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September 26, 2013

Clinic Report: Nepali War Victims Need Long-Term, Expanded Assistance


Nepali War Victims Need Long-Term, Expanded Assistance

Government Programs to End Civilian Suffering Fall Short

September 26, 2013, Cambridge, Mass— Seven years after the end of Nepal’s armed conflict, civilian victims are still struggling in the absence of effective help from the government, according to a report released today by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), in partnership with the advocacy group Center for Civilians in Conflict. A government relief program, set to end in 2014, has failed to deliver sufficient services and support.

Cover of report has title, "Assistance OVerdue: Ongoing Needs of Civilian Victims of Nepal's Armed Conflict," and a picture of a house in mountains in Nepal.

Assistance Overdue: Ongoing Needs of Civilian Victims of Nepal’s Armed Conflict  documents Nepali victims’ calls for financial and in-kind assistance as well as justice and truth after a decade-long conflict between government and Maoist forces. The report also evaluates the Nepali government’s current programs and proposals in light of victims’ needs and expectations.

“Atrocities committed by both sides left thousands of Nepali civilians with permanent disabilities, lingering psychological trauma, and lost livelihoods,” said Bonnie Docherty, lecturer on law at IHRC and co-author of the report. “The government has failed to reach many victims and urgently needs to do so.”

During the armed conflict that raged in Nepal from 1996-2006, Maoist and government forces targeted civilians with impunity. The Maoists often executed civilians publicly to create fear, while the government routinely eliminated perceived enemies through enforced disappearances. Both sides also tortured, raped, and committed other forms of violence. Assistance Overdue is based on more than 100 interviews with survivors, government officials, and other experts as well as extensive legal analysis.

The government’s primary form of support for victims is its Interim Relief Program (IRP), which was established in 2008 and has provided immediate material assistance to some of those harmed in the conflict. The report finds that IRP falls short in the areas of financial aid, vocational training, educational support, and health care for families of the deceased or disappeared and the disabled. Two especially vulnerable groups—victims of torture and sexual violence—are not entitled to any assistance under the program.

The government has for several years debated creation of a truth, reconciliation, and disappearances commission that would focus on non-material issues, a measure important to many victims. But the commission has yet to be established and, as currently proposed, would have overly broad amnesty provisions, allow forced reconciliation against the will of victims, and have only two years to complete its work. A coalition of victims’ organizations filed a petition in April 2013 to block implementation of a seriously flawed law creating a commission.

IHRC and the Center call on the government to improve support for victims by creating a more inclusive and long-term assistance program and adopting a commission on truth, reconciliation, and disappearances that takes into account victim perspectives. IHRC and the Center also urge international donors to provide support for these initiatives.

“For Nepal to heal and rebuild, the government should rectify the failings of the Interim Relief Program and listen to its people who demand recognition and justice for the harm they have suffered,” said Sahr Muhammedally, senior legal and amends advisor for the Center for Civilians in Conflict. “People have been trying to recover from the horrors of the conflict for seven years. It’s time to fix a broken system.”


For more information, contact:

Bonnie Docherty, +1-617-669-1636, [email protected]

Liz Lucas, +1 202-716-0829, [email protected]

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September 24, 2013

Wednesday, Sept. 25: Peaceful Assembly, from Occupy to Taksim Square

Event Notice

September 25, 2013

“Peaceful Assembly: From Occupy to Taksim Square”

5:00 p.m.

WCC 2009

Harvard Law School

Poster for event has hands reaching up into air while sun poses a glare.

Even in the age of electronic communication, the physical presence of demonstrators is an important vehicle for political protest, as recent events around the world confirm. What ground rules should govern the political use of public space? This panel will discuss both First Amendment and international human rights approaches to peaceful assemblies, in general and in relation to the Occupy movement.

Panelists include: Noah Feldman, Bemis Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Charles Fried, Beneficial Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Deborah Popowski, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School; Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; and moderator Gerald L. Neuman, J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, Harvard Law School.

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September 20, 2013

Plaintiffs File Petition in Second Circuit Court of Appeals to Review Panel’s Decision in Apartheid Case

Posted by Tyler Giannini and Susan Farbstein

This week, the International Human Rights Clinic, along with co-counsel, filed a petition on behalf of plaintiffs for panel rehearing or rehearing en banc to review the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in Balintulo v. Daimler AG, which is also known as the In Re South African Apartheid Litigation. The petition stated that, “The panel opinion in Balintulo v. Daimler AG  would eviscerate more than thirty years of this Court’s Alien Tort Statute (‘ATS’) jurisprudence and should be reviewed en banc because it conflicts with the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. as well as decisions in this Circuit.”

The petition comes more than 10 years after cases were first filed in the United States in 2002. Three defendant corporations—Ford Motor Company, Daimler AG, and International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)—remain from the original cases and are charged with complicity in the perpetration of apartheid-era crimes and human rights violations.

