Brazilian NGO addressing environment and human rights receives inaugural Human Rights & Business Award

Justica nos Trilhos - logo

The Brazilian NGO Justiça nos Trilhos will receive the inaugural award from the Human Rights and Business Award Foundation, the recently-formed foundation announced today.  The award, which is accompanied by a $50,000 grant, is made in recognition of “outstanding work by human rights defenders in the Global South or former Soviet Union addressing the human rights impacts of business in those regions”.

As the foundation states in its press release:

Justiça nos Trilhos is an organization working closely with local communities in remote parts of Brazil – including indigenous peoples, peasants, and Afro-descendants – to address human rights and environmental abuses by mining and steel companies, in particular the multinational Vale.

Mining and steel companies have polluted the rivers on which these people depend for drinking water and their livelihoods, polluted the air causing respiratory and eyesight problems, contaminated the soil with industrial waste, displaced communities, and decimated the cultures and lives of indigenous peoples.

The foundation notes:

The human rights defenders of Justiça nos Trilhos, and the local communities they work with, have been subjected to surveillance and retaliatory lawsuits by Vale.

Information about the Vale mining company is available here.  Two stories about the work of Justiça nos Trilhos, the first of which includes Vale’s responses:

Session on Tuesday at UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

BHR ForumDanilo Chammas, a lawyer at Justiça nos Trilhos, will accept the award on behalf of the organization at a session being held at the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva on Tuesday 27 November. The session “will be an interactive learning and discussion opportunity, linking the particular experiences of the award recipient and the lessons learned through those experiences to the Forum’s priority issues including human rights due diligence, sector-focused challenges, and the UN Guiding Principles [on Business and Human Rights]”.

Human Rights & Business Award – Human rights defenders in the Global South
– Tuesday 27 Nov, 18:15-19:45, Room XX, Palais des Nations, Geneva
– The session’s objectives, key discussion questions, and discussants:  here

The Business and Human Rights Award Foundation was established by the founder of the award-winning Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Chris Avery.  The foundation website was launched today in eight languages.

Press release announcing the 2018 Business and Human Rights Award:


Sir Nigel Rodley Human Rights Conference: October 28-29, 2017

Nigel RodleySir Nigel Rodley Human Rights Conference
October 28–29, 2017
A conference in honor of the late Sir Nigel Rodley is being hosted by The Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights at the University of Cincinnati College of Law on October 28–29, 2017.  Co-sponsored by Paul Hoffman and Professor Bert Lockwood, director of the Urban Morgan Institute, the Conference will focus on the contributions of Sir Nigel to human rights and his areas of concern, as well as the challenges currently facing the international human rights community.  Registration and hotel information are here.  If you have any questions please email Nancy Ent at


9 am        Greeting from Prof. Bert Lockwood
Video Tribute to Sir Nigel Rodley

9:30–10:30 am      Nigel Rodley and Amnesty International
Chair: Paul Hoffman 
Chris Avery, Founder, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Prof. Stephanie Farrior, Vermont Law School
Prof. David Petrasek, University of Ottawa

10:30–11:30 am       Nigel’s Scholarship
Chair: Prof. David Weissbrodt, University of Minnesota
Prof. Roger Clark, Rutgers Law School: Nigel’s Criminal Law Scholarship
Prof. Rebecca Cook, University of Toronto Faculty of Law: Nigel’s Feminist Transformations

11:30–12:30 am      Death Penalty
Chair: Prof. George Edwards, Indiana University
Christina Cerna, Former Attorney, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Death Penalty Case
Prof. Sandra Babcock, Cornell Law School: Death Penalty Today
Prof. Connie de la Vega, University of San Francisco

Lunch Break    Boxed Lunches will be provided

1:30–2:30 pm     Torture
Chair: Prof. Terry Coonan, Florida State University
Prof. Juan Méndez, American University; Former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
Felice Gaer, Vice-Chair, UN Committee against Torture
Curt Goering, Center for Victims of Torture

