Blog: Press Releases

June 25, 2019

Clinic Contributes to New Human Rights Watch Research on Forced Evictions in Guinea


Human Rights Watch recently released research revealing a devastating round of forced evictions in Guinea’s capital, Conakry. The initial spark for the research came from fieldwork conducted this spring, when students in the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School interviewed victims of the evictions.

HRW’s press release provides detail about the circumstances unfolding in Guinea and what the government should do to abide by international law:

“Between February and May 2019, more than 20,000 people were displaced after bulldozers and other heavy machinery demolished buildings and forcibly evicted residents from the Kaporo-Rails, Kipé 2, Dimesse, and Dar Es Salam neighborhoods. Guinea’s government said that the land belongs to the state and will be used for government ministries, foreign embassies, businesses, and other public works.

“‘The Guinean government hasn’t just demolished homes, it has damaged peoples’ lives and livelihoods,’ said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. ‘The failure to provide alternative housing or even immediate humanitarian assistance to those evicted is a violation of human rights law and shows a blatant disregard for human dignity.’

In March, April, and June, Human Rights Watch interviewed 40 victims of evictions in Conakry, as well as government officials, lawyers, nongovernmental organizations, religious leaders, and politicians. Human Rights Watch also reviewed satellite imagery, which showed that at least 2,500 buildings were demolished in the Kaporo-Rails, Kipé 2, and Dimesse neighborhoods in February and March and more than 385 buildings in Dar-Es-Salam in May

.The Ministry for Towns and Planning, which oversaw the evictions, maintains that the evicted areas were state land. However, many of the people whose homes were demolished said they had documentary proof that their families had decades-old property rights over the land. ‘It’s devastating to lose everything you have in 30 minutes,’ said Makia Touré, a mother of six who said her family had lived in Kipé 2 since 1985.”


To read the full press release and for more, visit the HRW website.

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June 17, 2019

United Nations Independent Expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz to Pursue LGBTQI Research from HRP

UN Independent Expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz (above) visited HRP in February 2019 for a talk about his mandate. He will be in residence at HLS for the 2019-2020 year.

The Human Rights Program is pleased to announce that Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the United Nations Independent Expert (IE) for the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), will be joining HRP as a Senior Visiting Researcher. Mr. Madrigal-Borloz will be in residence at Harvard Law School from July 2019 to December 2020 while carrying out his mandate as Independent Expert. He will build a team of students to support his research agenda, take part in HRP’s prestigious Visiting Fellowship Colloquium, present his research publicly to the HLS community, and join the larger human rights community at Harvard University.

“The Human Rights Program is honored to welcome Victor Madrigal-Borloz to Harvard Law School while he carries out his mandate,” said Gerald Neuman, Co-Director of the Human Rights Program and J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard Law School. “His work demonstrates his nuanced understanding of the issues and his sophisticated approach to dialogue with governments in order to achieve progress. Even as homosexuality is decriminalized in India, we see the world take steps backward elsewhere. Advocacy on these issues is more timely than ever.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council appointed Mr. Madrigal-Borloz for a three-year term beginning January 2018. As Independent Expert, he is pursuing two overarching objectives: 1) heightening awareness of the violence and discrimination people experience due to sexual orientation and gender identity and 2) identifying measures that States may undertake to eradicate such violence and discrimination. He pursues these objectives via a variety of mechanisms: writing thematic reports, reviewing allegations of human rights violations, and evaluating country-specific situations, among others.

“I am delighted to have found an ideal match in the Human Rights Program for three key reasons: its resolve to pursue excellence to ensure the furtherance of human rights, the commitment of its faculty to the eradication of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the intellectual curiosity and contagious enthusiasm of its students,” said Mr. Madrigal-Borloz.

Until recently, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz was the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (ICRT). He was previously Head of the Registry of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in addition to serving as a member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture. In the latter role, he was Rapporteur on Reprisals and oversaw a draft policy on the torture and ill-treatment of LGBTI persons.

