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January 30, 2019

What Counts as a Crime Against Humanity?

On Jan. 11-12, dozens of experts convened at Harvard Law School to provide commentary on draft articles for a future convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity. In a post for the Harvard International Law Journal blog, Gerald Neuman, HRP Co-Director and J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, explained the importance of establishing more clarity on the definition of “crimes against humanity” following the Rome Statute.

“A key issue in establishing state obligations to prosecute international crimes involves the choice of a definition that is appropriate to the obligations that are being imposed,” Neuman says. “The notion of ‘crimes against humanity’ has a long history, but its definition has evolved over the years. The definition negotiated for the Rome Statute, which created the ICC—an international tribunal with a limited capacity to prosecute and adjudicate—may not provide the right definition for an obligatory system of consistent national prosecution.”

Establishing a convention on crimes against humanity would give clarity to states’ obligations to enforce the prohibition against crimes against humanity, among other benefits. Read the full post on the International Law Journal website.

The Crimes Against Humanity workshop was organized by the Human Rights Program and led by Professor Neuman and Sean Murphy, Manatt/Ahn Professor of International Law at The George Washington University School of Law and Special Rapporteur for Crimes Against Humanity at the International Law Commission.

Professor Murphy will visit the Human Rights Program on April 4th for a public talk about the draft articles. Stay tuned to our events page for more.

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January 14, 2019

HRP’s Post-Graduate Application Now Open

The Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School invites applications for its post graduate fellowships: the Henigson Human Rights Fellowship in Human Rights and the Satter Human Rights Fellowship in Human Rights. Applications are due March 15, 2019. These fellowships are open to graduating LLMs, JDs, and recent alumni holding clerkships or public interest fellowships. Come to our information session on Wednesday, January 30 in WCC 3018 to learn more and speak with advisors.


About the Henigson Fellowship

The Henigson Fellowship was made possible by a generous gift from Robert and Phyllis Henigson. The fellowship is awarded annually to present HLS students or recent graduates with a demonstrated commitment to international human rights. It supports individuals with an interest in exploring a career as an academic, activist, official, or practitioner in which human rights plays a significant role.

The Henigson Fellowship supports ten to twelve months of work in the developing world, usually with a nongovernmental organization (NGO). Each full fellowship carries a stipend of $27,000 and $1,500 toward international health insurance. Fellows may supplement the fellowship from other grants and awards up to a limit of $18,000.


About the Satter Fellowship

The Satter Fellowship has been made possible by a generous gift by Muneer A. Satter ’87. Students are awarded Satter Fellowships annually to work with organizations promoting human rights defense in response to mass atrocity or widespread and severe patterns of rights abuse.

The Satter Human Rights Fellowship focuses on human rights violations in countries classified as “Not Free” (rated 7) in the Freedom House index. The fellowship is limited to work on the following areas: 1) situations of mass atrocity; 2) situations of widespread and severe violations of human rights such as crimes against humanity that may be associated with civil conflict, failed states, authoritarian leaders or other highly repressive regimes; 3) situations of transition in the aftermath of conditions that meet the criteria outlined in (1) or (2). Preferred fellowship locations are for work in the Middle East and Africa. Other locations (e.g., Myanmar) that meet the above criteria may also be considered.

The fellowship carries a stipend of up to $45,000 for the twelve-month fellowship period.


More information about how to apply can be found on our website. For the 2019 application round, applications will only be accepted through our online form.

Reminder: We are accepting applications for our summer and visiting fellowships through February 1st. Visit our website and find out if you’re eligible.


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January 9, 2019

Human Rights Program Summer and Visiting Fellowships February 1st Application Deadline Approaching

The Human Rights Program Summer and Visiting Fellowship applications are due February 1st. These Fellowships are but two of the opportunities the Academic Program offers to scholars and students to conduct research and work in the human rights field. Summer fellowships are offered to Harvard Law School returning JD students and SJD students. Visiting fellowships give scholars and practitioners with a substantial background in human rights the chance to spend a semester or an academic year conducting research on a human rights topic related to their expertise.


During her Summer Fellowship with Justice Base, Eun Sung Yang JD’20 led a workshop on media empowerment in Shan State, Myanmar. 

About the Summer Fellowship

Summer fellowships for human rights internships are a central part of the Harvard Law School human rights experience and provide rich professional, personal, and intellectual opportunities. Interns work for at least eight weeks with nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations concerned with human rights, exclusively outside the United States. The Program encourages interns to work in organizations in the developing world that are actively involved in monitoring and responding to human rights violations, grass roots mobilization, or similar activities. Before applying, students must meet with Emily Keehn, Associate Director of the Academic Program, for advising.

Learn more on our website and submit your application here.


