Blog: Criminal Justice
April 20, 2016
TODAY, April 20: “Human Rights, UN Millennium Development Goals, and Federal Prosecutions in Brazil”
April 20, 2016
“Human Rights, UN Millennium Development Goals,
and Federal Prosecutions in Brazil”
A talk by Raquel Ferreira Dodge, Subprosecutor-General of the Republic, Federal Prosecutor’s Office, Brazil
12:00- 1:00 p.m.
What if prosecutorial priorities were expressly oriented toward the promotion of human rights and development? Might that alter the typical targets of law enforcement? Please join us for a discussion with Raquel Ferreira Dodge, Subprosecutor-General of the Republic, Federal Prosecutor’s Office, Brazil, on the efforts of the Coordination and Review Chamber on Crime and Police Oversight of the Brazilian Federal Prosecutor’s Office (Ministério Público Federal) to link prosecutions more clearly to human rights promotion and the attainment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Organized by the Brazilian Studies Association at Harvard Law School, La Alianza, the Women’s Law Association, Students for Inclusion, and the Human Rights Program.
April 7, 2016
Posted by Keaton Allen-Gessesse, JD '16
Yesterday, it was my great honor to present Fernando Ribeiro Delgado, my former clinical instructor, with the Shatter the Ceiling Award for Excellence in Integrating Critical Race Theory into the Curriculum. The annual award, given by Students for Inclusion and the Shattered Ceiling Committee of the Harvard Women’s Law Association, is based on feedback from a student survey. Below are the comments I prepared for the ceremony, followed by the complete list of faculty honorees:
“The first time I thought ‘there may actually be a place for students like me here’ was during my 2L year in the International Human Rights Clinic. Deborah and Tyler’s human rights seminar was intellectually engaging in ways I had never experienced at HLS and I was sure none of my other classes could compare. But my developing clinical education with Fernando was not just comparable; it was the ultimate practical supplement.
Team meetings were my oasis amid an exorbitant education generally void of critical analysis. Our clinical project – using human rights law to advocate for a moratorium on private prison expansion in Brazil – facilitated an evolution of my social and legal imagination. As expected, we learned international case law and how to compose persuasive legal arguments. More importantly, Fernando encouraged us to embrace our curiosity and creativity as we investigated the laws’ capacity to maintain or dismantle oppressive regimes.
Fernando takes a similar approach to his teaching in the classroom, as illustrated by the following quote from a current student:
‘The central premise of critical race theory in the legal context is how the law is used as a tool in maintaining white supremacy and how we can transform the relationship between the law and racial power. In our institution, we see a curriculum that fails to view the law through this lens with almost no emphasis on critical race theory. But its central premise is taken up by Fernando in his Human Rights and Criminal Justice class. Fernando examines how the prison industrial complex, from Brazil to Baltimore, is used as a tool to oppress communities of color and encourages his students to think critically about how the law is used to disenfranchise minority communities. His students appreciate his carefully curated readings, which aside from breaking with Harvard Law tradition in being short, collect voices which are typically not heard within our school, including works by Angela Davis on prisons, Michelle Alexander on mass incarceration as the new Jim Crow, and Makau Matua on how our system of international human rights preserves an international legal order of white colonialism.
Fernando is a living example and inspiration of how we can use our power as human rights advocates to elevate the voices of marginalized causes and groups and to never forget that this is not about us but about liberation. For so many of us disillusioned by humanity, Fernando’s class is a sanctuary in which we as imperfect advocates can fight for racial justice in a system where we don’t even know what that means or looks like.’
I thought Fernando was one of the best-kept secrets at HLS, but this award demonstrates that it was foolish to think that I alone recognized his magic. If anything, I am now discovering the significant community of students he has inspired and transformed throughout the years.
Fernando, I am so very honored to present you with this award. Without that formative semester in the Clinic and in your seminar, I would never have been able to envision a better legal system, nor a better Harvard Law School. So I thank you deeply – more than I can adequately articulate – for modeling the type of human rights advocate that I, and so many others in this room, aspire to be. ”
February 17, 2016
Posted by Susan Farbstein
Last week in South Africa, there was an important—and surprising—development related to the 1983 torture and murder of Nokuthula Simelane. I previously wrote about the case as an egregious example of the lack of accountability for apartheid-era crimes, as well as the apparent political obstruction that effectively blocked the investigation and prosecution of nearly 300 post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) cases.
But perhaps the tide is turning. On February 8th, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that it will charge four former apartheid security policemen with Simelane’s kidnapping and murder. This represents the first prosecution of apartheid-era perpetrators since a 2007 plea agreement with five senior police officers, among them Adriaan Vlock, who served as Minister of Law and Order.
