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September 29, 2014

Tomorrow, Sept. 30: “Apartheid of the Ahmadis in Pakistan”

September 30, 2014

“Apartheid of the Ahmadis in Pakistan”

A Talk by Pakistani Jurist Mujeeb-ur-Rahman


12:00 – 1: 15 p.m.

Wasserstein 2019

Lunch will be served


HRP Poster-Mujeeb-ur-Rahmanv2Please join us for a discussion with renowned Pakistani jurist Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, who has been at the forefront of the struggle for religious liberty in Pakistan for five decades. Mr. Rahman has argued scores of human rights cases before the Pakistan Supreme Court, including Zaheeruddin v. State, which legitimized persecution of the Ahmadi Muslim minority by affirming the power of the state to legally define who may call him or herself a Muslim.


This event is being co-sponsored by HLS Advocates for Human Rights, Harvard Human Rights Journal, Harvard South Asian Law Students Association, and Ahmadiyya Muslim Lawyers Association USA

September 24, 2014

Tomorrow, Sept. 25: Film Screening and Panel Discussion of “After Tiller”

September 25, 2014

“After Tiller”

A Film Screening and Panel Discussion

5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Kresge G1 Auditorium
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA


Please join the Harvard School of Public Health’s Women, Gender, and Health Interdisciplinary Concentration for an evening screening of the award-winning documentary “After Tiller,” which explores the topic of third-trimester abortions in the wake of the 2009 assassination of practitioner Dr. George Tiller that left behind only four doctors in the United States who perform this procedure. After the screening, HSPH will host a panel discussion.

The Human Rights Program is co-sponsoring this event, along with Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Reproductive Rights; Group on Reproductive Health and Rights; Harvard FAS Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality; IBIS Reproductive Health; Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology; and MIT Graduate Consortium of Women’s Studies.

Please RSVP to [email protected].

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September 22, 2014

Tonight, Sept. 22: “Gaza, International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights”

September 22, 2014

“Gaza, International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights”


6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Wasserstein B010 Singer Classroom
Harvard Law School


Please join us for a panel discussion with Harvard faculty: Professor Duncan Kennedy, Harvard Law School; Professor Jennifer Leaning, Harvard School of Public Health; Naz Modirzadeh, Director, Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, Harvard Law School; and moderated by Bonnie Docherty, Senior Clinical Instructor, International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School.


This event is being co-sponsored by the Middle East Initiative at the Kennedy School.


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September 18, 2014

Tomorrow, Sept. 19: Human Rights Program 30th Anniversary Event

Posted by Cara Solomon

One by one, alumni are streaming in from around the world for the big day: our 30th anniversary event! Details below.

If you can’t make it, don’t worry: we’ll be live streaming it here and live tweeting under the hashtag #HRP30.


30th Anniversary of the Human Rights Program

HRP 30th Anniversary Poster2September 19, 2014

When: 12 p.m.

Where: Milstein East B and C

Please join us to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School. The keynote speech will be given by Harold Hongju Koh, JD ’80, former Legal Adviser of the U.S. Department of State, and one of the country’s leading experts in public and private international law, national security law, and human rights.

RSVP: [email protected]

12 p.m.  Lunch and Keynote Address

Keynote Speaker: Dean Harold Hongju Koh, JD ’80


1:15 – 3 p.m.
Panel I: Human Rights Advocacy Across the Generations

Panelists: Rangita de Silva de Alwis, SJD ’97, Director, Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, Women in Public Service Project, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Clara Long, JD ’12, Researcher, U.S. Program, Human Rights Watch; Raymond Akongburo Atuguba, LL.M ’00, SJD ’04, Executive Secretary to the President of the Republic of Ghana; James A. Goldston, JD ’87, Executive Director, Open Society Justice Initiative; Tyler Giannini, Director, Human Rights Program and Clinical Professor, Harvard Law School; Susan Farbstein, JD ’04, Director, International Human Rights Clinic and Assistant Clinical Professor, Harvard Law School.

