Go On! IACHR to hear testimony on domestic violence in United States Monday, Oct. 27

This coming Monday at 10:15 ET, there will be a hearing on the U.S.’ compliance with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ 2011 decision in Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. US, concerning the human rights of domestic violence survivor Jessica Lenahan. Human rights scholars and advocates the country have been integrally involved in this case for nearly 10 years. The hearing is open to the public, and people are encouraged to attend!  It will also be webcast.   More details below.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Hear Testimony on Domestic Violence in U.S. Monday Oct. 27

Human Rights Groups Demand U.S. Govt. Implement Changes to Domestic Violence Policy in Accordance with IACHR 2011 Decision

October 23, 2014

CONTACT: Crystal Cooper, ACLU National, 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – The Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, the Human Rights Clinics at the University of Chicago Law School and University of Miami School of Law, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union will appear before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Monday, October 27 to seek justice for domestic violence survivor Jessica Lenahan and domestic violence policy reforms in the U.S.
In 2011, the Commission decided Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States, finding that the government violated the human rights of Ms. Lenahan and her three daughters. The Commission recommended that the government conduct an investigation into its failure to respond to the 1999 domestic violence incident in Castle Rock, Colorado that resulted in the deaths of the three girls and the circumstances of their deaths. It also recommended that the government adopt reforms at the federal and state levels to ensure domestic violence protections.

The U.S. has made almost no progress in providing justice to Lenahan or implementing systemic reforms since the Commission issued the decision.

The organizations appearing before the IACHR are the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, the Human Rights Clinics at the University of Chicago Law School and University of Miami School of Law, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Petitioners will present testimony detailing the United States’ failure to implement changes to domestic violence laws and policies or investigate the failures in Ms. Lenahan’s case in the three years since the IACHR decision. The U.S. government will have an opportunity to respond.


Monday, October 27, 2014 10:15 a.m.EDT

Organization of American States, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
1889 F St. N.W., Padilha Vidal Room (TL – Terrace Level), Washington, DC, U.S.A. 20006

The testimony will also be available via webcast at:

Work On! U.S. Supreme Court Fellows program now accepting applications for 2015-2016 term (deadline: Nov. 14)

The U.S. Supreme Court Fellows program is now accepting applications for the 2015-2016 term.  The fellowship is open to both junior and mid-career candidates. Four fellowships are awarded each year, and each fellowship is unique in its scope and focus.  Interested persons can read more about the program here:

Although the U.S. Supreme Court Fellows program has been in existence for forty years, very little is known about this discreet yet prestigious fellowship. This Article provides an in-depth look at the four placement opportunities (the Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice of the United States, the Federal Judicial Center, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the U.S. Sentencing Commission), the application process and opportunities that can arise during and after the fellowship. Not only does the discussion outline the day-to-day activities of the fellows, it also describes recent changes to the program. The U.S. Supreme Court Fellows program is open to applicants from a wide variety of disciplines, including law, political science, history, public administration and criminology, and is particularly relevant to those with an interest in judicial administration, international and comparative law, criminal law and procedural law.

The application process is described at http://www.supremecourt.gov/fellows/default.aspx. Applications are due by November 14, 2014.

Work On! LCCR Asylum Program Fellow (AmeriCorps VISTA), San Francisco – deadline Oct. 2


The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR) has an opening for an Asylum Program Fellow through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Details are below. Please note the application deadline is October 2.

Job Title

LCCR Asylum Program Fellow (AmeriCorps VISTA)


Senior Immigrant Justice Attorney

Pro Bono Coordinator/Senior Attorney

About the Lawyers’ Committee

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (“Lawyers’ Committee”), founded in 1968, works to advance, protect and promote the legal rights of communities of color, and low-income persons, immigrants, and refugees. Assisted by hundreds of pro bono attorneys, LCCR provides free legal assistance and representation to individuals on civil legal matters through direct services, impact litigation and policy advocacy. Our office is located in downtown San Francisco near the Embarcadero and is accessible by public transportation. For more information, visit www.lccr.com.

About the Pro Bono Asylum Program

The Asylum Program, founded in 1983, bridges the gap between the bay area’s private bar and indigent asylum seekers. Through maintaining healthy relationships with community organizations, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights is regularly contacted by asylum seekers who have suffered atrocious persecution but are unable to pay attorneys to assist them in navigating the confusing and oppressive immigration process. The Program interviews these clients to evaluate their claims and assess the most advantageous course of action. Clients are then placed with pro bono attorneys from many of the leading law firms and they go on to receive top-notch representation. Through this system, thousands of otherwise unrepresented immigrants have been matched with stellar advocates and, with their assistance, have secured asylum in the United States.

