Wednesday, December 27, 2023

One Thing the U.S. Must Do to Protect Human Rights in the Immediate Aftermath of the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Samantha Barzaga

By Samantha Barzaga, 2L at Florida State University College of Law and a member of the International Human Rights Advocacy Clinic

December 10, 2023, marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document outlined, for the first time, a fundamental global standard of human rights for universal protection. The Biden administration should commemorate this special occasion by designating Temporary Protected Status for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, is a program that allows migrants living in unsafe countries to work and live in the United States for an extendable period of time. The Department of Homeland Secretary can designate a country for TPS if there has been an ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or some other extraordinary condition that would not allow nationals to return. Though only one is required, the DRC satisfies all of these requirements.

Since 1996, the Central African region has faced escalating conflict. This is largely due to the First Congo War, beginning in the wake of the 1994 genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda. After this genocide, nearly two million Hutu refugees settled in the North and South Kivu provinces. Some of these refugees were Hutu extremists, which led to the organization of militias by Hutu groups, and eventually Tutsi militias to combat these Hutu groups in the Congo. The result was a gruesome war replete with human rights abuses and mass displacement.

The Second Congo War in 1998 was similar to the first war, eventually ending in 2003. It caused around five million deaths, and millions of people remained internally displaced by 2008. These wars have led to ongoing conflict and human rights abuses through today, exacerbated by intervening causes along the way including a severe Ebola outbreak in 2018 and the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in 2021.

I spoke with a Congolese refugee who experienced the 1996 conflict firsthand. He lived in the city of Uvira and remembered leaving the Congo in October of 1996. He walked almost 500 kilometers to the city of Kalemie, and on the way witnessed rampant shootings and people running for their lives. He saw a baby get shot, and the mother left the baby and ran away. He recalled people running into lakes and drowning. Someone was beheaded in front of him. He survived by drinking rancid water and consuming tree roots. When he arrived in Kalemie, youths were being recruited to join the rebel soldiers, so he eventually fled to Meheba refugee camp in Zambia. From there he made his way to Zimbabwe, where he met his wife and started a family. He eventually ended up in the United States just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This refugee’s story is one of countless similar narratives as confirmed by The UN Mapping Report, which catalogs the most serious human rights incidents occurring in the DRC between 1993 and 2003. It highlights the ramifications of this conflict including the inability to protect borders, prosecute crimes, and maintain strong branches of government.

For these reasons, hundreds of organizations and over fifty members of Congress have called on the Biden administration to designate TPS for the DRC. The U.S. has previously acknowledged the severity of the situation in the DRC. In October 2022, the Department of State issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory warning U.S. citizens not to travel to the DRC. The advisory underscored the ongoing conflict, violence against civilians, and humanitarian crisis. It is time for the Biden administration to heed the call to protect the Congolese. There is no better time than the immediate aftermath of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

December 27, 2023 in Migrants, Refugees, Universal Declaration of Human Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 21, 2023

New Op-Ed: How Biden can formalize his promises to safeguard human rights

Jamil Dakwar and Noah Ponton, How Biden can formalize his promises to safeguard human rights, The Hill (Dec. 21., 2023). Excerpt below.

This December marks 75 years since the adoption of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a monumental document that has mainstreamed human rights and put them at the center of global freedom, peace and justice.

For President Biden, who declared at the beginning of his presidency that human rights are “among the most powerful and persuasive tools in our foreign policy kit,” this anniversary is an inflection point for his administration to reflect on how it has attempted to overcome his predecessor’s shameful record on human rights and lead “by the power of our example.” 

December 21, 2023 in Universal Declaration of Human Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 18, 2023

Doxxing in the Ivy League and the Universal Right to Privacy

by Anezka Krobot, 3L at St. Louis University School fo Law

In the wake of the situation in Gaza, there has been some conflict regarding the treatment of pro-Palestine student activists from prestigious universities, who have been doxxed and threatened because of their views on the conflict.

On the night of the Hamas attack on Israel, October 7, 2023, a coalition of Harvard student groups published an open letter stating that Israel was wholly to blame for the violence that had taken place. No names of individual students were released alongside the letter, but it only took a few days for the doxxing to begin. A truck with a digital billboard was purchased by conservative nonprofit Accuracy in Media and circled Harvard Square showing the names and photos of students affiliated with the groups who had published the letter, with a headline labeling them “Harvard’s Leading Antisemites.” Affected students were contacted and harassed, as well as members of their families, from parents to younger siblings. Accuracy in Media, which has the self-proclaimed mission of “exposing media bias” and “holding journalists as well as public and private officials accountable, has also purchased trucks to dox students at Yale.

