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September 20, 2021
Court Issues Ruling Aligned with Amicus Brief Submitted by HLS Professors Protecting the Rights of Asylum Seekers During the Global Pandemic
On September 16, a U.S. District Judge granted a preliminary injunction against expulsion of migrant families without any hearing, in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others.
Previously, the Trump administration had invoked a public health law, Title 42, section 265, as a substitute measure to deport asylum seekers who had entered the United States. The consequence of this alternative procedure was an abandonment of immigration regulations that protect the rights of asylum seekers who may face risk of persecution or torture in their countries of origin. This CDC order resulted in border agents expelling tens of thousands of migrants without taking into account the possibility that they could face irreparable harm if not admitted to the United States.
The Biden Administration has kept this rule in place, despite criticism that the policy improperly relies on the Covid-19 crisis to circumvent legal protections guaranteed to refugees under both U.S. and international laws.
The court’s ruling requires the U.S government to end the Title 42 policy by the end of the month.
The court’s decision is in line with a February 2021 amicus brief submitted by Gerald L. Neuman, Director of the Harvard Human Rights Program, and Deborah Anker, Founding Director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, joined by other prominent scholars of refugee and immigration law. Commenting on the District Court’s decision, Professor Neuman, who is the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, observed that “the court’s injunction provides a very welcome correction to the abusive interpretation of public health authority for xenophobic purposes by the Trump administration, and vindicates the statutory and international law commitments of the United States.”
If upheld on appeal, the preliminary injunction will have an immediate and significant impact on the safety of migrants who cross the United States’ southern border. They will remain subject to expedited removal procedures, but with the right to be heard on their need for protection.
The government has already appealed the preliminary injunction, and is seeking to have it stayed by the D.C. Circuit. Neuman plans to participate as an amicus in opposing the stay, and in later phases of the litigation.
August 5, 2020
Families, Civil Society Orgs Endorse Letter on Police Violence to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
On August 3, 2020, 143 families of victims of police violence and over 360 civil society organizations endorsed a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the implementation of the recent Human Rights Council Resolution (A/HRC/43/L.50) adopted on June 19, 2020. This resolution followed an Urgent Debate “on current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests.” The letter was spearheaded by the ACLU and the US Human Rights Network, with the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, along with human rights clinics at the University of Chicago and Duke University, as well as NGOS around the world, signing on.
Addressed to H.E. Michelle Bachelet, the letter says:
“As you know, the resolution has mandated your office, with the assistance of relevant Special Mandate Holders, ‘to prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, especially those incidents that resulted in the death of George Floyd and other Africans and of people of African descent, to contribute to accountability and redress for victims.’ The resolution has also requested that your office ‘examine government responses to antiracism peaceful process peaceful protests, including the alleged use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists.’ In addition, the resolution also requested that the High Commissioner ‘include updates on police brutality against Africans and people of African descent in all her oral updates to the Council.’
While we were disappointed that the Council adopted a watered-down resolution due to enormous diplomatic pressure from the United States and other allied countries, we consider the outcome of the urgent debate a crucial first step towards full accountability for systemic police violence against Black people in the United States and more generally against people of African descent around the world. “
August 16, 2012
August 21, 2012
“Reckoning with Torture”
Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Avenue
This free public event will feature a dramatic reading of official documents, including testimonies of torture from the “War on Terror.” These declassified documents are among more than 130,000 obtained by the ACLU and partners, who litigated for years to make them public. Following the readings, Clinical Instructor Deborah Popowski, of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, will moderate a conversation with the audience and the actors involved.
This performance is part of the ACLU’s larger “Reckoning with Torture” project, based on the premise that engaging with the documentary record is a key step towards coming to terms with the human rights abuses committed by the U.S. government. Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) will produce a film from the footage of readings by professional actors, former military officials, and ordinary people. To learn how you can contribute your own reading and submit the footage, click here.
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