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December 2, 2022

On the Promise of Constitutionalism in the Arab Gulf

Lecturer on Law and Senior Clinical Instructor Salma Waheedi’s latest article in the American University in Beirut’s Al-Abhath explores constitutional review in Arab Gulf States, as part of a volume analyzing the promise of constitutionalism in the Arab Gulf. The article examines the constitutional frameworks of Kuwait and Bahrain and the main features of their judicial review models, with a focus on the legal and institutional designs elements that enable or limit the independent exercise of judicial oversight by these constitutional courts. It offers a detailed analysis of key constitutional court rulings that illustrate the broad features of each court’s jurisprudence, and concludes with reflections on the lingering political and structural challenges to their full exercise of independent constitutional review in both states. Click here for more information and to access an online version of the article.


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July 29, 2022

Seeking Accountability for North Korean Atrocities: An Interview with Erika Suh Holmberg, Monica Jung Hyun Lee, Jasmine Shin, and Ethan Shin

Editor’s note: This article was first published on Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights Spotlight Series page.

HLS Advocates for Human Rights is proud to present the Spotlight Series, a forum for essays and opinion pieces written by Harvard Law School students and alumni calling attention to pressing domestic and international human rights issues. If you are a Harvard Law student or alumnus/a and would like to contribute a piece to Spotlights, please contact Ariella Katz ([email protected]) or Dane Underwood ([email protected]).

Please note that the views and opinions expressed in Spotlight essays are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HLS Advocates for Human Rights.

Spotlight Series logo, Advocates for Human Rights

The past and ongoing atrocities committed by the Kim regime in North Korea represents one of the most dire human rights crises in recent decades. Three recent HLS graduates— Erika Suh Holmberg (J.D. ’22), Monica Jung Hyun Lee (J.D. ’22), and Jasmine Shin (J.D. ’21), channeled their existing passion for and experience with advocating for change in North Korea by leading the “North Korea Accountability Project” with HLS Advocates for Human Rights project, in partnership with the Seoul-based human rights NGO Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) and under the continuous supervision of TJWG legal counsel Ethan Hee-Seok Shin (LL.M. ’13). Since Jasmine created the Accountability Project in Spring 2021 and led its first semester-long project team, Erika and Monica co-led two subsequent project teams in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022; a total of eight other HLS students participated as team members over the course of the three semester-long project teams.

In Spring 2021, under Jasmine’s leadership, the team prepared a memo for TJWG concerning the possible avenues for civil litigation under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act against the North Korean government and its officials in U.S. courts by North Korean defectors. In Fall 2021, the team prepared a memo concerning recommendations on how to strengthen the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 as Congress considers its reauthorization. Most recently, in Spring 2022, the team researched numerous recent UN-mandated investigative mechanisms targeting grave human rights violations in other countries as a reference for potential North Korea-related mandates in the future.

Erika, Jasmine, Monica, and Ethan recently shared their reflections on the project with Sondra Anton (J.D. ’22), Advocates’ 2021-22 Co-President. Their conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Why did you decide to create and lead a new Advocates project specifically about North Korea, and how did the project initially get started?

Jasmine Shin [JS]: “My grandfather was originally from North Korea, but he was forced to escape to South Korea shortly before the Korean War because military forces accused his family of being anti-communist and burned his home down. Because of this family history, I came to HLS with a specific vision of using my legal career towards bringing justice to victims of human rights violations in North Korea. Unfortunately, during my first two years at HLS, there were no North Korea-specific projects in SPOs or clinics. I knew I wanted to change that before I graduated, and I finally got around to launching a new Advocates project on North Korea during my last semester at HLS. The timing was serendipitous – our project partner, the Transitional Justice Working Group (whose work I’d been following for years), had recently reached out to the HLS International Human Rights Clinic looking for students to support their work. As soon as I heard about this, I floated the idea of starting a new Advocates project on North Korea with TJWG to the Advocates Executive Board.”

Erika Suh Holmberg [EH]: “Adding to the serendipitous nature of the project’s inception, I found out about the project because Jasmine attended a Zoom event in which I had mentioned in passing the fact that the North Korean human rights crisis is my longtime passion issue that I hope to continue to work on in my future legal career. After that Zoom event, Jasmine reached out to me to let me know about her forthcoming Advocates project. We were both so excited to finally find fellow HLS students who share our dedication to this specific cause, and I knew that I had to become a part of the new team no matter what, since I had also been hoping to pursue North Korea-specific human rights advocacy work during my time at HLS.

