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October 29, 2020
UN Independent Expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz to provide public highlights from report to UN General Assembly
Please scroll down for translation into French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (IE SOGI), presented his report on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT persons to the UN General Assembly on Oct. 29, 2020.
On November 10 in a public webinar, he will present key findings of his report and engage in further conversation with all interested stakeholders on how to respond and recover from the pandemic. The event will take place on Zoom and be livestreamed to the IE SOGI’s Facebook page.
Check the starting time in your region and register now to attend one of the sessions:
The events will also feature UN representatives as guest speakers. After the presentations, there will be a Q&A (questions and answers) session with the audience for which participants will be able to submit questions through the moderator during the event.
This year, humankind faces an unprecedented global challenge, as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities prevalent in all regions of the world. Since March, the IE SOGI has conducted extensive research and consultations with over 1,000 individuals from more than 100 countries, which led to the conclusion that COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on LGBT persons. During the event, he will present his key findings and discuss his recommendations to ensure that response and recovery from the pandemic adequately address the needs of LGBT persons, as we all aspire to build a better world.
You can download a summary of the report and the full report at the linked text below:
The mandate of the Independent Expert supports freedom of expression and opinion of the widest variety within a frame of mutual respect during its events. The mandate of the Independent Expert has a policy of zero tolerance for hate speech: a dedicated team will monitor comments and questions raised during the event. Hate speech will be filtered and participants responsible for it will be removed from the session.Continue Reading…
October 20, 2020
Shared Concerns, Desire for Human Control Should Spur Regulation
(Washington, DC, October 20, 2020) – A treaty to ban fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” is essential and achievable, the International Human Rights Clinic said in a report released today.
The 25-page report, “New Weapons, Proven Precedent: Elements of and Models for a Treaty on Killer Robots,” outlines key elements for a future treaty to maintain meaningful human control over the use of force and prohibit weapons systems that operate without such control. It should consist of both positive obligations and prohibitions as well as elaborate on the components of “meaningful human control.”
“International law was written for humans, not machines, and needs to be strengthened to retain meaningful human control over the use of force,” said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection in the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. “A new international treaty is the only effective way to prevent the delegation of life-and-death decisions to machines.”Continue Reading…
October 16, 2020
Posted by Joey Bui JD'21
Assessing the UN’s Haiti Cholera Response 10 Years On
In 2010, a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission caused an outbreak of cholera in Haiti, resulting in the deaths of over 10,000 Haitians. On Oct 8, 2020, ten years after the outbreak began and amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, key experts joined the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School for a webinar to discuss the ongoing failure of the UN to adequately answer to Haitian victims and what lessons the rights organization should learn moving forward.
It was a rare occasion in which a UN official spoke publicly with Haitian and foreign advocates who have been extremely critical of the UN’s response. During the event, former UN officials provided an inside look at the UN’s failures in Haiti, and expressed shame about the UN’s response. The panel also identified key takeaways for the UN to adopt in order to prevent a repeat in the future.
The virtual panel, which was a part of Harvard Worldwide Week and was co-sponsored by seven different Harvard centers and groups, included Mario Joseph, a prominent Haitian human rights lawyer at Bureau des Avocats Internationaux who has led efforts to seek justice for victims, as well as Haitian doctors who have worked on the frontlines of the outbreak, Dr. Inobert Pierre of St. Boniface Hospital and Dr. Marie Marcelle Deschamps of GHESKIO. Presenting perspectives from the UN were Josette Sheeran, the UN Special Envoy for Haiti; Andrew Gilmour, the former Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; and Philip Alston, the former UN Special Rapporteur for extreme poverty and human rights.Continue Reading…
October 13, 2020
Building Momentum: IHRC and ASP Launch Principles on the Prevention of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Detention Settings
Posted by Zac Smith JD'21
Sexual violence is all too common in conflict and post-conflict settings, causing horrific physical and psychological damage and preventing peace building efforts. As recognized in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2467 (2019), all individuals are at risk of sexual violence in conflict, and detention settings are a particular context of risk, especially for men and boys.
