- Page 1 of 5
January 15, 2020
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
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.
January 14, 2020
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!
January 7, 2020
As we advertise our 2020-2021 Visiting Fellowship (VF) application, we are looking back and celebrating alums of the program. Jimena Reyes, Americas Director at the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), joined HRP during the Spring 2018 semester as the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow. The profile below ran in our 2017-2018 Annual Report.
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. For the upcoming cycle, HRP will be considering applications for resident Visiting Fellows on semester-long or academic-year-long stays, as well as applications for short visits of several days or more.
Find out more about how Jimena spent her semester at HRP below, and learn about this year’s cohort and past Visiting Fellows to explore the range of research VFs have engaged on while in residence at HLS.
December 6, 2019
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). Each year, the Visiting Fellows Program forms a critical part of creating a human rights community at HLS. For the 2020-2021 academic year, HRP invites scholars and practitioners with substantial experience in human rights to apply to the Visiting Fellows Program.
Applicants may come from a range of backgrounds and with varying academic and professional experiences in the field of human rights. Visiting Fellows commonly come from academic institutions, but a number of fellows have also come from the judiciary and other branches of government. Typically, fellows have come from outside the United States and are individuals with extensive experience. Mid-career applicants are also common, and on occasion, fellows have included more junior individuals in the field with the capacity and interest to develop as teachers or advocates.
For 2020-2021, HRP will be considering both applications for resident Visiting Fellows on semester-long or academic-year-long stays, and applications for short visits of several days or more. Longer times in residence offer an opportunity to step back and conduct a serious inquiry in the human rights field, pursuing academic research and writing at HRP. Shorter engagements provide a chance for more focused interactions with the HLS community, including advising on academic publications and careers as well as training on particular human rights skills and careers in the field.Continue Reading…
December 3, 2019
Summer fellowships for human rights internships are a central part of the Harvard Law School (HLS) human rights experience and provide rich professional, personal, and intellectual opportunities. Many students and alumni/ae who are committed to human rights were introduced to the field through an internship. Interns work for at least eight weeks with nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations concerned with human rights, exclusively outside the United States.
Last summer, students had a range of experiences across the globe, from studying human rights-based climate change litigation at Amnesty International in London to working with community lawyers on indigenous rights for the NGO Colectivo Emancipaciones in México. Over the next couple months, HRP will be showcasing 2019 summer fellows with excerpts from their final reports. Follow along at our blog and email email@example.com with any questions.
September 19, 2019
By Elaine McArdle
As a young person in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, Alpha Sesay knew little but war. He lost close family to the conflict, witnessed atrocities, and was internally displaced before obtaining refugee status in Guinea. As a university student in Sierra Leone, he was arrested and beaten in prison after challenging a police practice as not grounded in law.
“Those experiences really influenced me a great deal in terms of what I wanted to do with my life,” said Sesay, who as a human rights lawyer has held various positions in the human rights and international justice sectors. He is currently an Advocacy Officer for the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) in Washington, D.C. Sesay has dedicated his career to human rights, moved to make sure that his experiences of war are not replicated elsewhere. “What shall I do as an individual so that this doesn’t happen again and that others don’t experience what we did as a country?” he said.
As a law student, Sesay mobilized friends to launch the first student human rights group in Sierra Leone—and the first human rights clinic in Western Africa—which led to the creation of a human rights module at the University of Sierra Leone. After getting his law degree in Sierra Leone and an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Notre Dame Law School, he returned to his home country to establish and teach international human rights at the university.
When the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor before the Special Court for Sierra Leone was moved to The Hague, Sesay created and managed a trial-monitoring project for OSJI that provided daily information to Sierra Leonean and Liberian audiences. A few years earlier, he had created a similar trial-monitoring and accountability program for proceedings before the Special Court for Sierra Leone and criminal cases within Sierra Leone’s domestic justice system. In that program, he focused on promoting judicial accountability and providing information to and soliciting feedback from the public, especially victims in Sierra Leone. Today, it has become one of the country’s leading NGOs, he said.
