Blog: accountability

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March 29, 2019

Clinic Releases Report Documenting Femicide and Impunity in Bolivia

Posted by Thomas Becker JD'08, Julia Wenck JD'20, and Fabiola Alvelais JD'20

For women, Bolivia is a land of paradoxes. The Bolivian government has enacted some of the world’s most progressive legislation to advance women’s rights. It was one of the first countries to criminalize femicide − the killing of women because they are women – and maintains strict protocols to combat gender violence. Yet despite these efforts, violence against women remains a pervasive problem. Bolivia’s femicide rate is the second highest in South America and one of the highest in the world.

In April 2018, Mujeres Creando, a Bolivian feminist collective, asked the International Human Rights Clinic to examine femicide in Bolivia. Throughout this academic year, clinical students Fabiola Alvelais JD ’20, Isabel Pitaro JD ’20, and Julia Wenck JD ’20 have worked on this issue under the supervision of Clinical Instructor Thomas Becker JD ’08, conducting extensive desk research and traveling to Bolivia to interview families of femicide victims, activists, and government officials involved in the investigation and adjudication of femicide cases.

Last Friday, the Clinic released its report, “ ‘No Justice for Me’: Femicide and Impunity in Bolivia.” Becker and Alvelais presented the report at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz. Family members of femicide victims, academics, and the former Human Rights Ombudsman of Bolivia (and current Chancellor of the University)  participated in the presentation before an overflow crowd of roughly one thousand people.

Becker and Alvelais presented the results of the report at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz last week. They were joined there by members of Congress and those affected by femicide. From left to right: Susan Rivera, Vice-President of Congress; Becker; Daiana Tapia, sister of femicide victim Daniela Tapia; Adriana Salvatierra, President of the Senate; Valeria Silva Guzmán, President of the Justice Commission of Congress; Rosario Mendez, mother of femicide victim Veronica Quintana; Alvelais; and Miriam Valeriano, mother of femicide victim Yessenia Fuentes.

“No Justice for Me” identifies three key areas that have hindered the government’s efforts to prevent femicide and hold perpetrators accountable: (1) investigative barriers, (2) judicial barriers, and (3) institutional discrimination. The report calls on actors in the Bolivian government and civil society to address these obstacles, adhere to the country’s own progressive legislation on femicide, and work together to address the pervasiveness of femicide and impunity in the country.

Helen Alvarez, whose daughter Andrea Aramayo was killed by her boyfriend in 2015, was interviewed for the report and remains concerned about the prevalence of femicide. “All women can be victims of femicide in Bolivia,” she noted. “Unfortunately, impunity sends a signal to men that they can get away with killing women.”

Though Alvarez recognizes that preventing femicide and holding perpetrators accountable will continue to be difficult, she is hopeful that the Clinic’s report can be a powerful tool in this struggle and ultimately bring her daughter’s case one step closer to justice.

The clinical team shared its report with the public, conducting dozens of radio, print, and television interviews. “I was genuinely moved by the widespread interest in battling femicide in Bolivia,” Alvelais reflected.

Becker and Alvelais also met with high level members of the Bolivian government, including the President of the Senate, the Vice-President of Congress, the President of the Justice Commission of Congress, and the Director General of the Plurinational Service for Women and Depatriarchalization, to discuss the report.

To Becker, these meetings signaled a sincere effort to confront the problem of femicide. “We had a unique opportunity to sit down with members of the government, who showed a genuine interest in collaborating to eradicate femicide in the country,” he explained. “We are optimistic about the possibilities for meaningful change.”

The report is available in English and Spanish.

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October 7, 2011

Wednesday, Oct. 12: “Accountability After Katrina: Community Lawyering and Organizing for Justice”

Event Notice

                                                  October 12, 2011   

“Accountability After Katrina: Community Lawyering and Organizing for Justice”       

A Talk by Norris Henderson, of Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE)
and Davida Finger, Community Justice Clinic, Loyola University New Orleans

12:00-1:15 p.m.

