Clinic and Partners Call on Myanmar Officials to Drop Charges against Father Complaining of Rights Violations

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

In a letter to Myanmar’s President Thein Sein on December 8, the International Human Rights Clinic and five leading international human rights organizations called for criminal charges to be immediately and unconditionally dropped against Shayam Brang Shawng, a resident of Kachin State in northern Myanmar. Brang Shawng is accused of making “false charges” in a complaint to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission about the alleged killing of his 14-year-old daughter, Ja Seng Ing, by Myanmar Army soldiers. A Myanmar Army officer initiated the case against Brang Shawng, and the action appears to be retaliatory in nature. The Myanmar government has not responded to a letter, reposted below, which the Clinic and its partners published today.

Continue reading the letter here.

Prosecutors Move to Reduce Incarceration at Aníbal Bruno Prison

Diário de Pernambuco reports on prosecutors’ Aníbal Bruno filing

Diário de Pernambuco reports on prosecutors’ Aníbal Bruno filing

Via the International Human Rights Clinic 

Earlier this week, prosecutors took the extraordinary step of filing for judicial measures to decarcerate, reduce overcrowding, and ensure adequate healthcare at the notorious Aníbal Bruno (Curado) Prison Complex in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. The request for interdição parcial(partial interdiction) of the pre-trial center cites Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights precautionary and provisional measures, respectively, as key motivators. The civil society coalition responsible for seeking and litigating these inter-American protective measures since 2011 is comprised of the Pastoral Carcerária (Catholic Prison Ministry), the Serviço Ecumênico de Militância nas Prisões (Ecumenical Service of Advocacy in Prisons), Justiça Global (Global Justice), and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.

Aníbal Bruno is one of the largest prisons in Latin America, and among the most abusive; it detains nearly 7,000 men in space officially designated for roughly 2,000. According to the prosecutors, “[t]he situation of overpopulation and overcrowding [at Aníbal Bruno Prison] runs counter to the model contemplated in the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José, Costa Rica) adopted 11/22/1969 and which Brazil ratified by means of Decree n. 678, with force of law in our State since 11/25/1992.”

Prosecutors requested 11 measures. Among them are limits on new entries to Aníbal Bruno Prison and transfers of qualifying prisoners out to halfway detention facilities (regime semiaberto), house arrest, or electronic monitoring. Prosecutors further asked for a daily computerized accounting of healthcare needs and treatment dates, as well as judicial review of any inability to schedule or receive medical attention. The filing also requests monthly monitoring meetings involving a host of institutions.

“We welcome the partial interdiction request as an important step in the right direction, though it falls well short of what is required, given that Aníbal Bruno Prison is fully, not partially, unfit for human habitation,” said Clinical Instructor Fernando Ribeiro Delgado.

The Pernambuco Prosecutor’s Office (Ministério Público) previously relied on the work of the civil society coalition in a 2012 inquiry into abuse at the prison. The Office noted then that, “if it were not for the courage and determination of [coalition] members, nothing that was here collected, such as hard-hitting evidence of practices of torture and ill-treatment, whether physical or psychological, would exist.”

Judge Luiz Gomes da Rocha Neto, responsible for evaluating the partial interdiction request, said he would make a statement in response today.

Update from Geneva: UN Committee Against Torture’s Review of the United States

Morgan Davis, JD ’15, addressed the U.S. delegation on behalf of Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecutions, a civil society group that includes the Clinic.

Morgan Davis, JD ’15, addressed the U.S. delegation on behalf of Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecutions, a civil society group that includes the Clinic.

Via the International Human Rights Clinic 

Earlier today in Geneva, in advance of the UN Committee Against Torture’s formal review of the United States, Morgan Davis, JD ’15, spoke to the U.S. delegation, pointing to its lack of engagement with the issue of senior-level accountability for post-9/11 torture. She spoke on behalf of Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecutions, a civil society group that includes the International Human Rights Clinic, drawing from the group’s prepared comments, reprinted below.

“To truly move forward, we have to start by being honest,” she said. “The decision to shield senior-level government officials is not about law or justice; it’s about politics.”

The Committee will have the chance to raise this question with the U.S. government at tomorrow’s formal review.

Continue reading the full story here.

 

In Photos: Ben Ferencz, ’43, Receives HLS Medal of Freedom

BensmilesVia the International Human Rights Clinic 

The great Ben Ferencz, ’43, received Harvard Law School’s highest honor on Friday: the Medal of Freedom.

Humble, hilarious, and altogether inspiring, Ben became Chief Prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen case at the Nuremberg Tribunal at the age of 27- and has been a tireless advocate for peace ever since.

