Thursday, December 29, 2016

Recommended Reading: "Boom, Bust, Exodus," A Nuanced Account of Globalization and Dislocation in Two Cities

This year's Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)-Duke Human Rights Book Award goes to “Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities” (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Authored by University of Chicago lecturer Chad Broughton, the book "uses a transnational and longitudinal approach to tell a human and humane story of the NAFTA-era from the point of view of those most caught up in its dislocation. These include former industrial workers and their families in the Rust Belt; assemblers and activists in the borderland factories known as maquiladoras; and migrant laborers from the Mexican countryside." The Chicago Tribune calls the book "exhaustive and rewarding."  The Publisher's Weekly review reports that "Broughton has written a powerful indictment of corporate greed and poor public policy, balanced by a tribute to the perseverance of the working-class people of two nations."


In the press release announcing the WOLA-Duke award, Broughton observes that “After an election cycle filled with divisive sloganeering about trade and immigration, I believe it’s critical to move beyond demagoguery in order to understand these complex social and policy issues as they are felt in the everyday lives of working people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. I hope “Boom, Bust, Exodus” has contributed to the effort to amplify their voices and their cause."


December 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

More Cities Declare Freedom from Domestic Violence a Human Right

New Bedford and Fall River, Massachusetts passed resolutions declaring freedom from domestic violence a fundamental human right.

The resolutions, passed in November, resulted from the work of UMass Law students  enrolled in the school's Domestic Violence course. The students did amazing work and were Image1divided into teams, one for Fall River and one for New Bedford. Any professors considering assigning adoption of the DV-HR resolution as a class project, will find the process a beneficial one, as will the students. Students report unexpected results, not the least of which is realizing the benefits of local action on a universal human rights project.

Some student reflections follow:

"My initial understanding of the resolution, specifically why DV should be recognized as a basic human right definitely changed.  As we read more and more material, it becomes obvious that although people recognize that DV is bad, attaching a human rights label forces it into the consciousness of a wider group. Instead of being labeled as a family or local problem, it becomes a national and international issue that necessitates action."

"As we began to work on background research for our project, I felt myself becoming more interested and vested in creating the resolution. I had never worked on one prior to this course, so the task still seemed quite daunting to me. Looking back, this experience was not what I was worried it would be. I learned, I changed, and I left the meeting inspired to begin working on a similar resolution for my native city."

"This is one of my favorite projects during my law school career because I feel like we  did something that will be beneficial to members of the Fall River and New Bedford communities, now and in the future."

"In order for the communities to stand up and take its rightful place, they must first be aware of the presence of domestic violence in their community and the complexity of the issue. I believe drafting the resolution is definitely taking the right step in the right direction."


December 28, 2016 in Domestic Violence, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Educating Mr. Trump

One hundred forty characters is not really enough to do justice to the wide-ranging work of the United Nations.  But that didn't stop President-elect Trump from trying to use his twitter account to do just that, calling the UN "just a club for people to have a good time."  It's unfortunate that the President-elect doesn't have a better understanding of the UN's work and the US role in this international body.

First, it's worth noting that there is great depth of popular support for the UN within the United States.  When the Pew Foundation conducted an in-depth study just this past spring, it found that 64 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the United Nations.  While this number masked a significant partisan divide, with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to support the UN, the president-elect would do well to note that one of the key constituencies in his electoral college victory, Independents, also registered 64 percent support. 

Second, the President-elect may be unaware of the importance of UN, and US, leadership in furthering human rights worldwide.  For all of the internal critiques of the Obama administration's human rights record, the Administration's engagement with UN agencies over eight years has certainly increased global awareness of the positive aspects of US human rights achievements.  Under Obama, the United States has regularly submitted reports to UN bodies concerning its human rights record and goals, a practice that then gives our country additional credibility when we criticize human rights failings elsewhere.  Further, the current Administration has begun using the human rights reporting process to engage our own state and local governments in achieving -- and highlighting -- national human rights goals.  Yes, we may use this platform to tout our own achievements (Obamacare is one of them), but these UN treaty monitoring bodies are far from feel-good social clubs. The international human rights dialogue moderated by these bodies is real and constructive, and the US would lose  both stature and credibility it if scaled back its robust participation.

