannini about a significant development in the world of business and human rights: one of the world’s largest mining companies, Barrick Gold, recently settled claims with a group of women in Papua New Guinea who were raped by the company’s security guards. The settlement, negotiated by EarthRights International, came as the women were preparing to file suit.

The International Human Rights Clinic has been investigating abuses around the Porgera mine for several years, along with NYU’s Global Justice Clinic and Columbia’s Human Rights Clinic. Reports of rape around the mine in the highlands of Papua New Guinea date back to at least 2006, but the company did not acknowledge them for years.

In 2012, the company set up a complaint mechanism, which Tyler describes in the interview as inadequate. Initially, the company was preparing to offer the women who stepped forward a compensation package of used clothing and chickens. At the urging of advocates, including the Clinic, the company later revised its offer, and more than 100 women accepted the settlement.

EarthRights represented a group that did not agree to settle through the company’s complaint mechanism. At least one woman described the original settlement offers as “offensive.”

“If you have settlements that aren’t really getting to justice, the discourse with the community is not really healed, and you don’t get real reconciliation,” Tyler said in the interview. “That’s not good for the company, that’s not good for the survivors, and I think that’s one of the lessons that needs to be taken away.”

Listen to the full 7 minute interview here

April 09, 2015

Clinic and HRW Release Report: “Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots”

PRESS RELEASE

The “Killer Robots” Accountability Gap

Obstacles to Legal Responsibility Show Need for Ban

 

(Geneva, April 9, 2015) – Programmers, manufacturers, and military personnel could all escape liability for unlawful deaths and injuries caused by fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report was issued in advance of a multilateral meeting on the weapons at the United Nations in Geneva.

RobotCoverThe 38-page report, “Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots,” details significant hurdles to assigning personal accountability for the actions of fully autonomous weapons under both criminal and civil law. It also elaborates on the consequences of failing to assign legal responsibility. The report is jointly published by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.

“No accountability means no deterrence of future crimes, no retribution for victims, no social condemnation of the responsible party,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior Arms Division researcher at Human Rights Watch and the report’s lead author. “The many obstacles to justice for potential victims show why we urgently need to ban fully autonomous weapons.” Read More

April 07, 2015

Clinic Op-Ed Published in Myanmar Media: “How One Father’s Letters Got Him Convicted”

Posted by Cara Solomon

We’re pleased to report that The Irrawaddy, an online news magazine in Myanmar, has just published “How One Father’s Letters Got Him Convicted,” an Op-Ed by Matt Thiman, JD ’16, Courtney Svoboda, JD ’16, and Tyler Giannini. The piece tells the story of Brang Shawng, a grieving father whose request for an investigation into his daughter’s death led to charges from the Myanmar military. The Clinic was among several organizations in December to sign an open letter to the President of Mynamar, requesting that all charges be dropped.

The piece begins:

Shortly after his daughter’s death, Brang Shawng sat down to write the first of two letters that would eventually get him convicted. He wrote to the president of Myanmar first, and then to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, wanting to know what had happened to his daughter, whom he believed had been shot by the Myanmar military.

“A submission is made with great respect,” he wrote to the president, “to find out the truth in connection with the killing, without a reason, of an innocent student, my daughter Ma Ja Seng Ing, who wore a white and green school uniform.”

In the letter, he recalled the day in his village clearly. It was Sept. 13, 2012, in an area of conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Myanmar military in the north of the country. A column of Myanmar Army soldiers had been in the village since before dawn. Late that afternoon, as the column was preparing to leave, there was a loud bomb blast. Then suddenly, soldiers shooting, and the sound of shouting and crying as villagers tried to take cover.

“It was just like the end of the world,” Brang Shawng wrote.

He hid with his wife and two children in their home. But one of their children was not with them: his 14-year-old daughter, Ja Seng Ing.

Read the full article in The Irrawaddy, an online outlet covering Myanmar and Southeast Asia

April 04, 2015

Monday, April 6: “Globalizing Ferguson: Racialized Policing and International Resistance”

Ferguson_Poster2_Final_3.27.15Monday, April 6, 2015

“Globalizing Ferguson: Racialized Policing and Internationalized Resistance”

12:00- 1:30 p.m.
Ames Courtroom, Austin Hall
Harvard Law School

 

Please join us for a forum that brings together community organizers, attorneys, and academics to discuss the international dimension of racialized policing, violence and structural injustice. What elements of these problems are transnational? Is there a role for transnational solidarity in fighting oppression? Can international human rights bodies provide vehicles of resistance? What are the possibilities and limitations of law and how can lawyers be good allies? Panelists will draw on their recent experiences in taking these struggles to the UN and the inter-American system, and on their involvement in solidarity delegations to Palestine and Brazil.

