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May 26, 2017
Dear Class of 2017,
CONGRATULATIONS! You made it!
And you did it not just with intelligence, but with heart, which makes it all the better. So today, we send you off with two things: Gratitude, for all that you brought to our community, and hope, that you work with humility and heart to strengthen all the other communities you make your home.
We also want to send a special shout out to Mana Azarmi, who won the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA). Our very own Kenna Graziano, Lan Mei, and Loren Voss won the Dean’s Award for Community Leadership. And to the many clinical students who gave more than 1,000 hours of pro bono work during their time at HLS: Sarah Abraham, Mana Azarmi, Roi Bachmutsky, Torrance Castellano, Laura Dismore, Roni Druks, Kenna Graziano, Kelsey Jost-Creegan, Alice Kim, Lan Mei, Michael Perloff, Silvia Ruiz, Leora Smith, Marin Tollefson, Daniel Traficonte, and Danielle Young.
And now, for scenes from our annual commencement party with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic and the Food Law and Policy Clinic, with big thanks to Jordana, Gabbie and Katherine for organizing!
May 23, 2017
Posted by Tyler Giannini
A few years ago, I wrote about the many small moments that carry so much significance for us in this Clinic and in our work. Graduation time always brings me back to that place of appreciation for those moments, and last week in Colombia, my work was full of them.
At a press conference in Bogotá last Thursday, the Clinic and its partners, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the complicity of executives of Chiquita Brand International in crimes against humanity. It took years to get to that moment: Juan Pablo Calderon Meza, a former clinical advocacy fellow and Colombian himself, had come up with the vision and driven it forward inside the Clinic for almost two years. More than two dozen students worked on the communication submitted to the ICC this week, as well as myself and Susan and Anna.
Sometimes, on a project with so much vision and such a broad scope—a project that requires this amount of mental energy and grunt work, poring over endless sources, lining up the facts just right—it is difficult to imagine the moment when it will come alive in the wider world. But arriving in Colombia, it did.
I watched two of my long-time students, Kenna Graziano and Kelsey Jost-Creegan, hammering out the final details with our partners and communities who live with the effects of the paramilitaries’ destruction to this day. I listened to attorneys from CAJAR as we sat together over meals and spoke about decades of struggle alongside communities to end violence. Despite the sacrifices, it was clear that they would all do it again in an instant.
Then there was the actual press conference, when Kelsey, who speaks Spanish, represented the Clinic in a way that fits into the best tradition of what we were trying to do: she knew the issues inside and out, but she showed a humility and poise that hid the fact it was her first press conference. (It certainly was not her last.) I sat admiring in the audience with Kenna, who herself had put in an uncountable number of hours as we made last-minute adjustments against the swirl of the ever-changing backdrop surrounding Colombia’s evolving peace process.
And while I do not speak Spanish myself, I didn’t need to when Gildardo Tuberquia from the “community of peace” spoke. You could feel the emotion as he described the killings through the years – including one just a few weeks ago.
Juan, the visionary behind the communication, was unable to come; he is now working at the ICC in The Hague. But in a moving turn of events, his father, Ernesto, was able to attend the press conference on behalf of his son. And later that day, in another moment that will stay with me, we Skyped Juan in Geneva and raised a glass to his dedication and his vision, on behalf of the affected communities and all of us in Colombia.
As instructors in this Clinic, we all have stories like this—not just this semester, or this year, but in all the years of our teaching. It’s so much of why we do what we do. Thanks to all who support that work, and make those moments that add up to change.
May 21, 2017
A disarming leader: Bonnie Docherty recognized for contributions to human rights, clinical community
A post by Cara Solomon
When Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, began the daunting work of documenting torture and mass hangings in a Syrian prison, she was prepared. She knew how to interview survivors of trauma. She knew how to protect the security and confidentiality of witnesses. She knew, when her 50th interview was done, just how to connect the dots.