Harvard established a task force on October 25, which provided targeted students with resources and services, provided a forum for their concerns and suggestions, and coordinated with staff and administrators to ensure the students’ safety. However, did the doxxing of these students, who had made conscious efforts to remain anonymous while expressing their beliefs, constitute a violation of their human rights?

Doxxing is “the intentional revelation of a person’s private information online without their consent, often with malicious intent,” according to the International Encyclopedia of Gender, Media, and Communication. The private information can include phone numbers, home addresses, ID numbers like Social Security numbers, or even private, intimate photos. It has been a form of online attack since the 1990s, but became a huge issue in 2014, when members of alt-right forums began harassing female video game developers and gamers in a phenomenon known as “Gamergate.”  Since then, some states in the U.S. have passed bills banning or providing remedies for victims of doxxing, but most states do not have any safeguards against or remedies for victims of doxxing, and there is no federal legislation on the issue.

Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights state respectively that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honor and reputation,” and that “everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all people have “the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The most recent resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age was adopted by the Human Rights Council in September 2019, which states that all states “should ensure that any interference with the right to privacy is consistent with the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality.”  The resolution also calls for states to develop or maintain “preventive measures and remedies” for violations of privacy, and recognizes that “the right to privacy can enable the enjoyment of other rights and the free development of an individual’s personality and identity, and an individual’s ability to participate in political, economic, social and cultural life, and noting with concern that violations or abuses of the right to privacy might affect the enjoyment of other human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and to hold opinions without interference, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.” 

The Harvard students have the right to express their opinions on the treatment of Palestinian people under the Israeli regime, and being doxxed significantly interferes with their freedom to hold those opinions. Obviously, others are also allowed to disagree with them, but to doxx them goes beyond all principles of necessity and proportionality in this situation. Here, not only the students’ rights to privacy have been affected, but also the rights to privacy and safety of their families, who never made a statement about Gaza, and some of whom are minor children. Now, people know where those families live and have their contact information. In exercising your own right to free expression, you should not be allowed to violate another person’s right to privacy.

Read more about the UN’s stance on the right to digital privacy here. Read more about the UN’s stance on freedom of expression here.

December 18, 2023 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 14, 2023

In celebration of Human Rights Day the IHRC releases the Summary of Record of the 107th Session of CERD.

AlejandraBy Alejandra PalaciosStaff Attorney, International Human Rights Clinic at UIC Law

“We must understand the role of human rights as empowering of individuals and communities.” – Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On Human Rights Day, we take time to reflect on the activities and work done by everyone involved to further human rights in the United States during the 107th Review Session by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

From August 8th to August 30th, 2022, the CERD held its 107th Session where it reviewed the U.S.’s efforts to implement the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination. CERD holds governments accountable for their international obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“ICERD”). It does so by evaluating state practice and regular reporting, examining State Party reports and issuing recommendations to the State Party in order to fulfill their obligations under ICERD. 

To hold States like the U.S. responsible under the treaty, members of civil society submit detailed reports to CERD regarding the State’s lack of protection against racial discrimination. In response, the State prepares a report to CERD describing the fulfillment of international obligations pursuant to the treaty. Members of CERD, including the Country Rapporteur, then consider the State’s report and construct a list of issues with civil society’s concerns to return to the State’s delegation. Finally, CERD provides concluding observations and recommendations that the State must implement. This process is designed to encourage meaningful dialogue between the U.S. as the State Party, civil society, and the Committee.

The CERD’s list of themes for the U.S. Review included: racial profiling; discriminatory practices in education; the discrimination of immigrants and non-citizens; gun violence and the use of excessive force by law enforcement; voting rights; women’s and reproductive rights; and environmental racism and pollution. During the review, Country Rapportuer, Ms. Pansy Tlakula, and other members of CERD requested information and questioned U.S. efforts to address racial discrimination based on the list of themes presented.

CERD expressed regret that the U.S. had not established a national action plan to combat systematic racism and structural discrimination, an issue raised civil society in shadow reports. Although the Committee recognized positive developments by the U.S., it urged them to do more to further the protection of social and economic rights, including access to health care and safe abortion; address disparities in sentencing and the use of excessive and deadly force by law enforcement; protecting the right to protest and speak freely; improve relations with Indigenous Peoples, among many other recommendations.

In its concluding observations, the Committee expressed concern that “the lingering legacies of colonialism and slavery continue to fuel racism and racial discrimination…undermining the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all individuals and communities.” This was followed by a call for a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for slavery – effectively linking current challenges experienced by Black Americans and people of African descent to the issue of slavery.

