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May 25, 2011
Posted by Cara Solomon
Here’s an update from our Global Human Rights fellow Maeve O’Rourke, LLM ’10, whose work on behalf of the advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes made the New York Times today.
As the article notes, the UN is currently reviewing Ireland’ s human rights record as part of a routine look at the human rights record of all its states parties. Maeve submitted an NGO shadow report to the UN on behalf of Justice for Magdalenes, arguing that women who were subjected to imprisonment and forced, unpaid labor in the Magdalene Laundries are continuing to suffer degrading treatment because of the state’s failure to investigate or ensure redress for this abuse. Last week, she presented these arguments in person to the UN Committee against Torture.
Here’s what she had to say on Tuesday:
“Just a short email to say that all is going well in Geneva, where four members of the UN Committee against Torture asked detailed questions yesterday of the Irish government delegation about the state’s intentions to inquire into the Magdalene Laundries abuse and ensure redress for the women.
Not entirely plain sailing, however, as the head of the Irish delegation singled out the Magdalene Laundries at the close of the session, saying that the issues related to a ‘distant, far-off time’ and that there needs to be ‘a sense of proportion’ in listening to what the NGOs have to say. Today, he opened by arguing that the vast majority of women entered the laundries voluntarily.Continue Reading…
May 16, 2011
Appeals Court to Hear Arguments in Case Charging Former Bolivian President for Role in 2003 Massacre
May 16, 2011, Miami, FL —The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments tomorrow in Miami, Florida in Mamani v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzain. The case brings claims under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) on behalf of ten Bolivian plaintiffs against the former Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and Bolivian defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, for their roles in a 2003 massacre that included targeted killings of unarmed civilians. Both defendants now live in the United States.
“The United States should not be a safe haven for individuals who commit serious human rights violations,” said Judith Brown Chomsky of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who will argue the appeal on behalf of the plaintiffs. “The Alien Tort Statute is an important tool for fighting impunity, and allows our clients to seek justice for the deaths of their loved ones.”
The oral argument will be heard tomorrow morning, May 17, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. at the King Federal Justice Building, 99 Northeast Fourth Street, Miami, FL.
The district court previously ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor on the motion to dismiss, allowing claims for extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity to proceed against both defendants. The defendants are contesting this ruling on appeal.
The oral argument will address three legal questions: (1) whether the defendants are entitled to immunity, despite an explicit waiver of immunity from the Bolivian government, which the U.S. government accepted; (2) whether the case presents a non-justiciable political question; and (3) whether the complaint, alleging intentional killings of peaceful civilians, states cognizable claims for extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity under the Alien Tort Statute.Continue Reading…
May 9, 2011
Five Years After Deadly May 2006 São Paulo Attacks, Report Documents Role of State Violence and Corruption in Organized Crime
Report by Harvard’s International Human Rights Clinic and Brazilian NGO demonstrates central role of police brutality, corruption, and prison mismanagement in major security crisis of May 2006 and today
May 9, 2011, São Paulo, Brazil—Five years ago, a series of coordinated uprisings in 74 detention centers and attacks on police stations and public buildings left 43 state officials and hundreds of civilians dead and brought South America’s largest city and financial capital to a standstill. São Paulo streets were deserted as residents stayed at home in fear. After the violence coordinated by the organized crime syndicate the “First Command of the Capital” (Primeiro Comando da Capital, or “PCC” by its Portuguese initials) stopped, police killed scores of civilians in a wave of reprisal attacks, targeting those they suspected of having criminal backgrounds, in many cases relying apparently only on the youth, skin color, presence of tattoos and presence on the streets of poor neighborhoods at night. Evidence in 122 killings contains signs of police having committed an extrajudicial execution.
Today, five years later, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and the leading Brazilian human rights group Justiça Global release a comprehensive study of the May 2006 attacks. The Report, “São Paulo sob Achaque: Corrupção Crime Organizado e Violência Institutional em Maio de 2006”, seeks to answer several questions essential to public security in Brazil: What led to the attacks? Why were state authorities unable or unwilling to prevent them? Why and how did the police lash out violently in revenge killings? Why have the crimes committed by the state not been investigated, and in many cases, apparently covered up?
The result of five years of investigation—including hundreds of interviews; scores of on-site visits to jails, prisons, and communities affected by violence; meetings with a broad range of authorities; and a review of thousands of pages of documents, police reports, and judicial records—sheds new light on the May 2006 attacks. “Official corruption, tragically, was a driving force behind the May attacks. PCC leaders—new information in the study confirms—coordinated their assault in large part as a response to a series of organized shakedowns by the police,” said Fernando Delgado, a fellow at Harvard Law School and the principal author of the report. “The evidence indicates that a year prior to the attacks, police were using wiretaps, kidnapping, and other abuse of family members of gang leaders to extract bribes. The PCC decided to retaliate brutally and brought the city to a halt.”Continue Reading…
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