Taking up Resolution 2467’s call to increase international attention and coordination on the issue, the All Survivors Project and the International Human Rights Clinic partnered to author the Principles on the Prevention of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) in Detention Settings. Drawing from existing sources of international law and authoritative guidance, the document’s ten principles and accompanying commentary outline the international community’s responsibility to prevent and respond to CRSV.
On Wednesday October 7, academic experts, policy makers, and diplomats came together at a virtual side event to the UN Human Rights Council to officially launch the Principles and highlight their significance. (Watch a recording of the event here.) Moderator Lara Stemple, Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies and International Student Programs and Director of the Health and Human Rights Law Project at UCLA School of Law, prefaced the conversation by underlining the driving motivation for the All Survivors Project’s work — including these principles — that “human rights protections must be afforded to all people, regardless of their individual characteristics.” Panelists included Anna Crowe, Assistant Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, who supervised the Clinic’s work on the project; HE Premila Patten, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict; Professor Manfred Nowak, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and leader of a recently completed global study of children in detention; and Sophie Sutrich, Head of Addressing Sexual Violence for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The event began with opening remarks from representatives of three states that have championed CRSV prevention. Situating the place of the Principles in wider efforts to cultivate international peace and prosperity,Ambassador Jürg Lauber of Switzerland and Ambassador Peter C. Matt of Liechtenstein underlined their importance and timeliness. As Ambassador Lauber observed, “the Principles are clearly intended to be of practical use, as they contain specific recommendations for implementation.”Ambassador Tine Mørch Smith of Norway explained that “the physical hurt suffered from conflict related sexual violence does not discriminate between male and female victims.”She committed that CRSV prevention, including a focus on men and boys, would be a priority when Norway takes its seat as a non-permanent Security Council member in 2021.Continue Reading…
October 13, 2020
The Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School is pleased to welcome Godfrey Odongo, Senior Program Officer with the Human Rights Program at the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, a US-based private foundation, to join HRP as a Visiting Fellow this fall. With Harvard Law School continuing to operate remotely this year, Odongo will engage with the human rights community at Harvard Law School virtually. He will use his time as a visiting fellow to research the new frontiers of human rights advocacy and activism in the age of populism, the covid-19 pandemic and contemporary challenges to the legitimacy and effectiveness of human rights.
In his current role, Odongo manages funding portfolios for an ecosystem of key civil society and institutions advancing human rights norms in multiple contexts. He has previously served as a regional research expert on East Africa with Amnesty International; in a program advisory role with Save the Children-Sweden; and as a research fellow with the Dullah Omar Institute for Constitutional Law, Governance and Human Rights at the University of the Western Cape and at the Danish Institute for Human Rights. An advocate of the High Court of Kenya, he holds a doctorate in international human rights law from the University of the Western Cape, a master’s in law in human rights from the University of Pretoria, and a bachelor’s law degree from Moi University.
Odongo spoke with HRP about his work and what he hopes to achieve this semester as a Visiting Fellow.
October 9, 2020
Posted by Zobaida Khan
After the devastating and avoidable collapse of the Rana Plaza in 2013 in Bangladesh, two innovative multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) emerged: the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (“Alliance”) and the Bangladesh Accord on Building and Fire Safety (“Accord”).
They engaged a diverse group of regulatory actors (local suppliers/producers, foreign buyers, the International Labor Organization, the national government, and activist networks), regulatory mechanisms (for operating, financing and monitoring safety inspections), and detailed standards or rules in order to ensure factory safety for garment workers. Moving beyond voluntary codes of conduct and “Do No Harm” policies, these MSIs introduced significant institutional changes in corporate responsibility. They included stronger sourcing policy, improved safety of factory premises, and public reporting of corporate compliance. Indeed, unlike traditional international standard-setting MSIs, the Accord’s terms were legally binding between brands and trade unions. This is the first time an MSI allowed legal enforcement of its provisions and obligations in a transnational labor regulatory setting. Although the terms of both programs have ended, these MSIs attempted to address the regulatory deficiencies created or overlooked by the national government and the supplier factories.
Yet, with continued evidence of a race to the bottom for wages and working conditions in supplier factories, brands offering cut-rate sourcing prices, and recent reports on the costs to the jobs, health and work entitlements of millions of laborers due to COVID-19-related supply contract cancellations, academic and policy debates are focusing on MSIs’ structural and functional effectiveness and the possibility of restructuring these to deliver social justice oriented results:
How could MSIs be more inclusive in their formation?