Similar to Jasmine, my interest in North Korea issues began due to my personal familial connection– my maternal grandfather’s side of the family was unable to make it out of what is now North Korea when the Korean War started, and I started to fully understand the severity of the ongoing human rights crisis when I started volunteering with the NGO Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) in high school. I continued volunteering for LiNK in college, where I was able to actually meet several North Korean defectors who also attended Columbia at the time (including the incredible Seongmin Lee), and where I wrote my thesis on the plight of North Korean defectors living in China. North Korea is what sparked my interest in human rights in the first place over a decade ago, so I jumped on the opportunity to join this incredible and unprecedented Advocates team as soon as I heard about it.”

Monica Jung Hyun Lee [ML]: “Like Erika, I first heard about this project through Jasmine, who was my mentor in KAHLS (Koreans at Harvard Law School). I gained an interest in advancing human rights in North Korea in college, based on my work at People for Successful COrean Reunification (PSCORE) and my paper, “The Psychology Behind Discrimination Against North Koreans in South Korea.” When I heard about this project, I was incredibly excited to join a team effort that aligns with my interest as a 2L, and to co-lead it as a 3L.”


Q: Did most of your project team members have background knowledge, experience, and specific interest in North Korea-related issues? Were you surprised at all at the level of interest among HLS students in the project?

EH: “It was actually a mixed bag in terms of levels of prior experience or interest in North Korea issues specifically, which actually worked out really well because Ethan was able to help us onboard everyone and make sure we were all on the same page. Some members came into the project with similarly extensive past experience on North Korea issues, such as Andrew Hong (J.D. ’23), a member of all three semester-long project teams who previously founded a non-profit org that assists North Korean defectors. Other members came into the project with particular interests and skill sets that were not North Korea-specific, but were related to the types of research and advocacy that our project involved. For example, Justin Walker (J.D. ’24), a member of our Fall ’21 and Spring ’22 project teams, had prior experience as a Congressional intern, and his understanding of how Congress operates was invaluable as he tackled researching the legislative history of the NKHRA. Leading this team has been such an honor because I met such dedicated and hardworking fellow students who shared my existing passion for North Korea-related human rights issues, and I also experienced firsthand how many students developed a deeper appreciation of the urgency of this crisis and the impact of human rights advocacy over the course of their involvement on the team.”

JS: “At first, I was nervous that there would be little interest in this rather niche human rights issue. Thankfully, a core group of five students signed up, and as cliché as it sounds, I could not have asked for a better team. … [E]ach and every member of the team was committed, engaged, and excited about this project as much as I was…. And the best part of the whole experience was that two team members, Erika and Monica, were willing to step up and continue this project the following year. My goal all along was to create an avenue through which HLS students can learn and contribute towards bringing justice in North Korea, and it gives me so much joy that this project has been and continues to be that platform.”

ML: “Being a part of this project has been one of the highlights of my HLS career. It was such a rewarding experience to virtually and physically meet other HLS students with a wide variety of backgrounds, all interested in this issue. It was a true privilege to share our passions, discuss the best ways to research with Ethan, and overall just learn so much from each other. I am so thankful that Jasmine began this project with Ethan and that I was able to co-lead it with Erika.”

Ethan Shin [ES]: “I was pleasantly surprised that each of the three projects had a good mix of Korean and non-Korean Advocates, which highlighted the fact there was a broad interest in North Korean human rights. I prefer to approach the issue from the perspective of the promotion and protection of universal human rights while recognizing the emotional attachment that the South Koreans and the Korean diaspora at large have. … Working on North Korean human rights can be rather depressing and the field is a graveyard for optimists so such level of interest gives me hope. After all, evil prevails when good people do nothing!”

Q: Ethan, what were some highlights of your experience working with Advocates on the project?

