Blog: International Human Rights Clinic
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June 17, 2021
The International Human Rights Clinic was pleased to co-sponsor an event in the Asia Center’s Asia: Beyond the Headlines event series on, “The Myanmar Puzzle: Thinking through Sanctions and Support.” We were joined by panelists:
Moe Thuzar, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, National University of Singapore Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences; Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
Kelley Currie, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program, Center for a New American Security; former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and the U.S. Representative at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch
The event was moderated by James Robson, James C. Kralik and Yunli Lou Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations; Victor and William Fung Director of the Harvard University Asia Center.
Panelists discussed the ASEAN response to the coup, what the international community can do to support democracy in Myanmar, and how economic sanctions could impact the Myanmar military.
The Clinic has also been co-sponsoring a series with Just Security exploring the implications of the coup in Myanmar. Read all the posts in our Beyond the Myanmar coup series.
October 7, 2020
October 7, 2020 — Today, the International Human Rights Clinic and the All Survivors Project launched, “Preventing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Detention Settings: Principles and Commentary.” The Principles draw from existing international law – primarily international human rights law and international humanitarian law – as well as authoritative guidance to bring together in a single instrument ten key international principles to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence, applicable to all persons deprived of their liberty in armed conflict. Each principle is accompanied by commentary on its sources and content.
In Spring 2020, Clinic students Yanitra Kumaraguru LLM ’20, Zac Smith JD ’21, and Amanda Odasz JD ’21 worked under the supervision of Anna Crowe LLM’12, the Clinic’s Assistant Director, to research and draft the principles and commentary. They were significantly aided by research conducted by Clinic students Terry Flyte LLM ’19 and Radhika Kapoor LLM ’19, who worked under the supervision of Crowe and Emily Keehn, formerly the Associate Director of the Academic Program of the Human Rights Program.
September 8, 2020
This summer, the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) hosted three Harvard Law School interns. We recently spoke with intern Laura Clark JD’20, a 3L graduating in December, who started work as a student in the Clinic in Spring 2020 and returned for the summer. During law school, she also interned with the UNHCR in Turkey, the World Bank Group in Belgium, and the UNODC. She has also volunteered for the Mexican Permanent Mission to the UN, the International Law Journal, and PILAC. Learn more about Laura’s summer in the Clinic below.
August 31, 2020
This summer, the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) was lucky to host three Harvard Law School interns. Marie Sintim, IHRC Program Assistant, spoke with Sondra Anton JD’22 recently about her experience interning remotely in the Clinic. Sondra was also a Summer Fellow with the Human Rights Program, an opportunity that awards funding to students to intern at human rights organizations around the world.
November 5, 2015
International Human Rights Organizations Call for Accountability of Myanmar’s Minister of Home Affairs
Tomorrow is Myanmar’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) hearing in Geneva. Today, a coalition of groups issued a statement calling for accountability for Lt. Gen. Ko Ko, the head of Myanmar’s UPR process:
International Human Rights Organizations Call for Accountability of Lt. Gen. Ko Ko, Myanmar’s Minister of Home Affairs
November 5, 2015
We, the undersigned organizations, call for Lt. Gen. Ko Ko, Myanmar’s Minister of Home Affairs and Minister for Immigration and Population, to be held accountable for his involvement in human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. On November 6, 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Council will review Myanmar’s human rights record during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva. Regrettably, the Myanmar Government has appointed Lt. Gen. Ko Ko to head the committee responsible for its UPR process.
Hundreds of civil society organizations in Myanmar have signed a petition expressing their concern about Lt. Gen. Ko Ko’s role in the UPR process, as well as the current impunity at the national level that exists for his involvement in abuses. They have called on the international community to take concrete steps to hold him accountable.
Lt. Gen. Ko Ko has a well-documented track record of human rights violations. He led Myanmar’s Southern Command during a military offensive in Kayin State from 2005-2008. According to a report released by the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, there is sufficient evidence against him to satisfy the standard required to issue an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for his command over soldiers that intentionally attacked, killed, tortured, enslaved, and forcibly transferred civilians.
In his current position as the Minister of Home Affairs, Lt. Gen. Ko Ko has also been implicated in human rights abuses, including violations of the rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. For example, strong evidence exists that the Myanmar Police Force, which is under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs, has repeatedly used unlawful and excessive force against peaceful protesters. In November 2012, Lt. Gen. Ko Ko was accused of authorizing riot police to use white phosphorus munitions to disperse peaceful protesters—mostly monks and villagers—at the Letpadaung Copper Mine, resulting in severe chemical burns of more than 100 people. In March 2015, the police again used excessive force in the town of Letpadan against unarmed protesters calling for reforms to the National Education Law.
The Human Rights Council has called upon the Myanmar Government to take all necessary measures to ensure accountability and end impunity for violations of human rights. This recommendation also was made during Myanmar’s previous UPR in 2011 and has been reiterated in advance questions for the forthcoming UPR this year. Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, recommended in both her March and October 2015 reports that the Government address impunity for human rights violations committed by security personnel.
