Thursday, September 22, 2022

U.S. Releases Supplemental Information after CERD Review

The U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Geneva has put together a website and released a video recording of the civil society consultation that took place on August 10, 2022, the day before the formal presentation of the U.S. report to CERD.  The Biden-Harris Administration has also shared a supplemental report it submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination after the U.S. review.

This display of transparency comes in response to a letter signed by 48 representatives of civil society organizations and Indigenous Peoples to the Biden Harris Administration requesting such measures as to (1) ensure that all relevant parties – namely, government officials who will be responsible for implementation and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations who were unable to participate - may see what transpired, (2) allow for greater public education, and (3) exemplify the administration’s transparent engagement with these organizations.

The supplemental report contains statements from the State of California’s Office of the Attorney General, the City of Atlanta, the Executive Office of the President, and several other U.S. government agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of the Interior, detailing their respective plans for implementing the CERD recommendations.

September 22, 2022 in CERD | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

October 2022 Deadlines: Calls for Inputs by UN Human Rights Mechanisms

The following calls for inputs have been issued by UN Human Rights Mechanisms with deadlines in October 2022 and law professors whose practice, research, and/or scholarship touches on these topics may be interested in submission:

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for inputs: High Commissioner’s report on human rights implications of and good practices and key challenges of equitable and universal access to and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Deadline October 3, 2022. Read more.

Working Group on discrimination against women and girls - Call for inputs from the mandate of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls for its upcoming report “Human Security of Women and Girls in the Context of Poverty and Inequality”. Deadline October 3, 2022. Read more.

Human Rights Council Advisory Committee – Call for written inputs: Request for inputs on patterns, policies, and processes leading to incidents of racial discrimination and on advancing racial justice and equality. Deadline October 10, 2022. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities – Call for inputs: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities to the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council.  Deadline October 14, 2022. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment – Call for inputs: Women, Girls and the Right to a Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment. Deadline October 14, 2022. Read more.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for submissions of written contributions to the expert workshop on possible ways to enhance the participation of Indigenous Peoples in the work of the Human Rights Council. Deadline October 15, 2022. Read more.

This information was compiled from

September 20, 2022 in United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2022

New Article: The Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations: A New Means of Addressing Discrimination Against Foreign and Dual Nationals?

Leigh T. Toomey, The Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations: A New Means of Addressing Discrimination Against Foreign and Dual Nationals?, Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol 35, Spring 2022. Excerpt from introduction included below.

“In February 2021, Canada launched the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations (“Declaration”) in order to enhance international cooperation in deterring the detention of foreign and dual nationals for the purpose of diplomatic coercion, and to address this form of detention whenever and wherever it occurs. The Declaration is the first of its kind in seeking to address the specific challenge of the arbitrary detention of foreign and dual nationals and their use as “bargaining chips in international relations.”

This Commentary considers the new Declaration, arguing that it is a promising initial response to the urgent need for the international community to denounce the detention of individuals because of their status as foreign or dual nationals. To highlight the prevalence of the arbitrary detention of foreign and dual nationals and the urgency of addressing it, this Commentary reviews recent opinions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (“Working Group”). In all of the opinions reviewed, the Working Group found that foreign and dual nationals had been arbitrarily detained due to discrimination based on their nationality, or because they were not afforded their right to consular assistance. The Working Group has welcomed the Declaration, noting that “[i]ts aims and purposes relate closely to the concerns expressed by the Working Group in the past” and that it stands ready, within the remit of its mandate, to support this initiative and to engage with States that have endorsed it. This Commentary takes a similar approach in welcoming the Declaration, while being mindful that States must take action to implement its principles.”

September 15, 2022 in Books and articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

United Nations Condemns U.S. for Misuse of Chemical Agents, Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons in Response to Reports of St. Louis City Justice Center Jail Conditions

By Lauren E. Bartlett, HRAH Blog Editor, and Anezka Krobot, 2L at St. Louis University School of Law

On Tuesday, August 30, 2022, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination published its Concluding Observations and Recommendations from its August 10-12 review of the United States. The Committee, which is made up of 18 independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, expressed concerns and gave recommendations for how the United States could better implement the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

In its findings, the Committee condemned the misuse of chemical agents, like pepper spray, in U.S. jails and prisons, in addition to the use of solitary confinement. The Committee also recommended that the U.S impose “strict restrictions on the use of solitary confinement and the use of chemical agents as pepper spray and ensuring that its use does not have a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities.”