ES: “It was exciting to “e-meet” new members online at the start of each semester and to receive the final legal memo at the end of each semester. It is rather strange that I have never met any [team members] in person, other than Monica who visited our office [in Seoul] last summer. I am all the more thankful that everyone nonetheless has invested so much time and effort and has placed trust in me. That is why I am making every effort to see to it that [the North Korea Accountability Team’s] work is put to good use, be it litigations in U.S. courts, legislative efforts in Congress or strengthening the accountability mechanism at the UN.”


Erika Suh Holmberg graduated from HLS in 2022. At HLS, in addition to her involvement in HLS Advocates, she also worked on two International Human Rights Clinic projects, served on the executive board of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), and was an Article Editor for the International Law Journal. She spent her 1L summer as a Chayes Fellow, interning at Greater Boston Legal Services’ Immigration Unit. She majored in Political Science and East Asian Studies at Columbia University. She currently resides in Washington, D.C.


Monica Jung Hyun Lee is a recent HLS graduate and former Project Leader of HLS Advocates for Human Rights. She graduated from Northwestern University in 2019. At HLS, she worked on various projects with the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic. She spent her 1L summer as a Chayes Fellow with Advocates for Public Interest Law in Seoul, advocating on behalf of refugees.


Jasmine Shin is a recent HLS graduate and former Vice President/Treasurer and project leader of HLS Advocates for Human Rights. At HLS, she worked on a variety of human rights projects with the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic and Advocates, focusing on accountability for human rights violations by state and corporate actors in Myanmar, North Korea, Bolivia, Haiti, and the US. Prior to law school, she worked as a human rights researcher for the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations. 


Ethan Hee-Seok Shin is a South Korean human rights advocate. He has worked on the documentation of grave human rights violations in North Korea with a view to promoting justice and accountability. He has also been taking part in the redress campaign for the victims of Japan’s World War II-era military sexual slavery in the Asia-Pacific, in particular urging the South Korean government to institute inter-state proceedings against Japan on their behalf under the UN Torture Convention.


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July 6, 2022

What the World Owes Haiti Now

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Just Security on June 29, 2022. It is co-authored by Mario Joseph and Beatrice Lindstrom.

A recent New York Times investigation has sparked renewed conversation about how we reckon with the often-overlooked role of foreign intervention in Haiti’s founding history, especially the independence debt that France extracted from Haiti in 1823 to compensate for its loss of “property” – including enslaved people. But unjust foreign intervention in Haiti did not stop in 1823 – it continues today. For Haiti to ever see justice for the past and peace into the future, countries like the United States and France must start by changing how it treats Haiti today.

The Times’ meticulous exposé of the massive debt that France illegally extorted from Haiti after its independence demonstrates how the payments – totaling an estimated $21-115 billion – kept Haiti poor and unstable for two centuries. The investigation also documented that the U.S. Marines’ forced transfer of $500,000 in gold from Haiti’s national bank to CitiGroup in New York in 1914, and the 19-year occupation that followed, was spurred in part by pressure from Wall Street.

Haiti has a strong claim for restitution for this theft and extortion. Haiti only signed the contract for the debt in 1823 because France parked warships off the coast and threatened to invade Haiti and re-enslave its people. Reinstituting slavery was illegal at the time, so the contract for the debt was also illegal. Similarly, CitiGroup, which won the lucrative business of managing Haiti’s loans by convincing the United States to invade, may face claims for restitution of its unjust profits.

But history shows that France, the United States, and other countries whose current prosperity is built in part on a foundation of slavery and immiseration in Haiti have been unwilling to allow Haiti to pursue its claims for justice. The amount France owes Haiti is significant, but even more is at stake. If the descendants of Haitians forced to pay for their emancipation win their restitution claim, they may open the door to a long line of claims for reparations by the descendants of everyone subject to the horrors of slavery and the slave trade.

The one time Haiti seriously asked for restitution, the United States and France responded by overthrowing Haiti’s government. In 2004, then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was preparing documents to file a legal claim and speaking publicly about the schools, universities and hospitals that restitution would fund. Thierry Burkhard, France’s Ambassador to Haiti at the time, admitted to the Times that the two powers orchestrated the 2004 coup d’état against Aristide, which “made our job easier” to reject the restitution claim. The replacement regime, led by Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, a long-time Florida resident, immediately renounced the restitution claim.