Mr. Madrigal-Borloz previously visited HRP in February 2019 for a public talk. He participated in a live Q&A with Zhadé Long JD’20, which can still be viewed on our Facebook page.

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June 11, 2019

HRP Visiting Fellow Dr. Tony Ellis Wins Appeal Barring Client’s Extradition to China


On June 11, 2019, the New Zealand Court of Appeal announced that it would block the extradition to China of Kyung Yup Kim for an alleged homicide. The Court cited New Zealand’s commitment to human rights and a reasonable fear that Mr. Kim would suffer torture or other abuse and lack of a fair trial in the Chinese criminal justice system. Human Rights Program Visiting Fellow Dr Tony Ellis, who is also a New Zealand barrister with Blackstone Chambers, has represented Mr. Kim for the last ten years.

In a press release, Dr. Ellis said that the nearly 100-page judgment should have “profound human rights importance” for New Zealand and the greater Common Law world. Following the Court’s decision, Justice Minister Andrew Little will be forced to consider the human rights situation in China, and whether or not to trust “diplomatic assurances given by China” that torture will not be used, and that Mr. Kim would receive a fair trial, said the New Zealand Herald. In The New York Times and elsewhere, Dr. Ellis stated that he was hopeful the judgment would remain undisturbed, given Prime Minister Arden’s and the Labour government’s focus on human rights and criminal justice reform, as well as favorable circumstances around the makeup of the Court, and the powerful precedent they have set in this decision.

In quashing the extradition order, New Zealand joins its neighbor Australia in concerns over Chinese human rights abuses and its implications for extradition. Over the past week, protesters have taken to Hong Kong streets, demonstrating against a proposed law that would likewise allow for extradition to mainland China.

Dr. Ellis has been in residence at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program for the Spring Semester of 2019. Here, he focuses his research on the arbitrary detention of the intellectually disabled within an international setting.

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May 21, 2019

HLS Spotlights IHRC Student Radhika Kapoor LL.M. ’19

“I want to be able to help develop transitional justice norms,” said Radhika Kapoor LL.M.’19.
Photo Credit: Heratch Photography.

By Audrey Kunycky

After consecutive internships at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court, Radhika Kapoor LL.M. ’19 came to HLS to take advantage of Harvard’s institutional expertise in international law, humanitarian law, and post-conflict stability. “I really wanted to equip myself with tools that would let me explore questions that had come up during my internships. For example, I think there are a lot of countries that have concerns about acceding to international instruments like the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. How could they be self-sufficient in addressing issues of transitional justice?” Kapoor asks.

As she wraps up her LL.M. studies, Kapoor can readily identify the ways in which her LL.M. coursework has sharpened her thinking. She took a course on the Nuremburg trials, with Professor of Practice Alex Whiting, which “asked the question of whether an international court is the best stage to process large-scale humanitarian or human rights violations. I came away from it thinking that courts are perhaps best seen as a complement to a system of transitional justice and not necessarily the only way forward.” Kapoor also especially enjoyed a class on “Geopolitics, Human Rights and Statecraft,” with Professor of Practice and former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power. “I learned that it’s possible to think about foreign policy in humanistic terms,” she recalls, adding with a laugh that “we got to see somebody we had only seen on TV, in class, cold-calling on us.”

She also immersed herself in clinical opportunities at HLS. Last fall, for HLS Advocates for Human Rights, one of the law school’s student practice organizations, she led a team monitoring the trial of Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of the Côte d’Ivoire, for crimes against humanity. This spring, in the law school’s International Human Rights Clinic, she worked on two projects, both conflict-related and related to gender, but through very different lenses. One of the projects concerned accountability for sexual violence perpetrated against detained men and boys in conflict situations. The other was an arms and gender project that brought her, classmate Terence Flyte LL.M. ’19, and their clinical instructor, Anna Crowe LL.M. ’12, to Geneva, Switzerland, where they joined signatories and NGOs in working meetings to discuss ways forward for implementing the United Nations’ landmark Arms Trade Treaty. At the conference, Crowe presented “Interpreting the Arms Trade Treaty: International Human Rights Law and Gender-based Violence in Article 7 Risk Assessments,” a paper co-authored by Kapoor and three other HLS students enrolled in the International Human Rights Clinic. The clinic has been collaborating with ControlArms, an international NGO, in advocating for countries to restrict arms exports if there is a risk that the weapons will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law, with a specific focus on gender-based violence.