“There I was, with my pieces of paper all around me, with different highlighters for each different fact I was trying to establish,” said Nicolette, a researcher for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “That’s basically me modeling what Bonnie taught me to do.”
Over the course of her career, as Bonnie Docherty has emerged as an international expert on civilian protection in armed conflict, she has also mentored scores of clinical students, from field researchers in conflict zones to advocates inside the halls of the UN in Geneva.
Her biggest alumni fans call themselves “the Bonnie mafia.” When they heard of her recent promotion to Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection at the International Human Rights Clinic, the reaction could best be summed up in one word: jubilation.
“This is the best news I’ve heard in a while,” said Lauren Herman, JD ’13, a fellow at Make the Road, NJ, an immigrants’ rights organization. “I am just thrilled for Bonnie and the Clinic and all of Harvard.”
The promotion gives Bonnie room to deepen and expand her work on civilian protection. She plans to increase support for civil society organizations working in the field, create a track for students interested in careers in civilian protection, and provide a forum for experts to develop practical innovations.
A senior researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch as well as a Harvard lecturer on law, she’ll continue to dedicate much of her time to humanitarian disarmament, which seeks to eliminate civilian suffering from problematic weapons. It’s an area Bonnie has been working in for 16 years.
“It’s a time of great expansion in humanitarian disarmament, but also a time of challenges,” said Bonnie. “I’m hoping we can bolster the advocacy of the NGOs, and provide some fresh thinking.”
Nobody is better poised to do that work. With her experience in the field, and her expertise in international humanitarian law, she is, her colleagues say, unquestionably one of the keenest legal minds in the humanitarian disarmament movement — known for her deep knowledge, her sharp legal analysis, and her strategic thinking.
“If someone asks you who is the best lawyer in the world to go to on cluster munitions — and now killer robots — Bonnie is at the top of the list,” said Steve Goose, who heads the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch.
Bonnie never imagined this career for herself. In college, she immersed herself in the study of history, partly for the love of individual stories, convinced she would pursue a PhD. Then she decided she wanted to see history unfold in real time, and turned towards journalism.
It was there, as a reporter for the Middlesex News, that she saw the aftermath of war up close. When the Department of Defense offered media trips to embed with the US-NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia in 1998, Bonnie, whose job included covering an Army lab in Natick, lobbied her editor to go.
The ten-day trip was a series of firsts: working with a translator, interviewing victims of human rights abuses, going on patrol with the military, seeing the remnants of weapons of war. Along the way, she picked up tricks of what would later become her trade — interviewing an Air Force pilot in a pitch-black cockpit, for example, scribbling her notes in the dark.
“I just tried to space the notes out broadly enough, and kept flipping pages quite aggressively — and hoped,” she said.
She’d applied to Harvard Law School months earlier, partly because she was tired of asking other people to answer her legal questions. In typical Bonnie form, she wanted to study the source of the information for herself. Then, the week she left for Bosnia, she got the acceptance letter.
And so, with the curiosity of a journalist and the long view of a historian, Bonnie went to law school, studying human rights and international humanitarian law, and landing at Human Rights Watch after graduation. Her first day on the job was September 12, 2001.
Over the years, Bonnie has documented human rights abuses and civilian casualties in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones, at some of the most dangerous times, from Afghanistan in 2002 to Baghdad in 2003, three weeks after the city fell.
In 2005, when she interviewed for the job of clinical fellow at the International Human Rights Clinic, she called in on a rental cell phone during a layover on the way to a three-week mission in Darfur.
With clinical students in tow, she’s investigated the use of cluster munitions in Lebanon; documented the ongoing needs of civilian victims of Nepal’s armed conflict; and most recently, examined the use of explosive weapons in populated areas of Ukraine.
From the very beginning, she thrived on the work.
“It’s a chance to make a difference in the world, which I always wanted to do,” she said. “It’s also an opportunity to be a part of history.”
