Blog: Staff

February 20, 2018

Tomorrow, Feb. 21: The ambitions of Muslim family law reform

Please join the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender tomorrow, Feb. 21, for a talk on Muslim family law reform featuring clinical instructor Salma Waheedi and Prof. Kristen Stilt, Faculty Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change.  The event begins at noon in WCC B015, with a plant-based lunch served.

Stilt and Waheedi will discuss their upcoming Journal of Law & Gender article examining reform efforts in family law in Muslim countries. They will discuss how change in family law can be achieved through arguments based on or justified by Islamic law. They will present and analyze legal strategies of family law reform and identify the possibilities and the limitations of each strategy. Their upcoming article is directed towards scholars and practitioners who seek a deeper understanding of the tools of change in Muslim family law.

This event is organized by the Journal of Law & Gender and co-sponsored by the Women’s Law Association, Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change, and the Muslim Law Students Association. 


Share By Email


February 19, 2018

Gerald Neuman intervenes as amicus in Sixth Circuit appeal to prevent deportation of Iraqi immigrants from the U.S.

Posted by Emily Nagisa Keehn

Professor Gerald Neuman, Co-Director of the Human Rights Program, recently filed an amicus curiae brief to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case concerning the potential deportation of Iraqi immigrants, most of whom are Chaldean Christians, a persecuted minority in Iraq.

The Iraqi immigrants were ordered deported years ago, but could not be removed because there was no agreement between the U.S. and Iraq by which Iraq would accept their repatriation. The current administration negotiated an agreement with Iraq this past summer for that purpose, and began arresting the Iraqis with a view to sending them back immediately, without giving them an opportunity to show danger of persecution or torture in light of changed country conditions. If the Iraqis could show such danger, that would bar return under both U.S. law and domestic law.

In July 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ordered a stay of removal to give the petitioners the opportunity to seek administrative re-opening of their cases due to their need for protection. The government then appealed.

The amicus brief of law professors to the Sixth Circuit explains why the Suspension Clause of the Constitution requires that people in this situation have an effective judicial remedy that could prevent the government from sending them outside the U.S. before their cases can be heard. Thirteen other U.S. professors joined Professor Neuman as co-amici.


Share By Email


February 7, 2018

Staff perspective: How mass incarceration harms U.S. health, in five charts

Last week, Emily Nagisa Keehn, Associate Director of HRP’s Academic Program, and J. Wesley Boyd, J. Wesley Boyd, Faculty, Center for Bioethics and Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, co-authored a compelling Op-Ed in The Conversation, examining how mass incarceration harms U.S. health. They write in part:

“Each year, an estimated 1,000 people die while incarcerated in U.S. jails, most of whom were unconvicted. Suicide rates for incarcerated people is 3-4 times higher than the general population. To us, the evidence is clear: Mass incarceration is a public health scourge in the U.S. The only reasonable response is to limit the unnecessary use of incarceration across the board.”

This commentary comes on the heels of a two-day conference, “Behind Bars: Ethics and Human Rights in U.S. Prisons.” which Emily helped to organize on behalf of HRP late last year. That conference, co-sponsored by the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, explored a range of topics, from treatment of pregnant women in prison to health care workers in prison to the psychopathological effects of solitary confinement.

Here’s a slideshow of the event (with photographs by, along with the keynote speech by Danielle Allen, Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University and
James Bryant Conant University Professor.



Share By Email


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.

Share By Email


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.”

Share By Email


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.


Share By Email


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.


Share By Email


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.

Share By Email