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September 21, 2017
Friday, September 22, 2017
“In Pursuit of Accountability for Post-9/11 Torture: A Discussion with the Litigation Team of Salim v. Mitchell”
12:00- 1:00 p.m.
Lunch will be served
Please join us for a discussion with the litigation team behind Salim et al. v. Mitchell et al., the landmark case that sought to hold CIA-contracted psychologists Dr. Bruce Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell accountable for the post-9/11 torture program they devised. Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, and Lawrence Lustberg, chair of the Criminal Defense division at Gibbons Law in Newark, NJ, will discuss the recently settled case with moderator Paul Hoffman, a civil and human rights attorney and fellow member of the trial team currently teaching at HLS. The ACLU filed the lawsuit under the Alien Tort Statute on behalf of three victims of the CIA’s program, Mohammed Ben Soud, Suleiman Salim, and Gul Rahman, who died as a result of the torture inflicted on him.
September 18, 2017
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
“Freedom of Expression and LGBTI Equality in Jamaica”
A talk by Maurice Tomlinson, Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Lunch will be served
Please join us for a talk by Maurice Tomlison, Attorney and Senior Policy Analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, about his legal advocacy to challenge the repression of the LGBTI community’s freedom of expression in Jamaica. Mr. Tomlinson, the recipient of the David Kato Vision and Voice Award, serves as counsel and sometimes as claimant in cases that challenge anti-gay laws before senior tribunals in the Caribbean, and leads advocacy engaging U.N. agencies on the human rights situation for LGBTI people in the region. He also documents and reports on human rights abuses, and conducts training and capacity-building for the judiciary and police.
This event is sponsored by the Human Rights Program, Queer Trans People of Color@HLS, HLS Lambda, and HLS Advocates for Human Rights.
September 13, 2017
Now that the semester is underway, we want to extend our warmest welcome to all of the new staff and Visiting Fellows at the Human Rights Program. They are, in a word, fantastic.
Debbie Frempong, the new Program Assistant for the International Human Rights Clinic, comes to us from Harvard Divinity School, where she graduated with an MTS in Religion, Politics and Ethics. She holds a B.A. in Public Policy and Politics from Pomona College.
Debbie is taking on many of the responsibilities previously held by Katherine Young, who until recently worked as Program Associate. This summer, she was promoted to Program Manager, in charge of administrative management of the International Human Rights Clinic and the financial administration of the Human Rights Program.
Dana Walters, the new Program Assistant for the Academic Program, comes to us from the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, where she was a coordinator, and the Atlantic Media Company, where she was a fellow. Dana holds a B.A. in English and American Literatures from Middlebury College and an M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago, where she was previously pursuing a doctorate.
This semester, we’re also so pleased to welcome three Visiting Fellows. Continue Reading…
September 12, 2017
Posted by Anna Crowe, Yee Htun, Salma Waheedi, Tyler Giannini and Susan Farbstein
As human rights advocates, we support the student groups Lambda and QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Color) in their action today against Harvard Law School’s decision to allow JAG recruiting on campus, which is the school’s only exception to its anti-discrimination policy. We also support the students’ call for increased support and awareness for issues affecting the transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming community. We stand in solidarity with the students, staff and faculty seeking to build a more inclusive Harvard Law School.
Read the students’ statement here.
September 6, 2017
Posted by Cara Solomon
Yesterday, when we converged on Harvard’s campus to protest the end of DACA—when we listened to stories of pain and resistance; when we snapped our support; when we linked our arms, and chanted together, several hundred strong—one person was missing.
That person was Gabriela Gonzalez Follett, who never missed a fight for the rights of other people in her three years with us, first as Program Assistant, and later Program Coordinator. She left HLS last Friday, headed to teach English to children in a small Spanish town.
We could say that Gabriela was superb at her job, and it would be true. She organized nearly 100 events in her three years at the Human Rights Program, including conferences on everything from the role of African women in the post-2015 Development Agenda to climate change displacement and human rights. She became a master of managing the moving parts: speakers flying in from around the globe, last-minute technical breakdowns, calming the community’s fraying nerves.
On a daily basis, she supported the ever-changing needs of several clinical instructors; the staff of the Academic program; the Visiting Fellows; and hundreds of students seeking guidance on everything from the fellowship process to clerkship letters.
