• Page 1 of 1

March 26, 2014

Tribute: Robert Henigson, JD ’55, Strong Supporter of Human Rights Work at HLS

(This tribute was written by Henry Steiner: founder of the Human Rights Program in 1984 and its director for 21 years; Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law Emeritus)


Robert Henigson, my cousin and lifelong close friend, died on January 28 this year. We were classmates at Harvard Law School. After our graduation in 1955, HLS continued to figure in both our lives. I spent my academic career here. In a different environment and career, Bob’s activities linked him as well to this school.

I refer to the reach of his extensive philanthropy to HLS and its Human Rights Program. Bob became a leading supporter of our work in this field. His gifts enabled HRP to open fruitful paths toward its growth, while also contributing to the breadth of the school’s faculty and curriculum.


Philanthropist Bob Henigson, JD ’55, a strong supporter of the Human Rights Program.

Bob practiced law at the Los Angeles firm of Lawler, Felix, and Hall, where he became a prominent lawyer and managing partner. He came to know people organizing a number of start-up companies, some related to scientific invention (Bob held two degrees from Caltech), that piqued his interest. His long-term investments in a few of them led to enduring relationships by Bob’s serving as their adviser, director or board chairman. In his last, seriously ailing years when travel was onerous, Bob’s joining meetings by phone had to do the job. Those years also brought to an end the hyperactive outdoor life that he and his wife Phyllis had relished – skiing, running, biking, hiking.

As his career in practice wound down, Bob’s attention to public-interest issues absorbed ever greater time, to the point where philanthropy trumped other ongoing activities during the post-retirement decades. His social, cultural and political concerns retained their earlier vitality. Bob found outlets or expression for them in a variety of philanthropic ventures. Some responded to liberal commitments to domestic civil liberties as well as to his liberal internationalism embracing the human rights movement. Other ventures assisted early education for the less well off or university centers; aided cultural institutions like orchestras and theatres; and strengthened organizations protecting against the spoiling of the natural world. At the same time, Bob worked closely with community leaders to advance the welfare of the local community on Orcas Island where he and Phyllis retired.

In my view, two innovations in human rights education stemming from Bob and Phyllis’s ongoing gifts to the school top the list of what those gifts made (or will make) possible. The first in time, the endowed Henigson Human Rights Fellowships that HRP administers, are available principally to graduating J.D. and LL.M. students who have demonstrated their commitment to human rights and their interest in building that field into their careers. Those students selected for fellowships actively participate for about a year in the work of a human rights NGO designated by them within a developing country. Stipends are in the neighborhood of $27,000. Recent comments (see below, directly following this tribute) from several of the 35 Henigson Fellows over the last 13 years describe ways how their experiences bore on their later, ongoing human rights work. These experiences were gained in such countries as Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Congo, Egypt, Hungary, India and Uganda. Continue Reading…

Share By Email


March 23, 2014

Clinic Calls on Myanmar Military to Reform Policies to Prevent Unlawful Attacks on Civilians




Myanmar: Military Must Reform Policies to Prevent Unlawful Attacks on Civilians

Longstanding policies and practices threaten the safety of civilians, the peace process, and democratic reforms


March 24, 2014, Yangon, Myanmar— The Myanmar military must reform policies and practices that threaten civilian populations in the country, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School said in a memorandum released today.

Policy Memorandum: Preventing Indiscriminate Attacks and Wilful Killings of Civilians by the Myanmar Military describes a pattern of attacks that has unfolded over several decades. The memorandum identifies the policies and practices that give rise to such attacks and proposes a practical program of reform.

“The Myanmar military needs to publicly renounce and reverse the longstanding policies that have resulted in attacks on civilians and violations of international humanitarian law,” said Matthew Bugher, Clinical Advocacy Fellow at the Clinic. “Until problematic military policies and practices are fundamentally reformed, civilians will remain at risk wherever and whenever military force is deployed.”

The memorandum draws from the findings of an ongoing investigation by the Clinic into the conduct of Myanmar Army units during a 2005–2008 counterinsurgency offensive in eastern Myanmar. During eleven field missions to the region, the Clinic compiled more than 1,000 pages of witness statements from survivors of military attacks and former soldiers, among others.

The Clinic documented numerous “shoot-on-sight” incidents in which soldiers opened fire on civilians, including women, children, and elderly persons. Myanmar Army soldiers often shot at villagers as they fled their homes with family members. Witnesses also described executions, the deliberate placement of landmines in civilian locations, and the indiscriminate shelling of villages and agricultural fields.

In many parts of Myanmar, attacks on civilians have decreased dramatically with the signing of ceasefire agreements between ethnic armed groups and the central government. However, progress has been inconsistent, and reports of continuing abuses raise serious concerns. Notably, since the failure of a seventeen-year-old ceasefire agreement between the government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), there have been persistent allegations of attacks on civilians by the Myanmar military in Kachin State and northern Shan State. These reports suggest that recent improvements in civilian security are the result of a decrease in armed conflict, rather than the reform of military policies and practices at a national level.

“The reports of attacks on civilians in Kachin State are disturbingly similar to those documented during previous military offensives,” said Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of the Clinic. “The military must prioritize civilian protection if it is to meet its stated commitment to become a modern, professional army.”

