Resist, Decolonize, Create: Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute 20th Anniversary Series
The Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute 20th Anniversary Series "Resist, Decolonize, Create" is a year-long exploration of tactics by leading activists and thinkers to resist abuse, create opportunities to expand justice, and decolonize the human rights field, while celebrating and sharing the Human Rights Institute’s groundbreaking work. The series was delivered across the 2018-2019 academic year.
About the Series
The Human Rights Institute (HRI) advances international human rights through education, advocacy, fact-finding, research, scholarship, and critical reflection. Founded in 1998 by the late Professor Louis Henkin as the anchor for human rights within Columbia Law School, HRI works in partnership with advocates, communities, and organizations pushing for social change to develop and strengthen the human rights legal framework and mechanisms, promote justice and accountability for human rights violations, and build and amplify collective power.
Human rights, social justice, and basic freedoms face increasing threats from authoritarianism and xenophobia, environmental exploitation, inequality, poverty, and war. HRI’s 20th Anniversary Series was designed with that in mind, aiming to build bridges between scholarship and activism to address mounting threats to human rights, develop capacity within the legal community, and model new strategies for progress.
Titled “Resist, Decolonize, Create,” the 20th Anniversary Series engages leading activists, thinkers, and actors in the human rights field to share best practices and provide a constructive critique to the status of the field today. It also celebrates and highlights the Institute’s ground-breaking and innovative work in areas ranging from health, labor, and gender-based rights internationally and in the U.S., to international law, armed conflict, and business and human rights.
What can be done to fight back against both longstanding and new threats to human rights?
We would like to thank all of our sponsors and partners on this series including: Columbia Law school's Francis F. and Catherine Randolph Speakers Fund, Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, Human Rights Law Review (HRLR), Society for Immigration and Refugee Rights (SIRR), Columbia Society of International Law (CSIL), Rightslink, Student Public Interest Network (SPIN), Coalition of Identity Group Leaders, Women’s Association, Latin American Law Students Association, and Middle Eastern Law Student Association. Also the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) Human Rights Working Group and Migration Working Group.
Fall 2018 Program
A Future Vision: Toward Solidarity in Human Rights Activism
Sarah Jackson, Deputy Regional Director, East Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Great Lakes, Amnesty International, and Practitioner-in-Residence, Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute
Wednesday, September 19, 2018 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 105
While human rights can liberate people from fear and want, human rights activism can both entrench and transform power relations. How can solidarity across people, organizations and borders build power for human rights change from below? Using the case study of Amnesty International, Sarah Jackson, Deputy Regional Director, East Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Great Lakes at Amnesty International and Practitioner-in-Residence at the Human Rights Institute will discuss how solidarity is and could further evolve to ensure the agency of those struggling against oppression is central to solidarity work.
Harnessing the Power of Technology: New Tools for Human Rights Accountability
Brad Samuels, Founding Partner, SITU Research. Moderator: Tony Wilson, Director, Security Force Monitor, Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | William and June Warren Hall 107
Samuels will discuss how interdisciplinary methods, tools, and technologies are advancing human rights fact finding and criminal investigations, and how SITU Research, an unconventional applied research division, is using design, research and fabrication in visual and spatial analyses of human-rights violations. Samuels will present on case studies from SITU's recent work, including on Ukraine and Mali. The conversation will be moderated by Tony Wilson, Director, Security Force Monitor, Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute.
Responding to the Global Crisis in Migrants' Rights
Felipe Gonzalez Morales, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. Moderator: Maya Alkateb-Chami, Managing Director, Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 104
An estimated 258 million people live outside their country of origin - including 68+ million displaced due to war, persecution, and environmental disaster. González Morales, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants and former President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, will discuss rights-based solutions to ensure access to justice for migrants and reflect on the opportunities and challenges facing the global community, based on a report to be presented to the UN General Assembly.