Sesay took a sabbatical from OSJI in 2018-2019, joining HRP as a Visiting Fellow. At HLS, he researched how the state fails to comply with decisions of human rights bodies. His aim was to devise recommendations for how to better ensure state compliance with human rights standards. As a fellow, Sesay also mentored HLS students interested in human rights work and offered his expertise to Harvard faculty working on various human rights issues.
He described interacting with students and sharing his knowledge of the African human rights system as one of the highlights of his time at the Law School. “To find myself at Harvard doing research and contributing to the university’s academic life was immensely fulfilling,” and the human rights community “is a really welcoming academic environment.”
“Having been an intimate witness to human rights violations myself, I strive to give those a platform who would not otherwise have a voice,” he said. “A lot of people, many of them victims [of human rights violations] themselves, work every day to make life better for vulnerable communities. Those people inspire me every day in the work we do.”
This profile is an excerpt from the 2018-2019 Human Rights Program Annual Report. You can access the full report here.
August 23, 2019
By Elaine McArdle
Between 2010 and 2014 in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), rebels from the Nduma Defence of Congo (NDC) militia murdered, raped, and looted hundreds of civilians and forced children to become soldiers. In November 2018, the trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity against NDC’s militia leader Ntabo Ntaberi, who goes by the war name “Sheka,” commenced before the Operational Military Court of North Kivu.
As a 2018-2019 Satter Fellow in Human Rights, Anna Khalfaoui LL.M. ’17 spent the year in the DRC working with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) to assist survivors and their lawyers through the trial, acting as a liaison in support of the justice system.
“After nine years, to finally have a trial that looks at these incidents is so important,” said Khalfaoui, a British-trained French attorney who chose Harvard Law School for its human rights training. “Being part of the team supporting survivors who’ve waited so long to tell their stories is an incredible learning opportunity.”
Khalfaoui also assisted survivors and their lawyers in the historic trial of militia leader Marcel Habarugira Rangira. With the support of a coalition of local and international actors, including ABA ROLI, Habarugira was convicted in February 2019 of the war crimes of rape and of conscription, enlistment and use of children as soldiers. The conviction for conscripting and using child soldiers was notably the first such conviction in the DRC.
These cases are very challenging, Khalfaoui noted, explaining that there is tremendous pressure on survivors to recant their stories. Diverse actors, from the military justice and local organizations, to NGOs like ABA ROLI and the UN peacekeeping forces in the DRC have worked together to make these trials possible. They are nevertheless expensive, often lengthy, and incredibly complex. Given the instability and insecurity in Eastern DRC, these trials face critical challenges from the lack of an effective investigative and prosecutorial strategy to difficulties providing protection for the survivors and witnesses.
Still, Khalfaoui is determined to continue working on these important issues. “I think it’s become clearer as I work on this trial that I’m more and more interested in doing direct legal work with people who are affected by human rights violations,” she said. During her fellowship, Khalfaoui is also supporting ABA ROLI’s early warning system for preventing atrocities, which allows people to alert security forces when there are signs of impending violence against civilian populations. The system, which is also being used in response to an Ebola breakout, is being expanded to new zones in Eastern DRC and to include conflict prevention activities to reduce community conflict.
After the fellowship, Khalfaoui plans to continue working on international human rights and international humanitarian law litigation.
The Satter Human Rights Fellowship is designed to support and promote human rights defense in response to mass atrocities. The fellowship is made possible by a generous gift from Muneer A. Satter J.D./M.B.A.’87. This profile is a preview of the 2018-2019 Human Rights Program Annual Report, which will be available soon on the HRP blog. You can also read this post on the HLS Today website.
August 22, 2019
As a Satter Fellow, Jenny Domino LL.M. ’18 focused on how social media policy limits one’s right to speak in the midst of democratic transition
By Elaine McArdle
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Jenny Domino LL.M. ’18 was awarded a Satter Human Rights Fellowship from the Human Rights Program for the 2018-2019 year. A lawyer from the Philippines, Domino spent her fellowship year with ARTICLE 19, a human rights organization focused on the defense and promotion of freedom of expression and information. Over the last year, she has worked to strengthen ARTICLE 19’s response to hate speech in Myanmar, specifically as it incites and provokes violence against the Rohingya community.
