Blog: Staff

December 20, 2017

The Nobel Peace Prize Celebrations: Recognition and Reinvigoration for Humanitarian Disarmament Advocates

Posted by Bonnie Docherty


On December 10, 2017, at 1 p.m., uniformed musicians on the grand staircase of Oslo City Hall brought their gleaming trumpets to their lips and the audience to its feet. The clarion salute they sounded heralded the arrival of the king and queen of Norway and a new era of nuclear disarmament.

ICAN Director Beatrice Fihn speaks at 2017 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo City Hall. Photo credit: Ralf Schlesener.

In front of dignitaries, diplomats, and dozens of civil society campaigners, myself included, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

The award honors ICAN for having “given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigour.” In particular, the prize recognizes the civil society coalition’s “ground-breaking” work to realize a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

More than 70 years after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons makes clear that nuclear weapons are illegal as well as immoral and increases the stigma against them. It also shows that real progress in nuclear disarmament is possible.

I had the honor of attending the Nobel ceremony as part of ICAN’s delegation because, along with Clinical Instructor Anna Crowe and a team from the International Human Rights Clinic, I partnered closely with ICAN during last summer’s treaty negotiations. We provided legal advice and successfully lobbied for obligations to address the humanitarian and environmental harm caused by nuclear weapons.

I can best describe my four days in Oslo as magical. In addition to the ceremony, the celebrations included a torchlight parade, a concert in ICAN’s honor, and the opening of a museum exhibition on the coalition. Nobel Peace Prize banners hung from street lamps on the city’s main boulevard, and the lights on a Ferris wheel alternated flashing the Nobel medal and the ICAN logo.

Bonnie Docherty by Laureates’ box after Nobel Peace Prize Concert on December 11, 2017.

The experience was made all the more meaningful because I shared it with friends from around the world with whom I’ve advocated for humanitarian disarmament for more than 15 years.

The genesis of the nuclear weapon ban treaty exemplifies the power of a humanitarian approach to disarmament. After the 1996 adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, there was minimal progress in advancing the law on nuclear weapons; international discussions continued but produced no tangible results.

In 2010, ICAN and other proponents of a new treaty began to reframe nuclear weapons as a humanitarian, rather than national security, issue. Publications from ICAN and its member organizations highlighted the horrific harm caused by use and testing. A resolution from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement called for using “the framework of humanitarian diplomacy” to work toward a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. In 2015, 127 states endorsed the “Humanitarian Pledge,” committing “to promote the protection of civilians against risks stemming from nuclear weapons” and to strive for a world free of nuclear weapons.

This shift in the debate broke the international deadlock. The following year, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to initiate treaty negotiations, and on July 7, 2017, 122 states adopted a global ban on nuclear weapons. Only one country voted against, and one abstained.

As I explained at a legal seminar held during the Nobel celebrations, the influence of humanitarian disarmament is evident in the treaty’s text as well as the process behind it. The preamble recognizes the overwhelming human and environmental consequences of the weapons, and acknowledges the disproportionate impact on women and girls and indigenous peoples. Continue Reading…

December 19, 2017

HRP Associate Director’s Work with Sonke Gender Justice on Prison Conditions Recognized with Award


Congratulations to Emily Keehn, Associate Director of HRP’s Academic Program, whose work at the pioneering human rights organization, Sonke Gender Justice, in South Africa, recently won the “Investing in Future Health Award” from the Mail and Guardian and Southern Africa Trust. The Investing in the Future Awards recognize organizations that contribute to the future of South Africa.

As head of policy development and advocacy at Sonke, Emily led a team that tracked complaints of severe overcrowding at Pollsmoor Remand Facility; developed litigation with Lawyers for Human Rights that challenged inhumane conditions at the facility and resulted in a drop in overcrowding from 300% to 150%; and launched a campaign to encourage judges to conduct independent inspections of prisons across the country.

Sonke’s work in prisons aims to address the epidemics of HIV and TB and sexual abuse in prisons. These are driven by toxic gender norms and behaviors, as well as structural factors such as extreme overcrowding, poor ventilation, inadequate access to medical services, and other human rights abuses against people in prison.

Emily continues to work on criminal justice issues at HRP, most recently by helping to organize the successful two-day conference, “Behind Bars: Ethics and Human Rights in U.S. Prisons,” which HRP co-sponsored with the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics. Earlier this semester, she was a panelist at an event about decriminalization and human rights, which you can view here.

