International Human Rights Clinic Work

Violence Against Farmworker Women in Mexico

Overview

As women laborers in an under-regulated low-wage industry, female farmworkers are considered particularly vulnerable to workplace gender discrimination and violence. In Mexico, violence against women has been described as “pandemic.” Approximately 66.1% of women report experiencing some form of violence in their lifetime and 47% report being subjected to physical or sexual violence. Despite labor and employment laws that regulate wages and workplace conditions in Mexico, the rights of farmworkers are regularly violated as few of these protections and remedies are available to them in practice.  Among these rights, the right to be free from harassment and violence is also rarely enforced in practice. Though little data is available, existing reports indicate that female farmworkers are subjected to high levels of exploitation, harassment and abuse.

Clinic Work and Impact

In collaboration with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and other partners supporting advancement of the rights of women farmworkers, IHRC conducted an in-country assessment of the prevalence of gender-based violence and the efficacy of mechanisms in place to respond to it.  The assessment was intended to assist advocates to better understand the factors causing vulnerability of female farmworkers in Mexico to abuse, harassment and discrimination.

Following extensive desk research, students and faculty supervisors traveled to Mexico City and Michoacán to interview key stakeholders, including government officials, international and domestic non-governmental agencies, and academics. The research team drafted a report based on the research conducted and interviews analyzing the legal landscape and its failure to protect women. The report is in final editing stages. Initial findings were used by CIW in advocacy efforts to U.S. fast food companies purchasing tomatoes from Mexico-based tomato farms.  The findings of the Report will be presented during a symposium in October of 2018.

Related Blogs and Media Coverage

Rooted in Violence: Abuse of Female Farmworkers in Mexico’s Agriculture Industry — International Human Rights Clinic Blog

IHRC Students Work to Combat Violence against Female Farm Workers in Mexico — University of Chicago Law School

Policing of Protests

Aaron Tucek, '19, (second from left) joins some of the clinic's partners in presenting their findings in Geneva, Switzerland.

Overview

Protests and other forms of public speech and assembly are a central tool of free expression and civic engagement, often serving as the only avenue for advocacy seeking political, social, and economic reform. Despite the importance of protest to a free society and safeguarding human rights, many states have failed to adequately protect protest and public speech. Instead, policing institutions overwhelmingly treat protests, assemblies, and other gatherings as security threats that should be discouraged and disbanded when possible.

Clinic Work and Impact

The International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO) is a network of thirteen civil liberties organizations throughout the world. INCLO was formed to respond to civil liberties violations occurring in members’ jurisdictions through coordinated advocacy efforts. For the last three years, INCLO has made advocacy for a human rights approach to police engagement with protesters one of its priorities. Last year INCLO released a report on the health effects of crowd control weapons titled Lethal in Disguise: The Health Consequences of Crowd-Control Weapons.

As a follow-on to its Lethal in Disguise report, INCLO engaged IHRC to research and draft a practical guidance for policing institutions and collaborators for how such institutions can protect human rights and the right to public speech when engaging with public assemblies. The report, Defending Dissent: Towards State Practices that Protect and Promote the Rights to Protest, offers good practices and analysis of existing laws, institutional mechanisms and processes, and deployment tactics that work to promote, or in some cases, undermine, protests and public assemblies. In March of 2018, students and faculty supervisors traveled to London and Belfast to interview policing experts on good practices. The research team also conducted phone interviews of experts in other locations.  INCLO partners used the IHRC questionnaire to interview experts in their own jurisdictions. The final report, drafted by IHRC and edited by INCLO members, reflects good and bad practices throughout the world on all aspects of police engagement with protests.   

Defending Dissent was launched in June of 2018, at the Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, at a side event during the Human Rights Council’s 38th Session before UN officials, civil society from across the globe, and the U.N. Special Rapporteurs and their staff working on this issue. In addition to serving as a public education tool, the report will now be used by INCLO organization members to advocate within their countries on improvement of police policies and practices on protest management. Defending Dissent is also being used to support the adoption of a resolution on police management of protests introduced in the U.N. Human Rights Council by Costa Rica and Switzerland.