Haiti’s current government is equally unlikely to take the side of its citizens over its friends in Washington and Paris. De facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry was installed in July 2021 not through a Haitian process, but through a press release from the “Core Group” – a group of foreign governments engaging with Haiti, led by the United States and France.  The United States has continued to prop up Henry since, despite his involvement in spectacular corruption and mismanagement of the economy, his implication in last July’s assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, and his connections to gangs that are brutalizing the population. Most recently, President Joe Biden welcomed Prime Minister Henry to the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, refusing to apply to him the democratic standards he invoked to exclude the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

A broad spectrum of Haitian society has repeatedly demanded that Henry step down. Haitians taking to the streets of Port-au-Prince are protesting outside the National Palace, but they are also protesting outside the U.S. and French embassies and U.N. headquarters, because they know that is where Henry’s power comes from. Meanwhile, a historic coalition of civil society organizations has come together with a shared vision for Haiti’s future. The Preamble of the Montana Accord, the founding document of the Commission to Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis and the most promising initiative to replace Henry, is as much a declaration of independence from foreign control as a revolt against domestic repression.

People in the United States and France who are outraged by their governments’ unjust treatment of Haiti in 1823 and 1914 can do something about it in 2022. They can start by insisting that their governments stop propping up Henry, and allow a Haitian-led solution to the political crisis to emerge. Once Haitians vote for their leaders, supporters of Haiti can stay engaged, to insist that foreign governments allow Haiti’s elected government to fulfill the mandate the voters give it. Even if the mandate includes a claim for the United States and France to return their ill-gotten gains.

About the Authors
Mario Joseph

Mario Joseph has led the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), a public interest law firm in Port-au-Prince, Haiti since 1996. In that time, he has spearheaded the prosecution of Haiti’s dictators, represented the victims in the Raboteau Massacre trial, and represented the victims of the cholera epidemic introduced to Haiti through reckless disposal of waste at a UN Peacekeeper base.

Beatrice Lindstrom

Beatrice Lindstrom is a Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, where she teaches human rights advocacy and manages projects in the International Human Rights Clinic. Prior to joining Harvard, she was the Legal Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.

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July 5, 2022

IHRC Releases Joint Statement Calling U.S. Govt to Urgently Address Rising Insecurity and Gang Violence in Haiti

On June 27th, the International Human Rights Clinic released a joint statement with the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic and NYU Global Justice Clinic calling on the U.S. government to take urgent steps in order to address rising insecurity and gang violence in Haiti, including threats against human rights defenders. Read the full statement here.


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June 16, 2022

Moving Beyond Token Participation

Centering Rights-Holders in Human Rights Due Diligence Legislation

This article was originally published on Verfassungsblog. It is co-authored by Tina Asgharian, Bettina Braun, and Allison Miller.

“Human rights due diligence is about people. (…) Hence, the key to human rights due diligence is the need to understand the perspective of potentially affected individuals and groups.”1) This quote from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reflects the importance of rights-holder engagement in the human rights due diligence process as presented in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The concept of human rights due diligence was developed over the past decade as a way for companies to grapple with adverse human rights violations and impacts connected to their business practice, including within their value chains. In the past few years, several countries have enacted legislation or started legislative processes to make such due diligence mandatory, and in February of this year, the European Commission published a proposal (Proposal)2) for European Union-wide mandatory human rights due diligence (MHREDD) for companies that fall under its scope.

Despite the many developments around due diligence, however, consistently centering the perspectives of those who are meant to benefit most from the legislation – the rights-holders – has remained somewhat elusive. This post therefore explores how MHREDD-legislation and specifically the Proposal could more systematically center and prioritize rights-holders along with their perspectives and contributions, which would increase the effectiveness of due diligence efforts. In these reflections, the authors draw on experiences of the Fourth Pillar initiative, which for the better part of the past decade has explored how to better center communities and rights-holders in the field of business and human rights.3)

A regulatory scheme that centers communities and rights-holders would allow them to exercise their agency, address the power imbalances that allow states and businesses to all-too-often ignore community perspectives, and shape economic activity to advance rights. This post argues that changes to the Proposal, including to requirements regarding consultations, remedy, and community governance, would support these aims.