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December 4, 2017

Tomorrow, December 5: Realizing Access to Effective Remedy


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

“Realizing Access to Effective Remedy”

A report-back from the 6th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

5:00-7:00 p.m.
Lewis 202

Please join Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of the Human Rights Program and its International Human Rights Clinic, and Malcom Rogge, SJD Candidate and Teaching Fellow at HLS and Harvard Kennedy School, for a report-back from the 6th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights.  The Forum is the global platform for yearly stock-taking and lesson-sharing on efforts to move the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights from paper to practice. The central theme of the 2017 Forum was “Realizing Access to Effective Remedy.”

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November 17, 2017

Clinic Releases Joint Report on Challenges and Significance of Documentation for Refugees in Nairobi

Posted by Anna Crowe


The International Human Rights Clinic and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Kenya released a report today in Kenya detailing the challenges refugees in Nairobi face in obtaining the official documentation needed to secure their status and identity, as well as the significance of documentation to their daily lives. Most of the nearly half a million refugees in Kenya live in refugee camps, but approximately 64,000 live outside the camps, in Nairobi.

Somali refugee student shows her documentation at home in Nairobi, Kenya. Copyright: UNHCR

The report, “Recognising Nairobi’s Refugees,” highlights refugees’ experiences in Nairobi with registration and refugee status determination – processes that lead to documentation. The challenges refugees described included stalled or suspended processes; inconsistency in requirements and information; substantial delays in receiving documentation; and confusion about the next steps to take in a process. The report relies on interviews with more than 30 refugees living in Nairobi, as well as with representatives of local and international non-governmental organizations; the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; and the Kenyan government’s Refugee Affairs Secretariat.

In interviews, refugees described the critical importance of documentation to establishing a sense of security in the lives, as well as to proving their identity in official and informal settings. Without documentation, many reported frustration, stress, and even a feeling of hopelessness. Refugees lacking documentation also reported problems with police, such as harassment, which in turn led them to restrict their movements.

In their joint report, the Clinic and NRC recommend that, among other things, the Government of Kenya should continue to register refugees living outside camps; recognize refugees’ right to freedom of movement within the country; produce and widely disseminate clear guidance on registration and refugee status determination procedures; and undertake measures, such as training of relevant officials, to ensure refugees can live without fear or restriction in the city.

Today’s report is part of the Clinic’s ongoing focus on legal identity and refugee documentation. In previous years, the Clinic has collaborated with NRC to examine the challenges and significance of documentation – such as birth certificates and ID cards – for Syrian refugees living in Jordan.

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November 14, 2017

Introducing HRP’s 2016-2017 Annual Report


We are very pleased to announce that HRP’s 2016-2017 annual report is now online. We hope it gives you a window into some of our work last year, on topics ranging from the rights of foreign nationals to accountability litigation to women’s rights. Thanks to all of the students, partners, and alumni who made the year so strong.

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October 26, 2017

Staff Reflection: Remembering Someone I Never Knew

Posted by Bonnie Docherty


Carl Thorne-Thomsen with high school friend Linda Jones Docherty, mother of the author. Photo from the 1964 Lake Forest High School yearbook, courtesy of Linda Docherty.

Although I never met Carl Thorne-Thomsen, I’ve known about him for as long as I can remember.

I distinctly recall driving down the road to my grandparents’ home in Lake Forest, IL, as my mother told me about her close high school friend who had died in Vietnam. Carl had opposed the war, she explained, but he felt it was unjust for him to be sheltered from the draft while others with less privilege were sent to fight in Southeast Asia. In a quiet act of protest, he withdrew from Harvard College during his junior year and was drafted in April 1967. Two months after arriving in Vietnam, and 50 years ago this week, he was killed in combat.

Although I was in elementary school at the time of this conversation, Carl’s decision to live—and die—by his principles made a vivid impression on me. Decades later, having spent most of my career on issues of armed conflict, I still find myself compelled. The 50th anniversary of his death motivated me to track down more information through archives and interviews and to write a Vita for Harvard Magazine’s September/October issue.

Thorne-Thomsen (fourth from the left) with his crew teammates. Photo courtesy of Harvard University Archives.

