Blog: Press Releases
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November 19, 2019
Mamani Plaintiff Teófilo Baltazar Cerro Pens Op-Ed Urging 11th Circuit to Reinstate $10 Million Verdict
This story originally ran in NACLA Reports (North American Congress on Latin America) under the title, “Survivors Fight for Justice for 2003 Bolivian Military Massacre.”
Teófilo is one of the nine plaintiffs in Mamani et al v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, a U.S. federal lawsuit against Bolivia’s former president and defense minister.
On November 19, surviving family members of a 2003 massacre in El Alto are urging the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate a $10 million judgement against Bolivia’s former president and defense minister.
Last week in Bolivia, a president resigned under military pressure as civilian supporters of different political parties clashed in the streets. Bolivia is in turmoil today, and not for the first time. Sixteen years ago, at a time of political protests against the government’s plan to export Bolivian gas through Chilean ports, the army opened fire on civilians in the city of El Alto, killing over 70 people, including my wife and our unborn child.
One way to stop such violence is to provide justice for past acts: to hold accountable those in command of the forces that shoot at unarmed civilians. That is why I am in Miami today. Together with eight fellow plaintiffs who also lost loved ones in the massacre, I will continue to appeal the decision to overturn a ruling that held the masterminds of these killings responsible.
When the Eleventh Circuit hears the appeal in what is known as the Mamani case today, it will be an important test. Can the legal system deliver justice for people like me? From a young age, as an Indigenous Aymara person growing up in Bolivia, I was taught that the answer was “no.” Although my country has the largest population of Indigenous peoples in South America—about 60 percent—we have always been treated as second class citizens. We did not have political or economic power. We did not have a voice. And our lives did not have much value.
In 2003, during what has become known as “Black October,” a soldier shot my pregnant wife, Teodosia, while she praying in her sister’s home. Over a period of several weeks, Bolivian soldiers, acting under the command of former president Gonzalo “Goni” Sánchez de Lozada and his defense minister Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, massacred Indigenous Bolivians. Soldiers injured over 550 people and killed more than 70, including my wife and our unborn child.
Rather than simply mourn, though, I joined with others who had survived Black October. We decided to make the system work for us.After my wife was murdered, I did not know what to do. The love of my life was gone, and I was left alone to raise our seven children. Rather than simply mourn, though, I joined with others who had survived Black October. We decided to make the system work for us.Continue Reading…
November 19, 2019
Indigenous Bolivian Family Members Urge Appeals Court in Miami: Reinstate Judgment Against Former Bolivian President and Defense Minister for Civilian Massacre
Judge Erroneously Set Aside Jury Verdict of Liability, Lawyers Say
November 19, 2019, Miami – Today, Indigenous Bolivian family members urged the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate a judgement against Bolivia’s former president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and former defense minister, Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, for the massacre of unarmed Indigenous civilians in 2003.
A U.S. jury found the two former officials liable under the Torture Victim Protection Act in April 2018 and awarded the victims’ families $10 million in damages. The unanimous verdict came after a month-long trial that included six days of deliberations. The judge later set aside the jury verdict and entered his own ruling holding the defendants not liable.
“I was proud, during the trial, to be able to hold these two men to account in their adopted country,” said Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, a plaintiff whose pregnant wife Teodosia was shot and killed while praying inside her sister’s home. “We have faith that the Court of Appeals will see what the Bolivian people and the American jury also saw: that Goni and Sánchez Berzaín are responsible for these killings, and that justice must be done.”Continue Reading…
November 13, 2019
(Geneva) – Russia should support, not block, diplomatic talks about possible action to address the civilian harm caused by the use of incendiary weapons, the International Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Watch said in a report released this week.
Issued ahead of an upcoming United Nations disarmament conference, the nine-page report, “Standing Firm against Incendiary Weapons,” highlights the weaknesses of international law regulating incendiary weapons. Such weapons can inflict severe burns, leave extensive scarring, and cause respiratory damage and psychological trauma. Incendiary weapons also start fires that destroy civilian homes, objects, and infrastructure.
“Russia’s regrettable opposition scuttled stand-alone diplomatic discussion this year on incendiary weapons,” said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection at Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and lead author of the report. “Yet there’s a clear humanitarian imperative to deal with these cruel weapons.”Continue Reading…
October 21, 2019
On October 17, 2019, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Eleanor Roosevelt Senior Visiting Researcher with the Human Rights Program and the UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, spoke to the Harvard Law School community, previewing his October 24 address to the United Nations General Assembly.
Mr. Madrigal-Borloz shared findings from his recent report on socio-cultural and economic inclusion for LGBT individuals. The report provides an overview of LGBT access to education, employment, housing, health, public spaces, and religious and political discourse. The talk was organized by the Human Rights Program at HLS and co-sponsored by HLS Advocates for Human Rights and the Harvard Human Rights Journal.
