Blog: Fellowships

June 24, 2020

HRP Awards 2020-2021 Post-Graduate Fellowships


The Human Rights Program (HRP) is pleased to present its 2020-2021 Post-Graduate Fellowship cohort. This year, we have awarded Satter and Henigson Fellowships to six remarkable 2020 Harvard Law School (HLS) graduates: Fabiola Alvelais JD’20, Pavani Nagaraja Bhat LLM’20, Niku Jafarnia JD/MPP’20, Ji Yoon Kang JD’20, Delphine Rodrik JD’20, and Rupali Samuel LLM’20.

HRP’s post-graduate fellowships are designed to help launch the careers of students who have demonstrated great promise as advocates while at HLS. This year’s students are graduating into a world altered by the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many of them will begin their fellowships working remotely. As the pandemic exacerbates conditions for the most vulnerable, HRP is more committed than ever to supporting the careers of young professionals devoted to international human rights and social justice. Learn more about the new fellows and their projects below.

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May 24, 2020

At Harvard, Niku Jafarnia J.D. / M.P.P. ’20 found a wealth of ways to advocate for refugees

Posted by Dana Walters

Niku Jafarnia sits on the steps of HLS
Credit: Kathleen Dooher

“I have always felt very strongly that I need to work against inequality and the forces that make it possible,” says Niku Jafarnia J.D./M.P.P. ’20. For her, draconian and difficult immigration systems that favor certain populations are key sources of the disparities she hopes to eliminate.

When President Donald Trump instituted the first of many travel bans that targeted Muslim-majority countries in 2017, Jafarnia was a first-year law student and she was furious. She had not yet entered the legal clinics that would become like a home to her at Harvard Law School. Still, she emailed Sabrineh Ardalan ’02 and Phil Torrey of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, asking how she could fight back.

“Had I not been in law school when this happened, I would have felt at a loss with what to do,” she says.

At the airport, she stood with Ardalan and Torrey holding a sign offering legal assistance and translation services in Persian. No one took her up on the offer, but the moment stands out to her from the last four years of graduate school. From the energetic and welcoming response of HLS’s clinical faculty to finding a way to act, she had found a community and a path towards countering what she sees as oppression.

Jafarnia believes that she has been lucky. A constellation of factors, such as being born in the U.S., has provided her with a great amount of opportunity, she said. She is constantly tuned in to how she can use her privilege to dismantle the inequitable structures that cause harm to others. When her parents emigrated from Iran in 1977 to pursue graduate education, they did not necessarily expect to stay, she said, but the combination of the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War kept them in the U.S. Throughout law school, she has focused on issues related to migration, driven by a deep connection to people whose stories feel so familiar.

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May 22, 2020

HRP’s Summer 2020 Fellows Will Intern Remotely at Human Rights Orgs


HRP is pleased to announce its 2020 summer fellowship cohort: Sondra Anton JD’22, Anoush Baghdassarian JD’22, Zarko Perovic JD’22, and Mohammad Zia JD’21. Each year, HRP awards students funding to undertake summer internships at human rights organizations around the world. Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, this year’s fellows will be working remotely for their organizations. Learn more about this year’s cohort below.

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March 3, 2020

Apply to Be a Joint Wasserstein-Human Rights Program Fellow for Fall 2020


The Human Rights Program and Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA) at Harvard Law School will jointly host one Wasserstein Fellow-in-Residence who will spend four months on the HLS campus (September through December 2020), and split their time between OPIA and HRP. At OPIA, the fellow will advise students about international public interest and human rights careers and assist OPIA staff in developing advising resources. At HRP, the fellow will devote the majority of their time to research and writing on a specific human rights topic and be a member of its community of visiting fellows.

The Human Rights Program’s Visiting Fellows Program seeks to give thoughtful individuals with a demonstrated commitment to human rights an opportunity to step back and conduct a serious inquiry in the human rights field. The fellows form an essential part of the human rights community at Harvard Law School and participate actively in the Human Rights Program Fellows Colloquium—each fellow makes a presentation to Human Rights Program staff, faculty, and other fellows on at least one occasion. Fellows are also encouraged to participate in a number of other Human Rights Program activities.

