Blog: Staff Reflections
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December 20, 2019
By Dana Walters
It was another productive and busy semester at HRP. Before we sign off for Harvard’s winter break, we wanted to share some highlights from the fall.
HRP hosted dozens of events, including standing room-only talks with Jane McAdam, Scientia Professor of Law and Director of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW, and Ben Saul, Challis Chair of International Law at the University of Sydney and the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Visiting Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University.
The Academic Program was thrilled to welcome UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Victor Madrigal-Borloz to HRP, as he began his 18 month residency at HLS. In addition to working with research assistants and engaging with the human rights community on campus, Madrigal-Borloz gave one public lecture this semester previewing his 2019 report to the United Nations General Assembly.
The Clinic’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative hosted Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in 2018. Thurlow spoke to a rapt crowd about her experiences following the explosion, and why it is important to continue to advocate against such weapons. A photo exhibition accompanied the event, documenting the historical consequences of nuclear weapons and the humanitarian reasons they should be banned.
In project news, the long-awaited Mamani appeal was argued before the 11th Circuit in Miami, Florida. Mamani et al v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín is a federal lawsuit seeking accountability against the former Bolivian president and defense minister for extrajudicial killings committed in 2003. Students, supervisors, and plaintiffs traveled to Miami for the oral argument, which HLS highlighted on Instagram stories throughout the day of November 19, in a feature called #HLSClinicsInAction. You can view IHRC’s contributions on our Instagram profile page under the highlight section, “ClinicsInAction.”
Beyond its litigation efforts, the Clinic got to work on a typically wide range of issues. We welcomed two new clinical instructors, Beatrice Lindstrom and Aminta Ossom, and welcomed back a third, Thomas Becker. Together, our team oversaw sixteen projects reaching all corners of the globe, including one project examining rights in an era of climate change, and another focused on securing remedies for those affected by the cholera outbreak caused by the UN in Haiti in 2010.
As is often the case, clinicians traveled around the world this semester, often bringing students with them. Anna Crowe, Clinic Assistant Director, traveled with a clinical student to Namibia to run a training on implementing the Arms Trade Treaty, with special consideration for preventing gender-based violence. Yee Htun, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law, traveled with a team of students to Myanmar, where she worked with 18 law schools on strengthening their human rights curriculum. Bonnie Docherty, Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection in the Clinic, traveled to Geneva (among other places), where she and her clinical team released three publications — on explosive weapons in populated areas, incendiary weapons, and killer robots — in one week.
In addition to enrolling nearly 50 students this term, IHRC staff and faculty taught three clinical seminars, three reading groups, and one first-year seminar in the College. One of those clinical seminars, Human Rights Careers: Strategic Leadership Workshop, led by Susan Farbstein, Clinical Professor and IHRC Co-Director, explored barriers to women’s leadership broadly and encouraged students to cultivate their own personal leadership styles. Tyler Giannini, Clinical Professor and HRP and IHRC Co-Director, taught two seminars, including an intensive Business & Human Rights Litigation Workshop.
Beyond the Clinic, Gerald Neuman, HRP Co-Director and J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, taught Human Rights and International Law and a seminar on Human Rights in the UN Treaty Bodies. Neuman also joined with other law professors in filing an amicus curiae brief to the US Supreme Court in a pair of cases involving the standards for judicial review of deportation decisions.
HRP also further enhanced the community of human rights scholars on campus and hosted two visiting fellows, Sandra Fahy, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Sophia University, Tokyo, and Adejoké Babington-Ashaye, Senior Counsel at the World Bank, both of whom will continue on through the spring.
HLS Advocates for Human Rights, the student practice organization housed within our Clinic, continued a strong run as they prepared to enter their 15th year in 2020. With 73 active members, they partnered with international NGOs to work on eight different projects. This fall, for example, students supported the Global Legal Action Network to conduct international humanitarian law analyses of selected airstrikes conducted in Yemen and completed initial assessments using open source evidence analysis.
With bittersweet feelings, HRP also said goodbye to our beloved program assistant, Emma Golding, who departs for Emory University in the winter to begin an accelerated nursing program. The community won’t be the same without her.
HRP’s offices will be closed from December 24, 2019 through January 1, 2020. We wish everyone a happy new year and look forward to getting back to work in January!