These statements follow submissions of reports of inhumane conditions at the St. Louis City Justice Center jail (CJC), including statements from people who were currently and formerly incarcerated at CJC, advocacy organizations and a shadow report submitted in July 2022 by the MacArthur Justice Center, Saint Louis University School of Law Human Rights at Home Litigation Clinic, ArchCity Defenders and Rights Behind Bars. The shadow report highlights the tortuous punishment and inhumane confinement conditions that are used on a daily basis against those detained in the City of St. Louis, 95% of whom are Black. 

A full press statement regarding the Committee’s findings can be found here.

September 13, 2022 in CERD, Criminal Justice, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

New Article: Let Them Eat Rights: Re-Framing the Food Insecurity Problem Using a Rights-Based Approach

Benedict Sheehy & Ying Chen, Let Them Eat Rights: Re-Framing the Food Insecurity Problem Using a Rights-Based Approach, 43 Mich. J. Int'l L. 631 (August 2022). Abstract below.

Food insecurity is a global issue. Large parts of the global population are unable to feed themselves adequately with hundreds of millions of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. This problem is recognized widely by governments, industry and civil society and is usually understood using one of three approaches or frames: a basic production problem solved by technology and increased industrialization of agricultural, and an economic problem solved by economic growth and a commercial problem resolved by expanding markets. Much of the discussion and policy advice is based on the premise that hunger is primarily a wealth issue and, that as wealthy countries do not have hunger, the solution is economic development. Using Erving Goffman’s theory of framing, we argue that these frames are inadequate as evidenced by the failure to solve this very basic, but complex problem in both poor and wealthy countries on the one hand nor explain the success of some developing countries on the other. After analyzing the three frames and their limitations, we propose a rights-based frame and explain how rights are an important part of solving the complex problem of hunger. We examine how rights-based approaches have worked by creating three categories based on the status of food rights within the respective constitutional frameworks of those jurisdictions. In each of the three categories, we examine specific jurisdictional frameworks, evidence of performance and evaluate their success. Based on that review, analysis and evaluation, we identify the legal elements of an effective right to food.

September 7, 2022 in Books and articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Event 9/12: ABA Webinar Tipping the Scales of Justice

On Monday September 12, 2022, at 3:30pm ET, the ABA Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice will present an online free webinar titled "Tipping the Scales of Justice." The webinar is described in detail below.

Anti-fatness is a form of systemic oppression that invades every aspect of U.S. and global culture. Although often thought of as a personal or interpersonal issue, anti-fatness is ingrained in U.S institutions, including the government, the medical establishment, employment and hiring in all types of organizations, education, and legal proceedings of all kinds. Otherwise marginalized individuals and communities–particularly Black and Brown people, disabled people, older people, and LGBTQIA+ people–are disproportionately impacted by anti-fatness, increasing the urgency of addressing this form of bias as a serious social justice concern. Advocates for fat people identify the lack of clearly articulated legal protections against discrimination based on weight, height, or any combination thereof as a major factor in allowing cultural perceptions and misperceptions of fat people to deprive fat people of equitable and just treatment under the law. As legal expert Sondra Solovay points out, “Courts often have the ability to end unnecessary discrimination against fat people, but lack the vision.”

 Our panel of experts discusses how to shift this lack of vision, including the important role legal professionals can play in supporting the passage of Equality at Every Size legislation, the influence and power lawyers have in utilizing existing policies and laws to create fat justice, and the need for an intersectional approach to fighting anti-fatness.


  • Elaine K. Lee, Member-at-Large, Board of Directors, National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance; Attorney, Mauriel Kapouytian Woods LLP
  • Tigress Osborn, Chair, Board of Directors, National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance
  • Brandie Solovay, Director, Fat Legal Advocacy, Rights and Education Project; Legal Director, Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco

Sponsored by the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. To register for this free event, click here.

September 1, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 25, 2022

New Article: Non-State Actors “Under Color of Law”: Closing a Gap in Protection Under the Convention Against Torture

Anna Welch & SangYeob Kim, Non-State Actors “Under Color of Law”: Closing a Gap in Protection Under the Convention Against Torture, 35 Harvard H.R.J. (2022). Abstract below.

