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March 30, 2017
This opinion piece by Clinical Advocacy Fellow Yee Htun and Tyler Giannini, co-director of the International Human Rights Clinic, appeared in The Irrawaddy on March 29, 2017
UN Investigation Can Help Myanmar Down the Path of Democracy
At first glance, the UN Human Rights Council resolution passed on Myanmar looks like a rebuke of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) government. The resolution calls for an international investigation into “alleged recent human rights violations by the military and security forces,” singling out Rakhine State in particular for scrutiny.
Given her muted public response to the violence, her government’s denials, and the lack of any serious domestic investigation to date, it would be easy to lay a lot of the blame at Aung San Suu Kyi’s door. But the real story remains in plain sight: there are roadblocks that prevent her and the civilian government from investigating and controlling the abuses of security forces. These roadblocks are rooted in the country’s Constitution, adopted by the military in 2008, and until they are removed, domestic and international maneuvering will be necessary to pressure the military to change its violent ways.
This is not the first time that we have seen Myanmar’s Constitution fail its citizens. Despite her party winning the first open elections in a generation, Aung San Suu Kyi herself was denied the presidency under the Constitution. She and her party had to resort to creating a new position – State Counselor – that has made her the de facto leader of the government. It was a creative, and necessary, move to bring a just outcome to the election.
Similarly, the international investigation is a necessary move, given that Myanmar is missing the basic checks that a functioning democracy requires. Since October, the security forces have allegedly killed as many as 1,000 people and forced an estimated 77,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes in northern Rakhine State to Bangladesh. These security forces are legally and factually controlled by the military. Continue Reading…
March 28, 2017
“Is there public reason in Strasbourg human rights analysis?”
A talk by Wojciech Sadurski, Challis Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Sydney Law School
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Please join us for a talk by Wojciech Sadurski, Visiting Professor of Law at Yale Law School, as well as the Challis Professor in Jurisprudence at the University of Sydney Law School, who will explore whether analysis by the European Court of Human Rights of permissible limitations on protected rights can be interpreted as consistent with the liberal ideal of public reason. He will examine the Court’s acceptance of asserted “legitimate goals” at face value, the application of the “necessity” requirement in a manner that makes it difficult to discern true legislative aims, and the puzzling case of “protection of morals” as a legitimate ground for the restriction of rights.
March 27, 2017
“What Islam, whose Islam?:
The struggle for women’s right to justice and equality in Muslim contexts”
A talk by Zainah Anwar, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Musawah
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Please join us for a talk by Zainah Anwar, of Musawah, who will speak on the challenges faced by women’s groups living in Muslim contexts and their struggle to reform laws and practices made in the name of Islam that discriminate against women. She will share the initiatives of activists and scholars who are engaged in the production of new feminist and rights-based knowledge in Islam, and their efforts at creating a public voice at the national and international levels, pushing for the possibility and necessity of reform to uphold the principles of equality and justice.
March 27, 2017
The Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA) is soliciting applications and nominations for the 2017-2018 Wasserstein Fellows Program. The deadline is April 14, 2017.
Wasserstein Fellows are outstanding public interest lawyers who have shown a demonstrated facility for mentoring and spend 2-3 days at Harvard Law School advising students individually. They also speak to students in group settings and assist the OPIA staff in developing additional advising resources. Read more about 2-3 day Wasserstein Fellow responsibilities.
In addition, OPIA will once again host a Wasserstein Fellow-in-Residence with the Human Rights Program (HRP). The OPIA/HRP Wasserstein-Fellow-in-Residence will spend four months on the HLS campus (September – December) and will split his or her time between OPIA and HRP. Learn more about what the OPIA/HRP Wasserstein Fellow-in-Residence entails.
We encourage you to apply; to nominate colleagues, mentors, or mentees; and/or to circulate this email announcement among your public interest colleagues and friends.
If you have questions about the program, please don’t hesitate to contact Cathering Pattanayak, the Associate Director at OPIA, at [email protected].
March 22, 2017
Tomorrow, March 23: A film screening and discussion of Palestinian women living under the occupation
March 23, 2017
Palestinian women living under the occupation
5:00- 7:00 p.m.
Please join us for a screening of “Speed Sisters,” followed by a panel on Palestinian women living under the occupation. This is part of an ongoing film series sponsored by Islamic Legal Studies: Law and Social Change on women, rights and activism in the Muslim world.