Finally, the incoming Administration's tweets do nothing to address the growing concern across America -- in states of all hues -- that human rights are of little import to the President-elect.  This year's Human Rights Day on December 9 was accompanied by columns, op eds and protests around the country from concerned citizens.  In 2008, even before he took the oath of office, the incoming President Obama issued a stirring statement on human rights day signalling US commitment to these issues.  The President issued similar statements each year during his two terms, concluding with the Presidential Proclamation commemorating human rights week in 2016.  Sadly, to date we've had only tweets from the incoming administration. 

December 27, 2016 in Martha F. Davis, United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Micro-grants for Human Rights Work

Perhaps during this holiday season, you have some down time to plan future human rights work.  Here are two possible sources for seed funding and/or supplemental support for worthy projects.

First, the Arthur Helton Fellowship program administers "micro-grants" of $2000 for law students or new professionals to help them with human rights projects.  Arthur Helton was a prominent US human rights lawyer, tragically killed in 2003 in Baghdad.  The application deadline for 2017 is January 23, 11:59 a.m. EST.  For more information, follow this link.

Second, the Lantos Foundation administers the Front Line Fund, which provides small grants to support front-line human rights work.  Congressman Tom Lantos was the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress and a passionate advocate for human rights.  His legacy of human rights work continues through the congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and through the work of the Lantos Foundation.  Front-line grants are intended to support "brave individuals and organizations in their fight against injustices around the world."  Grant amounts start at $1500 and are awarded on a rolling basis.  For more information, follow this link.  


December 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Meaning of Christmas

by Jeremiah Ho (Ho, Ho)

Since the secularization of the holiday season (and arguably before that), Christmas and all the other end-of-the-year holidays we have grown to celebrate have collectively transcended beyond the celebration of a religious icon.  Ultimately, the holiday season has become one opportunity to reflect on humanity beyond the religious—does anyone remember the 1980s all-star celebrity charity song, Do They Know It’s Christmas?

This opportunity descended upon Minnesota’s Mall of America earlier this month when the mall operators hired Larry Jefferson to be one of their seasonal mall Santa’s.  Jefferson is  not a newcomer to playing the role of Santa Claus.  He has been playing Santa for over Image120 years.  The picture of him on a recent online NPR article shows that he’s got a bushy silvery beard and jolly great smile.  He’s got the red velvet suit with the traditional white furry trims.  Back in August (on Santa’s summer downtime) a CBS Sunday morning article on the yearly Discovery Santa Conventions interviewed him as a participating attendee.  For all intents and purposes, Jefferson is a bona fide practitioner of the so-called “Santa Arts” (my own phraseology here).  I’m convinced that he probably even knows (or can probably profess to know) if you’ve been naughty or nice this year.

The only thing is, Larry Jefferson is African American.  He’s the first African-American Santa that the Mall of America has ever hired.  This observation is why Jefferson as Santa received some notoriety and coverage—first, as perhaps a symbol of late-coming progressiveness by the mall authorities, and then secondly, as a figure of some racist backlash by the public for deviations from the traditional white Santa representation.  According to HuffPost, local Minnesota news outlets who asked the public to weigh in on the hiring of Jefferson as Santa received such insulting, racist comments that those surveys had to be halted. 

News of this prompted the Asian-American actor, George Takei, to take to Twitter on a December 3, 2016 posting that while observing people’s reactions, he was reminded that during World War II, “in our internment camp he (Santa) was Asian.  So there.”     

So there is right.  Although Santa Claus is a figure borrowed from various European folklore traditions and has now been reinterpreted in the United States, Santa is not just a figure but also an idea.  After all, having participated in various secret Santa exchanges over the years, haven’t I myself, an Asian-American man in his thirties, played “Santa” too? 

“Santa” transcends physical attributes and ought to go to the heart of humanity.  To look at Santa from the exegetical perspective—to require the rosy white cheeks and the traditional Anglo connotations—is missing the point.  Larry Jefferson attributed those reactions to him as part of “the times in which we are living in.”  But the times we are living in has also included an African-American man in the role of U.S. president for the last eight years, as well. 

The backlash for “Black Santa” not just lacked Christmas spirit, but the human spirit as well.  On the personal level, it left Jefferson without dignity in his role to bring cheer to families at the Mall of American.  On the bigger level, this Bah Humbug  threatens respect for humanity if these "are the times we live in."

