Blog: Press Releases
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November 16, 2018
The Human Rights Program invites applications for its Visiting Fellows Program for the 2019-2020 academic year.
About the Visiting Fellows Program
The Visiting Fellows Program gives individuals with a demonstrated commitment to human rights an opportunity to step back and conduct a serious inquiry in the human rights field. Visiting Fellows are usually scholars with a substantial background in human rights, experienced activists, or members of the judiciary or other branches of government.
Typically, fellows come from outside the U.S., and spend from one semester to a full academic year in residence at Harvard Law School, where they devote the majority of their time to research and writing on a human rights topic.
The fellows form an essential part of the human rights community at Harvard Law School, and participate in the Human Rights Program’s Visiting Fellows Colloquium, as well as a number of other activities.
The Human Rights Program provides between four to eight fellows annually with a shared office space, access to computers, and use of the Harvard library system.
In order to profit from the fellowship, fluent spoken English is essential.
For the 2019-2020 year, HRP has a particular interest in research focusing on the topic of indirect discrimination in comparative perspective.
As a general matter, the Human Rights Program does not fund fellows. However, applicants who are nationals of low or middle income countries are eligible to apply for the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellowship, which offers a stipend to help defray the cost of living.
The deadline to submit applications is February 1, 2019. Click here for more information on how to apply or write to Emily Nagisa Keehn, the Associate Director of the Academic Program, at email@example.com.
November 16, 2018
(Geneva, November 14, 2018) – Countries at an upcoming United Nations disarmament conference, faced with evidence of 30 new incendiary weapons attacks in Syria, should agree to strengthen the international law that governs their use, the International Human Rights Clinic said in a report released this week.
The 13-page report, “Myths and Realities About Incendiary Weapons,” counters common misconceptions that have slowed international progress in this area. Incendiary weapons produce heat and fire through the chemical reaction of a flammable substance. While often designed for marking and signaling or producing smokescreens, incendiary weapons can burn human flesh to the bone, leave extensive scarring, and cause respiratory damage and psychological trauma. They also start fires that destroy civilian objects and infrastructure.
“The excruciating burns and lifelong disabilities inflicted by incendiary weapons demand a global response,” said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of conflict and civilian protection at the Clinic. “Simple changes in international law could help save civilian lives during wartime.”
The report details the exceptionally cruel harm caused by incendiary weapons, explains the shortcomings of existing law, and lays out steps countries should take in response. The report, designed as an accessible overview of the incendiary weapons issue, was jointly published with Human Rights Watch.
Countries that are party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) are scheduled to address incendiary weapons at the UN in Geneva from November 19 to 23. Protocol III to this treaty imposes some restrictions on the use of incendiary weapons, but it does not provide sufficient protections for civilians.
November 1, 2018
Press Statement: Constitutional Law Scholars Respond to Trump’s Threats Against Birthright Citizenship
On Tuesday, Oct. 30, leading constitutional scholars stated that there is no serious scholarly debate about whether a president can, through executive action, eliminate birthright citizenship and contradict the Supreme Court’s long-standing and consistent interpretation of the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment. Gerald L. Neuman, HRP Co-Director and J. Sinclair Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, was one of fifteen authors on this statement.
The full statement reads as follows:
President Donald Trump is reportedly considering an executive order to essentially rewrite the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment to eliminate birthright citizenship. In an interview to be aired later this week, he explains that people are now telling him that he can do this “just with an executive order.” As constitutional scholars who have studied the 14th Amendment, we write to say in no uncertain terms that he is wrong.
The Citizenship Clause—enshrined as Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1868—states simply that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.” The 14th Amendment, adopted in the immediate aftermath of a Civil War that very nearly ripped this country in two, established the foundational principle that all persons are entitled to due process and equal protection under the law. The Citizenship Clause contained therein was meant as a direct rebuke to the infamous decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857), in which the Supreme Court held that that people of African descent born on our soil whose ancestors were slaves could not be citizens, even if they were free.