Watch the full October 17 address above or on the Harvard Law School YouTube site.
You can read more about Mr. Madrigal Borloz’s HLS residency as a senior visiting researcher on the Harvard Law Today website.
October 9, 2019
Professor Gerald Neuman, Co-Director of the Human Rights Program and
J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard Law School, recently filed an amicus curiae brief to the US Supreme Court in a pair of cases involving the standards for judicial review of deportation decisions.
Both cases, Guerrero-Lasprilla v. Barr and Ovalles v. Barr, involve long-term immigrants who were wrongly removed – to Colombia and to the Dominican Republic – based on interpretations of the statutory deportation grounds that the Supreme Court later overturned. The petitioners applied to reopen the deportation decisions so that they could return to the United States, arguing that the time limit for reopening should be “equitably tolled” because they had diligently sought relief. The immigration agency rejected their claims as untimely, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that their diligence presented an unreviewable issue of fact rather than a reviewable issue of law. The Supreme Court granted certiorari, and the cases will be argued in December, and a decision is expected in the spring.
The amicus brief of three leading Scholars of Habeas Corpus Law explains that reviewable issues of law include “mixed questions” of the application of a legal standard to facts, both as a matter of statutory interpretation and in order to satisfy the Suspension Clause of the Constitution. It shows how historically, both in the eighteenth century and in the modern era, the right to habeas corpus has included judicial review of the application of law to fact.
October 1, 2019
From October 1 through October 8, 2019, the South Lobby of Wasserstein Hall showcases a photo exhibition that documents the impact of nuclear weapons and recent progress toward their elimination. The exhibit focuses on the devastation caused by early use and testing of these weapons and civil society’s role in producing the 2017 treaty that bans them.
Bonnie Docherty, Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian and Lecturer in Law at the International Human Rights Clinic, organized the exhibit. Her introduction is reproduced below in its entirety.
September 10, 2019
We are delighted to present HRP’s 2018-2019 Annual Report. The report showcases the global reach and impact of the Human Rights Program in its 35th year. Previews have already run on the Harvard Law School website: profiles of Paras Shah JD ’19, Jenny B. Domino LLM ’18, and Anna Khalfaoui LLM ’17. In addition to celebrating these former students and fellows, the annual report explores how members of HRP contributed to a convention on crimes against humanity, innovated in clinical pedagogy, and advocated for LGBT rights. We thank all of the students, partners, and alumni who made last year so strong and look forward to engaging with our community and working on the most pressing issues in 2019-2020.
Read the introduction below, which highlights the words of the Human Rights Program and International Human Rights Clinic Co-Directors:
The Human Rights Program: Reflecting on 35 Years
Founded by Professor Emeritus Henry Steiner in 1984 as a center for human rights scholarship, Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program (HRP) enters its 35th year in 2019. Concurrently, the International Human Rights Clinic celebrates its 15th anniversary. HRP was founded as a place of reflection and engagement and a forum that brings academics and advocates together. Since 1984, HRP has only deepened its commitment to this endeavor. With this past year marking the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly, it is a particularly opportune time to take stock of human rights at Harvard Law School (HLS) and how the Program’s impact has reverberated beyond the university.
“The Universal Declaration set forth a vision of liberty and equality and social solidarity that has never been fully achieved; it continues to inspire people around the world as we strive to fulfill its mission,” said Gerald L. Neuman JD ’80, Co-Director of HRP and the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at HLS. “The Program has always been about critical involvement with human rights. In a time when human rights face extreme challenges globally, that means thinking more deeply about what changes are needed and how we can contribute to the system, scholarship, and the world.”
Today, HRP comprises the Academic Program and the Clinic, which together bridge theory with practice and engage with pressing human rights issues around the world. As a center for critical thinking, the Academic Program organizes conferences and other events; publishes working papers and books; offers summer and post-graduate fellowships to launch students in human rights careers; and draws human rights advocates and academics from across the globe as part of the Visiting Fellows Program.
Over the past decade and a half, the Clinic has engaged more than 1,000 students in an analytical and reflective approach to human rights lawyering. While devoting itself to the training of future practitioners, the Clinic has promoted and protected human rights through scores of projects around the world. This work includes pushing for global equity in the realm of gender and sexuality, litigating landmark accountability cases, and helping to negotiate treaties that ban nuclear weapons and cluster munitions.
“The formal founding of the International Human Rights Clinic 15 years ago is really consequential; it recognizes the diversity of ways that people can contribute to the human rights movement,” said Susan H. Farbstein JD ’04, Co-Director of the Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law. While not all clinical students pursue careers in human rights, they often cite their clinical education as influential and formative. For many, clinics are the one place at HLS where they have the opportunity to engage in real-world preparation and see their efforts make an impact. “We’re training students in critical approaches to human rights practice, emphasizing cross-cultural sensitivity and how to be guided by the clients and communities we serve. We hope this leads to better, more effective human rights advocacy,” Farbstein said.