But now that Gabriela has officially left HRP, her job performance is not what many of us will remember.
We will remember her power.
Like so many great stories, Gabriela’s has an arc. By her own telling, she came to Harvard Law School intimidated, feeling less than the sum of her considerable parts. But she pushed past that feeling, followed her curiosity, and sat in on clinical seminars, collecting all the knowledge she could.
Then, when a crisis point came—the non-indictment of a white police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri—Gabriela quickly rose to meet the need. She reached out to students of color—not just as a friendly face in the office, but as a friend. In public and in private, on the job and off, she showed up in ways that went late into the night, and made others feel less alone.
One of those students, Keaton Allen-Gessesse, JD ’16, returned the favor nearly a year later, when the community gathered yet again to discuss racial equity on campus, in the aftermath of someone—or some people—defacing the portraits of black professors. In her comments, Keaton used her privilege as a student to raise concerns about the treatment of staff of color, a community that had gone overlooked in the discussion to that point.
Gabriela, inspired, rose to represent. She spoke about her own experience as a woman of color on campus—about the stereotypes that flew around her, and at her, and about the differences in the way she saw staff or color treated. When she finished speaking, she had become a leader in what became Reclaim Harvard Law School, a movement of students and staff pushing for institutional change and racial equity in education.
Gabriela spent the next several months strengthening the ties between students of color and staff of color while working tirelessly for the movement overall. At nights and on weekends, she sat through hours-long meetings, helping to substantively shape the content of the movement’s demands and manifesto. She hosted workshops; led art-actions; wrote an Op-Ed; coordinated critical email lists; spoke at community forums. She organized “family dinners” for staff of color. She slept overnight with the students in Belinda Hall, the student lounge the movement renamed in honor of Belinda Sutton, a former slave of HLS benefactor Isaac Royall.
And so it was that, less than two years into her time at HLS, Gabriela received the ultimate honor from HLS students: their Suzanne L. Richardson Staff Appreciation Award. (See video of her speech below.)
Gabriela would continue to support the Reclaim movement in ways small and large, right up until the day she left HLS. But it is hard to shake the power of her image on Class Day, rising to speak, and draping the traditional cloth from her mother’s homeland over the dais before she began—a woman completely at home, and entirely her own.
Thank you for the inspiration, Gabbie—and for the many gifts you brought to our door.
July 25, 2017
By Carina Bentata Gryting JD ’18, Molly Doggett JD ’17, Lan Mei JD ’17, and Alice Osman LLM ’17
Signing up for the International Human Rights Clinic in spring 2017, we could not have imagined that it would lead us to the United Nations and global negotiations to ban nuclear weapons. With Bonnie Docherty and Anna Crowe as our clinical supervisors, we worked alongside London-based organization Article 36 as well as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the civil society coalition at the conference. We had the unique opportunity to not only witness, but also actually participate in, norm-building at the international level.
It was at times difficult to explain to those not involved in the negotiations why the ban treaty was an important or even a sensible cause. Many people questioned the impact of a treaty being boycotted by the nuclear-armed states and their allies. For those of us participating in the negotiations, however, the purpose behind the treaty was complex but clear.
Nuclear weapons should no longer be the only weapon of mass destruction not prohibited by international law. A categorical ban on nuclear weapons would increase the stigma surrounding the weapons and ramp up pressure on nuclear states to work towards eliminating their arsenals. Moreover, a strong humanitarian motivation drove the treaty. Prior conferences on the impact of nuclear weapons had led many countries to declare the catastrophic effect of nuclear weapons incompatible with any legal or practical purpose. Countries like the Marshall Islands, Algeria, and Kazakhstan suffered from years of testing and their populations have experienced decades-long harm. Victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, known as Hibakusha, along with their children and grandchildren, still deal with the health and environmental consequences of atomic bombs today. Survivors of this use and testing offered compelling testimony for why nuclear weapons should be banned.
Our team focused on ensuring that the treaty not only prohibited nuclear weapons but also held true to its humanitarian purpose by directly addressing the horrific effects of nuclear weapon use and testing. Throughout the spring semester, we prepared papers, released at the negotiations, that made the case for including relevant provisions in the ban treaty. We argued that states parties should have the obligation to remediate environments affected by nuclear explosions and to provide assistance to victims within their territories. Other states parties should in turn help affected states implement their responsibilities. These “positive obligations” would not merely mitigate hypothetical future instances of nuclear weapon use, but would require states to deal with the significant ongoing impact of historic detonations. Existing humanitarian disarmament treaties, such as the Convention on Cluster Munitions, provided precedent for such provisions.