Former TRC Chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu described the breakthrough as a “most significant and historic decision,” but also questioned why the NPA delayed for decades and proceeded only after Simelane’s family launched a High Court case to compel the NPA into action. The NPA has said that it is moving ahead now because of the strength of the evidence and merits of the case, which create reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution.
The four former members of the Soweto Special Branch—Willem Helm Johannes Coetzee, Anton Pretorius, Frederick Barnard Mong, and Msebenzi Radebe—are due to appear in court on February 26th. Although three of the accused applied to and received amnesty from the TRC for Simelane’s abduction, none applied for her murder. Because of this failure to make a full disclosure, the case was referred to the NPA and now appears set to proceed.
November 13, 2015
Posted by Susan Farbstein
Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, faces the imminent threat of execution next week despite being convicted and sentenced through a deeply flawed process. Our partners at Akin Gump are working with Chowdhury’s family to call attention to his case, in the hopes that increased international scrutiny might lead to a different outcome.
Chowdhury was tried and convicted by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) of Bangladesh, a body established by the ruling Awami League to prosecute those accused of committing international crimes during Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan in 1971. A variety of international human rights organizations and experts have roundly criticized the ICT, which began operating in 2010, for failing to uphold basic fair trial and due process standards.
For example, Human Rights Watch has characterized the trials as “deeply problematic, riddled with questions about the independence and impartiality of the judges and fairness of the process.” The International Commission of Jurists has identified “serious procedure flaws at all stages: pre-trial release has been routinely and arbitrarily denied; witnesses have been abducted and intimidated; there have been credible allegations of collusion between the Government, prosecutors and judges.” In an exhaustive study commissioned by the International Forum for Democracy and Human Rights, Geoffrey Robinson also documented a range of procedural concerns related to treatment of alibi evidence, burden of proof, use of judicial notice, time and facilities to prepare the defense, hearsay evidence, and capacity of the judges. And the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions and on the independence of judges and lawyers have spoken out against multiple irregularities, including complaints from defense witness and lawyers about “an atmosphere of hostility, intimidation and harassment.”
Chowdhury’s case brings these general concerns into stark focus, as his trial suffered from numerous flaws that violated fundamental due process standards. For example, the tribunal denied Chowdhury’s defense team the opportunity to submit exonerating evidence to show that he was not present in Bangladesh at the time of his alleged crimes. The ICT did not allow multiple defense eyewitnesses to testify and failed to consider affidavits from other key witnesses, including a former U.S. Ambassador and a former Pakistani Prime Minister. The Bangladesh Supreme Court recently rendered a decision refusing to admit this substantial evidence; Chowdhury’s final review hearing is scheduled for November 17th.
Both Amnesty International and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have rightly warned that, “given serious concerns about the fairness of trials conducted before the Tribunal, the Government of Bangladesh should not implement death penalty sentences.” Perpetrators of international crimes should be held accountable for their heinous acts. But prosecutions—like Chowdhury’s—that fail to meet international fair trial standards cannot deliver the justice that survivors and victims deserve, and only serve to undermine the rule of law.
For more information, please click here.
September 28, 2015
Coalizão demanda investigação federal em audiência na OEA sobre violência, corrupção no Complexo Prisional Aníbal Bruno (Curado)
Coalizão demanda investigação federal em audiência na OEA sobre violência, corrupção no Complexo Prisional Aníbal Bruno (Curado)
Lista de mais de 500 vítimas será apresentada à Corte IDH
28 de setembro de 2015, San José, Costa Rica – O Estado brasileiro aparecerá hoje perante a Corte Interamericana de Direitos Humanos para prestar esclarecimentos sobre o alto número de violações de direitos humanos dentro do Complexo Prisional Aníbal Bruno (renomeado Complexo do Curado), que vem se agravando desde que a Corte determinou a imposição de medidas provisórias em maio de 2014. A coalizão de entidades de direitos humanos que levaram o caso à OEA demanda uma investigação penal federal sobre violência e corrupção no local, tendo preparado novas evidências – incluindo fotografias, vídeos e uma lista com mais de 500 vítimas de morte e/ou violência. Ontem, as falhas do Estado no Complexo geraram mais vítimas durante um tumulto, com Ricardo Alves, residente próximo ao presídio, morrendo de “bala perdida” e dois presos sendo baleados.
O Aníbal Bruno é um retrato emblemático das muitas aflições que assolam os sistemas prisionais latino-americanos. O notório presídio é representativo de uma convergência de fatores que frequentemente caminham juntos, como violência, tortura, acesso à saúde deficiente, superencarceramento e denúncias de corrupção, todos registrados em um mesmo local. Desde os estágios iniciais do caso, a coalizão de organizações que monitoram o presídio tem constantemente sustentado que o Estado falhou ao não abordar de maneira apropriada e efetiva tais problemas, trazendo à luz extensiva documentação dos abusos cometidos.
