Blog: Martha Minow

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March 28, 2022

Another Trump Legacy That Won’t Give Up

Posted by Gerald L. Neuman

It appears that on April 1, Harvard Law School will be hosting a lecture by Peter Berkowitz, formerly the Executive Secretary of the Trump Administration’s “Commission on Unalienable Rights” (CUR), whose appalling Report has been repudiated by the Biden Administration. The lecture, entitled “Reflections on the Commission on Unalienable Rights,” is presumably part of the ongoing efforts to keep alive the CUR’s misguided project of reorienting and reducing international human rights law, like his presentation at a November 2021 conference at Notre Dame.

While the CUR Report was evidently a compromise document, its overall message was dismissive and hostile toward the current systems of international human rights law.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had convened the commission in order to weaken respect for human rights law, and cut it back to eighteenth-century principles.  The Report favored letting each country give treaty provisions the meaning that it prefers consistent with its own traditions. 

The project was not only inward-focused.  Pompeo’s State Department had the Report translated into the other five UN official languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish) and also into Farsi and German.  It actively promoted the report at the United Nations and in other countries, thereby encouraging autocrats and right-wing populists abroad to follow its example.  Just what the world needs at the present historical moment.

Harvard’s association with the CUR, which was chaired by a faculty member, is regrettable but the University has also been active in critique.  For a fuller set of “reflections” on the CUR Report, I can recommend the panel held by the Human Rights Program in September 2020, or this article by one of the participants.

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October 5, 2020

WATCH: Pompeo’s “Commission on Unalienable Rights”: Shrinking U.S. Human Rights Policy

In 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo created a highly controversial “Commission on Unalienable Rights” to reexamine the basis of U.S. human rights policy. In August, the Commission published its formal report, arguing for a narrower and more selective approach to human rights. The State Department promoted the report at the UN General Assembly two weeks ago.

On September 17, 2020, the Human Rights Program hosted experts to discuss the report and its implications for U.S. human rights policy and the international human rights system. HRP was joined by:

  • Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University;

  • Gerald Neuman, J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, and Co-Director of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School;

  • Mathias Risse, Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Administration and Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University;

  • Katharine Young, Professor of Law at Boston College Law School;

The event was moderated by Sushma Raman, Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.

You can now watch a captioned video of the event below or at this link:

Thanks to our co-sponsors by the Harvard Human Rights Journal, the Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School, and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.


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October 3, 2014

Local Film Series Focuses on Human Rights

Posted by Cara Solomon

For the past few years, we’ve kept an eye on a promising addition to the local film scene: the DocYard, which screens documentaries primarily at the much-beloved Brattle Theater. This autumn, we’re pleased to report the series includes three human rights-focused films, including a showing of “Watchers of the Sky” that we’re co-sponsoring in early November.

Movie poster for "E-Team," which shows four individuals in individual quadrants.

But first up, this Monday, Oct. 6., is “E-Team,” which focuses on four members of the Emergencies Team, the “boots on the ground” division of Human Rights Watch. A panel discussion will follow with filmmaker Ross Kauffman and Carroll Bogert, Deputy Executive Director of External Relations at Human Rights Watch, moderated by Robb Moss, filmmaker and professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. The documentary starts at 7 p.m.

Movie poster for "Watchers of the Sky," has a large head of a man looking out with barely made out bodies behind him.

Next, on Oct. 20, the series features “Return to Homs,” which follows “the journey of two close friends whose lives had been upended by the battle raging in Syria….When the army cracks down and their beloved city of Homs becomes a bombed-out ghost town, these two peaceful protesters finally take up arms and transform into rebel insurgents.” After the screening, Robb Moss will ask questions of filmmaker Talal Derki via Skype.

Lastly, on Nov. 8, the Human Rights Program is co-sponsoring a showing of the award-winning film, “Watchers of the Sky,” which focuses on the life of Raphael Lemkin, the Polish Jew who created the word “genocide.” Following the screening, HLS Dean Martha Minow will participate in a discussion, along with the film’s director, Edet Belzberg, and HLS professors Alex Whiting and Sam Moyn.


August 22, 2013

Q & A: Amelia Evans, LLM ’11, Founder of Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity

Posted by Cara Solomon

This past spring, more than 70 people gathered to celebrate the launch of the Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity (MSI Integrity), a business and human rights organization founded by Clinic alumna Amelia Evans, LLM ’11. It was a momentous occasion: MSI Integrity is one of the first non-profits to come out of the Clinical and Pro-Bono Program at Harvard Law School (HLS). In her comments, HLS Dean Martha Minow described its mission as both essential and exciting.

Recently, we sat down with Amelia to talk about the origins of MSI Integrity, and where it fits into the landscape of business and human rights.