2:30–3:15 pm      The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
: Howard Tolley, University of Cincinnati
The Honorable Unity Dow, Minister of Education, Botswana; Former Chair of the Executive Committee, ICJ
Prof. Robert Goldman, American University; Acting President, ICJ

3:15–4:30 pm      Treaty Bodies
Prof. Dinah Shelton, George Washington University
Prof. Cees Flinterman, Maastricht University
Prof. Ruth Wedgwood, Johns Hopkins University
Prof. Douglass Cassel, University of Notre Dame


9–10:15 am      Economic and Social Rights
Chair: Prof. Stephen Marks, Harvard University
Prof. Paul Hunt, University of Essex; Independent Expert, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Prof. Tara Melish, University of Buffalo
Larry Cox, Kairos Center, Poor Peoples’ Campaign

10:15–11:15 am      Current Challenges, Part I
Prof. Mark Gibney, University of North Carolina at Asheville

Prof. Michael  O’Flaherty: View from the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency
Christophe Peschoux: View from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Prof. Tom Farer, University of Denver: Minority Rights in the Age of Mass Migration

11:15–11:30 am      Break

11:30 am –12:30 pm    Current Challenges, Part II
: Dr. Bernard Dickens, University of Toronto
Prof. William Schabas, Middlesex University
Prof. John Packer, University of Ottawa
Sandra Coliver, Open Society Foundation

12:30 pm    Concluding Remarks
Paul Hoffman and Bert Lockwood




“The Judicial Branch Grabs Back”

As noted by Dahlia Lithwick in The Judicial Branch Grabs Back (Slate), here are four of the five federal judges who have issued stay orders in response to Trump’s executive order:
• Judge Ann Donnelly (Eastern District of New York)
• Judge Allison Burroughs (District of Massachusetts)
• Judge Judith Dein (District of Massachusetts)
• Judge Leonie Brinkema (Eastern District of Virginia) (no photo)
Update as of 30 January: Another judge to add to the list (LA Times story here):
• Judge Dolly Gee (Central District of California)

Teams of lawyers are also grabbing back at airports all across the US.  Even the floor serves as an office at JFK airport for preparing habeas corpus petitions.  Lawyers took over the food court at JFK’s Terminal 4 this weekend to plan legal action, prompting my colleague Jennifer Taub to tweet this comment and photo.

Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, 1941-2017


Photo credit: University of Essex

It is with profound sadness that I share the news that Professor Sir Nigel Rodley KBE, has passed away.   Fellow IntLawGrrls who were in the Lawyers Network of Amnesty International will remember first working with him in the 1980s when he headed the AI Legal Office.  He spearheaded developments in addressing torture, the rights of prisoners, international human rights standards and  mechanisms, and so much more.

Early on we tussled over the role of international law in addressing violence against women by non-state actors, but when it came time to file an amicus brief on the subject with the US Supreme Court in Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, he immediately agreed to lend his name and sign on.  He was generous with his time with NGO colleagues and students alike.  He also had a good-natured way of sharing his impressions.  Once he became a member of the UN Human Rights Committee I asked him how it was going. He replied that it was quite different working in a committee setting, and said with a twinkle in his eye: “I miss being a Special Procedure”.

The University of Essex has created a page where tributes may be shared.

Messages from the More than Half a Million Marchers in DC

My husband and I flew to DC the day before the march on a plane packed full with other march-goers.  Friends who stayed in Vermont participated in the Sister March held on Saturday in the state capitol, Montpelier, where the State police estimate there was a crowd of nearly 20,000 — in a town whose total population is just over 7,500.  Check out two of my favorite photos from that march, here and here.

In DC: Saturday morning began with a pre-march gathering hosted for Vermont march-goers by Senator Patrick Leahy and Marcelle Leahy at the Mott House, on Capitol Hill.  The overflow crowd was more than double the number originally anticipated. Our other Senator, Bernie Sanders, addressed the yuuuuge march in Montpelier.


With Senator Pat Leahy at pre-march event he and Marcelle hosted on the Hill.