Please see OPIA’s website for additional information about the program, and details on how to apply to be a joint Wasserstein Fellow-in-Residence with OPIA and the Human Rights Program. The deadline to apply is April 10, 2020.

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February 19, 2020

Visiting Fellow Anton Burkov Wins Case Before European Court of Human Rights


On February 5, 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) delivered its judgment in Kruglov, et al. v Russia (no. 11264/04 and 15 other applications), and ruled that the searches of lawyers’ apartments and offices in connection with criminal cases against their clients was illegal.  Human Rights Program Visiting Program Fellow Anton Burkov represented one of the applicants in the case, attorney Alexey Silivanov.

Headshot of Alexey Silivanov with ECHR Navigator logo
Attorney Alexey Silivanov appealed to the European Court of Human Rights after his apartment was searched without his permission.

The judgment concerned searches carried out between 2003 and 2016, all but two of which were based on court warrants. In some of the searches, the investigating authorities seized items such as computers, hard drives, or documents. While the European Convention on Human Rights does not guarantee lawyer-client privilege as such, Article 8 of the Convention guarantees the right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence. The Court found that the searches of the lawyers’ homes and offices and the seizure of electronic devices containing personal information lacked sufficient justification, and that there were no safeguards to protect attorney-client confidentiality. As a result, the Court found violations of Article 8. The judgment has important implications for victims of similar searches in Russia.

Dr. Burkov has developed an online teaching platform called ECHR navigator, the logo of which is above.

For details please refer to the full judgment in English and in Russian.

Dr. Anton Burkov is the founder of ECHR-Navigator, an online teaching platform on strategic application to the ECHR which you can learn more about on Facebook. He is a Fulbright Fellow at Harvard Law School and a member of the International Advisory Board of the Human Rights Practice Program of the University of Arizona.

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January 31, 2020

2019 HRP Summer Fellow Reflection: Emily Ray JD’21


Ray spent summer 2019 at the Forest Peoples Programme in Guyana


Summer fellowships for human rights internships are a central part of the Harvard Law School human rights experience. During the summer of 2019, HRP funded five HLS students to intern abroad at nongovernmental organizations for 8-12 weeks. At the conclusion of their internships, students returned to HRP with a deeper appreciation for the type of work required of human rights practitioners. While our 2020 summer fellowship application is open this month, we’ll be excerpting portions from their fellowship reports to provide a glimpse into the kinds of experiences open to human rights students at Harvard Law. 


When Emily Ray JD’21 departed for the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) in June 2019, she was lucky to be joining International Human Rights Clinic alum, Lan Mei JD’17. Mei had been with the FPP for two years, first as a Henigson Fellow in Human Rights and then as a full-time staff attorney. As the only permanent staff member living in Guyana, Lan directly supervised Emily over the course of her internship.

FPP is a human rights organization committed to working with indigenous communities across the globe to secure their rights to their lands and their livelihood. They employ a partnership model and collaborate intensively with local organizations on their mission. At FPP in Guyana, Emily spent the bulk of her time working with the Wapichan people in partnership with the Amerindian People’s Association (APA). The Wapichan have a collective organization, the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC), through which villages can discuss shared issues and make decisions on governance and unified goals. 

Over the summer, Emily focused on producing a training for members of the SRDC’s villages on mining in the Wapichan territory. As she describes it:

“The SRDC already had an established community program intended to monitor mining in the territory and record information for community awareness and potential use in later legal actions. However, the monitoring program needed to be revamped and updated in line with the community’s concerns and with Guyana’s mining laws. The 3-day training that we prepared and delivered served a number of functions; it allowed us to get a better sense of which mining issues the community cared most about and how to redesign the monitoring forms/program to address those issues; it also acted as a sort of know-your-rights training that educated community members about relevant Guyanese and international law. My personal role in this training consisted of preemptive research about applicable laws, working with Lan to plan and later adjust the training curriculum, generating handouts for participants to take home to their villages to disseminate information, leading several different elements of the training, and assisting in facilitating group work. After the 3-day primary workshop, we spent a fourth day working with the community monitors on fine-tuning the actual form that they complete on monitoring trips.” 

