Blog: Fernando Delgado

March 10, 2015

Tomorrow, March 11: Criminal Justice & Policing After Events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, & Elsewhere: Next Steps

March 11, 2015

“Criminal Justice & Policing After Events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, & Elsewhere: Next Steps”

12:00- 1:00 p.m.
Milstein West AB

Join small group roundtable discussions with faculty experts on concrete proposals. Facilitators: Jennifer Chacon, Andrew Crespo, Fernando Delgado, Phil Heymann, Benjamin Levin, Charles Ogletree, Deborah Popowski, Sonja Starr, Carol Steiker, Jeannie Suk and Alex Whiting.

This event will involve the participation of the HLS Ferguson Action Committee.

December 17, 2014

Pernambuco State Bans Strip Searches of Visitors to Detention Centers

Posted by Fernando Ribeiro Delgado

For decades, human rights advocates have sought an end to the humiliating state practice of strip searching prison visitors in Pernambuco, Brazil, the state housing the notorious Aníbal Bruno Prison Complex. Yesterday, responding to the Aníbal order of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and to a growing national movement against the degrading searches, the Secretariat of Development and Human Rights at last banned the procedures through Administrative Order 258/2014. The order classifies as “humiliating, inhuman or degrading,” all searches that involve “total or partial nudity; any conduct that entails the introduction of objects into the bodily cavities of the persons searches; the use of dogs or sniffer animals, even if they are trained for that end;” and/or “manual contact with the intimate parts of the person being searched.”

Administrative Order 258/2014 in the Pernambuco Official Gazette of the Executive Branch, December 16, 2014, p.3. An image of a page of a text.
Administrative Order 258/2014 in the Pernambuco Official Gazette of the Executive Branch, December 16, 2014, p.3.

The prohibition should benefit an estimated 30,000 families, applying to all detention centers in the state. Until recently, Pernambuco subjected nearly all prison visitors—often including children, elderly persons, and persons with disabilities—to invasive, degrading searches involving nudity and manual inspection of intimate body parts. Women and girls were most frequently subjected to the practice.

The ban is a milestone in decades of local struggle by the Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões (Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons) and the Pastoral Carcerária (Catholic Prison Ministry), among others. The civil society coalition which successfully sought an Inter-American Court order (para. 20) prohibiting humiliating searches includes those two groups as well as Justiça Global (Global Justice) and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.

A judge in Recife, Pernambuco, had issued a temporary ban on humiliating searches in Greater Recife this past April, two months after the civil society coalition sought the inter-American order. Yesterday’s prohibition on humiliating searches is more expansive, containing no temporal limit and applying to all Pernambuco prisons. It provides for searches to be done “preserving the honor and dignity of the human person,” and calls for the use of metal detectors and other measures to replace the old procedures. According to 2012 data from São Paulo, only 0.02% of 3.5 million humiliating searches yielded drugs or cell phones.

In September 2014, a resolution of the National Council on Crime and Penitentiary Policy recommended a ban on humiliating searches across Brazil. However, Bill 7764/2014, abolishing humiliating searches of prison visitors nationwide, is still pending in Congress.

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August 21, 2014

Fernando Ribeiro Delgado Discusses Criminal Code Reform in Brazilian Media

Posted by Cara Solomon

One of Brazil’s biggest daily newspapers quoted Clinical Instructor Fernando Ribeiro Delgado this past Sunday in an in-depth cover story on criminal code reform. The article in the Folha de São Paulo presents perspectives on a proposal gaining steam before congress that would harden criminal sentencing and close off several avenues for early release.

The front page of a Brazilian newspaper.
In a front page article in one of Brazil’s leading newspapers, Fernando Ribeiro Delgado is quoted on the topic of criminal code reform.

Delgado warns that Brazil is “following the path of failed crime policies,” drawing reference to U.S. “war on crime” laws that produced skyrocketing incarceration rates, a comparison he discusses further in a companion piece that ran in the Folha the same day.  Delgado points to one prison in particular, Aníbal Bruno, as “a symbol of the catastrophe of mass incarceration underway in Brazil.”  Though officially designed to detain some 1500 men, Aníbal Bruno Prison now commonly holds over 6000.