Then it was off toward the rally site.  Photos of a ceremony held before the rally, just outside the main entrance to the Museum of the American Indian:



Yes indeed!

We then moved toward the rally site, except that it was so crowded it was impossible to get anywhere near the audio speakers, so we did not hear a single speech. We were surrounded by over 500,000 of our new best friends though.


Spirits were high, the crowd massive, and the signs poignant.





The iconic 1971 photo of Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes . . .


. . . and a re-creation commissioned by Pitman Hughes for Steinem’s 80th birthday celebration


The march itself began in the early afternoon.  The crowds were so massive that they filled not just the avenue designated as march route, Independence Avenue, but the entire length of the Mall, all of Constitution Avenue, and all of Pennsylvania Avenue further north. I have participated in large demonstrations before, but none so overwhelmingly large that an entire section of a city becomes the march route.  En route and at the end:


“Women’s rights are human rights.”


We reached the designated end of the march — the Ellipse by the White House — and stayed there for a while as more marchers arrived and others left. We then began to head back to Capitol Hill to join a post-march gathering with colleagues.

As we started back along Pennsylvania Avenue, we turned headlong into a sea of marchers who were still coming and had not yet reached the end point. To get a better view, we climbed onto the bleachers still in place from the previous day’s parade.

What we saw took our breath away.  By now it was 4:00 PM, and the streets were packed solid with marchers still heading toward the White House.


Further along our walk back to the Hill, we met up with President Lincoln outside the DC Court of Appeals, where departing marchers were leaving message placards.



IACHR financial crisis: Suspends hearings; 40% staff layoffs to come

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights announced on 23 May 2016 that as a result of severe underfunding of its work, it has been forced to suspend its upcoming hearings and cancel its pending country visits, and it will have to lay off 40% of its staff at the end of July, when their contracts expire.

The President of the IACHR, James Cavallaro, began a statement with these words (translated here from the Spanish):

I write with deep sadness, frustration and anger. In the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights we face the worst financial crisis in history. We have absolutely empty coffers.

In past years, he noted, funding for the work of the Commission came from voluntary contributions from the US, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Norway, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the European Union.

This year, however, Europe’s international assistance priority has been the refugee crisis in that region.  And states in the Americas?  El Pais reports:

The only ones who have given funds to the Commission in 2016 are Argentina, United States, Peru and Uruguay. The total: 2.5 million, of which the US accounted for more than 90%.

The OAS allocates only 9.1% of its budget to finance the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  As the article in El Pais notes, this is less than the OAS allocates to take care of its buildings.  Cavallaro pointed out a striking contrast between LAC funding of the ICC and of the IACHR:

Latin America and Caribbean countries’ voluntary donations in 2015 to:

  •    International Criminal Court (ICC): $13.7 million
  •    Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: $199,000 (sic)

Yet, Cavallaro notes, “the ICC has no pending cases from the region and there is only one situation under preliminary examination.”

I am told that this is not the first time the IACHR has had to raise its voice to get the OAS to come up with the funds for it to continue operating, but the severity of the current situation is worse than ever. In recent years, some states have tried weakening the IACHR by weakening its authority. Severe underfunding can be another route to their goal. The IACHR has been too important to human rights for this to happen.  As Cavallaro noted:

Either the heads of state of Latin America and the Caribbean will take the political decision to give life to the inter-American system of protection and promotion of human rights, or they will witness its collapse.

Update: Additional details here; h/t Roxanna Altholz.

Patrick Stewart sketch: What Has the ECHR Ever Done For Us?

Patrick Stewart - ECHR sketchWith inspiration from Monty Python’s Life of Brian (“What have the Romans ever done for us?“), Patrick Stewart weighs in on the call by Home Secretary Theresa May and others for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights in this sketch created with The Guardian: What has the European Convention on Human Rights ever done for us?.  For background on the debate in the UK over the ECHR, see these commentaries on EJIL: Talk! and ECHR Blog. (Photo credit: The Guardian)

Acts of Courage, Seeds of Hope


An event for those who will be in San Francisco on Tuesday April 12: A fundraiser for the International Network for Gender Equity and Law, “an international network of lawyers who believe in gender equality and justice for all people. A new concept in pro bono work, we harness the power of volunteer lawyers, and use it to promote and help secure equity and rights for women and girls locally, nationally, and around the world.”

