October 6, 2014
Posted by Cara Solomon
Thanks to all who came from near and far to participate in our 30th anniversary event. It was, in a word, tremendous. For those who missed it, you may be interested in Harvard Law School’s coverage, which includes videos of Harold Hongju Koh’s keynote speech; the first panel, on human rights advocacy across the generations; and the second panel, on the future of UN treaty bodies.
We’ve posted a full gallery of photos on our Flickr account (we’re under “humanrightsharvardlaw”). In the meantime, we’ll leave you with some below.
September 18, 2014
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.
30th Anniversary of the Human Rights Program
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
August 20, 2014
Posted by Cara Solomon
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.
June 3, 2014
Posted by HRP staff and faculty
First of all: CONGRATULATIONS! YOU MADE IT!
Secondly, if we missed each other during commencement, here is what we wanted to say: Thank you. Thank you for the many things you brought to us, in addition to your time and talent. You showed us kindness and humility and curiosity and commitment- qualities that made us proud to work alongside you. We hope you will bring those things with you wherever you go.
Finally, we wanted to send our sincere appreciation to the students who made public service a focus of their time here. A grand total of 16 Clinic graduates performed more than 1,000 hours of community service: Lara Berlin, Tess Borden, Madison Condon, Catherine Cooper, Nathaniel Counts, Alexandra Gliga, Elizabeth Hague, Alysa Harder, Lindsay Henson, Maryum Jordan, Andrew Mamo, Lynnette Miner, Jonathan Nomamiukur, Harin Song, Colette Van Der Ven, and Sarah Wheaton.
Unbelievably, one of our graduates, Jeanne Segil, logged more than 2,000 hours of community service. And three were given the Dean’s Award for Community Leadership: Maryum Jordan, Jeanne Segil, and Sarah Wheaton.
Terrific work, Class of 2014. We wish you all the good luck that life has to give.
And now, for the party pictures:
May 28, 2014
Posted by Cara Solomon
This afternoon, during the Class Day ceremony, Tyler Giannini stood up to the podium and accepted from the Class of 2014 the Sacks-Freund Award for Teaching Excellence. It was a thrilling moment for those of us who know him, and work with him, and see this as a tribute not just to Tyler himself, but to clinical education at Harvard Law School.
His speech is reprinted below:
Thank you for this honor. It is humbling—and honestly a bit terrifying—to be here with all of you: with Dean Minow, faculty, staff, friends, parents, and the graduating class. In all seriousness, I am deeply moved to receive this teaching award from you, the graduating class. What has struck me—what continues to strike me—is how strange it feels to be singled out. Perhaps this is because I have always been part of a team in my human rights work—and it has never been more perfectly realized than here with the students and clinicians at our human rights clinic.
In reflecting on today—and I’m a clinician, so you better believe reflection comes with the territory—I thought back, I wondered—how was I crazy enough to start an NGO during my last year of law school, which then took me to Thailand for a decade, and then somehow end up here teaching at Harvard. The answer is clear to me: there have always been others with me along the way. I have never done it alone—never. Continue Reading…
March 21, 2014
Posted by Taylor Landis, JD '11, Satter Fellow and Researcher at Fortify Rights
Last month, the government of Myanmar made the shocking decision to evict Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) from Rakhine State, cutting off tens of thousands of mostly-stateless Rohingya Muslims from their last refuge of lifesaving medical care.
The decision came on the heels of a new report by Fortify Rights, offering definitive proof that the Myanmar government has targeted the minority Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine State for decades. The 79-page report, Policies of Persecution: Ending Abusive State Policies Against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, is based on leaked government documents, witness testimony, and public records, revealing severe violations of human rights of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, including restrictions on the freedom of movement, marriage, childbirth, lifesaving medical care, and other aspects of daily life in northern Rakhine State.
Denied citizenship in Myanmar, the 1.33 million Rohingya are confined to worsening conditions in Rakhine State. In our report, we make 20 recommendations to the government of Myanmar; chief among them is a call to abolish these abusive policies and end their enforcement.
The government’s response was telling: Within hours of publication, presidential spokesman Ye Htut condemned Fortify Rights and doubled-down on the government’s official line of racism by labeling the organization a “Bengali lobby group” – at once dismissing credible human rights concerns while invoking incendiary terminology (“Bengali”) employed to deny the Rohingya ethnicity and erroneously imply the Rohingya population are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Rendered stateless by Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law, an estimated 140,000 Rohingya have been forced into camps for internally displaced persons since 2012. when an eruption of violence between the Rohingya and ethnic-Rakhine Buddhists quickly gave way to orchestrated attacks on the Rohingya. Tens of thousands of others have fled the country by sea. Myanmar security forces have repeatedly failed to protect the Rohingya from attacks, and in some cases have participated in killings and other abuses against them. Continue Reading…
November 4, 2013
Clinic Contributes to Independent Task Force Report on Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the ‘War on Terror’
Posted by Cara Solomon
An independent panel of military, ethics, medical, public health, and legal experts released a report today, “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the ‘War on Terror,'” examining how doctors and psychologists, as well as U.S. military officials and intelligence agencies, were involved in the cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees.