Emily’s summer with the FPP was her first experience doing grassroots human rights work. She originally came to HRP’s summer fellowship program wanting to think more about the intersection between environmental conservation and indigenous rights. FPP’s small in-country base meant Emily was able to try her hand at a variety of projects, from drafting communications between villages and government officials to interpreting the language in the Guyanese constitution and mining regulations. 

Emily described Lan as conscientious mentor. She learned a great deal from Lan through Lan modeling what an effective human rights advocate does. Emily noted she particularly admired Lan’s flexible demeanor and perceptive intellect.

“When we met with community stakeholders, Lan showed an acute ability to know exactly what was needed at any moment. If someone needed expert legal analysis on their rights, she would jump in. If we were at a community meeting and she noticed no one was taking notes, she would grab a pencil. She understood how doing international human rights work might require you to wear many ‘hats.’”

After working directly with clients on the ground, Emily saw first-hand how direct legal representation can be constrained by larger systemic forces. She hopes to gain a more holistic picture of the “entire human rights ecosystem” by studying policy in her 2L summer. During the fall semester, she worked on an International Human Rights Clinic team on women’s rights among refugees from Myanmar. She is also a dedicated member of HLS Advocates for Human Rights.


Interested in learning more about HRP Summer Fellowships? Schedule an advising appointment with Anna Crowe, Assistant Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, and apply to join our 2020 cohort today! Please note that you do not need to have a confirmed placement organization before you apply for the 2020 HRP summer fellowship pool. Applications are due TOMORROW, February 1, 2020!

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January 27, 2020

2019 HRP Summer Fellow Reflection: Julian Morimoto JD’21


Morimoto spent summer 2019 in the Philippines documenting Duterte’s war on drugs


Summer fellowships
for human rights internships are a central part of the Harvard Law School human rights experience. During the summer of 2019, HRP funded five HLS students to intern abroad at nongovernmental organizations for up to eight weeks. At the conclusion of their internships, students returned to HRP with a deeper appreciation for the type of field work required of human rights practitioners. Throughout January, we’ll be excerpting portions from the 2019 HRP Summer Fellowship cohorts’ final reports to provide a glimpse into the kinds of experiences open to human rights students at Harvard Law.


Last summer, Morimoto spent 12 weeks at Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) in the Philippines, where he contributed to the organization’s analysis on the Philippines’ war on drugs and human rights law. In July, Amnesty International called President Rodrigo Duterte’s tactics over the last three years a “large-scale murdering enterprise” and called on the United Nations to investigate for “crimes against humanity.” As an NGO committed to providing legal advocacy on behalf of “marginalized, disempowered, and vulnerable groups,” IDEALS has been working on documenting the human rights violations occurring in the war on drugs for years.

As a Filipino-American, Morimoto was personally invested in and impacted by the work. Over the course of the summer, he read through transcripts of interviews of individuals alleging to be victims or relatives of victims of human rights violations, either extrajudicial killings or arbitrary arrests. Looking for trends in the data given to him, Morimoto found “evidence that the war on drugs campaign is in tension with international and domestic human rights law,” he said.

Morimoto described the experience as eye-opening, challenging his preconceived notions of human rights lawyering. Having expected international human rights bodies like the United Nations to more centrally figure in the organization’s strategy, he learned that “more of the important mechanisms for vindicating rights were domestic in nature,” he said. He was also surprised by how much IDEALS staff encouraged him to explore economic, social, and cultural rights, though he had come from a U.S.-education system where civil and political rights were more heavily emphasized.  

