Monday, September 30, 2019
Judge Dolly Gee of Los Angeles blocked permanently the Trump administration's plan to detain children indefinitely. The administration's proposal, which the judge referred to as "Kafkaesque" in parts, would violate the Flores agreement. Under Flores, children are to be released within twenty days of the initial detainment. The judge ruled that only Congress can change the terms of the Flores Agreement.
The New York Times reported "Administration officials said that the effort to allow families to be detained indefinitely was an attempt to avoid having to either separate families or release them while they waited for their cases to be heard. " Opponents say that the administration's proposal is part of a plan to stop immigration by separating children and treating them cruelly.
This policy has been unsuccessful to date and has done nothing but cause anguish among families and create a generation of children who are traumatized by the loss of their parents and kept in cages that do not permit any significant play and deprive the children of the sensory comforts they need to feel safe and to flourish.
Sunday, September 29, 2019
September 28th was the International Day of Safe Abortion. As part of bringing awareness to this serious global issue organizations, activists and scholars from around the world signed on to a letter submitted to the 42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council. The letter was delivered on behalf of 37 organizations and 506 individuals. The letter follows:
In the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, States explicitly agreed to prioritize the realization of women’s human rights and recognized that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. Yet, 26 years later, women and girls’ human rights and bodily autonomy continue to be routinely violated, including through the denial, criminalization and stigmatization of access to safe and legal abortion - all of which is rooted in the discrimination, oppression, violence and coercion affecting the material conditions that shape people’s lives and ability to exercise their bodily autonomy and human rights.
In 1994, Black feminists came together as the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, in reaction to the white supremacy, colonialism and capitalism they observed shaping reproductive politics and inherent in the broader population control narratives. Reproductive justice is centered on the rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination, and to parent and not to parent in safe and healthy environments.iii It is rooted in an intersectional analysis and moving beyond an individualistic conception of “choice” to instead place emphasis on the material conditions necessary to exercise reproductive rights. Reproductive justice also addresses the legacy of population control informed by white supremacy and replacement theory, which has resurfaced in current populist politics.
Reproductive justice is achieved when all people are able to enjoy their right to bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive self-determination. It requires people to enjoy economic, social, and cultural rights and freedoms, and the ability to make and exercise choices not limited by oppression, discrimination, stigma, coercion, violence, lack of opportunities or possible consequences. Treaty bodies and special procedures have echoed this need and recognized that the realization of women’s reproductive rights depends on the material conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age, and on power structures and resource distribution at all levels - in other words, the social and other determinants of health.v These include access to housing, safe drinking water, effective sanitation systems, access to justice, and freedom from violence, among other factors, and impact the agency that individuals can exercise with respect to their sexual and reproductive health.vi Our discussions on abortion and sexual and reproductive rights cannot continue ignoring these factors.
The realization of reproductive justice, the right to bodily autonomy and substantive equality also requires freedom from control and interference by State and non-State actors, including private companies, donors and multinational corporations, including criminalization of sexual and reproductive behaviors and decisions, restrictive abortion laws, punitive sanctions, and legal restrictions to regulate women’s control over their own bodies.
These laws, policies and practices typically target and disproportionately impact women of color, women from the Global South, women with disabilities, women living in poverty, migrant
women, ethnic minorities and indigenous women, women living with HIV, young women and adolescents, sex workers and gender-non-conforming persons based on racial, class, disability and gender stereotypes.viii
Today, on 28 September, International Safe Abortion Day, we urge States to respect, protect and fulfill women and girls’ human rights and realize reproductive justice for all. We call on states to:
● Ensure access to available, accessible, acceptable and quality sexual and reproductive health services as part of universal health coverage and public health systems, including modern contraceptive options, comprehensive abortion and post-abortion care, financed adequately through taxation and free from control from other governments, multilateral agreements and transnational corporations.
● Remove all legal and social barriers to safe abortion, including its criminalization, which is broader and including sanctions and no sanction regimes, and commit to providing safe abortion services on request.