The world is experiencing a global restructuring that poses a serious threat to international efforts to prevent and protect against torture. The rise of powerful transnational non-state actors such as gangs, drug cartels, militias, and terrorist organizations is challenging states’ authority to control and govern torture committed within their territory. In the United States, those seeking protection against deportation under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) must establish a likelihood of torture at the instigation of or by consent or acquiescence of a public official acting in an official capacity or other person acting in an official capacity. However, what is meant by “other person acting in an official capacity” such that torturous acts by non-state actors fall under U.N. Torture Convention protection remains unclear under U.S. CAT jurisprudence. While many aspects of the CAT have been litigated, clarified, and developed through case law since the United States ratified the CAT, the question of whether and when a non-state actor can be deemed an “other person acting in an official capacity” under the CAT within U.S. jurisprudence lacks scholarship or case law. We make the novel argument that courts and agencies should apply factors employed in civil rights claims (also known as § 1983 claims) to assess whether a non-state actor can act in an official capacity or under color of law. Doing so will help fill a critical gap in U.S. CAT protections.

August 25, 2022 in Books and articles, CAT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

New Article: Access to a Doctor, Access to Justice? An Empirical Study on the Impact of Forensic Medical Examinations in Preventing Deportations

Nermeen S. Arastu, Access to a Doctor, Access to Justice? An Empirical Study on the Impact of Forensic Medical Examinations in Preventing Deportations, 35 Harvard H.R.J. (2022). Abstract below.

Year after year, the United States has remained the world’s largest recipient of humanitarian-based immigration applications. Those seeking protection here must navigate a backlogged and increasingly restrictive system, oftentimes without access to counsel. Most individuals applying for humanitarian relief must prove that they survived egregious past harms or fear future harms if the United States were to deport them. In turn, immigration judges and Department of Homeland Security adjudicators act as gatekeepers, making daily decisions about whose pain and suffering is devastating enough to justify granting them status in the United States. For immigrants privileged enough to gain access to them, forensic medical evaluators can play a crucial role in immigration outcomes by documenting narratives of harm, bolstering credibility, and persuading adjudicators to grant relief. However, despite the exponential growth in medical-legal collaborations and requests for forensic medical evaluations in support of immigrants, there is little data about if and how forensic medical evidence impacts adjudicator decision making. The empirical study discussed in this Article—the largest-of-its-kind quantitative study of over 2,500 cases in which Physicians for Human Rights (“PHR”) facilitated medical evaluations on behalf of immigrants—found that 81.6% of individuals who received a forensic medical evaluation between 2008 and 2018 experienced some form of a positive immigration outcome. In comparison, immigration adjudictors only granted relief to asylum seekers an estimated 42.4% of the time overall during this same period. The significant impact of forensic medical evaluations in contributing to a favorable immigration outcome raises questions about whether adjudicators are holding immigrants to overly-stringent evidentiary standards by constructively creating norms that require immigrants to gain access to health professionals with the requisite training to evaluate them. To the extent such evaluations become essential to the successful outcome of the legal case, access to a medical evaluator may indeed translate into access to justice.


August 23, 2022 in Books and articles, Health, Immigrants, Immigration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Know Better, Do Better: 2022 U.S. CERD Review

By Jennifer Wakefield, Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy at Northeastern University School of Law

IMG_0841Last week, I had the privilege of traveling to Geneva, Switzerland for the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)’s review of the United States for its (non)compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Together with Martha Davis, Co-Director of the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at Northeastern University School of Law, I attended briefings with CERD members, coordinated with representatives from civil society organizations, and urged members of the US delegation to listen to our suggestions before the official review at the end of the week. The six days that we spent at the United Nations were transformative, illuminating, and empowering, revealing the harrowing realities that people of color experience daily and the inescapable urgency to repair a system designed to create and perpetuate racial injustices.

On Tuesday, members of civil society organizations from across the country filled a conference room in the Palais Wilson to deliver statements to members of the CERD to create a more accurate picture of what is going on in the United States. Due to time constraints, not everyone was able use the microphone, but the sheer number of people in that room spoke volumes. The first hour of the briefing was dedicated to advocating for indigenous rights, with powerful presentations from members of various tribes on environmental racism, reproductive justice, and education equity for indigenous communities. For the remaining two hours, the CERD heard statements on the criminal legal system, voting rights, the child welfare system, gun violence, migrants’ rights, healthcare and reproductive justice, housing and homelessness, reparations, the access-to-justice crisis, and the need for a national human rights institution – and how current policies and practices institutionalized by the federal government in these areas disproportionately impact people of color. Although each person only had two minutes, the short speeches touched on centuries of pain and oppression that the United States created and continues to cause for underserved communities.

