April 10, 2018
April 11, 2018
Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico?
12:00- 1:00 p.m.
For a country that is not engaged in a conflict, statistics on homicide, enforced disappearances, and the use of torture in Mexico are staggering. Jimena Reyes, Director for the Americas at the International Federation for Human Rights and Visiting Fellow at the Human Rights Program, has documented these crimes and argued that some of these can be considered crimes against humanity. Examining the collusion between the Zetas drug cartel and the authorities in Coahuila, Reyes will explore the legal issues at stake and the political obstacles for accountability of those crimes including through an International Criminal Court investigation.
Co-sponsored by the Harvard University Mexican Association of Students and the Mexican Law Students Association.
April 9, 2018
April 10, 2018
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Protection of LGBTQI Rights
12:00- 1:00 p.m.
Lunch will be provided
Please join HLS Lambda for a discussion with Ana Helena Chacón, Vice President of Costa Rica, on the landmark Advisory Opinion 24 issued last January by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding same-sex marriage and transgender rights. The Court resolved that same-sex couples should be recognized and guaranteed “all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex” and that governments must guarantee access “to all existing forms of domestic legal systems, including the right to marriage, in order to ensure the protection of all the rights of families formed by same-sex couples without discrimination.” The Opinion sets precedent for 19 other Latin American and Caribbean countries that have agreed to abide by the Court’s decisions.
In addition to being the Vice President of Costa Rica, Madame Chacón acted as the Representative of Costa Rica in the case before the Inter-American Court and is globally recognized as a vocal champion for LGBT rights.
This event is being co-sponsored by La Alianza and the Harvard Women’s Law Association.
April 4, 2018
April 5, 2018
The World’s Oldest Form of Existing Discrimination
12 -1 pm
Hauser 102 – Malkins Classroom
Please join the South Asian Law Students Association, the International Human Rights Clinic, and HLS Advocates for Human Rights for “The World’s Oldest Form of Existing Discrimination,” a talk with Dr. Suraj Yengde, a Human Rights lawyer and Non-Resident Fellow at the W.E.B Du Bois Institute at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University. Dr. Yengde will discuss the ongoing ramifications of the caste system in contemporary India, with specific attention paid to the failure of international institutions and the international community to effectively condemn caste. Dr. Yengde’s talk will additionally touch on the role of colonialism in perpetuating anti-Dalit oppression in India, as well as the ways in which law students and lawyers can effectively combat caste-based discrimination.
April 3, 2018
In Clinic Case, Jury Finds Former Bolivian President Responsible for Extrajudicial Killings of Indigenous People; Awards $10 Million in Damages
In a landmark decision today, a federal jury found the former president of Bolivia and his minister of defense responsible for extrajudicial killings carried out by the Bolivian military in September and October 2003. The decision comes after a ten-year legal battle spearheaded by family members of eight people killed in what is known in Bolivia as the “Gas War.” It marked the first time in U.S. history a former head of state has sat before his accusers in a U.S. human rights trial. The jury awarded a total of $10 million in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs.
Both the former Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and his former defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, have lived in the United States since they fled Bolivia following the massacre known as “Black October.” During that period, more than 50 people were killed and hundreds were injured. In Bolivia, in 2011, former military commanders and government officials who acted under Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín’s authority were convicted for their roles in the killings. Both Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín were indicted in the same case, but could not be tried in abstentia under Bolivian law.
The lawsuit originated from a collaborative effort between the International Human Rights Clinic and Bolivian lawyers, advocates, and community members seeking justice for the 2003 violence. Dozens of students have worked on the case since 2006.
“After many years of fighting for justice for our family members and the people of Bolivia, we celebrate this historic victory,” said Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, a plaintiff and member of the indigenous Aymara community of Bolivia, who were victims of the defendants’ decision to use massive military force against the population. “Fifteen years after they fled justice, we have finally held Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín to account for the massacre they unleashed against our people.”
In Mamani v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, the families of eight Bolivians who were killed filed suit against Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín in 2007. Today’s verdict affirms the plaintiffs’ claims that the two defendants were legally responsible for the extrajudicial killings and made decisions to deploy military forces in civilian communities in order to violently quash opposition to their policies.