● Address social and other determinants of health in law and practice from an intersectional perspective to ensure that they enable all individuals to effectively enjoy their sexual and reproductive rights.ix
● Hold private companies and multinational corporations accountable for unethical research practices, violations and abuses of women and girls’ reproductive rights and bodily autonomy.
● Prioritize the meaningful participation of local movements, women human rights defenders and feminists demanding accountability for sexual and reproductive health and rights violations, and center their demands and recommendations for the realization of reproductive justice.
You may listen to a concise version of the letter being read at the UN Council meeting here.
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Following up on last week's post on an article advocating for free menstrual products in schools, we report that the issue has taken on some national publicity.
CBS News reported recently that actress Sophia Bush has taken up the cause against "period poverty". As reported "Bush is partnering with Always which makes period products, to raise awareness about just how widespread the issues is. She plans to help them surpass last year's donation of 20 million products to girls across the country."
The numbers of girls who have missed school due to inability to afford products is astounding. CBS reports the following numbers: 143,000 girls in New York City; 88,000 in Los Angeles; 65,000 in Chicago; 57,000 in Atlanta; and 38,000 in Houston.
The movement is gathering support. The Pacific Standard reported on a group of activists demanding the elimination of taxes on menstrual products and free products in school, prison and shelter restrooms as well as those in public spaces. Boston established a pilot program to devote $100,000 to stock products with school nurses.
This is the time for advocacy to accelerate. With more school systems acknowledging the need, this is the time to bring the same demands to institutions of higher learning and all government buildings.
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Kudos to the three social justice lawyers among this year's MacArthur Fellows. Lisa Daugaard is a criminal justice reformer and director of the Public Defenders' Association. Her work to develop alternatives to punitive and ineffective law enforcement practices has had nationwide impacts. Danielle Citron is a BU law professor who has taken up the cause of on-line abuse, influencing policymakers to take the issues seriously. Her work focuses on the human dignity issues underlying the invasions of privacy represented by on-line harassment. sujatha beliga is a pioneer in survivor-centered restorative justice, developing alternatives to incarceration and exploring the cultural contexts the support restorative justice.
Together, these three are transforming both law and legal practice to be more responsive to human needs.
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
The UN isn't the only place where national representatives are coming together to discuss human rights this week. In Warsaw, Poland, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)'s annual "Human Dimension Implementation Meeting" is underway. Billed as "Europe’s largest annual human rights conference," the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) brings together hundreds of government officials, international experts, civil society representatives and human rights activists to take stock of how states are implementing their commitments to "the core values that promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms." The meetings are organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
The United States is a member of the OSCE and takes an active part in these meetings. The US delegation to the conference is headed by Ambassador James Gilmore, who this year has participated in sessions on anti-semitism, women's rights, journalists' safety, and judicial independence, among others. Links to live stream, twitter, and an agenda for this year's conference are here.
Side events at this year's conference include several sponsored by the US delegation, including one on human rights monitoring in Crimea. A few more were sponsored by US-based organizations, such as the American Bar Association's event on lawyers and human rights defenders. A complete list of side events is here.
Given the US pull-back from the UN, and President Trump's anti-globalist speech at the UN meeting this week, it's refreshing to see an active US delegation at the HDIM apparently fully participating in the proceedings. At the same time, there seem to be very few US-focused advocacy groups in attendance. Human Rights Watch is there, and HRW reps have tweeted a couple of pointed critiques of US participation. Amnesty USA is in attendance, too. Anyone else?
Dozens of domestic advocates travel to Geneva virtually every time the US is reviewed by a human rights body. Meanwhile, in Warsaw, is the US getting a pass at the HDIM? At this year's HDIM, the US delegation has been hosting a coffee hour for NGO reps in attendance who want to talk to the delegation. By skipping Warsaw, are US-based groups missing an opportunity to bring human rights home?