Wednesday’s meeting at the U.S. Mission began as a formal session for the U.S. delegation to answer previously submitted questions from civil society organizations. After going through metal detectors and leaving all electronics with security guards, we sat in rows facing a panel of delegates from the Executive branch. At the beginning of the meeting, the moderator, Ambassador Michèle Taylor, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Human Rights Council, said they could not field any live questions given the number of written inquiries they received. After the questions were read, the delegates gave their pre-typed, rehearsed answers approved by the agencies in which they worked. But directly impacted people heard the emptiness in these stoic and robotic responses. Disregarding the Ambassador, one by one, about a dozen people took turns standing up to share their personal stories of how the US government has failed them and their communities. The emotion and energy in the room was palpable as the people offering first-hand accounts pleaded and demanded for the delegates to make change. The tears were contagious. Almost every member of the delegation was crying as the undeniable truths filled the air. In that moment, the delegation was confronted with two driving forces – power they yield as federal officials and humanity underlying this experience. There was no script they could read from to hide, no new government initiative they could offer as consolation. Defense and deflection were not an option. Their backs were against the wall, confronted with the consequences of their (in)actions. The bravery and strength of these individuals to be so candid and transparent about their lived experiences as people of color in a country where the odds stacked against them was awe-inspiring. Witnessing these barriers break down was a moment in time that I will never be able to capture in words.

The official review started on Thursday afternoon in the Palais de Nations. After opening statements made by the CERD and the delegation, Faith Dikeledi Pansy Tlakula, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, began pressing the delegation on their lack of progress eliminating racial discrimination with questions informed by civil society submissions and conversations. In these two days, other Committee members followed suit, asking for answers and explanations for inexcusable racism that persists in the United States. The delegation gave performative responses, lacking any commitment to concrete actionable measures the CERD suggested. Ironically, the delegation also ran out of time to answer.

The CERD will release their Concluding Observations on August 30th, expressing their concerns and providing recommendations. Through speaking with civil society members and the CERD’s review, the U.S. delegation heard about all the work that needs to be done at last week’s review. The question now is whether they were listening. The federal government knows better. It has been, and continues to be, its responsibility to do better.

August 18, 2022 in CERD, United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Reflections on the U.S. CERD Review, 2022

By Martha F. Davis

039e1f4e-0d56-46d1-8a13-b332b13259a7Traveling to Geneva, Switzerland, is beyond imagination for many American citizens.  Yet for those who were able to be last week during the UN’s periodic review of U.S. compliance with its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racism (CERD), Geneva was a place for imagining an America where human rights and racial justice are firmly enshrined and respected.

Almost seventy civil society representatives – not just advocates, but many who are directly affected by human rights violations – came from all corners of the U.S.:  from Alaska to Wyoming, from Arizona to Louisiana, from Albany to Chicago.  The U.S. government sent a sizeable delegation numbering over twenty, that included appointees at the Ambassador and Assistant Secretary levels as well as many Deputy Assistant Secretaries from an alphabet soup of agencies (DOI, HHS, DHS, DOE, DOL, State, to name a few).  As in recent years, the U.S. delegation also included local government representatives, this time the Mayor of Atlanta and representatives of the California Attorney General’s office.

A lot has happened in the eight years since the last U.S. CERD review in 2014, and it was a diminished United States that appeared before the CERD Committee.  News reports of the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago hung in the air, a reminder of the lasting damage done by the prior Administration.  That damage is not only domestic but also international.  Several members of U.S. civil society were in the room when representatives of the Benin government, also being reviewed under CERD last week, responded to Committee queries about their government by noting that at least they had not had an attempted coup! 

Yet Geneva served its purpose of bringing U.S. civil society and government to neutral ground to air serious concerns, under the moderating guidance of CERD Committee experts from such far-flung places as South Africa, Mauritania, Qatar, and Germany.  The American expert on the Committee, Gay McDougall, was present for the exchanges, but recused from the Committee’s deliberations.