“To me, it was the biggest honor of my life to work with the plaintiffs and learn from them in their struggle for justice,” said Thomas Becker ’08, who brought the idea for the lawsuit to IHRC after spending time in Bolivia and learning about the massacre there. “It’s an extraordinary privilege to witness this and be a small part of this.”
The three-week trial included the testimony of 29 witnesses from across Bolivia who recounted their experiences of the 2003 killings. Twenty-three appeared in person. Eight plaintiffs testified about the deaths of their family members, including: Etelvina Ramos Mamani and Eloy Rojas Mamani, whose eight-year-old daughter Marlene was killed in front of her mother when a single shot was fired through the window; Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, whose pregnant wife Teodosia was killed after a bullet was fired through the wall of a house; Felicidad Rosa Huanca Quispe, whose 69-year-old father Raul was shot and killed along a roadside; and Gonzalo Mamani Aguilar, whose father Arturo was shot and killed while tending his crops.
One witness, a former soldier in the Bolivian military, testified about being ordered to shoot at “anything that moves” in a civilian community, while another recounted witnessing a military officer kill a soldier for refusing to follow orders to shoot at unarmed civilians. Witnesses recounted how tanks rolled through in the streets and soldiers shot for hours on end. Others testified about how the president and minister of defense committed to a military option instead of pursuing dialogue with community leaders to reach a peaceful resolution.
In 2016, a U.S. appeals court held that the plaintiffs could proceed with their claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), which authorizes suits for monetary damages in U.S. federal court for extrajudicial killings. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín then sought and were denied a review by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017, and the case moved forward in U.S. District Court. After a review of the evidence gathered by both sides, District Court Judge James I. Cohn ruled on February 14 that the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
“There are just no words for what the plaintiffs have done over the past ten years to seek justice for their lost loved ones as well as many others who were killed in Bolivia,” said Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. “Today the jury gave the plaintiffs a huge victory, and showed that the former president and his defense minister are not above the law.”
“When I heard the verdict, I almost couldn’t believe it,” added Susan Farbstein, Co-Director of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. “The only thing I could think of was: We didn’t let down the plaintiffs, we didn’t disappoint them, we did our jobs.”
As co-counsel, the International Human Rights Clinic has been involved in all phases of the litigation from the outset, including researching and drafting for the complaint and various motions and briefs, assisting with oral arguments, and undertaking more than a dozen investigative missions to Bolivia since 2007. Over the past year, during the discovery phase, students traveled to Bolivia numerous times, and assisted with document review, interrogatories, and the depositions of plaintiffs, witnesses and experts; more than a half dozen students worked on every facet of the case during the three weeks of trial.
“It was fascinating to work under the legal team and have complete faith in their talent and ability to manage such a complex case,” said Amy Volz ’18, who traveled to Bolivia on four fact-finding trips. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
After the jury announced its verdict, the defendants made a motion asking the judge to overturn the jury’s finding of liability against both defendants. Both parties will submit briefing on this issue in the coming weeks.
“We’re not one to leave halfway through the fight,” said Baltazar Cerro. “We will struggle until the last moment.”
In addition to the Clinic, a team of lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firms of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman, LLP, and Akerman LLP are representing the family members. Lawyers from the Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia) are cooperating attorneys.
April 2, 2018
April 03, 2018
“International Religious Freedom in an Age of Nationalism”
12:00- 1:00 p.m.
Please join us for a discussion with Mustafa Akyol , author of “Islam Without Extremes: and Senior Fellow at the Freedom Project at Wellesley College; Brian Grim, founding President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and Co-editor of the World Religion Database; and Daniel Mark , Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Villanova University.
Sponsored by the Catholic Law Students Association; Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change; Human Rights Program; Jewish Law Students Association; Christian Fellowship; DOS Grant Fund; and the Harvard Islamic Society.
March 27, 2018
March 28, 2018
“Thailand: Shifting Ground Between the US and China”
A book talk by Benjamin Zawacki, former HRP Visiting Fellow
1730 Cambridge St
S153, 1st floor, CGIS South
Please join the Asia Center for a book talk with Benjamin Zawacki, author of “Thailand: Shifting Ground Between the U.S. and Rising China” and former HRP Visiting Fellow, and Professor Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and Director of the Thai Studies Program at the Harvard University Asia Center.
This talk is being sponsored by the Thai Studies Program at the Asia Center, and co-sponsored by HRP.