How could MSIs lead to long-lasting influence on corporate sourcing policies and improvement of work conditions and entitlements?
Although these issues appear separate, I argue that to properly address diverse compliance challenges in supply chains, there needs to be a coherent and connected restructuring of MSIs that both strengthens their participatory mechanisms and influences the transformation of our liberal market system’s dominant business model.Continue Reading…
October 8, 2020
October 2020 marks the 10-year anniversary of UN peacekeepers’ introduction of cholera to Haiti. The resulting epidemic has killed over 10,000 people and caused immeasurable losses in Haiti. The UN’s reluctance to accept responsibility and to remedy affected communities has also tested the organization’s commitment to human rights and spurred strong criticisms from inside and outside of the organization. Today, the Human Rights Program will bring together UN officials and Haiti advocates to examine what lessons the UN should draw from the cholera epidemic. Panelists will discuss how the cholera experience has changed the UN, and how the organization still needs to change, in order to prevent future harms and ensure that it is accountable to the people it serves.
This event is part of Harvard Worldwide Week. It is organized by the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and co-sponsored by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the Center for Global Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, the FXB Center for Health & Human Rights, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard, and HLS Advocates for Human Rights.
Read more about the panelists for today’s event below and register here.
Philip Alston is the John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, and the co-chair of the NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. He teaches international law, international criminal law, and a range of human rights subjects. From 2014-2020, he was the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and from 2004-2010, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. He has also served on the Independent International Commission on Kyrgyzstan (2011) and the UN Group of Experts on Darfur (2007) and as Special Adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Millennium Development Goals (2002-07); chairperson (1991-98) and rapporteur (1987-91) of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; and UNICEF’s Senior Legal Adviser on children’s rights (1986-92). Alston has degrees in law and economics from the University of Melbourne and a JSD from Berkeley. He previously taught at the European University Institute, the Australian National University, Harvard Law School, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He was one of the founders of both the European and the Australian and New Zealand societies of international law and was editor-in-chief of the European Journal of International Law from 1996 through 2007.
Marie Marcelle Deschamps
Dr. Deschamps is the Deputy Director and co-founder of GHESKIO centers. She is the head of the women’s health program and the operational manager of the CTU research components (laboratory, data management, pharmacy, regulatory, quality management, administration, and finance). Dr. Deschamps is a graduate of the University of Haiti (MD, 1979). She received post-graduate training in infectious diseases at NIAID and at the Center for Disease Control (CDC). She is the author of many peer-reviewed publications on clinical and interventional studies of HIV and its co-infections. Her research has focused on women’s health issues and on HIV/AIDS in Haitian women including risk factors for heterosexual transmission, HIV prevention programs for women, and ART strategies for pregnant women to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to infant. She introduced at the GHESKIO global health model: services for rape victims in 2000, access to micro credit to women, as well as a primary and vocational school in 2010. She has received numerous honors for her contributions to AIDS care and research, including the Legion of Merit from President Chirac in 2004, Le Haiti “Tresor” National Vivant in 2008 and the Gates Award for Global Health in 2010.
Andrew Gilmour is Executive Director of the Berghof Foundation. Prior to that, Gilmour served 30 years at the United Nations, most recently as Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights from 2016 to 2019 and as Political Director in the Office of the Secretary-General in New York from 2012 to 2016. He previously held senior UN positions in numerous conflict zones including Iraq, South Sudan, the Middle East, the Balkans, Afghanistan and West Africa. With masters degrees from Oxford University and the London School of Economics, Gilmour was later an Adjunct Fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. In 2019, Gilmour was awarded a Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College Oxford to research links between climate change, human rights, and conflict. In 2020, he became a Senior Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. His writing has appeared in numerous publications such as The New York Times, Financial Times, and many others.