What Bonnie saw out in the field then pushed her into another world, of diplomats and treaty negotiations. She began working intensively, often in Clinic-Human Rights Watch collaborations, to ban weapons that disproportionately affect civilians.
She’s been a leader in efforts to ban fully autonomous weapons, otherwise known as “killer robots,” and to strengthen international law on incendiary weapons. Perhaps most famously, she’s known as the legal expert behind the campaign for an absolute prohibition on cluster munitions, which started as a dream, and a decade later led to a treaty.
“It’s just amazing that someone is so capable of teaching and doing and showing students the ropes in those very different worlds,” said Brian Kelly, JD ’14, who now works at the U.S. Department of State. “I still reach out to her with questions.”
The process of improving civilian protection is slow moving and full of setbacks. To stay the course, she says, you need patience and stamina and plenty of faith.
For her part, Bonnie takes inspiration from studying the patterns of history. And then there’s always her memory of that day in 2008 when almost 100 countries gathered in Oslo to sign the treaty banning cluster munitions.
“It does give me patience when I’m doing all my other work to say: I know this can lead somewhere,” Bonnie said.
By the time the ban on cluster munitions was signed, Bonnie had been a teacher in the International Human Rights Clinic for three years. So when it happened, she had students by her side. Chris Rogers, JD ’09, was one of them.
It was a day he will never forget.
“You had individuals who were really part of a movement for years, from victims of cluster munitions in Cambodia to arms control groups in Latin America and the Middle East to human rights organizations in Europe,” said Rogers, now a senior policy analyst with the Open Society Foundations’ Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia Program. “For me, someone who was just starting out in his career in this field, to see such an impressive victory by civil society, it was very influential.”
Ask any student under Bonnie’s supervision, and they’ll tell you: they learn on the job. They’re up all night with her drinking Diet Mountain Dew and parsing treaty language before a meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons. They’re preparing presentations on the dangers of killer robots for UN side events.
Ask Ken Rutherford, co-founder of the Landmine Survivors Network, and he’ll tell you: Bonnie’s students are rock stars.
“They’re not traveling around the world trying to get free cups of tea,” said Ken, a professor of political science at James Madison University. “They’re singularly focused on niche areas of international humanitarian law that need to be re-evaluated, re-examined, and opened up for further discussion or refinement.”
By now, inside the tight-knit community of advocates that work on protecting civilians in armed conflict, there’s an expectation of excellence from Bonnie.
It’s just a given: Every few months, she and her students will churn out a meticulously researched publication. It will be on a topic foundational enough, or cutting edge enough, to push any given campaign forward.
Bonnie will draw large crowds to her side events at international weapons conferences. And you will see in the audience so many nodding heads, as she lays out in a straightforward and compelling manner the case for what civilians need.
“Sometimes we take it for granted,” said Miriam Struyk, Program Director of Security and Disarmament at PAX, who grew up in the humanitarian disarmament movement alongside Bonnie. “But we shouldn’t, because it’s still remarkable.”
When Bonnie joined the Clinic, she had eight projects, 16 students, and very little teaching experience. She was something of an introvert then, as she is now, and she wondered: Would she connect?
Her colleagues in the Clinic knew she would. Her passion, her dedication, and her caring caring were all contagious.
“Bonnie’s just a natural,” said Tyler Giannini, co-director of the Clinic. “From the very beginning, the students have been inspired to follow her lead.”
Quiet and understated, Bonnie is not the kind of advocate whose voice swells when she talks about victims. Her caring comes through in other ways — in the literature she assigns her students to read, in the tributes she writes to beloved colleagues who have passed away.
Here was a human rights advocate who strayed so far from the stereotype in her mind. Someone who had made a career, and a community for herself, by being superb at her job, and generous.
“You don’t need to be this showy person who’s constantly hustling and advocating for themselves, which is a little bit how I imagined it had to be,” said Crowe, now a clinical instructor and lecturer on law at Harvard Law School. “That was one of the major revelations of the year.”