The petition seeks review of an August 21 decision by a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit that lifted a stay and sent the matter back to district court Judge Shira Scheindlin to consider the plaintiffs’ claims in light of the Supreme Court’s April decision in Kiobel. In the wake of the Kiobel ruling, which found that ATS claims must “touch and concern” the United States, the Second Circuit had requested letter briefs from both the plaintiffs and defendants. The briefs were submitted in late May, and in August, the Second Circuit stated that in light of Kiobel, “the Alien Tort Statute does not reach the extraterritorial conduct in this case.”

The U.S.-based lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the cases include Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun, De Simone, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman, LLP, Michael Hausfeld of Hausfeld, LLP, Diane Sammons and Jay Rice of Nagel Rice LLP, and Judith Brown Chomsky of the Law Offices of Judith Brown Chomsky. The South African-based legal team includes Dumisa Ntsebeza, John Ngcebetsha, Charles Abrahams, Medi Mokuena, and Michael Osborne.

September 19, 2013

Friday, Sept. 20: Human Rights Program Orientation!

Event Notice

September 20, 2013

“Human Rights Program Orientation”

12 p.m.

Wasserstein 1019

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.


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September 18, 2013

Events Thursday, Sept. 19: Litigating Rights of LGBTI Persons in Uganda; Millennium Development Goals

Posted by Cara Solomon

We’ve got a treat for you tomorrow: two great events, on completely different topics, at completely different times! Details below.

“Using the Constitution to Litigate on the Rights of LGBTI Persons:
A Case Study of Uganda”

12 p.m.

WCC 3016

Please join us for a talk by Ugandan lawyer and advocate Adrian Jjuuko, the Executive Director of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, an NGO providing legal aid services to LGBTI, sex workers and other marginalized groups in Uganda. Previously, Mr. Jjuuko was coordinator of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law-Uganda, which won the US State Department’s Human Rights Defenders Award 2011 for its efforts to oppose the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. Mr. Jjuuko has been instrumental in bringing cases challenging the constitutionality of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, including Kasha Jacqueline & 2 Others v. The Rollingstone Publications (2010) and Jjuuko Adrian v. Attorney General of Uganda (2009).

HRP is co-sponsoring this event with HLS Lambda.

“Millennium Development Goals and Human Rights:
Past, Present, and Future”

2:30 – 4:00 p.m.

 WCC 3016

lease join us for a discussion of the forthcoming book, Millennium Development Goals and Human Rights: Past, Present and Future. Since they were established in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been a source of great debate- considered by some to be the seminal initiative in international development and others to be a betrayal of human rights and universal values. Panelists at this event include: Malcolm Langford, Research Fellow, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo; Stephen Marks, Professor of Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health; Richard Morgan, Senior Advisor on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, UNICEF; Michael Stein, Executive Director, Harvard Law School Project On Disability, Harvard University; and Alicia Ely Yamin, Director of the Program on the Health Rights of Women and Children at the FXB Center, and Lecturer, Harvard School of Public Health.

HRP is co-sponsoring this event with the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights.

September 17, 2013

Wednesday, Sept. 18: Forum on Current Events in Syria and Egypt

Event Notice

September 18, 2013

“A Forum on Current Events in Syria and Egypt”

12-1 p.m.

WCC 3016

Please join us for a dialogue with Robert Blecher, Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa, of International Crisis Group, and Meera Shah, Clinical Advocacy Fellow, of the Human Rights Program. The discussion will revolve around the political, social, humanitarian, and human rights situation in Syria and Egypt.


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September 16, 2013

Joint Conference Sept. 23: “Divided by A Common Heritage: Human Rights in Europe and the U.S.”

Event Notice

September 23, 2013

“Divided by a Common Heritage: Human Rights in Europe and the United States”

A Joint Council of Europe – Harvard University Conference

9:30-5:30 p.m.

Milstein East C

Please join us for an all-day conference devoted to commonalities and divergences in approaches to human rights. Topics include privacy and security (in the context of cyber communications) and discrimination and equality (racial and other forms of intolerance). Panelists are Harvard academics and European scholars and practitioners. See full list of panels and panelists below.

This conference is being sponsored by the Council of Europe, the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard, and the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History at Harvard.

Please RSVP to [email protected].


9:30 a.m.                     

Opening and Introduction

Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of American History, Weatherhead Initiative on Global History, Harvard University

Charles Maier, Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History, Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University

Gerry Neuman, J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School

Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, Director of Policy Planning, Council of Europe

10:00  a.m.          

“Does Context Matter? How and Why Europe and the U.S. Differ on Human Rights”

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, former Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, member of the Executive Board of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

Jan Erik Helgesen, Vice President of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), Associate Professor, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, Oslo

Frank Michelman, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Samuel Moyn, Professor of History, Columbia University, and Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Moderator: Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

12 p.m. 


Milstein East B

Keynote address by Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, with introductory remarks from Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School

1:30 p.m.    