Continue Reading…

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May 20, 2019

Three IHRC Students Win David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Team Award

By Alexis Farmer

Lindsay Bailey JD ’19, Lisandra Novo JD’19, and Elisa Quiroz JD’19 are the winners of the 2019 David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Team Award. The award, named in honor of the late Clinical Professor of Law David Grossman JD’88, a public interest lawyer dedicated to providing high-quality legal services to low-income communities, recognizes students who have demonstrated excellence in representing individual clients and undertaking advocacy or policy reform projects.

The trio were honored for their exceptional work with the International Human Rights Clinic on a complicated lawsuit, Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín. The Mamani case was litigated in U.S. federal court on behalf of the family members of Bolivian citizens who were killed by the Bolivian military in 2003. The suit brought claims against Boliva’s former president and minister of defense for their roles in orchestrating these killings.

Over the course of two years, the students were involved in many aspects of the case — from discovery and depositions, to summary judgment, to a month-long trial, to the current appeal.

[Clinic Co-Director] Professor Susan Farbstein praised their advanced level of legal analysis, judgment, creativity, and empathy with clients. “Together, Lindsay, Lisandra, and Elisa have demonstrated all the hallmarks of thoughtful, critical, and reflective human rights advocacy,” she said. “They have done it as a team which is, in fact, the only way real change ever happens. Each of them is whip smart, passionate, and committed, and can be depended on to tackle the toughest assignments with rigor and produce the highest quality of work. Yet together, they are even greater than the sum of their individual talents.”


Lindsay Bailey


Lindsay Bailey has long been actively involved in international human rights focused organizations. Prior to HLS, she spent three years in Ghana working with municipal governments to improve project planning, budgeting, and municipal taxes. In Ghana she worked for a variety of organizations, including Engineers Without Borders, Amplify Governance, Global Communities, and UNICEF.

Since beginning law school, she has spent four semesters in the International Human Rights Clinic, volunteered with HLS Advocates for Human Rights for two years, and has been a research assistant at the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (HLS PILAC). She currently serves as the co-president of the Harvard Law and International Development Society (LIDS).

Bailey spent a winter Independent Clinical with the Public International Law and Policy Group in Jordan as part of the Reginald F. Lewis Internship Program. She also was an article editor on the Harvard Human Rights Journal, and an article editor and community development director for the Harvard International Law Journal, in which she published an article, “Can There Be an Accidental Extrajudicial Killing? Understanding standards of intent in the Torture Victim Protection Act” last August. Next year Bailey will continue her work in human rights litigation at the Center for Justice and Accountability.


Lisandra Novo


Born in Cuba, Lisandra Novo narrowed her interest in international human rights and criminal law early on, focusing particularly on accountability for human rights violations committed by state officials. She was awarded a Chayes Fellowship in 2017 to work at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica. There she worked primarily on cases related to the justiciability of social, cultural and economic rights. In her first year at HLS, she was a member of the Harvard Immigration Project’s Removal Defense Project (HIP’s RDP), an interpreter for the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC), co-communications chair for the Harvard European Law Association (HELA), and an article editor for the Harvard International Law Journal’s Online Symposium on the crime of aggression. She spent the fall semester of her third year at the Graduate Institute for International Law and Development in Geneva, Switzerland. Novo and Quiroz both participated in a spring break pro bono trip in Puerto Rico for hurricane relief work in March 2019. After graduation she will be conducting independent research on enforced disappearances in Spain as a Fulbright Fellow.