Pound Hall 204

   
Join us for a discussion about the ways in which community organizers and lawyers are working together to address justice issues in New Orleans.  Norris Henderson is a community leader and the Founder and Executive Director of  Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE), a non-profit justice organization founded by and run by formerly incarcerated people.  Davida Finger, a former Wasserstein Fellow at Harvard Law School, teaches the Community Justice Clinic at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

This event is co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program, Office of Public Interest Advising, HLS Mississippi Delta Project, HLS Advocates for Human RightsHarvard Immigration Project, ACLU-HLS, National Lawyers Guild – HLS Chapter, HLS American Constitution Society, and Harvard Civil Rights-Civil  Liberties Law Review.

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October 3, 2011

Today: Raji Sourani, Director of Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, on Accountability for Gaza

Posted by Meera Shah

Today, Raji Sourani, one of the foremost human rights lawyers and advocates in the Middle East, will come to speak at Harvard Law School.  Personally, as  someone who worked in the Middle East for several years, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to meet him.  The founder of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza City in 1995, Sourani began his human rights career challenging Israeli prison conditions and defending Palestinians facing deportation in Israeli military courts.  As a human rights defender, he was detained by Israeli authorities on multiple occasions, prompting Amnesty International to name him one of their Prisoners of Conscience in both 1985 and 1988.

With the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the 1990s, Sourani’s work took on another dimension, exposing and documenting human rights violations on the part of both Israeli and Palestinian officials.  While this even-handedness was not always popular, it demonstrates Sourani’s commitment to a universal standard.

This principled stance and the courage to speak out continue to drive Sourani’s work.  Today, he will be talking about the need for accountability for violations committed as part of Israel’s offensive in late 2008 and the human rights implications of the ongoing closure of the Gaza Strip.  I hope you will join us for this important and timely discussion!

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March 25, 2011

Former GITMO Psychologist Claims to be Named to White House Task Force on “Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of The Military Family”

Posted by Cara Solomon

UPDATED POST: See comment below.

Larry James, former Guantanamo psychologist and subject of a professional misconduct complaint filed by the International Human Rights Clinic, has claimed he was appointed to a White House Task Force on “Enhancing Psychological Well-Being of The Military Family.”

“That’s just a scary thought,” said Michael Reese, a former U.S. Army private, a member of Disabled American Veterans, and one of the Ohio residents who filed the complaint.  “I just don’t trust him.”

In an e-mail to colleagues and students of Wright State University, where Dr. James serves as Dean of the School of Professional Psychology, he announced “with great pride and pleasure” that he had been “appointed by the First Lady,” and that he would be attending the Task Force’s first meeting at the White House, to be hosted next Tuesday by Mrs. Obama and her staff.

In a Salon post today, Glenn Greenwald asks:

“Of all the psychologists to choose from, why would they possibly choose to honor and elevate the former chief psychologist of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib at the height of the Bush abuses?  More disturbing still, among those most damaged by detainee abuse are the service members forced to participate in it; why would the White House possibly want to put on a task force about the health of military families someone, such as Dr. James, who at the very least is directly associated with policies that so profoundly harmed numerous members of the military and their families?”

UPDATE (3/26/2011)

Today, Greenwald received an interesting response from the White House in which it disputes some—but not all—of Dr. James’s statements.  As a result of this response, we changed the language in the headline from “Named to White House Task Force” to “Claims to Be Named to White House Task Force,” and, in the text, changed the wording of the first paragraph from “reportedly appointed” to “claims he was appointed.”  We also included additional quotes from the e-mail circulated by Dr. James to the Wright State University School of Professional Psychology community.

In an update this afternoon, Greenwald wrote:

“In an email to me from the First Lady’s Communications Director, the White House claims:

Several members of the White House staff are convening a meeting with multiple mental health professionals on Tuesday to discuss issues pertaining to the wellness of military families.  SAMHSA and the American Psychological Association have both been asked to attend.  We understand that Dr. James is involved with these groups and may have been indirectly invited to attend this meeting.

She claims, however, that he now will not be at that meeting, and further states that ‘Dr. James has not been appointed to serve in any capacity with the White House.'”

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