The most remarkable exchange occurred outside of the UN hearing rooms, at an event at the U.S. Mission.  What the government delegation had planned as an orderly, Question-and-Answer session with pre-submitted questions, instead turned into a frank and emotional exchange between those most affected by human rights violations – indigenous peoples denied their autonomy and dignity, those experiencing the legacy of slavery and the reality of ongoing racism – and the government representatives, many of whom identified with these same communities.   For those in the room, it seemed like a watershed moment of speaking truth to power.

At the CERD Committee’s review the next day, some of that spirit carried forward, but for the most part, the review returned to business as usual.  The Committee asked pointed questions about issues such as reparations, indigenous rights, abortion, and human rights abuses at the border, and the U.S. delegation slow-talked through their pre-prepared answers.  

Of course, the U.S.’s complicated federal system sometimes ties the hands of the Executive.  On abortion, for example, the Biden administration defended the fundamental right in court, and has made efforts to use what federal power is available to maintain abortion access in some form.  The current Supreme Court majority has shown little interest in human rights law, and the states that have banned abortion since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision feel no compunction about defying human rights norms.  And in retrospect, members of civil society could have done more to protect the federal right while it was standing.  Yet in the CERD forum, it is the Biden Administration – not the Courts, Congress, the states, or civil society -- that must respond to Committee criticism about the U.S. backsliding.

While the Administration’s hands are tied in some areas, there was hope that the CERD review could be the occasion for a special announcement or a new initiative, such as a National Plan of Action on racial justice.  Instead, the Administration often responded to CERD Committee questions with anecdotes of cases that showed positive outcomes for individuals, but did not address system-wide issues that plague areas such as education, labor, health, immigration, indigenous rights, and so on.

In the end, then, Geneva is a place for imagining, a place where civil society and government representatives are all far from home and off-balance, and are perhaps therefore able to hear more completely and speak more openly. Those moments of clarity are valuable.  But what ultimately matters is what happens when everyone involved returns to face the realities at home.  Will the CERD review serve as an organizing tool, or a basis for following up with government representatives, including the mayor of Atlanta and the California Attorney General?  Will the U.S. Government’s listening lead to action?  If the impact of the CERD review remains in Geneva, it will have been a wasted effort on all sides.              

August 16, 2022 in CERD, Martha F. Davis, United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 12, 2022

August - October 2022 Deadlines: Calls for Inputs by UN Human Rights Mechanisms

The following calls for inputs have been issued by UN Human Rights Mechanisms with deadlines in August-October 2022 and law professors whose practice, research, and/or scholarship touches on these topics may be interested in submission:

Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights – Call for inputs on study on a proposed non binding set of practical guidelines for efficient asset recovery. Deadline August 15, 2022. Read more.

Committee on Enforced Disappearances – Call for inputs on draft statement on non-state actors and enforced disappearances in the context of the Convention of the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearances. Deadline August 30, 2022. Read more.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for inputs on draft guidance on Mental Health, Human Rights, and Legislation (published jointly by WHO and OHCHR). Deadline August 31, 2022. Read more.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for inputs on Human Rights Council resolution 49/12 on the rights of persons with disabilities. Deadline September 1, 2022. Read more.

Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families – Call for submissions on concept paper and draft outline for its draft General Comment No. 6 on the Convergence of the Convention and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Deadline September 12, 2022. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights – Call for contributions toward a universal system of monitoring to assess the human rights impact of unilateral sanctions. Deadline September 30, 2022. Read more.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for submissions of written contribution to the expert workshop on possible ways to enhance the participation of Indigenous Peoples in the work of the Human Rights Council. Deadline October 15, 2022. Read more.

This information was compiled from

August 12, 2022 in United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

United States Signed Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, Joined Twenty Other Countries in Vowing Safer Migration

By Anezka Krobot, rising 2L at St. Louis University

Earlier this summer, the United States joined Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay in Los Angeles to present and sign the new Declaration on Migration and Protection. The Declaration outlines four pillars that each government has committed to upholding: (1) stability and assistance for communities; (2) expansion of legal pathways; (3) humane migration management; and (4) coordinated emergency response.

Along with signing the Declaration, the U.S. has promised a set of concrete deliverables for each pillar. For the first pillar, stability and assistance for communities, the U.S. will announce $314 million in new PRM and USAID funding for stabilization efforts in the Americas, including support for socio-economic integration and humanitarian aid for Venezuelans in 17 countries of the region.