The Supreme Court 120 years ago in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), settled the very issue raised by the president. In that case, the Court held that with certain very limited exceptions, all children born in the United States are natural-born citizens regardless of the citizenship status of their parents. Many decades later in the case of Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), in which the Court upheld the right of all children regardless of alienage to a free public education, the Court analogized its holding on Equal Protection Clause grounds to the settled law on the Citizenship Clause as declared in Wong Kim Ark. Specifically, the Court noted that just as undocumented immigrants are “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” for purposes of the Citizenship Clause, they too are “within the jurisdiction” of a state for purposes of the Equal Protection Clause. Id. at 211 n.10.
There is today no serious scholarly debate about whether a president can, through executive action, contradict the Supreme Court’s long-standing and consistent interpretation of the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment. Instead, as conservative legal scholar James Ho, now a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit nominated by President Trump, wrote more than a decade ago, “a constitutional amendment is … the only way to restrict birthright citizenship.” The executive branch’s own lawyers have long agreed.
It took a Civil War—the bloodiest conflict in American history—to resolve a dispute about what it means to be an American—a person—in this country. The 14th Amendment, including the Citizenship Clause, is the rightly cherished result of that American tragedy.
Signatories included: Muneer I. Ahmad, Yale Law School; Walter E. Dellinger III, Duke University School of Law; Lucas Guttentag, Stanford Law School and Yale Law School; Harold Hongju Koh, Yale Law School; Stephen H. Legomsky, Washington University School of Law; Gerard N. Magliocca, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law; David A. Martin, University of Virginia School of Law; Michael W. McConnell, Stanford Law School; Hiroshi Motomura, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law; Gerald L. Neuman, Harvard Law School; Cristina Rodríguez, Yale Law School; Peter J. Spiro, Temple University Law School; Geoffrey R. Stone, The University of Chicago; Laurence H. Tribe, Harvard Law School; and Stephen I. Vladeck, The University of Texas at Austin Law School.
Find the full press release on the Center for American Progress’s website.
October 29, 2018
This month, the Musawah Movement for Equality in the Muslim Family submitted a thematic report to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee advocating for codification of family law provisions to protect the rights of Muslim women in Mauritius. International Human Rights Clinic students Samantha Lint JD’20 and Natalie McCauley JD’19 contributed to drafting the report and developing its legal recommendations, working in close collaboration with Mauritian attorney and family law expert, Narghis Bundhun.
As the report notes, a major cause of the lack of rights protection and inequality for Muslim women in Mauritius is the absence of a clear legal framework that protects rights in the context of religious marriages. The report highlights this legal ambiguity and key resulting inequalities that harm Muslim Mauritian women and in turn damage families, communities, and society as a whole. The report encourages the State of Mauritius to leverage its robust framework of diversity and inclusion to promote equality for Muslim women and take concrete steps to ensure all women in Mauritius enjoy full legal protection.
The report will be considered by the CEDAW Committee in its Constructive Dialogue with the Government of Mauritius. Today, Monday, October 29, the IHRC team has joined Musawah in Geneva, Switzerland, where the session and associated Committee briefings are now taking place. Tune in to the #CEDAW71 Constructive Dialogue starting tomorrow (10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. CET) and follow Musawah on Twitter for updates. Watch live at http://webtv.un.org/…/71st-session-committee-…/5723840293001.
October 12, 2018
Posted by Bonnie Docherty
Humanitarian disarmament has become a highly effective and firmly established means of dealing with arms-induced human suffering. This year, it has celebrated many milestones that highlight its achievements. These milestones have also generated forward-looking discussions about how civil society campaigns can best work together to advance humanitarian disarmament’s overarching aim.
In March, Harvard Law School’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) assembled 25 humanitarian disarmament leaders from around the world for a two-day conference in which they could reflect on the state of the field and strategize about its future. The ACCPI has produced a summary of the conference and its conclusions in a new 27-page report Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead. It has also launched the website humanitariandisarmament.com, which will serve experts and the public alike.
