Susan Farbstein is the Co-Director of the International Human Rights Clinic and a Clinical Professor at Harvard Law School, where she has taught since 2008.
Her current work focuses on Southern Africa, transitional justice, Alien Tort Statute litigation, community lawyering, and economic, social, and cultural rights. She is an expert on South Africa, having worked on a variety of human rights and transitional justice issues in that country for nearly fifteen years. Her writing has been published in scholarly journals including the Harvard Law Review and the Harvard International Law Journal, as well as more popular outlets including The New York Times and SCOTUSBlog. In 2015 she was selected by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as one of the “Top Women of Law” in the Commonwealth.
Farbstein is co-counsel in In re South African Apartheid Litigation, a suit against major multinational corporations for aiding and abetting human rights violations committed by the apartheid state. She is also co-counsel in Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada, which brings claims against the former Bolivian president and defense minister related to a 2003 civilian massacre. She participated in litigating Wiwa v. Shell, which charged Shell with complicity in the torture and killing of non-violent Nigerian activists in the mid-1990s and successfully settled in 2009. For her work as a member of the Wiwa legal team, Farbstein was honored as finalist for the 2010 Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.
She has authored numerous amicus curiae briefs, including to the Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (on behalf of legal history scholars), Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman (on behalf of international law scholars), and Samantar v. Yousuf (on behalf of human rights organizations).
Over the past fifteen years, Farbstein has engaged on a range of transitional justice issues in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, South Sudan, Myanmar, Thailand, and Argentina. Her recent work focuses on questions of accountability for apartheid-era abuses in South Africa; efforts to advance the right to equitable, quality education guaranteed by South Africa’s constitution; models for the provision of post-harm assistance to civilian survivors of the conflict in South Sudan; the promotion and protection of economic, social, and cultural rights in Zimbabwe; and policy reform to improve civilian protection and change military behavior in Myanmar.
Farbstein has a strong interest in clinical pedagogy and, in 2011-2012, was a recipient of the Harvard President’s Innovation Fund for Faculty Grant for her creative clinical teaching. Building on this interest, between 2012-2014 she developed and implemented a training and exchange program on clinical pedagogy with practitioners and academics in South Africa. She actively supports and mentors students pursuing human rights careers, including by serving as an attorney advisor for the law school’s Office of Public Interest Advising.
Before joining the Harvard Law School faculty, Farbstein worked at the Cape Town office of the International Center for Transitional Justice. Prior to that, she clerked for the Honorable Morris E. Lasker of the Southern District of New York. She holds a B.A. from Princeton University, an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Human Rights Advocacy and Litigation: Clinical Seminar
Advanced Skills Training for Human Rights Advocacy
Litigating Using the Alien Tort Statute: Case Studies and Advocacy: Seminar
Transitional Justice in Southern Africa
Books and Reports
“Legal Memorandum: War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in Eastern Myanmar”
(International Human Rights Clinic, November 2014)
“Policy Memorandum: Preventing Indiscriminate Attacks and Wilful Killings of Civilians by the Myanmar Military”
(International Human Rights Clinic, March 2014)
“Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in Zimbabwe: Options for Constitutional Protection”
(Joint publication: International Human Rights Clinic, National Constitutional Assembly, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, 2009)
Prosecuting Apartheid-Era Crimes? A South African Dialogue on Justice
(Harvard University Press, 2009) Co-authors: Tyler Giannini, Tyler Giannini, Samantha Bent, and Miles Jackson
Articles and Chapters
“Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa: The Struggle Continues in the Niger Delta”
“Reflections on the Question of When, If Ever, Violence is Justified in the Struggle for Social and Political Change”
27 Harvard Human Rights Journal 1 (2014)
“Justice Ginsburg’s International Perspective”
(in “Essays in Honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”Martha Minow, ed.; Harvard Law School, 2013)
“Supreme Court to Hear Major Human Rights Case Again: Much More At Stake the Second Time Around
(JusticeWatch blog, Alliance for Justice, 9/29/12) Co-author: Tyler Giannini
“Online Kiobel Symposium: The Alien Tort Statute and the Importance of Historical Evidence”
(SCOTUSblog, 7/17/12) Co-author: Tyler Giannini
“Liability for Harms”
(The New York Times, Room for Debate: Corporate Rights and Human Rights; 2/28/12) Co-author: Tyler Giannini
“Supreme Court Hears Major Corporate Human Rights Case”
(American Constitution Society blog, 2/28/12) Co-author: Tyler Giannini
“No Corporate Exemption: Supreme Court to Hear Major Corporate Alien Tort Statute Case”
(JusticeWatch blog, Alliance for Justice, 2/22/12) Co-author: Tyler Giannini
“The Alien Tort Statute and Corporate Liability”
Debate, 160 U. Pa. L. Rev. PENNumbra 99 (2011) Co-author: Tyler Giannini
“Corporate Accountability in Conflict Zones: How Kiobel Undermines the Nuremberg Legacy and Modern Human Rights”
52 Harv. Int’l L. J. Online 119 (2010) Co-author: Tyler Giannini
“Did Kiobel Get Nuremberg Wrong?”
(The Cockle Bur blog, 12/14/10)
“Aung San Suu Kyi’s Release: Not A ‘Mandela Moment’”
(The Cockle Bur blog, 11/23/10)
“The Effectiveness of the Exercise of Jurisdiction by the International Criminal Court: The Issue of Complementarity”
(European Center for Minority Issues, 2001)