Blog: Staff

October 1, 2019

Photo Exhibit: From the Atomic Bomb to the Nobel Peace Prize

From October 1 through October 8, 2019, the South Lobby of Wasserstein Hall showcases a photo exhibition that documents the impact of nuclear weapons and recent progress toward their elimination. The exhibit focuses on the devastation caused by early use and testing of these weapons and civil society’s role in producing the 2017 treaty that bans them.

Bonnie Docherty, Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian and Lecturer in Law at the International Human Rights Clinic, organized the exhibit. Her introduction is reproduced below in its entirety.

Campaigners outside the United Nations during negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in New York on March 31, 2017.
The photo, “Campaigners outside the United Nations during negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, New York, March 31, 2017,” is the ninth photo in a series documenting the history of nuclear disarmament currently on view in the South Lobby of Wasserstein Hall. Photo Credit: Claire Conboy.

The exhibit is co-sponsored by the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative, Hibakusha Stories/Youth Arts New York, and HLS Advocates for Human Rights.


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September 10, 2019

HRP’s 2018-2019 Annual Report

A banner that shows pages from the annual report: including the cover image, a map of our global reach and impact, and pictures of students traveling on clinical trips.

We are delighted to present HRP’s 2018-2019 Annual Report. The report showcases the global reach and impact of the Human Rights Program in its 35th year. Previews have already run on the Harvard Law School website: profiles of Paras Shah JD ’19, Jenny B. Domino LLM ’18, and Anna Khalfaoui LLM ’17. In addition to celebrating these former students and fellows, the annual report explores how members of HRP contributed to a convention on crimes against humanity, innovated in clinical pedagogy, and advocated for LGBT rights. We thank all of the students, partners, and alumni who made last year so strong and look forward to engaging with our community and working on the most pressing issues in 2019-2020.

You can view our annual report in several different modes: a flipbook version, a color PDF, and a black-and-white PDF.

Read the introduction below, which highlights the words of the Human Rights Program and International Human Rights Clinic Co-Directors:


The Human Rights Program: Reflecting on 35 Years


Founded by Professor Emeritus Henry Steiner in 1984 as a center for human rights scholarship, Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program (HRP) enters its 35th year in 2019. Concurrently, the International Human Rights Clinic celebrates its 15th anniversary. HRP was founded as a place of reflection and engagement and a forum that brings academics and advocates together. Since 1984, HRP has only deepened its commitment to this endeavor. With this past year marking the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly, it is a particularly opportune time to take stock of human rights at Harvard Law School (HLS) and how the Program’s impact has reverberated beyond the university.

“The Universal Declaration set forth a vision of liberty and equality and social solidarity that has never been fully achieved; it continues to inspire people around the world as we strive to fulfill its mission,” said Gerald L. Neuman JD ’80, Co-Director of HRP and the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at HLS. “The Program has always been about critical involvement with human rights. In a time when human rights face extreme challenges globally, that means thinking more deeply about what changes are needed and  how we can contribute to the system, scholarship, and the world.”

Today, HRP comprises the Academic Program and the Clinic, which together bridge theory with practice and engage with pressing human rights issues around the world. As a center for critical thinking, the Academic Program organizes conferences and other events; publishes working papers and books; offers summer and post-graduate fellowships to launch students in human rights careers; and draws human rights advocates and academics from across the globe as part of the Visiting Fellows Program.

Over the past decade and a half, the Clinic has engaged more than 1,000 students in an analytical and reflective approach to human rights lawyering. While devoting itself to the training of future practitioners, the Clinic has promoted and protected human rights through scores of projects around the world. This work includes pushing for global equity in the realm of gender and sexuality, litigating landmark accountability cases, and helping to negotiate treaties that ban nuclear weapons and cluster munitions.

“The formal founding of the International Human Rights Clinic 15 years ago is really consequential; it recognizes the diversity of ways that people can contribute to the human rights movement,” said Susan H. Farbstein JD ’04, Co-Director of the Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law. While not all clinical students pursue careers in human rights, they often cite their clinical education as influential and formative. For many, clinics are the one place at HLS where they have the opportunity to engage in real-world preparation and see their efforts make an impact. “We’re training students in critical approaches to human rights practice, emphasizing cross-cultural sensitivity and how to be guided by the clients and communities we serve. We hope this leads to better, more effective human rights advocacy,” Farbstein said.

