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May 4, 2021
Posted by Jacqulyn Kantack, Human Rights Watch
Incendiary weapons inflict excruciating physical and psychological injuries on civilians in conflict zones, and those who survive endure a lifetime of suffering. While Protocol III to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) regulates the use of incendiary weapons, loopholes in the protocol have limited its effectiveness.
“The Human Cost of Incendiary Weapons and Shortcomings of International Law,” a recent online event organized by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), brought together an incendiary weapon survivor, a military trauma nurse, a burn rehabilitation doctor, and a disarmament lawyer, who collectively highlighted the problems of these cruel weapons. Drawing on their first-hand experiences and professional expertise, the speakers vividly detailed the humanitarian consequences of incendiary weapons and called on states to strengthen international law regulating their use.
Two of the panelists had personally witnessed the horrors of incendiary weapons. “Abu Taim” (pseudonym) was a teacher at a school in Urum al-Kubra, Syria, that was attacked with incendiary weapons in 2013. In pre-recorded video testimony, he recalled exiting the school right after the strike: “I saw bodies, and those bodies were only black. . . . I came closer to their bodies to know, who are those people? Who are those students? I didn’t recognize their faces.”Continue Reading…
March 16, 2021
In his recent report to the United Nations General Assembly, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, addressed the particular impact of COVID-19 on LGBT persons, communities, and populations, highlighting social exclusion and violence, as well as institutional drivers of stigma and discrimination. Madrigal-Borloz, who is also the Eleanor Roosevelt Senior Visiting Researcher at the Human Rights Program, joined HRP on February 18, 2021, for a discussion of his findings, which also includes recommendations and identifies good practices aimed at creating a COVID-19 response and recovery free from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This event was organized by the Human Rights Program and co-sponsored by the HLS LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics.
March 11, 2021
HLS Advocates for Human Rights is proud to present the Spotlight Series, a forum for essays and opinion pieces written by Harvard Law School students and alumni calling attention to pressing domestic and international human rights issues. If you are a Harvard Law student or alumnus/a and would like to contribute a piece to Spotlights, please contact Sondra Anton ([email protected]) or Ikram Ais ([email protected]).
The views and opinions expressed in Spotlight pieces are those of the authors or interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HLS Advocates for Human Rights, the International Human Rights Clinic, or the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School.
On March 9, 2020, HLS Advocates for Human Rights hosted “Surveilled, Detained, Disappeared: Repression in Xinjiang,” a panel discussion on the oppression of Uyghur and other Turkic and Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region. At the event, Rayhan Asat (LLM ‘16), the first Harvard Law School graduate of Uyghur origin, shared publicly for the first time that her brother, Ekpar Asat, had been forcibly disappeared after returning to China from a U.S. State Department-sponsored trip to Washington, D.C as part of the International Visiting Leaders Program (IVLP).
Rayhan was in the final weeks of her LLM program at HLS when Ekpar came to the United States to participate in the IVLP. Ekpar visited her during this trip and promised her that he’d be back in a few months’ time to attend her graduation ceremony with their parents. Unfortunately, that was the last time that Rayhan saw her brother. Her parents canceled their trip to the U.S., and she never heard from Ekpar again. Nearly four years later, Rayhan learned that her brother had been sentenced by the Chinese government to fifteen years in prison for “inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination,” despite Ekpar’s track record of “continuous effort in cultivating ethnic harmony, and greater understanding between the Han and other ethnic groups in Xinjiang Province of China.”Continue Reading…
February 24, 2021
From documenting historical incidents of mass racial violence to taking protests against police brutality to international forums, social justice lawyers have long turned to human rights law and strategies to advocate for racial justice in the United States. At the same time, US legacies of exceptionalism, isolationism and nationalism pose challenges for what is a fundamentally universalist human rights project. On February 4, 2021, the Human Rights Program hosted the second webinar in a series of events exploring racial justice and human rights. This event explored how international human rights approaches are being used in conjunction with domestic civil rights advocacy to push for law and policy change in the United States. Panelists spoke about their work raising awareness of, and seeking accountability for, racial injustice, while reflecting on circumstances in which the international human rights framework presents an imperfect vehicle for mobilizing change.The event, “Human Rights, Civil Rights, and the Struggle for Racial Justice, featured:
– Gay McDougall, Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence, Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, Fordham Law School; Former United Nations Independent Expert On Minority Issues (2005-2011); Former Vice-Chair United Nations Committee on the Elimination Of Racial Discrimination
– Nicole Austin-Hillery, Executive Director, U.S. Program, Human Rights Watch;
– Maryum Jordan, Counsel for the Special Litigation and Advocacy Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.
The event was moderated by Aminta Ossom, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law in the International Human Rights Clinic at HLS.
Thanks to our co-sponsors: the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, HLS Advocates for Human Rights, the Harvard Human Rights Journal, and the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.
December 16, 2020
Posted by Dana Walters
For the Human Rights Program, fall 2020 was different — but no less busy. After a brief stint with remote schooling last spring, faculty, students, and staff committed to shifting their methods of advocacy and learning fully online this fall. Despite challenges, we all found ways of maintaining community and building connection virtually.
The International Human Rights Clinic held two introductory classes and an advanced seminar for third-year JDs. With almost 40 students this fall, projects examined the right to water in South Africa and the United States; killer robots; accountability for human rights violations by corporations and the United Nations; the arms trade treaty and gender-based violence; climate change and human rights; and more.Continue Reading…
November 4, 2020
The UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (IE SOGI) will convene an open consultation with State and non-State stakeholders to consolidate the mandate’s approaches and priorities for the remainder of the IE SOGI’s tenure. This consultation will serve as the main channel through which the IE SOGI will collect views and inputs to inform the preparation of his work plan for 2021-2023.
The consultation will start with a general segment during which the IE SOGI will introduce his draft work plan. Thereafter, participants will be invited to present their views and provide inputs to the discussion.
The online consultation will take place through the Zoom platform, on Friday, November 20 at 15:00 – 18:00 (CET) / 09:00 – 12:00 (EST). Registration is required to attend the meeting.
Guiding Questions for the Consultation:
The following questions may guide contributions from participants at the consultation:
Are the narratives of impact depicted in the document an adequate portrayal of the mandate’s added value?
Does the document include all necessary dimensions, principles and approaches necessary to ensure an intersectional, balanced and inclusive programme for the mandate?
Are the thematic priorities identified in the document duly reflective of the best added value by the mandate to all stakeholders in their work of addressing violence and discrimination based on SOGI?
As currently planned, are the activities and products an adequate response to the needs of stakeholders? Should different activities and products be considered?
The document includes certain commitments of interacting with global processes (v.g., Beijing + 20). Are there any other global, regional, or local processes the interaction with which should be included in the document as well?
The consultation will be open to States, UN agencies, programmes and funds, regional human rights mechanisms, National Human Rights Institutions, members of civil society organizations, academic institutions, corporate entities, and all other interested stakeholders. The consultation will be held in English.
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 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 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
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