3:15 – 5 p.m.
Panel II: The Next Stage for UN Treaty Bodies

Panelists: Felice Gaer, Director, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, AJC; Michael Ashley Stein, JD ’88, Executive Director, Harvard Law School Project on Disability, and Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Gerald L. Neuman, JD ’80, Director, Human Rights Program, and J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, Harvard Law School; Philip Alston, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law, New York University School of Law.

5:30 p.m.  Reception


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September 17, 2014

Student Perspective: Supporting the Transnational Fight to Protect Workers’ Rights

Posted by Lily Axelrod, JD '15

One January afternoon in 2012, two hundred men and women gathered at the Captain Morgan Bar in the sunny, Mexican coastal town of Topolobampo, Sinaloa. Their spirits were strong; recruiters had arrived to sign up workers for temporary H-2 visas to the United States. In a region where unemployment is high and the minimum wage is less than $5 a day, the recruiters brought hope. Applicants handed over deposits of several hundred dollars, representing years of savings or serious debt.

Weeks went by, and then months, as recruiters promised the Sinaloans that the visas were “almost ready.” But there were no jobs, and no H-2 visas. By April, it became clear: hundreds of applicants had been defrauded.

Atzin Gordillo, at left, an organizer with ProDESC, gives a presentation to the workers of the Sinaloa Coalition about their rights under the H-2 visa program.

Atzin Gordillo, at left, an organizer with ProDESC, gives a presentation to the workers of the Sinaloa Coalition about their rights under the H-2 visa program.

This summer, I had the opportunity to support the Sinaloan workers as a fellow with Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC), a human rights organization based in Mexico City. Having lived in Mexico and studied social movements there, I was drawn to ProDESC’s model, which balances a broad international vision with a focus on meaningful participation and leadership from local, marginalized communities. I contributed this summer to the organization’s Transnational Justice for Migrant Workers project, which seeks to promote humane, legal migration by protecting migrant workers’ human rights.

My work focused specifically on the H-2 temporary worker visa program, one of the few avenues for Mexicans to work legally in the United States without advanced degrees or immediate family members with status. ProDESC has been tackling abuses related to the program since 2007. Due to fear of reporting and lack of oversight, it is impossible to know how many applicants were promised visas and never received them, but ProDESC believes the problem is widespread. Even when job offers are legitimate, workers often go into debt to pay illegal “recruitment fees,” and fear blacklisting or violent retaliation if they speak up about their rights.

For years, both the Mexican and American governments turned a blind eye to these abuses, leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation, human trafficking, and forced labor. But ProDESC and the Sinaloan workers have been collaborating to change the status quo. In 2013, with support from ProDESC’s community organizers and attorneys, the workers formed a coalition and brought a groundbreaking collective criminal complaint against the fraudulent recruiter operating in Sinaloa. That coalition, in turn, strengthened ProDESC’s domestic and international policy advocacy to prevent abuse in the H-2 visa program overall.

Together, their activism captured the attention of both the Mexican government, which recently issued new regulations targeting recruiters, and the U.S. Departments of Labor and State, which have committed to cooperate with their Mexican counterparts and with NGOs to educate migrant workers about their rights. Continue Reading…

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September 15, 2014

Student Perspective: Protecting Freedom of Expression, in Ethiopia and Beyond

Posted by Lindsay Church, JD '16

In July 2012, Eskinder Nega was sentenced to 18 years in prison. In June 2011, Reeyot Alemu was arrested and convicted to 14 years of imprisonment, reduced to five on appeal.

Their crimes? Practicing journalism in Ethiopia.

reeyot-AlemuNega and Alemu are award-winning journalists who shared the prestigious Human Rights Watch Hellman-Hammett Award in 2012. For Nega, whose first child was born while he and his wife were in custody for treason , the arrest came days after publishing a column that criticized the Ethiopian government’s detainment of journalists as suspected terrorists. For Alemu, a former high school English teacher, the arrest came days after she critiqued the ruling political party in an independent newspaper later shut down by the government.