To ensure that each pro bono attorney is fully equipped to meet the needs the client, the Program regularly offers trainings and other support to guide and inform these generous volunteers. Twice annually there is a two-day seminar that gives an overview of asylum law as well as general tips for practitioners.  Also, the program holds more focused monthly trainings that educate attorneys and others on topics that range from conditions in certain regions to working with clients who have faced trauma to significant case law updates. Further, each pro bono attorney is paired with an immigration practitioner who mentors the pro bono attorney throughout the process. Through these support structures, attorneys who have had little or no immigration law experience are able to successfully take an asylum case from beginning to end.

General Summary of Work Performed

In the area of immigration/asylum, the AmeriCorps VISTA is responsible for: (1) conducting client interviews and direct representation of asylum seekers (if attorney); (2) preparing client memoranda and conducting country of condition research; (3) recruiting volunteers for cases and coordinating work of volunteers; (4) identifying community partners for legal workshops and clinics in low-income minority and immigrant neighborhoods and assisting in the development of new legal workshops and clinics; (5) expanding our recruitment and training program for volunteer attorneys, paralegals, and interpreters; (6) engaging in community outreach to expand awareness of available services/resources; and (7) assisting in marketing and outreach for legal workshops and clinics.

Continue reading

Write On! Naval War College Seeks Papers on Women, Peace, Security

(Photo Credit: U.S. Navy)

The U.S. Naval War College (NWC) is issuing a call for papers in preparation for its third annual Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Conference Series to be held at the NWC in Newport, Rhode Island, April 16-17, 2015.

In an effort to gather theoretical and practical ideas from a wider audience not normally represented in a limited conference format, the conference series chair is soliciting papers from academics, researchers, military personnel, non-governmental organizations and individuals who have an interest or experience in issues pertaining to WPS.

In support of the conference theme, “Constructive Pathways: Stimulating and Safeguarding Components of Women, Peace, and Security,” interested parties can contribute to this goal by submitting a paper on one of the following subjects:

  • Department of Defense operational aspects of WPS
  • How different types of conflict impact minority populations
  • Regional viewpoints of modern conflict zones
  • Efforts in soft and hard power
  • Media, arts, information and communication networks
  • Law, politics and governance
  • Quantitative studies

    Selected papers will be published on the NWC website and accessible to U.S. Navy personnel fleet-wide. Proposals must be submitted by Nov. 1, 2014. Submission guidelines can be found at https://www.usnwc.edu/wps2015-callforpapers.

Possible U.S. Policy Change on Unaccompanied Minors and the International Legal Obligation of Non-refoulement

The last few weeks have seen numerous reports on the growing number of unaccompanied minors seeking entry to the United States through the Mexican border. The reasons for the uptick in crossings are numerous and complex, and, like the question of whether the children meet the definition of refugees, are not the focus of this post. My question here is a simpler one: whether the adjudication mechanisms under consideration in response to this crisis afford these children a fair hearing focused on a determination of credible fear and other harm which, if identified, would trigger international protection. If the contemplated changes do not comport with a good faith application of the principle of non-refoulement, we run the risk that the U.S. will be in breach of its international obligations.

A “fast-track” process eases the short-term administrative and resource burden at the risk of returning children in need of protection, and would violate the principle of non-refoulement. Non-refoulement, or a prohibition on forcible return, compels States to ensure that no person is forcibly returned to a place where they face persecution, torture or inhuman treatment. In the context of refugee law, States have an obligation of non-refoulement until a negative refugee status determination has been made and States have a good faith obligation to ensure that this takes place. Refoulement can be explicit or it can be constructive, but the UNHCR has stated that it applies at the border, even before an entry is made.

While U.S. law does not explicitly recognize the obligation of non-refoulement, U.S. Immigration Law has a number of built-in protections to prevent the return of individuals to countries where they may face persecution, inhuman treatment or torture, including “withholding from removal” (where removal proceedings are ongoing and there is a high probability that life or freedom would be threatened upon return) and “asylum” for refugees physically present within the US.

There are also multiple mechanisms specific to minors in the immigration system under U.S. law. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), created a two-tiered system that separates arrivals into two groups: citizens of contiguous countries (mainly Mexico) and citizens of non-contiguous countries.  Children from non-contiguous countries or children who are found to be vulnerable to trafficking, who express a credible fear, or who are deemed unable to make a determination on voluntary return, are turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement for formal deportation proceedings. During this time, they are able to make an asylum claim and seek relief under the withholding provision, in addition to other forms of relief. As immigration courts remain backlogged, the children are placed with families while proceedings are pending. This takes anywhere from a year and half to five years to resolve. Minors arriving from contiguous countries (Mexico or Canada) who are deemed capable of requesting voluntary return and do not fit the risk criteria are processed within 48 hours and returned “home.”