Humanitarian disarmament seeks to prevent and remediate harm caused by arms and related activities through the establishment of norms. It is a people-centered approach, driven by civil society campaigns, that focuses on human rather than national security. Continue Reading…
September 13, 2018
Clinic Releases Joint Briefing Papers on Refugee Freedom of Movement and Business Documentation in Kakuma, Kenya
Posted by Anna Crowe
The International Human Rights Clinic and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Kenya released two briefing papers today highlighting the importance of freedom of movement and business documentation for refugees living in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp and the associated Kalobeyei settlement. Kakuma and Kalobeyei are home to close to 186,000 refugees, and Kakuma camp itself is one of the largest refugee camps in the world.
Under Kenyan law, all refugees are required to live in and remain within designated refugee camps – to leave a camp without permission is a criminal offence. “Supporting Kakuma’s Refugees: The Importance of Freedom of Movement” explores the ways in which movement restrictions affect the lives and livelihoods of Kakuma’s refugees and limit their opportunities to participate in the local economy and Kenyan society. It seeks to encourage local and national actors to consider alternatives to Kenya’s current encampment policy and rethink existing practices around the temporary movement regime in place in the camps, which refugees described as opaque, arbitrary, and unpredictable.
Formal work and employment opportunities are largely inaccessible to Kakuma’s refugees, and most rely on humanitarian assistance as their primary form of support. Nonetheless, Kakuma has a thriving informal economy and a sizeable number of refugees run informal businesses there, providing goods and services to other refugees, as well as the local community. “Supporting Kakuma’s Refugee Traders: The Importance of Business Documentation in an Informal Economy” focuses on refugees running businesses in the camp and their experiences obtaining mandatory local government-issued business permits. It aims to contribute to ongoing discussions on how to ensure that business permit practices help refugees to safely run businesses and support refugees to exercise their right to work.
The briefing papers are part of a longer-term collaboration with NRC, which in 2017 included examining the documentation challenges refugees living in Nairobi face. Clinic students Haroula Gkotsi JD’19, Niku Jafarnia JD’19, Alexandra Jumper JD‘18, Daniel Levine-Spound JD’19, Julius Mitchell JD’19, and Sara Oh JD’19 worked on the briefing papers, including through desk research and fieldwork.
August 21, 2018
Killer Robots Fail Key Moral, Legal Test
Principles and Public Conscience Call for Preemptive Ban
(Geneva, August 21, 2018) – Basic humanity and the public conscience support a ban on fully autonomous weapons, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Countries participating in an upcoming international meeting on such “killer robots” should agree to negotiate a prohibition on the weapons systems’ development, production, and use.
The 46-page report, “Heed the Call: A Moral and Legal Imperative to Ban Killer Robots,” finds that fully autonomous weapons would violate what is known as the Martens Clause. This long-standing provision of international humanitarian law requires emerging technologies to be judged by the “principles of humanity” and the “dictates of public conscience” when they are not already covered by other treaty provisions.
“Permitting the development and use of killer robots would undermine established moral and legal standards,” said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection at the Clinic. “Countries should work together to preemptively ban these weapons systems before they proliferate around the world.”
The 1995 preemptive ban on blinding lasers, which was motivated in large part by concerns under the Martens Clause, provides precedent for prohibiting fully autonomous weapons as they come closer to becoming reality.
The report was co-published with Human Rights Watch, for which Docherty is a senior arms researcher. Human Rights Watch co-founded and serves as coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.
More than 70 governments will convene at the United Nations in Geneva from August 27 to 31, 2018, for their sixth meeting since 2014 on the challenges raised by fully autonomous weapons, also called lethal autonomous weapons systems. The talks under the Convention on Conventional Weapons, a major disarmament treaty, were formalized in 2017, but they are not yet directed toward a specific goal.
The Clinic and Human Rights Watch urge states party to the convention to agree to begin negotiations in 2019 for a new treaty that would require meaningful human control over weapons systems and the use of force. Fully autonomous weapons would select and engage targets without meaningful human control.
To date, 26 countries have explicitly supported a prohibition on fully autonomous weapons. Thousands of scientists and artificial intelligence experts, more than 20 Nobel Peace Laureates, and more than 160 religious leaders and organizations of various denominations have also demanded a ban. In June, Google released a set of ethical principles that includes a pledge not to develop artificial intelligence for use in weapons.