To support the second pillar, expansion of legal pathways, the U.S. will launch the development of a $65 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pilot program to support U.S. farmers hiring agricultural workers under the H-2A program, provide 11,500 H-2B nonagricultural seasonal worker visas for nationals of Northern Central America and Haiti, roll out new Fair Recruitment Practices Guidance for Temporary Migrant Workers with the cooperation of major employers, including Walmart, and commit to resettle 20,000 refugees from the Americas during Fiscal Years 2023 to 2024. The U.S. will also resume and increase participation in the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program and resume the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program.

For the third pillar, humane migration management, the U.S. will announce a multilateral “Sting Operation” to disrupt human smuggling networks across the Americas and improve the efficiency and fairness of asylum at the border. As for the fourth pillar, coordinated emergency response, the U.S. will be involved in the early-warning system that will be implemented to alert the involved countries of large cross-border movements.

“The Americas region is facing a human mobility crisis that is unprecedented both in its complexity and scale. No country can address this situation on its own,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “The Los Angeles Declaration builds upon existing frameworks and brings us closer to a continent-wide coordinated response based on the principles of international cooperation, solidarity and respect for human rights, as set out in the Global Compacts on refugees and on safe and orderly migration.”

Some organizations have been more wary of the Los Angeles Declaration. For example, the Los Angeles Declaration has been compared to the Valletta Action Plan signed in 2015 between European and African states, which the EU defines as “a set of political and operational measures to enhance cooperation between African and European countries with the aim to provide a framework for humane and sustainable management of migration on both sides of the Mediterranean”.  In reality, the EU’s implementation of the Valletta Action Plan has focused on containment and securitization, instead.  It’s unclear whether the Los Angeles Declaration will follow the same fate.

August 10, 2022 in Immigration, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Hooray for Kansas!

By Prof. Margaret Drew, UMass Law School


In a vote for pro-choice advocates to celebrate, Kansans affirmed the right to abortion in their state.  Surrounded by states that are largely expanding anti-abortion statutes, Kansas will remain a haven for those seeking abortion services.  This result is a blow to those looking to ban abortion in every state.  Historically a deeply religious and conservative state, the outcome of the vote is a surprise to many.   One of the lessons hopefully recognized by anti-choice promoters is that the 70% of the population that identifies as pro-choice, even those that support reasonable restrictions, are unhappy with the recent Supreme Court decision.  Women and other voters support women's right to control their healthcare.  

One of the most frightening impacts of the Dobbs decision was the court's prioritization of religion over women's autonomy.  Religious freedom must be redefined freedom to prioritize freedom from religion.  The separation of church and state was the norm for many decades and was a founding principle.  The current Supreme Court term upended the separation principle that was under attack at least since the Hobby Lobby decision.   Consistently, those celebrating Dobbs cited a religious basis.  The Catholic Church purportedly spent $3 million in Kansas promoting an anti-abortion vote.  

Thank you, Kansas, for giving hope to women nationwide.

August 4, 2022 in Margaret Drew, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

UN General Assembly Recognizes Human Right to Healthy Environment

By Anezka Krobot, rising 2L at St. Louis University School of Law

Last week, on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 76/300 with 161 votes in favor and 8 abstentions, recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, gave the following statement in support of the resolution:

“This decision reflects that all rights are connected to the health of our environment. Every person, everywhere, has a right to eat, breathe and drink without poisoning their bodies in doing so, and to be able to live harmoniously with the natural world, without constantly growing threats of ecosystem collapse and climate catastrophe. Today is a historic moment, but simply affirming our right to a healthy environment is not enough. The General Assembly resolution is very clear: States must implement their international commitments and scale up their efforts to realize it. We will all suffer much worse effects from environmental crises if we do not work together to collectively avert them now. To survive and thrive, we must invest in environmental and social protection centered in human rights; hold governments and businesses duly to account for environmental harms; empower all people to act as agents of change for a healthy environment; and recognize and uphold the rights of those most affected by environmental degradation.”

This resolution is a huge step forward for both environmental and human rights policy, but it remains to be seen whether countries will step up to make real change. As Bachelet herself said, “Today’s decision by the General Assembly marks the culmination of many years of advocacy by activists from all corners of the environmental justice movement. We know the scale of the dangers we face. If we are to protect our planet for present and future generations, it is now time for truly bold action by governments and the private sector as well.  And for all of us to stand together to make the right to a healthy environment our lived and shared reality.”

