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October 30, 2014
October 31, 2014
“Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Rebuilding from Emergency to Development”
12:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Milstein East BC
Harvard Law School
Reception to Follow at 4:30 p.m. in Hark South Dining Room
Please join the Harvard Law and International Development Society for its half-day symposium, “Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Rebuilding from Emergency to Development.” The event will feature lunch and a keynote by Donald Kaberuka, President of African Development Bank; a panel on “Driving Economic Growth and Building Institutions After Conflict” and another on “Developing Stability and Security: Post-Conflict Rule of Law and Justice Reform.”
October 29, 2014
October 30, 2014
“The International Rule of Law Movement: A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward”
6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Please join us for a book talk by David Marshall, LLM ’02, editor of “The International Rule of Law Movement: A Crisis of Legitimacy and The Way Forward,” along with Michael Woolcock and Louis-Alexandre Berg, contributors to the volume. Marshall is a former Visiting Fellow with the Human Rights Program, and currently the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Focal Point for Rule of Law, Peacebuilding and South Sudan. Woolcock is Lead Social Development Specialist with the World Bank’s Development Research Group in Washington, D.C. and a Lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School. Berg is a Research Fellow, International Security Program at the Belfer center for Science and International Affairs Harvard Kennedy School.
This event is being co-sponsored by the Harvard Law and International Development Society and the Harvard Human Rights Journal
October 27, 2014
October 28, 2014
Inequalities in US and European schools 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education
Common stories of Native Americans, African Americans, and Roma
5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Locke Room, Barker Center
12 Quincy Street
This event will reflect on the different forms of discrimination encountered by minority/marginalized children in schools in modern US and Europe, sixty years after the ruling of the historic case, Brown v. Board of Education. The panelists will discuss the cross-cutting causes and common concerns of marginalization across continents, with a focus on school segregation. They will look at the paths of segregating minority and/or indigenous children in schools and the impacts for children, families, peers and society.
HRP is co-sponsoring this event with Harvard University Native American Program; Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health; and Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies.
October 24, 2014
Posted by Elizabeth Loftus, JD '16
In the coming month, all across South Africa, over half a million students will be sitting down to take the National Senior Certificate exam. Some will be sitting at individual desks in state-of-the-art classrooms. But others will be sitting on cinder blocks and at shared desks in buildings that lack water, electricity, and toilets. Wherever they are, students will be taking the same high-stakes test, one that will determine their future. Students who pass will graduate from high school and gain access to higher education opportunities. Students who fail will not.
The exam has a broader purpose, as well: the South African government uses pass rates to identify public schools that lag behind national performance standards. Institutions at which less than 60% of students pass the exam are designated “underperforming.” Underperformance trends in the South African school system reveal startling inequalities and show that the Department of Basic Education’s own underperformance in addressing this critical issue is inexcusable.
Following last year’s exam, 1,407 schools across South Africa qualified as underperforming. The poorest performing provinces were the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, which had pass rates 15%-20% lower than those in the majority of other provinces. Nearly half of the schools in the Eastern Cape failed to meet national performance standards. Shortcomings such as poor infrastructure, inadequate materials, overcrowding, and negligent management all suppress success in vulnerable schools. Not coincidentally, underperformance in the education system disproportionately affects learners in the poor, rural, historically black areas of the country.
Indeed, many of today’s challenges troublingly echo conditions of twenty-five years ago, when the legal framework for education existed to perpetuate racially separate and unequal education. Under the apartheid education system, black schools were designed to underperform in comparison to their white counterparts in order to keep black South Africans undereducated and capable of performing only unskilled, low-wage jobs. The measurable effects of this policy were severe: the government spent 10 times more on white schools than it did on black schools; while there were 18 white students per teacher, the ratio in black schools was 39 to 1; the standardized exam passage rate for blacks was less than one-half that of whites. It is shocking how little these figures have changed since the end of apartheid. In a visit to the Eastern Cape in 2013, community-based education NGOs found primary school classrooms with over 50 students and secondary school classes with over 100 students. Some schools have no electricity and lack desks, chairs, textbooks, and library facilities.
The persistent, systemic deficiency in school performance requires a coherent, national policy solution. But, rather than designing a coordinated response, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has largely overlooked underperformance as a problem in and of itself. National guidelines on improving school performance do not exist. At a more basic level, it is unclear that the DBE even fully appreciates the gravity of underperformance since it has failed to comply with monitoring, evaluation and remediation requirements outlined in the governing national legislation, the South African Schools Act (SASA). A recent example of the DBE’s inadequate approach is evident in the comparison of its 2013-2014 yearly action plan with its 2013-2014 year-end review. “Underperforming schools” appeared only twice in the action plan. The year-end review made only general references to underperforming schools, showing little follow-up on the action plan and providing almost no guidance for reform.
Luckily, groups like Equal Education (EE) and Equal Education Law Center (EELC) have turned their attention to the cause and have committed their considerable social resources to drawing others’ attention, as well. In a far-reaching approach, EE and EELC have undertaken a variety of advocacy strategies in Parliament, the court system, communities, and schools. EE has organized policymaker visits to underperforming schools. In 2012, in response to students’ call for help, EE launched litigation to compel authorities to address the dire learning conditions at Moshesh Senior Secondary School in the Eastern Cape. Recently, EE and EELC produced a shadow report for the parliamentary oversight committee on education, pushing the government to hold the DBE accountable for its shortcomings. All of these steps are important in forcing the DBE to acknowledge the problem and meet its obligations, such as those enumerated in the SASA. Only by living up to its own standards can the DBE help schools live up to theirs.