Among other things, Domino wrote a human rights-based report analyzing the sufficiency of Facebook’s responses to criticism that it had failed to moderate hate speech in a timely manner in Myanmar. Her report has significantly informed ARTICLE 19 Asia’s engagement with Facebook regarding its content moderation policies. She also organized a regional workshop in spring 2019 on hate speech on social media, bringing together human rights defenders from the ASEAN region to discuss common themes of disinformation, attacks on the press, and weak social media policy.
Facebook’s community standards are the same throughout the world, but a problem occurs when rules are enforced without sufficiently taking into account the geopolitical contexts in which such content is shared, said Domino. Throughout her career, Domino has dedicated herself to deepening the commitment to international human rights law in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. In her home country of the Philippines, she led the Commission on Human Rights’ accountability project on the persons most responsible for the extrajudicial killings arising from President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war. Her work proved useful in light of the International Criminal Court’s preliminary examination into whether these killings constitute crimes against humanity.
“When you enter a market and you don’t understand the political context of where you’re operating, that can be a problem,” she said. “The way certain speech is received or acted upon in one context—let’s say, the U.S. or the Netherlands—is different in a place like Myanmar or the Philippines. This distinction is more pronounced when the political context of a specific country involves atrocity crimes or systematic violence against civilians.”
The year has been “very meaningful for me,” said Domino, who will continue to specialize at the intersection of freedom of expression, corporate responsibility, and international human rights law, at the International Commission of Jurists, following her fellowship.
“I’ve learned a lot, not just in terms of substantive knowledge but the practical—and sometimes grim—aspects of working in the NGO scene. I am still trying to figure out through which capacity I can serve best, one where I can make the most impact as a lawyer. For now, I am content to have discovered a cause I deeply care about.”
The Satter Human Rights Fellowship is designed to support and promote human rights defense in response to mass atrocities. The fellowship is made possible by a generous gift from Muneer A. Satter J.D./M.B.A.’87. This profile is a preview of the 2018-2019 Human Rights Program Annual Report. This article was cross-posted to HLS Today’s website.
August 14, 2019
The Human Rights Program is pleased to welcome five exemplary human rights practitioners and scholars to Harvard Law School as 2019-2020 Visiting Fellows. Through its Visiting Fellows Program, HRP 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. Learn more about the program here and see below for details on the incoming cohort.
Adejoké Babington-Ashaye is the OPIA / HRP Wasserstein Fellow for the 2019-2020 year. She is a versatile lawyer with over sixteen years of experience in public international law, human rights, international criminal law and the judicial settlement of disputes. She is actively engaged in the provision of technical support and training for national prosecution and investigation of international crimes. Currently Senior Counsel at the World Bank, Babington-Ashaye has worked at the International Court of Justice on the settlement of state disputes and at the International Criminal Court as an investigator. Her background includes campaigning for the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, investigating human rights violations in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, and conducting human rights policy research at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. She is the co-editor and author of International Criminal Investigations: Law and Practice. Babington-Ashaye holds an LLB from the University of Buckingham and an LLM in Public International Law from the London School of Economics. She is a qualified Attorney in the State of New York.
At HRP, Babington-Ashaye will research the investigation and prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence as acts of terrorism.
Dr. Anton Burkov is the Chair of the Center of European Law and Strategic Litigation at the University of Humanities, as well as Director of the human rights NGO Sutyajnik. He has engaged in strategic litigation on a number of cases, including: Burkov v. Google (IT and privacy), Mikhaylova v. Russia (free legal aid), Sablina and Others v. Russia (secret organ harvesting), Korolevs v. Russia (rights of prisoners and their families to conjugal meetings, sex, and artificial insemination). He has authored numerous publications, including a chapter on, “The Use of European Human Rights Law in Russian Courts” in Russia and the European Court of Human Rights: The Strasbourg Effect (Eds. Lauri Mälksoo and Wolfgang Benedek, Cambridge University Press). He has received a fellowship from the Fulbright Visiting Scholars Program to be in residence at HRP for spring 2020.