Read the report: Defending Dissent: Towards State Practices That Protect and Promote the Right to Protest

Related Blogs and Media Coverage

Defending Dissent: New Report by International Human Rights Clinic Offers Guidelines on How Governments Can Protect Rights of Protesters — University of Chicago Law School

What do we say to Big Brother? Not today — International Human Rights Clinic Blog

International report highlights use of videos in Jobstown trial — The Irish Times

Abuse of Immigrant Children in U.S. Custody

Nabihah Maqbool, '18

Overview

Many immigrant children cross the border alone, fleeing violence and seeking to reunite with their family members. These children are typically apprehended by CBP and Border Patrol officials at the southern border of the United States. After apprehension, they are processed and detained before being transferred or deported. Domestic and international law requires that throughout this process these children be treated with heightened care appropriate to their age and resulting vulnerability. These laws require that children be provided with safe and humane conditions responsive to their needs while in detention.

Despite these protections, records obtained by the ACLU Border Litigation Project of reports of abuse by detained children reveal widespread abuse and neglect of these children in U.S. custody over a multiple year period. Reports from children in custody indicate that, from apprehension through to transfer or deportation, child detainees were intimidated, mistreated, and in some cases assaulted by U.S. government officials.

Clinic Work and Impact

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Border Litigation Project (ALCU BLP) asked IHRC to review and analyze the subset of documents from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concerning abuse and neglect of immigrant children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The records the ACLU obtained document a pattern of intimidation, harassment, a refusal of medical services, and physical and sexual abuse. They also reveal the government’s failure to effectively investigate these abuses and to hold those responsible accountable. Following review, the IHRC student and faculty team, in collaboration with the ACLU BLP, drafted a report, Neglect and Abuse of Unaccompanied Children by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, aimed at making the documents accessible and highlighting patterns of abuse and lack of effective response to reported abuse. The Report was launched in May of 2018.

The Clinic, in partnership with the ACLU, engaged in extensive public advocacy for reform based on the report findings. The IHRC report was covered by Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune, Al Jeezera, NPR Weekend Edition, and numerous other outlets. The report was a key tool for advocates seeking reform within our border patrol system. Some examples of use of the report include a citation by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security in a letter requesting an investigation into the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection, and at a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, where a resolution was passed encouraging Congress and the Executive Branch to reform the current immigration policy.

Read the report: Neglect and Abuse of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children by U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Related Blogs and Media Coverage

Report: US Border Patrol Officials Have Abused Young Migrants — Chicago Tonight

Border Patrol Kicked, Punched Migrant Children, Threatened Some With Sexual Abuse, ACLU Alleges — Newsweek

Abuse of immigrant children alleged in documents examined by Chicago law students — Chicago Tribune

American fascism is attacking migrant children — Al Jeezera

ACLU Report: Detained Immigrant Children Subjected To Widespread Abuse By Officials — NPR Weekend Edition

Land Disputes and Restitution in Myanmar

Overview

Disputes over land use and ownership in Myanmar have caused regional instability, internal population displacement, conflict, and socio-economic distress. The conflicting claims to land can be attributed to changes in government administration, inconsistent legal property regimes, inadequate administrative recordkeeping, and unregulated government land seizures. Resolution of these disputes through a restitution mechanism and establishment of a cohesive land ownership and use regime is central to ultimately establishing rule of law and respect for human rights as well as to the long-term economic development of Myanmar.

Clinic Work and Impact

At Oxfam’s request, IHRC researched possible models for restitution mechanisms that would move Myanmar towards settlement of pending land disputes. The IHRC research team identified comparative best practices in countries with comparable post-colonial and post-conflict environments to Myanmar as well as the relevant United Nations norms and human rights instruments that set standards for a human rights approach to land use disputes.

The student team and IHRC director then traveled to Yangon to participate in a day-long workshop on land restitution in Myanmar with international and national civil society stakeholders.  The student research team presented the findings and conducted further interviews of experts to determine the relevant factors of Myanmar’s restitution mechanism. The report has been used by stakeholders in the country to advocate for a restitution system that will assist the return of internally displaced persons, including Rohingya communities.