Durante a audiência, que será transmitida ao vivo no site da Corte às 14hs, horário de Brasília, a coalizão irá disponibilizar fotos, vídeos e outras provas apresentadas no website arquivoanibal.weebly.com.
A Comissão Interamericana de Direitos Humanos começou a monitorar o Complexo Aníbal Bruno em 2011. Duante quatro anos, a coalizão catalogou violações à dignidade humana dos presos, funcionários e visitantes do Complexo. Um preso, por exemplo, relatou em fevereiro de 2015 que, em função da superlotação, dormia amarrado às barras que revestem a cela, por meio de uma rede improvisada. O encarceramento de mais de 7 mil indivíduos em um espaço com capacidade para menos de 1,9 mil pessoas é reflexo não somente da situação calamitosa do sistema prisional pernambucano, que possui uma das piores taxas de encarceramento no Brasil, mas também de uma realidade prisional nacional que historicamente encarcera violando direitos.
A coalização de organizações de direitos humanos responsáveis pelo caso compreende a Pastoral Carcerária, o Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões – SEMPRI, a Justiça Global e a Clínica Internacional de Direitos Humanos da Faculdade de Direito de Harvard.
September 22, 2015
Inter-American Court of Human Rights Summons Brazil to Answer for Wave of Violence and Deaths at Aníbal Bruno Prison (Curado Complex)
Brazilian state will be “in the dock” before the Organization of American States (OAS) body at the end of September
September 22, 2015 – After three major riots and at least sixteen deaths (including one police officer killed and one prisoner quartered) within the last year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has taken the rare step of summoning the Brazilian state to a public hearing at the end of the month to answer for recurring violations at the Aníbal Bruno Prison Complex (renamed Curado Complex), one of the largest prisons in Latin America.
The Court has ordered the Brazilian state to protect the life and integrity of prisoners, staff, and visitors of the notorious prison since May 2014, when it analyzed hundreds of complaints of abuse presented by a coalition of human rights organizations. At the hearing—set to take place on September 28 and be broadcast live from Costa Rica at 1:00 p.m. EST on the Court website (http://www.corteidh.or.cr) the coalition will present new evidence demonstrating the continuation of grave abuses at the Complex, including decapitations, gang rapes, beatings, and knife attacks.
Aníbal Bruno Prison has been under international scrutiny since August 2011, when the facility started being monitored by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Since then, the coalition has documented chronic abuses, such as the presence of the so-called chaveiros: prisoners who effectively carry out official functions in the cellblocks, and are granted the authority to maintain order and discipline in the facility, often through the use of violence. A window onto the crisis of the Brazilian prison system, Aníbal Bruno incarcerates more than 7000 men in space designated for fewer than 1900, with an insufficient number of officers to adequately ensure security. The State has also been negligent regarding the conditions of human security pertaining to state agents.
The coalition of human rights groups responsible for the case is comprised of the Catholic Prison Ministry (Pastoral Carcerária), Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons (Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões – SEMPRI), Global Justice (Justiça Global), and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.
In February of this year, the coalition released the filings from the international case online in order to bring attention to the situation of the Aníbal Bruno Prison Complexo. For more information, please visit: http://arquivoanibal.weebly.com.
Corte Interamericana de Direitos Humanos Exige Explicações ao Brasil sobre Onda de Violência e Mortes no Presídio Aníbal Bruno (Complexo do Curado)
Estado Brasileiro estará “no banco do réus” no final de setembro perante órgão da Organização dos Estados Americanos (OEA)
22 de Setembro de 2015 – Após três rebeliões e ao menos 16 (dezesseis) óbitos (incluindo um policial morto e um preso esquartejado) no último ano, a Corte Interamericana de Direitos Humanos tem tomado a rara iniciativa de convocar o Estado brasileiro a uma audiência pública no final do mês para responder sobre as violações reiteradas no Complexo Prisional Aníbal Bruno (renomeado Complexo do Curado), um dos maiores presídios da América Latina. Continue Reading…
June 29, 2015
Posted by Fernando Ribeiro Delgado
The coalition of civil society representatives in the Aníbal Bruno (Curado) Prison litigation before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has issued a statement urging the government of Pernambuco, Brazil, to rescind its prohibition on the use of cameras during prison inspections. The camera ban has impeded the collection of evidence of human rights abuses at the prison.
The prohibition was first enforced just a few months after the coalition’s publication of the case files of the Aníbal Bruno litigation this past February. The case files—partially redacted to preserve privacy, security, and investigatory integrity—provide an alarming picture of chronic violence, torture, lack of access to healthcare, and arbitrary detention at the notorious prison. Photographic evidence is vital to documenting the realities of the Aníbal Bruno Complex, which incarcerates nearly 7000 men in space designated for roughly 2000.