At first, it seemed unclear exactly how our research and advocacy could possibly influence the final text of the treaty. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) had a limited status at the negotiations, and indeed, during the three-week session in June and July, the breakout working groups discussing specific articles were closed to civil society members. This was an unfortunate and unexpected development, especially given that the president of the conference, along with many states, had thanked civil society for its contributions and acknowledged that the negotiations likely would not have come about without its efforts. Furthermore, several smaller states, whose UN missions in New York had only two or three officers, relied on civil society to provide them with information about the headway of the negotiations.
While disappointed at not having full access to the negotiating rooms, we continued to make our voices heard. We presented diplomats with papers laying out our legal and policy arguments. We regularly met with diplomats over lunch or coffee to receive updates about the progress of negotiations and to analyze key developments. We did real-time research on the concerns states had about our positions and figured out ways to address them. The publications we had disseminated at the opening of the negotiations served as a foundation for our advocacy efforts: they helped us articulate our positions to both state delegates and fellow civil society actors and formed the basis of presentations, talking points, newsletter articles, and model treaty language. It was extremely rewarding to know that the work we had put in throughout the semester was able to assist Article 36 and the broader civil society coalition.
Our work ultimately had a tangible impact on the content of the treaty. A year ago, few people were thinking about including positive obligations in the prohibition convention, and the first draft of the text, released in May, was weak. But the final version included all the obligations for which we had advocated.
The last moments of the negotiations on July 7 were a dramatic affair. Against the hopes of most governments and civil society, the Netherlands objected to adopting the new treaty by consensus. In the final vote, though, overwhelming support for the treaty bolstered its credibility equally well: 122 states voted in favor of the ground-breaking convention, with only the Netherlands voting against and Singapore abstaining.
Joining the celebrations of jubilant state delegates and civil society advocates, many of whom had been campaigning against nuclear weapons for decades, was an unforgettable experience. We all felt extremely grateful to have had the chance to be a part of this passionate community of disarmament activists during what was a major moment in the history of efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.
June 27, 2017
Posted by Alice Osman and Molly Doggett
Member states of the UN General Assembly are currently engaged in historic negotiations of a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. At this point, nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to a categorical prohibition in international law. A team from the International Human Rights Clinic, which is participating in the negotiations in New York, has joined the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in urging countries to adopt a strong treaty that is focused on preventing and remediating the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapon use and testing.
Prohibitions on the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of nuclear weapons are necessary but insufficient components of the new treaty. In order to address the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons effectively, states parties must also adopt positive obligations to provide assistance to victims in their territory and to remediate environmental contamination caused by nuclear weapon use and testing. In partnership with London-based NGO Article 36, our clinical team has released papers arguing for the inclusion of victim assistance and environmental remediation treaty provisions.
We have been encouraged to see that the draft text of the treaty contains provisions on victim assistance and environmental remediation. However, stronger and more comprehensive provisions are necessary to ensure that the needs of victims and the environment are effectively met. We are advocating for a clear obligation on affected states parties to remediate contaminated areas; currently environmental remediation measures are merely optional. In addition, the draft text does not require all affected states parties to assist victims in their territory, and thus is inconsistent with human rights law. We are calling for strong obligations on other states parties to help affected countries meet their positive obligations.
Many countries have agreed on the need for victim assistance and environmental remediation. The main point of debate has centered on the question of who should bear the responsibility for these obligations. Some delegations have suggested that states that use or test nuclear weapons (“user states”) should bear primary responsibility for providing assistance to victims and remediating the environment. By contrast, a number of other states, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and ICAN have argued for placing primary responsibility for these activities on affected states.
We believe that responsibility for positive obligations must lie with affected states for both legal and practical reasons. First, victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations aim to ensure that the rights of people living in affected areas are protected and realized. It is a basic premise of international human rights law that each state is responsible for protecting and fulfilling the rights of individuals within its own territory. This allocation of responsibility also respects the sovereignty of affected states parties, who can set priorities and develop plans for victim assistance and environmental remediation within their territories.