In his internship, Morimoto also had the opportunity to draw on his mathematics background, discovering how integral statistics became for the organization’s documentation efforts. 

“I initially thought the report was going to be most helpful as a case-by-case analysis of how the war on drugs violated the rights of people in the Philippines,” he said. “Through this approach, I was going to go through the each documentation of human rights violations and point to which portions of international and domestic human rights law they violated. However, staff encouraged me to look at trends in the data: how many of the victims had their homes broken into, how many of the victims were falsely labeled as nanlaban or ‘resisters’ after police had killed them, how many victims were uneducated, etc. This helped me learn that these trends can also be useful for human rights lawyering (in contrast to an individual, case-by-case analysis of each documentation), because it helps show that the human rights violations aren’t just isolated incidents: there is a government policy that systematically violates human rights.”

IDEALS staff encouraged Morimoto to take both a wide-eyed view of the trends and dive deeper into individual stories. Over the summer, he was exposed to heartbreaking descriptions and pictures of violence. The research made him see “how difficult human rights work can be.”

“In spite of all this,” he said, “it taught me that human rights is not just some lofty ideal discussed by people in iron towers. It is a tool that many people would like to use to find relief for injustice. Furthermore, it taught me that while the international human rights regime may have many, many flaws (particularly from the lens of developing countries, against whom human rights law appears to be disproportionately enforced compared to rich, Western countries), the fact remained that the people I was trying to help wanted to rely on this system to obtain justice, and that being an advocate sometimes meant setting aside your own views about a system to better fulfill the wishes of your clients.”

Morimoto described IDEALS staff as a family. They gave him the independence and autonomy to design his own project and methodology, while providing him with feedback and direction when he asked for it. At HLS, he hopes to continue to study armed conflict and public international law.


Interested in learning more about HRP Summer Fellowships? Schedule an advising appointment with Anna Crowe, Assistant Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, and apply to join our 2020 cohort today! Please note that you do not need to have a confirmed placement organization before you apply for the 2020 HRP summer fellowship pool. Applications are due February 1, 2020!

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January 23, 2020

2019 HRP Summer Fellow Reflection: Matthew Farrell JD’21


Farrell spent summer 2019 at Amnesty International in London, UK


Summer fellowships
for human rights internships are a central part of the Harvard Law School human rights experience. During the summer of 2019, HRP funded five HLS students to intern abroad at nongovernmental organizations for up to eight weeks. At the conclusion of their internships, students returned to HRP with a deeper appreciation for the type of work required of human rights practitioners. Over the course of January while our summer fellowship application is open, we’ll be excerpting portions from their fellowship reports to provide a glimpse into the kinds of experiences open to human rights students at Harvard Law. 


Matthew Farrell had a strong foundation in international relations and human rights when he left for his summer at Amnesty International in London. After completing a human rights-focused Master’s and beginning law school, he wanted to use his 1L summer internship to dive into international criminal law. At Amnesty International, Farrell joined the Strategic Litigation Unit, which combats human rights violations through litigation that will have implications for actors – including individuals, communities, governments, and corporations – beyond the parties to the case. Much of the work he conducted in that unit focused on civil matters; however, the internship experience helped him understand how such core litigation skills could easily transfer into other arenas. In his role as an intern, Farrell contributed research, editing, drafting, and advising on a range of cases.

In his own words, he:

– researched and drafted sections of a third-party intervention submitted to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of Piskin v. Turkey. The brief addressed procedural rights in employment proceedings leading to the dismissal of an employee working with or for a State agency on grounds related to national security, including under a State of Emergency, as well as the application of the principles of legality and legal certainty and non-retroactivity as applied to national security, including in counter-terrorism;

– researched ECtHR precedent for a third-party intervention before the ECtHR in the case of Muhammed and Muhammed v. Romania regarding the use of classified material in ‘closed’ judicial proceedings – i.e. proceedings in which one party and their representative of choice are excluded for reasons of national security. 