Monday, September 23, 2019
In August the Department of Education threatened to withhold grant monies to programs that present Islam in a favorable light.
According to the Washington Post "The agency ordered the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies to revise its offerings or risk losing its $235,000 federal grant." The administration claims that the program advances an "ideological agenda and promotes a positive view of Islam while virtually ignoring Judaism, Christianity and other religions." The letter was published this week in the Federal Register and is largely interpreted to be a warning to academia.
This must sound familiar to those who studied authoritarian regimes. The state dictating what can and cannot be taught are essential to maintaining a demagogue's power. First universities will lose federal funding. Then watch for professors to be fired, for not demonzing Islam and for other "offenses" that do not conform to the administration's agenda.
Next will be lawyers' arrests. (One judge has already been indicted for not cooperating with ICE.) Law professors beware. Our dual identity may make us more vulnerable but also must make us more resistant.
Sunday, September 22, 2019
This week, foreign leaders will convene in New York for the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.
Monday will kick off with a Climate Summit, hard on the heels of Friday's massive global Climate Strike. Climate strike crowds worldwide were estimated at 4 million people. According to a recent Washington Post poll, two-thirds of Americans believe that Trump is doing too little to address climate issues, and 4 out of 10 Americans believe that climate change is a "crisis."
French President Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and other world leaders will be in attendance at Monday's UN Climate Summit. The format will involve national leaders making short remarks highlighting bold initiatives and climate pledges. The US, which will be represented by Marcia Bernicat, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, has not been invited to speak.
But where in the world is the US President?
Not satisfied with simply not attending the Climate Summit, Trump has organized his own conflicting meeting to discuss religious persecution. And not only does Trump's meeting conflict with the Climate Summit, but Trump's gathering is scheduled to be held in the same building -- what some observers, including Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, see as a deliberate effort to distract attention from the climate issue.
Given the rising concern about climate change, particularly among US young people, Trump's decision to schedule his meeting directly opposite the Climate Summit seems strategically tin-eared and self-destructive. As the poll shows, 80 % of Americans already think the Administration is falling short in this area -- very likely, the percentage of young voters who think this is even higher. These young folks have a lot of energy and a lot at stake -- they are not soon going to forget the Trump Administration's deliberate efforts to undermine those who are trying to take action.
For more background on human rights and climate, see this background info compiled by the OHCHR.
For Greta Thunberg's disarming Ted Talk on climate change and future generations, click here.
Thursday, September 19, 2019
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will convene its 173rd Period of Sessions on Monday, September 23, at IACHR headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Several US-focused hearings will be held on the morning of September 24, including:
(1) Reparation for Slavery and Other Forms of Structural Racial Discrimination in the United States (Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law);
(2) Limitations on Access to Asylum and Refuge in the United States for Citizens of the Northern Triangle Countries (The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Educations and Legal Services/International-Lawyers.Org / The Department of Law of the University of Makeni, Sierra Leone; and
(3) Case of Russell Bucklew v. United States on death penalty (American Civil Liberties Union).
In addition, on the morning of Thursday, September 26, the Commission will convene a hearing on human rights violations against migrant children in Central America, Mexico, and the U.S.
The hearings are open to the public, subject to space limitations.
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Santa Clara University School of Law is seeking nominations for the 2020 recipient of the annual Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize. The Committee encourages sharing this message broadly.
Katharine and George Alexander created the Prize in 2008 to bring recognition to those who have used their legal careers to help alleviate injustice and inequity. Along with the recognition associated with the award, each recipient also receives a generous cash prize.
Nominees for the Prize must be advocates who have used their abilities in the field of law and shown brave commitment to alleviating injustice and inequity.
Nominations should be prepared on this form. Supporting materials explaining the merits of the nominee for the Prize can also be provided through that form. The deadline for submission of nominations is October 15, 2019.