August 3, 2022 in Environment, United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Let's Not Erase Women From The Abortion Discussion

By Prof. Margaret Drew, UMass Law School


This is the time that women need allyship.  

Advocates for women cannot afford to be apologists.  In the world of intimate partner violence, advocates found themselves speaking in gender-neutral terms.  This is appropriate when including the high abuse rate suffered by gay men.  Lesbian and trans women are included in the victim population when advocates discuss violence against women.   But when advocates discuss violence against women in heterosexual relationships, they typically begin with this caveat or its equivalency: "While most victims of IPV are women, we acknowledge that men can be victims also."  True enough but the percentage is small. This form of gender "neutrality" is a  significant tool of female gender erasure.  When discussing cisgender male-female relationships, the insistence on using gender-neutral language in IPV discussions is part of the trend to erase women as the primary focus of intimate partner violence in heterosexual violence.  

I am concerned that an even more significant erasure of women is happening as part of the abortion discussion.  The Dobbs decision was an exercise in misogyny.  The majority opinion makes this clear.  The celebration of those with strong religious ties stems from the misogyny of many organized Christian religious sects and their doctrine. When advocates argue that Dobbs was an anti-female decision, trans women are included, as the decision further reduces the status of all women.

The insistence on including references to trans men and others distracts the audience by limiting the discussion to those with uteruses.  This deflects from the focus on the deep hatred of women by oppressive jurists and others who are unwilling to recognize misogyny as the driving issue. Male control of women is the underlying social and cultural problem driving the abortion ruling and restrictive statutes.   

While some trans, non-binary, and other gender-expansive individuals may and do need abortions, the number is a small minority of those needing abortion services in any given year.  While recognizing the numbers may reflect under-reporting, one study reports, "The best approximation, from all known abortion-providing facilities in the United States, estimated that there were between 462 and 530 transgender and nonbinary abortion patients nationwide in 2017."  By contrast, another study by the same organization (Guttmacher) reported that in 2017, "862,320 abortions were provided in clinical settings..."   

The numbers evidence the problem.  If Dobbs discussions were about the procedures of abortion only, then gender language would be inclusive of all with uteruses.  But this discussion is much bigger than that.  This is about the efforts of men, the male state, and religions, to control women beginning when white Europeans arrived in the US.  

Women need the support of trans men and other gender expansive individuals and their organizations to support all women in their anti-discrimination struggles.   Our trans brothers, please stand with women.

July 31, 2022 in Margaret Drew, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

New Article: Hidden Burdens: Household Water Bills, “Hard-to Reach” Renters, and Systemic Racism

Martha F. Davis, Hidden Burdens: Household Water Bills, “Hard-to Reach” Renters, and Systemic Racism, 52 Seton Hall Law Review 1461 (2022). Excerpted below (citations removed).

        “It is not just far away locales where water access is wielded in this way. In the United States, Black and Brown people often bear the brunt of such policies and practices. For example, for decades, a predominantly African American neighborhood in Zanesville, Ohio, was denied a connection to the city’s water system—an abuse of power that jeopardized public health and demeaned the community until a 2002 civil rights complaint and a federal lawsuit forced a change. In Detroit, Michigan, beginning in 2014, tens of thousands of low income people, primarily Black, found their water shut off for nonpayment; many of those affected speculated that the city’s goal was not merely to collect outstanding funds, but to compel low income residents to leave their homes and make way for new, more lucrative (and whiter) development.

        Sometimes the control of water—and the racial impacts of that control—are more subtle, reflected in administrative inaction, buried in complex bureaucratic structures, or even framed as positive environmental initiatives. The diffusion of responsibilities for water administration between different levels of government can further obscure discriminatory impacts that would be more visible in a unified system. Neutral-sounding terminology may also hide the racial realities.

        This Article argues that the complexities of household water billing combined with the indifference of utilities and government authorities to the needs of “hard-to-reach” water consumers—primarily renters in multi-family dwellings—have left many low income, disproportionately minority tenants, excluded from programs designed to help with rising water and wastewater expenses.”