Congratulations on the launch, Amelia. Before we start talking about the work of the organization, tell me a bit about how you get interested in the field of business and human rights in the first place.

From left: Amelia Evans, LLM '11, Tyler Giannini, and Dean Martha Minow, celebrating the launch of the Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Integrity.
From left: Amelia Evans, LLM ’11, Tyler Giannini, and Dean Martha Minow, celebrating the launch of the Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Integrity.

Well, back in New Zealand, I was occupying two different worlds — I had dabbled in investment banking and commercial law, but was also an advocate at a domestic violence shelter. I felt really alienated from both of these spaces. At the firms, I felt that everybody was judging me for being part of a feminist collective, and when I was a participant in the collective, everyone was very skeptical of my commercial interests. It was frustrating that these two worlds just couldn’t be bridged, that they didn’t speak to each other in any way. At some point, I realized that the connection between the two was business and human rights, and I wanted to learn more about that.

Through my research, I saw the work that Tyler Giannini had done, so I applied to Harvard Law School hoping to work with him in the Clinic. Clinical education isn’t something that’s offered in New Zealand, and I was very eager to experience it. As soon as I got into HLS, I emailed Tyler to ask about getting involved in the Clinic in the fall, and he told me there were limited spots for LLMs. So I spent a lot of time crafting my application, and once I got in, I just tried to devote as many hours and credits to it as I could. I’m fairly certain no one could have taken more clinical credits than I did….I just loved it so much.

What kind of work did you do in the Clinic?

I was involved in three different business and human rights projects. One was the Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. case, at the appellate level, with the legal historians’ amicus brief. The second was a corporate accountability case looking at remediation for survivors of human rights abuses. And the third was about multi-stakeholder initiatives or MSIs, which are these voluntary organizations that address human rights concerns within a given industry. Basically, they bring together different actors—civil society, government, rights holders, and businesses themselves—in an attempt to strengthen human rights within that industry.

The goal of our clinical project was to understand how effective these MSIs were, and to do that by creating ways to evaluate that effectiveness from a human rights perspective.

Why the focus on MSIs?

They’ve become a go-to mechanism for corporate accountability given the governance gap that exists in today’s globalized economy. It’s really difficult to get a treaty developed, or to get legislation passed that applies with extraterritorial effect, so the response has often been, “Let’s try to do something voluntarily.”

Enter MSIs. They’ve exploded in number over the past decade. Name a major global industry, name a geographic area, name a human rights issue, and there’s an MSI that applies. Most consumers have never heard of them, but the fact is that we interact with the work of MSIs on a regular basis. The label that says it’s fair trade, the certification of diamonds as conflict or blood-free — this is all the work of MSIs.

In the Clinic, we saw MSIs as an innovative way to get at business and human rights issues. But the questions were: are they working? Are they leading to improved human rights outcomes? Or are they actually, in some ways, stopping improvement in human rights?

Continue Reading…

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April 17, 2013

Today: Clinic Launches New Organization On Business and Human Rights

Event Notice

April 17, 2013

“MSI Integrity: A New Business and Human Rights Organization”

4:30-6:30 pm

Harkness South

Drinks will be served!

Join the International Human Rights Clinic for the launch of the Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity, a non-profit organization the Clinic has helped get off the ground. MSI Integrity aims to strengthen the ability of multi-stakeholder initiatives, like Fairtrade and the Kimberley Process, to respect human rights, prevent violations, and remedy abuses.

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August 22, 2012

Giannini and Neuman appointed co-directors of the Human Rights Program

Posted by Harvard Law School Communications

Tyler Giannini, Clinical Professor of Law, and Gerald L. Neuman ’80, J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign and Comparative Law, have been appointed co-directors of the Human Rights Program (HRP) at Harvard Law School.

Said HLS Dean Martha Minow: “I’m delighted to announce Gerry Neuman and Tyler Giannini as co-directors of Harvard’s Human Rights Program. Tyler is a pioneer in the development of theories of liability in the field of human rights, and his efforts have guided our path-breaking clinic and he has collaborated with clinical students and superb colleagues in human rights advocacy pursuing all the available tools—investigations, litigation, media, and coalition-building. Gerry’s distinguished scholarship spans human rights, constitutional law, and regulations of immigration and refugees; his immense expertise in international human rights law includes his invaluable contributions and experiences as a member of the UN’s Human Rights Committee. Outstanding as individuals, Tyler and Gerry are an amazing team, and I look forward to the new initiatives emerging through their collaboration and leadership.”

HRP is the central venue for international human rights work at Harvard Law School, offering students a range of opportunities to engage in academic pursuits and to apply theory to practice, both on campus and abroad. By fostering scholarship, engagement with pressing issues, and training in human rights advocacy, HRP’s faculty has worked for decades to educate students who will become leaders of the human rights movement. Now in its 28th year, HRP was founded by Emeritus Professor Henry Steiner ’55.

