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April 30, 2015
New Publication Examines Different Approaches to Assisting Victims of Armed Conflict and Armed Violence”
“New Publication Examines Different Approaches to Assisting Victims of Armed Conflict and Armed Violence”
Seeks to promote collaboration among leaders in field
(Cambridge, MA, April 30, 2015)- Mitigating the human costs of armed conflict and armed violence has become a moral and legal imperative over the past two decades. Within the international community, several strategies for helping civilian victims have emerged. A publication, released this week by Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program and Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), seeks to advance understanding and promote collaboration among leaders in the field.
The 28-page report, Acknowledge, Amend, Assist: Addressing Civilian Harm Caused by Armed Conflict and Armed Violence, examines a range of current approaches: casualty recording, civilian harm tracking, making amends, transitional justice, and victim assistance. In so doing, the report illuminates their commonalities and differences and analyzes the difficulties they face individually and collectively.
“These programs all provide valuable assistance to civilian victims, but they have yet to be viewed holistically,” said Bonnie Docherty, editor of the volume and lecturer on law in the Human Rights Program. “A comparative look at the approaches could help reduce overlapping efforts and identify gaps that should be closed.”
Acknowledge, Amend, Assist takes its name and much of its substance from a two-day global summit held at Harvard Law School in October 2013. The event brought experts from government, civil society, and academia together to explore the challenges of meeting victims’ needs and to learn about where their work might coincide and/or conflict. This publication seeks to build upon the momentum generated by the summit and present the issues that it raised to a wider audience.
As the essays demonstrate, the five approaches to addressing civilian harm share not only an ultimate goal but also many overarching principles. In general, they define “victim” broadly, envision a wide range of support, encourage victim participation in the process, and aim to address articulated needs. They recognize that even if one party bears primary responsibility for providing assistance, there may be multiple players involved.
At the same time, the approaches differ in focus and practice. Some concentrate on lawful harm, others on unlawful harm. They also call for various forms of recognition and aid. Distinctions among the approaches that have led to debate include who should bear responsibility for providing assistance and how law can most effectively contribute to the process.
“We hope members of the assistance community will draw lessons from each other’s strategies and consider how to increase collaboration,” Docherty said. “In the long run, more informed, complementary, and coordinated approaches would improve the lot of victims of armed conflict and armed violence.”
For more information, contact Bonnie Docherty at [email protected].
April 15, 2015
April 16, 2015
“Should There Be Liability If…”
Join Tyler Giannini and Ariel Nelson of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School for a discussion about the live issues in Alien Tort Statute (ATS) litigation, including whether torturers and other human rights abusers can use U.S. soil to shield themselves from accountability. Giannini and Nelson will examine current trends in the courts in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel in 2013. Since that time, the Clinic has authored numerous amicus briefs in major ATS cases around the country, and is co-counsel in two major ATS cases—one stemming from corporate complicity in Apartheid-era crimes and the other involving alleged extrajudicial killings that occurred in Bolivia in 2003.
April 10, 2015
Posted by Cara Solomon
Earlier this week, Australian radio interviewed Tyler Giannini about a significant development in the world of business and human rights: one of the world’s largest mining companies, Barrick Gold, recently settled claims with a group of women in Papua New Guinea who were raped by the company’s security guards. The settlement, negotiated by EarthRights International, came as the women were preparing to file suit.
The International Human Rights Clinic has been investigating abuses around the Porgera mine for several years, along with NYU’s Global Justice Clinic and Columbia’s Human Rights Clinic. Reports of rape around the mine in the highlands of Papua New Guinea date back to at least 2006, but the company did not acknowledge them for years.
In 2012, the company set up a complaint mechanism, which Tyler describes in the interview as inadequate. Initially, the company was preparing to offer the women who stepped forward a compensation package of used clothing and chickens. At the urging of advocates, including the Clinic, the company later revised its offer, and more than 100 women accepted the settlement.
EarthRights represented a group that did not agree to settle through the company’s complaint mechanism. At least one woman described the original settlement offers as “offensive.”
“If you have settlements that aren’t really getting to justice, the discourse with the community is not really healed, and you don’t get real reconciliation,” Tyler said in the interview. “That’s not good for the company, that’s not good for the survivors, and I think that’s one of the lessons that needs to be taken away.”
April 9, 2015
The “Killer Robots” Accountability Gap
Obstacles to Legal Responsibility Show Need for Ban
(Geneva, April 9, 2015) – Programmers, manufacturers, and military personnel could all escape liability for unlawful deaths and injuries caused by fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report was issued in advance of a multilateral meeting on the weapons at the United Nations in Geneva.
The 38-page report, “Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots,” details significant hurdles to assigning personal accountability for the actions of fully autonomous weapons under both criminal and civil law. It also elaborates on the consequences of failing to assign legal responsibility. The report is jointly published by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.
