Fernando Ribeiro Delgado Discusses Criminal Code Reform in Brazil

Fernando Delgado, Senior Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law, International Human Rights Clinic

Fernando Delgado, Senior Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law, International Human Rights Clinic

Via the International Human Rights Clinic 

One of Brazil’s biggest daily newspapers quoted Clinical Instructor Fernando Ribeiro Delgado this past Sunday in an in-depth cover story on criminal code reform. The article in the Folha de São Paulo presents perspectives on a proposal gaining steam before congress that would harden criminal sentencing and close off several avenues for early release.

Delgado warns that Brazil is “following the path of failed crime policies,” drawing reference to U.S. “war on crime” laws that produced skyrocketing incarceration rates, a comparison he discusses further in a companion piece that ran in the Folha the same day. Delgado points to one prison in particular, Aníbal Bruno, as “a symbol of the catastrophe of mass incarceration underway in Brazil.” Though officially designed to detain some 1500 men, Aníbal Bruno Prison now commonly holds over 6000.

The Folha piece has an entire subsection based on a 2013 brief co-authored by the Clinic in the Aníbal Bruno Prison case, which is currently before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The Clinic has been working for the past four years with a civil society coalition in Brazil to push for widespread reform in Aníbal Bruno Prison and beyond. This past May, the Inter-American Court issued its first legally binding resolution in the Aníbal Bruno case, ordering Brazil to take provisional measures to protect the life, personal integrity, and health of all persons at the prison. The order also mandates steps to reduce over-crowding and end the routine practice of strip searching family visitors at the notorious pre-trial detention center. The coalition is currently focusing efforts on monitoring the implementation of the order. A first set of periodic reports are due to the Court in the coming months, and a meeting between the parties and state agencies is scheduled for August 28 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.

Human Rights Program Alumni in the News

harvard_law_school_shield3Via the International Human Rights Clinic
By Cara Solomon 

We use all kinds of strategies here at the International Human Rights Clinic to push for change. Litigation. Treaty negotiation. Documentation and reporting.

As Communications Coordinator, I’ve always been partial to advocacy. Media advocacy, to be more precise. This summer, our alumni are putting it to great use in outlets all over the world.

On Monday, The Huffington Post ran a column by Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, a Satter fellow with the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), documenting the devastating toll the conflict in Gaza is taking on civilians. For the column, Nicolette spoke by phone with Gazans she met last year while researching civilian perspectives on involvement, status, and risk in armed conflict, including in Libya, Bosnia, and Somalia.

In “No Safe Place in Gaza,” she writes:

A young woman described the crippling fear she had experienced over the last four weeks: “The worst of all is the night time,” she said. “There is no power, no electricity, and there are tens of drones in the sky. Whenever you hear a rocket, you think it’s targeting your house. You are running from one room to another. I know this is silly — if your house is hit, it won’t matter which room you were in.”

Each night, her family of six gathered on mattresses that they had pulled together in the middle of the living room, “far away from the windows, so that they don’t break,” she said. This way, if their house was hit, the whole family would be killed together. “We don’t want one of the family to survive and then have to grieve for the rest of us,” she said.

At the end of the column, Nicolette lists several strategies the Israeli government and Hamas could use to limit civilian suffering.

Read the full story.

Clinic Files Proposed Amended Complaint in the Apartheid Litigation

CaptureVia the International Human Rights Clinic 

Last Friday, the International Human Rights Clinic filed a proposed amended complaint in the Apartheid Litigation against two defendants, Ford and IBM.

The amended complaint
demonstrates how the claims “touch and concern” the United States as required by the Supreme Court’s
Kiobel decision, as well as how the Defendants acted with the purpose to aid and abet the South African government’s violations of international law, as required by the Second Circuit’s Talisman decision. In particular, the complaint alleges that, through policies and decisions made in the United States, Defendant Ford directed and controlled the sale of specialized vehicles to the South African security forces to suppress the black population, while Defendant IBM created and maintained an identity card system to denationalize the black population.

Susan Farbstein in the Harvard Human Rights Journal

Susan Farbstein, Director and Assistant Clinical Professor, International Human Rights Clinic

Susan Farbstein, Director and Assistant Clinical Professor, International Human Rights Clinic

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

In the latest volume of the Harvard Human Rights Journal, released last week, Clinic Director Susan Farbstein reflects on when, if ever, violence is justified in the struggles for social and political change. The article is adapted from her remarks this past spring at Harvard Law School’s memorial event for Nelson Mandela, the South African leader who died last December. Farbstein, whose work in South Africa currently focuses on the right to education, says in part:

“Ultimately, it is not enough to answer the question posed. We must ask ourselves an equally important follow-up question: If violence is sometimes justified – or resorted to–in struggles for social and political change, how might the damage inflicted on the emerging society be minimized? Mandela’s legacy of forgiveness and reconciliation offers the beginnings of an answer.”

Read Farbstein’s article in full in Volume 27 of the Harvard Human Rights Journal.