At the Convention on Conventional Weapons meetings, almost all countries have called for retaining some form of human control over the use of force. The emerging consensus for preserving meaningful human control, which is effectively equivalent to a ban on weapons that lack such control, reflects the widespread opposition to fully autonomous weapons.
The Clinic and Human Rights Watch assessed fully autonomous weapons under the core elements of the Martens Clause. The clause, which appears in the Geneva Conventions and is referenced by several disarmament treaties, is triggered by the absence of specific international treaty provisions on a topic. It sets a moral baseline for judging emerging weapons.
The groups found that fully autonomous weapons would undermine the principles of humanity, because they would be unable to apply either compassion or nuanced legal and ethical judgment to decisions to use lethal force. Without these human qualities, the weapons would face significant obstacles in ensuring the humane treatment of others and showing respect for human life and dignity.
Fully autonomous weapons would also run contrary to the dictates of public conscience. Governments, experts, and the broader public have widely condemned the loss of human control over the use of force.
Partial measures, such as regulations or political declarations short of a legally binding prohibition, would fail to eliminate the many dangers posed by fully autonomous weapons. In addition to violating the Martens Clause, the weapons raise other legal, accountability, security, and technological concerns.
In previous publications, the Clinic and Human Rights Watch have elaborated on the challenges that fully autonomous weapons would present for compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law, analyzed the gap in accountability for the unlawful harm caused by such weapons, and responded to critics of a preemptive ban.
The 26 countries that have called for the ban are: Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China (use only), Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, Guatemala, the Holy See, Iraq, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the State of Palestine, Uganda, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which began in 2013, is a coalition of 75 nongovernmental organizations in 32 countries that is working to preemptively ban the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. Docherty will present the report at a Campaign to Stop Killer Robots briefing for CCW delegates scheduled on August 28 at the United Nations in Geneva.
“The groundswell of opposition among scientists, faith leaders, tech companies, nongovernmental groups, and ordinary citizens shows that the public understands that killer robots cross a moral threshold,” Docherty said. “Their concerns, shared by many governments, deserve an immediate response.”
“Heed the Call: A Moral and Legal Imperative to Ban Killer Robots” is available at:
For more Human Rights Watch and International Human Rights Clinic reporting on killer robots, please visit:
For more information on the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, please visit:
For op-eds of the report by Bonnie Docherty, please visit:
Ban ‘Killer Robots’ to Protect Fundamental Moral and Legal Principles, The Conversation
Why We Need a Pre-Emptive Ban on ‘Killer Robots,’ The Huffington Post
For an overview of HRW and IHRC publications on killer robots, please visit:
Reviewing the Record: Reports on Killer Robots
July 13, 2018
During the 2018-2019 academic year, the Human Rights Program will welcome five exemplary human rights practitioners and scholars to Harvard Law School for a semester or year of study on a diverse slate of research topics. Learn more about the visiting fellowship here and see below for details on the incoming cohort.
Dr. Tony Ellis (New Zealand)
Dr Tony Ellis is a New Zealand Human Rights Barrister in Blackstone Chambers. His approach is comparative and international. He holds a doctor of juridical science from La Trobe, an M.Phil from University of Essex, an LL.M. from Victoria University, and an LL.B. from Monash University. Dr. Ellis was President of the New Zealand Council of Civil Liberties for over eight years.
He is the first New Zealand lawyer to have won cases before the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies. His current caseload includes murder appeals, public law cases, and cases where his clients are intellectually disabled. He is currently working on cases involving a death in custody, an extradition to China for homicide, and a torture case involving ECT treatments. In addition, he has a variety of cases pending before the UN Human Rights Committee and UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, as well as a judicial independence case before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
At HRP, his research will focus on the arbitrary detention of the intellectually disabled within an international scope.
Jong Chul Kim (Republic of Korea)
Jong Chul Kim is the founder and program director for the public interest lawyers’ organization, Advocates for Public Interest Law (APIL) in Seoul. He holds an LL.M. from Korea Graduate University and an LL.B. from Korea University and obtained his Certificate in Law at the Judicial Research and Training Institute.