Consultations in due diligence steps

A key step in the due diligence process is to engage with those whose rights are (potentially) impacted by the company’s activities in order to identify and address issues such as forced labor, child labor and other exploitative labor practices in a company’s supply chain, unlawful taking of land in extractive industries, or pollution of air or water through business activity leading to severe health impacts of surrounding communities. While the Proposal does mention consultations with stakeholders, several changes could help ensure inclusion of rights-holders and deepen the consultation’s impact. Currently, the Proposal states that companies as part of a step to identify adverse impacts should “where relevant” conduct consultations with “potentially affected groups including workers and other relevant stakeholders.”4) Consultations also appear at the step of preventing adverse impacts: companies should “where relevant” develop a prevention action plan, to be developed in consultations with “affected stakeholders.”5) Notably, consultations are not mentioned as part of a company’s monitoring of their due diligence, nor as a necessary part of providing remedies (see below for further discussion on remedy).

To effectively center rights-holder perspectives, consultations with the rights-holders need to be required, and not only when the company deems it “relevant.” Such consultations are key to informing how to effectively address business-related human rights concerns since rights-holders possess first-hand experience with impacts of corporate decision-making and activities and are able to articulate their specific needs. Indeed, rights-holders are uniquely equipped to prioritize the rights concerns that they most want addressed.

Further, centering rights-holders requires consultation of rights-holders throughout the life of the business activity: at the risk identification stage (Art. 6), when making corrective action plans to address existing risks (Art. 7), and when bringing actual adverse impacts to an end (Art. 8), as well as the monitoring of the effectiveness (Art. 10). An initial consultation cannot fully reveal rights-holder perspectives regarding all eventualities that will emerge over time as the business activity proceeds. The different steps will also likely require different types of consultations. For example, the identification of adverse impacts in the business practice aims to gather information on where violations throughout a company’s business practice and value chains might occur. Compare that with engagement around a specific adverse impact that has already occurred (Art. 8); these consultations will likely require a different process given that affected communities and rights-holders would be more easily identified and the focus then needs to shift to how to address the needs of those affected.

At each of these steps, it is important that the Proposal explicitly name rights-holders and not solely use the term “stakeholders,” which in the Proposal is broadly defined and encompasses a wide range of actors, including ‘individuals, groups, communities, or entities whose rights or interests’ may be affected by companies.6) Among the various “stakeholders,” the Proposal should make it absolutely clear that rights-holders are to be prioritized. Experience with human rights due diligence to date as well as experience under the French Loi de vigilance, the first law to mandate human rights due diligence, shows that where the definitions of “stakeholders” are broad, many companies pass over rights-holders.7) Particularly at later stages of the due diligence process companies should be responsible for consulting differently affected groups, including representatives of affected communities, marginalized groups within affected communities, and employees, among others. Human rights defenders may be another key actor for businesses to engage with, with due consideration for protection of their safety, given their knowledge and insights in local human rights matters.8)

In order to realize the potential of the Proposal on consultation, there should be a requirement that the consultations be meaningful9) to avoid a box-ticking exercise. Meaningful consultation should include requirements related to procedure and outcomes. At each stage, businesses should be required to create and facilitate conditions for rights-holders to participate in consultations, including through the elimination of existing barriers to rights-holder participation. The expectations of rights-holders, which vary with context and are subjective, are important considerations and connected to the political or social legitimacy as it relates to the license to operate. While procedural requirements are easier to define and evaluate, it is also possible to incorporate outcome-based requirements into regulatory schemes. For instance, if a business consistently ignores the perspectives of affected rights-holders, that business should be deemed out of compliance with the meaningful consultation requirement. To avoid such eventualities, businesses should strive to respect human rights through the incorporation of rights-holder perspectives into final decisions. Consultation that is solely process-oriented and leads to no outcomes that improve rights protection or promotion should be viewed with skepticism as it will raise the specter of “token participation” and being a box-ticking exercise.

Access to Effective Remedies

One of the five objectives of the Proposal is to “improve access to remedies for those affected.”10) Access to effective remedy is also a core component of the UNGPs. Yet the Proposal in its current wording does not require companies to provide effective remedies for rights-holders and affected communities. Art. 8 of the Proposal recognizes that companies have a responsibility to take action to neutralize or minimize adverse impacts, where relevant, including by the payment of damages to affected persons and financial compensation to affected communities. Remedies are, however, a much broader concept than mere financial compensation. The language of “where relevant” further indicates that companies have discretion to neutralize or minimize adverse impacts while not providing a remedy to rights-holders.