Read the report: Resolving Land Disputes through Restitution Dynamics: A Comparative Analysis of Country Case Studies

The Cocoa Industry and Child Labor in West Africa

Overview

Despite ongoing litigation and efforts to hold corporations accountable for their stated commitments to eradicating child labor from their cocoa supply chains, child trafficking and forced labor continue on cocoa plantations in West Africa. Children in Mali are typically approached by labor brokers and promised high-paying jobs on cocoa plantations in Cote D’Ivoire. Once they reach the plantation, their promised wages are withheld until the end of the season, forcing the children to keep working in the hopes of receiving their earnings the following year. Multi-national corporations, including U.S.-based companies, reap the profits of child labor and too often fail to take meaningful steps to combat it.

Clinic Work and Impact

Following the narrowing of the Alien-Tort Statute (ATS), human rights advocates have sought to utilize other statutory and institutional mechanisms available to compel compliance with international human rights laws prohibiting forced labor. International Rights Advocates (IRAdvocates) has decades of experience bringing litigation against U.S. corporations for human rights violations committed abroad and has been working on eradicating child labor in cocoa supply chains, including through an ongoing litigation filed in 2005 against three of the largest purchasers of cocoa in Cote D’Ivoire: John Doe I, et al v. Nestle USA, Inc., et al., 766 F.3d 1013 (9Th Cir. 2014). IHRC provided litigation support to IRAdvocates and Corporate Accountability Lab (CAL) in developing a multi-pronged legal strategy aimed at stopping child labor in the cocoa industry by holding U.S. corporations accountable domestically. The student team conducted foundational research for litigation in federal courts and the International Trade Commission as well as strategy memos for anticipating barriers to resolution of claims.

Lethal Force in Policing

Overview

The use of lethal force by law enforcement officers implicates a range of human rights, including the right to life and freedom from discrimination. Protecting these human rights requires law enforcement officers to comply with the fundamental principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and accountability when they use force. Police department ‘Use of Force’ policies are supposed to restrict police officers’ use of lethal force and indicate when that force is justified. The policies, among other things, establish the magnitude and nature of the threat that must exist as well as the level of certainty police officers must have in order to justify the use of lethal force. These policies provide the substantive standards that officers are trained on and the principles that departments must operationalize. Despite their importance in regulating police behavior, no national standards exist for these policies and repeated recent reports of excessive use of force by officers have called into question their efficacy.

Clinic Work and Impact

In addition to varying widely from agency to agency and state to state, many use of force policies do not meet international human rights standards. The Clinic, in collaboration with Amnesty International U.S. has examined the use of force policies of police departments in the 20 largest U.S. cities by population to determine whether they comply with international human rights standards. Amnesty and IHRC will release a joint report evaluating these policies and identifying the ways in which the policies fell short, failing to meet the fundamental principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and accountability. This report will support Amnesty’s efforts to advocate for state and local police compliance with international human rights standards on the use of force.

Related Blogs and Media Coverage

A Step Towards Police Accountability: The National Use of Force Data Collection Program — International Human Rights Clinic Blog

Women and the Prevention of Violent Extremism

Prof. Flores, Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Deputy High Commissioner Kate Gilmore, Allison Hugi & Nabihah Maqbool, '18

Overview

The global community has endeavored to prevent and combat violent extremism. States and civil society partners have increasingly recognized women’s role in this effort as critical to its success. The effective engagement of women, who represent half of the world’s population, is necessary to a successful strategy. However, gender-sensitive and gender-effective approaches to preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE) have remained elusive. Women’s involvement in PCVE strategies continues to be largely marginal, often reinforcing harmful stereotypes and sometimes resulting in negative consequences for gender equality. The failure to effectively address the discriminatory impact of PCVE strategies on women not only hampers the efficacy of PCVE efforts but also impedes state party implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which requires elimination of discriminatory laws, policies, and programming.

Clinic Work and Impact

The Clinic conducted fact-finding missions to Tunisia and Kenya aimed at exploring the impact of prevention efforts against violent extremism on women’s human rights and equality. This research was conducted on behalf of the U.N. Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights to assist the OHCHR in developing its programs, policies, and strategies on violent extremism in a way that protects and promotes women’s equality.  The Clinic interviewed intergovernmental agencies, international and domestic NGO’s, academics, and policy advisors on current and future programming around prevention of violent extremism and the extent to which such programming involved women as targets and/or leaders. The Clinic submitted its findings and recommendations to OHCHR, which were then used for their 2017 strategic planning.  In October of 2017, a student member of the research team and clinic director also presented report findings at the United Nations headquarters in an inter-agency meeting of the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. Kate Gilmore, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, were also in attendance.