His work focuses on the rights of vulnerable migrants in Korea, including refugees, victims of human trafficking, and migrant detainees. He also specializes in business and human rights, and monitors human rights abuses committed by Korean companies overseas. He has conducted field investigations of human rights violations by Korean corporations in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Vietnam. Most recently, with the International Organization on Migration, he conducted field research on the forced labor of Southeast Asian fishermen in Korean fishing vessels. In 2011-2012, he served as chair of the human rights department for the Korean Bar Association. In 2016, the Korean Bar Association awarded Kim with the prize for “Best Public Interest Lawyer.” In 2018, Kim received the Trafficking in Persons Report Hero Award from the U.S. State Department.
At HRP, Kim will research the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies’ jurisprudence on the topics of business and human rights and migration, and the extent to which their decisions are implemented.
Sabrina Mahtani (Zambia / U.K.)
Sabrina Mahtani is the OPIA / HRP Wasserstein Fellow for the 2018-2019 year. She is a human rights lawyer from Zambia and the U.K. with over fourteen years’ experience working in the human rights field. She specializes on the rights of women in the criminal justice system in Africa and has prepared cases before domestic, regional, and international courts. Mahtani holds a B.A. in Law and History from University College London and an LL.M. from New York University.
Since 2014, she has worked as a researcher at Amnesty International, leading the organization’s research and advocacy work on Anglophone West Africa. She is currently working on the transitional justice and accountability process. Mahtani is also the founder of the award winning NGO, AdvocAid, which provides access to justice, education, and empowerment for women involved in the criminal justice system in Sierra Leone. She has previously worked at the Special Court for Sierra Leone and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Mahtani was awarded the Amnesty International Gender Defender award, a Vital Voices Lead Fellowship, and the Trainee Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year award at the Law Society Junior Lawyers Awards.
At HRP, Mahtani will research African jurisprudence on legal defenses for women who have killed their domestic abusers after prolonged periods of abuse.
Alpha Sesay (Sierra Leone)
Alpha Sesay is an Advocacy Officer with the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), where he works on promoting human rights and the rule of law in Africa. He holds an LL.B. from the University of Sierra Leone and an LL.M from the University of Notre Dame Law School.
Sesay presently co-leads OSJI’s project on strengthening regional human rights mechanisms and focuses on improving implementation processes for decisions of human rights bodies in Africa. Previously, Sesay worked in The Hague as a Legal Officer for OSJI’s International Justice Program, where he monitored the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Sesay has also previously worked with the Special Court for Sierra Leone, is founding president of the Fourah Bay College Human Rights Clinic, and is founding Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Court Monitoring Program. He has worked and consulted with the UN Mission in Sierra Leone, International Center for Transitional Justice and with Human Rights Watch.
At HRP, he will research challenges to and mechanisms to increase the successful implementation of decisions of human rights bodies in Africa.
Dr. Ralph Wilde (U.K.)
Dr. Ralph Wilde is a Reader at University College London’s Faculty of Laws. He holds a Ph.D. and an LL.M. from Cambridge University, a Diploma in European Human Rights Law from the European University Institute, and a B.Sc. from the London School of Economics.
Dr. Wilde is currently engaged in an interdisciplinary research project on the extraterritorial application of international human rights law. His book International Territorial Administration: How Trusteeship and the Civilizing Mission Never Went Away (OUP 2008) was awarded the Certificate of Merit (book prize) of the American Society of International Law in 2009. He previously served on the executive bodies of the American and European Societies of International Law and the International Law Association.
At HRP, Dr. Wilde will work on his monograph on the nature and scope of international human rights law, to be published as part of the Oxford University Press ‘Elements of International Law’ series.