December 18, 2019
By Dana Walters
After making her mark on the International Human Rights Clinic, Program Assistant Emma Golding left her position in early December. She begins nursing school at Emory University in January. As her colleague and friend, I will miss her generous spirit, compassionate nature, and perceptive intellect. However, I could not imagine a person more suited to enter the healthcare field.
Emma was constantly a surprise, with wide-ranging interests and skills. She could take professional headshots and design websites, while simultaneously conversing about food anthropology and solving crossword puzzles. At only 24 years old, she had been an editorial assistant, faculty assistant, legal secretary, bartender, waitress, hostess, busser, catering manager, circus performer, au pair, natural history and ecology educator, and Audubon Society counselor. She graduated from UMass Amherst in three years with a double major. She was one of the most self-sufficient people I knew. Every task she approached, she did so wholeheartedly.
In the Clinic, Emma was often the first individual students and staff interacted with as they entered our wing. She generated an easy positivity and warmth, qualities that were instrumental in establishing a community-oriented spirit over the past couple years. Students were often found milling about her desk, asking for advice on schoolwork and life. She presented everyone with a friendly face, even while juggling the demands of assisting eight clinicians, three classes, and multiple reading groups. A people-person with savvy judgment, she always stayed focused and easygoing in an atmosphere punctuated by a thousand interruptions. As my collaborator in communications, she showed an intuitive and creative approach to design and editorial. Her ability to parse complicated ideas and grasp difficult concepts will serve her well as she mediates between patients, healthcare professionals, and insurance companies.
Working with Emma has been a joy and a privilege, and while we are sad to say goodbye, we at the Clinic are thrilled to see her take this next step in her professional life. There is no doubt that she will be an excellent nurse and add tremendous value to the field.
October 10, 2019
Docherty reflects on the impact of a Hiroshima survivor’s visit to Harvard Law, and her vision for HLS’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative
Reducing the civilian impact of arms and armed conflict has been the focus of Bonnie Docherty’s career since she was a student at Harvard Law School.
Since 2005, Docherty JD ’01, an international expert on civilian protection in armed conflict, has served as a lecturer on law at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. She participated in the negotiations of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions and has promoted strong implementation of the convention since its adoption. She recently played a key role in the negotiations of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, successfully advocating for specific provisions and providing legal advice to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the civil society coalition that received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2018, Docherty launched the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) at Harvard Law School, where she serves as associate director.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Docherty hosted an event with Hiroshima bombing survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who accepted the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of ICAN. Accompanying the event, HLS also showcased a photo exhibit, “From the Atomic Bomb to the Nobel Peace Prize”, which illustrates the history of nuclear disarmament.
Over the course of her career, Docherty has mentored scores of clinical students, from field researchers in conflict zones to advocates inside the halls of the U.N. in Geneva. Daniel Moubayed JD’20, a student in the International Human Rights Clinic who works closely with the Initiative, sat down with Docherty prior to the talk to discuss the exhibition, Thurlow’s presentation, and the ACCPI.Continue Reading…
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.
September 11, 2019
By Nicolette Waldman JD’ 13
The Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) recently completed its first full year, and it was a banner one. Launched in March 2018, the initiative has worked both on campus and around the world to advance its goal of reducing the harm caused by war.
The ACCPI brings together students, practitioners, and academics to advocate for civilian protection, cultivate the next generation of leaders, and promote innovation in the field. It is a collaborative endeavor, led by disarmament and international humanitarian law expert Bonnie Docherty. Clinic alum Lan Mei JD ’17 and I have worked closely with Docherty to lay the foundations for the ACCPI’s ongoing success. The initiative has also received invaluable support from faculty and staff across the Human Rights Program and partnered with numerous nongovernmental organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and PAX.
Over the past school year, the team behind the ACCPI achieved a great deal. We led clinical projects on armed conflict and civilian protection; brought experts to campus for trainings, panels, and individual presentations; connected students to these and other practitioners; and created a database of potential host organizations for students. Beyond Harvard, we were especially active in the area of “humanitarian disarmament,” which seeks to prevent and remediate the human suffering inflicted by arms. We played a leadership role in coordinating cross-campaign collaboration and raising awareness of the approach.
An overview of the ACCPI’s activities from September 2018-August 2019, other than clinical projects, is provided below. In the coming months and years, the ACCPI plans to develop a track for Harvard Law students who want to pursue careers in the field and to consolidate the school’s position as center of excellence on civilian protection in armed conflict. Civilians affected by war have far too few advocates, and we aim to do all we can to address this gap.