Elisa Quiroz


Elisa Quiroz had an interest in pursuing a career in international human rights work long before coming to HLS. Her childhood in Chile exposed her to human rights issues early on. “If you grow up in a country that has lived through a dictatorship, you hear the stories all the time, and that makes human rights law very tangible in a way that maybe countries that are more removed from that experience don’t know,” she told Harvard Law TodayIn 2017, Quiroz was also awarded a Chayes Fellowship to work in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva (OHCHR). At OHCHR, Quiroz worked on projects with the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, independence of judges and lawyers, the right to health, and the right to education. During her 2L year, she was awarded a Human Rights Program travel grant to conduct research in Chile examining the government’s legislative and policy responses to the country’s rapid rise in migration. Next year, she will be working as a legal fellow at TRIAL International in Geneva, Switzerland.

This piece originally ran on HLS Today on May 20, 2019 as “Three students win the David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Team Award.”

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April 2, 2019

Clinic Publishes Paper with Control Arms on “Interpreting the Arms Trade Treaty”


This week, the International Human Rights Clinic published “Interpreting The Arms Trade Treaty: International Human Rights Law and Gender-Based Violence in Article 7 Risk Assessments” with Clinic partner Control Arms. Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law Anna Crowe LLM ’12 presented the paper in Geneva today at a preliminary meeting of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty.

Radhika Kapoor LLM ’19 and Terry Flyte LLM ’19 at the Working Group Meetings of the 5th Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty.

The paper takes a close look at the human rights risk assessment Article 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty requires States Parties to undertake whenever an arms export is proposed. Article 7 requires States Parties to assess the potential that any proposed exports could be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights law, including serious acts of gender-based violence (GBV). Within that assessment, States Parties must also consider the potential that the weapons would contribute to or undermine peace and security. If there is an overriding risk of harm, the export must be denied.

The paper provides interpretive guidance on a number of key terms in the Arms Trade Treaty with a focus on considering gender and risks of GBV in each part of the Article 7 risk assessment, particularly with respect to serious violations of international human rights law.

Clinical students Radhika Kapoor LLM ’19 and Terry Flyte LLM ’19 joined Crowe in Geneva. Jillian Rafferty JD ’20, Natalie Gallon JD ’20, and Elise Baranouski JD ’20 are co-authors of the paper, along with Kapoor.

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March 29, 2019

Clinic Releases Report Documenting Femicide and Impunity in Bolivia

Posted by Thomas Becker JD'08, Julia Wenck JD'20, and Fabiola Alvelais JD'20

For women, Bolivia is a land of paradoxes. The Bolivian government has enacted some of the world’s most progressive legislation to advance women’s rights. It was one of the first countries to criminalize femicide − the killing of women because they are women – and maintains strict protocols to combat gender violence. Yet despite these efforts, violence against women remains a pervasive problem. Bolivia’s femicide rate is the second highest in South America and one of the highest in the world.

In April 2018, Mujeres Creando, a Bolivian feminist collective, asked the International Human Rights Clinic to examine femicide in Bolivia. Throughout this academic year, clinical students Fabiola Alvelais JD ’20, Isabel Pitaro JD ’20, and Julia Wenck JD ’20 have worked on this issue under the supervision of Clinical Instructor Thomas Becker JD ’08, conducting extensive desk research and traveling to Bolivia to interview families of femicide victims, activists, and government officials involved in the investigation and adjudication of femicide cases.

Last Friday, the Clinic released its report, “ ‘No Justice for Me’: Femicide and Impunity in Bolivia.” Becker and Alvelais presented the report at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz. Family members of femicide victims, academics, and the former Human Rights Ombudsman of Bolivia (and current Chancellor of the University)  participated in the presentation before an overflow crowd of roughly one thousand people.