– familiarized himself with case documents (e.g. complaints, facts, appeals, motions, amicus briefs, and opinions), edited third-party interventions, participated in strategy sessions for civil and criminal cases, and communicated with courts for cases in which Amnesty intervened before the ECtHR and the International Criminal Court.

Farrell also had a unique opportunity to develop a cutting-edge strategy for human rights-based climate change litigation and advise on proposed litigation in this emerging field.

He elaborated, “Climate change is a new area for Amnesty International and in preparing the climate change litigation strategy, I also began developing connections between the unit and other actors within Amnesty International, as well as with other organizations that work on human rights and climate change.”

Farrell hopes to use this experience to continue to work on human rights litigation in the Clinic and elsewhere. In addition, because the placement largely revolved around appellate work, he is more heavily invested in that field. 

For the 2019-2020 academic year, Farrell is enrolled as  a student in the International Human Rights Clinic and an active member of HLS Advocates for Human Rights. Currently, he is undertaking an HRP Winter Fellowship at the International Criminal Court in the Hague this January.
Interested in learning more about HRP Summer Fellowships? Schedule an advising appointment with Anna Crowe, Assistant Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, and apply to join our 2020 cohort today! Please note that you do not need to have a confirmed placement organization before you apply for the 2020 HRP summer fellowship pool. Applications are due February 1, 2020!

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January 15, 2020

Visiting Fellow Alum Spotlight: Christof Heyns


As we advertise our 2020-2021 Visiting Fellowship application, we are looking back and celebrating alums of the program. Christof Heyns is Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria. At the time of his HRP Visiting Fellowship, he was also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. Reflecting on his time as a Visiting Fellow, Professor Heyns corresponded with HRP in a short Q&A reprinted below.

Through its Visiting Fellows Program, the Human Rights Program (HRP) has sought to give individuals with a demonstrated commitment to human rights an opportunity to engage with the human rights community at Harvard Law School (HLS). Scholars and practitioners interested in applying should submit their materials by January 31, 2020. Learn about this year’s cohort and past Visiting Fellows to explore the range of research Visiting Fellows have engaged in while at HLS.


Q&A with Christof Heyns

Christof Heyns speaks at a panel discussion on the UDHR in 2018.
Christof Heyns, Member of the Human Rights Committee and former Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions at a Panel discussion to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the UDHR and the 25th anniversary of the VDPA during of the of the 37th Session of the Human Rights Council. 28 february 2018. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré


HRP:
Could you describe your Visiting Fellow research project?

Heyns: I was a visiting fellow in 2012, and worked mostly on issues concerning article 6 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR], protecting the right against arbitrary deprivation of life. I was one year into my term as United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and was working among other things on the legal framework concerning the death penalty, the use of force by the police during demonstrations, and armed drones.

HRP: How did your fellowship contribute to your research goals and long term work plans?

Heyns: The fellowship presented an ideal opportunity to focus in detail on these topics, and to start preparing reports that I subsequently submitted to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council. We organised an expert meeting at HLS on the death penalty at the time, for reports that the Special Rapporteur on torture and I were preparing on the death penalty. But [HLS] was also the place where I formed my most enduring ideas on where I wanted to go with the mandate. Stephen Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard, had just published his book on the decline of violence, and I got to meet him, and to discuss the implications of his findings for my work. He also participated in the seminar we had organised on the death penalty.

HRP: What stands out to you as particularly valuable about the Visiting Fellowship Program at HRP? What did you enjoy most about your time in Cambridge?

Heyns: The intellectual environment could not be more stimulating. This applies to the topics on which I work directly, but also more generally. I found after a few weeks that I had to ration myself in terms of the number of talks and events that I could attend per day, to ensure that I was able to get to my own work! I have kept many of the links I established there and in fact continue to work with HLS students on a number of projects.

Christof Heyns Photo: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0. No modifications have been made.