Mario Joseph is the Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux. He has co-managed and managed the BAI since 1996, and has practiced human rights and criminal law since 1993. The New York Times called him “Haiti’s most prominent human rights lawyer.” Since 2010, Joseph has been the lead attorney for victims of cholera in Haiti, representing thousands of victims through claims at the UN and supporting a lawsuit in the United States. Joseph previously spearheaded the prosecution of the Raboteau Massacre trial in 2000, one of the most significant human rights cases anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. He has represented dozens of jailed political prisoners, in Haitian courts and in complaints before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In 2013, Joseph was a finalist for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. In 2014, Joseph was awarded the Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice. In 2009, Joseph received the Judith Lee Stronach Human Rights Award from the Center for Justice & Accountability and the Katherine and George Alexander Human Rights Prize from the University of Santa Clara Law School. Joseph has testified as an expert on Haitian criminal procedure before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and in U.S. courts, and served on the Haitian government’s Law Reform Commission. Joseph is also an educator, and a graduate of Haiti’s Teachers’ College. He has extensive experience teaching human rights and legal issues to grassroots advocacy organizations, human rights groups, and victims’ organizations.
Inobert Pierre is the Director General of Haiti Operations at Health Equity International. Dr. Pierre grew up in Cap-Haitien on Haiti’s northern coast. He earned his medical degree from the Public Medical School in Port-au-Prince in 1998. Dr. Pierre is a pediatrician who first came to St. Boniface Hospital in October 2002. He was promoted to HIV coordinator at the hospital in July 2009, then Medical Director in January 2010, and finally to Director General in September 2010. He oversees Health Equity International’s operations in Haiti. Dr. Pierre began his career teaching high school chemistry and physics in Port-au-Prince. After ten years of teaching, Pierre decided to move into medical care. He is a member of the Haitian Academy of Pediatrics. Pierre’s passion is working with children and helping the poor.
Josette Sheeran is the seventh President and CEO of Asia Society, and the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, representing the UN Secretary-General in advancing Haiti’s 2030 vision and in helping secure an end to the transmission of cholera in Haiti. Sheeran is former vice chair of the World Economic Forum, known for its annual Davos convening and Davos in China. She helped advance global initiatives encompassing global, regional, and industry agendas such as Grow Africa, which has attracted $10 billion to end hunger and malnutrition in Africa. Prior to the World Economic Forum, Sheeran was executive director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006. Sheeran’s TED Talk on ending world hunger has been viewed more than one million times and has been used in schools to teach children about hunger. She led the world’s largest humanitarian organization, serving up to 100 million of the world’s most hungry each year. Under Sheeran’s leadership, the WFP increased its donor base to more than 100 nations and became the first UN program to include the so-called BRIC countries and the Gulf States among its top 10 donors. Prior to this, Ms. Sheeran served as a diplomat and negotiator for the United States, including as U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, and deputy U.S. Trade Representative, handling Asia, Africa, labor, environment, intellectual property, and trade capacity building portfolios. In 2011, Forbes named her the world’s 30th most powerful woman; Foreign Policy listed her among its top 100 global ‘Twitterati’. She was a Fisher Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center in 2013. Sheeran is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations. She was awarded Japan’s Nigata International Food Award, Commandeur de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole by the government of France, and Brazil`s highest civilian award, the Grand Official Order of the Rio Branco, and the ‘Game Changer’ award by the Huffington Post.
Dr. Louise Ivers
Dr. Louise Ivers is executive director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Global Health, an associate professor of global health and social medicine and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, an associate physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at MGH, and an associate physician in the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). She is special advisor for Partners In Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization that provides direct health care and social services to poor communities around the world, supported by research and advocacy. She completed medical school at University College Dublin, Ireland, residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a fellowship in infectious diseases at the combined MGH/BWH program. Dr. Ivers also earned a diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, a master of public health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a research doctorate in medicine from the National University of Ireland.
Beatrice Lindstrom is a Lecturer on Law and Clinical Instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. She is also the supervising attorney for HLS Advocates for Human Rights. Her work focuses on access to remedies for human rights violations, aid accountability, and Haiti. Prior to joining Harvard, Lindstrom was Legal Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, an organization that works in partnership with Haitian lawyers and activists to bring grassroots struggles for human rights to the international stage. For nearly a decade, she has led advocacy and litigation to hold the UN accountable for causing a devastating cholera epidemic in Haiti. She was lead counsel in Georges v. United Nations, a class actions lawsuit on behalf of those injured by cholera. For her work on the cholera case, she received the Recent Graduate Award from the NYU Law Alumni Association and the Zanmi Ayiti Award from the Haiti Solidarity Network of the Northeast. Lindstrom was previously an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, and a Haiti country expert for Freedom House. She has extensive experience advocating in the UN human rights system, lobbying governments, and speaking in the media, including appearing in The New York Times, the BBC, and Al Jazeera English. She holds a J.D. from NYU School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholar, and a B.A. from Emory University.