On August 24, 2023, the U.S. submitted a follow-up report to the concluding observations of the 107th Session. Pursuant to the Committee’s request, it provided information about maternal mortality and sexual and reproductive health, Indigenous Peoples, and migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, and stateless persons. The U.S. acknowledged there is “significant work ahead to eliminate the racial and ethnic disparities” in these fields.

The U.S. must continue to engage with international bodies like CERD as it grapples with systemic racism and other human rights violations domestically. The experts on the Committee provide a blueprint to address structural discrimination through their concluding observations and recommendations. The U.S. has an obligation under the ICERD to strive meet the standards outlined therein. Being aware of what happens internationally to set standards for human rights is instrumental to grassroots movements challenging the status quo. Making that information accessible to the public, affected populations, and civil society is instrumental in creating persuasive arguments that push towards change.

After engaging in human rights advocacy at the United Nations CERD in Geneva, Switzerland, the International Human Rights Clinic releases a Summary of Record of the 107th Review of the United States in relation to its obligations under the treaty. In working alongside civil society organizations and groups, the clinic produced this record to support continued advocacy to combat systemic and structural racism in the United States. The Summary of Record is available here.

The purpose of the Summary of Record is to provide an overview of the discussions on the themes presented during the 107th Review Session of the U.S., along with details about the input from Civil Society. The summary of record also includes a short description of themes presented in prior sessions demonstrating how the themes evolved over time. This document can serve as a reference material to be used by the directly impacted individuals, organizations, and the public.

December 14, 2023 in CERD | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Event 12/18: International Migrants’ Day Webinar

On Monday, December 18, from 9:00-10:00 A.M EST, please join the Migrants Rights Initiative, based at the Cornell Law School Migration and Human Rights Program, for a virtual discussion of regional leadership on soft law instruments protecting migrant rights, including the 2019 Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of all Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons and Victims of Human Trafficking and the 2023 African Guiding Principles on the Human Rights of all Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

The event will will feature a discussion between the Hon. Commissioner José Luis Caballero Ochoa of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Hon. Commissioner Selma Sassi Safer of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, moderated by Professor Ian M. Kysel, Cornell Law School.

Simultaneous French, Spanish and English Interpretation will be provided. Register for the event here.

December 13, 2023 in Migrants | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Event 12/7: UDHR Anniversary Celebration with Center for Reproductive Rights

On December 7, 2023, from 9-10 A.M. EST, join the Center for Reproductive Rights and other leading human rights organizations for a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). They will be highlighting the critical role of sexual and reproductive rights and gender equality in realizing the promise of the UDHR for all.

The distinguished speakers will be Cataline Devandas, Sibongile Ndashe, Macarena Saez, Monica Simpson, and H.E. Roberto Armando de Leon Huerta. The event will be moderated by Rachana Desai Martin.

There have been both historic advancements and unprecedented assaults on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the past few years. This event will provide a space for participants from key leaders working to advance these rights, particularly the most marginalized, and what still needs to be done to advance and protect human rights for all.

This event is virtual. Find the Zoom link to the webinar here.

December 3, 2023 in Reproductive Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 1, 2023

December 2023 – March 2024 Deadlines: Calls for Input by Human Rights Mechanisms

The following calls for inputs have been issued by UN Human Rights Mechanisms with deadlines in December 2023 – March 2024 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 to inform the High Commissioner’s report to the Human Rights Council on the impact of arms transfers on human rights. Deadline December 31, 2023. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures – Call for inputs to collect relevant articles, reports, publications and information to develop the Sanctions Research Platform. Deadline January 1, 2024. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights – Call for inputs for his thematic report on “Eradicating poverty in a post-growth context: preparing for the next Development Goals.” Deadline January 15, 2024. Read more.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for inputs to inform the Secretary-General’s analytical study on the impact of loss and damage from the adverse effects of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights, exploring equity-based approaches and solutions to addressing the same. Deadline January 31, 2024. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls – Call for inputs to better understand the relationship between prostitution and violence against women, to clarify terms, approaches and actions States should take in order to maintain the spirit of international human rights law and to effectively protect women and girls from all forms of violence. Deadline January 31, 2024. Read more.

Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – Call for inputs on “Laws, legislation, policies, constitutions, judicial decisions and other mechanisms in which States had taken measures to achieve the ends of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in accordance with article 38 of the Declaration.” Deadline January 31, 2024. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures – Call for inputs on “Access to justice in the face of unilateral sanctions and over-compliance.” Deadline February 28, 2024. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing – Call for inputs on the topic of resettlement as a human rights issue. Deadline March 31, 2024. Read more.    

This information was compiled from

December 1, 2023 in Global Human Rights, United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)