To fully capture the core purposes of remedies and improve access to remedies for those affected, the Proposal should better align itself with the overarching principles of effective remedies, as articulated in the UN Working Group’s 2017 Report to the UN General Assembly. In particular, it should introduce the concept of “bouquet of remedies” and stress the centrality of rights-holders in both remedial processes and outcomes.

The key purposes of remedies are to return, as far as possible, the affected rights-holder to the original position before the harm, to prevent future harm, and to deter others from committing the same or similar abuses.11) Financial compensation is only one of several forms that an effective remedy may take. Other forms include restitution, satisfaction, rehabilitation, and guarantees of non-repetition. These types of remedies may include medical care, land redistribution, vocational training, truth finding, public apology, and restoration of the environment. The draft Proposal should therefore reflect that affected rights-holders and communities should be able to seek, choose, obtain, and enforce a “bouquet of remedies”: A range of remedies depending on varied circumstances, including the nature of the abuses and the personal preferences of rights-holders.12)

The centrality of rights-holders in access to effective remedies means, among other things, that the creation and implementation of remedies should also be informed by the experiences and interests of rights-holders, including a recognition that different groups of rights-holders may experience adverse impacts differently. Centering rights-holders also entails having remedies be accessible, affordable, adequate, and timely from the perspective of those seeking them.13) The draft Proposal should therefore include language to ensure that community consultations and perspectives are central to creating, designing, and operating remedies.

Community Governance

Better centering rights-holders requires incorporating community perspectives through consultations and in remedial processes, but these measures are just initial steps towards providing rights-holders with a seat at the table. To center rights-holders more fully, they should also have opportunities to engage in governance when they choose, both through the creation or co-creation of mechanisms and as consistent participants in such mechanisms. Rights-holder involvement in governance not only provides additional opportunities for communities to contribute their insights and preferences but also lends legitimacy to governance mechanisms that claim to benefit rights-holders.

Community-created or co-created operational-level grievance mechanisms are examples of approaches that treat rights-holders as governance actors. Such an approach means engaging in a transparent process with affected rights-holders through meaningful consultations and allowing them to participate in the design and creation of the mechanism. Art. 9 of the Proposal, which currently does not include any language on how to ensure or assess the effectiveness of the complaint mechanisms, should explicitly reflect this possible role of rights-holders in setting up and reviewing complaint mechanisms. This is also in line with the effectiveness criteria in UN Guiding Principle 31, which articulates the crucial role rights-holders have to play in the legitimacy of complaint mechanisms.

Rights-holders could likewise play a larger role in the administrative enforcement of MHREDD legislation by developing guidance and helping to oversee the national supervisors. Currently, Art. 21 of the Proposal states that the Commission will set up a European Network of Supervisory Authorities for coordination and alignment. This Network could take on additional tasks like developing best practices and guidelines for regulators, which other EU enforcement bodies have, and include rights-holders in the Network. Some rights-holder groups have existing transnational representation. For instance, National Human Rights Institutes or their regional networks could be uniquely placed to exercise some control over the supervisory authorities. Additionally, laborers are represented transnationally through international trade unions. At minimum, therefore, the Network should be expanded to include international trade unions. Other rights-holder groups however do not have clear transnational representatives. Beyond labor, additional efforts should be made to acknowledge and include transnational rights-holder representatives as they emerge. Efforts to hold space for rights-holders without preemptively designating a representative allows for more genuine rights-holder representation and provides opportunities for rights-holders to engage in a much deeper way to uphold their interests and the protection of human rights.


MHREDD and other legislation related to business and human rights is a welcome new development, and one that is likely to spread to an increasing number of countries in the coming years. For such legislation to succeed in advancing the rights of the most affected and to lead to better human rights outcomes for rights-holders, it is crucial to anchor such laws and regulations with not only the perspective of rights-holders but their ongoing involvement. To do otherwise, as this post has discussed, would miss an invaluable opportunity to improve the landscape of business and human rights to center rights-holders in the years to come.

