"Inside the Blackwater Trial" James G. Stewart, University of British Columbia Faculty of Law
October 10, 2014 On 16 September 2007, a convoy of Blackwater vehicles left the Green Zone in Iraq to assist a State Department official after a car bomb went off. Despite being ordered not to deploy, the unit’s team leader proceeded to Nisour Square nearby, where his men locked down the traffic circle. In the fifteen minutes that followed, Blackwater guards allegedly fired heavy weaponry indiscriminately on cars in the traffic jam, a girl’s school, a tanker truck, and unarmed civilians, some of whom had their hands up. Fourteen civilians were killed and more than twenty more were seriously injured. Upon return to base, four of the Blackwater guards immediately complained to their superior that they’d seen people “murdered out there.” One guard was crying. Over the past months, four members of Blackwater’s Raven 23 unit stood trial for the Nisour Square incident in a Washington D.C. courthouse. In this presentation, Professor James G. Stewart, a former war crimes prosecutor in Rwanda and The Hague, offers his reflections on the trial. Together with his collaborator Sara Gray, they collectively sat through every day of the trial except one.
"Local Innovation for Immigrant Rights: NYC's Approach in the De Blasio Administration" Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs
September 25, 2014 Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, is an accomplished public interest lawyer and a leading voice in immigration reform at the local and national level. She has a proven record of enacting pro-immigrant legislation in New York City and New York State. In this talk, Commissioner Agarwal discusses recent NYC immigrant initiatives as well as her experience in making the transition from advocacy to government.
"Crisis in Syria" Jean-Marie Guéhenno, former deputy joint special envoy of the UN and the Arab League for Syria
September 23, 2013 Jean-Marie Guéhenno is Director of the Center of International Conflict Resolution and Associate Director of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies at SIPA, directs the School's International Conflict Resolution specialization, and is a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. For approximately five months in early and mid-2012 Guehenno was deputy joint special envoy of the UN and the Arab League for Syria, working with Kofi Annan. He previously served as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations from 2000-2008. In that role, he led the largest expansion of peacekeeping in the history of the UN, overseeing approximately 130,000 staff on eighteen missions. Mr. Guehenno will discuss the current conflict in Syria.
"Campaigning for Human Rights" Mary Gerisch, Vermont Worker Center
September 16, 2013 Vermont recently became the first state to pass universal healthcare based on human rights principles of universality, dignity, equity and transparency. Those who campaign for human rights principles to inform all government policies are not stopping at healthcare, they are connecting to other local, regional, national and international struggles for dignity and rights. Mary Gerisch, President of the Vermont Workers Center, joins us to discuss the Vermont campaign, their partners, successes and why they see human rights as the basis for a more just society. Mary is also member of the ICCPR task force of the US Human Rights Network and board member of the National Center for Economic Justice.
Introduction to Human Rights at Columbia Law School 2013-2014
September 10, 2013 In this annual panel, aimed primarily at first year law students and LL.M's, introduces the many avenues for getting involved in human rights work and study at Columbia Law School. Panelists discuss courses, pro bono and research opportunities, upcoming events, student groups, journals, internships, and post-graduate fellowships. The panel includes Professor Sarah Cleveland, HRI executive director and co-director of the Human Rights Clinic Risa Kaufman, as well as representatives from Social Justice Initiatives, Rightslink, the Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the Human Rights Law Review.
"The ICJ Judgement in Germany v Italy, Access to Justice & State Immunity for Grave Breaches of Human Rights", Francesco Francioni, CLS Visiting Professor, Professor of International Law & Human Rights & Director of the Law Academy at the European University Institute
March 13, 2013 How should international judgments be enforced in domestic law? In its decision of 3 February 2012 in Germany v Italy, Greece intervening, the International court of Justice (ICJ) found the Italy had breached the jurisdictional immunity of Germany by allowing access to its courts for victims of war crimes committed by German armed forces in the last phase of WW II. The operative paragraph of the judgment orders Italy to ensure that by legislation or other means of its choosing all national courts decisions infringing of Germany's immunity " cease to have effect". This decision confirms a trend, already shown in previous judgments, especially Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v United States) 31 Jan. 2004, toward setting aside the traditional divide between international law and national law and going straight to the determination of what specific measures are necessary within the national system of the respondent state to remedy the violation of international law. But unlike Avena where the dispositif of the judgment entailed the recognition and the enforcement of an individual right, in Germany v Italy the Court goes in the opposite direction, ordering Italy to shut the doors of judicial redress victims of war crimes who had already received judicial protection. This presentation discusses the options involved in the enforcement of this judgment in domestic law and the problematic effects it may have on the dynamic evolution of international law on sovereign immunity.