Deborah Popowski, Clinical Instructor at the Human Rights Program and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, co-authored a chapter in the report, “Health Professional Accountability for Acts of Torture Through State Licensing and Discipline,” along with Kate Nicholson, Shuenn (Patrick) Ho, and Pooja Nair.
The chapter begins:
“No health professionals employed by or contracted with military and intelligence agencies have been held accountable for any acts of torture and other forms of mistreatment of post-9/11 detainees, either by those agencies or by civilian disciplinary boards. The costs of non-enforcement are great: non-enforcement undermines professional standards, erodes public trust, and undercuts deterrence of future misconduct. Lack of consistent enforcement also compromises protection of health professionals who face institutional pressure to violate their ethical obligations. By contrast, attention to accountability signals to licensees and those who employ them that the profession and institutions designed to ensure adherence to ethical obligations take violations seriously. Moreover, it empowers health professionals to resist demands by commanders to engage in acts that violate their professional responsibilities and to report abuse when they believe it has occurred.”
In addition to being a contributor, Deborah is also a member of the 19-member task force that brought together a range of perspectives to produce the report. The Institute on Medicine as a Profession along with the Open Society Foundations supported the initiative.
The Human Rights Program has been working for several years on the issue of accountability for health professionals involved in torture. Learn more about our focus on professional misconduct complaints here.
More coverage of the report:
October 23, 2013
Posted by Cara Solomon
Earlier this month, we welcomed the director Joshua Oppenheimer for a panel discussion of his controversial documentary, “The Act of Killing,” a film that explores a country where death squad leaders are celebrated as heroes. Its focus is Indonesia, where a military coup in 1965 led to killings of more than 1 million alleged Communists, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals. Oppenheimer examines the culture of impunity that surrounds those killings through interviews with perpetrators, asking them to re-enact their crimes in the style of their favorite Hollywood genres: the gangster, the western, and the musical.
Clinical supervisor and filmmaker Amelia Evans, LLM ’11, sat down with Oppenheimer prior to the event to discuss the film. The interview has been edited slightly for clarity.
Amelia: I understand the film had a collaborative beginning—that you got feedback from different community members and those in the human rights community and others before really fully embarking on the project. Can you tell me a bit about that, and why you did that?
Joshua: We began this work in collaboration with a community of plantation workers on a Belgian-owned oil palm plantation about 60 miles from Medan, where we made the film. As we made a film with them about their struggle to organize a union, which had been illegal under the Suharto dictatorship, we found out that they were survivors of the genocide. It turned out that the biggest obstacle they faced in organizing a union was fear. And they said: “Please come back as quickly as you can after making this first film to make a film about why we’re afraid.” Namely, the co-existence between perpetrators who enjoy total impunity, and survivors who are still intimidated by them.
When we got back, word had got out that we were interested in what happened in 1965, which was of course the source of their fear—or at least the reverberations of those events into the present—and the local army stopped allowing us to film with them. Police chiefs would show up, army chiefs would show up, plantation administrators backed up by the army would show up, and not let the survivors talk. The people we were filming with, who we had been very close to because we had made a film with them already, said: “Look, go and film this neighbor or that neighbor”—pointing out several who were death squad leaders at the time—”and they may have information about how our loved ones were killed.”
We filmed them, and they were immensely boastful, and we didn’t expect that, and it was horrifying and shocking. We felt like this is perhaps how the Nazis would talk if 40 years had gone by and they were still in power. And our work on the Belgian oil palm plantation had taught us that this was in fact the dark underbelly of globalization. Indonesia’s not the exception to the rule. What we’re hearing in this boasting is perhaps the allegory for the rule. Continue Reading…
September 9, 2013
Clinic and Partners Release Book Criticizing Chile for Failure to Meet International Obligations Towards Indigenous Peoples
Posted by Daniel Saver, JD '12, Skadden Fellow, Community Legal Services, East Palo Alto
Jointly with Stanford Law School, the Universidad Diego Portales, and the Universidad de Los Andes, the International Human Rights Clinic released a book today about the consultation rights of indigenous peoples in Chile. The book critiques the Chilean government’s failure to guarantee indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation, an international legal obligation Chile agreed to when it ratified International Labor Organization Convention 169 in 2008. See below for the full press release in English, then in Spanish:
Chile Fails to Meet International Obligations Towards Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights Experts Find
Book by international team of human rights experts documents violations of indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation
September 9, 2013, Santiago, Chile – Nearly five years after ratifying the International Labor Organization Convention 169 (“ILO 169”), Chile continues to violate indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation, according to a book released today by human rights experts in the Consorcio Norte-Sur. The Consorcio is a partnership between Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, the Universidad Diego Portales (Chile), and the Universidad de Los Andes (Colombia).
