Blog: EarthRights International

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April 10, 2015

Australian Radio Interviews Tyler Giannini on Mining Company Settlement with Rape Survivors

Posted by Cara Solomon

Earlier this week, Australian radio interviewed Tyler Giannini about a significant development in the world of business and human rights: one of the world’s largest mining companies, Barrick Gold, recently settled claims with a group of women in Papua New Guinea who were raped by the company’s security guards. The settlement, negotiated by EarthRights International, came as the women were preparing to file suit.

The International Human Rights Clinic has been investigating abuses around the Porgera mine for several years, along with NYU’s Global Justice Clinic and Columbia’s Human Rights Clinic. Reports of rape around the mine in the highlands of Papua New Guinea date back to at least 2006, but the company did not acknowledge them for years.

In 2012, the company set up a complaint mechanism, which Tyler describes in the interview as inadequate. Initially, the company was preparing to offer the women who stepped forward a compensation package of used clothing and chickens. At the urging of advocates, including the Clinic, the company later revised its offer, and more than 100 women accepted the settlement.

EarthRights represented a group that did not agree to settle through the company’s complaint mechanism. At least one woman described the original settlement offers as “offensive.”

“If you have settlements that aren’t really getting to justice, the discourse with the community is not really healed, and you don’t get real reconciliation,” Tyler said in the interview. “That’s not good for the company, that’s not good for the survivors, and I think that’s one of the lessons that needs to be taken away.”

Listen to the full 7 minute interview here

July 31, 2014

Fellowship Announcements!

Posted by Mindy Roseman

The Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School is pleased to announce the establishment of the Global Justice Fellowship (GJF) with the generous support of the Planethood Foundation. The fellowship supports scholars, advocates, and practitioners with a demonstrated background in international justice and the rule of law. Of most interest are those whose work concerns ongoing human rights issues, especially those touching on egregious violations, including genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

Matthew Bugher, JD ‘09, is the inaugural Global Justice Fellow. Over the coming year, Matthew will work to combat state-sponsored violence and persecution in Myanmar and Zimbabwe. More specifically, he will contribute to the Clinic’s ongoing advocacy relating to military policy reform in Myanmar; work with partners on new initiatives to promote accountability for gross human rights violations; and support local activists in their efforts to document abuses.

Earlier in the summer, the Human Rights Program made several other fellowship awards. With the support of a Henigson Human Rights Fellowship, Maryum Jordan, J.D. ’14, will work in Peru with EarthRights International; Lindsay Henson, J.D. ’14, will work in South Africa with Lawyers Against Abuse; Sarah Wheaton, J.D. ’14, will work in Egypt with St. Andrew’s Resettlement Legal Aid Project; and Anjali Mohan, J.D. ’14, will work in Myanmar with Justice Base.

HRP also awarded two Satter Human Rights fellowships: to James Tager, J.D. ’13,  who will work with the International Commission of Jurists in Thailand, and to Jason Gelbort, J.D. ’13, who will work with Public International Law & Policy Group in Myanmar.

NOTE: HRP recently re-opened the application process for one more Satter Fellowship.

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December 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Friends: Marissa Vahlsing, JD ’11, and Ben Hoffman, JD ’11

Posted by Cara Solomon

This article was originally published in The Harvard Law Bulletin

It’s hard to remember now what she said.  But it was vintage Marissa—something others would not have thought, or had the courage to say.  She raised her hand in the first week of law school, and spoke her mind.

Ben and Marissa were among several students to staff the Clinic’s table during last year’s annual Clinical Fair.

Right away, Ben wanted to be her friend.  He flagged her down on the crosswalk after class.  He asked if she wanted to bat around some ideas.  And that was how Ben Hoffman and Marissa Vahlsing started Harvard Law School: side by side.

Three years later, they graduated the same way.

“The joke is that Ben has become more like Marissa, and Marissa has become more like Ben, and they’re starting to blur into the same person,” said Susan Farbstein ’04, associate clinical director of the Human Rights Program, a mentor and teacher to both.

This fall, along with the rest of the Class of 2011, Marissa and Ben have headed out into the world to make their way.  Specifically, they’re working in Peru, helping EarthRights International set up an office to support indigenous communities in the fight to protect their land.

When Marissa heard they had received funding for the project, she could not stop smiling.

“We were going anyway,” she said. “Now we’ll have the money to eat.”

**********

In high school, Marissa wanted to be a potter.  Or maybe a writer.  Then one day, talking to an activist on a banana plantation in Costa Rica, she asked what he needed most.

A lawyer, he said.

Continue Reading…

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November 22, 2011

What We’re Reading Now . . .

Posted by Cara Solomon

As we wind down for Thanksgiving week, here are a few recommendations for bus/train/plane reading.  We’ve enjoyed these blogs and Web sites over the past few months—and hope you will too.

The first is a series of in-depth interviews the Harvard Law School Human Rights Journal is running on its Web site.  In the first installment, James Tager, JD ’13,  interviews Osama Siddique, an Associate Professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences, recent S.J.D. graduate from Harvard Law, and Pakistani legal scholar.  The topic:  Siddique’s recent scholarship on Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.

We’re also religiously checking the blogs by Ben Hoffman, JD ’11, and Marissa Vahlsing, JD ’11, who are helping to set up an office for EarthRights International (ERI) in Peru.  Ben and Marissa were fixtures on HRP’s blue couch last year; this year, they’re working as Henigson fellows, focusing on indigenous land rights and the environment in the Amazon.

Ben’s latest post explores the protest by thousands of indigenous people in Bolivia over a proposed highway through their territory.  Marissa most recently wrote about a trip into the Amazon to meet indigenous leaders in the Ucayali region of Peru.  The leaders’ main concern: a proposed highway that would cut through some indigenous communities, and expose others to unwanted contact with the outside world.

If you have suggestions for what we should read, and/or encourage others to read, please email me at csolomon@law.harvard.edu.  We’d love to hear from you.

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