Links mentioned about Larry Jefferson’s story are below:


CBS Sunday Morning:


December 25, 2016 in Jeremiah Ho | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Duty to Consult with Indigenous Peoples

Dean James Anaya (Colorado) and Professor Sergio Puig (Arizona), have posted a timely new article on SSRN, forthcoming in v. 67 of the University of Toronto Law Journal.  The article, titled Mitigating State Sovereignty: The Duty to Consult with Indigenous Peoples, specifically addresses processes for resolving conflicts between business and indigenous human rights -- an issue much in the news as native people and allies protest the Dakota Pipeline.  As the former UN Rapporteur on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples, Dean Anaya has considerable on-the-ground experience with this issue.  The abstract is below: 

Abstract:  Few areas of international practice illustrate the tensions between business and human rights better than the implementation of the duty to consult with indigenous peoples. Consultations give indigenous and tribal peoples a safeguard for the protection of their rights when confronted by governments and business enterprises’ decisions that may directly affect them. While states and corporations begin to take this duty seriously, states struggle with tailoring adequate processes and corporations appeal to property rights protections to limit their scope. Based on two case studies in Latin America, we provide a new theoretical lens to understand the problems resulting from divergent conceptualizations of this duty. After clarifying common doctrinal imprecisions, we argue for reinforcing indigenous peoples’ rights with mechanisms for direct participation in benefits within the United Nation’s ‘protect, respect, and remedy’ framework to mitigate the adverse consequences of the existing distribution of sovereign power.

December 22, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking Recommends that the U.S. Adopt a Stronger Focus on Labor Exploitation and Cease Prostitution Arrests

by Cynthia Soohoo

Image1In what may be the last official UN human rights expert visit to the U.S. for a long time, last Friday, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking, concluded her 10-day visit to the U.S. In an official statement issued on Monday, she encouraged the U.S. to adopt a more proactive and systemic effort to address forced labor and labor exploitation. She also questioned the focus and impact of the U.S.’s current anti-trafficking strategies, which rely heavily on prostitution arrests.

U.N. human rights experts must be “invited” before conducting official country missions. The Obama administration has been fairly open to visits from UN Special Rapporteurs and expert Working Groups. Since 2009, at least 13 official visits were conducted prior to Giammarinaro’s visit. However, the U.S. has been widely criticized for refusing to invite Juan Mendez, the former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, despite repeated requests for in an invitation over Mendez’s 6 year term.

Special Rapporteur and Working Group visits can provide important opportunities to raise the visibility of current rights violations and pressure government reform. For instance, following visits this past summer and fall, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention urged the U.S. to cease mandatory detention of all migrants and specifically called for the end of detention of families and unaccompanied minors, and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Assembly and Association criticized U.S. security forces for using excessive force against the protesters at Standing Rock.

Visits can also challenge current policy assumptions and provide opportunities to encourage human rights based solutions. Preparation for visits often brings activists working on different issues and in different locations together providing unique opportunities to collaborate. This is especially important on issues like trafficking where there is widespread public and political attention, but where current policies may be ineffective or have an adverse impact on victims of abuse and exploitation.

In her official statement the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking praised the U.S.’s commitment to address trafficking and its “impressive number of laws and initiatives,” but she noted that many anti-trafficking initiatives can have “an adverse impact on trafficked persons.” In particular, laws and policies that focus on arrest of people engaged in sex work result in fear of law enforcement that make it more difficult for trafficking victims to come forward. Further, criminal convictions make it difficult for victims to gain stability and independence by imposing substantial barriers to obtaining housing, education and employment.

The Special Rapporteur recommended that the U.S. adopt “a human rights based approach to trafficking which includes the de-criminalization of those who engage in prostitution” and “encourage[d] law enforcement officials to use their discretion to avoid arresting sex workers as they can be potential victims of sex trafficking.” Her recommendations are consistent with international human rights principles that emphasize that victims of trafficking should not be prosecuted for violations they were forced to commit as a result of their trafficking situation.

The Special Rapporteur urged the U.S. to adopt a preventative approach to trafficking and explore root causes that make people vulnerable to trafficking including “[s]ocial and economic inequalities, humanitarian and economic situation in neighborhood countries, [and] increasing stigmatization of migrants.” She also encouraged the U.S. to reconsider immigration and labor policies that make workers vulnerable to traffickers, specifically criticizing work visas that tie workers to employers because “they are prevented from denouncing exploitation for fear of losing their job or their residence status.”