After his talk, titled “Law not War,” students surrounded Ben with requests to pose for pictures. He greeted one student this way: “Where you from? Want to help me save the world?”

Read more about Ben, and download his free books, at his website.

Read more on this story here.

Report Cites Evidence of War Crimes in Myanmar

CaptureVia the New York TImes

BANGKOK — A report by Harvard researchers due to be released on Friday says there is sufficient evidence to prosecute high-ranking officers in Myanmar’s military for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against an ethnic minority.

The report, published by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, is based on a three-year study of villages near the Thai border, where the military conducted a large-scale offensive against ethnic Karen fighters from 2005 until 2008. The authors say that “widespread and systematic” attacks directed against civilians during the offensive justify war-crime prosecutions.

“Despite recent reforms, there have been few public discussions about Myanmar’s legacy of violence and oppression,” the report says, adding that “such issues cannot be swept aside during conversations about the country’s future.”

The report specifically names three commanders of the offensive against the Karen, all of whom are still active in the military. They are Maj. Gen. Ko Ko, who is currently Myanmar’s home affairs minister; Lt.. Gen. Khin Zaw Oo, now commander of the Army Bureau of Special Operations; and Brig. Gen. Maung Maung Aye, whose current position is unknown.

“We believe we have satisfied the standard of proof for the issuance of an arrest warrant,” said Matthew Bugher, one of the authors of the report.

Mr. Bugher presented the findings on Wednesday to Myanmar’s deputy defense minister, Maj. Gen. Kyaw Nyunt.

“He essentially said, ‘You got it wrong and your sources are all one-sided,’ ” Mr. Bugher said by telephone from Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital. “He talked about the difficulty of war and the difficulty of distinguishing between civilian and military targets.”

Among the 150 people interviewed for the report, seven were former soldiers, including one who described witnessing a gang rape by military personnel, Mr. Bugher said.

Continue reading the full story here.

Failure to Prosecute Senior U.S. Government Officials for Torture Violates International Law

tortureimage2Via the International Human Rights Clinic
By Peter Barnett, LL.M. ’15, Morgan Davis, J.D. ’15, and Deborah Popowski

In preparation for the UN Committee Against Torture’s review of the United States, the International Human Rights Clinic has joined fellow members of the group Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecutions in submitting a shadow report to the UN Committee. The report documents how the Obama administration is in clear violation of the law by shielding from criminal liability the senior government officials responsible for the post-9/11 US torture program.

It calls on the UN Committee to ask the United States specifically why it has not prosecuted President George Bush (who admitted in his memoir to authorizing the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed); former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo (author of an opinion that purported to legally authorize the waterboarding of a prisoner known as Abu Zubaydah); and former CIA contract psychologist Dr. James Mitchell (reported to have personally waterboarded the prisoner known as Abu Zubaydah).

The report also urges the UN Committee to renew its calls for criminal investigations and prosecution of officials at the highest levels of the chain of command.

More than 100 organizations and individuals across civil society have already signed on to the report. Advocates for US Torture Prosecutions will continue to gather signatures from individuals and organizations to submit to the UN Committee in Geneva; you can sign on here until November 6.

Continue reading the full story here.

School Underperformance Reflects Government Underperformance in South Africa

Photo courtesy of Equal Education

Photo courtesy of Equal Education

Via the International Human Rights Clinic
By Elizabeth Loftus, J.D. ’16

In the coming month, all across South Africa, over half a million students will be sitting down to take the National Senior Certificate exam. Some will be sitting at individual desks in state-of-the-art classrooms. But others will be sitting on cinder blocks and at shared desks in buildings that lack water, electricity, and toilets. Wherever they are, students will be taking the same high-stakes test, one that will determine their future. Students who pass will graduate from high school and gain access to higher education opportunities. Students who fail will not.

The exam has a broader purpose, as well: the South African government uses pass rates to identify public schools that lag behind national performance standards. Institutions at which less than 60% of students pass the exam are designated “underperforming.” Underperformance trends in the South African school system reveal startling inequalities and show that the Department of Basic Education’s own underperformance in addressing this critical issue is inexcusable.

Following last year’s exam, 1,407 schools across South Africa qualified as underperforming. The poorest performing provinces were the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, which had pass rates 15%-20% lower than those in the majority of other provinces. Nearly half of the schools in the Eastern Cape failed to meet national performance standards. Shortcomings such as poor infrastructure, inadequate materials, overcrowding, and negligent management all suppress success in vulnerable schools. Not coincidentally, underperformance in the education system disproportionately affects learners in the poor, rural, historically black areas of the country.

Continue reading the full story here.