The Folha piece has an entire subsection based on a 2013 brief co-authored by the Clinic in the Aníbal Bruno Prison case, which is currently before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The Clinic has been working for the past four years with a civil society coalition in Brazil to push for widespread reform in Aníbal Bruno Prison and beyond.  This past May, the Inter-American Court issued its first legally binding resolution in the Aníbal Bruno case, ordering Brazil to take provisional measures to protect the life, personal integrity, and health of all persons at the prison. The order also mandates steps to reduce over-crowding and end the routine practice of strip searching family visitors at the notorious pre-trial detention center.  The coalition is currently focusing efforts on monitoring the implementation of the order.  A first set of periodic reports are due to the Court in the coming months, and a meeting between the parties and state agencies is scheduled for August 28 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.

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June 7, 2013

Friend and Colleague Jim Cavallaro Elected to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Posted by Tyler Giannini, Deborah Popowski and Fernando Delgado

We send our warmest congratulations to Jim Cavallaro on his election yesterday to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Having worked closely with Jim for years on human rights in the Americas, including before the Inter-American Commission, we know firsthand the dedication, legal skill, and thoughtfulness Jim will bring to the post. We look forward to watching him do great things at the Commission in the years to come.


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September 28, 2012

Performance Art (and Other Pictures from HRP Orientation)

Posted by Cara Solomon

Here’s a Friday afternoon treat for you: an iconic image from the law school experience.

a textbook, a bare candy wrapper, and some pens sit at a desk. in front of the desk there is a tent card that reads, "please do not remove my stuff. I am in the next class. thank you"

When Fernando spotted this display at our recent HRP Orientation, he rightly described it as a piece of performance art—except, of course, that it wasn’t.

Below are some other images from the event. Apologies in advance for the poor picture quality, and a belated thanks to all who came, learned, and ate. We were so happy to have you there.

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September 24, 2012

Today, Sept. 24: Panel on Arbitrary Detention and Its Prevention

Event Notice

September 24

“Arbitrary Detention and Its Prevention: Comparative Perspectives”

5-7 pm

Hauser 104

What makes detention arbitrary?  How should arbitrary detention be prevented or remedied?  Panelists will compare and contrast answers from the European and Inter-American human rights systems, the law of war, and U.S. domestic law.

Featured speakers: Professor Fionnuala Ni Aolain, of the University of Minnesota School of Law; Clinical Instructor Fernando Delgado, of Harvard Law School; Professor Gabriela Blum, of Harvard Law School; and Professor Carol Steiker, of Harvard Law School. Professor Gerald L. Neuman, Director of the Human Rights Program at HLS, will moderate the discussion.

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May 23, 2012

Big Moments, Small Moments That Make Up A Year

Posted by Tyler Giannini

Big moments, small moments; during graduation week, we are often flooded with the memories we have created over the past year, working closely with students.  It seems like a natural time to reflect.  But where to start when there are so many good memories?

I think about the small moments in the field, like when a student makes a breakthrough.  Earlier this year, I was shadowing two students in Thailand as they interviewed a refugee through a translator, and the student leading the interview kept turning to me, asking for advice.  I told her to stop; I told her she could do this—I had seen her do it—and that she needed to work now with her partner, not me.  She finally got it, trusting herself and the talent and skills she already possessed.

I think about the seemingly small moments in advocacy work that do not get a lot of media attention but are major victories for the protection of civilians, like when Bonnie and her team of students joined a group of nongovernmental organizations in defeating a proposal that would have weakened the absolute ban on cluster munitions.  For the students in Geneva who opposed the proposal, the moment—indeed the precise minute—it was defeated is indelibly etched in their minds: 7:05pm on Friday, November 25, 2011. The students wrote about it here.

I think about the big moments that come together after years of effort with partners, like the groundbreaking work out of Latin America that Fernando and Deborah did this year with several crack teams of students.  In August, they obtained critical measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protect prisoners at the largest detention center in Latin America. Then, within weeks, they turned around and, working with their local partners, helped strike a landmark settlement with the state of Brazil that promises large-scale reform within the infamous Urso Branco Prison.