Second, because of their proximity and access to victims and contaminated areas, affected states are in the best position to deliver aid to victims and to undertake environmental remediation. Moreover, there is a serious risk that placing the primary responsibility on user states, which are unlikely to join the treaty in the immediate future, will leave the needs of victims and the environment unaddressed.
Finally, affected state responsibility for victim assistance and environmental remediation follows the precedent of other humanitarian disarmament treaties, such as the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Treaty.
Some countries have expressed concerns that heavily affected states with limited resources would be unable to meet their positive obligations. But affected states should not face the task of implementation alone. The strong international cooperation and assistance provision for which we are advocating would require other countries party to the treaty (including user states) to contribute to victim assistance and environmental remediation efforts. This arrangement would ensure that the treaty does not place an undue burden on affected states, while guaranteeing that the needs of the victims are in fact met.
Only seven days of negotiations remain. We will continue to engage with delegates to ensure that states fully understand the importance of positive obligations and that international assistance can decrease the burden on affected states. We are hopeful that the next version of the text will address these issues and better meet the humanitarian goals of the convention.
The Clinic’s nuclear weapons team includes: Carina Bentata Gryting, JD ’18, Molly Doggett, JD ’17, Lan Mei, JD ’17, and Alice Osman, LLM ’17. The team was supervised by Bonnie Docherty, Associate Director for Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection, and Clinical Instructor Anna Crowe.
For a full discussion of victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations, see:
Victim Assistance in the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty: A Comprehensive and Detailed Approach
(June 2017, Briefing paper)
Environmental Remediation in the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty: A Comprehensive and Detailed Approach (June 2017, Briefing paper)
For a summary of our arguments and recommendations:
Key Points: Victim Assistance in the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty (June 2017, Working paper)
Key Points: Environmental Remediation in the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty (June 2017, Working paper)
June 16, 2017
Neither Facially Legitimate Nor Bona Fide–Why the Very Text of the Travel Ban Shows It’s Unconstitutional
Posted by Gerald Neuman
This article was first published on Just Security.
As the litigation over the travel ban moves to the Supreme Court, the most important passage in the Fourth Circuit’s en banc opinion may be a tangential footnote finding “yet another marker” of illegitimate purpose in the text of the Executive Order. Both the first version of the Executive Order (of January 27) and the second version (of March 6) include language that any informed observer would recognize as evidence that the purpose of the travel ban is to gratify and further incite hostility against Muslims.
Advocates seeking to persuade doubting Justices should not be distracted by the voluminous debates about whether candidate Trump’s statements count against the constitutionality of President Trump’s actions. For Justices inclined to interpret narrowly the standard of review in immigration cases, the explicit statement of purpose in the first EO, and the residual markers in section 11 of the revised EO, should provide the starting point.
In the first EO, the final paragraph of section 1 explained the EO’s purpose as follows:
In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.
As the Fourth Circuit noted, “Numerous amici explain that invoking the specter of ‘honor killings’ is a well-known tactic for stigmatizing and demeaning Islam and painting this religion, and its men, as violent and barbaric.” The thinly coded incitement throughout this purpose paragraph is perhaps best explained in Aziz Huq’s amicus brief for Muslim Rights, Professional and Public Health Organizations.
Consistent with that goal, section 10(iii) of the first EO directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to collect and publish “information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals…” The mandate to publish enlists the department in nothing short of an ongoing campaign of anti-Muslim agitation.
The March 6 EO, which President Trump has now dismissed in a tweet as a “politically correct” version of his real policy, deletes the explanation of purpose, but retains the collection and dissemination of data on “types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’” in section 11(iii). That directive has no conceivable relation to the alleged national security purpose of the travel ban, and it continues to reveal the true underlying purpose of both orders.
This facial evidence of illegitimate purpose has particular salience because the dispute involves immigration policy, and the Justices are likely to view it through the lens of specialized precedents that have operated in relation to substantive immigration restrictions. In the 1970s, when the Supreme Court abandoned an earlier doctrine that had made constitutional challenges to criteria for grant or denial of admission nonjusticiable, it articulated instead a diluted test of constitutionality. Kleindienst v Mandel (1972) and Fiallo v Bell (1977) required the government to show that the restriction was based on a “facially legitimate and bona fide reason.” The time may have come to move beyond this standard, but the Justices might not – and need not — make the case of Trump’s EO the occasion to do so.