At HRP, Dr. Burkov will be developing a curriculum on how to conduct strategic impact litigation.
Elena Dorothy Estrada-Tanck
Dorothy Estrada-Tanck is Assistant Professor of International Law and International Relations at the University of Murcia, Spain. She holds a PhD in Law from the European University Institute, an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics, and an LLB from Escuela Libre de Derecho, Mexico City. In addition to her academic background, she has worked for the United Nations and state bodies and NGOs in Mexico, Italy, the U.S., and Spain. She focuses on issues of human rights, gender, and socio-economic justice. She is the author of Human Security and Human Rights under International Law: The Protections Offered to Persons Confronting Structural Vulnerability (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2016).
At HRP, she will be carrying out research on indirect discrimination from a comparative perspective, with a focus on the UN and regional human rights systems, for a book on economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as on international law and new technologies.
Sandra Fahy is an associate professor of anthropology in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and the Graduate Program in Global Studies at Sophia University, Tokyo. She holds a PhD from SOAS University of London. She is the author of two books about human rights in North Korea. The first studies the subjective experience of famine survival: Marching through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea (New York: Columbia University Press 2015). The second scrutinizes violations committed by the DPRK, domestically and internationally, and the state’s use of video technology to spread denial of rights abuse allegations: Dying for Rights: Putting North Korea’s Rights Abuses on the Record (New York: Columbia University Press 2019).
At HRP, she will be working on a book project about state perpetrators who use audiovisual technology to deny rights violations.
Dr. Rashad Ibadov is the Director of the Law Program at ADA University, Baku, Azerbaijan and a visiting professor of law at the Catholic University of Lille, France. Dr. Ibadov received his Doctor of Laws (LLD) from the European University Institute, Florence, Italy (2007–2013), LLM from Lund University, Sweden (2004–2006) and LLB from Khazar University, Baku, Azerbaijan (1999-2003). Dr. Ibadov has been a researcher at the Graduate Program of Harvard Law School (2009–2010) and a visiting scholar at UC, Berkeley (Spring 2009). His areas of research interests include law and religion, political and legal philosophy, constitutional law, citizenship and identity in the post-Soviet space.
At HRP, Rashad will be studying the question of how the post-Soviet Muslim-majority states should respond to the constitutional challenges raised by groups divided by religion or by conscience, and, through these responses, thereby promote democracy, political justice, religious harmony and prosperity.
June 11, 2019
On June 11, 2019, the New Zealand Court of Appeal announced that it would block the extradition to China of Kyung Yup Kim for an alleged homicide. The Court cited New Zealand’s commitment to human rights and a reasonable fear that Mr. Kim would suffer torture or other abuse and lack of a fair trial in the Chinese criminal justice system. Human Rights Program Visiting Fellow Dr Tony Ellis, who is also a New Zealand barrister with Blackstone Chambers, has represented Mr. Kim for the last ten years.
In a press release, Dr. Ellis said that the nearly 100-page judgment should have “profound human rights importance” for New Zealand and the greater Common Law world. Following the Court’s decision, Justice Minister Andrew Little will be forced to consider the human rights situation in China, and whether or not to trust “diplomatic assurances given by China” that torture will not be used, and that Mr. Kim would receive a fair trial, said the New Zealand Herald. In The New York Times and elsewhere, Dr. Ellis stated that he was hopeful the judgment would remain undisturbed, given Prime Minister Arden’s and the Labour government’s focus on human rights and criminal justice reform, as well as favorable circumstances around the makeup of the Court, and the powerful precedent they have set in this decision.
In quashing the extradition order, New Zealand joins its neighbor Australia in concerns over Chinese human rights abuses and its implications for extradition. Over the past week, protesters have taken to Hong Kong streets, demonstrating against a proposed law that would likewise allow for extradition to mainland China.
Dr. Ellis has been in residence at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program for the Spring Semester of 2019. Here, he focuses his research on the arbitrary detention of the intellectually disabled within an international setting.
- Page 1 of 5