This year, HRP recognizes the anniversary of the Program, the Clinic, and the UDHR with both celebration and humility. After decades of training students and building a network of HRP fellows and partners, it is inspiring to step back and glimpse the network that we’ve built. “It’s not about one particular year but about the cumulative impact,” said Tyler R. Giannini, Co- Director of HRP and the Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law. “When we see the success of our students, alumni, partners, and fellows, it’s a testament to the power of this community.”

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September 5, 2019

Summer 2019 Highlights

Human rights work doesn’t stop for the summer. HRP staff, however, do take a moment to pause and regroup, taking the necessary time to recharge and plan before their project and teaching work picks up full steam in the Fall. Staff spent the summer on mountains, at the opera, and at the beach. We also developed new classes focused on women’s leadership and taught human rights and populism in Berlin.

Read on to see what we’ve all been up to this summer!



Following the release of Clinical Instructor Thomas Becker’s IHRC report “Femicide and Impunity in Bolivia” last year, the Bolivian government implemented a ten point emergency plan this summer to tackle the high rate of femicides in the country. In other news, after two months of climbing, Becker summited Mount Everest. With temperatures reaching as low as -40 degrees on the mountain, he thinks he is finally prepared for winter in Cambridge. Following Everest, Thomas’s work led him to a slightly warmer destination, the Sahara, where he spent several weeks meeting with human rights activists, women’s groups, and social movement leaders in refugee camps in Algeria. 

Anna Crowe accomplished an intra-Cambridge move in July and submitted a book chapter on a disarmament topic to be published later this year.

Marmots are strong advocates of humanitarian disarmament.

Bonnie Docherty spoke at the International Symposium for Peace in Hiroshima on the advantages of the humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament and why Japan can and should join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (check out a transcript of her remarks here!) She also had meetings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki with civil society advocates, student activists, and doctors who have treated the hibakusha who survived the atomic bombings. On her recent work trip to Geneva for killer robots meetings at the UN, she carved out a weekend for mountains and marmots. She visited the alpine peaks of Chamonix and met some furry friends in the hills above Montreux. Hiking buddy Elizabeth Minor of Article 36, longtime Clinic partner, even brought her tote bag from ACCPI’s humanitarian disarmament conference. 

Susan Farbstein developed new teaching modules on women’s leadership to pilot in the advanced Human Rights Careers Workshop this fall. She was lucky to work with one of the Clinic’s alumni, Salomé Gómez Upegui LLM ’18, as well as current SJD student Regina Larrea Maccise, to review and curate materials and build the sessions. She’s excited to see how the 3Ls will respond to what they’ve put together. She also spent a lot of time with her family, swimming, hiking, riding bikes, flying kites, building sand castles, and eating fried fish and ice cream across New England (and in Canada!).

After being on sabbatical Spring semester, Tyler Giannini went to Berlin to conduct a human rights simulation with Yee Htun. He also had the opportunity to visit members of the extended HRP family in the Netherlands and got to learn about their work at the ICC (Juan Calderson-Meza, former clinical fellow) and innovative work on business and human rights (Fola Adeleke, former clinical fellow; Deval Desai LLM ’08, SJD ’18, former research fellow; and Amelia Evans LLM ’11, former clinical instructor). With his family, Giannini also visited his roots in Ireland and in Lucca, northern Italy, for the first time, where they met long-lost cousins they never knew existed. 

Clinical Instructor Yee Htun completed a book chapter on populism in Thailand and Myanmar for an edited collection to be out next year from Cambridge University Press. She also taught a module entitled “Human Rights Under a Military Dictatorship: A Case Study on Myanmar/Burma” at the Lucerne Academy on Human Rights Implementation as well as presented at “Gender Matters: A Summer Workshop for Educators” organized by the Asia Center, the Center for African Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator, and the Religious Literacy Project of Harvard University.  In personal news, Htun is feeling a little lighter after donating 14 inches of her locks to Wigs for Kids.

Beatrice Lindstrom joined HRP as a Clinical Instructor at the end of August. Her summer was busy moving from New York and closing out nine years with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). She worked on responding to a deteriorating human rights situation in Haiti, including preparing a request for precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights for victims displaced by a brutal massacre in La Saline. She also published a chapter in the book Emerging Threats to Human Rights that came out in July. Before the move, Lindstrom got to spend some time with family on a lake in Maine.

Gerald Neuman presented his work on populism and human rights at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin in June, during a two-week stay at that social science research institute. While in Berlin he found something he has wanted for years at the Pergamon Museum – a working facsimile of a Babylonian cylinder seal. He will not be using it, however, for HRP correspondence.