More than a decade after she began teaching, the “Bonnie mafia” now stretches far and wide, roughly 40 alumni strong. Some work in government. Others at law firms. Many have moved into the fields of disarmament, or civilian protection, or other areas of human rights advocacy.
Many owe their first job to her, and often, the job after that. To them, Bonnie’s influence cannot be overstated.
“Without Bonnie, I wouldn’t be who I am and doing the work I am doing today,” said Rogers. “There is a direct line between Bonnie and the laws and policies I’ve helped to pass in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Those words come from a letter several alumni wrote to the senior leadership of Harvard Law School a few years ago, calling attention to the ways in which Bonnie prepared them to practice law, and strengthened the contributions they would make to the world. It gave Bonnie goose bumps to read it. She’d never heard some of those stories before.
When she was promoted this spring, Bonnie got to hear it all again, in notes that came from all corners of the country and the world. It’s something far more than praise to her; it’s a gift.
“They’ve made such a difference in my life,” said Bonnie. “It’s nice to think I could give them something in return.”
May 18, 2017
Clinic and partners call on ICC to investigate role of Chiquita executives in contributing to crimes against humanity
Human Rights Coalition Calls on ICC to Investigate Role of Chiquita Executives in Contributing to Crimes against Humanity
Communities in Colombia Seek Accountability after two decades of impunity
Bogota, Colombia, May 18, 2017 – Today, on behalf of affected Colombian communities, a coalition of human rights groups called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the complicity of executives at Chiquita Brands International in crimes against humanity. To date, no executive has been held to account despite the company’s admission that it funneled millions of dollars to Colombian paramilitaries that killed, raped, and disappeared civilians. If the ICC takes up the case, it would be the first time it moved against corporate executives for assisting such crimes.
In their submission to the court, the coalition of local and international human rights groups traces the executives’ involvement with payments made to the paramilitaries between 1997 and 2004. Even after outside counsel and the U.S. Department of Justice said such payments were illegal under U.S. law, the payments continued. The submission includes a confidential, sealed appendix that identifies by name fourteen senior executives, officers, and board members of Chiquita who the coalition argues should be the focus of the Prosecutor’s investigation.
The coalition, which consists of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), relied on internal Chiquita documents and assistance from the National Security Archive at George Washington University to identify the Chiquita officials and show how they were involved with the crimes.
“The executives who oversaw the funding of paramilitaries should not be able to sit comfortably in their houses in the United States as if they did nothing wrong,” said a member of the Peace Community of San José de Apartado, which submitted a letter to the ICC about how the paramilitary violence personally affected them. “Families across Colombia have been waiting for accountability for too long.”
Chiquita could have acted differently, or could have left the country years before it did, but instead decided to continue its lucrative business while paying paramilitaries for so-called ‘security’ in the banana-growing regions. By 2003, Chiquita’s subsidiary in Colombia was its most profitable banana operation in the world.
“At the time, Colombian paramilitaries were notorious for targeting civilians, among them banana workers and community leaders,” said CAJAR, “but Chiquita’s executives decided to continue giving money to paramilitaries anyway.”
The Chiquita corporation already pled guilty in a U.S. federal court in 2007 to illegally funding Colombian paramilitaries. But accountability for the executives who oversaw and authorized the payment scheme has been elusive: while civil litigation is pending in U.S. courts against Chiquita executives, no criminal prosecution is on the horizon. Colombia has not been able to get jurisdiction over them, and there is no indication that the United States would extradite the executives.
“We request that the ICC expands its current inquiry in Colombia to specifically include Chiquita’s executives and officials,” said Dimitris Christopoulos, the President of FIDH. “The weight of the evidence should lead the Office of the Prosecutor to act if Colombian authorities are not able to.”