The Special Rapporteur’s recommendations will become all the more urgent in the coming months as the Trump administration considers whether to adopt even more restrictive immigration policies. “Walls, fences and laws criminalizing irregular migration do not prevent human trafficking,” she warned.  “On the contrary, they increase the vulnerabilities of people fleeing conflict, persecution, crisis situations and extreme poverty, who can fall easy prey to traffickers and exploiters.” 


December 21, 2016 in Cindy Soohoo, Trafficking | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

California Takes Step Toward Children’s Bill of Rights

Jonathan Todres


On December 5, 2016, California state senator Dr. Richard Pan introduced the Bill of Rights for Children and Youth in California.  The bill will consider aims create a “comprehensive framework” for addressing rights and needs of children.

If approved by the Legislature, the Bill of Rights for Children and Youth in California would achieve two important aims. First, it would provide recognition of California children’s basic human rights, including “the right to parents, guardians, or caregivers who act in their best interest,” “the right to live in a safe and healthy environment,” “the right to appropriate, quality education,” and “the right to appropriate, quality health care.”  These are foundational rights that would help ensure that every child in California can develop to his or her fullest potential.

Second, the Bill of Rights would provide a roadmap for action. The Legislature would be required by January 1, 2022 to develop evidence-based policy solutions to secure the rights of all children across the state, determine the resources needed to achieve this framework, and identify and obtain such resources.

Of course, there will be challenges on the road to achieving these goals, particularly in an era of limited budgets, but the Bill of Rights builds in a five-year period to develop appropriate solutions (even though many children really cannot wait until 2022 to access quality education or a safe environment).

No doubt there will be some who resist the first part of the Bill of Rights—the recognition of children’s rights, or human rights more broadly (see, e.g., the recently adopted Mountain View Human Rights City resolution).  So let’s be clear on what it means to resist the idea that children have rights.

The foundational principle of human rights is that rights are inherent. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that “[a]ll human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (Article 1). Long before that, the U.S. Declaration of Independence proclaimed that “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” In other words, if you are human, you have rights.  If you resist the idea that children have rights, you are saying that rights are not inherent, but that they are granted to you by the government only when you reach adulthood.

Perhaps you accept that rights are inherent and thus that children have rights, but you have reservations about the Bill of Rights’ roadmap for action. If your concern is that ensuring health care or safe environments for children is “socialist,” you are overlooking two points (beyond the fact that the U.S. will not become a socialist country): (1) recognizing children have a right to necessary medical care does not mean the government has to be the provider; and (2) if you have time to argue over whether socialism could ever gain traction in the U.S. instead of having to focus on figuring out how to ensure there is food on the table for your children, you are in a privileged position, and not every family or child is.

Second, if your concern is it will cost too much to ensure “quality education” for every child, what you are really saying is that you don’t think it’s a priority. Anyone who has ever worked with a budget, whether it is for an appropriations bill or a grocery list, knows that you must make tough choices.  But if you don’t support the idea that every child should have access to quality health care and education, you are saying that our children’s development matters less than every other line item we choose to fund.  Surely the future of our children—and thus this country—matters more than that.

I, for one, applaud the California legislature for taking this on, for daring to envision a world in which every child has the care and support needed to develop to his or her fullest potential.

December 20, 2016 in Children, Jonathan Todres | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Human Rights Cities and the UDHR as a “Manifesto for Socialism”?

Editor's note:  Prof. Francisco Rivera guest blogs to give us a first-hand account of bringing the Human Right City resolution to Mountain View, CA.

As Martha Davis posted, the City Council of Mountain View, CA passed a resolution last week Image1adopting the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights as guiding principles and designating Mountain View as a Human Rights City. Students in the International Human Rights Clinic at Santa Clara Law provided technical assistance to the city throughout the process. Ultimately, as Martha mentioned, the resolution passed, but not unanimously. In the clinic’s press release, we highlighted positive comments from the mayor and other councilmembers who voted in favor of the resolution. What we did not mention were the comments from the two councilmembers who voted against it. I think it is important for us to become familiar with those arguments so that we can be better prepared to address them.

A video recording of the City Council’s session can be accessed here, with the relevant discussion taking place from the 4hr 31min mark through the 5hr 28min mark.