May 31, 2018
Judge Overturns Unanimous Jury Verdict That Found Former Bolivian President and Defense Minister Responsible for Massacre of Indigenous People
Plaintiffs Argue Jury Made Right Decision, Promise Swift Appeal
May 30, 2018, Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Today, a federal judge overturned the verdict of a unanimous jury that found the former president of Bolivia and his minister of defense responsible for extrajudicial killings carried out by the Bolivian military, which killed more than 50 of its own citizens and injured hundreds during a period of civil unrest in September and October 2003. The jury’s decision, announced on April 3, came after a 10-year legal battle spearheaded by family members of eight people killed in what is known in Bolivia as the “Gas War.” The jury awarded a total of $10 million in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs. The trial marked the first time in U.S. history a former head of state has sat before his accusers in a U.S. civil court.
Today, Judge James I. Cohn upheld a motion by the defendants that argued there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict. The plaintiffs contend that the evidence presented at trial was more than sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude—as all 10 jurors did—that Bolivian soldiers killed the plaintiffs’ family members, and that the former president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and former defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, are responsible for those deaths.
“The judge’s decision to overturn the jury’s unanimous verdict cannot change the truth, which the 10 jurors saw during the trial and affirmed after deliberating for nearly five days,” 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. “We have been fighting for justice for our family members for over fourteen years, and we have no plans to stop now. We will appeal this decision.”
Both Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín have lived in the United States since they fled Bolivia following the massacre in 2003. 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 2003 killings. Both Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín were indicted in the same case, but could not be tried in abstentia under Bolivian law.
During the nearly month-long trial, the 10 jurors listened to the testimonies of 30 witnesses and heard evidence of at least 58 civilian killings and hundreds of civilian injuries carried out by the military in September and October 2003. The plaintiffs argue that the jury could have reasonably inferred that the death toll reflected the military’s deliberate use of lethal force against unarmed civilians, and that Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín consciously failed to stop the killings.
“The jury sat in trial for three weeks, deliberated for five days, and we are confident that they reached the right conclusion that the former President and Defense Minister were responsible for these killings. The judge depended on an erroneously high standard of evidence to overturn this verdict—that the defendants needed to have a premeditated plan to kill civilians—which the law does not require,” said Judith Chomsky, an attorney for the plaintiffs, cooperating through the Center for Constitutional Rights. “This case is not over, and we intend to swiftly appeal this decision.”
The family members are represented by a team of lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, and the law firms of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman, LLP, and Akerman LLP. Lawyers from the Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia) are cooperating attorneys.
For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights case page.
Juez revoca veredicto unánime del jurado que halló al expresidente boliviano y al antiguo ministro de Defensa responsables de masacre de indígenas
Los Demandantes argumentan que el jurado tomó la decisión correcta, prometen pronta apelación
30 de mayo, 2018, Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Hoy, un juez federal revocó el veredicto de un jurado que unánimemente halló al expresidente boliviano y a su ministro de Defensa responsables de los homicidios culposos realizados por los militares bolivianos, quienes mataron a más de 50 de sus propios ciudadanos e hirieron a cientos durante un período de disturbio civil en septiembre y octubre de 2003. La decisión del jurado, anunciada el 3 de abril, llegó después de una batalla legal de 10 años conducida por los familiares de ocho personas asesinadas en lo que se conoce en Bolivia como la “Guerra del gas.” El jurado otorgó un total de $10 millones en compensación por daños a los demandantes. El juicio fue la primera vez en la historia de los EUA en que un antiguo mandatario de estado se sentó frente a sus acusadores en una corte civil estadounidense.
Hoy, el juez James I. Cohn defendió una moción de los demandados que argumenta que la evidencia no era suficiente para respaldar el veredicto. Los demandantes contienden que la evidencia presentada en el juicio era más que suficiente para que un jurado razonable concluyese—así como lo hicieran 10 miembros del jurado—que los soldados bolivianos mataron a los familiares de los demandantes, y que el expresidente Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada y su ministro de Defensa, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, fueron responsables de esas muertes.
“La decisión del juez de revocar el veredicto unánime del jurado no puede alterar la verdad que vieron los 10 miembros del jurado durante el juicio y que afirmaron después de deliberar por casi cinco días,” dijo Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, un demandante y miembro de la comunidad indígena aymara de Bolivia, la cual fue víctima de la decisión de los demandados de usar fuerza militar masiva contra la población. “Por más de catorce años hemos luchado por justicia para nuestros familiares y no pensamos detenernos ahora. Apelaremos esta decisión.”