The Speed Sisters are the first all-woman race car driving team in the Middle East. Grabbing headlines and turning heads at improvised tracks across the West Bank, these five women have sped their way into the heart of the gritty, male-dominated Palestinian street car-racing scene. Independent, determined and always on the move, they have deftly charted their own course through the pressures of social expectations, family dynamics, community politics and an ongoing Israeli military occupation.
Following the screening, our panelists Zena Agha, Rana Wahbe, and Nour Soubani will take a closer look at the complexities and vulnerabilities of Palestinian women’s lives under the Israeli occupation, offering personal perspectives and first-hand accounts.
March 21, 2017
Today, March 21: Human rights in the U.S. under President Trump; Anti-impunity and the human rights agenda
Please join us for a talk with Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, Co-Director of the U.S. Program for Human Rights Watch, on human rights in the U.S. under the Trump administration. She will reflect on the President’s policies that would harm rights protections, and his positions vis-à-vis institutions of law that are essential to the functioning of democracy. She will also discuss how Human Rights Watch is responding to these challenges, and consider broader questions arising about the role of the human rights movement today.
In the 21st century, fighting impunity has become both the rallying cry and a metric of progress for human rights. The new emphasis on criminal prosecution represents a fundamental change in the positions and priorities of students and practitioners of human rights and transitional justice: it has become almost unquestionable common sense that criminal punishment is a legal, political, and pragmatic imperative for addressing human rights violations. A new collection from Cambridge University Press, Anti-Impunity and the Human Rights Agenda, challenges that common sense.
Please join us for a book talk by two of the book’s editors, Karen Engle, Professor, University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and Zinaida Miller, Assistant Professor, Seton Hall University, along with chapter authors Samuel Moyn, Professor, Harvard Law School, and Helena Alviar Garcia, Professor and former Dean, Los Andes Law School, Bogotá, for a discussion and celebration of the publication of Anti-Impunity and the Human Rights Agenda, chaired by Professor David Kennedy, Harvard Law School.
This event is being co-sponsored by the Institute for Global Law and Policy, the Human Rights Program, and the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas, Austin.
March 20, 2017
Posted by Cara Solomon
Just the other day, we said goodbye to one of the gentlest souls on the Harvard Law School Campus: Maureen Corrigan, HRP’s longtime financial manager, is headed to family and a new job in California.
Over the course of her years at HRP, Maureen navigated the increasingly complicated finances of a program that works not only with dozens of students and staff every year, but with visitors from around the world. It was not an easy job.
The receipts alone would have done a lesser person in. They came to her ripped and wrinkled from around the world: scraps of paper with words written in Arabic, in Thai, in Bosnian, in illegible English. Maureen took them by the handful and calmly proceeded to trace them back to something expense-able, like dinner.
Certainly, there were predictable rhythms to her job, like the demands of budget season. But it was not uncommon to pass by her office, and hear the whirring and clacking of Maureen’s old-fashioned calculator as she tackled a problem one of us had dropped in her lap that day. With a plea that she solve it as soon as possible. While we panicked down the hall.
She always did, and in a way that put all of us at ease.
Mostly she did it with humor. Always she did it with heart.
It was no accident that Maureen volunteered to organize the birthday celebrations for everyone in the office. She was that kind of considerate. She knew the names of the people and the pets we loved. She asked after them, and after us, and offered hugs when we didn’t even know we needed them.
This is why, in the great East Coast/West Coast rivalry, none of us is pleased to cede Maureen to California. But she’s headed there for a job in the financial department of Chapman University, which happens to be exactly three blocks from her new house, where she will live with her husband, her two dogs, and her college senior son.
We wish her all the happiness she’s given us through the years, along with the very best luck life has to give.
March 17, 2017
A Year In: Examining Myanmar’s Democratic Transition
A talk by May Sabe Phyu,
Kachin leader and winner of “International Woman of Courage” award
12:00- 1:00 p.m.
Harvard Law School
Lunch will be provided
Please join us for a talk by May Sabe Phyu, a Kachin leader and a winner of the State Department’s “International Woman of Courage” award. She will discuss efforts to prevent violence against women; the ongoing armed conflicts in Kachin and Shan States; and how peace activists are attempting to address entrenched militarization in the country.