“No accountability means no deterrence of future crimes, no retribution for victims, no social condemnation of the responsible party,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior Arms Division researcher at Human Rights Watch and the report’s lead author. “The many obstacles to justice for potential victims show why we urgently need to ban fully autonomous weapons.” Continue Reading…
April 7, 2015
Posted by Cara Solomon
We’re pleased to report that The Irrawaddy, an online news magazine in Myanmar, has just published “How One Father’s Letters Got Him Convicted,” an Op-Ed by Matt Thiman, JD ’16, Courtney Svoboda, JD ’16, and Tyler Giannini. The piece tells the story of Brang Shawng, a grieving father whose request for an investigation into his daughter’s death led to charges from the Myanmar military. The Clinic was among several organizations in December to sign an open letter to the President of Mynamar, requesting that all charges be dropped.
The piece begins:
Shortly after his daughter’s death, Brang Shawng sat down to write the first of two letters that would eventually get him convicted. He wrote to the president of Myanmar first, and then to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, wanting to know what had happened to his daughter, whom he believed had been shot by the Myanmar military.
“A submission is made with great respect,” he wrote to the president, “to find out the truth in connection with the killing, without a reason, of an innocent student, my daughter Ma Ja Seng Ing, who wore a white and green school uniform.”
In the letter, he recalled the day in his village clearly. It was Sept. 13, 2012, in an area of conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Myanmar military in the north of the country. A column of Myanmar Army soldiers had been in the village since before dawn. Late that afternoon, as the column was preparing to leave, there was a loud bomb blast. Then suddenly, soldiers shooting, and the sound of shouting and crying as villagers tried to take cover.
“It was just like the end of the world,” Brang Shawng wrote.
He hid with his wife and two children in their home. But one of their children was not with them: his 14-year-old daughter, Ja Seng Ing.
April 4, 2015
“Globalizing Ferguson: Racialized Policing and Internationalized Resistance”
12:00- 1:30 p.m.
Ames Courtroom, Austin Hall
Harvard Law School
Please join us for a forum that brings together community organizers, attorneys, and academics to discuss the international dimension of racialized policing, violence and structural injustice. What elements of these problems are transnational? Is there a role for transnational solidarity in fighting oppression? Can international human rights bodies provide vehicles of resistance? What are the possibilities and limitations of law and how can lawyers be good allies? Panelists will draw on their recent experiences in taking these struggles to the UN and the inter-American system, and on their involvement in solidarity delegations to Palestine and Brazil.
Panelists are Patrisse Marie Cullors, organizer, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, member of #DDPalestine delegation #BlackLivesMatter; Fernando Ribeiro Delgado, Clinical instructor, International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School; Justin Hansford – law professor, member of the Ferguson to Geneva Delegation; Meena Jagannath, Community Justice Project; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, MIT Program on Human Rights & Justice; Asha Ransby-Sporn, We Charge Genocide; Sherika Shaw, organizer at Dream Defenders, member of #DDPalestine, Brazil delegations. Julia Dehm, of Institute for Law and Global Policy, and Deborah Popowski, of the Human Rights Program, will moderate.
After the discussion, there will be a limited enrollment workshop from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. The workshop will provide a space for experienced activists to engage us in discussions on strategy and opportunities for future advocacy and activism in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. What kind of concrete projects and tasks can law students and other members of our community work on to help advance the objectives of this movement? Together we will explore the possibilities and potential limitations of legal advocacy in this struggle for social change.
Note: The workshop is currently full, but if you’d like to be put on the wait list in the event of cancellations, please register here.
This event is being co-sponsored by La Alianza, Institute for Global Law & Policy, Dean of Students, Black Law Students Association, National Lawyers Guild – HLS Chapter, Law and International Development Society, South Asian Law Students Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Muslim Law Students Association, Advocates for Education, Advocates for Human Rights, African Law Association, Asia Law Society, Law and Social Change, Lambda Legal, Prison Legal Assistance Project, Criminal Justice Institute, UNBOUND, Students for Inclusion, Harvard Ferguson Action Committee. This event is sponsored in part by the Milbank Student Conference.
April 2, 2015
Posted by The Human Rights Program
In the flurry of activity these past few weeks, we were remiss in not making an important announcement: Our good friend and former HRP colleague, James Cavallaro, was elected Vice Chair of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on March 13. This is an honor much deserved, and we’re excited to see what he will bring to the post.
April 1, 2015
Tomorrow, Thursday, April 2: “Ties to the Top: The Role of Government Officials in Human Rights Abuses in Myanmar”
April 2, 2015
“Ties to the Top: The Role of Government Officials in Human Rights Abuses in Myanmar”
As Myanmar approaches its second election later this year, join us for a discussion about accountability and its place in the country’s reform efforts. Panelists Roger Normand, of Justice Trust, and Matt Smith, of Fortify Rights, will join two advocates from Myanmar:
U Teikkha Nyana, a Buddhist monk who was severely injured two years ago when riot police used white phosphorus weapons to attack peaceful protesters; he recently joined with other injured monks to file an unprecedented lawsuit against the local police chief and the Home Affairs Minister. U Teikkha Nyana will join the conversation via Skype.
U Aung Thein, a Supreme Court advocate from Yangon who has represented more than 150 political prisoners, including leaders of the Saffron Revolution and Generation 88.
Tyler Giannini will moderate the discussion.
This event is being co-sponsored by HLS East Asian Legal Studies
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