Consider the following exchange between Councilmember John Inks and Councilmember Ken Rosenberg (the person primarily responsible for this resolution):

  • Councilmember Inks: “I guess I am biased by my American history and the principles that we have in this country, which are based on liberty and freedom, including economic freedom. […] This resolution […] is a springboard for a UN-style sort of governance and economic policy. […] Basically it is a manifesto for socialism, as opposed to the American tradition, which is based on constitutional principles, rule of law, economic liberty, and personal freedom, and not what is in the UN document (the UDHR).”
  • Councilmember Rosenberg: “Are you saying this (the UDHR and the resolution) subverts our laws?”
  • Councilmember Inks: “It is contrary to American tradition.”
  • Councilmember Rosenberg: “American tradition supports human rights.”
  • Councilmember Inks: “Ultimately, the UN principles get down to designing the desired political system, which is a socialist system, so I won’t be supporting the resolution.”

The frustration on Councilmember Rosenberg’s face was unmistakable.

Councilmember (and former mayor) John McAlister also voted against the resolution. He said, “This UN deal […] for me, it’s too much. There could be some unknowns in there, and I have a feeling this could come bite us in the rear end sometime. […] I will not be supporting the idea of becoming a Human Rights City, but I would be willing to recommend that we consider implementing some framework –not necessarily a human rights framework – but a policy that incorporates human dignity and respect for all.”

For me, these exchanges highlight how the human rights message is often misunderstood, particularly by those in government. We must do better to address these misconceptions. In response to similar concerns raised by the City Council and by the Human Relations Commission, our students prepared a FAQs document on Human Rights Cities. Maybe we should collectively engage in similar efforts to frame responses to common criticisms of the applicability and relevance of the human rights framework in the US.

December 19, 2016 in Advocacy, Global Human Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Pittsburgh and Mountain View Move Ahead on Human Rights

Kudos to Pittsburgh, PA, which on December 6 joined San Francisco and others as the latest US CEDAW City!  In a unanimous vote, the city council agreed to establish a commission to affirmatively review city agencies for gender bias.  The local legislation follows CEDAW and gives the city a methodical approach to identifying and redressing gender bias in city operations.

One week later, on December 13, the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View passed a resolution to become a Human Rights City.  The city had considered such an action for more than a year, but press reports suggest that divisive statements made by President-elect Trump during and after the election finally created momentum to move ahead. "At this time, we need to stand up and say that human rights are very important," said the Mountain View Mayor during consideration of the measure. 

Kudos to Professor Francisco Rivera and the Santa Clara Law School international human rights clinic, which provided important technical assistance to move the effort forward.



December 18, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Standing Rock Tribes and the IACHR

Standing Rock tribal members protesting the pipeline placement have petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  According to a report on International Law Grrls, "The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and Yankton Sioux Tribe, with Earthjustice and the American Indian Law Clinic – UC Boulder, submitted a Request for Precautionary Measures Pursuant to Article 25 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure Concerning Serious and Urgent Risks of Irreparable Harm Arising Out of Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline to the IACHR."

Among the relief sought is a request to end state violence at the protest site and ensure the safety of those engaging in "peaceful prayer."  The Standing Rock website has information on the environmental and other issues as well as a link to the petition.  A copy of the petition may be found here.  

While the press was prompt in announcing that on December 4, the Army Corps or Engineers determined that it would not grant a permit for the pipeline route to include running underneath the local tribe's water supply, the connrection to the power of the tribes' IACHR  petition was not reported.




December 15, 2016 in Environment, Margaret Drew, Water | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Words that Matter

Even as we mourn Hope Lewis' passing, many readers have asked for more information on her human rights scholarship.

Professor Lewis' scholarly work focused on the intersections between human rights and race, gender, disability, immigrant status, and other cross-cutting issues.  Her work in these areas was widely read and anthologized, and will Image1remain an important part of the human rights canon far into the future.
Citations and abstracts for many of Professor Lewis's publications are available at this link on bepress.  Perhaps the most widely read and cited of these works are: 
(1) Forgotten Sisters - a Report on Violence against Women with Disabilities: an overview of its nature, scope, causes and consequences, written with co-author Stephanie Ortoleval.  This cutting edge report calls on the international community to take account of women with disabilities in its fact-gathering and analysis.
(2) Between Irua and “Female Genital Mutilation”: Feminist Human Rights Discourse and the Cultural Divide, 8 HARV. HUM. RTS. J. 1-55 (1995).  In this article, Professor Lewis examines the controversy over FGS terminology as it reflects more complex debates over FGS as a violation of international human rights.  She concludes that discussions about black feminist human rights approaches to FGS must address the unavoidable conflicts associated with eradication efforts and seek to create opportunities for cross-cultural solidarity; and
(3) The Boston Principles on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of Non-Citizens, a report developed by Hope Lewis and her Northeastern colleague Rachel Rosenbloom, in connection with the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy which Professor Lewis founded.
Professor Lewis's textbook Human Rights in the Global Marketplace, the first of its kind on economic, social and cultural rights, is available here
In addition to her scholarly work, Professor Lewis was a prolific blogger, with posts often appearing on the Int Law Grrls blog.  Here is a link to a tribute on that blog site, with additional links to a number of her essays.
We join others in mourning the loss of Hope Lewis's unique, insightful and impassioned voice, but are grateful for her many important contributions to the human rights movement and her courage and hope in the face of adversity.