Questions regarding the nomination process, please contact Noelia McKeever at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
This week sexual assault allegations were made against Patriot's receiver Antonio Brown. The allegations include rape. The usual defenses are raised. The sexual encounters were consensual. The Plaintiff is just looking for money. These stereotypes rely on two myths regarding women. The stereotype of the woman who claims rape due to next day regret and the golddigger. Both stereotypes are dying, thanks in large part to the #MeToo movement. Women are more willing to come forward.
The Patriot's response was to announce that it would conduct its own investigation. “Under no circumstance does this organization condone sexual violence or assault. The league has informed us that they will be investigating. We will have no further comment while that investigation takes place.” Great irony from the organization lead by Robert Kraft. The organization takes comfort that the NFL will investigate and that the Commissioner, Roger Goodall, has the power to impose sanctions. Hardly reassuring.
Separate investigations are used to derail both civil and criminal prosecutions. The results are used to influence public opinion in favor of the NFL player without regard to the complainant's day in court.
Last year, Professor Deborah Epstein resigned from the NFL's commission on domestic violence. In an op-ed published by the Washington Post, she said that she could no longer be part of a body that exists in name only. After conducting a study involving the wives of NFL players, Prof. Epstein made several recommendations. But the commission rarely met and none of the recommendations were implemented. An independent NFL investigation is a misnomer when the investigator's first obligation is to the owners who have made significant financial investments in their players.
Yes, you read it right -- in today's Topsy-Turvy political world, a proponent of torture is deemed to be qualified to lead the State Department's human rights efforts. At least, that's what the Trump Administration thinks. A hearing on the nomination of Marshall Billingsly to the post of Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, will be held by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, September 19, at 9:30 a.m. Here's a link to more information on the hearing.
Here's the background you need:
Human Rights First (founded by former State Dep't Human Rights chief Michael Posner) has compiled this fact sheet on the nominee's positions.
An analysis from two Human Rights First experts is available here.
Human Rights Watch's letter opposing the nomination is here.
And to think, it was just five years ago that the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a full report on these Bush era abuses, and the US use of torture was roundly condemned by the international community.
Monday, September 16, 2019
Sunday, September 15, 2019
Check out Elizabeth Montano's prize-winning article from the U. Miami Law Review on the "bring your own tampon" policy and human rights. As she says, no one expects to have to carry their own personal toilet paper with them at all times. Why is it any different with tampons?
Here's the article abstract, posted on SSRN:
"Like toilet paper, menstrual hygiene products, such as tampons and pads, are necessities for managing natural and unavoidable bodily functions. However, menstrual hygiene products widely receive separate treatment in restrooms across the globe. While it would be absurd today to carry a roll of toilet paper at all times, it is considered necessary and common sense for all menstruators to carry menstrual hygiene products at all times, for approximately forty years, in case of an emergency. This is the “Bring Your Own Tampon” (“BYOT”) policy and it is a violation of human rights and equal protection. This Note seeks to answer four questions: (1) what is the history and impact of the BYOT policy?; (2) what progress has been made in ending the BYOT policy?; (3) what are the risks and benefits of ending the BYOT policy?; and (4) why are menstrual hygiene products, unlike toilets and toilet paper, considered luxuries instead of necessities? In addressing these questions, this Note analyzes two movements in the United States and their implications on human rights and equal protection: (1) the movement to end pay toilets and (2) the movement to end the BYOT policy. Based on this analysis, this Note posits that the BYOT policy is a violation of human rights and equal protection and needs to be flushed out across the globe."
One tampon issue that has started receiving legislative attention is the tampon tax. For more background, see this recent article on US Policymaking to Address Menstruation by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf of the Brennan Center.
The Columbia Law School will be hosting a Tampon Tax LAB from September 20-22, with the goal of developing a legal strategy to take on this one part of the discriminatory tampon regime. More information is available here.
Thursday, September 12, 2019
If only a few choice edits could change the course of climate change. We know that won't work, but the current Administration seems to feel that an ostrich approach of burying its head in the sand is a better policy that facing up to the reality that we can see all around us.