The opinion of Justices Kennedy and Alito, concurring in the judgment in Kerry v Din (2015), sheds light on the meaning of the standard, explaining that the government’s reason must be legitimate on its face and the government must be acting in good faith. If the challenger makes an affirmative showing of bad faith, the court may look to additional factual details that determine the constitutionality of the government action.
While both elements are required to uphold a government restriction, it may be safer for advocates to point to indications of unlawful purpose on the face of the orders before turning to extrinsic evidence of bad faith. The January 27 version of the order is so obviously the context of the March 6 version that both should be examined together, yet even viewing the March 6 EO in isolation, the incongruous attention to honor killings cries out for further inquiry.
The Fourth Circuit rightly asserted that “we cannot shut our eyes” when evidence “stares us in the face.” The religious animus that underlies the Executive Orders is already visible in the text, and the less formal statements merely provide confirmation. That point deserves more emphasis.
June 1, 2017
We are thrilled to announce today that the Human Rights Program has hired Yee Htun and Salma Waheedi as clinical instructors in our International Human Rights Clinic.
For the past year, Yee and Salma have worked with us as clinical advocacy fellows, supervising projects on everything from land rights and telecommunications policies in Myanmar to torture in Iraq. They also share a strong focus on gender justice.
For Yee, that focus comes from a personal place. She’s spent most of her career as an attorney working on women’s rights, often with refugee and migrant communities. Yee herself was born in Myanmar and immigrated to Canada as a government-sponsored refugee.
“Women’s rights for me is not an abstract concept but a cause to which I have dedicated most of my life’s work to,” said Yee. “Whether it is coordinating and launching the first ever global campaign with Nobel Peace Laureates to stop sexual violence in conflict or offering legal counsel to women’s organizations seeking to enact a prevention of violence against women law, I have done it out of the belief that only when we give power to women and girls do we advance the human rights for all.”
Until recently, Yee was the Myanmar Program Director for Justice Trust, a Yangon-based international legal non-profit organization that provides support to communities. This year, she worked with clinical students to elevate the voices of women human rights advocates in the country; convene workshops on law reform in Myanmar with LGBTQI activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and lawyers; document land policy that discriminates against women; and examine the country’s new telecommunications law, which has had a chilling effect on free speech.
Salma came to the Clinic this year as a joint fellow with the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change, where she focused on women’s rights in Islamic legal systems and issues of legal reform and gender justice in Muslim family laws. This past year, she and her students worked with women’s rights lawyers and advocates across different Muslim countries, documenting legal obstacles to women’s equality, advocating for an end to discriminatory policies and practices, and engaging with the committee of the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to foster deeper and more productive dialogues with the states.
In the Clinic, Salma also plans to focus on business and human rights concerns in the Middle East, particularly with respect to issues of corporate accountability and economic justice. Before entering the legal profession, Salma worked in her native country of Bahrain as Economic Planning and Development Director at Bahrain’s Economic Development Board, and later served as a consultant on economic policy and international development around the world.
As a lawyer, she continued to advocate for social and economic justice through community development and legal assistance programs in the United States and abroad.
May 26, 2017
Dear Class of 2017,
CONGRATULATIONS! You made it!
And you did it not just with intelligence, but with heart, which makes it all the better. So today, we send you off with two things: Gratitude, for all that you brought to our community, and hope, that you work with humility and heart to strengthen all the other communities you make your home.
We also want to send a special shout out to Mana Azarmi, who won the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA). Our very own Kenna Graziano, Lan Mei, and Loren Voss won the Dean’s Award for Community Leadership. And to the many clinical students who gave more than 1,000 hours of pro bono work during their time at HLS: Sarah Abraham, Mana Azarmi, Roi Bachmutsky, Torrance Castellano, Laura Dismore, Roni Druks, Kenna Graziano, Kelsey Jost-Creegan, Alice Kim, Lan Mei, Michael Perloff, Silvia Ruiz, Leora Smith, Marin Tollefson, Daniel Traficonte, and Danielle Young.
And now, for scenes from our annual commencement party with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic and the Food Law and Policy Clinic, with big thanks to Jordana, Gabbie and Katherine for organizing!
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