Tanto el expresidente boliviano, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, como su antiguo ministro de Defensa, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, han estado viviendo en los Estados Unidos desde que huyeron de Bolivia después de la masacre de 2003. En Bolivia, cinco excomandantes militares cuyas acciones dependían de Sánchez de Lozada y Sánchez Berzaín fueron condenados en 2011 por sus roles en las ejecuciones de 2003. Tanto Sánchez de Lozada como Sanchez Berzaín fueron imputados en el mismo caso, pero no pudieron ser juzgados in abstentia según la ley boliviana.
Durante casi un mes en juicio, los 10 miembros del jurado escucharon los testimonios de 30 testigos y escucharon la evidencia sobre al menos 58 civiles asesinados y cientos de civiles heridos por los militares en septiembre y octubre de 2003. Los demandantes argumentan que el jurado pudo inferir razonablemente que la cantidad de víctimas refleja el uso deliberado de fuerza letal que hicieron los militares contra civiles desarmados, y que Sánchez de Lozada y Sánchez Berzaín se abstuvieron conscientemente de detener esa matanza.
“El jurado estuvo en el juicio por tres semanas y deliberaron por cinco días, y estamos seguros de que llegaron a la conclusión correcta de que el expresidente y el antiguo ministro de Defensa fueron responsables de esos homicidios. El juez se respaldó en un estándar erróneamente alto de evidencia para revocar este veredicto—que los demandados precisaban tener un plan premeditado para matar civiles—algo que la ley no requiere,” dijo Judith Chomsky, una abogada de los demandantes, cooperante a nombre de Center for Constitutional Rights [Centro por los derechos constitucionales]. “Este caso no ha terminado y tenemos la intención de apelar esta decisión con prontitud.”
Los familiares están representados por un equipo de abogados de Center for Constitutional Rights, Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, y los bufetes de Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman, LLP, y Akerman LLP. Las(los) abogada(os) de Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia) [Centro por la ley, la justicia y la sociedad (Dejusticia)] son abogadas(os) de cooperación.
Para mayor información, visite la página del caso (case page) del Center for Constitutional Rights.
May 23, 2018
This piece originally appeared as a spotlight feature on Harvard Law School’ s Today homepage on May 22, 2018, written by Ian Spaho.
In recognition of their demonstrated excellence in representing clients and undertaking advocacy or policy reform projects, Amy Volz ’18 and Ha Ryong Jung (Michael) ’18 were named the 2018 recipients of the David A. Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award at Harvard Law School. The award is named in honor of the late Clinical Professor David Grossman ’88, a public interest lawyer dedicated to providing high-quality legal services to low income communities.
Described by nominators as “the embodiment of Grossman’s tireless pro bono spirit,” Volz contributed thousands of hours of pro bono service to clients through the Harvard Immigration Project (HIP), the International Human Rights Clinic, and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC).
At HLS, Volz co-founded the Immigration Response Initiative, a student group comprised of nearly 400 students. The Immigration Response Initiative focused on more than a dozen projects, including legal research for the American Civil Liberties Union; state and local advocacy for immigrant-friendly policies; and support for HIRC’s litigation efforts to stop the Muslim Ban. Volz wrote answers to frequently-asked-questions related to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and helped organize DACA renewal clinics for members of the Harvard community. She also drafted portions of an amicus brief to stop President Trump’s Executive Order from cutting refugee admissions. She did all of this work pro bono without receiving any academic credit.
Volz also put together a noteworthy report detailing a range of issues, including detention, denial of parole or release from detention, criminalization of asylum seekers, and the expansion of expedited removal proceedings. The report became the basis for a request for a hearing before the Inter-American Commission and litigation before the Canadian courts.
“Amy is a consummate professional and clear communicator who is thoughtful about her role as well as her place on a team. She listens effectively but, at the same time, she is always prepared to offer her opinions and ideas,” wrote her nominators from the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program. “She is smart, enthusiastic, thoughtful, and totally reliable.”