“I cannot think of two better people than Gerald Neuman and Tyler Giannini to continue to strengthen HRP as one of the premiere human rights programs in the world,” said Lisa Dealy, assistant dean of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. “Having them both at the helm of this joint directorship ensures that the International Human Rights Clinic is closely integrated with the academic Human Rights Program, which is greatly beneficial to both the practice on the ground and the broader study of human rights law.”

“It’s an honor to be part of HRP and its long tradition of excellence,” Giannini said. “HRP represents the very best in the Law School’s efforts to combine scholarship and practice in an academic setting. HRP is a place where scholarship is informed by practice through our International Human Rights Clinic, and just as importantly, the efforts of our Clinic are enriched greatly by HRP’s engagement with intellectual pursuits.”

Said Neuman: “I am excited about continuing the Human Rights Program’s tradition of intellectually rigorous engagement with the field of human rights advocacy and implementation. I also hope to build stronger connections with the wider academic community here at HLS, and in the University more generally.”

HRP cultivates coursework and student participation in human rights activities through its summer fellowships, clinical work, Visiting Fellows program, speaker series, applied research, scholarship, including books, and collaborations with student and professional human rights organizations in the United States and abroad. Under the leadership of Neuman and HRP’s Academic Director, Mindy Roseman, the program’s affiliates also plan and direct international conferences and roundtables on human rights issues, and publish regular reports and scholarship resulting from these events.

Led by Giannini and Assistant Clinical Professor Susan Farbstein, the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), an independent arm of HRP, mentors and trains students through practical education across the spectrum of human rights issues. Clinical students draft reports and briefs, conduct legal analyses, undertake fact-finding trips, litigate, work with concerned citizens, and advocate for policy change. Areas of faculty specialty include: Alien Tort Statute (ATS) litigation, criminal justice in Latin America, weapons, sexual and reproductive health, civilian protection during times of armed conflict, corporate accountability, protest and assembly rights, and environment and human rights. Clinicians also specialize in geographic areas such as Brazil, Burma, South Africa, and the United States.

“One of the great parts of HRP is being able to work with a community of practitioners and scholars each day on pressing human rights questions,” Giannini said. “In addition to [senior leadership], HRP has another dozen clinical instructors, visiting scholars and fellows each year along with scores of active students involved in human rights research and practice. This creates a vibrant human rights community at the Law School.”

About Tyler Giannini

Headshot of a man wearing glasses, a black blazer, and a yellow shirt.
Clinical Professor of Law Tyler Giannini

Giannini’s upcoming clinical work, teaching and research activities will focus on the areas of business and human rights, human rights and community lawyering, human rights and the changes occurring in Burma, and human rights clinical pedagogy.

A specialist on Burma, Southeast Asia, and South Africa, Giannini joined HLS as a clinical advocacy fellow at HRP in 2004. He was appointed as a lecturer on law in 2006, became director of IHRC in 2007 and was appointed as a clinical professor of law in 2010.

Giannini’s theories of tort liability have played a significant role in holding corporations responsible for the human rights ramifications of their enterprise activities. For the past 17 years, he has been a leading ATS litigator.

Recently, for example, in 2012, Giannini and Farbstein filed two amicus curiae briefs before the Supreme Court on behalf of legal historians in the case Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. The case, one of the most significant human rights cases to be heard by the Supreme Court in recent years, has attracted international attention, the Harvard Gazette recently reported. Brought by 12 Nigerians, the case alleges that the oil company was complicit in torture, extrajudicial executions, and other crimes against humanity during the 1990s.

As one of the architects of the Doe v. Unocal litigation, Giannini helped develop the concept of corporate ATS litigation, one of the most important vehicles for modern international human rights law reform. This precedent-setting ATS litigation concerning the Yadana gas pipeline in Burma resulted in a confidential settlement that is reported to be one of the largest ever in an ATS case.

He also teaches and practices law at the intersection of human rights and the environment. Prior to joining HLS, he co-founded and co-directed EarthRights International (ERI) for a decade in Thailand. ERI is a non-profit NGO at the forefront of innovative efforts to link human rights and environmental protection. Giannini has continued this effort at IHRC, undertaking work related to dams, mining, and climate change.

Giannini’s work has also focused on Burma and South Africa. He has written several reports with clinical students on human rights abuses in Burma, including one in 2009 that was influential in bringing attention to potential war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country. He has traveled to South Africa more than a dozen times with clinical students, and co-authored the book, “Prosecuting Apartheid-Era Crimes? A South African Dialogue on Justice” (Harvard University Press, 2009) with Farbstein.