New Clinical Instructor Aminta Ossom moved here from Geneva, finishing up her work with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and joined the Clinic. Before she left, she had the opportunity to cross off some items from her Geneva bucket list, including spending a day on a “funky jazz and blues boat” at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July and enjoyed a sunrise concert from the aubes musicales (“musical dawns”) concert series on the shores of Lake Geneva before work, which is a Geneva summer tradition. 

We hope you all had relaxing and productive summers! We look forward to picking up threads of old projects and meeting some new faces this year.

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August 28, 2019

UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Seeks RAs

Victor Madrigal-Borloz smiles at a press engagement.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, will be resident at the Human Rights Program for the next 18 months as a Senior Visiting Researcher. He seeks multiple research assistants for the 2019-2020 year. Research may focus on conversion therapy and the relationship between the criminalization of LGBTI issues and sustainable development goals. RAs must be independent and self-motivated with excellent writing and research skills. Candidates must have a Harvard affiliation.

For consideration, please send a CV to Dana Walters at dwalters@law.harvard.edu.

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August 27, 2019

HRP Welcomes New Clinicians for 2019-2020


The International Human Rights Clinic is thrilled to welcome two new faces, and one familiar one, to our team this year. Two impressive human rights practitioners, Beatrice Lindstrom and Aminta Ossom JD ’09, have joined the International Human Rights Clinic as Clinical Instructors. Coming to us with an extensive background in accountability litigation and advocacy, Beatrice will split her time between supervising projects as a Clinical Instructor and overseeing the student practice organization HLS Advocates for Human Rights. Aminta arrives from the United Nations, where she previously supported the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council as a Human Rights Officer. We are also pleased to welcome back Thomas Becker JD’08 as a Clinical Instructor. Becker was previously a Clinical Instructor during the 2018-2019 school year, where he worked on projects focused on accountability litigation and femicide in Bolivia, and he has played an integral role in the Clinic’s Mamani case for more than a decade.

Read more about Beatrice, Aminta, and Thomas below, and be sure to welcome them to HLS!


Beatrice Lindstrom is a Clinical Instructor in the Human Rights Program and the Supervising Attorney of Advocates for Human Rights. Her work focuses on accountability of transnational actors, obligations of international organizations, and access to remedies. 

Prior to joining Harvard Law School, Lindstrom was the Legal Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, an organization that works in partnership with Haitian lawyers to bring grassroots struggles for human rights to the international stage. For nearly a decade, her work has focused on path-breaking advocacy to secure accountability from the UN for causing a devastating cholera epidemic in Haiti. She was lead counsel in Georges v. United Nations, a class action lawsuit on behalf of those injured by cholera. For her work on the cholera case, she received the Recent Graduate Award from the NYU Law Alumni Association and the Zanmi Ayiti Award from the Haiti Solidarity Network of the Northeast. 

Lindstrom has extensive experience advocating in the UN human rights system, lobbying governments, and speaking in the media. She has appeared regularly in the New York Times, BBC, and Al Jazeera English.

Lindstrom was previously an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights and a Haiti country expert for Freedom House. She holds a JD from NYU School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholar, and a BA from Emory University.  


Aminta Ossom is a Clinical Instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic. She focuses on equality, inclusion, and economic and social rights. She also has research interests in human rights diplomacy, the role of identity in advocacy, and symbioses between civil and human rights movements.

Ossom was previously a human rights officer at the United Nations, where she supported the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council in fact-finding, advocacy and training in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Europe.

Before joining the UN, Ossom taught international human rights at Fordham Law School as a Crowley Fellow in International Human Rights and Adjunct Professor of Law.  There she designed and led a field study examining barriers to education faced by persons with disabilities in Rwanda. She has also served as a supervising attorney for independent clinical and externship students.

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2009, Ossom focused on transitional justice, including as a Satter Human Rights Fellow with Amnesty International in West Africa. While at HLS, she was a dedicated member of the International Human Rights Clinic. She holds a Masters in African Politics from SOAS, University of London, and a BA from the University of Oklahoma.


Thomas Becker is a Clinical Instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic. He is an attorney and activist who has spent most of the past decade working on human rights issues in Bolivia. As a student at Harvard Law School, he was the driving force behind launching Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada, a lawsuit against Bolivia’s former president and defense minister for their role in the massacre of indigenous peasants. After graduating, he moved to Bolivia, where he has worked with the survivors for over a decade. Last spring, Becker and his co-counsel obtained a $10 million jury verdict for family members of those killed in “Black October,” marking the first time a living ex-president has been held accountable in a U.S. court for human rights violations. The verdict was overturned by a federal judge and is currently being appealed in the Eleventh Circuit of Appeals.

