Blog: Satter Fellowship

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August 20, 2014

HRP Alumni in the News

Posted by Cara Solomon

We use all kinds of strategies here at the International Human Rights Clinic to push for change. Litigation. Treaty negotiation. Documentation and reporting.

As Communications Coordinator, I’ve always been partial to advocacy. Media advocacy, to be more precise. This summer, our alumni are putting it to great use in outlets all over the world.

On Monday, The Huffington Post ran a column by Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, a Satter fellow with the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), documenting the devastating toll the conflict in Gaza is taking on civilians. For the column, Nicolette spoke by phone with Gazans she met last year while researching civilian perspectives on involvement, status, and risk in armed conflict, including in Libya, Bosnia, and Somalia.

In “No Safe Place in Gaza,” she writes:

A young woman described the crippling fear she had experienced over the last four weeks: “The worst of all is the night time,” she said. “There is no power, no electricity, and there are tens of drones in the sky. Whenever you hear a rocket, you think it’s targeting your house. You are running from one room to another. I know this is silly — if your house is hit, it won’t matter which room you were in.”

Each night, her family of six gathered on mattresses that they had pulled together in the middle of the living room, “far away from the windows, so that they don’t break,” she said. This way, if their house was hit, the whole family would be killed together. “We don’t want one of the family to survive and then have to grieve for the rest of us,” she said.

At the end of the column, Nicolette lists several strategies the Israeli government and Hamas could use to limit civilian suffering.

Closer to home, as police in combat gear clashed last week with protesters in Ferguson, MO, Sara Zampierin, JD ’11, a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, was quoted in a New Yorker article, “The Economics of Police Militarization.” The article attributed some of the tension in Ferguson to the underlying problem of “criminal justice debt,” which can often pit law enforcement against residents.

Now, across much of America, what starts as a simple speeding ticket can, if you’re too poor to pay, mushroom into an insurmountable debt, padded by probation fees and, if you don’t appear in court, by warrant fees…What happens when people fall behind on their payments? Often, police show up at their doorsteps and take them to jail.

From there, the snowball rolls. “Going to jail has huge impacts on people at the edge of poverty,” Sara Zampierin, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told me. “They lose their job, they lose custody of their kids, they get behind on their home-foreclosure payments,” the sum total of which, she said, is “devastating.” While in prison, “user fees” often accumulate, so that, even after you leave, you’re not quite free.

And earlier this summer, Clara Long, JD ’12, an immigration and border policy researcher with Human Rights Watch, waded into the heated debate over the surge of migration at the southeastern US border. In an Op-Ed she co-authored for The Guardian, Clara railed against the Obama administration’s plans to open more family detention centers. The headline read: “Obama pledged to limit the practice of detaining minors. What happened?”

It appears that the White House has come to view being “thoughtful and humane” as a political liability. The new move to ramp up family detention comes in response to criticism that the administration’s lax immigration enforcement “created a powerful incentive for children to cross into the United States illegally”, as Senator John Cornyn of Texas put it last week.

Obama’s move is all the more disappointing because effective alternatives to detention exist and are used in countries facing similar migration surges. Countries like Italy and Malta, prime entrances for migrants to the EU, have open reception facilities where migrant and asylum-seeking families can come and go at will – and Malta pledged to end immigration detention of children altogether in 2014. Though neither country has a spotless record – Italy summarily returns to Greece some unaccompanied migrant children and Malta sometimes detains unaccompanied migrant kids while authorities try to figure out their ages – their examples show that detaining kids with families is a choice, not a necessity.

Clara wrote another column for The Guardian on border removals in April.

In response to this flurry of activity, we at HRP have just two things to say: Thank you. And well done.

July 16, 2014

The Satter Human Rights Fellowship: A Call for Applications

Here’s some good news for recent grads committed to doing human rights work: we’re re-opening the application process for our Satter Fellowship!

The Satter Human Rights Fellowship is designed to support and promote human rights defense in response to mass atrocity or widespread and severe patterns of rights abuse.

Aminta Ossom, JD ’09, worked for Amnesty International, building the evidence base and capacity for crimes against humanity and war crimes in West Africa.

Aminta Ossom, JD ’09, worked for Amnesty International, building the evidence base and capacity for crimes against humanity and war crimes in West Africa.

Past fellows have worked with Amnesty International, building the evidence base and capacity for crimes against humanity and war crimes in West Africa; with Public International Law & Policy Group in Libya providing legal advice on issues related to constitution making, transitional justice and accountability, and access to justice; and with Fortify Rights International in Thailand on monitoring, advocacy, and training to protect and promote human rights in several different regions in Myanmar.

To apply for the Satter, you must have graduated from Harvard Law School within the last three years. Applications will be accepted until the fellowship is filled.

Learn more about the application process here.

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March 21, 2014

Myanmar’s Policies of Persecution

Posted by Taylor Landis, JD '11, Satter Fellow and Researcher at Fortify Rights

Last month, the government of Myanmar made the shocking decision to evict Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) from Rakhine State, cutting off tens of thousands of mostly-stateless Rohingya Muslims from their last refuge of lifesaving medical care.

The decision came on the heels of a new report by Fortify Rights, offering definitive proof that the Myanmar government has targeted the minority Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine State for decades. The 79-page report, Policies of Persecution: Ending Abusive State Policies Against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, is based on leaked government documents, witness testimony, and public records, revealing severe violations of human rights of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, including restrictions on the freedom of movement, marriage, childbirth, lifesaving medical care, and other aspects of daily life in northern Rakhine State.

A young Rohingya girl in the rain outside Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar, April 2013.  Photo credit: @PRAD Steve Gumaer.

A young Rohingya girl in the rain outside Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar, April 2013. Photo credit: @PRAD Steve Gumaer.

Denied citizenship in Myanmar, the 1.33 million Rohingya are confined to worsening conditions in Rakhine State. In our report, we make 20 recommendations to the government of Myanmar; chief among them is a call to abolish these abusive policies and end their enforcement.

The government’s response was telling: Within hours of publication, presidential spokesman Ye Htut condemned Fortify Rights and doubled-down on the government’s official line of racism by labeling the organization a “Bengali lobby group” – at once dismissing credible human rights concerns while invoking incendiary terminology (“Bengali”) employed to deny the Rohingya ethnicity and erroneously imply the Rohingya population are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Rendered stateless by Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law, an estimated 140,000 Rohingya have been forced into camps for internally displaced persons since 2012. when an eruption of violence between the Rohingya and ethnic-Rakhine Buddhists quickly gave way to orchestrated attacks on the Rohingya. Tens of thousands of others have fled the country by sea. Myanmar security forces have repeatedly failed to protect the Rohingya from attacks, and in some cases have participated in killings and other abuses against them. Continue Reading…

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