He has led clinical students on numerous fact-finding, case-development, and advocacy missions to Bolivia, Canada, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Thailand/Burma, South Africa, and South Korea.

Giannini is a cum laude graduate of the College of William and Mary, where he majored in history and government with an emphasis on international relations. He holds a Master of Arts in foreign affairs and a law degree from University of Virginia, where he served on the editorial board of the Virginia Law Review.

About Gerald Neuman

Headshot of a man with gray hair wearing a blue button down and tie.
Professor Gerald L. Neuman ’80

Neuman is an expert on international human rights law, comparative constitutional law, and immigration and nationality law. In the next few years, his teaching will concentrate specifically on the areas of international human rights, and immigration and nationality law.

In 2011, he was elected to the Human Rights Committee, a body of 18 independent experts who assess and critique countries’ records on civil and political rights. The premier treaty body in the UN human rights system, the committee monitors compliance by 167 states parties with their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is part of the “International Bill of Rights.” The committee is composed of 18 independent members from 18 different countries with recognized expertise in the field of human rights. The members are elected to four-year terms by state parties.

Three times a year, in three-week sessions in either Geneva or New York, the committee takes on matters of human rights by examining the records of several different countries; by elaborating on the meaning of provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in the context of the current state of human rights and international law; and by reviewing cases where someone’s rights were allegedly violated—a defendant who has been tortured into confessing a crime, for instance, or a family trying to find justice for a “disappeared” person. The committee publishes its findings and reports them annually to the U.N. General Assembly.

Neuman’s nomination to the Human Rights Committee originated in the State Department, and was based on his long history of scholarship and advocacy on human rights issues, including amicus briefs filed with the Supreme Court for Guantánamo detainees in 2004 (Rasul v. Bush) and 2008 (Boumediene v. Bush).

Those briefs grew out of two strands of Neuman’s work: An examination of the extraterritorial application of constitutional rights, including the rights of Haitian refugees housed at Guantánamo during the 1990s, and his study of the habeas corpus rights of foreign nationals in the immigration process.

In 2010, Neuman was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He is the co-author of the casebook “Human Rights” (Foundation Press 2nd ed. 2009) with Louis Henkin, Sarah Cleveland and Laurence R. Helfer, and the author of the book “Strangers to the Constitution: Immigrants, Borders and Fundamental Law” (1996), an analysis of the role of location and status in defining constitutional rights.

His most recent articles include “The Brakes that Failed: Constitutional Restriction of International Agreements in France” (Cornell International Law Journal, 2012), “The External Reception of Inter-American Human Rights Law” (Quebec Journal of International Law, 2011) and “Anti-Ashwander: Constitutional Litigation as a First Resort in France” (New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, 2010).

Neuman joined the HLS faculty in 2006 from Columbia Law School, where he had taught since 1992. In addition to a J.D. from HLS, he holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an A.B. from Harvard College.

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May 11, 2012

Susan Farbstein Appointed Assistant Clinical Professor and Co-Director of the International Human Rights Clinic

Posted by Martha Minow, Dean, Harvard Law School, and Tyler Giannini

As a teacher, a mentor, a clinician, and a colleague, Susan Farbstein has already made her mark on the Human Rights Program over the past four years. Today we have the privilege of announcing that she has been appointed as an Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Law School and will become a Co-Director of its International Human Rights Clinic. We look forward to many more years of her leadership, both within the Human Rights Program, and in the larger Law School community.

Susan Farbstein stands talking to a student wearing a hijab in a classroom.
Susan Farbstein speaks with a student at the Human Rights Program orientation last autumn. Farbstein is a national leader in the area of Alien Tort Statute litigation.

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November 17, 2011

Today: A Screening of “Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today”

Posted by Victor Ban, JD '13

Please join us today at noon for a viewing of the ground-breaking film, “Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today”.  As narrative, the film captures a moment in global history that continues to shape international conceptions of justice, war, and genocide.  As historical document, the newly restored footage is a testament to the raw power of visual media, a power that certain parties might seek to suppress or manipulate.  As creative endeavor, “Nuremberg” is the triumph of a team of filmmakers committed to seeking truth.

The Harvard Law Documentary Studio—a community dedicated to creating and screening original documentaries on social and policy topics —is honored to co-sponsor this event, along with the Human Rights Program, Facing History and Ourselves, and the HLS Office of the Dean.

Victor Ban, JD ’13, is  the President of the Harvard Law Documentary Studio (

Event Notice

“Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today”

12:00- 2:00 pm

John Chipman Gray

Introductory Remarks by Dean Martha Minow

Special guest Sandra Schulberg, restoration producer & daughter of filmmaker Stuart Schulberg, will discuss the use of motion picture evidence at the trial; the making of “Nuremberg”; and its subsequent suppression by the U.S. government.

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