Elizabeth Loftus, JD ‘16, is a student in the International Human Rights Clinic currently working on education-related issues in South Africa, in partnership with EELC. She has previously worked on projects related to South Africa as a member of the Harvard Law and International Development Society.
October 22, 2014
Posted by Peter Barnett, LLM '15, Morgan Davis, JD '15, and Deborah Popowski
In preparation for the UN Committee Against Torture’s review of the United States, the International Human Rights Clinic has joined fellow members of the group Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecutions in submitting a shadow report to the UN Committee. The report documents how the Obama administration is in clear violation of the law by shielding from criminal liability the senior government officials responsible for the post-9/11 US torture program.
It calls on the UN Committee to ask the United States specifically why it has not prosecuted President George Bush (who admitted in his memoir to authorizing the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed); former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo (author of an opinion that purported to legally authorize the waterboarding of a prisoner known as Abu Zubaydah); and former CIA contract psychologist Dr. James Mitchell (reported to have personally waterboarded the prisoner known as Abu Zubaydah).
The report also urges the UN Committee to renew its calls for criminal investigations and prosecution of officials at the highest levels of the chain of command.
More than 100 organizations and individuals across civil society have already signed on to the report. Advocates for US Torture Prosecutions will continue to gather signatures from individuals and organizations to submit to the UN Committee in Geneva; you can sign on here until November 6.
The fact that US officials designed, authorized and implemented an international torture program is beyond credible dispute. President Obama himself has acknowledged that the United States had “tortured some folks.” This torture included near-drowning (“waterboarding”), stress positions, and sleep deprivation. It caused many people intense suffering, including severe mental harm and, in some cases, led to death.
As far back as 2006, when the United States was last under review, the Committee was already urging it to “promptly, thoroughly, and impartially investigate any responsibility of senior military and civilian officials authorizing, acquiescing or consenting, in any way, to acts of torture committed by their subordinates.”
In its August 2013 report to the UN Committee, the United States effectively ducked the question of senior-level accountability by providing vague and misleading information about investigations and prosecutions at lower levels of the chain of command.
However, on other occasions, the US government has justified its failure to prosecute brutal tactics by claiming reliance on fundamentally flawed legal advice from Justice Department lawyers. This excuse fails on all fronts. The prohibition against torture is absolute and allows for no such defense. As our report makes clear, the record strongly suggests that the torture began before the legal memos were even written, and that in fact these memos were written to justify a predetermined result – to provide legal cover for conduct that no reasonable human being (let alone a reasonable lawyer) could conclude was lawful.
Meanwhile, both the Bush and Obama administrations have blocked or refused to cooperate with criminal proceedings in foreign courts, and vigorously thwarted attempts at redress in civil courts—arguing, among other things, that detainees did not enjoy the right to be free from torture, and that government employees accused of torture had been acting within the scope of their employment.
The bottom line is no accountability for the US program of torture, no redress or justice for survivors, and an invitation for current and future administrations, in the U.S. and around the world, to torture with impunity.
We urge you to make your voices heard on this critical issue in advance of the Committee’s review on November 13 and 14. Add your signature to our report. Like our Facebook page. Follow the progress of the campaign on Twitter through the hashtag #EndTorture.
Read other shadow reports collected by the US Human Rights Network and submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture here.
The shadow report was co-authored by Prof. Ben Davis of the University of Toledo College of Law, psychologist Dr. Trudy Bond, human rights lawyer Curtis Doebbler, and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.
October 6, 2014
Posted by Cara Solomon
Thanks to all who came from near and far to participate in our 30th anniversary event. It was, in a word, tremendous. For those who missed it, you may be interested in Harvard Law School’s coverage, which includes videos of Harold Hongju Koh’s keynote speech; the first panel, on human rights advocacy across the generations; and the second panel, on the future of UN treaty bodies.
We’ve posted a full gallery of photos on our Flickr account (we’re under “humanrightsharvardlaw”). In the meantime, we’ll leave you with some below.
October 3, 2014
Posted by Cara Solomon
For the past few years, we’ve kept an eye on a promising addition to the local film scene: the DocYard, which screens documentaries primarily at the much-beloved Brattle Theater. This autumn, we’re pleased to report the series includes three human rights-focused films, including a showing of “Watchers of the Sky” that we’re co-sponsoring in early November.
But first up, this Monday, Oct. 6., is “E-Team,” which focuses on four members of the Emergencies Team, the “boots on the ground” division of Human Rights Watch. A panel discussion will follow with filmmaker Ross Kauffman and Carroll Bogert, Deputy Executive Director of External Relations at Human Rights Watch, moderated by Robb Moss, filmmaker and professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. The documentary starts at 7 p.m.
Next, on Oct. 20, the series features “Return to Homs,” which follows “the journey of two close friends whose lives had been upended by the battle raging in Syria….When the army cracks down and their beloved city of Homs becomes a bombed-out ghost town, these two peaceful protesters finally take up arms and transform into rebel insurgents.” After the screening, Robb Moss will ask questions of filmmaker Talal Derki via Skype.
Lastly, on Nov. 8, the Human Rights Program is co-sponsoring a showing of the award-winning film, “Watchers of the Sky,” which focuses on the life of Raphael Lemkin, the Polish Jew who created the word “genocide.” Following the screening, HLS Dean Martha Minow will participate in a discussion, along with the film’s director, Edet Belzberg, and HLS professors Alex Whiting and Sam Moyn.
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