This is not the first time the coalition has faced a camera ban in Pernambuco. In 2012, a similar prohibition hindered efforts to gather evidence in numerous cases, including that of a severely injured Aníbal prisoner who reported being raped by officers.
Prison administrators lifted that ban in 2013, after the coalition used drawings by a clinical student to publicly expose abuses at Aníbal Bruno.
The civil society coalition litigating the case is comprised of Pastoral Carcerária (Catholic Prison Ministry), Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões (Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons), Justiça Global (Global Justice), and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.
Read the coalition’s full statement, which was released last Friday, International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (translated from Portuguese):
June 26, 2015
After photos revealed torture practiced by United States personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, authorities appeared more concerned with obscuring than responding. They prohibited cameras. They offered amnesty to those who handed over other photographs, later refusing to make them public. They did not prosecute any high level official, but they publicly exposed the name of the soldier who turned in the embarrassing evidence, effectively condemning him to fear reprisals.
This Friday, we remember the International Day in Support of Torture Victims repudiating this type of inverted logic in Brazil. Since May 18, members of our coalition of human rights organizations have been forbidden from entering with cameras at the Aníbal Bruno Prison Complex (officially renamed “Complexo do Curado”) in Recife. The coalition—composed of the Pastoral Carcerária [Catholic Prison Ministry], Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões [Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons], Justiça Global [Global Justice] and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard University—has already met twice with high-level Pernambuco government officials without being able to reverse this prohibition.
Photography is explicitly provided for in the United Nations Istanbul Protocol, an internationally recognized methodology for documenting torture cases. Resolution No. 1 of February 7, 2013, of the National Council on Criminal and Penitentiary Policy determines that “the use audiovisual and photographic recording instruments is permitted … by … civil society, which serve the function of monitoring the penitentiary system and defending human rights, with the purpose of informing reports on inspection, monitoring and visits to prison establishments.” The government insisted on the ban anyway.
Aníbal Bruno Complex is one of the main symbols of the crisis of the Brazilian prison system. It recently underwent three rebellions. It incarcerates nearly 7,000 men in space designated for approximately 2,000 and has an extremely reduced number of staff working in precarious conditions. Over the past four years, our coalition sent hundreds of complaints of violence and torture, denial of access to healthcare and other abuses in the Complex to the Organization of American States (OAS).
In light of this scenario, on May 22, 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of the OAS determined that the State protect the life and integrity of prisoners, staff and visitors of the Aníbal Bruno Complex. In February 2015, facing a continued lack of sufficient action by the state, we gathered the hundreds of complaints sent to the OAS about the Complex, edited the documents to ensure the anonymity of those involved, and made the information public on arquivoanibal.weebly.com. Shortly after, we were forbidden from using cameras.
We are not the only ones being censored after revealing abuses in the Complex. We were told by Pernambuco authorities that the State Mechanism to Prevent and Combat Torture would be subject to the camera ban, even though State Law 14.863 guarantees the right of members of that prison monitoring body to “make records using audiovisual resources, respecting the privacy of those involved.” Prison officers have also reported feeling pressured not to use cameras to document unlawfulness at the public institutions in which they serve.
This is not the first time we have dealt with obstructions to our work. Coalition members have been working with other organizations in international cases concerning various notorious prisons in the country, including in Maranhão (Pedrinhas), Espírito Santo (CASCUVI), Rondônia (Urso Branco), Rio de Janeiro (Polinter) and São Paulo (Araraquara). We have always obtained clear jurisprudence from the Court on the duty of the state to grant full access to human rights monitors, as evidenced, for example, in resolutions on the Urso Branco and Araraquara prisons.
Pernambuco authorities themselves previously imposed a ban on the use of cameras after the OAS convened a meeting on the Complex Aníbal Bruno in November 2012. The prohibition caused serious harms. For example, we were unable to photographically document the case of a prisoner full of bodily injuries who reported being raped with broom stick by prison officers. We also could not record testimony concerning various other crucial complaints, including about corruption. We had to produce handmade sketches to try to continue portraying the reality of the Complex. The ban was overturned by the Pernambuco authorities only after we exposed these drawings at a public hearing in 2013.
There is no way to hide such glaring problems. It is better to opt for transparency. Only it can transform an abusive, chaotic and corrupt prison system.
Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões (SEMPRI) [Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons]
Pastoral Carcerária do Estado de Pernambuco [Catholic Prison Ministry of the State of Pernambuco]
Pastoral Carcerária Nacional [National Catholic Prison Ministry]
Global Justice [Justiça Global]
International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard University
April 7, 2015
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.
April 4, 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.
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 2, 2015
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.