The International Human Rights Clinic is off to a great Spring Semester. Twelve students are working on several cases and projects that involve environmental justice, children with disabilities, violence against women, human trafficking, local implementation of U.S. human rights treaty obligations, and corporate accountability for human rights violations.
Our work on human trafficking has been recognized nationally and internationally. In February, the Clinic was prominently cited in the recently released Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States. Internationally, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee adopted in March the concerns and recommendations the Clinic submitted last semester regarding U.S. anti-human trafficking obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In February, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Commission) granted international protective measures requested by the Clinic on behalf of Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic who received death threats because of their work as human rights defenders. In late March, the Clinic went to Washington, D.C. to advocate with and on behalf of this vulnerable population and participated in hearings before the Commission, met with staffers of the Congressional Black Caucus in the House of Representatives, and with federal officers from the U.S. Department of Labor.
During spring break, the Clinic travelled to Puerto Rico with 10 students to work on two cases. One case involves a class action lawsuit against the Puerto Rican Department of Education for its failure to provide adequate services and education to children with special needs. The second case addresses the damaging environmental and health effects of the U.S. Navy’s use of the small island of Vieques, Puerto Rico as a bombing and training facility for more than 60 years. While in Puerto Rico, students held meetings and interviews with more than 20 individuals, including the President of the Puerto Rico Bar Association, a staffer for the President of the Puerto Rico Senate, several academics, scientists, community leaders, attorneys, public officials, and human rights victims.
Students are also working with a national coalition of human rights organizations to develop California draft legislation to expand or eliminate statutes of limitations for torts associated with grave human rights violations, and to modify veil-piercing statutes to hold corporations accountable for human rights violations. Finally, the Clinic is partnering with Harvard University to study how the Inter-American Human Rights System addresses the issue of violence against women in the Americas, and to what extent the U.S. and other countries in our region are implementing international law norms and jurisprudence in addressing this important issue.