March 26, 2018
March 27, 2018
The U.S. in Yemen: What We Know, What We Don’t, and What That Means for Rights Protection
12:00- 1:00 p.m.
The war in Yemen has been marred by frequent violations of the laws of war by all parties to the conflict, and a humanitarian crisis that has left millions at risk of famine and continuing cholera and diphtheria epidemics. The United States is intimately engaged in this conflict, providing significant support to the Saudi-led coalition military campaign, carrying out unilateral strikes, and working in partnership with the UAE to counter Al-Qaeda. However, a lack of transparency about the ways in which the US is engaging in Yemen frustrates advocacy and accountability efforts.
This talk by Kristine Beckerle, Yemen and UAE Researcher, Human Rights Watch, will examine the US role in Yemen and explore the legal and policy avenues through which rights advocates can push for rights-respecting policies and practices, both in the context of Yemen as well as counter-terror efforts in the MENA region more broadly.
Hosted by the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change and co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program, the Middle Eastern Law Students Association, and HLS Advocates for Human Rights. Lunch will be served.
March 21, 2018
Earlier this week, Gerald L. Neuman, Co-Director of the Human Rights Program (HRP), and the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard Law School, sat down to discuss HRP’s upcoming conference, “Human Rights in a Time of Populism,” with Natalie McCauley, JD ‘19.
The conference, which is free and open to the public, takes place this Friday afternoon and Saturday all day on Harvard Law School’s campus.
So Professor, to start us out: What is this conference about?
Thank you for asking. We plan to discuss the current rise in populism: What are its causes? What are its effects? What implications does it have for the international human rights system? And how should the international human rights system respond?
We don’t expect the answers to these questions to be the same for every country, and that’s one of the things we’re going to be discussing.
We’ll have more than a dozen leading experts coming from as far away as The Philippines and as near as our own university. There will be specific discussion on the United States, Poland, Southeast Asia, Turkey, and Latin America, as well as cross-cutting themes.
I should clarify what I mean by populism. Political scientists offer different formulations for the notion of populism, as we’ll be discussing. The phenomenon of concern here is a kind of politics that employs an exclusionary notion of the people- the “real people,” as opposed to disfavored groups that are unworthy. Populist leaders then claim to rule on behalf of the “real people,” whose will should not be constrained.
And does this populism affect internationally protected human rights?
We plan to discuss examples of how that happens. But the easy answer is: Yes, it does. Certainly within the country, and it in cases it has implications for other countries as well. If we look internally, often populism then leads to targeting the excluded groups. But it also poses a danger to the majority. Populists deny the legitimacy of the political opposition. They often try to entrench themselves in power and undermine checks. Populism can tip over into authoritarianism.
We’re talking about examples in Poland, Duterte in the Philippines, and of course, President Trump here. Continue Reading…
March 15, 2018
The Human Rights Program and Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA) at Harvard Law School will jointly host one Wasserstein Fellow-in-Residence who will spend four months on the HLS campus (September through December 2018), and split their time between OPIA and HRP. At OPIA, the fellow will advise students about international public interest and human rights careers and assist OPIA staff in developing advising resources. At HRP, the fellow will devote the majority of their time to research and writing on a specific human rights topic, and be a member of its community of visiting fellows.
The Human Rights Program’s Visiting Fellows Program seeks to give thoughtful individuals with a demonstrated commitment to human rights an opportunity to step back and conduct a serious inquiry in the human rights field. Individuals who become fellows at the Program are usually scholars with a substantial background in human rights, or experienced activists. The fellows form an essential part of the human rights community at Harvard Law School and participate actively in the Human Rights Program Fellows Colloquium—each fellow makes a presentation to Human Rights Program staff, faculty, and other fellows on at least one occasion. Fellows are also encouraged to participate in a number of other Human Rights Program activities.
Please see OPIA’s website for additional information about the program, and details on how to apply to be a joint Wasserstein Fellow-in-Residence with OPIA and the Human Rights Program. The deadline to apply is April 13, 2018.
March 12, 2018
Earlier this month, we welcomed Carol Sanger, Visiting Professor at HLS and Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, and Mindy Roseman, Director of International Programs and Director of the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Rights at Yale Law School, for a timely and compelling conversation about human rights and the criminal punishment of abortion. Below is the full audio of their conversation.