This is the first talk in a two-part lunch series that looks at changes in Myanmar since Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy took power in the wake of the first free and open election in a generation. The series will examine the progress underway to protect human rights, achieve peace, and address the legacy of abuses and conflict in Myanmar dating back to the 1950s.
For the second talk, on April 10, Matthew Bugher, an HLS alumnus with investigative experience into international crimes in Myanmar, will discuss accountability efforts in the country, including a major investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity.
March 15, 2017
Posted by Bonnie Docherty
The humanitarian disarmament community lost a legend last week. Bob Mtonga, a medical doctor and long-time activist, died in his native Zambia shortly after returning from one of countless international trips to promote the protection of civilians in armed conflict. He was just 51.
Bob was a much-loved leader in the field of humanitarian disarmament, which seeks to end civilian suffering caused by indiscriminate and inhumane weapons. He campaigned for strong international law on nuclear weapons, and landmines, and cluster munitions, and the arms trade. He served on the leadership committees of several civil society coalitions and had been co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).
In less than two weeks, the UN General Assembly will begin negotiating a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. This coming September marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty. Next year is the 10th anniversary of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Bob contributed to each of these milestones. His absence at the nuclear negotiations and anniversary celebrations will be deeply felt.
While making international law is often a slow process, nothing would ever deter Bob from working to improve the world. One friend wrote after his death, “Wherever we all go from this place, we can be sure that since Bob has preceded us he is already organizing it to be a better place.”
I met Bob more than a decade ago during the Oslo Process, which produced the Convention on Cluster Munitions. I came to know dozens of civil society advocates during those negotiations, but Bob immediately stood out as a campaigner and a personality. Continue Reading…
March 10, 2017
Posted by Jared Small, JD '18
Tomorrow, my Harvard Law School colleagues and I will board an airplane for Kosovo. Our goal: track down remnants of a war that ended nearly two decades ago.
The Kosovo War ended in 1999 after a months-long NATO airstrike crippled Yugoslav and Serbian forces and paved the way for an internationally monitored Kosovan autonomy. Kosovo has since declared independence, and is moving forward towards what it hopes will become full membership in the European Union.
But there is an invisible part of this story that has largely escaped the public eye over the past decade and a half. Our team from the International Human Rights Clinic will travel to Kosovo to better understand potential environmental and human health impacts that linger from the war.
During the course of the NATO airstrikes, United States aircraft deployed at least 5,723 kg of Depleted Uranium (DU) ammunition at Serbian and Yugoslav targets. As an incredibly dense by-product of the process of enriching uranium, DU is often used by militaries in armor-piercing shells and bullets. American A-10 Thunderbolts fired DU at more than 100 ground targets during the campaign against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was attempting to cleanse Kosovo of its nearly 90% ethnic Albanian population.
In addition to penetrating armored vehicles, DU rounds ended up in areas now returned to civilian use, including bucolic buildings and urban streets. Even 18 years after the end of the war many of these penetrators remain scattered around Kosovo.
For a minute or so after the war, the world took notice of the fact that Kosovo had been littered with DU. The media reacted to a Pentagon statement acknowledging the use of DU. The Post-Conflict Assessment Unit of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both made site visits to Kosovo shortly after.
But concern about DU faded from the public eye as the world moved on from the Balkan Wars and new events demanded resources and attention. The initial UNEP and WHO reports cited neither a “smoking penetrator” nor any cancerous abnormalities in the civilian population. Those same reports, however, warned of potential longer-term radioactivity issues stemming from ingestion of uranium in drinking water or inhalation of uranium dust suspended in the air.
DU’s chemical toxicity raises other concerns. When ingested, the greatest concentrations of DU may show up in the kidneys, liver tissue, and skeletal structure, potentially causing renal dysfunction and organ damage.
As we head to Kosovo, here’s what we know: calls by concerned stakeholders for longer-term water, soil, air, and livestock monitoring in Kosovo have not been heeded. And studies of heavily targeted DU sites elsewhere in the Balkans—such as the TRZ Hadžići Tank Repair Facility in Bosnia and Herzegovina—have uncovered health and psychosocial consequences among populations exposed to DU.
Even before setting foot in Kosovo, we have begun discussing the value of increased information sharing and heightened transparency around DU target areas. Our trip will allow us to examine the state of awareness that surrounds these issues, and ultimately to offer recommendations for a response that is in line with the needs of Kosovan individuals, communities, and civil society.
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