Continue reading

Book Launch: Gender and Violence in Haiti – Women’s Path from Victims to Agents

benedetta-faedi-duramy book photoI am delighted to announce that Rutgers University Press has just published my book Gender and Violence in Haiti: Women’s Path from Victims to Agents.  Jaya Ramji-Nogales will be reviewing the book for Human Rights Quarterly and will post a review soon. In the meantime, here is the publisher’s description:

“Women in Haiti are frequent victims of sexual violence and armed assault. Yet an astonishing proportion of these victims also act as perpetrators of violent crime, often as part of armed groups. Award-winning legal scholar Benedetta Faedi Duramy visited Haiti to discover what causes these women to act in such destructive ways and what might be done to stop this tragic cycle of violence.

Gender and Violence in Haiti is the product of more than a year of extensive firsthand observations and interviews with the women who have been caught up in the widespread violence plaguing Haiti. Drawing from the experiences of a diverse group of Haitian women, Faedi Duramy finds that both the victims and perpetrators of violence share a common sense of anger and desperation. Untangling the many factors that cause these women to commit violence, from self-defense to revenge, she identifies concrete measures that can lead them to feel vindicated and protected by their communities.

Faedi Duramy vividly conveys the horrifying conditions pervading Haiti, even before the 2010 earthquake. But Gender and Violence in Haiti also carries a message of hope—and shows what local authorities and international relief agencies can do to help the women of Haiti.”

Print and e-book editions are available on AmazonGoogle Play and Rutgers University Press.


ASIL Women in International Law Mentoring Program: Call for Mentors and Mentees

The American Society of International Law’s Women in International Law Interest Group is excited to announce the launch of the second year of the Women in International Law Mentoring Program.

Photo courtesy of ASIL

Photo courtesy of ASIL

Last year’s launch was extremely successful with over 47 groups across the United States and 5 countries worldwide. We look forward to expanding the program even further this year.

The Women in International Law Mentoring Program (WMP) links experienced female international law professionals with female law students and new attorneys interested in professional development in the field of international law. Mentoring takes place in a group setting, with a maximum of four mentees for every mentor. Mentors and mentees meet in person every other month during the course of an academic year to discuss topics and engage in activities designed to help junior women enter and be successful in the beginning years of practicing international law. Upon finishing the requirements of the one-year program, all participants receive a certificate of completion.

We are currently accepting applications for mentees and mentors. We particularly encourage potential mentors to join the Program. If you are considering it, please do sign up. It is the mentors who make this program possible, and we do all that we can to make it fulfilling and hassle-free.

To sign up, please fill out the attached mentor or mentee application form and send to ilfellow1@asil.org.

The deadline for mentee applications is June 15, 2014  and for mentor applications is July 1, 2014.

A $15 Million Dollar Torture Partnership

Poland CIA Prison

By Amrit Singh

It has been common knowledge for a while that Poland hosted a secret CIA prison where Abd al Rahim al Nashiri and other prisoners now held in Guantánamo were detained and tortured.  As Warsaw and Washington struggle in vain to hide this truth from the public, fresh revelations from the Washington Post now confirm that the CIA paid Poland $15 milllion to host that prison. In early 2003, two senior CIA officers delivered the cash in large cardboard boxes to Col. Andrzej Derlatka, the deputy chief of Polish intelligence, and two of his associates.

This is significant news for many reasons. First, Europe’s top human rights court justheard oral arguments in two companion cases brought on behalf of al Nashiri and another Guantánamo prisoner, Abu Zubaydah. The cases challenge Poland’s participation in the CIA’s secret detention program. The fact that Poland received $15 million in cash as reward for its participation further confirms the overwhelming evidence the Court has already received in support of the applicants’ claims in these pending cases.

Second, news of the $15 million payment has created a public uproar in Poland. Even skeptics of the Guantánamo prisoners’ claims are now persuaded of Poland’s complicity in torture; and those who until now clung to the idea that this complicity was driven by lofty Polish ideals cynically recognize the power of money. It will be interesting to see how the Polish authorities decide to respond. Since 2008, they have been dragging out a pending (and ineffective) investigation into the CIA prison. The new revelations raise the question of whether domestic pressure, combined with the pending European Court proceedings, will compel the authorities to stand up to Washington and fess up to the truth. Fifteen million dollars seems a paltry amount for a country like Poland to receive for sacrificing its own constitutional ideals and facing potential censure before Europe’s highest human rights court. (Significantly, in December 2012, the court held that Macedonia had violated the European Convention through its participation in the secret detention and rendition of German national Khaled el Masri).