The basis for the charges against these journalists is Ethiopia’s 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which contains overly vague provisions that have been used by the government to silence its critics. Since the Proclamation was adopted, more than 30 journalists have been convicted on terrorism-related charges.

Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of working on behalf of Nega and Alemu as a fellow with the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI). The small London-based non-profit works directly with journalists and bloggers who have been prosecuted for exercising their protected right to freedom of expression. With the help of partner organizations, MLDI’s staff are currently working on 107 cases in 41 countries; the organization’s success rate in receiving favorable decisions hovers around 70 percent.

Courtesy: Amnesty International

Courtesy: Amnesty International

Because I studied journalism before coming to law school, I know the range of challenges American journalists face, from accessing information to protecting sources to the threat of civil liability. Still, it was always clear to me that the First Amendment by and large provides a greater amount of protection to journalists than any other national legal system. As my work at MLDI made clear this summer, freedom of expression is severely restricted in other countries—by censorship, regulations, state-operated monopolies, criminal liability, and physical threat, among others.

For example, on my very first day, I worked on a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concerning the case of Le Quoc Quan, a Vietnamese human rights lawyer and blogger who was wrongfully prosecuted on trumped up charges of tax evasion. Throughout my internship, I also researched case law from regional courts on freedom of expression, helped with an amicus curiae submission before the High Court of South Africa in a case about criminal defamation, and worked on a case in defense of a blogger in Singapore who is being sued by Lee Hsien Loong, the country’s prime minister.

When Nani Jansen, MLDI’s legal director, filed a submission to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on behalf of Nega and Alemu, I had the opportunity to do preparatory work for the submission. I also helped in the filing of submissions to international and regional courts on behalf of Nega and Alemu.

At this point, their chances for release are still unknown, but the situation remains dire. Continue Reading…

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September 11, 2014

Welcome to the Fall Semester!

Posted by the Directors of the Human Rights Program

Welcome to the 2014-2015 academic year, which marks the 30th Anniversary of the Human Rights Program. We’re officially back in the swing of things and excited to see many familiar faces from last year, as well as meet the many new students arriving this year. Our first week of classes is well underway, with Tyler and Deborah teaching Human Rights Advocacy; Bonnie teaching Human Rights & The Environment; Gerald teaching International Human Rights; and Gerald and Mindy teaching the seminar on Human Rights in the UN Treaty Bodies with our LLM concentrators. Earlier this week, we met all of our clinical students, as they preferenced the 13 projects offered this semester, on topics ranging from U.S. torture prosecutions to communications surveillance to the right to education in South Africa.

Our team looks a bit different this year. We said goodbye to a few gems this summer: Yennifer Pedraza, Meera Shah and Kaitlyn Hennigan, all of whom moved on to other great opportunities. In their stead, we’ve welcomed three terrific members to our team: Gabbie Follett, Program Assistant; Katherine Talbot, Program Associate; and Anna Crowe, Clinical Advocacy Fellow. We’re also excited about this year’s Visiting Fellows, scholars and practitioners we know will enrich our community: Teng Biao, Mark Gould, Nina H. B. Jørgensen, Machiko Kanetake, Su-ming Khoo, and Benjamin Zawacki.

At our standing-room only Human Rights Program Orientation yesterday (pictures below), we flagged a few upcoming events, which we’ll do here as well: look out for a discussion with Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa this Friday afternoon; the Human Rights Program’s 30th anniversary celebration next Friday, Sept. 19, which will feature outside speakers and gather HRP alums from around the world; a panel discussion with Harvard faculty about Gaza, International Humanitarian Law and human rights on Sept. 22; and a Sept. 30 talk by Pakistani jurist Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, who will provide insight on the religious persecution of the Ahmadis in Pakistan.

We’re looking forward to all of it, and hope very much that you are, too.