July 26, 2022 in Books and articles, Water | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 25, 2022

Event 7/28: Climate Change, Equity and Just Transitions: A Legal Perspective

On July 28, 2022, starting at 1:30pm EDT, the American Bar Association will host a webinar to address the economic, political and legal issues encountered, both as opportunities and obstacles, in the movement to ensure just transitions as we progress to achieving net zero carbon emissions. It will include discussions of the commitments incumbent on wealthy countries to provide resources that enable developing countries to mitigate and adapt to coming environmental challenges; and it will explore the obligations of governments, the private sector and international financial institutions to provide the means for achieving decarbonizing objectives in ways that are consistent with environmental justice, international human rights and labor standards and that support those who are most vulnerable to environmental impacts and immediate climate threats such as sea-level rise, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss.

Click here for more information and to register for this webinar. The ABA does charge for this webinar, but provides a discounted rate for ABA members and zero charge for the ABA Section on Environment members.

July 25, 2022 in Environment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Event 7/26: Privacy After Dobbs Overruled Roe

On Tuesday July 26, 2022, starting at 12:00 pm EDT, the American Bar Association will host a webinar on the major privacy implications of Dobbs overruling Roe. A distinguished panel will address what's next for other precedents and privacy rights, how state and federal legislators may respond or have responded, the implications for enforcement of privacy protections or of abortion restrictions or bans, and the implications for consumer use of apps and the information apps collect.


  • David Turetsky – University of Albany


  • Michael Gerhardt – University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Jessica Rich – Kelley Drye
  • Emma Roth – National Advocates for Pregnant Women

Click here to register and for more information. The ABA will charge for this webinar, but provides a discounted rate for ABA members.

July 25, 2022 in Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

New Article: Professional Indifference?: How One Case Improves Protection for Immigrant Children in United States Detention Centers

Caitlin Fernandez Zamora, Professional Indifference?: How One Case Improves Protection for Immigrant Children in United States Detention Centers, 20 Nw. J. Hum. Rts. 239 (2022). Abstract below.

This Article discusses the case Doe 4 ex rel. Lopez v. Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center Commission. This case was a class action brought by unaccompanied immigrant children against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center Commission under § 1983 protection for adequate medical care. The plaintiff class alleged that, among other things, the Commission failed to (i) provide adequate mental health care due to punitive practices; and (ii) implement trauma-informed care. The plaintiffs were immigrant children who fled their native countries due to harrowing circumstances, many of whom struggled with severe mental illness. The district court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment regarding the mental health care claim, which the plaintiffs appealed. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit considered which standard should be applied to analyzing a claim regarding the detention center’s level of mental health care. This Article explores the approach and impact of Doe 4, as a case of first impression for the Fourth Circuit and effectively for all circuits with regard to this class of immigrant children. Specifically, this Article discusses whether the majority opinion followed precedent or broke away from it in a way that properly embodies federal law and Constitutional guarantees. This Article also discusses the role of international law in United States courts, particularly related to protections for migrants and children. The Article ultimately concludes that the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Doe 4 was correct and explains why and how it should be further adopted and adapted by other federal courts, to promote an end to the professional indifference that the United States judicial system has normalized with regard to care for juveniles in detention centers.

July 19, 2022 in Health, Immigrants, Incarcerated, Migrants | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 18, 2022

Event 7/19-7/21: Using global human rights to strengthen anti-racism organizing and resist ongoing retrenchment of democracy and human rights

The U.S. Human Rights Cities Alliance invites you to its 2022 Convening (hybrid): “Using global human rights to strengthen anti-racism organizing and resist ongoing retrenchment of democracy and human rights” on July 19-21, 2022, in Washington DC/ hybrid.    

Co-Sponsor & Host: Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, Howard University School of Law, Washington DC

Leaders of a national network of human rights city organizers will convene in Washington DC July 19-21, 2022 to meet with U.S. officials as part of the current review of U.S. compliance with its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). We will hear from advocates and government officials preparing for the August 10-11 meeting of the UN CERD Committee to assess the U.S. periodic report on compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and make recommendations for change. Community advocates will discuss how we can make better use of the UN CERD reviews and other UN processes to advocate for racial justice and the transformation of structural racism in our cities and communities and will share the Civil Society Shadow Reports submitted by various cities as part of this 2022 review. Participants will hear from organizations in Europe, such as the Fundamental Rights Agency and the European Human Rights Cities Network, where the human rights city movement has been flourishing in recent years. We will discuss ways to connect local struggles over racial and environmental justice, reproductive rights, and related concerns with various UN mechanisms such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Universal Periodic Review process (UPR).

A full schedule and zoom registration are available here.

July 18, 2022 in CERD | Permalink | Comments (0)