The Clinic is particularly concerned by the orders given to soldiers in military-defined “black areas.” In these regions, soldiers are often instructed that all individuals are “the enemy” and are therefore legitimate targets of attack. This practice is a per se violation of the principle of distinction, a key tenet of international humanitarian law that requires combatants to distinguish between civilian and military targets.

The Clinic calls on the military to immediately renounce all counterinsurgency policies and practices that lead to the targeting of civilians. However, this action alone will be insufficient. Protecting civilians in Myanmar will require a concerted effort to overturn entrenched norms and longstanding military practices. The Clinic’s memorandum identifies the institutional causes of civilian targeting at all levels of military authority. For example, it considers the policies formulated by senior generals, the orders given by field commanders, and the challenges facing foot soldiers on the front lines. The memorandum outlines a program of reform that aims to influence the institutional culture of the military and the decision-making processes of individual soldiers throughout the military hierarchy.

“The Myanmar military should act immediately to end unlawful attacks in black areas and conflict zones,” said Susan Farbstein, Co-Director of the Clinic. “Such failures to address the underlying institutional causes of civilian targeting will endanger communities, threaten the peace process, and undermine reform efforts.”

For more information, please contact:

Matthew Bugher, mbugher@law.harvard.edu, +95 401596412 (Myanmar), +1 617-495-5141 (USA), Skype: bughermk1.

Follow us on Twitter: @HmnRghtsProgram, @bughermk1


Share By Email


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…

Share By Email


March 13, 2014

Tomorrow, March 12: “Legal Feminism in Latin America” and “Honoring Nelson Mandela”

As we round the corner on Friday, here are two events we think are definitely worth your time tomorrow.

The first,  “Legal Feminism in Latin America,” is a breakfast talk by Professors Cristina Jaramillo and Paola Bergallo, who will discuss challenges the region faces with regard to reproductive rights. The talk is being organized by the SJD Association and the Harvard Women’s Law Association.

Later that day, at noon, HLS has organized a panel, “In Honor of Nelson Mandela,” which will explore the question of when, if ever, violence is justified in the fight for social change. Our very own Susan Farbstein will be on the panel, which Prof. Charles Ogletree is moderating. Details of both events below.


“Legal Feminism in Latin America”

When: 10:00 – 11: 30 a.m.

Where: WCC 3015

The SJD Association and the Women’s Law Association invite you to an informal breakfast talk by Professors Cristina Jaramillo and Paola Bergallo about legal feminism in Latin America and the challenges the region faces with regard to reproductive rights. Professor Jaramillo is an HLS alumnae and has been called upon as an expert by the Colombian Senate on issues of women’s political participation, divorce, and gender discrimination. Professor Bergallo is currently a visiting fellow at HLS and has been called as an expert by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Breakfast will be served. Please contact Regina Larrea if you are interested in attending.


“In Honor of Nelson Mandela”

When: 12:00 – 1: 00 p.m.

Where: Langdell 272

Please join Harvard Law School for a discussion about when, if ever, violence is justifiable in struggles for political or social change. Panelists: Mekonnen Firew Ayano, SJD Candidate; Randall Kennedy, HLS Michael R. Klein Professor of Law; Kerry Chance, American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellow, Harvard University Anthropology Department; Aminu Gamawa, SJD Candidate; and Susan Farbstein, HLS Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Co-Director of the International Human Rights Clinic. Moderator: Charles Ogletree, HLS Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice.

March 10, 2014

Tomorrow, March 11: “Human Rights in Russia”

Event Notice


“Human Rights in Russia”

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

WCC 3016


Please join us for a talk by two of Russia’s top human rights lawyers. Sergei Golubok has been involved in several high profile Russian court cases regarding Pussy Riot, Greenpeace, and LGBT organizations. Anton Burkov is a public interest litigator who has handled cases from Russia to the European Court of Human Rights. Moderator Joshua Rubenstein is an Associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, the author and editor of several books on Russian history, and former Northeast Regional Director, Amnesty International USA.


The Davis Center and HLS Advocates for Human Rights are co-sponsoring this event





Share By Email


March 5, 2014

Tomorrow, March 6: “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide”

Event Notice


“The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide”

March 6, 2014

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

Hauser 105


Please join us for a talk by Gary Bass about his acclaimed new book, “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide.” The book is a path-breaking investigation of Nixon and Kissinger’s secret support for Pakistan in 1971 as it committed massive atrocities in Bangladesh, with major implications for ongoing debates about human rights and international law in Asia. Bass, a Princeton professor of politics and international affairs, is a former reporter for The Economist and writes often for The New York Times and other publications. He is the author of “Freedom’s Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention” and “Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals.”

This event is being co-sponsored by the Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and HLS Advocates for Human Rights


Share By Email


March 4, 2014

Tomorrow, March 5: “The Right to Life and the Inter American Court of Human Rights”

Event Notice


“The Right to Life and the Inter American Court of Human Rights”

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

WCC 3007


Please join us for a brown bag talk with Professor Paola Bergallo, Faculty of Law, Universidad de San Andrés, Buenos Aires, and HRP Visiting Fellow. Bergallo served as an expert witness in the landmark case Artavia Murillo et al. (“In Vitro Fertilization”) v. Costa Rica, which discusses human rights definitions regarding the right to life, among other health and human rights matters. Professor Gerald Neuman, co-director of the Human Rights Program will moderate.

This event is being co-sponsored by Harvard Law Students for Reproductive Justice and HLS Advocates for Human Rights

Share By Email


  • Page 1 of 1