Meanwhile, in Washington, a 6,000 page Senate intelligence committee report on CIA secret detention and interrogation continues to be withheld from the public, despite the fact that the majority of the committee believes the CIA’s secret prisons and torture techniques were “terrible mistakes.”  It is not clear when this report will see the light of day and in what form. What is clear, however, is that the truth will come out one way or another, no matter how hard the Obama administration, the intelligence community’s allies, and Republican lawmakers try to cover it up.

Yesterday the news was about Macedonia’s complicity in CIA torture; today the news is about Poland; tomorrow it will be about Romania and Lithuania, which also hosted secret CIA prisons and also face litigation before the European Court.

Indeed, that the United States co-opted as many as 54 countries into unlawful CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations may ultimately mean that there is only so much the administration can do to cover up the truth.  In the face of snowballing disclosures, the U.S. and its partners in torture would be well advised to own up to their responsibility before the truth emerges by other means to embarrass them.

(Crossposted from Just Security: A Forum on Law, Rights, and U.S. National Security)

Bringing Disability Rights Home: How U.S. Senate Hearings on the Disabilities Convention Point the Way to Ratification

7556591142_98ed835e05Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the second hearing this month on U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). A year ago, when the Committee first scheduled hearings on the CRPD, a Senate vote that followed fell just a few yeas shy of the 2/3 majority needed to ratify the treaty.  At the time, opponents asserted that ratifying the treaty would give UN experts unfettered authority to change U.S. law, particularly in relation to homeschooling and reproductive health. Similar arguments re-emerged in hearings on November 5th of this year, along with federalism concerns.

Yet, a number of rationales for ratification remain. As Senator Bob Dole, Representative Tammy Duckworth and former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh indicated two weeks ago, and as Secretary of State Kerry reinforced last week, ratification would allow the United States to act as a global leader on this issue by exporting U.S. constitutional values and by guaranteeing the credibility of the United States in promoting disability rights abroad. Although opponents have argued that ratification is unnecessary since the Americans with Disabilities Act served as a model for the Convention’s provisions, in fact participation in the treaty would allow the United States to more tangibly act as a leading voice on equality. Indeed, international law professor Timothy Meyer testified that ratification would provide the United States an opportunity to nominate a U.S. citizen to serve as one of the Committee members tasked with monitoring treaty compliance. In addition, ratification would allow the United States to share the U.S. perspective on the treaty’s provisions in colloquy with the CRPD Committee. (To be clear, as a matter of law, treaty body members serve in their personal capacities and do not advocate the policies of their home states. Nevertheless, states whose citizens are appointed to treaty-monitoring committees are sometimes looked to as leaders on that particular human rights issue.)

Second, by strengthening the treaty, ratification would increase Americans with disabilities’ opportunities to live, work and travel abroad. While ratification proponents have focused on the travel concerns of veterans with disabilities (a timely concern after over a decade at war), in fact increased global accessibility would benefit all citizens venturing abroad. Opponents have argued that the United States’ own treaty ratification would not affect the practice of other states, the majority of which are already bound to the treaty. However, as the Rome Statue demonstrates, U.S. nonparticipation can weaken a treaty’s impact even among its own states parties by implying that the treaty’s provisions are not universally accepted or that they do not apply to powerful states.  Continue reading

Go On! IHL Workshop Applications Due TOMORROW (Oct. 11)

Minneapolis St. Anthony Falls

Minneapolis St. Anthony Falls (Photo Credit: Doug Wallick)


On November 2 & 3, 2013, the University of Minnesota Law School, the Human Rights Center, and the American Red Cross will be hosting an International Humanitarian Law Workshop, with additional support by The Advocates for Human Rights.

This workshop features lectures and hands-on exercises that guide participants through an intensive examination of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), with a focus on its application to combatants and civilians. Topics include:

  • International Humanitarian Law: Setting the Context
  • Conflict Classification – When Does International Humanitarian Law Apply?
  • Overview of Key International Humanitarian Law Principles: Protecting the Vulnerable
  • Protected Persons in International Humanitarian Law
  • The Red Cross and International Services
  • Means and Methods of Warfare
  • Non-State Actors and International Humanitarian Law
  • International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law
  • Technologies of Warfare and International Humanitarian Law
  • Gendered Dimensions of International Humanitarian Law

This workshop is open to law and graduate students, lawyers, and practitioners, and has been accredited for 12 CLE hours. The workshop and course materials are provided at no cost to accepted applicants, though participants will be responsible for their own transportation and lodging. Some meals will be provided.

Applications to attend this workshop should be completed by October 11, 2013, and returned to matso092@umn.edu.

Applications and more information can be found at: http://www.redcross.org/ihlworkshop