Fourth Circuit’s Post-Kiobel Ruling Revives ATS Claims Against U.S. Corporation for Violations Committed Abroad

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

On Monday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the presumption against extraterritoriality in Alien Tort Statute (ATS) cases, established by the April 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Co., does not bar claims against a U.S. contractor for torture and mistreatment of foreign nationals in Iraq.

The Al Shimari v. CACI ruling is a major decision in the ongoing battle over the meaning and interpretation of Kiobel. Kiobel held that there is a presumption against extraterritoriality in ATS cases unless the “claims touch and concern the territory of the United States with sufficient force,” in which case the presumption can be displaced. In Kiobel, the Supreme Court found the “mere corporate presence” of the defendant in the United States did not overcome the presumption.

The Fourth Circuit compared the factual circumstances in Kiobel with those in Al Shimari, and concluded that the corporate defendant had a much more significant connection to the United States than mere presence. In so ruling, it became the first appellate court to hold that the plaintiffs’ claims sufficiently “touch and concern” U.S. territory to displace the presumption.

In the wake of the Kiobel decision, lower courts across the country have wrestled with how to interpret the new “touch and concern” standard given the limited guidance provided by the Supreme Court. Some courts have avoided the complexities of the Kiobel presumption altogether. However, the Fourth Circuit embraced the challenge:

Although the “touch and concern” language in Kiobel may be explained in greater detail in future Supreme Court decisions, we conclude that this language provides current guidance to federal courts when ATS claims involve substantial ties to United States territory. We have such a case before us now, and we cannot decline to consider the Supreme Court’s guidance simply because it does not state a precise formula for our analysis.

Continue reading the full story here.

LL.M. Student Reflects on her Experience with the International Human Rights Clinic

Philippa Greer, LL.M. '14

Philippa Greer, LL.M. ’14

By Philippa Greer, LL.M. ’14

I was both extremely eager and fortunate to enroll in the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at the Harvard Law School during fall semester, an opportunity that enabled me to begin my legal studies with a practical outlook throughout my time at HLS.

My interest in IHRC stemmed primarily from the variety of ongoing projects within the clinical hub of the law school, and the opportunity to combine my theoretical studies of the law with practical engagement that could make a real impact. In addition, the opportunity to undertake a component clinical seminar on Human Rights Advocacy, alongside my enrollment, afforded me with an invaluable avenue through which to explore the ethical implications of international rights advocacy.

Learning under the guidance of a clinical fellow, I worked in a small team with two other students, focusing on human rights advocacy related to the ongoing Syrian conflict and the plight of Palestinian Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war.

The unique autonomy of IHRC facilitates an immersive approach to advocacy that transcends beyond traditional legal casework. From the outset, my team was afforded a platform to explore the boundaries of our project and to discuss and define the parameters of our advocacy.

Arriving at the decision to document the ongoing plight of Palestinian Syrian refugees through non-traditional fora, we were able to utilize interview material from a clinical expedition to the region, to project narratives portraying common practical and legal obstacles facing Palestinian Syrian refugees attempting to seek refuge in neighboring countries in the Middle East.

As part of this work, I had the privilege of interviewing directly a Palestinian Syrian refugee. The experience was immensely informative and moving. By undertaking work on this project, I learned how to actively reflect upon advocacy goals, and strategies and nuanced ethical considerations related to different methods of advocacy.

Now, working within the field of international law and human rights, beyond the walls of Harvard, I am grateful for the exposure I received, the skills I developed, the personal goals I accomplished, and the outlook I obtained through participation in the clinic.

Maryum Jordan ’14 Wins CLEA’s Outstanding Clinical Student Award

Maryum Jordan ’14

Maryum Jordan ’14

By Caroline Parker, Intern, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Congratulations to Maryum Jordan, J.D. ’14, for winning the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA). The award is presented annually to one student from each law school for his/her outstanding clinical coursework and contributions to the clinical community. Maryum was nominated by Clinical Professor of Law Tyler Giannini, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law Susan Farbstein, Lecturer on Law and Clinic Assistant Director Sabi Ardalan, and Clinical Professor of Law Debbie Anker, for her work with both the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC) and the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC). Over the course of her three years at Harvard Law School, she logged over 1000 pro bono hours in service to the community.

Maryum has distinguished herself in many capacities. At IHRC she collaborated with other students to produce a briefing paper on transitional justice in Burma, where she later traveled to conduct research on human rights violations committed near the Taiwan border. As a 3L, Maryum returned to the clinic to work with a student-led reading group on sex-trafficking in Boston. She also worked diligently to prepare asylum cases for traumatized clients from Honduras and Uganda. Her clinical mentors call her “a skilled and extremely conscientious advocate,” who is “intelligent, humble, personable,” and “sensitive to the ethical dimensions of her work.”

“Working with both the International Human Rights Clinic and the Immigration and Refugee Clinic has been part of my best experiences at Harvard Law School and I am grateful for the mentorship, knowledge, and personal growth I have gained as a clinical student. I am deeply honored to receive this award and be recognized by clinicians whom I hold in great esteem,” Maryum said.

This fall, she will be moving to Lima, Peru to work as a fellow for Earth Rights International. Eventually, she plans to continue her work with international and gender-based human rights and pursue a career in clinical teaching.