Clinical Programs - International Human Rights

Projects by Prof. Sandra Babcock's Human Rights Clinic

Below are some examples of the projects recently undertaken by Professor Babcock's students at the International Human Rights Clinic.

ADVOCACY ON BEHALF OF PRISONERS IN MALAWI

For several years, the clinic has been engaged in promoting access to justice for prisoners in Malawi.  Over an eight-year period, clinic students have contributed to the release of 80 prisoners through a combination of bail arguments, sentence negotiations, and appeals.  From March to June 2015 alone, the clinic was instrumental in obtaining the release of 23 prisoners who had formerly been sentenced to death.  Students have traveled to Malawi to interview prisoners, conduct investigation in rural villages, and provide human rights training to judges, lawyers, paralegals, village mediators, and human rights advocates.  Students have also been able to argue for bail for certain prisoners who would otherwise have no legal representation whatsoever.

PETITION TO UN COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, AND CULTURAL RIGHTS ON BEHALF OF WESTERN SAHARAN PEOPLE

In 2015, the clinic filed two reports with the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights on behalf of the Western Saharan people, arguing that Morocco has violated their right to self-determination along with a their economic and cultural rights through its illegal occupation of the territory.  Morocco has illegally occupied Western Sahara since 1975.  Not a single country recognizes Morocco’s territorial rights, and the UN has repeatedly called for a referendum on the people’s right to self-determination.  Clinic students traveled to Geneva to present arguments to Committee members, and met with country delegations and special mandate holders to promote vindication of the rights of the Western Saharan people.

AMICUS BRIEF ON BEHALF OF GOVERNMENT OF MEXICO IN U.S. SUPREME COURT

In spring 2015, clinic students drafted an amicus brief on behalf of the Government of Mexico in support of Mexican national José Loza Ventura, a Mexican national sentenced to death in Ohio.  Ohio authorities never informed Mr. Loza of his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which entitled him to have the Mexican consulate notified of his detention.  Our amicus brief asked the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve a conflict in the Courts of Appeals as to whether individuals may vindicate their consular rights in habeas corpus proceedings.

INVESTIGATION AND REPORTING ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN BURMA

At the request of the Women’s Organization Network (WON) in Burma, the clinic is assisting in the investigation and reporting on violations of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Burma.  This project is being undertaken in collaboration with the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice.

ADVOCACY ON BEHALF OF MEXICAN NATIONALS FACING EXECUTION IN THE UNITED STATES

For the last 8 years, clinic students have been engaged in litigation on behalf of Mexican nationals facing the death penalty in the United States.  In all of these cases, state authorities violated their obligations to advise Mexican nationals of their consular rights pursuant to Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.  Students have helped draft petitions for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, filed petitions before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and coordinated clemency campaigns to prevent the execution of Mexican nationals on death row in Texas.

REPORT ON REPRESSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN ETHIOPIA

Clinic students drafted a comprehensive report on Ethiopian legislation that effectively banned organizations engaged in human rights advocacy.  In conjunction with the launch of the report, students met with members of the U.S. Congress, interviewed Ethiopian human rights advocates, and wrote letters to the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry on behalf of human rights advocates who had been unjustly imprisoned.

TAKING OF TESTIMONY FOR LIBERIAN TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

In collaboration with the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Advocates for Human Rights, clinic students were trained to interview Liberian refugees in the United States to gather information about their experiences during the civil war in Liberia.  The information was recorded and transmitted to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, representing the first time that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission attempted to gather evidence from the diaspora community.

PUBLICATION OF BEST PRACTICES MANUAL FOR LAWYERS REPRESENTING INDIVIDUALS FACING THE DEATH PENALTY

In collaboration with Death Penalty Worldwide, students researched and produced the first international manual of best practices for lawyers representing individuals facing the death penalty.  The manual has since been translated into French and Chinese, and is currently being translated into Thai and Arabic.