Blog: Nepal

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April 16, 2020

Sabrina Singh JD’20 draws attention to the looming COVID-19 crisis in Nepal

Posted by Dana Walters

Sabrina Singh JD’20 has been an active member of the human rights community during her time at Harvard Law School (HLS), including leading the Harvard Human Rights and Business Student Association (HuB) for a year and taking the International Human Rights Clinic for the past two years. In addition to her human rights concentration, she has worked to be a voice for international students at Harvard Law School, co-founding the organization, Coalition for International Students and Global Affairs, with Ayoung Kim JD’20. Born and raised in Nepal, Sabrina has been speaking out about how the COVID-19 pandemic could exacerbate conditions in her home country. The Human Rights Program (HRP) spoke with her recently to learn more about her background, what drew her to human rights, and how she is continuing to advocate for vulnerable populations during this time of uncertainty.

HRP: Why did you decide to specialize in human rights at Harvard Law School?

Sabrina: My introduction to law school was as an undergraduate summer intern at the Office of Public Interest Advising. That summer, I had the opportunity to interview a human rights lawyer, and I asked her why she chose her career. She said that she loved to be able to fight for what she knows to be good. Her conviction and energy stuck with me as I eventually came back to HLS as a student.  

Sabrina in front of the UN headquarters.

Last November, Sabrina Singh JD’20 attended the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva.

HRP: What kind of work have you been doing in the International Human Rights Clinic?

Sabrina: I have focused on business and human rights (BHR) and economic, social and cultural (ESCR) rights. I had the opportunity to work on BHR clinical projects with [HRP and International Human Rights Clinic Co-Director and Clinical Professor] Tyler Giannini and [former visiting clinical instructor] Amelia Evans LLM’11. With their clinical teams, I researched and helped write a report on multi-stakeholder initiatives, which are global governance bodies set up to create human rights standards for corporate actors; I also helped facilitate a BHR communities training for human rights practitioners in New York; most recently, I worked on a project on the cocoa industry in Ghana. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva, which brings together more than a thousand participants who gather to take stock of the BHR field. The theme was ‘government as catalysts for business respect for human rights,’ but one of my principal takeaways was how underrepresented local and grassroots communities are in these spaces.

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September 26, 2013

Clinic Report: Nepali War Victims Need Long-Term, Expanded Assistance


Nepali War Victims Need Long-Term, Expanded Assistance

Government Programs to End Civilian Suffering Fall Short

September 26, 2013, Cambridge, Mass— Seven years after the end of Nepal’s armed conflict, civilian victims are still struggling in the absence of effective help from the government, according to a report released today by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), in partnership with the advocacy group Center for Civilians in Conflict. A government relief program, set to end in 2014, has failed to deliver sufficient services and support.

Cover of report has title, "Assistance OVerdue: Ongoing Needs of Civilian Victims of Nepal's Armed Conflict," and a picture of a house in mountains in Nepal.

Assistance Overdue: Ongoing Needs of Civilian Victims of Nepal’s Armed Conflict  documents Nepali victims’ calls for financial and in-kind assistance as well as justice and truth after a decade-long conflict between government and Maoist forces. The report also evaluates the Nepali government’s current programs and proposals in light of victims’ needs and expectations.

“Atrocities committed by both sides left thousands of Nepali civilians with permanent disabilities, lingering psychological trauma, and lost livelihoods,” said Bonnie Docherty, lecturer on law at IHRC and co-author of the report. “The government has failed to reach many victims and urgently needs to do so.”

During the armed conflict that raged in Nepal from 1996-2006, Maoist and government forces targeted civilians with impunity. The Maoists often executed civilians publicly to create fear, while the government routinely eliminated perceived enemies through enforced disappearances. Both sides also tortured, raped, and committed other forms of violence. Assistance Overdue is based on more than 100 interviews with survivors, government officials, and other experts as well as extensive legal analysis.

The government’s primary form of support for victims is its Interim Relief Program (IRP), which was established in 2008 and has provided immediate material assistance to some of those harmed in the conflict. The report finds that IRP falls short in the areas of financial aid, vocational training, educational support, and health care for families of the deceased or disappeared and the disabled. Two especially vulnerable groups—victims of torture and sexual violence—are not entitled to any assistance under the program.

The government has for several years debated creation of a truth, reconciliation, and disappearances commission that would focus on non-material issues, a measure important to many victims. But the commission has yet to be established and, as currently proposed, would have overly broad amnesty provisions, allow forced reconciliation against the will of victims, and have only two years to complete its work. A coalition of victims’ organizations filed a petition in April 2013 to block implementation of a seriously flawed law creating a commission.

IHRC and the Center call on the government to improve support for victims by creating a more inclusive and long-term assistance program and adopting a commission on truth, reconciliation, and disappearances that takes into account victim perspectives. IHRC and the Center also urge international donors to provide support for these initiatives.

“For Nepal to heal and rebuild, the government should rectify the failings of the Interim Relief Program and listen to its people who demand recognition and justice for the harm they have suffered,” said Sahr Muhammedally, senior legal and amends advisor for the Center for Civilians in Conflict. “People have been trying to recover from the horrors of the conflict for seven years. It’s time to fix a broken system.”


For more information, contact:

Bonnie Docherty, +1-617-669-1636, [email protected]

Liz Lucas, +1 202-716-0829, [email protected]

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