"Human Rights & International Humanitarian Law in Non-International Armed Conflict" Marco Sassoli, University of Geneva
February 12, 2013 Marco Sassoli, Director of the Department of International Law and International Organization at the University of Geneva discusses human rights and International Humanitarian Law (the law of war) in non-international armed conflict. As treaty, IHL is less detailed in non-international armed conflicts. Because most of these conflicts occur on the territory of the State involved, Human Rights Law should have a greater role than it does in international armed conflicts. However, as customary law or by analogy, the more detailed and less protective rules of IHL of international armed conflicts may come back as lex specialis and crowd out human rights. This discussion is not only theoretically interesting, but also has important practical repercussions, making the difference between life and death, and between indefinite detention without judicial control, when the admissibility of killing and detaining fighters is analysed.
The Law of Armed Conflict & Drug Policy Debate [view video]
February 11, 2013 The Human Rights Institute, The Center for Human Rights and Drug Policy & Righstlink host evening debate in which experts in international humanitarian law (IHL) debated the law of armed conflict and its application to drug related violence. Speakers: Marco Sassoli, Director, Department of International law and International Organization, University of Geneva; Noam Lubell, School of Law, University of Essex; Moderator: Gabor Rona, International Legal Director, Human Rights First
The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism [view video]
January 31, 2013 Author Trevor Aaronson discusses his new book The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism. The book shows how the FBI has, under the guise of engaging in counterterrorism since 9/11, built a network of more than 15,000 informants. In too many cases, informants have infiltrated Muslim communities and manufactured phony terrorist plots, leading to false government claims of victory in the War on Terror. Trevor Aaronson is co-director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. Aaronson was a 2010-11 fellow at the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley where he produced an award-winning project about FBI counterterrorism operations for Mother Jones. Co-sponsored by: The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), The New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), CLEAR and the National Lawyers Guild-NYC.
James Goldston, Executive Director, Open Society Justice Initiative
November 16, 2011 Mr. Goldston shares the progression of his career in humans rights to his current position at the Open Society Justice Initiative. Open Society Justice Initiative is involved in litigation, research on legal policy questions, public policy, criminal justice pilot projects, and technical assistance to civil society and government. Key areas the foundation addresses include racial profiling, equality and access to citizenship, freedom of information and expression, criminal justice, international justice, and national security and counter-terrorism. Goldston goes into detail about some of these areas and what the foundation is doing about them, and answers specific questions from the audience.
Rawia Aburabia, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Bedouin Rights Program Director
October 19, 2011 Ms. Aburabia directs the Bedouin Rights program at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Set against a backdrop of poverty, displacement, and harsh political conditions - the Negev Bedouin is among Israel's most disenfranchised communities. Facing things like polygamy and a law enforcement system that is not working to protect women, the Negev Bedouin woman is often in the shadows. The ray of hope is in a younger generation of Bedouin women leading the way toward a better future. Rawia shares her experiences working to empower and raise awareness among this disempowered group - the dilemas that it raises with regards to the larger context of Bedouin Rights and the way forward.
Human Rights & Conflict in Kashmir
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch
October 6, 2011 Ms. Ganguly begins with a brief synopsis of the origins of violence and political unrest in Kashmir starting from the Cold War to the present. She speaks about the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that has grown among the Kashmiri people. Her work in Kashmir in 2006 involved publishing pictures of unidentified Kashmiris killed in combat which later resulted in further investigations of unmarked graves by the State Human Rights Commission in Kashmir. Ganguly emphasizes that while the Indian government has responded to Kashmiri unrest by promoting development, Kashmiri citizens are really seeking justice and the removal of the military so that they can regain a sense of normalcy in their lives. Ganguly reminds listeners that while the dialogue around Kashmir has been heavily tangled in the politics between the West, Pakistan, and India, it is important to orient the discourse around the Kashmiri people.