About the Visiting Fellowship

The Visiting Fellowship Program gives thoughtful individuals with a demonstrated commitment to human rights an opportunity to step back and conduct serious inquiries in the human rights field. Individuals who become fellows at the Program are usually scholars with a substantial background in human rights or experienced practitioners and activists. Typically, fellows come from outside the United States. They form an essential part of the human rights community, engage in a Fellows Lunch Colloquium, and devote the majority of their time to research and writing. During this time, they may also audit courses in human rights and related subjects.

Learn more on our website and submit your application here.


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January 4, 2019

How Facebook is Reconfiguring Freedom of Speech in Situations of Mass Atrocity: Lessons from Myanmar and the Philippines

Posted by Jenny Domino LLM'18

Jenny Domino is a Satter Human Rights Fellow (funded through the Human Rights Program) working with ARTICLE 19 to counter hate speech. In an article for OpinioJuris, she argues that Facebook’s secrecy around its community standards and its intermediary status as a hosting “platform” detract from international law’s ability to hold the corporation accountable for its role encouraging harmful rhetoric that fuels mass atrocity. Find the full text of the article below and at The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and not the views of ARTICLE 19.

Facebook has been described as a service to democracy. This perception arguably peaked during the Arab Spring uprisings, touted as Facebook’s crowning glory in its mission to connect people. The past two years have effectively undermined that rhetoric, as serious lapses in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the Russian hacking in the 2016 US Presidential election have shown.

In Southeast Asia, we don’t need to look far to see how Facebook has been used to oppress. The OHCHR Fact-Finding Mission in Myanmar recently concluded that Facebook was instrumental in the dissemination of hate speech against the Rohingya. In the Philippines, disinformation on Facebook has enabled the triumph and reign of Duterte, whose war on drugs has reportedly claimed thousands of civilian lives. Notably, both situations are under preliminary examination at the International Criminal Court. If Facebook has failed in a mature democracy such as the United States, it has all the more failed in struggling democracies. Rather than bringing the world closer, Facebook has facilitated the spread of divisive rhetoric even within borders.

Selective transparency

This year, Facebook finally published its Community Standards in an effort to be more transparent. It has also started to publish a report of their Community Standards enforcement. These were announced during the first Asia-Pacific Facebook Community Standards Forum held last month in Singapore, which I attended.

Conspicuously, relevant information on how these rules operate remain shrouded in secrecy. We have the applicable rules and the results of their implementation, but we are left in the dark as to what happens in between. Facebook did disclose the type of people they hire as content moderators (ranging from counter-terrorism experts to previous law enforcers), or the fact that they use human labor and algorithms to review content, but when pressed about the details on the process, they invoke their content reviewers’ safety in refusing to disclose any information on this aspect.

This seems odd. If Facebook has chosen to disclose the type of people they are hiring, why can’t they disclose their procedure on content moderation, which is arguably less likely to reveal the identity of their content reviewers and thus expose them to physical risk?

This is crucial in monitoring Facebook’s efforts to improve its operations in situations of mass atrocity. Information on procedure would help civil society monitor social media companies’ timely detection and moderation of hate speech posted on their platform, which could prevent further escalation of violence or abuse towards a victim group. This, in turn, could strengthen the normative force of the Genocide Convention’s preventive provisions, including the crime of direct and public incitement to commit genocide.

Information on procedure can also shed light on how a certain situation will be prioritized over others. During the forum, Facebook admitted that the company prioritizes certain content over others, but there is no information on how these priorities are decided. The situation in Myanmar is unique in that the UN itself made a finding on Facebook’s enabling role; what metric does Facebook plan to use moving forward? This will be crucial in the work of the ICC, whose recent statementson potential situation countries include references to incitement to violence, where the battle is increasingly being fought on Facebook.

The kind and depth of information that Facebook chooses to disclose regarding its Community Standards reflect the ease with which corporations can evade accountability through the use of the “platform” nomenclature. Tarleton Gillespie has written about how intermediaries manipulate the ambivalent, multi-layered meanings of the term “platform” to serve different constituencies – ordinary citizens, businesses, policymakers, and so forth. Though platforms seem to only “facilitate” expression, there is nothing neutral about the curating, filtering, and “orchestrating” of posted content that they take on. As mediators of content, platforms also crucially mediate relations among users, between users and the public, between users and sellers, and even between users and governments.

Facebook’s earlier reference to itself as a neutral platform could explain its previous indifference to the impact of its operations in Southeast Asia, but it also continues to frame corporate policy on public engagement. Because the term “platform” does not carry with it a clear, corresponding set of obligations for accountability on Community Standards enforcement, Facebook can conveniently choose what to disclose depending on what their interests dictate at a given point in time – whether improving public image, expanding operations, or fulfilling the demands of the UN.

This is worrying. While our demand for transparency from our public officers is guaranteed by law, our expectation from Facebook is not. We can only know what Facebook lets us know despite the impact of their Community Standards enforcement to situations of mass atrocity. Continue Reading…

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