Unfortunately, the Administration is also using veiled threats to impose its views and undermine climate policy globally. The Guardian reports on leaked documents suggesting that "the UN’s migration agency is censoring itself on the climate crisis and the global compact on migration, following pressure from the US government." According to the documents, sensitive topics include "the climate crisis, sustainable development goals, the global compact for migration and 'anything that seems at odds with the administration’s take on US domestic/foreign issues.” The US suggested that references to "sensitive topics" could lead the US to defund the agency. Unfortunately, the agency seems to be capitulating. And so, the Trump Administration's dangerous campaign to ignore reality spreads.
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt's book "How Democracies Die" is an interesting read. The authors discuss how countries outside of the United States have permitted or averted demagogues from controlling the state.
Two threads are of particular interest to me. The first is that demagogues have been defeated when members of their own political party draw boundaries around and protest not only inhumane actions, but those that undermine the democratic process. Parliament has drawn the boundaries with Boris Johnson who on his own would continue with Brexit through a hard exit. Parliament is repeatedly telling Mr. Johnson that Brexit should only happen under an agreement. Rarely has the US Congress, and particularly the Republican party drawn boundaries around President Trump's actions, or even publicly criticized the president. Opposition criticism becomes fodder for the would-be demagogues' claims of victimization.
Secondly, in order to defeat a demagogue in an election, parties and voters must agree upon a candidate they will support, even if that candidate is mediocre or against some of the major policies of the uniting parties. In other words, just agree to elect anyone who is not a demagogue nor seeks to become one and voters interrupt the would be demagogue's path to power.
It is unlikely that the Republicans will take an aggressive stance against the erosion of democracy because they have already condoned many variations from the norm of civil democracy - for example, refusing to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the US Supreme Court. So we must rely on voter turnout for whoever is the opposition nominee. Voters may have had grievances against the Clintons that either stopped them from voting or turned them toward Mr. Trump. For the next presidential election, the only analysis needs to be which candidate will do the least damage to a democratic state.
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Next year, the U.N. Human Rights Council will review the human rights obligations and commitments of the United States for the third time through its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. The U.S. review will take place on May 11, 2020 in Geneva.
Many of us are busy preparing Stakeholder Submissions, which are due by October 3, 2019. There is guidance on how to prepare and make a Stakeholder submission on the Office of the High Commissioner’s website. There are also many groups that are actively working to make sure the Council receives a diverse Stakeholder Submissions from across the U.S. For example, the U.S. Human Rights Network has been busy this summer putting on how-to webinars, organizing UPR Cities events, coordinating the drafting of submissions, and more.
This year, for the first time that I am aware of, the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA) trained and encouraged its local chapters to host UPR consultations and draft Stakeholder Submissions. The UNA provided a UPR Local Consultation Toolkit, Media Advisory Templates, as well as a Stakeholder Submission template to any interested chapter. In addition, at its Global Leadership Summit in June 2019, the UNA held a UPR consultation and compiled members feedback into a Stakeholder Submission to be submitted to the Human Rights Council.
I attended the United Nations Association of St. Louis UPR Consultation last week and I was blown away by the hard work of the chapter leaders and high level participants they were able to attract. Participants included St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell and State Senator Jamilah Nasheed. The St. Louis chapter focused its consultation on the socioeconomic impact of the incarceration of African American women, with emphasis on trauma, education, diversion and re-entry within the criminal justice system. There are photos (and commentary) of the St. Louis event here.
Monday, September 9, 2019
At the University of Dayton from October 1 -4, the biennial conference on the Social Practice of Human Rights. More info here.
On October 9-10, Webster University's annual human rights conference, this year focusing on Global Migration. Follow this link for more info.
Sunday, September 8, 2019
Activists and advocates continue to put pressure on the Trump Administration to fully restore the practice of granting medical deferments to non-citizens who are receiving life-saving medical treatment in the US.
