Blog: International Human Rights Clinic

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November 5, 2015

International Human Rights Organizations Call for Accountability of Myanmar’s Minister of Home Affairs

Tomorrow is Myanmar’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) hearing in Geneva. Today, a coalition of groups issued a statement calling for accountability for Lt. Gen. Ko Ko, the head of Myanmar’s UPR process:


International Human Rights Organizations Call for Accountability of

Lt. Gen. Ko Ko, Myanmar’s Minister of Home Affairs

November 5, 2015

 

We, the undersigned organizations, call for Lt. Gen. Ko Ko, Myanmar’s Minister of Home Affairs and Minister for Immigration and Population, to be held accountable for his involvement in human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. On November 6, 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Council will review Myanmar’s human rights record during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva. Regrettably, the Myanmar Government has appointed Lt. Gen. Ko Ko to head the committee responsible for its UPR process.

Hundreds of civil society organizations in Myanmar have signed a petition expressing their concern about Lt. Gen. Ko Ko’s role in the UPR process, as well as the current impunity at the national level that exists for his involvement in abuses. They have called on the international community to take concrete steps to hold him accountable.

Lt. Gen. Ko Ko has a well-documented track record of human rights violations. He led Myanmar’s Southern Command during a military offensive in Kayin State from 2005-2008. According to a report released by the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, there is sufficient evidence against him to satisfy the standard required to issue an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for his command over soldiers that intentionally attacked, killed, tortured, enslaved, and forcibly transferred civilians.

In his current position as the Minister of Home Affairs, Lt. Gen. Ko Ko has also been implicated in human rights abuses, including violations of the rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. For example, strong evidence exists that the Myanmar Police Force, which is under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs, has repeatedly used unlawful and excessive force against peaceful protesters. In November 2012, Lt. Gen. Ko Ko was accused of authorizing riot police to use white phosphorus munitions to disperse peaceful protesters—mostly monks and villagers—at the Letpadaung Copper Mine, resulting in severe chemical burns of more than 100 people. In March 2015, the police again used excessive force in the town of Letpadan against unarmed protesters calling for reforms to the National Education Law.

The Human Rights Council has called upon the Myanmar Government to take all necessary measures to ensure accountability and end impunity for violations of human rights. This recommendation also was made during Myanmar’s previous UPR in 2011 and has been reiterated in advance questions for the forthcoming UPR this year. Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, recommended in both her March and October 2015 reports that the Government address impunity for human rights violations committed by security personnel.

In light of Lt. Gen. Ko Ko’s track record, we call on the Myanmar Government to remove him as the head of its UPR process, and to initiate a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation into the allegations of his involvement in human rights violations and international crimes. The international community should lend support to any investigation and prosecution. If the Myanmar Government does not pursue accountability in a prompt and effective manner, the international community should initiate its own investigation into Lt. Gen. Ko Ko’s responsibility for human rights violations and international crimes, and governments should pursue appropriate legal action against him if he enters their territory under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

 

Organizational Signatures:

Altsean Burma

Burma Campaign UK

FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights

Fortify Rights

Global Justice Center

International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School

Justice Trust

US Campaign for Burma

World Organization Against Torture

 

November 5, 2015

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September 10, 2012

Today, Sept. 12, at noon: Human Rights Program Orientation!

Event Notice

September 12, 2012

Human Rights Program Orientation

12- 1:00 pm

WCC 2009

It’s that time of year again!  Join us for pizza and an overview of the Human Rights Program and how you can get involved.

We’ll give you information on our International Human Rights Clinic; summer funding for human rights internships; post-graduate fellowships; events and conferences; and the larger human rights community at Harvard Law School.

Then it’s your turn: mix and mingle with instructors from the Clinic, Visiting Fellows from the Academic Program, as well as representatives from student groups focused on human rights, such as HLS Advocates for Human Rights.

For more information, stop by Wasserstein 3139 or email us at hrp@law.harvard.edu

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August 2, 2012

Clinic Report Finds Qaddafi’s Weapons Pose Threat to Civilians

PRESS RELEASE

Report finds Qaddafi’s weapons pose threat to civilians

Abandoned arms stockpiles must be immediately secured or destroyed

(For a copy of this press release in Arabic, click here)

August 2, 2012, Tripoli, LibyaAbandoned weapons that were once part of Muammar Qaddafi’s vast arsenal threaten civilian lives in Libya, according to a report released today by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), in partnership with CIVIC and the Center for American Progress.