In light of Lt. Gen. Ko Ko’s track record, we call on the Myanmar Government to remove him as the head of its UPR process, and to initiate a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation into the allegations of his involvement in human rights violations and international crimes. The international community should lend support to any investigation and prosecution. If the Myanmar Government does not pursue accountability in a prompt and effective manner, the international community should initiate its own investigation into Lt. Gen. Ko Ko’s responsibility for human rights violations and international crimes, and governments should pursue appropriate legal action against him if he enters their territory under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
Burma Campaign UK
FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
Global Justice Center
International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School
US Campaign for Burma
World Organization Against Torture
November 5, 2015
September 10, 2012
September 12, 2012
Human Rights Program Orientation
12- 1:00 pm
It’s that time of year again! Join us for pizza and an overview of the Human Rights Program and how you can get involved.
We’ll give you information on our International Human Rights Clinic; summer funding for human rights internships; post-graduate fellowships; events and conferences; and the larger human rights community at Harvard Law School.
Then it’s your turn: mix and mingle with instructors from the Clinic, Visiting Fellows from the Academic Program, as well as representatives from student groups focused on human rights, such as HLS Advocates for Human Rights.
For more information, stop by Wasserstein 3139 or email us at [email protected]
August 2, 2012
Report finds Qaddafi’s weapons pose threat to civilians
Abandoned arms stockpiles must be immediately secured or destroyed
August 2, 2012, Tripoli, Libya—Abandoned weapons that were once part of Muammar Qaddafi’s vast arsenal threaten civilian lives in Libya, according to a report released today by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), in partnership with CIVIC and the Center for American Progress.
Explosive Situation: Qaddafi’s Abandoned Weapons and the Threat to Libya’s Civilians documents the risks posed to civilians from the extensive stockpiling and spread of the former dictator’s munitions following the 2011 armed conflict. Based on in-country investigations, the report calls on Libya to immediately secure or destroy unstable stockpiles of weapons, and with international support, set out to clear munitions, educate the population about risks, and assist victims.
“These weapons may have been abandoned, but their ability to harm civilians remains intact,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior clinical instructor at IHRC and leader of the research team. “We’ve seen firsthand the risks they pose to ordinary Libyans and how they urgently need to be secured or destroyed before they can harm another civilian.”
While previous reporting has focused on the problems of international proliferation, Explosive Situation examines how abandoned weapons endanger civilians within Libya. Qaddafi left an arsenal of tens of thousands of tons of weapons, ranging from bullets and mortars to torpedoes and surface-to-air missiles. The report focuses on four major challenges for the transitional government of Libya: stockpile management, clearance of munitions, risk education, and victim assistance.
International deminers told the team that the scale of the problem overshadows what they have seen in other conflict and post-conflict zones.
“Arms are spilling out of hundreds of inadequately secured bunkers,” said Nicolette Boehland, a fellow with CIVIC who previously researched the use of weapons in Libya with the Clinic. “Other weapons have spread across the country to militia stockpiles in urban centers, museums, fields, and even homes.”
The report identified several specific areas of risk, including:
- Civilians displaying weapons as mementos of war or harvesting explosive materials for marketable parts;
- Children playing with weapons;
- Clearance of munitions by untrained community members; and
- Mismanagement of potentially unstable stockpiles by Libyan militias in populated areas.
The report finds the weak and transitional Libyan government has taken a limited, at times non-existent, role in the management and clearance of abandoned ordnance; there is no national strategy and confusion within the government about which agency has jurisdiction over the problem. In addition, the transitional government has provided virtually no support to UN and non-profit organizations that have done most of the work on the issue. According to legal principles and international standards, however, Libya bears primary responsibility for addressing the abandoned ordnance problem and should put in place a national plan to reduce the threat to civilians.
“The recent election of a new government provides Libya an opportunity for a fresh start,” said Docherty. “The ordnance problem is not an easy one to fix, but with assistance from other countries, the new government can respond to the abandoned weapons situation and better protect its people.”Continue Reading…
January 28, 2011
Posted by Cara Solomon
This week marked the start of the spring semester and the third snowstorm of the year. Right in the thick of it, we welcomed 40 students into the International Human Rights Clinic. We also started this blog, which will focus mainly on the projects and people associated with the Clinic.
It seemed like a good time to check in with Jim Cavallaro, Executive Director of the Human Rights Program (HRP). And so we did.
HRP: What attracted you to HRP?
Cavallaro: When I came in 2002, I had already spent nearly two decades working as a human rights lawyer in Latin America—in Chile during the last years of the Pinochet dictatorship, and then for nearly a decade in Brazil, working on criminal justice issues, transitional justice, racial discrimination, violence against women and indigenous issues. I had a lot of real world experience, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to step back and reflect, or to put what I had learned to use as a teacher. HRP gave me the opportunity to continue my work as an activist—my first passion—but also to work closely with students, and to reflect on human rights and the human rights movement.
It’s proven to be the perfect fit for me. I love the students’ energy and their sense that anything is possible. To be honest, their commitment and drive has been the engine behind the remarkable growth of the clinic and the program this past decade.
When I came here, we had a handful of students working on one or two projects. Now we have 40 students working on twenty projects on every major continent- and that’s just this semester.Continue Reading…
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