On Friday, September 5, the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston, represented by the ACLU and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, filed a federal complaint challenging the Administration's actions to curtail the program. The suit argues that the Administration's move is motivated by racial animus, in violation of the 5th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
The House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold its (rescheduled) hearing on the matter on Wednesday, September 11, from 11 a.m. to 12 noon.
For an eloquent analysis of the issue, see law prof Wendy Parmet's commentary published in WBUR's Cognoscenti, "What Deporting Sick Immigrants Says About America." Professor Parmet observes that "to fully grasp why the Trump administration has targeted sick and dying children, one needs to think not only about the children, but also their caregivers. The doctors, nurses and aides who treat them; the churchgoers who raise money for them; and the neighbors who support their families. They are also targets of the policy. By caring for immigrants in need, they reaffirm that immigrants, even the most vulnerable, are our fellow human beings, fully worthy of compassion and respect. Even more, by caring for those who are ill, caregivers give lie to acting USCIS director Ken Cuccinelli’s claim that we can only welcome those who are self-sufficient."
The Trump Administration seems to believe that there's no limit to the cruelty that the American people will tolerate in our name. We can only hope that's not true, and work to make it so.
Thursday, September 5, 2019
The Section on Women in Legal Education is pleased to announce a Call for Papers from which presenters will be selected to participate in the Section’s main program at the AALS 2020 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The program, A Century Since Suffrage: How Did We Get Here? Where Will We Go? How Will We Get There?, will explore the legal accomplishments and failures of the women’s movement since 1920. A century ago, women won the right to vote. Since then, women garnered additional rights in virtually every legal area, including in the realms of employment, property, reproduction, education, caretaking, sexual freedom, and protection from violence. Despite significant success, much work remains.
This session will consider the future of the women’s movement through a critical examination of our past as guided by three multi-faceted inquiries:
(1) How did we get here?
Topics can include, for example: Who shaped the movement’s path? What were the movement’s guiding ideologies, practices, and priorities? Where did the movement fail? How did the exclusion of African American and other minority women shape the movement’s trajectory and goals? How did the prioritization of some issues over others impact women’s lives and the reality of sex equality?
(2) Where will we go?
Topics can include, for example, What are or should be our priorities as we move forward? How do we continue our work given the current political climate, assault on women’s rights, and status of our world? How will our understandings of gender shift the goals of the women’s movement? What impact will intersectionality have on the movement?
(3) How will we get there?
Topics can include, for example: Who will shape our actions
and goals as we move forward? Which philosophies will guide us? What are the obstacles in our path? What have we learned from our past and how will that knowledge guide us into the future?
We welcome proposals for presentations on these topics.
Submission Guidelines: Submission guidelines: We welcome proposals for 30-minute presentations on these topics. Proposals for presentations should be sent as an e-mail file attachment in MS Word to Professor Rona Kaufman at email@example.com by Monday, September 23, 2019. She will confirm receipt of all submissions. Proposals for presentations should be 500-1500 words long, and should denote the topic to be addressed, any special technological needs for the session, the presenter’s background, years of teaching, institutional affiliation, and contact information. All abstracts will be reviewed by members of the WILE Program Committee. Selected professors will present their work at the 2020 AALS Annual
Meeting. Full drafts of articles based on conference presentations will be due by July 1, 2020. Final versions of the articles will be due by August 19, 2020. Accepted articles will be published in the Winter 2021 issue of the Duquesne Law Review.
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
As reported on Monday, the Trump Administration had announce in late August that it would suspend the policy of deferred deportation for undocumented immigrants who require life-saving medical treatment in the United States. The same would apply to immigrants whose family members require treatment. As reported, 127 Senators signed a letter criticizing the President's decision in addition to public outrage.
Now the Trump administration has reversed its position, at least in part. The administration announced it would review the medical deferral requests on a case by case basis. The government announced that it had not yet deported anyone who had received an August 7th letter informing applicants of the deferral's suspension. Allegedly the applications received as of August 7th will still be reviewed on their merits. But no information was given as to whether the program will be reinstated for new applicants.