The authors would like to thank Tyler Giannini for his input and review of the contribution.

Tina Asgharian

Tina Asgharian recently completed her Master of Laws (LL.M.) at Harvard Law School, where she worked in the International Human Rights Clinic on refining and promoting the Fourth Pillar initiative.

Bettina Braun

Bettina Braun, LL.M. is a Policy Advisor for Business and Human Rights in the International Human Rights Policy department of the German Institute for Human Rights.

Allison Miller

Allison Miller recently completed her Juris Doctor at Harvard Law School, where she worked in the International Human Rights Clinic on refining and promoting the Fourth Pillar initiative.


↑1OHCHR: The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights, An interpretive Guide (2012), p. 33.
↑2Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence and amending Directive (EU) 2019/1937.
↑3Two of the authors, Tina Asgharian and Allison Miller, have drawn on their work as students in Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, which has helped incubate the Fourth Pillar initiative during the past decade along with other organizations. The initiative aims to articulate a set of community-centric principles to underscore the importance of rights holder agency to the effective implementation of human rights protections such as those articulated in the UNGPs.
↑4Art. 6(4).
↑5Art. 7(2)(a).
↑6Art. 3(n).
↑7Ignacio Ibañez, Bayer, Xu, Cooper: Devoir de Vigilance: Reforming Corporate Risk Engagement (2020), p. 121, available at
↑8See UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders statement, available at; see also recommendations published by Front Line Defenders, available at
↑9UNGPs 18.
↑10Proposal, p. 3.
↑11A/72/162, para 40.
↑12A/72/162, para 38 ff; see also commentary to UNPGs 25.
↑13A/72/162, para 20.

SUGGESTED CITATION  Asgharian, Tina, Braun, Bettina; Miller, Allison: Moving Beyond Token Participation: Centering Rights-Holders in Human Rights Due Diligence Legislation, VerfBlog, 2022/6/14,, DOI: 10.17176/20220615-033118-0.


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October 18, 2021

The International Human Rights Clinic Supports International Advocacy to Advance Rights of Women in Yemen

Posted by Salma Waheedi

The Musawah Movement for Equality in the Muslim Family submitted a thematic report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), advocating for effective legal reforms to prevent violence against women and to end gender-based discrimination in Yemen’s personal status laws. 

The report is a product of an ongoing collaboration between the International Human Rights Clinic, Musawah, and Yemeni women’s rights advocates. Shaza Loutfi, HLS ’22, worked closely with Musawah researchers and Yemeni advocates to draft the report and develop its analysis and recommendations, under the supervision of IHRC Clinical Instructor Salma Waheedi. The report will be considered by the CEDAW Committee in its constructive dialogue with the Government of Yemen, scheduled to take place remotely on October 27th, 2021, as part of the Committee’s upcoming session

The report examines Yemen’s legal framework and practices that enforce de jure and de facto discrimination against Yemeni Muslim women in five priority areas: child marriage, forced marriage, violence against women, inheritance rights, and nationality rights. Taking into account the ongoing devastating conflict in Yemen and its current political instability, it aims to document the most pressing issues, legal and practical, that affect the lives of Yemeni women in the private and family spheres, and to offer recommendations to guide the CEDAW Committee’s engagement with the Government of Yemen.   

Member states to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women are required to undergo regular reviews by the Committee of 23 independent international experts on how they are implementing the Convention. 

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September 22, 2021

HRP Mourns the Passing of Professor John Ruggie

Posted by Gerald L. Neuman

A major figure in international relations and human rights, our dear colleague John Gerard Ruggie, passed away last week.  Ruggie was the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  In the human rights field he is most famous for establishing a viable foundation for addressing the human rights responsibilities of business corporations, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011).  A brilliant strategist, Ruggie engaged in extensive consultation, study, analysis and persuasion to rescue the business-and-human-rights project from the polarized confrontation that had brought it to an impasse.  His invaluable book Just Business:  Multinational Corporations and Human Rights (2013) provides a model for the multi-dimensional negotiations that enable such achievements. John’s unique blend of kindness, rigor, insight, and attentive listening will be sorely missed.

Photo of John G. Ruggie sitting in his office.
John G. Ruggie is the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

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