This year, HRP recognizes the anniversary of the Program, the Clinic, and the UDHR with both celebration and humility. After decades of training students and building a network of HRP fellows and partners, it is inspiring to step back and glimpse the network that we’ve built. “It’s not about one particular year but about the cumulative impact,” said Tyler R. Giannini, Co- Director of HRP and the Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law. “When we see the success of our students, alumni, partners, and fellows, it’s a testament to the power of this community.”
August 28, 2019
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, will be resident at the Human Rights Program for the next 18 months as a Senior Visiting Researcher. He seeks multiple research assistants for the 2019-2020 year. Research may focus on conversion therapy and the relationship between the criminalization of LGBTI issues and sustainable development goals. RAs must be independent and self-motivated with excellent writing and research skills. Candidates must have a Harvard affiliation.
For consideration, please send a CV to Dana Walters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 27, 2019
The International Human Rights Clinic is thrilled to welcome two new faces, and one familiar one, to our team this year. Two impressive human rights practitioners, Beatrice Lindstrom and Aminta Ossom JD ’09, have joined the International Human Rights Clinic as Clinical Instructors. Coming to us with an extensive background in accountability litigation and advocacy, Beatrice will split her time between supervising projects as a Clinical Instructor and overseeing the student practice organization HLS Advocates for Human Rights. Aminta arrives from the United Nations, where she previously supported the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council as a Human Rights Officer. We are also pleased to welcome back Thomas Becker JD’08 as a Clinical Instructor. Becker was previously a Clinical Instructor during the 2018-2019 school year, where he worked on projects focused on accountability litigation and femicide in Bolivia, and he has played an integral role in the Clinic’s Mamani case for more than a decade.
Read more about Beatrice, Aminta, and Thomas below, and be sure to welcome them to HLS!
Beatrice Lindstrom is a Clinical Instructor in the Human Rights Program and the Supervising Attorney of Advocates for Human Rights. Her work focuses on accountability of transnational actors, obligations of international organizations, and access to remedies.
Prior to joining Harvard Law School, Lindstrom was the Legal Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, an organization that works in partnership with Haitian lawyers to bring grassroots struggles for human rights to the international stage. For nearly a decade, her work has focused on path-breaking advocacy to secure accountability from the UN for causing a devastating cholera epidemic in Haiti. She was lead counsel in Georges v. United Nations, a class action 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 has extensive experience advocating in the UN human rights system, lobbying governments, and speaking in the media. She has appeared regularly in the New York Times, BBC, and Al Jazeera English.
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 holds a JD from NYU School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholar, and a BA from Emory University.
Aminta Ossom is a Clinical Instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic. She focuses on equality, inclusion, and economic and social rights. She also has research interests in human rights diplomacy, the role of identity in advocacy, and symbioses between civil and human rights movements.
Ossom was previously a human rights officer at the United Nations, where she supported the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council in fact-finding, advocacy and training in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Europe.
Before joining the UN, Ossom taught international human rights at Fordham Law School as a Crowley Fellow in International Human Rights and Adjunct Professor of Law. There she designed and led a field study examining barriers to education faced by persons with disabilities in Rwanda. She has also served as a supervising attorney for independent clinical and externship students.
After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2009, Ossom focused on transitional justice, including as a Satter Human Rights Fellow with Amnesty International in West Africa. While at HLS, she was a dedicated member of the International Human Rights Clinic. She holds a Masters in African Politics from SOAS, University of London, and a BA from the University of Oklahoma.
Thomas Becker is a Clinical Instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic. He is an attorney and activist who has spent most of the past decade working on human rights issues in Bolivia. As a student at Harvard Law School, he was the driving force behind launching Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada, a lawsuit against Bolivia’s former president and defense minister for their role in the massacre of indigenous peasants. After graduating, he moved to Bolivia, where he has worked with the survivors for over a decade. Last spring, Becker and his co-counsel obtained a $10 million jury verdict for family members of those killed in “Black October,” marking the first time a living ex-president has been held accountable in a U.S. court for human rights violations. The verdict was overturned by a federal judge and is currently being appealed in the Eleventh Circuit of Appeals.
Becker’s human rights work has included investigating torture and disappearance of Adavasis in India, documenting war crimes in Lebanon, and serving as a nonviolent bodyguard for the Zapatista guerrillas in Chiapas, Mexico. When he is not practicing law, Becker is an award-winning musician and songwriter who has recorded with Grammy-winning producers and toured throughout the world as a drummer and guitarist.
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.
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