Class of 2014 Chooses Tyler Giannini for its Teaching Excellence Award

Via Human Rights Program Blog

Posted by Human Rights Program faculty and staff:

As friends and colleagues of Tyler Giannini, we are thrilled that the Class of 2014 has chosen to award him the Albert M. Sacks-Paul A. Freund Award for Teaching Excellence. All of us appreciate and benefit so much from his vision and commitment to our clinic and program–as a human rights advocate, a clinician, and an innovator in the field and in the classroom. It is wonderful to see his dedication to his students recognized with this award.

Tyler is a rare find, a triple threat: an advocate-teacher-scholar who embraces all these roles and finds in them a harmony that is truly a joy to witness and learn from. Anyone who works with him can sense the passion that he brings to work. It is evident in the emotion, care, and impeccable commitment to quality that he invests into everything he produces, from U.S. Supreme Court briefs to course syllabi to student role-plays. Tyler works this way because he cares deeply about teaching his students to be thoughtful and effective human rights practitioners, and because he believes so strongly in the value of the work that he does each and every day.

We are moved and beyond excited that Tyler has received this well-deserved recognition. We couldn’t be prouder of him. Thank you, Class of 2014.

Clinical Spotlight: Kaitlyn Hennigan

Kaitlyn Hennigan, Program Coordinator, International Human Rights Clinic

Kaitlyn Hennigan
Program Coordinator
International Human Rights Clinic

I began working with the Human Rights Program (HRP) in November 2009 as the Program Assistant. That was back when we were located in Pound Hall. I can’t believe that was almost four and a half years ago! I moved into my current role focusing primarily on the International Human Rights Clinic in July 2010 and HRP moved into our new WCC home that year in December. I’m originally from New Hampshire. I studied Journalism at UNH and moved to Boston after graduation.

I love organizing stuff. Seriously, I am the person you want to call when you are trying to fit all your camping gear into the trunk of your Jetta. I can do it, very well and very quickly. However, I’m terrible at puzzles. Go figure. In my role at the clinic I use my organizational and communication skills to manage the day to day administration of the clinic. I provide our students with an orientation to our processes and procedures each semester and make sure to answer all of their questions along the way. I work with our Directors and Clinical Instructors to implement policies and make decisions about clinic endeavors. I also work closely with our Clinical Fellow and Directors to plan and execute a full day human rights-related role play simulation for our students. Students work in teams to interview different actors who pose as characters from a fact pattern designed by the clinical faculty. It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun!

Right now we are going through the hiring process for our Clinical Advocacy Fellow position. I am involved in the initial interviewing phases and it’s been a great experience to interact with such a diverse and talented pool of candidates. Though we are so sad to see our current fellow move on, it will be exciting to add a new face to our clinical line up.

I love how big our office is – not just physically (of course, that’s great too), but the number of people I get to interact with on a daily basis is energizing (a plus for an extrovert like me!). HRP is unique in that it houses an academic program and a clinic including four staff, four directors, three clinical instructors, one clinical fellow, and five to six visiting fellows per semester. Each person is working on something slightly different in the human rights sphere, so collectively we make up (and in my case, support) a broad spectrum of human rights expertise and provide a great resource for our students. I also love interacting with our students. They are so smart and interesting! We enroll around 90 students in our clinic each year and some of them continue through both their 2L and 3L years, so they become fixtures around the office and a friendly daily reminder of the impact of our work.

Outside of work, I’m enjoying a great new craft beer with friends in the Square or checking out the newest restaurants around Boston. I also love to play basketball, which I luckily get to do here at the HLS gym with fellow staff members.

Clinic Calls on Myanmar Military to Reform Policies to Prevent Unlawful Attacks on Civilians

Via: International Human Rights Clinic Blog

March 24, 2014, Yangon, Myanmar— The Myanmar military must reform policies and practices that threaten civilian populations in the country, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School said in a memorandum released today.

Policy Memorandum: Preventing Indiscriminate Attacks and Wilful Killings of Civilians by the Myanmar Military describes a pattern of attacks that has unfolded over several decades. The memorandum identifies the policies and practices that give rise to such attacks and proposes a practical program of reform.

“The Myanmar military needs to publicly renounce and reverse the longstanding policies that have resulted in attacks on civilians and violations of international humanitarian law,” said Matthew Bugher, Clinical Advocacy Fellow at the Clinic. “Until problematic military policies and practices are fundamentally reformed, civilians will remain at risk wherever and whenever military force is deployed.”

The memorandum draws from the findings of an ongoing investigation by the Clinic into the conduct of Myanmar Army units during a 2005–2008 counterinsurgency offensive in eastern Myanmar. During eleven field missions to the region, the Clinic compiled more than 1,000 pages of witness statements from survivors of military attacks and former soldiers, among others.

The Clinic documented numerous “shoot-on-sight” incidents in which soldiers opened fire on civilians, including women, children, and elderly persons. Myanmar Army soldiers often shot at villagers as they fled their homes with family members. Witnesses also described executions, the deliberate placement of landmines in civilian locations, and the indiscriminate shelling of villages and agricultural fields.

Continue reading the full story here.