December 14, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Human Rights in State Courts 2016

The Opportunity Agenda and Northeastern University School of Law's Program on Human Rights in the Global Economy have just issued "Human Rights in State Courts 2016," a timely report that reviews state court decisions and Attorneys General opinions interpreting human rights treaties, laws, and standards.  This new report updates our 2014 report, which details the ways in which state courts have considered and interpreted human rights. 
"Human Rights in State Courts 2016" is intended for public interest lawyers, state court litigators, and judges, and also for state and municipal policymakers interested in integrating compliance with international human rights law into their domestic policies.  

December 13, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Out of Solitary

Ryan Speedo Green's star is on the rise. The 30-year-old winner of the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions, currently performing in the Met's production of La Boheme, is an unlikely break-out bass baritone, not least because he served several stints in solitary confinement when he was age 12.  As described in the new book by Daniel Bergner about Green's trajectory, Sing for your Life, Green was an angry African American boy in Virginia, surrounded by violence, when he was sent to juvenile detention.  Because of his infractions, he spent much of his time in a solitary cell.  After his release, he doubled down on trying to find his way through involvement in football and Latin Club, then gradually came to realize his deep interest in music and performing and -- in an incredible success story -- is now a member of the Vienna State Opera.

Interestingly, Green attributes his success not to his time in solitary, which drove him to despair, but to the interventions of special mentors and teachers -- the teacher who used Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches to teach Green about his own worth and potential; the vocal coach who focused on developing Green's voice while drilling down to improve his diction; the aide at the detention center who noticed and supported him in small ways.

On December 5, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have imposed modest but important curbs on the use of solitary confinement. including restrictions on such incarceration of young inmates under age 21.  Christie defended his actions arguing that the criminal justice system needs flexibility to impose extreme sanctions, despite evidence that solitary confinement simply serves to undermine prisoners' mental health, rather than teach them a lesson.

Having reached the rarified heights of grand opera, Ryan Speedo Green is one-of-a-kind -- but his story has lessons for policymakers like Christie.  As Green found, simple recognition of his humanity did more to heal him than multiple stints in solitary confinement.  

December 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Survivng the Trump Era with Humor

"Trump Picks El Chapo to Run the DEA"  I immediately burst into laughter when I read this headline from the Borowitz report. 

A reminder that we cannot afford to relinquish our senses of humor.  Image1

While advocates of all sorts may develop a dark sense of humor as a coping mechanism, how much better if we can have at least one belly laugh each day.  Below are some suggestions to get you started, and please send us what makes you laugh.  

In addition to the Borowitz Report, which is now published as part of the New Yorker, most of us are familiar with Saturday Night Live's political skits. And then there is John Oliver on Comedy Central, which may be the least painful way to follow new era politics. 

Image1And let's not forget all of those animal photos and videos

Whatever makes you laugh, keep doing it.  Please share.


December 11, 2016 in Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

World Human Rights Day

Celebrate Human Rights Day and celebrate yourselves!  While we have focused the last several weeks on an anticipated backlash on human rights, let's be mindful of the progress that we have made in injecting the human rights framework into the US advocacy and academic dialogue.

Each of you has played no small part and are honored on this day.  The community is thriving despite tremendous challenges.  We have learned to lean on each other and build upon each others work.  This is an era we will survive through community.  We will survive the challenges by respecting the dignity of all human beings and tending to the care of each other.  Thanks to you!


December 10, 2016 in Global Human Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Life of Hope Lewis: Activist, Scholar, Teacher

We are saddened to report the passing of Hope Lewis, Professor at Northeastern University School of Law.  Professor Lewis was a passionate voice for human rights at home and abroad, and a leading scholar on economic, social and cultural rights.  Hope's colleague, Professor Margaret Woo, contributes to this account of Professor Lewis' life and her many accomplishments.  