Stay tuned this fall for updates on new events, trainings, student resources and programs, and publications!
Harvard Law School Events
Organized or co-sponsored the following presentations and panel discussions:
“Humanization of Arms Control: Paving the Way for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” October 17, 2018
“Universal Jurisdiction: Help or Hindrance in the Prosecution of War Criminals?” October 25, 2018
“International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on Crimes against Humanity,” January 2019
“Sustainable Justice: Lessons from Twenty Years of Domestic War Crimes Prosecutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” February 4, 2019
“The Destruction of Culture: The War against Culture and the Battle to Save It,” February 20, 2019
“The Human Impact of Nuclear Weapons,” March 7, 2019
“Hell on Earth: Uncovering Atrocities in Syria’s Prisons,” March 27, 2019
“Investigating Myanmar’s Atrocity Crimes: Human Rights Work Amid Conflict and Crisis,” April 5, 2019
Offered “Fieldcraft: Conducting Research on Armed Conflict and Mass Atrocities,” a two-part workshop by former Amnesty International researcher Nicolette Waldman, March 11 and April 1, 2019
Organized advising sessions with alumni Lillian Langford JD ’13, Chris Rogers JD ’09, and Matt Wells JD ’09, all of whom work in the area of armed conflict and civilian protection
Created a database of relevant organizations that could host interns or post-graduate fellows
Started to build a network of alumni working in the field
Humanitarian Disarmament: Publications, Events, and Messaging
Launched humanitariandisarmament.org website, October 2018
Hosted a strategy session for civil society leaders, New York, October 2018
Wrote and collected 18 civil society organization co-sponsors for a statement on humanitarian disarmament delivered at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, October 2018
Co-organized, with PAX, “Humanitarian Disarmament at the CCW: Examining Incendiary Weapons and Landmines through a Humanitarian Lens,” a side event at the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, Geneva, November 20, 2018
Co-organized, with the Geneva Disarmament Platform, a workshop for diplomats on humanitarian disarmament, Geneva, August 15, 2019
Published Humanitarian Disarmament, a brochure to introduce diplomats, campaigners, and others to the overarching concept, individual arms issues, and key resources, August 15, 2019
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.”
September 5, 2019
Human rights work doesn’t stop for the summer. HRP staff, however, do take a moment to pause and regroup, taking the necessary time to recharge and plan before their project and teaching work picks up full steam in the Fall. Staff spent the summer on mountains, at the opera, and at the beach. We also developed new classes focused on women’s leadership and taught human rights and populism in Berlin.
Read on to see what we’ve all been up to this summer!
Following the release of Clinical Instructor Thomas Becker’s IHRC report “Femicide and Impunity in Bolivia” last year, the Bolivian government implemented a ten point emergency plan this summer to tackle the high rate of femicides in the country. In other news, after two months of climbing, Becker summited Mount Everest. With temperatures reaching as low as -40 degrees on the mountain, he thinks he is finally prepared for winter in Cambridge. Following Everest, Thomas’s work led him to a slightly warmer destination, the Sahara, where he spent several weeks meeting with human rights activists, women’s groups, and social movement leaders in refugee camps in Algeria.
Anna Crowe accomplished an intra-Cambridge move in July and submitted a book chapter on a disarmament topic to be published later this year.
Bonnie Docherty spoke at the International Symposium for Peace in Hiroshima on the advantages of the humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament and why Japan can and should join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (check out a transcript of her remarks here!) She also had meetings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki with civil society advocates, student activists, and doctors who have treated the hibakusha who survived the atomic bombings. On her recent work trip to Geneva for killer robots meetings at the UN, she carved out a weekend for mountains and marmots. She visited the alpine peaks of Chamonix and met some furry friends in the hills above Montreux. Hiking buddy Elizabeth Minor of Article 36, longtime Clinic partner, even brought her tote bag from ACCPI’s humanitarian disarmament conference.
Susan Farbstein developed new teaching modules on women’s leadership to pilot in the advanced Human Rights Careers Workshop this fall. She was lucky to work with one of the Clinic’s alumni, Salomé Gómez Upegui LLM ’18, as well as current SJD student Regina Larrea Maccise, to review and curate materials and build the sessions. She’s excited to see how the 3Ls will respond to what they’ve put together. She also spent a lot of time with her family, swimming, hiking, riding bikes, flying kites, building sand castles, and eating fried fish and ice cream across New England (and in Canada!).