Mental Health and Trauma: Creating Sustainable Human Rights Movements
Yvette Alberdingk-Thijm, Executive Director, WITNESS; Adam Brown, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, New School for Social Research, and Director of the Global Mental Health and Trauma Lab; Gulika Reddy, Clinical Teaching Fellow, Human Rights Clinic, Columbia Law School. Moderator: Sarah Knuckey, Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein Clinical Associate Professor of Human Rights; Faculty Co-Director of the Human Rights Institute; and Director of the Human Rights Clinic, Columbia Law School
Thursday, October 25, 2018 | 12:10-1:10 PM | Jerome Greene Hall 107
The crucial work undertaken by human rights advocates to investigate abuse and advocate for justice can often expose them to traumatic material, threats, and violence that can affect well-being. This panel will discuss new research on mental health and human rights, and share innovative strategies for individual, organizational, and community well-being.
Should Human Rights Activists Disrupt Human Rights?
César Rodríguez-Garavito, Executive Director, Center for Law, Justice, and Society (Dejusticia); and Founder, Program on Global Justice and Human Rights, University of the Andes. Moderator: Benjamin Hoffman, Deputy Director, Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic
Tuesday, October 30, 2018 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 107
Rodríguez Garavito will discuss critiques of the human rights field, and tactics for effectively disrupting human rights - and improving strategies for social justice - that draw on the insights of other areas, such as journalism, neuroscience, long-term thinking, and social psychology.
Identifying Missing Migrants: Using Forensic Sciences to Account for Deaths on the US-Mexico Border
Mercedes Doretti, Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team. Moderator: Anjli Parrin, Legal Fellow, Project on War Crimes and Mass Graves, Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic
Thursday, November 1, 2018 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | William and June Warren Hall 107
Thousands of people die trying to cross the US-southern border into America. Since the late 1990's, almost 7,000 persons have been found dead on the US-side of the border with Mexico, and thousands more remain missing. Hundreds of bodies lie unidentified in morgues, medical examiners offices, and cemeteries in states such as Texas and Arizona. Mercedes Doretti, a leading forensic anthropologist, has since 2009 successfully identified the remains of almost 200migrants. Doretti is co-founder of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, created in 1984 to investigate the cases of 9,000 disappeared people in Argentina, and which today has worked in more than 50 countries.
Fighting for Maternal Health: Lessons for Advancing Women’s Rights in the U.S.
Pilar Herrero, Human Rights Counsel, Center for Reproductive Rights; Breana Lipscomb, US Maternal Health and Human Rights Campaign Manager, Center for Reproductive Rights. Moderator: JoAnn Kamuf Ward, Director, Human Rights in the US Project, Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute
Wednesday, November 7, 2018 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 107
With the highest maternal mortality ratio in the developed world, the U.S. ranks poorly on measures of maternal health, and the United States is one of the few countries where maternal mortality is on the rise. The current crisis in maternal health disproportionately impacts women of color. This talk will explore how reproductive rights organizations are leveraging human rights principles and strategies to improve health policy and outcomes locally, and nationally, and the connection to global advocacy.
The United States’ Retreat from the Human Rights System
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; and Keith Harper, Former United States Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council; Partner, Kilpatrick Townsend. Moderator: Sarah Cleveland, Louis Henkin Professor of Human & Constitutional Rights, Columbia Law School; Vice Chair, UN Human Rights Committee
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | 12:10-1:10 PM | Jerome Greene Hall 104
In June 2018, the United States announced its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, the primary UN state body established for the protection of human rights. The action accompanied threats or actions to distance the United States from various regional and international human rights institutions. This conversation between Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Keith Harper, Former US Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, will consider the United States' retreat from human rights mechanisms and the implications for the global protection of human rights. The conversation will be moderated by Professor Sarah Cleveland, Louis Henkin Professor of Human & Constitutional Rights.
The Use of Force in the 21st Century: Law and Legitimacy
Patrick Luna, Second Secretary and Legal Adviser, Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations; Alex Moorehead, Director, Project on Counterterrorism, Armed Conflict, and Human Rights, Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute
Wednesday, November 15, 2018 | 12:10-1:10 PM | William and June Warren Hall 107
Since 9/11, a small group of states, led by the United States, have sought to justify their expanded military and counterterrorism operations through stretched interpretations of international law. The prohibition on the use of force in the United Nations Charter, widely regarded as one of the cornerstones of the post-Second World War international order, appears to be under attack. But do all states agree, and who gets to make the law anyway? Patrick Luna, Second Secretary and Legal Adviser, Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations, and Alex Moorehead, Lecturer in Law and Director of the Project on Counterterrorism, Armed Conflict, and Human Rights at the Human Rights Institute, will explore recent developments in the law on the use of force and why that matters.