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March 12, 2012

Where in the World is the Human Rights Program?

Posted by Susan Farbstein

This week is spring break at the law school, but folks around HRP won’t be sitting on a beach in Florida.  Seven clinicians and 18 clinical students will be on field missions in five foreign countries and right here at home.

Fernando and Deborah will be in Brazil with their team, as well as Celina Beatriz Mendes de Almeida, LLM ’10, presenting a briefing paper about prosecution of dictatorship-era crimes at a workshop with federal prosecutors.

Later in the week, Deborah will return to Massachusetts and, with another team, conduct interviews related to Occupy Boston for a multi-clinic report examining freedom of expression and assembly in the United States.

Mindy and her team will be in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, investigating access to sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion, and the effect on women’s lives.

Meera and a student will be in Israel and the West Bank, presenting research from last semester and meeting with human rights organizations to develop new clinical projects.

She’s still waiting for the visas to come through, but Bonnie plans to have a team in Libya researching the humanitarian effects of abandoned arms, which have proliferated widely in the wake of the recent conflict there and have the potential to harm civilians as well as destabilize the country.

And Tyler and I, along with six students, will be conducting interviews in refugee camps along the Thai/Burma border, examining human rights violations committed by the Burmese military against villagers.

Here’s wishing everyone a productive “break”!

September 23, 2011

Coming on Monday: A Talk by Judge Baltasar Garzon

Posted by Fernando Delgado

A fascinating figure in the human rights field, Judge Baltasar Garzón will be on campus Monday to speak to the Harvard Law School community.  Starting with his role in the landmark arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998, Judge Garzón has been instrumental to the implementation of universal jurisdiction and accountability for crimes against humanity and other grave abuses.

Check out the event notice below:

“International Crimes and Universal Jurisdiction”

A Talk by Judge Baltasar Garzón

12:00-1:15 pm

Pound 213

Light lunch provided

Baltasar Garzón
Baltasar Garzón

A hero within the human rights community, Judge Baltasar Garzón is perhaps best known for indicting and issuing an arrest warrant against Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile.  But he has also brought cases against Russian mafia leaders; Osama bin Laden; and the former Argentine naval officer Ricardo Miguel Cavallo for genocide and torture committed during the Argentine military’s “dirty war” of the 1970s and 1980s.

Last year, he made international news again, when the Spanish judiciary suspended him for opening an investigation into General Franco’s crimes during the Spanish Civil War.  At the time, Garzón had been investigating the use of government-authorized and systematic torture in U.S. detention facilities.

Judge Garzón has recently been awarded the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) first annual $100,000 prize for Human Rights Activism.

He will speak in Spanish, with simultaneous interpretation provided.

This event is being co-sponsored by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, International Legal Studies, HLS Advocates for Human Rights, and the Human Rights Program.  Please RSVP to [email protected]


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September 12, 2011

It’s What Makes This Place Go…

Posted by Tyler Giannini

The International Human Rights Clinic and the Human Rights Program (HRP) are abuzz with energy again—the energy that comes with the start of the semester and the return of students.  They will be joining our team of clinicians and carrying forward a recent flurry of activity: Fernando just traveled to Brazil to investigate prisons conditions, then turned around and headed to Colombia, where he and Deborah made two oral arguments in the same day before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.  Along the way, he worked with local partners to negotiate a precedent-setting settlement with the Government of Brazil to improve conditions in one of the country’s most notorious prisons (watch this space for more on that this week).  Not to be outdone, days after Deborah returned from Colombia, she was in Panama advocating for clients from an indigenous community that has been displaced by a dam.

As for Bonnie—well, she’s in Beirut right now at the Second Meeting of States Parties on the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  For Susan’s and my part, we just came back from Asia, where we were talking to people about the underlying causes of a protracted conflict in one country and the interplay between human rights and democracy.  And Deborah and I have had a few litigation tussles with the Ohio state attorney general on whether we’ll be granted an oral argument in a case there; more motions in other cases are in the works as well.

All of that in the last three weeks alone.  It may have been summer, but we clinicians are not a bunch that likes to sit idle.

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