Explosive Situation: Qaddafi’s Abandoned Weapons and the Threat to Libya’s Civilians documents the risks posed to civilians from the extensive stockpiling and spread of the former dictator’s munitions following the 2011 armed conflict. Based on in-country investigations, the report calls on Libya to immediately secure or destroy unstable stockpiles of weapons, and with international support, set out to clear munitions, educate the population about risks, and assist victims.

“These weapons may have been abandoned, but their ability to harm civilians remains intact,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior clinical instructor at IHRC and leader of the research team.  “We’ve seen firsthand the risks they pose to ordinary Libyans and how they urgently need to be secured or destroyed before they can harm another civilian.”

While previous reporting has focused on the problems of international proliferation, Explosive Situation examines how abandoned weapons endanger civilians within Libya. Qaddafi left an arsenal of tens of thousands of tons of weapons, ranging from bullets and mortars to torpedoes and surface-to-air missiles. The report focuses on four major challenges for the transitional government of Libya: stockpile management, clearance of munitions, risk education, and victim assistance.

International deminers told the team that the scale of the problem overshadows what they have seen in other conflict and post-conflict zones.

“Arms are spilling out of hundreds of inadequately secured bunkers,” said Nicolette Boehland, a fellow with CIVIC who previously researched the use of weapons in Libya with the Clinic. “Other weapons have spread across the country to militia stockpiles in urban centers, museums, fields, and even homes.”

The report identified several specific areas of risk, including:

  • Civilians displaying weapons as mementos of war or harvesting explosive materials for marketable parts;
  • Children playing with weapons;
  • Clearance of munitions by untrained community members; and
  • Mismanagement of potentially unstable stockpiles by Libyan militias in populated areas.

The report finds the weak and transitional Libyan government has taken a limited, at times non-existent, role in the management and clearance of abandoned ordnance; there is no national strategy and confusion within the government about which agency has jurisdiction over the problem. In addition, the transitional government has provided virtually no support to UN and non-profit organizations that have done most of the work on the issue. According to legal principles and international standards, however, Libya bears primary responsibility for addressing the abandoned ordnance problem and should put in place a national plan to reduce the threat to civilians.

“The recent election of a new government provides Libya an opportunity for a fresh start,” said Docherty. “The ordnance problem is not an easy one to fix, but with assistance from other countries, the new government can respond to the abandoned weapons situation and better protect its people.”

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March 27, 2012

Today: Candy and the Clinical Forum!

Posted by Cara Solomon

We’ve put away the chips and salsa from yesterday’s Open House and we’re moving on to…CANDY for tomorrow’s Clinical Forum!

Please join us for a delicious and non-nutritious assortment of treats from 6:00-8:00 pm in Milstein East BC. This is your chance to:

– Chat with our clinicians about their projects and seminars.

– Grill our students about what it’s like to be a member of the Clinic.

– Learn about the dozens of other clinical programs at HLS , including Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, our neighbor in the clinical wing and, more importantly, our friend!

Formal announcement below. Hope to see you soon.

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January 28, 2011

Q & A with Jim Cavallaro, Executive Director of the Human Rights Program

Posted by Cara Solomon

This week marked the start of the spring semester and the third snowstorm of the year.  Right in the thick of it, we welcomed 40 students into the International Human Rights Clinic.  We also started this blog, which will focus mainly on the projects and people associated with the Clinic.

It seemed like a good time to check in with Jim Cavallaro, Executive Director of the Human Rights Program (HRP).  And so we did.

Jim interviews prisoners last semester as part of an ongoing clinical project in Panama

What attracted you to HRP?

When I came in 2002, I had already spent nearly two decades working as a human rights lawyer in Latin America—in Chile during the last years of the Pinochet dictatorship, and then for nearly a decade in Brazil, working on criminal justice issues, transitional justice, racial discrimination, violence against women and indigenous issues.  I had a lot of real world experience, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to step back and reflect, or to put what I had learned to use as a teacher.  HRP gave me the opportunity to continue my work as an activist—my first passion—but also to work closely with students, and to reflect on human rights and the human rights movement.

It’s proven to be the perfect fit for me.  I love the students’ energy and their sense that anything is possible.  To be honest, their commitment and drive has been the engine behind the remarkable growth of the clinic and the program this past decade.

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