The April 12 event will honor IntLawGrrl and award-winning author Karima Bennoune, Karima Bennoune - UN head shot.pngwho many readers know is now the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.  Bennoune will deliver the keynote address.  Details about the event: Acts of Courage, Seeds of Hope.

Somalia becomes 196th state to ratify Convention on Rights of the Child

On 1 October 2015, Somalia became the 196th state to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN press release here). South Sudan ratified it back in January 2015.

The United States now stands alone as the only state not to have ratified this treaty.

The US was actively involved – during the Reagan and Bush I administrations – in drafting the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), representing the US in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly as the text was being concluded, stated: “We believe that it represents a notable step forward in the needed promotion and protection of the rights of children.”

In 1995, Ambassador Madeleine Albright signed the treaty on behalf of President Clinton, but he did not send it to the Senate, and in the face of GOP opposition to ratification, President Obama has not done so either.  Click here for a summary of the US history with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and an overview of the arguments that have been raised for and against ratification.

Call for applications: Special Rapporteur on right to privacy in the digital age

OHCHRThe OHCHR has posted the call for applications for the newly-created post of Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy in the digital age, discussed in IntLawGrrls posts by Lisl Brunner here and here.  As Marko Milanovic has noted, “Bearing in mind the wide scope of the right to privacy, this SR is sure to be a mega-mandate.”

Deadline for applications:  30 April 2015
Mandate of this rapporteurship: Set out in HRC Resolution A/HRC/28/L.27, available in all UN languages here.
Application procedure: Through the special procedures on-line application system, here.

Key qualifications have been suggested by the following civil society organisations to help identify and reach out to highly qualified and independent candidates for this post: Access, American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Article 19, Association for Progressive Communications, Electronic Frontier Foundation, International Commission of Jurists, Privacy International.

Here are just a few of the individuals who have been doing impressive work in this field who come to mind as potential candidates:

MalavikaMalavika Jayaram, a technology lawyer and a Fellow at the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, India; recently a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and Visiting Scholar at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, where she worked on  freedom of speech, internet policy and privacy issues. Previously based in London with the global law firm Allen & Overy in the Communications, Media & Technology group, and with Citigroup as Vice President and Technology Counsel. One of ten Indian lawyers selected for The International Who’s Who of Internet e-Commerce & Data Protection Lawyers directory.  Amongst other things, her bios indicate, “she has been looking at the evolution of big data and e-governance projects in India – particularly the world’s largest biometric ID project – and their implications for identity, freedom, choice and informational self-determination.”

???????????????????????????????Carolina Botero, a digital activist and lawyer with the Karisma Foundation in Colombia, a “civil society organization dedicated to supporting and spreading the good use of technologies in digital environments, social processes and national public policies and the region, from the perspective of protection and promotion of human rights.” Botero leads the foundation’s Law, Internet and Society group, “a multidisciplinary group that works for a responsible and thoughtful use of information and communication technology in the various sectors of society, in light of the role played by the legal framework in the dynamics of the internet.”

Nighat DadNighat Dad, Director of the Digital Rights Foundation in Pakistan, which works “to support human rights, democratic processes and digital governance,” and “aims to strengthen protections for human rights defenders and women human rights defenders in digital spaces through policy advocacy and digital security awareness-raising.” A researcher and lawyer with extensive experience in cyber law, her focus is “not only on addressing Internet Governance issues related to Freedom of Expression but also on articulating civil society’s concerns over government policies that hamper citizens use of Information and Communication Technologies.” She has written on ICT issues experienced particularly by women; participated in the UN Internet Governance Forum; and is a member of the Women’s Networking Support Program of the Association for Progressive Communication.