Violence against Women in Pakistan

A meeting with Salman Sufi, Senior Member (Law and Order) Special Monitoring Unit at the Punjab Chief Minister’s Office

Overview

The 2014 Global Gender Gap Report ranks Pakistan as 141 out of 142 countries in terms of women’s inequality. Seventy to ninety percent of women in Pakistan report having experienced violence. In Punjab alone, each day, an estimated six women are murdered or are the victims of an attempted murder; eight women are raped; eleven women are assaulted or are the victims of battery; and thirty-two women are abducted.  In February of 2016, the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act (PWAVA) was passed to prevent and address violence against women in Punjab. The PWAVA established the Violence Against Women Center (VAWC), in an effort to address violence against women and provide comprehensive services for survivors of violence.

Clinic Work and Impact

In a project for the government of Punjab, Pakistan, the Clinic developed and drafted the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and implementing regulations for the Violence Against Women Center (VAWC) created by the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act of 2016.  The Standard Operating Procedures developed by the Clinic will be used by all departments and individual staff in the VAWC including prosecutors, civil legal officers, psychologists and counselors, intake staff, medical staff and examiners, and management.  The Clinic engaged faculty from the University of Chicago medical school and faculty and staff from the School of Social Service Administration to assist in development of the SOPs.  The Clinic also developed implementing regulations for the Center currently being finalized by the Punjab government.

Related Blogs and Media Coverage

Foreign institution to help set up anti-violence centres — Dawn

Violence Against Women: Salman Sufi honoured for his work — The Express Tribune

International Human Rights Clinic to Provide Technical Assistance in Implementation of Law Protecting Women in Pakistani Region — University of Chicago Law School

Protecting Unsympathetic Defendants, From The United States To Pakistan — HuffPost

The Impact of Constitutional Reform on Women’s Rights

Dylan Cowart, '17, speaks at the symposium to discuss the Global Gender Equality Constitutional Database on 6 May in New York.

Overview

Laws on women’s equality exist against a background of discrimination and inequality. As a country’s highest law, a constitution establishes the framework for the exercise of public power, as well as the rights and obligations of its citizens. In this way, it is the basis for government accountability. Embedding women’s rights in constitutions provides women with a powerful tool to fight discrimination and promote gender equality. Between 2003 and 2013, an array of countries revised or replaced their constitutions. Many of these countries used the reform process to incorporate provisions on women’s rights and gender equality into their new constitutions. Domestic women’s movements, human rights advocacy groups, international organizations, and others undoubtedly influenced the inclusion of women’s rights in these reform processes. A better understanding of how women’s rights are entrenched, or not, and the impact that entrenchment has on subsequent developments at the national level are vital for evaluating the value and variation of constitutional reform.

Brittany Ellenberg, '16, made a presentation on the Global Gender Equality Constitutional Database on 6 May.

Clinic Work and Impact  

The Clinic finalized research in a two-year global study on Strengthening Human Rights Through Constitutional Reform, implemented in collaboration with United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (U.N. Women). The study seeks to understand the extent of incorporation of women’s human rights into constitutions reformed between 2003-2013 as well as the impact of these rights on corresponding legislation and indicators of women’s well-being.  The Clinic has conducted an international human rights-guided textual review of constitutions of 36 countries, collected legislation in key areas and provided in-depth case studies, collaborated with graduate students in the Harris School of Public Policy, and engaged in analysis of relationships between textual constitutional improvements and women’s advancement as reflected by global empowerment and inequality indices.  Students presented initial findings from the research study at a conference in April of 2017 on Gender Equality and Constitutionalism at the U.S. Institute for Peace. Next year, with support from the University of Chicago Pozen Center for Human Rights, the Clinic will host a symposium to present report findings and explore issues surrounding the domestication of women’s human rights in constitutions.

Prolonged Solitary Confinement

Human Rights Problem

An estimated 80 to 100 thousand people in the United States are held in solitary confinement each year, spending on average 22 to 23 hours per day in severe isolation. Despite widespread use, the practice remains largely unregulated. As a result, prisoners in the United States are commonly held for prolonged or indefinite periods of time in solitary confinement. Increasing research and scientific understanding of the impact of prolonged isolation has led the international community to recognize that indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement can constitute torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. Consequently, countries throughout the world have taken steps to regulate solitary confinement, limiting the permitted duration of confinement and implementing conditions that mitigate the harms of isolation.