Carl’s story demonstrates the power of an individual to have a lasting impact. Virtually everyone I interviewed used the word “special” to describe him. Crew teammates and fellow soldiers alike cited the strength of character Carl showed in standing up against the inequity of the draft. On the battlefield, his bravery as a radio operator saved lives. Several Harvard classmates said they had sought out Carl’s name on the Vietnam Wall, and for decades, his commanding officer carried with him a letter Carl’s mother sent after she received the news of his death. An unexpected reward of doing my story was to share with his still grieving family how others remembered him.

My own admiration for Carl has only grown as I have done more research and talked with people who knew him personally. He made sacrifices for his principles yet did so in private way. Many of his classmates and comrades-in-arms did not know until recently how a Harvard student ended up as an enlisted man in Vietnam. Carl hated injustice, and whether on campus or in a combat zone, he treated everyone with the same respect. In the end, he left a legacy of courage and character that remains an inspiration.

September 26, 2017

Facebook Live Conversation: On the Rohingya Crisis and its Long-Term Implications for Myanmar


Yesterday the International Human Rights Clinic livestreamed on Facebook a conversation about the Rohingya crisis and its long-term implications for Myanmar. It was the first in a series of conversations we plan to livestream on critical topics in the world of human rights.

From left: Tarek Zeidan, Yee Htun and Tyler Giannini.

Tarek Zeidan, HKS ’18, moderated the discussion between Yee Htun, clinical instructor and former director of the Myanmar Program for Justice Trust, and Tyler Giannini, the Clinic’s co-director and co-founder of EarthRights International, who lived and worked on the Thai-Burmese border for a decade. You can watch the conversation on our FB page.

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September 21, 2017

Tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 22: In Pursuit of Accountability for Post-9/11 Torture

 

Friday, September 22, 2017

“In Pursuit of Accountability for Post-9/11 Torture: A Discussion with the Litigation Team of Salim v. Mitchell”

12:00- 1:00 p.m.
WCC 2009

Lunch will be served

Please join us for a discussion with the litigation team behind Salim et al. v. Mitchell et al., the landmark case that sought to hold CIA-contracted psychologists Dr. Bruce Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell accountable for the post-9/11 torture program they devised. Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, and Lawrence Lustberg, chair of the Criminal Defense division at Gibbons Law in Newark, NJ, will discuss the recently settled case with moderator Paul Hoffman, a civil and human rights attorney and fellow member of the trial team currently teaching at HLS. The ACLU filed the lawsuit under the Alien Tort Statute on behalf of three victims of the CIA’s program, Mohammed Ben Soud, Suleiman Salim, and Gul Rahman, who died as a result of the torture inflicted on him.

September 13, 2017

HRP Welcomes New Staff and Visiting Fellows

Now that the semester is underway, we want to extend our warmest welcome to all of the new staff and Visiting Fellows at the Human Rights Program. They are, in a word, fantastic.

Debbie Frempong, the new Program Assistant for the International Human Rights Clinic, comes to us from Harvard Divinity School, where she graduated with an MTS in Religion, Politics and Ethics. She holds a B.A. in Public Policy and Politics from Pomona College.

Debbie Frempong and Dana Walters, the new program assistants at HRP.

Debbie is taking on many of the responsibilities previously held by Katherine Young, who until recently worked as Program Associate. This summer, she was promoted to Program Manager, in charge of administrative management of the International Human Rights Clinic and the financial administration of the Human Rights Program.

Dana Walters, the new Program Assistant for the Academic Program, comes to us from the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, where she was a coordinator, and the Atlantic Media Company, where she was a fellow. Dana holds a B.A. in English and American Literatures from Middlebury College and an M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago, where she was previously pursuing a doctorate.

This semester, we’re also so pleased to welcome three Visiting Fellows. Continue Reading…

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September 12, 2017

Statement in Solidarity with Lambda and QTPOC on JAG Recruiting

Posted by Anna Crowe, Yee Htun, Salma Waheedi, Tyler Giannini and Susan Farbstein

As human rights advocates, we support the student groups Lambda and QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Color) in their action today against Harvard Law School’s decision to allow JAG recruiting on campus, which is the school’s only exception to its anti-discrimination policy. We also support the students’ call for increased support and awareness for issues affecting the transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming community. We stand in solidarity with the students, staff and faculty seeking to build a more inclusive Harvard Law School.

Read the students’ statement here.

Student action outside the classrooms where JAG was recruiting today.