To learn more about the issue, we recommend the following background documents:
New Approach to Cholera in Haiti – the UN SG
Meeting the Needs of Victims of Cholera in Haiti – Feasibility of an individual assistant approach for people most affected by the disease – by ASF
October 7, 2020
One month ahead of Myanmar’s general elections, a new report dives deep into root causes of hate speech and its effect on civil society space in Myanmar
For Immediate Release
(Yangon, 8 October 2020) — Myanmar must tackle the root causes of hate speech and address impunity of perpetrators, while ensuring that measures to combat hate speech is in line with international human rights standards with robust and inclusive participation of civil society, said 19 organizations in a report published today. The immediate implementation of these calls is vital ahead of the November 2020 general elections, which has already seen the erosion of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities throughout Myanmar.
“Institutionalized hate speech in Myanmar has long been systematically disseminated by powerful actors including the military, government, ultranationalists and other maligned actors. They benefit from the constructed narratives of hate and from the division and conflict it creates in society. Hate speech also contributes to a climate where impunity for human rights violations goes unaddressed. Hate speech is already being deployed as part of campaign strategies leading up to the November 2020 general elections. Such campaigns must immediately be denounced and countered by the government and the Union Election Commission to ensure a free and fair election,” said Moe Thway, President of Generation Wave
The new joint report, “Hate Speech Ignited: Understanding Hate Speech in Myanmar,“ documents and extensively analyzes the role that hate speech, rampant misinformation campaigns, and ultranationalism have played in the resurgence of oppression and human rights violations in Myanmar and highlights the new alignment of the government and military in the proliferation of hate speech. In analyzing the trends and patterns of hate speech in Myanmar, the report identifies a number of mutually reinforcing constructed narratives aimed at advancing Buddhist-Burman dominance at the expense of ethnic and religious minorities in the country.Continue Reading…
October 7, 2020
Beatrice Lindstrom, Clinical Instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic, has spent almost a decade working with communities in Haiti affected by a 2010 cholera epidemic caused by a sewage leak from a U.N. peacekeeper base. Coming up on the 10 year anniversary of the epidemic, Lindstrom spoke with Liz Mineo of the Harvard Gazette about her pursuit for justice on behalf of cholera victims and the U.N.’s failure to properly provide remedy and reparations after 10,000 died from the disease.
As Lindstrom says in the interview, which you can read in full on the Gazette website:
“If you had told me in October of 2010 that I would still be doing this work 10 years later, I think I would have felt both exasperated and heartbroken that the U.N. still has not responded justly to victims of the epidemic. At the same time, this has been a very long struggle that has been led by victims and affected communities in Haiti. As long as they are pushing for justice for their families, it’s a privilege to be able to stand alongside them.”Beatrice Lindstrom
Learn more from Lindstrom and other experts at the Human Rights Program webinar “10 Years On: Lessons from the Cholera Epidemic from Haiti” on Thursday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. ET.
October 7, 2020
October 7, 2020 — Today, the International Human Rights Clinic and the All Survivors Project launched, “Preventing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Detention Settings: Principles and Commentary.” The Principles draw from existing international law – primarily international human rights law and international humanitarian law – as well as authoritative guidance to bring together in a single instrument ten key international principles to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence, applicable to all persons deprived of their liberty in armed conflict. Each principle is accompanied by commentary on its sources and content.
In Spring 2020, Clinic students Yanitra Kumaraguru LLM ’20, Zac Smith JD ’21, and Amanda Odasz JD ’21 worked under the supervision of Anna Crowe LLM’12, the Clinic’s Assistant Director, to research and draft the principles and commentary. They were significantly aided by research conducted by Clinic students Terry Flyte LLM ’19 and Radhika Kapoor LLM ’19, who worked under the supervision of Crowe and Emily Keehn, formerly the Associate Director of the Academic Program of the Human Rights Program.
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