Clinic Work Done and Outcomes

The Clinic conducted extensive research on the international standards and comparative laws authorizing and limiting the use of solitary confinement. Clinic students then drafted an amicus brief outlining the international standards and the divergence of U.S. practice from the international community. The brief will be submitted along with appeals in federal circuits in cases challenging the duration and conditions of solitary confinement in the United States.

Related Blogs and Media Coverage

Pursuing Humane Prison Practices: Solitary Confinement Reform in the United States — HuffPost

Corporate Accountability in Myanmar

Human Rights Problem

The U.S. State Department requires U.S. companies newly investing in Myanmar (also known as Burma) to submit reports on their procedures and policies aimed at protecting against human rights violations in their operations, supply and sourcing. Given Myanmar’s troubling history of human rights abuses, ensuring that investment is done responsibly and abides by human rights standards is critical. The risk that U.S. investment could undermine rather than support the promotion of human rights in Myanmar continues to be a reality. Child labor and land grabbing without proper due process are still major concerns. The rule of law remains weak and violators of human rights are seldom held accountable for their conduct. The Reporting Requirements provide increased transparency in U.S. investor operation, which is a linchpin in efforts to determine whether American investments advance the protection of human rights and the rule of law. The Reporting Requirements also facilitate independent efforts by civil society to monitor potential human rights concerns in U.S. investor operations. However, existing gaps between the general quality of reports submitted and the objectives of the Reporting Requirements means these reports do little to provide the needed transparency on company practices.

Clinic Work Done and Outcomes

The Clinic conducted an assessment of the U.S. State Department reporting mechanism for American corporations investing in Myanmar. The Clinic reviewed the reporting mechanism as well as corporate reports to determine the extent to which the reporting mechanism was being implemented in accordance with its intent to allow the State Department and civil society to monitor human rights compliance.  In response to the State Department solicitation of public comments, IHRC submitted two sets of comments with recommendations for maintenance and improvement of the reporting mechanism in accordance with international human rights standards. The student team also traveled to Myanmar in March 2016 to present their recommendations and conduct trainings for workers’ organizations on use of the reporting mechanism in their advocacy.  While in Myanmar, students met with U.S. State Department representatives, Myanma union leaders, representatives from international agencies and domestic non-governmental organizations to discuss barriers to realization of workers’ rights in Myanmar.

Read the report: Comments On The Reporting Requirements On Responsible Investment In Burma

Related Blogs and Media Coverage

U.S. Business in Burma: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution? — HuffPost

Girls' Education in Zimbabwe

Human Rights Problem

Zimbabwe enacted a new constitution in July of 2013. As a direct result of extensive advocacy by women’s rights organizations, the new constitution contains robust and comprehensive protections of women’s human rights and principles promoting gender equality. There is need for further development of new strategies to encourage women’s and girls' empowerment in Zimbabwe, in the hopes of bringing the promises of the 2013 Constitution in full relief for women and girls.

Clinic Work Done and Outcomes

IHRC worked with a variety of stakeholders, including the Zimbabwe Women’s Lawyers Association (ZWLA), to promote the implementation of women’s rights in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. With guidance from ZWLA, students first conducted desk research on a number of key issues, including women’s property ownership and marriage laws, to examine whether existing laws and policies are in compliance with the rights to property and marriage enshrined in the new constitution. The Clinic produced a report that documents this research and served as the foundation for a research trip to Harare, Zimbabwe in March 2016. During the trip, Clinic members met with diverse stakeholders, including a leading member of Parliament, a judge, and domestic and international NGOs, to present the Clinic’s research and determine where action could be taken to implement women’s rights to property and marriage. Following the trip, and based on the feedback obtained from key stakeholders, IHRC students produced a report detailing the research and plan of action to develop and implement a national “Take a Girl Child to Work Day” in Zimbabwe. The report was shared with the group of stakeholders in order to provide a road map to implementing the project, with the ultimate aim of promoting the rights of girls and women in Zimbabwe and distinctly discouraging child marriage.