Panelists are Patrisse Marie Cullors, organizer, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, member of #DDPalestine delegation #BlackLivesMatter; Fernando Ribeiro Delgado, Clinical instructor, International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School; Justin Hansford – law professor, member of the Ferguson to Geneva Delegation; Meena Jagannath, Community Justice Project; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, MIT Program on Human Rights & Justice; Asha Ransby-Sporn, We Charge Genocide; Sherika Shaw, organizer at Dream Defenders, member of #DDPalestine, Brazil delegations. Julia Dehm, of Institute for Law and Global Policy, and Deborah Popowski, of the Human Rights Program, will moderate.

The forum will be live streamed; the link will be available on this page 24 hours before the event. Facebook event listing here.

After the discussion, there will be a limited enrollment workshop from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. The workshop will provide a space for experienced activists to engage us in discussions on strategy and opportunities for future advocacy and activism in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. What kind of concrete projects and tasks can law students and other members of our community work on to help advance the objectives of this movement? Together we will explore the possibilities and potential limitations of legal advocacy in this struggle for social change.

Note: The workshop is currently full, but if you’d like to be put on the wait list in the event of cancellations, please register here.

This event is being co-sponsored by La Alianza, Institute for Global Law & Policy, Dean of Students, Black Law Students Association, National Lawyers Guild – HLS Chapter, Law and International Development Society, South Asian Law Students Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Muslim Law Students Association, Advocates for Education, Advocates for Human Rights, African Law Association, Asia Law Society, Law and Social Change, Lambda Legal, Prison Legal Assistance Project, Criminal Justice Institute, UNBOUND, Students for Inclusion, Harvard Ferguson Action Committee. This event is sponsored in part by the Milbank Student Conference.

April 02, 2015

Former HRP Colleague Jim Cavallaro Elected Vice Chair of Inter-American Commission of Human Rights

Posted by The Human Rights Program

In the flurry of activity these past few weeks, we were remiss in not making an important announcement: Our good friend and former HRP colleague, James Cavallaro, was elected Vice Chair of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on March 13. This is an honor much deserved, and we’re excited to see what he will bring to the post.

April 01, 2015

Tomorrow, Thursday, April 2: “Ties to the Top: The Role of Government Officials in Human Rights Abuses in Myanmar”

April 2, 2015

“Ties to the Top: The Role of Government Officials in Human Rights Abuses in Myanmar”

 

Burma Poster_2 (2)As Myanmar approaches its second election later this year, join us for a discussion about accountability and its place in the country’s reform efforts. Panelists Roger Normand, of Justice Trust, and Matt Smith, of Fortify Rights, will join two advocates from Myanmar:

U Teikkha Nyana, a Buddhist monk who was severely injured two years ago when riot police used white phosphorus weapons to attack peaceful protesters; he recently joined with other injured monks to file an unprecedented lawsuit against the local police chief and the Home Affairs Minister. U Teikkha Nyana will join the conversation via Skype.

U Aung Thein, a Supreme Court advocate from Yangon who has represented more than 150 political prisoners, including leaders of the Saffron Revolution and Generation 88.

Tyler Giannini will moderate the discussion.

NOTE: This event will be live streamed here

This event is being co-sponsored by HLS East Asian Legal Studies

March 31, 2015

What’s So Bad About a 10-Mile Walk to School?

Posted by David Victorson, JD '16

A few weeks ago the Harvard Human Rights Program tweeted about the fact that many students in rural South Africa have to walk more than 20km each day to get to and from school. They cross rugged mountains and flooded rivers. They navigate dangerous highways and treacherous weather. They face physical injury and emotional harm.

Surprisingly, shortly after we posted our tweet, a small number of Twitter users pushed back. One accused us of ignoring how lucky these students are to even be at school, implying that the difficulties of getting there are inconsequential. Another responded that if “it doesn’t kill you it makes you strong.” But as those paying attention to news reports over the past month know, a poor learner transport system has, in fact, already led to the death and injury of multiple children this year. And on our recent trip to Nqutu, KwaZulu-Natal, it didn’t take long to find students who have personal experience with the risks of robbery, rape, kidnapping, and even the death of friends – all created by the long journey to school.

How can this be inconsequential? How does this make anybody stronger?

Faced with such a difficult journey to school, many affected students drop out before completing Grade 12. During our trip, we heard from those who have continued attending school that they arrive exhausted, hungry, and have difficulty focusing in class. When they get home late at night, they may have responsibilities such as caring for livestock, fetching water, and helping to bathe siblings, nieces, and nephews before they can study. Some students go to bed at 11:00 pm, only to rise at 4:00 am and start their journey again.

Because of the many hours lost traveling to and from school, these students are forced to fit a full 24-hour day into something much less. Many struggle to do so by sacrificing homework and sleep, which has long-term consequences on their ability to stay healthy, to concentrate and to learn, and ultimately, to reach their full potential as adults.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s unemployment rate currently hovers around 25%. Among the youth labor force, this numbers jumps to over 33%. Nearly one-third of those aged 15 to 24 are not in employment, education, or training. They are detached from the labor force with seemingly no way to better their situation.

The consequences for South African society stretch far beyond these unemployed individuals. Read More

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.