If Colombian authorities do not move ahead with this case, the submission asks the Prosecutor to request formal authorization from its Pre-Trial Chamber to open an investigation into Chiquita’s corporate executives.
The communication comes at a critical time in Colombia, as the country begins to implement an historic peace agreement after nearly half a century of conflict. The coalition’s submission urges the Office of the Prosecutor to monitor local Colombian proceedings to ensure its meets ICC standards, particularly with regards to the private sector support for the paramilitaries and business’ accountability.
“In times of transition to peace, corporate actors too often escape accountability for their egregious behavior in the past,” said Professor Tyler Giannini, a Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. “The prosecution of Chiquita officials for their payments to the paramilitaries would send a powerful message that impunity is no longer business as usual.”
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For media inquiries:
Tyler Giannini (English), Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School +1 617 669 2340
Dimitris Christopoulos (English, French Greek), FIDH President : + 33 6 75 76 69 32
Jimena Reyes (Spanish, French, English) – FIDH Americas Desk director : +32 493 61 72 64 ([email protected])
Sebastián Escobar, CAJAR: +57 3143776026
May 18, 2017
Clinic and PAX document harm to health care in Ukraine caused by use of explosive weapons in populated areas
Posted by Bonnie Docherty
Since armed conflict broke out in Ukraine in 2014, the use of explosive weapons has directly damaged hospitals, destroyed ambulances, and killed or injured health workers. It has also indirectly affected the health care system by shutting down infrastructure—causing loss of electricity, heat, water, and communications—and creating travel risks for ambulances, medical personnel, and civilians in need.
These impacts have interfered with the provision of health care to local civilians and forced many to go without.
A new report, Operating under Fire: The Effects of Explosive Weapons on Health Care in the East of Ukraine, documents the situation, drawing on field research conducted in communities along the front line. The report was jointly released today by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and the Dutch peace organization PAX.
As the report makes clear, the harm attributable to explosive weapons’ use in populated areas has infringed on the availability, quality, and accessibility of health care, which are three elements of the right to health.
For example, structural damage and shattered windows have forced hospitals to abandon buildings and cut back on services. Doctors have treated patients in frigid conditions and operated by operated by candlelight due to heat and power outages. Health workers and civilians alike have had to dodge shells and risk their lives to reach local clinics.
The health care problems have exacerbated the conflict-related difficulties faced by civilians in the east of Ukraine. They also exemplify one of the many humanitarian problems associated with using explosive weapons in populated areas.
Explosive weapons encompass a range of munitions, including air-dropped bombs, artillery projectiles, rockets, and missiles. Especially when such weapons have wide area effects and are used in cities and towns, they are likely to hit civilians and the infrastructure upon which their lives depend.
In addition to spotlighting the impacts on health care in Ukraine, Operating under Fire makes the case for an international political commitment that would help minimize future harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
For more information, contact Bonnie Docherty: [email protected]
May 12, 2017
Paul Hoffman, expert in constitutional and civil rights litigation, to teach in the Clinic this fall semester
Posted by Susan Farbstein and Tyler Giannini
We are extremely pleased to announce that a human rights advocate we have long admired, and worked alongside, will join us at the International Human Rights Clinic for the fall semester. Paul Hoffman, an expert in constitutional and civil rights litigation, will teach the Clinic’s Human Rights Advocacy seminar, as well as supervise students on several clinical projects.
Paul has been an incredible mentor to each of us, in terms of his knowledge of the law, his ability to think creatively and strategically, and the passion and love he brings to his work. He is, without a doubt, the leading Alien Tort Statute (ATS) litigator in the country, and yet he carries that distinction with so much humility and openness to others.
The Clinic has worked closely with him on several recent ATS cases, including the In-Re South African Apartheid litigation and Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, which Paul argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. We also collaborated on two other landmark cases, Unocal and Wiwa, both of which resulted in settlements. Paul also argued the first major ATS case, Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, before the Supreme Court. Continue Reading…
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