After being on sabbatical Spring semester, Tyler Giannini went to Berlin to conduct a human rights simulation with Yee Htun. He also had the opportunity to visit members of the extended HRP family in the Netherlands and got to learn about their work at the ICC (Juan Calderson-Meza, former clinical fellow) and innovative work on business and human rights (Fola Adeleke, former clinical fellow; Deval Desai LLM ’08, SJD ’18, former research fellow; and Amelia Evans LLM ’11, former clinical instructor). With his family, Giannini also visited his roots in Ireland and in Lucca, northern Italy, for the first time, where they met long-lost cousins they never knew existed.
Clinical Instructor Yee Htun completed a book chapter on populism in Thailand and Myanmar for an edited collection to be out next year from Cambridge University Press. She also taught a module entitled “Human Rights Under a Military Dictatorship: A Case Study on Myanmar/Burma” at the Lucerne Academy on Human Rights Implementation as well as presented at “Gender Matters: A Summer Workshop for Educators” organized by the Asia Center, the Center for African Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator, and the Religious Literacy Project of Harvard University. In personal news, Htun is feeling a little lighter after donating 14 inches of her locks to Wigs for Kids.
Beatrice Lindstrom joined HRP as a Clinical Instructor at the end of August. Her summer was busy moving from New York and closing out nine years with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). She worked on responding to a deteriorating human rights situation in Haiti, including preparing a request for precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights for victims displaced by a brutal massacre in La Saline. She also published a chapter in the book Emerging Threats to Human Rights that came out in July. Before the move, Lindstrom got to spend some time with family on a lake in Maine.
Gerald Neuman presented his work on populism and human rights at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin in June, during a two-week stay at that social science research institute. While in Berlin he found something he has wanted for years at the Pergamon Museum – a working facsimile of a Babylonian cylinder seal. He will not be using it, however, for HRP correspondence.
New Clinical Instructor Aminta Ossom moved here from Geneva, finishing up her work with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and joined the Clinic. Before she left, she had the opportunity to cross off some items from her Geneva bucket list, including spending a day on a “funky jazz and blues boat” at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July and enjoyed a sunrise concert from the aubes musicales (“musical dawns”) concert series on the shores of Lake Geneva before work, which is a Geneva summer tradition.
We hope you all had relaxing and productive summers! We look forward to picking up threads of old projects and meeting some new faces this year.
July 31, 2019
After three years as Associate Director of the Academic Program, Emily Nagisa Keehn is leaving the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and starting as Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego.
Arriving in 2016 from Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa, Emily came to us with a human rights, gender, and HIV background. At HRP, she undertook influential research on health and human rights in prisons, decriminalization, and conflict-related sexual violence. She managed the day-to-day affairs of the Academic Program with her characteristic combination of intelligence, insight, and clear judgment: advising on and running HRP’s summer, post-graduate, and visiting fellowships; spearheading a mentorship program for post-graduate fellows; and curating HRP’s thought-provoking lunch talks and colloquia. Recently she took on additional responsibilities, supervising students in the International Human Rights Clinic.
Emily’s energy, dynamism, and passion inspired staff and students alike. “Emily has been an extraordinarily gifted Associate Director, and a joy to work with,” said Gerald Neuman, HRP Co-Director and J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, with whom she worked closely. She leaves a large gap in our Program and we will miss her dearly. We wish her all the best in her new role.
June 5, 2019
Last week, Harvard Law School graduated 801 members of the Class of 2019. Of these new JDs, LLMs, and SJDs, many were dedicated members of the International Human Rights Clinic, student leaders in HLS Advocates for Human Rights, and Human Rights Program summer and post-graduate fellows.
On the afternoon of May 30, 2019, we held a party to celebrate the new graduates and welcome their families and friends into our space. Below are a selection of photos from that celebration. Congrats to these new lawyers and those who supported them throughout their law school careers!
May 28, 2019
By Susan Farbstein
As graduation approaches, students often ask us, “Am I ready?” As in, “Am I ready to go out into the world and be a real human rights practitioner?”
Yes, you are ready. Look at what you have accomplished this year:
You built momentum for a preemptive ban on killer robots through publications, advocacy, and legal analysis. In collaboration with Human Rights Watch, you published a major report examining the legal and moral problems with these weapons. You participated in the global meeting of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, helping to shape the Campaign’s legal positions on the elements of a new treaty, and advocated at three UN disarmament conferences.