Becker’s human rights work has included investigating torture and disappearance of Adavasis in India, documenting war crimes in Lebanon, and serving as a nonviolent bodyguard for the Zapatista guerrillas in Chiapas, Mexico. When he is not practicing law, Becker is an award-winning musician and songwriter who has recorded with Grammy-winning producers and toured throughout the world as a drummer and guitarist. 

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July 31, 2019

Emily Nagisa Keehn Departs HRP


After three years as Associate Director of the Academic Program, Emily Nagisa Keehn is leaving the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and starting as Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego.

Arriving in 2016 from Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa, Emily came to us with a human rights, gender, and HIV background. At HRP, she undertook influential research on health and human rights in prisons, decriminalization, and conflict-related sexual violence. She managed the day-to-day affairs of the Academic Program with her characteristic combination of intelligence, insight, and clear judgment: advising on and running HRP’s summer, post-graduate, and visiting fellowships; spearheading a mentorship program for post-graduate fellows; and curating HRP’s thought-provoking lunch talks and colloquia. Recently she took on additional responsibilities, supervising students in the International Human Rights Clinic.

Emily’s energy, dynamism, and passion inspired staff and students alike. “Emily has been an extraordinarily gifted Associate Director, and a joy to work with,” said Gerald Neuman, HRP Co-Director and J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, with whom she worked closely. She leaves a large gap in our Program and we will miss her dearly. We wish her all the best in her new role.


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June 20, 2019

Emily Nagisa Keehn and Dana Walters Co-Author Article on Progressive 1940s Prison in The Conversation


On June 14, HRP’s Emily Nagisa Keehn and Dana Walters published an article in The Conversation titled, “When America had an open prison – the story of Kenyon Scudder and his ‘prison without walls.’ ” The article discusses the prison reformer Kenyon Scudder and the California Institution for Men (CIM) in Chino, California, founded in 1941. An “open” prison, CIM was more progressive than many minimum security institutions today.


As the authors state:

“At the time, California’s maximum security institutions in San Quentin and Folsom were, as one newspaper put it, “powder kegs ready to explode.” Violence was rampant, particularly between guards and convicts, and California was considered to have one of the most oppressive penal systems in the nation.

To alleviate the draconian and overcrowded conditions at San Quentin and Folsom, in 1935 the California state legislature decided to build a new prison.

Kenyon J. Scudder, a veteran penologist who had a raft of ideas for how to change a prison system he viewed as archaic and inhumane, was hired to head Chino.

The California Institution for Men didn’t use terms like “warden” or “guards.” There was the “superintendent” – Scudder – and his “supervisors,” the vast majority of whom were college educated.

In fact, Scudder intentionally avoided hiring supervisors who had previously worked in prisons: He didn’t want staff members with punitive mindsets. Instead of relying on batons and guns, he trained this new staff in judo for self-defense. Weapons were reserved for absolute emergencies, and Scudder emphasized the development of conflict resolution skills.

Those being held wouldn’t have their identities reduced to a number. They could choose their own clothing and which jobs to do and what to study. Their cells had locks, but accounts indicate they weren’t used. The original plans for the prison called for a 25-foot perimeter wall with eight gun towers. Scudder put a halt to this; instead, he convinced the Board of Prison Directors to erect only a five-strand barbed wire livestock fence.

Scudder encouraged family members to regularly visit, allowed inmates to have picnics on the grounds and even permitted some physical contact.

He also refused to segregate anyone along racial lines, an unusual policy at the time.”

Keehn and Walters wrote the piece from research on United Nations criminal justice policy and a resolution on open prisons adopted in 1955 at the First Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. At preparatory discussions for the resolution, penal experts discussed open prisons in the U.S., with the American delegate calling them “the contribution of this generation” to modern prison management. This sparked the authors interest in historical U.S. use of open prisons.

Learn more about the Chino facility and read the rest of the article at The Conversation.

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June 5, 2019

Scenes from Graduation 2019


Last week, Harvard Law School graduated 801 members of the Class of 2019. Of these new JDs, LLMs, and SJDs, many were dedicated members of the International Human Rights Clinic, student leaders in HLS Advocates for Human Rights, and Human Rights Program summer and post-graduate fellows.

On the afternoon of May 30, 2019, we held a party to celebrate the new graduates and welcome their families and friends into our space. Below are a selection of photos from that celebration. Congrats to these new lawyers and those who supported them throughout their law school careers!