Spring 2019 Program
Navigating Human Rights Critiques: Lessons from South Africa
Speakers: Jackie Dugard, Associate Professor in the School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; Benjamin Hoffman, Acting Director, Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic
Thursday, February 7, 2019 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 107
Human rights advocates have at times been critiqued for discounting or even undermining rights-holders’ efforts to promote change, constructing rights-holders as merely “victims” and adopting a “savior” mentality. Such practices risk increasing the marginalization and victimization of rights-holders, and at times can even recreate structural barriers to empowerment. But how have advocates responded to this critique in their practice? What have been some of the most difficult challenges to implementing a more critically-responsive form of practice, and how have advocates addressed those challenges? This event will address those question, drawing upon the efforts of a group of advocates and rights holders using strategic litigation to advance socio-economic rights in South Africa.
A People-Centered Approach to Economic Justice in Jackson, Mississippi
Speaker: Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. In conversation with: Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Culture, Columbia Law School
Tuesday February 12, 2019 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 107
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba will speak about his own work advancing human rights as Mayor of Jackson, MS. From the perspective of a lawyer, community organizer and social change leader, Mayor Lumumba will discuss the challenges and opportunities he faces as a progressive mayor of a historically Black city. The talk will highlight Jackson’s innovative cooperative economic development model rooted in community ownership and participatory democracy.
Human Rights at War: Detention and Conduct of Hostilities in Armed Conflict
Niccolo Pons, Associate Legal Officer, Chambers, Kosovo Specialist Chambers; Paolo Lobba, Adjunct Professor of Legal Studies, Università di Bologna. Moderator: Alex Moorehead, Director, Project on Counterterrorism, Armed Conflict, and Human Rights, Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute
Tuesday, February 26, 2019 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 107
This talk will focus on the relationship between internatinoal humanitarian law and international human rights law in times of war with a focus on two main cases: (i) deprivation of liberty; and (ii) conduct of hostilities. A distinction is drawn between rules that apply to international and non-international armed conflict, with reference to their concrete implications in current conflict situations, such as Yemen, Afghanistan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Human Rights and Civil Rights: Interchangeable Methods to Advance Social Justice
Marissa A. L. Jackson, Deputy Commissioner for Community Relations, NYC Commission on Human Rights; Chris Albin-Lackey, Senior Legal Advisor, Human Rights Watch; Meera Shah, Senior Staff Attorney, Palestine Legal
Tuesday, March 5, 2019 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 107
The distinction between “civil” and “human” rights is somewhat unique to the U.S. context, where civil rights have been key drivers of social change. In the past several decades, the U.S. has seen a shift towards using human rights standards and strategies to advance the full range of rights - civil, political, economic, social, and cultural. How do U.S. lawyers focusing on social justice use human rights mechanisms, and what factors do they consider in making this decision? This event hosts CLS alumni whose work incorporates civil and human rights frameworks, to discuss how law students might develop expertise in both.
The UN Security Council and Yemen: Failing to Prevent?
Speaker: Dakshinie Ruwanthika Gunaratne, Former International Humanitarian Law Expert UN Security Council Panel on Yemen (2016-2018) and Sudan (2014-2016)
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 103
The war in Yemen, now well into its fifth year, has been described by United Nations as one of the worst humanitarian crises of our times. Yet what is the Security Council, the UN's most important and powerful body, doing about it? How has the UN Security Council responded to widespread abuses by all sides to the conflict and dire warnings of famine, starvation, and disease? Gunaratne will discuss the dynamics shaping the UN Security Council response to the crisis in Yemen and ways in which the Council's approach could be reformed. The event will be moderated by Alexander Moorehead, Director, Project on Counterterrorism, Armed Conflict and Human Rights at HRI.