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January 14, 2020

2019 HRP Summer Fellow Reflection: Angel Gabriel Cabrera Silva, SJD Candidate

Cabrera Silva spent Summer 2019 at Colectivo Emancipaciones, in Morelia, Michoacán, México


Summer fellowships for human rights internships are a central part of the Harvard Law School human rights experience. During the summer of 2019, HRP funded five HLS students to intern abroad at nongovernmental organizations for up to eight weeks. At the conclusion of their internships, students returned to HRP with a deeper appreciation for the type of work required of human rights practitioners. Over the course of the next month while our summer fellowship application is open, we’ll be excerpting portions from their fellowship reports to provide a glimpse into the kinds of experiences open to human rights students at Harvard Law. 


As an SJD candidate studying grassroots mobilizing in human rights, Angel Gabriel Cabrera Silva wanted to immerse himself in a social justice organization working in partnership with indigenous communities. He joined Colectivo Emancipaciones, an NGO that advocates on behalf of indigenous rights. In order to express its democratic goals, the Colectivo organizes itself into non-hierarchical “commissions.” Angel joined the “Litigation Commission” and the “Community Council’s Commission.” In the former, Cabrera Silva worked on strategic litigation on behalf of indigenous communities. In the latter, he worked with communities on socio-political organizing.

He described his work as follows:

“Currently, the Colectivo Emancipaciones is working alongside Community Councils of the towns of Pichátaro, San Felipe de los Herreros, Arantepacua, and Santa Fe de la Laguna to intervene in a legislative process that intends to regulate their budgetary autonomy. The axis of this strategy is to preemptively organize the social and political aspects of a process for free, prior, and informed consultation that will be reclaimed after (and if) this bill is discussed by Congress. As such, my task was to attend meetings with the various Councils, brief them about the legal elements of the strategy, listen to their opinions, and collaboratively think about how to articulate the organizational aspects (like when and how would it be easier to organize a politically efficient process of free, prior, and informed consent).”

Cabrera Silva plans to return to some of the communities that Colectivo partnered with later in his SJD to do fieldwork. Over the summer, he was particularly impressed with the community commitment of the NGO. He explained that working at Colectivo Emancipaciones provided “a clear example of how the outcomes of human rights work change when advocates have direct political commitments to specific social movements (rather than abstract normative commitments or indirect commitments with donors).”

At Colectivo, he said, “the role of lawyers was never to upkeep any norm or to advise the communities about the proper legal avenue to get a favorable decision. Instead, the lawyers were constantly reviewing the political and social usefulness of any legal action. The constant contact with community councils meant that the Colectivo was always in touch with what material solutions were needed, and their work revolved around that aspect. In fact, the very structure of the Colectivo (organized in a Commission) seems to have been learned from the way the Community Councils organize themselves.”

Angel further elaborated on how the funding structure of the NGO provided a positive influence on its culture, saying: “The fellowship also gave me a lot of insights into how NGOs are sometimes influenced by external sources of funding. The Colectivo Emancipaciones has an internal policy of not accepting any money that might condition their work. In this sense, they have almost no external donors. They mostly fund themselves through their own professional independent practice. They have also established collaborative academic research projects as a means to embolden their alliance with the communities. This mode of practice has an important influence on the power dynamics between the Colectivo, communities, and the individual members of the Colectivo, which are much more horizontal and open for reflection.”

Overall, the internship gave Cabrera Silva the opportunity to re-examine what skills are important in human rights work. “Normally, I would think that having expertise in the latest development of international standards and knowing all the international procedures was one of the most important advantages of a human rights lawyer. However, I realize how little this technical knowledge might matter in contrast to developing the skills that relate to political strategizing, community organizing, and even inter-personal support.”


Interested in learning more about HRP Summer Fellowships? Schedule an advising appointment with Anna Crowe, Assistant Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, and apply to join our 2020 cohort today! Please note that you do not need to have a confirmed placement organization before you apply for the 2020 HRP summer fellowship pool. Applications are due February 1, 2020!

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