Her commitment to social justice is also evident in her work with the International Human Rights Clinic, where she worked for two years. Throughout this time, she worked on a complicated lawsuit, Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, which 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. In April, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the families, awarding them $10 million.
“Volz was involved in all aspects of the litigation and her work was nothing short of outstanding. She developed a deep, detailed knowledge of a very intricate case, from the most minute factual details to larger strategic decisions, a testament to not only her intelligence but also her commitment,” her nominators wrote.
“Her ability to connect with people in such a meaningful way, combined with her deep understanding of the case and the evidence that we needed to provide at trial, helped us elicit the testimony that we needed to prove our case from multiple difficult witnesses,” said Clinical Professor of Law and Co-Director of the International Human Rights Clinic Susan Farbstein, who also nominated Volz.
“I am incredibly honored to be a recipient of this award and grateful for the many opportunities I have had to get involved in clinical and SPO work at HLS,” said Volz. “Working with amazing mentors in the Immigration & Refugee Clinical Program and the International Human Rights Clinic has been the greatest gift of my time in law school. I am excited to carry on the lessons I have learned here as I begin my career.”
Ha Ryong Jung (Michael)
Ha Ryong Jung, a native of South Korea, was recognized for his unparalleled commitment to clinical education and the field of children’s rights. At HLS, he contributed more than 2,000 pro bono hours with the International Human Rights Clinic, Child Advocacy Clinic, and HLS Advocates for Human Rights. He also worked pro bono at the regional office of the United Nations Children’s Fund in Thailand, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Boston Juvenile Court, and Volunteer Lawyers Project.
“Jung has spent the better part of his lifetime building his capacity to promote the human rights of children, particularly the neediest children,” wrote his nominators in the Child Advocacy Program. They noted that his clinical and academic work were outstanding, showing a drive to learn, intellectual curiosity, and the ability to make connections.
In the Child Advocacy Clinic, Jung received special recognition for his important contributions to his placement organization and the quality of his participation and engagement in the clinic seminar. He worked on laws and policies affecting children and young people, including those undergoing removal proceedings and experiencing custody complications due to undocumented parents facing deportation. “His thoughtful and reflective contributions made him a beloved member of his fieldwork office and the class,” wrote his nominators.
Jung has taken his clinical experiences and infused them into other aspects of his law school life. He is the first student to complete the Harvard-wide Child Protection Certificate Program administered by the Harvard François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Additionally, he re-ignited HLS’ student group Child & Youth Advocates, organizing events and skills-based training related to child welfare, education, and juvenile justice. He also created a student database to encourage networking among HLS students and graduates interested in the field of child advocacy.
One of his most impressive accomplishments, according to his nominators, was establishing the Child Advocacy Hub, which connects organizations working on children’s issues to law students interested in working remotely on short-term projects. Seeing an unmet need in the legal services community for additional help, and a desire on the part of HLS students to volunteer, Jung came up with the idea of matching the two groups. With this vision and his exceptional organizational and leadership skills, he reached out to stakeholders and launched the Hub in early 2018. “Jung’s efforts were driven by his ability to identify a problem and solve it, and also by his deep drive to ensure that the range of opportunities to gain skills and participate in child advocacy-oriented activities for current and future HLS students is as robust as possible,” wrote his nominators.
“Jung is truly a one-of-a-kind person and student, and he is undoubtedly going to make significant contributions to the field of children’s rights once he begins his career,” his nominators concluded.
Reflecting on his three years at HLS Jung said, “When I was notified about this award, my first reaction was one of puzzlement and amazement because I knew so many students who were deserving of an award, and I never considered myself to fit that definition. However, the feelings that followed were of immense gratitude and honor with the understanding that the individuals I deeply admire had recognized my work as contributing to the lives of children and trusted that my efforts will firmly persist. I feel blessed to have been a part of the International Human Rights Clinic and the Child Advocacy Clinic for most of my time in law school, and those experiences have undoubtedly taken me a step closer to becoming an effective advocate for children. This award is the greatest gift that I have received, and it will serve to be an immeasurably valuable source of support and encouragement for me as I continue my pursuit of helping to protect children and their rights.”
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