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April 30, 2019

Clinic Reports Show Benefits of Joining the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty Outweigh Concerns

Posted by Bonnie Docherty

As countries engage in national debates about joining the 2017 treaty banning nuclear weapons, they should focus on the treaty’s humanitarian and disarmament benefits.

To inform these discussions, the International Human Rights Clinic has released a new briefing paper and two government submissions that highlight the advantages of ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and seek to alleviate concerns some states may have.

Countries affected by nuclear weapon use and testing have much to gain from the TPNW’s provisions on victim assistance and environmental remediation. In a 9-page paper, the Clinic presents 10 myths and realities regarding the TPNW’s so-called “positive obligations.” It aims to raise awareness of these provisions and correct misconceptions and misrepresentations about their content.

The briefing paper explains how the TPNW spreads responsibility for assisting victims and remediating contaminated areas across states parties. While affected states should take the lead for practical and legal reasons, other states parties should support their efforts with technical, material, or financial assistance.

The paper also shows how the positive obligations can be effectively implemented and make a tangible difference, despite the devastating effects of nuclear weapons.

In recent government submissions, the Clinic has addressed the situation of countries that are members of or partners with NATO. It has called on Iceland and Sweden in particular to join the TPNW, but the arguments apply to any states in a comparable position.

Ratifying the TPNW would further these countries’ long-standing support of nuclear disarmament and promote compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. At the same time, members or partners of NATO or a similar alliance should not face legal obstacles to joining the TPNW. While a state party to the TPNW would have to renounce its nuclear umbrella status, it could continue to participate in joint military operations with nuclear-armed states.

The Clinic released related reports focusing on the Marshall Islands and Australia in 2018.

As of April 30, 2019, the TPNW had 70 signatories and 23 states parties. It will enter into force when 50 states have become party.

Clinical students Molly Brown JD ’19, Maria Manghi JD ’20, and Ben Montgomery JD ’20 worked on these publications under the supervision of Bonnie Docherty, associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection.

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April 8, 2019

Hiring: Clinic Seeks Clinical Instructor


The International Human Rights Clinic is seeking a Clinical Instructor to supervise law students in the Clinic and support Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights. Applications will only be accepted through Harvard University Human Resources. The full ad is below. Applications due May 5, 2019.

 

Position: Clinical Instructor – International Human Rights Clinic

Duties & Responsibilities

The International Human Rights Clinic (“the Clinic”), which is part of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, is inviting applications for a Clinical Instructor. The Clinical Instructor’s time will be allocated 50% to supervising law students enrolled for credit in the Clinic, and 50% to liaising with and supporting Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights (“Advocates”), the student practice organization affiliated with the Clinic.

The Clinic offers 2L and 3L students, as well as LLM students, the opportunity to work for academic credit on a variety of timely and complex human rights issues in partnership with clients, civil society organizations, and affected communities around the world, including in the United States. Through supervised practice and intense in-house mentorship, clinical students develop a range of skills necessary to become thoughtful, critical, creative, strategic, and effective human rights advocates. The Clinical Instructor will design, oversee, and execute clinical projects, and supervise and manage student teams. Clinical projects deploy a variety of strategies and methodologies and may include fact-finding investigations and advocacy efforts, human rights reporting, legislative drafting, litigation in national and international fora, media advocacy, policy initiatives, coalition building, and negotiating treaty provisions.

As a student practice organization, Advocates offers law students, including 1Ls and LLMs, the opportunity to gain practical legal experience from the start of law school. Advocates operates according to an externship model in which students work on projects from Cambridge, under the supervision of licensed attorneys at various partner organizations. Advocates is run by a student board, with 2Ls, 3Ls, and LLMs assuming leadership and project management responsibilities. While students do not receive academic credit for their work, their hours can count towards the law school’s pro bono graduation requirement. Advocates also organizes on-campus events, programming, and trainings. The Clinical Instructor will be the bridge between Advocates and the Clinic. This individual will liaise and work with Advocates around all aspects of its operations, including supporting student leaders as they build relationships with partner organizations, develop and manage projects, interact with supervising attorneys and student teams, address potential conflicts of interest and other risk management concerns, facilitate the annual transition between incoming and outgoing student leadership to offer continuity, and help maintain institutional memory.

The Clinical Instructor will be a legally-trained practitioner with at least five years of demonstrated experience in, and commitment to, human rights, including experience training, teaching, or mentoring law students. This individual will join a vibrant community of human rights practitioners and scholars at Harvard Law School.

*Duties and Responsibilities continued in Additional Information Section*

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