L. Hope Lewis passed away on December 6, 2016 after a long and courageous battle with illness. Beloved daughter, treasured friend to many, champion of the poor and disadvantaged around the globe.

Born on May 14, 1962, Professor Lewis was a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School. She joined the Northeastern University School of Law faculty in 1992. A passionate champion of the poor and disadvantaged, Hope focused her teaching and scholarly work on human rights and economic rights in the global economy. She was a founder of the law school’s Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy and served as the faculty director of the law school’s Global Legal Studies.

An internationally recognized legal scholar and commentator on human rights, she authored numerous articles and co-authored the seminal textbook Human Rights & the Global Marketplace: Economic, Social, and Cultural Dimensions (Brill, 2005). Professor Lewis was a co-drafter and compiler of the "Boston Principles on the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of Non-citizens," a project of the law school’s Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy. She was a founding co-chair of the American Society of International Law (ASIL) International Disability Rights Interest Group and served on the ASIL executive council between 2010 and 2013. She served on the board of governors of the Society of American Law Teachers and the executive committee of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Minority Groups.

The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) honored Professor Lewis in 2015 with the Shanara Gilbert Human Rights Award. She was the 2014 Kate Stoneman Visiting Professor of Law and Democracy at Albany Law School. Professor Lewis was a 2008 Sheila Biddle Fellow (Ford Foundation) of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African & African-American Research at Harvard University.

Apart from her scholarship and activism, Professor Lewis was well known for her commitment to her teaching and to her students. In recognition of her extensive work in mentoring students and colleagues, she was awarded the 2001 Haywood Burns/Shanara Gilbert Award at the Northeast Regional People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference and the 2012 American Bar Association’s Mayre Rasmussen Award for Mentorship of Women in International Law. Legally blind, she was also a recipient of the 2011 Thomas J. Carroll Award from the Carroll Center for the Blind and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.


Professor Lewis will be missed by her family, colleagues, students, and all of those who knew and loved her.

For more information on services and to sign the guestbook, click here


December 8, 2016 in Global Human Rights, Martha F. Davis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Lessons from North Dakota

Months of protests carried over seasons and a mini-city grew up around the site protected by the Sioux.  In the spirit of human rights advocacy, hundreds of veterans traveled to North Dakota to reinforce and support the protestors.  Lawyers organized in anticipation of arrests.  Violence erupted marking at least one with severe injuries.   Image1

Then the Army Corp of Engineers announced it would explore alternate routes for the planned pipeline, but compromise does not appear to interest the pipeline producers.   Peace - temporary peace.

The lessons from this most recent Native attempt to save the earth are likely to be far reaching.  After generations of broken treaties and other government deceptions, the Sioux are aware that the next administration may default to the original pipeline route.  The Sioux reminded us of the power of civil protest.  What happens when the new administration is in place will be instructive on both tactics to be employed by the new government and its response to civil disruptive actions. 



December 7, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Law Firms Reflect on Human Rights in Practice

Like other businesses, law firms are subject to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  In November 2016, several London-based firms met to share ideas about how to implement these guidelines in the practice of law.  The report of the workshop is available here.  Legal ethics professors take note:  while this material is rarely covered in ethics textbooks, it goes to the heart of the questions concerning lawyers' roles.

December 6, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Human Rights at Home: The Municipal Option

There are many paths for local human rights advocates to travel as they seek to establish and secure a human rights' perspective in local communities.   Risa Kaufman wrote on the many of the options available to advocates.

This post focuses on the option for your community to become a Human Rights City.  For those exploring the concept, there are definitions and explanations from early and newer coalitions.  From the website of the People's Movement for Human Rights Education comes one definition: 

'What are human rights cities? Imagine living in a society where all citizens have made a pledge to build a community based on equality and nondiscrimination; --where all women and men are actively participating in the decisions that affect their daily lives guided by the human rights framework; where people have consciously internalized the holistic vision of human rights to overcome fear and impoverishment, a society that provides human security, access to food, clean water, housing, education, healthcare and work at livable wages, sharing these resources with all citizens-- not as a gift, but as a realization of human rights. A Human Rights city is a practical viable model that demonstrates that living in such a society is possible!"  

The imperative to commit to human rights communities has never been more urgent.

This week, Northeastern Law School's Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy holds a conference devoted to the topic of Human Rights Cities.    Go here for more information.    



December 5, 2016 in Global Human Rights, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)