Winning on School Infrastructure, Honoring Mandela

Members of Equal Education march to the Department of Education in Pretoria to demand norms and standards. (Photo courtesy of Equal Education)

Via the Human Rights@Harvard Law Blog | By: Susan Farbstein

As South Africa and the world remember Nelson Mandela, there is perhaps no greater way to honor his legacy than to continue the struggle for social justice. A quality education for all children must be at the core of such efforts, as Mandela himself recognized. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” he said. In the week before his death, real progress was made on the education front in South Africa.

After three years of sustained campaigning by our South African partners, Equal Education (EE) and Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga finally released binding norms and standards for school infrastructure on November 29th. The norms represent a significant victory for future generations of South African students, and for South Africa itself.

The norms—which are legally binding—mandate substantial changes to public schools across the country, many of which must be realized on a relatively short time horizon.

Continue reading the story on the Human Rights@Harvard Law Blog

A Step Closer to Basic School Infrastructure for South African Students

Photo courtesy of Equal Education Law Centre

By: Melissa Shube, JD ’15

After soliciting feedback from hundreds of South African students and parents, Equal Education (EE) and Equal Education Law Center (EELC) have submitted comments on the South African Minister of Basic Education’s second draft of minimum regulations for public school infrastructure. While the submission recognizes that the Minister’s draft represents important progress, EE and EELC raise significant concerns with respect to the draft’s long timeline for implementation. As Moto Singulakka, a Grade 10 learner at Oscar Mpetha High School in the Western Cape, asked, “What about now? Where are the learners going to learn?”

The legacy of Apartheid is still palpable in South Africa’s education system, where many rural and township schools lack basic infrastructure to provide students with a safe environment conducive to learning. Binding norms and standards will help promote equality in education for South Africa’s historically disadvantaged students by requiring all public schools to meet minimum thresholds in relation to physical facilities.

Please read the full story on the Human Rights Program Blog.

IHRC: Nepali war victims need long-term, expanded assistance

Report Cover Page

Via: Harvard Law School News

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 Sept. 26 by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), in partnership with the advocacy group Center for Civilians in Conflict. According to the report, a government relief program, set to end in 2014, has failed to deliver sufficient services and support.

“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.

Please read the full article on the Harvard Law School News.

Clinic and Human Rights Watch Urge International Talks on ‘Killer Robots’

Via the Human Rights @ Harvard Law Blog

Senior Clinical Instructor Bonnie Docherty is in Geneva today at the annual meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, making the case for a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots.” By her side are two students from the International Human Rights Clinic: Lara Berlin, JD ’13, and Ben Bastomski, JD ’15.

The Clinic has been working closely with Human Rights Watch (HRW) for more than a year on the threat of fully autonomous weapons, which would have the ability to identify and fire on human targets without intervention. Today, they released their latest joint paper on the topic and urged international talks to begin. Thanks to Bonnie, Lara, Ben, and Elina Katz, JD ’14, for their work on the paper.

Please read the full post by Cara Solomon on the Human Rights @Harvard Law Blog

Summer Human Rights Fellowships

Attention 1Ls and 2Ls interested in doing human rights work this summer!  The application process for summer fellowships through the Human Rights Program is now underway.  Please see this for further information as well as the timeline for the application process.

Feel free to reach out the HRP fellowship student advisors, Tess Borden (, Sam Birnbaum (, and Sarah Wheaton ( with any questions.  You can find their bios (and office hours) at this link.

International Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Watch Call for a Ban on Killer Robots

At a UN meeting in New York,  the International Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Watch called for urgent action to stop the development of fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots.” The Clinic and HRW released a question and answer document that makes plain the seriousness of the threat from these weapons, which would have the ability to identify and fire on human targets without intervention. The document builds on a November 2012 Report jointly published by the Clinic and HRW, entitled Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots.

Clinical students Kenny Pyetranker, J.D. ’13, Jonathan Nomamiukur, J.D. ’13, and Harin Song, J.D. ’14 contributed both research and writing to the paper. Please see here for the full press release from HRW.

Note: This post was adapted from the International Human Rights Law Clinic website.

A Canadian intern reflects on her work at HIRC

L-R: Lily Axelrod, HLS ’15 and Isabelle Sauriol, HIRC Summer Interns 2013

By Isabelle Sauriol, a 2013 L.L.B. graduate of the University of Montreal

The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC) is an intern’s dream come true. While the place is unique in and of itself – filled with natural light, welcoming photos and captivating artwork – it’s the people occupying it that make the Clinic so special. One immediately feels at home in the friendly work environment of HIRC, where laughter, opinions (and candy consumption!) are encouraged.

Working with refugees can be challenging at times, given the constant need to adapt oneself to the cultural and religious backgrounds and often tremendously difficult pasts of each client. But as HIRC Fellow Emily Leung puts it, it is first and foremost an “incredibly rewarding experience.” Professor Deborah Anker and her team have made it their mission to help out this vulnerable population by extending the limits of the law by way of amicus briefs and conferences on topics such as gender-based asylum claims and gang-related asylum, as well as by exploring creative interpretations of asylum law.

Interning at the HIRC provided me with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with various immigration processes such as asylum, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and protection under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), under the supervision of two amazing lawyers, the Clinic’s own Phil Torrey and Sabrineh Ardalan. Together, we conducted interviews with asylum seekers and gathered evidence to corroborate our clients’ cases through country conditions research, medical expertise and psychological reports.  I also had the privilege of exploring some of the fascinating course material offered to HLS students, such as Crimmigration: The Intersection of Criminal Law and Immigration Law and a reading group on Trauma, Human Rights and Refugee Law.