Gerald, Tyler, Susan and Mindy

Deborah at left, with student

Deborah, at left, with student

Continue Reading…

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September 11, 2014

Tomorrow, Sept. 12: “Albie Sachs and the New South Africa”

September 12, 2014

“Albie Sachs and the New South Africa”

A film screening and discussion with Justice Sachs

3:00- 5:30 p.m.

Austin Hall North

ILS Poster-Albie Screening


Please join us for a screening of the documentary “Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa,” followed by a discussion with Justice Sachs, the legendary judge at the Constitutional Court of South Africa, as well as the filmmaker, Abby Ginzberg. Albie Sachs served for 15 years as a Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and has played a prominent role in the country’s struggle for justice. An anti-apartheid activist, Justice
Sachs was exiled for 23 years and survived an assassination attempt. He is the recipient of the inaugural Tang Prize for Rule of Law.

This event is being organized by HLS International Legal Studies and co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program

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September 9, 2014

Tomorrow: HRP Orientation

September 10, 2015

Human Rights Program Orientation

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

2009 WCC

 HRP Orientation Posteredited

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 3, 2014

Cluster Munitions Ban: National Laws Needed

Posted by Cara Solomon

This afternoon, the International Human Rights Clinic released a joint report with Human Rights Watch urging countries to enact strong laws to implement the treaty banning cluster munitions. The report, “Staying Strong: Key Components and Positive Precedent for Convention on Cluster Munitions Legislation,” was researched and written primarily by Senior Clinical Instructor Bonnie Docherty, as well as clinical students Amy Tan, Fletcher ’14, and Nick Sansone, JD ’15.

Bonnie presented the report in Costa Rica today at the annual meeting of countries that have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. For more information, see below for the press release from Human Rights Watch.




Cluster Munitions Ban: National Laws Needed

Annual Treaty Meeting Opens in Costa Rica


(San Jose, Costa Rica, September 3, 2014) – Countries around the world should enact strong laws to implement the treaty banning cluster munitions, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today at an international meeting of nations party to the treaty.

The 81-page report, “Staying Strong: Key Components and Positive Precedent for Convention on Cluster Munitions Legislation,” urges countries to pass robust national legislation as soon as possible to carry out the provisions of the treaty. The report describes the elements of a comprehensive law and highlights exemplary provisions in existing laws. The report was jointly published by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.

“To maximize the global cluster munition treaty’s impact, all countries should adopt national laws that apply its high standards at home,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior researcher in the arms division at Human Rights Watch and lead author of the report. “Prohibitions that can be enforced in domestic courts can help ensure that these deadly weapons don’t harm civilians.”

bonniereportCluster munitions are large weapons that disperse dozens or hundreds of submunitions. They cause civilian casualties during attacks, especially in populated areas, because they blanket a broad area with submunitions. In addition, many of the submunitions do not explode on impact and thus linger, like de facto landmines, killing or injuring civilians long after the initial attack.

Representatives from governments, UN agencies, and the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) are convening in San Jose, Costa Rica, from September 2 through 5, 2014, for the Fifth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. They will discuss a range of matters relating to the status of the convention, including national legislation.

The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions obliges states parties to enact national laws that penalize violations of its absolute prohibition on cluster munitions with imprisonment or fines. The treaty also requires destruction of stocks, clearance of remnants, and victim assistance. As of August 2014, 84 countries were full parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and another 29 countries had signed it.

According to “Cluster Munition Monitor 2014,” an annual report on the status of the treaty, 22 states parties have enacted national legislation dedicated to implementing the convention, while another 19 are in the process of drafting, considering, or adopting national legislation. Twenty-six states parties view other, more general national laws as sufficient to enforce the convention’s provisions.

While no single law represents best practice, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Clinic highlighted provisions of existing implementation statutes that offer support for each essential element of legislation. National legislation should incorporate both the prohibitions and the positive obligations to minimize the humanitarian harm caused by cluster munitions, the groups said. Continue Reading…

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