70 Years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Human Rights Today
Speakers: A. Kayum Ahmed, Lecturer in Law, Columbia Law School; Former Chief Executive Officer, South African Human Rights Commission; Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings; Director, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression Project; Sarah Cleveland, Professor, Columbia Law School; Former Vice Chair, UN Human Rights Committee; Lynn Freedman, Professor and Director, Averting Maternal Death and Disability Project, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health; Tracy Robinson, Senior Lecturer, The University of the West Indies; Former President, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Moderator: Roger Cohen, Columnist, The New York Times
Wednesday, April 3, 2019 | 6:30-8:00 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 106
Seventy years ago, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Drafted under Chairwoman Eleanor Roosevelt, the UDHR inaugurated the modern international human rights system. This panel discussion explores past accomplishments and future challenges of human rights under the UDHR. The anniversary will also be marked by the unveiling of a bust of Eleanor Roosevelt, gifted to Columbia Law School in recognition of her contribution to human rights. Watch a video of the event here.
Human Rights Institute Lunch Talk: A Conversation with Hamed Sinno, Musician and LGBTQ Rights Activist
Speaker: Hamed Sinno, Musician and Advocate
Moderator: Anjli Parrin, Legal Fellow, Human Rights Institute
Tuesday, April 9, 2019 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | Jerome Greene Annex
Lead singer of Lebanese rock band Mashrou Leila, Hamed Sinno, will speak on his work at the intersection of music, queer cultural expression, and human rights activism in the Middle East. In a region where it is rare and challenging to be open about one’s non-heteronormative sexuality or gender, rock band Mashrou’ Leila has offered visibility for queer cultural expression through their inspirational songs and videos which incorporate themes of justice and freedom. In 2016, more than 35,000 fans gathered in Cairo for a rock concert by a popular Lebanese band, Mashrou' Leila. During the concert, seven audience-members were arrested for waving rainbow flags that symbolize LGBTQ Pride, which was the beginning of a wave of crack-downs on Egypt's LGBTQ community. By the end of October, over 65 others had been arrested as part of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s crackdown onunder anti- homosexuality laws. This event will address the challenges of trying to fight for rights in closed spaces, where both State forces and the general population are resisting the rights sought. The event will focus on the fight against identity-based harms in closed spaces, and the role art and music can play in working towards human rights and justice in the region.
Humanitarian Investments?: Workers' Rights for Refugees in Jordan and Ethiopia
Speaker: Jennifer Gordon, Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law. Moderator: Benjamin Hoffman, Acting Director, Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic
Thursday, March 11, 2019 | 12:10 – 1:10 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 102B
Governments, including the EU, have recently tried to curb the flow of asylum-seekers into the Global North by investing in job creation in the less developed countries that host the majority of the world's refugees. Looking at such investments in the garment industry in Jordan and Ethiopia as a case study, this talk will discuss how these "humanitarian" efforts have faltered on the ground due to low wages and high rates of workers' rights violations. To respond to such a challenge, the talk will explore different approaches to advancing labor rights in global supply chains, and highlight the lessons that can be drawn from such approaches to advance the human rights of refugees in host countries.
Facing Statelessness: Doubtful Citizens of India
Speakers: Arijit Sen, Fellow, Center for Contemporary South Asia, Brown University; Leah Verghese, Fulbright Fellow, Legal Researcher
Thursday, March 11, 2019 | 6:00 – 8:00 pm | Jerome Greene Hall 103
Despite a wall on the border, refugees from East Pakistan continue to flock into the India's State of Assam, and state legislation was passed stripping any immigrants who came prior to 1971 from their political rights and mandating their 'detection' and deportation. While the law is being contested before the Indian Supreme Court for creating a different rule for Indian citizenship than in the rest of the country, thousands of identified 'foreigners' face inhumane conditions in detention. This event will shed light on the history, oppression, and deportation of Indian citizens and immigrants of Bengali descent in India, and on activists' efforts to fight for justice for them. The film screening will be followed by a discussion with the panelists, both of whom worked on Amnesty International India's briefing on detention centers in Assam.