Portable Justice: The Challenges of Pursuing Justice for Global Migrants
Cathleen Caron, Executive Director and Founder of Global Workers Justice Alliance
April 6, 2011 - Migration for work does not always result in permanent resettlement in the country of employment. Although no global statistics exist, return migration is not uncommon. Workers go home for a variety of reasons. Temporary work visas expire, unauthorized workers are deported, family emergencies compel workers to leave, or sometimes they go home simply because they want to. There are many challenges to ensure that workers who leave the country of employment still have the opportunity to challenge their employers in court. Portable justice, the right and ability of workers to access justice in the countries of employment even after they have departed, is a key, under addressed element to achieving justice for today’s global migrants. In this talk, Cathleen Caron, the founder and current director of Global Workers, discusses her organizations work, and how temporary worker programs today fail and are creating a disposable, disempowered workforce.
National Human Rights Institutions in Africa
Tseliso Thipanyane, South African Constitutional & Human Rights lawyer
February 16, 2011 - Decades after the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the acknowledgment by African heads of State and Government of their duty to promote and protect human rights, the advancement of human rights in the African continent, notwithstanding progress in some countries, remains poor and continues to face challenges of poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization of women and children, armed conflict, crime, corruption, bad and undemocratic governance and degeneration of human rights in many states. In this talk, Tseliso speaks candidly about the role of national human rights institutions established in 32 African states and the challenges they face in the advancement of international human rights standards in the African continent. He speaks in particular about the challenges he faced during his time as CEO of the South African Human Rights Commission.
Chinese Migrants in Africa
Howard French, veteran journalist and photograher
February 15, 2011 - Veteran New York Times correspondent and photographer Howard French is in the midst of a year-long project to research Chinese migration to Africa. He is looking at the impact of Chinese migrants on agriculture, industry, and commerce, but not through a distant lens. Rather, he is seeking to tell the stories of the workers themselves—and the African communities where they now reside. Through these stories, he hopes to identify ways for African civil society to maximize the benefits of Chinese migration, mitigate the pitfalls, and safeguard the rights of Africans and Chinese alike. In this talk, Howard discusses how he arrived at this research and gives a first-hand account of some of the discoveries and connections that he has made thus far.
The U.S., Human Rights, & the Universal Periodic Review
February 2, 2011 - In November 2010, the United States underwent the first ever comprehensive review of its human rights record. This review was part of a new U.N. Human Rights Council process known as the Universal Periodic Review. This discussion explores how U.S. participation has impacted domestic human rights as well as U.S. standing in the international arena. Speakers Gillian Sorensen (United Nations Foundation) and Sarah Paoletti (U. Pennsylvania Law School) break down the UPR process, discuss opportunities for domestic human rights advocates presented by the review, and discuss how the Obama Administration's approach to human rights and the U.N. compares with prior Administrations.
Closing Europe’s Doors: EU Controls Against Asylum-Seekers
Bill Frelick, Human Rights Watch Refugee Program Director
January 19, 2011 - In response to the flows of migrants and asylum seekers from less developed regions seeking entry into industrialized states, industrialized states are using increasingly blunt instruments to interdict and deflect migrants and asylum seekers before they set foot in their territories. Bill Frelick will discusses three reports he has authored during the past three years that have documented how EU member states engage in "partnerships" with neighboring states that, in effect, dump asylum seekers and migrants into countries that have proven incapable or unwilling to provide protection to the migrants. Bill asserts that the EU and its member states have abdicated their responsibilities under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights when they externalize migration controls that fail to distinguish refugees, unaccompanied children and other vulnerable people.
Sexual Rights in India
Arvind Narrain, Alternative Law Forum
December 7, 2010 - Arvind Narrain, founding member of the Alternative Law Forum (ALF) in Bangalore, India, discusses the struggle for sexual rights in India, the specifics of a battle to eliminate "Article 377" (the provision that criminalizes homosexual acts), and their place in broader human rights challenges facing India. At ALF, Arvind divides his time between litigation on the criminal side and research and advocacy on sexuality and minority related issues. He has been a critical figure in the struggle for sexual rights in India. The ALF has been lawyers to “Voices Against 377” one of the major parties in the litigation “Article 377”.