December 20, 2019

HRP Looks Back On A Busy Semester: Fall 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.” 

Plaintiffs, students, and staff stand around kindling on the beach to give thanks prior to the appeal.
Prior to the Mamani hearing, plaintiffs Eloy and Etelvina Mamani led IHRC students and supervisors in a traditional pachamama ceremony on the beach in Miami, Florida.

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!

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