The Spanish-language book, titled “No Nos Toman en Cuenta” (“They Don’t Consider Us”), provides the most comprehensive review of the consultation rights of Chile’s indigenous people to date. The book examines several ways that the Chilean government has failed to guarantee indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation, including the government’s failure to implement international norms within its domestic legal system. The book also features in-depth case studies that document specific rights violations caused by salmon farming projects in indigenous territory in the south of the country.
“Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation guaranteed by ILO 169 is intended to ensure that these historically marginalized groups are able to participate in a meaningful way in decisions that directly affect them,” said Jorge Contesse, former director of Universidad Diego Portales’ Human Rights Center, now a law professor at Rutgers School of Law-Newark. “The failure to implement this right not only violates Chile’s international legal obligations, but also perpetuates distrust between indigenous peoples and the Chilean government, fueling conflict between the two.”
The case of the salmon hatcheries studied in the book highlights this dynamic. Researchers found that often the only consultation-like procedures were conducted by private investors, who provided special benefits for select members of indigenous communities in return for their support. Community members told investigators that this impermissible abdication of the state’s obligation to consult created conflict and upset traditional leadership structures and decision-making processes.
August 22, 2013
Posted by Cara Solomon
This past spring, more than 70 people gathered to celebrate the launch of the Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity (MSI Integrity), a business and human rights organization founded by Clinic alumna Amelia Evans, LLM ’11. It was a momentous occasion: MSI Integrity is one of the first non-profits to come out of the Clinical and Pro-Bono Program at Harvard Law School (HLS). In her comments, HLS Dean Martha Minow described its mission as both essential and exciting.
Recently, we sat down with Amelia to talk about the origins of MSI Integrity, and where it fits into the landscape of business and human rights.
Congratulations on the launch, Amelia. Before we start talking about the work of the organization, tell me a bit about how you get interested in the field of business and human rights in the first place.
Well, back in New Zealand, I was occupying two different worlds — I had dabbled in investment banking and commercial law, but was also an advocate at a domestic violence shelter. I felt really alienated from both of these spaces. At the firms, I felt that everybody was judging me for being part of a feminist collective, and when I was a participant in the collective, everyone was very skeptical of my commercial interests. It was frustrating that these two worlds just couldn’t be bridged, that they didn’t speak to each other in any way. At some point, I realized that the connection between the two was business and human rights, and I wanted to learn more about that.
Through my research, I saw the work that Tyler Giannini had done, so I applied to Harvard Law School hoping to work with him in the Clinic. Clinical education isn’t something that’s offered in New Zealand, and I was very eager to experience it. As soon as I got into HLS, I emailed Tyler to ask about getting involved in the Clinic in the fall, and he told me there were limited spots for LLMs. So I spent a lot of time crafting my application, and once I got in, I just tried to devote as many hours and credits to it as I could. I’m fairly certain no one could have taken more clinical credits than I did….I just loved it so much.
What kind of work did you do in the Clinic?
I was involved in three different business and human rights projects. One was the Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. case, at the appellate level, with the legal historians’ amicus brief. The second was a corporate accountability case looking at remediation for survivors of human rights abuses. And the third was about multi-stakeholder initiatives or MSIs, which are these voluntary organizations that address human rights concerns within a given industry. Basically, they bring together different actors—civil society, government, rights holders, and businesses themselves—in an attempt to strengthen human rights within that industry.
The goal of our clinical project was to understand how effective these MSIs were, and to do that by creating ways to evaluate that effectiveness from a human rights perspective.
Why the focus on MSIs?
They’ve become a go-to mechanism for corporate accountability given the governance gap that exists in today’s globalized economy. It’s really difficult to get a treaty developed, or to get legislation passed that applies with extraterritorial effect, so the response has often been, “Let’s try to do something voluntarily.”
Enter MSIs. They’ve exploded in number over the past decade. Name a major global industry, name a geographic area, name a human rights issue, and there’s an MSI that applies. Most consumers have never heard of them, but the fact is that we interact with the work of MSIs on a regular basis. The label that says it’s fair trade, the certification of diamonds as conflict or blood-free — this is all the work of MSIs.
In the Clinic, we saw MSIs as an innovative way to get at business and human rights issues. But the questions were: are they working? Are they leading to improved human rights outcomes? Or are they actually, in some ways, stopping improvement in human rights? Continue Reading…