Becker and Alvelais presented the results of the report at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz last week. They were joined there by members of Congress and those affected by femicide. From left to right: Susan Rivera, Vice-President of Congress; Becker; Daiana Tapia, sister of femicide victim Daniela Tapia; Adriana Salvatierra, President of the Senate; Valeria Silva Guzmán, President of the Justice Commission of Congress; Rosario Mendez, mother of femicide victim Veronica Quintana; Alvelais; and Miriam Valeriano, mother of femicide victim Yessenia Fuentes.

“No Justice for Me” identifies three key areas that have hindered the government’s efforts to prevent femicide and hold perpetrators accountable: (1) investigative barriers, (2) judicial barriers, and (3) institutional discrimination. The report calls on actors in the Bolivian government and civil society to address these obstacles, adhere to the country’s own progressive legislation on femicide, and work together to address the pervasiveness of femicide and impunity in the country.

Helen Alvarez, whose daughter Andrea Aramayo was killed by her boyfriend in 2015, was interviewed for the report and remains concerned about the prevalence of femicide. “All women can be victims of femicide in Bolivia,” she noted. “Unfortunately, impunity sends a signal to men that they can get away with killing women.”

Though Alvarez recognizes that preventing femicide and holding perpetrators accountable will continue to be difficult, she is hopeful that the Clinic’s report can be a powerful tool in this struggle and ultimately bring her daughter’s case one step closer to justice.

The clinical team shared its report with the public, conducting dozens of radio, print, and television interviews. “I was genuinely moved by the widespread interest in battling femicide in Bolivia,” Alvelais reflected.

Becker and Alvelais also met with high level members of the Bolivian government, including the President of the Senate, the Vice-President of Congress, the President of the Justice Commission of Congress, and the Director General of the Plurinational Service for Women and Depatriarchalization, to discuss the report.

To Becker, these meetings signaled a sincere effort to confront the problem of femicide. “We had a unique opportunity to sit down with members of the government, who showed a genuine interest in collaborating to eradicate femicide in the country,” he explained. “We are optimistic about the possibilities for meaningful change.”

The report is available in English and Spanish.

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March 8, 2019

Apply to Be a Joint OPIA Wasserstein-Human Rights Program Fellow for Fall 2019 Semester


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 2019), 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, presenting their research to Human Rights Program staff, faculty, and other fellows. Read more about past Visiting Fellows and former OPIA/HRP Fellows here.

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 Friday, April 5, 2019.

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March 7, 2019

Clinic and MSI Integrity Seek Community and Ally Outreach Coordinator


Title: Community and Ally Outreach Coordinator
Location: Based in Berkeley, CA (with extensive domestic and international travel)
Start Date: Late Spring 2019 (Flexible)

The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and the Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity are seeking an experienced coordinator and facilitator to work on an extended consultancy to support an ambitious new community-driven human rights and economic justice initiative. Communities understand what threatens their rights and have much to contribute to processes that would better protect their rights and livelihoods. Communities should be able to claim their place at the table whenever their economic resources and livelihood are at stake, and especially for discussions about the development and implementation of business and human rights frameworks.

The consultancy will help facilitate a global process with three aims: 1) supporting communities through local workshops and assisting them with tools to advance their rights and power, 2) nurturing a network of allies to support communities, and 3) over the long term, assist local communities develop their own global set of business and human rights principles and a framework for economic justice. It is hoped these community-developed principles will complement existing business and human rights frameworks, and ultimately operate as guidelines and/or as an approach to ensure that community voices and perspectives are included in decisions and activities that affect them. Continue Reading…

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December 20, 2018

HRP’s 2017-2018 Annual Report


We are pleased to present HRP’s 2017-2018 Annual Report. The report showcases the global reach and impact of the Human Rights Program in its 34th year, featuring work on populism, armed conflict, and accountability litigation. It spotlights fieldwork undertaken by students and alumni, and details pedagogical innovations and new research.

We thank all of the students, partners, and alumni who made the year so strong.

Click below to open the Annual Report as a flipbook or download the PDF.

 

Best wishes for the holiday season from us all at HRP!

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