“Cyberspace: Terra Incognita of Human Rights? European and U.S. Experiences”

Yochai Benkler, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Julie Cohen, Professor of Law, Georgetown Law School, Washington DC

Matthias C. Kettemann, Research and teaching fellow, Institute of International Law and International Relations, University of Graz, Austria

Rolf H. Weber, Professor for Civil, Commercial and European Law, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Moderator: Philip Heymann, James Barr Ames Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

3:30 p.m.

“Overcoming Intolerance: Addressing Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in the U.S. and Europe”

Lani Guinier, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Jennifer Hochschild, Professor of Government, Harvard University

Sonja Licht, member of the Group of Eminent Persons and co-author of the Report, “Living Together in 21st Century Europe,” Director of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, Serbia

Eva Smith Asmussen, Chairperson of the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), Denmark

Moderator: Mary C. Waters, M.E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology, Harvard University

5:00 p.m.   



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September 12, 2013

Talk Sept. 13: Noah Feldman on Syria

Event Notice

“Should the U.S. Break International Law to Enforce a ‘Red Line’ on Syria”

September 13, 2013

12- 1 p.m.

Langdell North

Please join us for a talk by HLS Professor Noah Feldman on the ongoing and recent events in Syria, and whether the United States should break international law to enforce a ‘red line.’

Lunch provided.

This event is being sponsored by HLS Democrats, Harvard National Security & Law Association, HLS American Constitution Society, and the Human Rights Program.


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September 9, 2013

Clinic and Partners Release Book Criticizing Chile for Failure to Meet International Obligations Towards Indigenous Peoples

Posted by Daniel Saver, JD '12, Skadden Fellow, Community Legal Services, East Palo Alto

Jointly with Stanford Law School, the Universidad Diego Portales, and the Universidad de Los Andes, the International Human Rights Clinic released a book today about the consultation rights of indigenous peoples in Chile. The book critiques the Chilean government’s failure to guarantee indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation, an international legal obligation Chile agreed to when it ratified International Labor Organization Convention 169 in 2008. See below for the full press release in English, then in Spanish:


Chile Fails to Meet International Obligations Towards Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights Experts Find

Book by international team of human rights experts documents violations of indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation

September 9, 2013, Santiago, Chile – Nearly five years after ratifying the International Labor Organization Convention 169 (“ILO 169”), Chile continues to violate indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation, according to a book released today by human rights experts in the Consorcio Norte-Sur. The Consorcio is a partnership between Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, the Universidad Diego Portales (Chile), and the Universidad de Los Andes (Colombia).

The Spanish-language book, titled “No Nos Toman en Cuenta” (“They Don’t Consider Us”), provides the most comprehensive review of the consultation rights of Chile’s indigenous people to date. The book examines several ways that the Chilean government has failed to guarantee indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation, including the government’s failure to implement international norms within its domestic legal system. The book also features in-depth case studies that document specific rights violations caused by salmon farming projects in indigenous territory in the south of the country.

“Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation guaranteed by ILO 169 is intended to ensure that these historically marginalized groups are able to participate in a meaningful way in decisions that directly affect them,” said Jorge Contesse, former director of Universidad Diego Portales’ Human Rights Center, now a law professor at Rutgers School of Law-Newark. “The failure to implement this right not only violates Chile’s international legal obligations, but also perpetuates distrust between indigenous peoples and the Chilean government, fueling conflict between the two.”

The case of the salmon hatcheries studied in the book highlights this dynamic. Researchers found that often the only consultation-like procedures were conducted by private investors, who provided special benefits for select members of indigenous communities in return for their support. Community members told investigators that this impermissible abdication of the state’s obligation to consult created conflict and upset traditional leadership structures and decision-making processes.

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September 3, 2013

Ohio Court Rules Licensing Board Need Not Investigate Torture Allegations Against Local Psychologist

Posted by Deborah Popowski

This summer, the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in Ohio ruled that the state’s psychology licensing board did not have a legal obligation to conduct a meaningful investigation into whether Dr. Larry James had committed grave violations of professional ethics in his role as Guantánamo senior interrogation psychologist.

The state court dismissed the case on procedural grounds, meaning that, like the Ohio Psychology Board, it did not engage with the evidence of abuse and made no finding as to Dr. James’s conduct. After almost 18 months of silence, the court issued a decision that is three pages long, and, for reasons not explained or reflected in the docket, was not written by the judge to whom the case was assigned. It offers virtually no legal or factual reasoning to support its conclusion that the people of Ohio were insufficiently harmed by torture left unexamined and unaccounted for, and that they therefore lack standing to challenge the Board’s inaction.

Our clients have decided not to appeal the decision. They made this choice not because they agree with the ruling, but because this latest chapter in their legal fight has convinced them that the courts are not where justice, accountability and truth will be found—not on this issue, not at this time. As a lawyer and teacher of law, this saddens me. But, like them, I am not surprised. In the seven years that I’ve worked on human rights violations in the U.S. counterterrorism context, the greatest victories and examples of moral courage that I’ve seen have taken place far from the courtroom, thanks to people like Trudy and Josie, Colin and Michael, whose consciences move them to action when officials charged with accountability choose to remain silent.

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