You traveled to Guinea to examine the human rights implications of the country’s booming bauxite industry, the raw material needed to make aluminum. Working alongside Guinean NGOs, you conducted fieldwork and interviews in communities that have lost land to mining, as well as in areas facing the threat of mining in the near future. Your work will assist Guinean NGOs to convey concerns about the impacts of mining on land and the local environment to the Guinean government and mining companies.
You developed materials for, and delivered trainings to, arms expert officials from twelve Central and Eastern European governments, so they can better assess arms export requests to account for the risk that arms could be used to commit gender based violence or other human rights violations.
You drafted a shadow report to the CEDAW Committee highlighting gaps in legal protections for Muslim women in Mauritius and the resulting injustices that these women face, in collaboration with Musawah and Mauritian advocates. You helped brief CEDAW Committee experts and engaged closely in the debate on proposed legal reforms, leading the CEDAW Committee to incorporate these proposals in its recommendations to the State of Mauritius, which local advocates are using as one more advocacy tool to push for reform of the national civil code.
You designed and ran workshops for multi-ethnic, multi-faith stakeholders in Yangon, aimed at de-escalating communal tensions and developing messages for peace and religious tolerance in Myanmar. You developed a facilitation guide that will be shared with local partners and used to train future facilitators so that these workshops will continue in the coming years.
You helped finalize and launch two reports on freedom of movement and business documentation in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, in partnership with the Norwegian Refugee Council. Thanks to the outstanding coalition-building of work of local staff at the NRC, measures to implement the reports’ recommendations are now a reality.
You interviewed medical doctors, scientists, and veterans about the impacts of burn pits used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Working closely with colleagues from Amnesty International, you designed a project investigating how these burn pits caused serious health problems for veterans, local and foreign contractors, and Iraqi and Afghan civilians living nearby.
You researched and published a report for the Women’s League of Burma which details procedural and substantive recommendations for the proposed draft Protection and Prevention of Violence Against Women Law. The report has been widely disseminated among key stakeholders in Myanmar.
You collaborated with Helem and The Legal Agenda in Lebanon to support their ongoing efforts on behalf of persons targeted by criminal prosecutions because of their sexual activities or orientation, developing a model legal defense for use in strategic litigation.
You produced briefing papers and government submissions promoting the treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, working closely with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. You played a leading role in interpreting and advocating for the treaty’s innovative positive obligations to assist survivors and remediate environmental impacts.
You continued to push for justice on behalf of the victims of Bolivia’s Black October, working relentlessly with attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights and Akin Gump as the Mamani case went on appeal before the Eleventh Circuit.
You helped convene a high-level meeting at the U.S. Holocaust Museum’s Ferencz International Justice Initiative around international accountability for atrocity crimes in Myanmar. The meeting brought together international human rights organizations, policy makers, international criminal law experts, human rights defenders, and activists from Myanmar to strategize and coordinate about accountability efforts.
You engaged with and interviewed global experts on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender and on the creation of a new treaty for crimes against humanity.
You learned from a superstar roster of visiting clinicians—Thomas Becker JD ’08, who supervised a team investigating femicide in Bolivia; Amelia Evans LLM ’11, a co-founder of MSI Integrity, who worked with students to re-conceptualize industry and government in an era of extreme poverty; Nicolette Waldman JD ’13, previously the Iraq and Syria researcher for Amnesty International, who led trainings on field research in armed conflict; and Jim Wormington, an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, who brought perspective on how to integrate locally-driven, participatory work into advocacy at large international human rights organizations.
As you leave the Law School and launch your careers, your success may depend upon your ability to think analytically, to write clearly, and to speak persuasively—but equally it will depend upon your capacity for compassion, empathy, and generosity; your ability to draw strength from friends and colleagues; your willingness to connect and collaborate across difference; and your resilience and optimism in the face of serious challenges.
We know you are ready for whatever comes your way because we have watched with pride as you have practiced these habits together, through your clinical projects. You have worked tirelessly and passionately, asking all the right questions and making space for both reflection and action. You have inspired us with your creativity and intelligence, and motivated us to improve ourselves and our Clinic.
We celebrate with each of you, and look forward to seeing the difference you will continue to make in the world. Congratulations to the Class of 2019!
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