Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Taliban Gunmen Storm Pakistan School, Kill Scores Including Over 130 Children

Police stand beside empty coffins at a hospital dealing with those attacked by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, 16 December 2014. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

First the Pakistani Taliban bombed or burned over 1,000 schools. Then they shot Malala Yousafzai, the teenage advocate for girls’ rights. But on Tuesday, the Taliban took their war on education to a ruthless new low with an assault on a crowded school in Peshawar that killed 145 people — 132 of them uniformed schoolchildren — in the deadliest single attack in the group’s history.

During an eight-hour rampage at the Army Public School and Degree College, a team of nine Taliban gunmen stormed through the corridors and assembly hall, firing at random and throwing grenades. Some of the 1,100 students at the school were lined up and slaughtered with shots to the head. Others were gunned down as they cowered under their desks, or forced to watch as their teachers were riddled with bullets.

Their parents crowded around the school gates, praying their children would survive while listening to the explosions and gunfire as Pakistani commandos stormed the building.

With its chilling echoes of a school in Beslan, Russia, where 186 children were massacred in 2004, the terrorist attack in Peshawar traumatized a scarred city that has suffered intense Taliban violence since the insurgency erupted seven years ago. By evening, mosques were filled with mourners carrying small wooden coffins, and residents cried openly in the streets.

A Taliban spokesman said the attack had been retaliation for the continuing military operation against the group in the North Waziristan tribal region. But the image of children’s bodies on the floor of their school auditorium, some of them not yet in their teens, again demonstrated how the Pakistani Taliban’s war has often been taken out on the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

A wave of outrage crossed national boundaries, with statements of support and sympathy coming from around the world.

Witnesses in Peshawar said the assault started around 10 a.m., when nine heavily armed militants, disguised in paramilitary uniforms, slipped through a military graveyard and leapt over the back wall of the Army Public School. They rushed through the main building, shooting and flinging grenades before reaching the auditorium. There, according to one Pakistani official, a senior army official was giving a first aid course.

First they sprayed the students with bullets; then they singled out the survivors. “Our instructor asked us to duck and lie down,” a student named Zeeshan said in an interview at the hospital. “Then I saw militants walking past rows of students, shooting them in the head.”

Elsewhere in the school, teachers, realizing what was going on, abruptly canceled classes and exams and tried to protect their charges, who ranged in age from roughly 5 to 17. A 7-year-old named Afaq broke down as he described how the militants sprayed bullets as they rushed into his classroom. “They killed our teacher,” he said, his eyes welling with tears.

Although early assessments suggested that the gunmen had been intent on mounting a long siege — some were carrying stores of food, it was later discovered — a senior security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, insisted that they had shown no intention of taking hostages. “They were there to kill, and this is what they did,” he said.

Excerpt, read entire article here.

The ABA SIL IHRC strong condemns the Taliban's attack against innocent civilians and children. The massacre of more than 140 people, including over 130 children cannot, must not be tolerated in the 21st century. We must work together to find a way to protect children both in their homes and at school. In the meantime, our hearts and thoughts go out to all of those affected by such senseless acts of violence and their love ones.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Human Rights Day 2014: Rights Violations That Matter 365 Days of the Year

Today marks Human Rights Day, observed annually on 10 December, to highlight the fundamental rights that all people are entitled to as a global community.

The day marks the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the first global enunciation of human rights and one of the first major achievements of the new United Nations.

The day was first formed in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all member states and other organizations to celebrate. The theme for 2014, "Human Rights 365", is a reminder that everyone is entitled to basic rights with the same ideals and values - all year round.

"I call on states to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

Here are some sobering facts about current human rights violations, courtesy of IBTimes UK, and why it's so vital that we strive to achieve greater equality:

★ An estimated 27 million people are currently enslaved in the human trafficking trade globally.

★ In 2012, 112 countries tortured their citizens and 101 countries repressed their people's right to freedom of expression.

★ There are 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK today, which is around 27% of children, or more than one in four. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children worldwide die each day due to poverty.

★ More than 300,000 children under the age of 18 are being exploited as child soldiers in armed conflicts worldwide.

★ Women make up 80% of all refugees and displaced people and are at heightened risk of physical or sexual violence or trafficking.

★ Around 15 million girls are forced into child marriage around the world every year. One in three girls in the developing world are married by their 18th birthday, increasing their risk of isolation and violence, and limiting their chance to have an education.

★ The total number of child laborers remains high, with UNICEF and the International Labour Organisation acknowledging an estimated 168 million children aged five to 17 are involved worldwide.

★ Every 90 seconds, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth. Most of these deaths are preventable, but due to gender-based discrimination many women are not given the proper education or care they need.

★ At least 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor worldwide.

★ More than 3.2 million Syrians are currently living as refugees, in the largest displacement crisis in a generation.

Reprint: International Business Times UK

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

AUW's Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Accepting Applications for New Human Rights Programs

The American University Washington College of Law’s Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law is accepting applications for its new LL.M. in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Essay Award, and a summer Program of Advanced Studies in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

1. LL.M. International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
Apply to the LL.M. in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law. American University Washington College of Law is ranked among the top law schools in International Law and it is the only Law school in the U.S. to offer a hybrid LL.M. program in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law with online and residential course components. This unique LL.M. is designed for practitioners and other human rights advocates with two years of experience who wish to pursue advanced studies in international human rights law and humanitarian law alongside their existing work responsibilities. AUWCL has built an outstanding reputation in this field and it is highly recognized around the world. Moreover, its unique location in Washington D.C. offers unparalleled opportunities to legal professionals from the U.S. and around the world. Students will meet world-renowned human rights experts who will become professional contacts for future work related opportunities.

The program is currently accepting new students for the Spring 2015 semester. At $1802 per unit, this program is an exceptional value. Scholarship opportunities are also available for students who qualify. Deadline is December 1, 2014. Applications will be accepted after the deadline if space is available. To learn more about the program contact us at:, 202-274-4356. LEARN MORE & APPLY

2. Program of Advanced Studies on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law - Call for Submissions
Are you interested in attending an all-expense paid 3 week summer program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law taught by over 39 world-renowned practitioners and academics at American University Washington College of Law? Well, now is your chance! Submit an essay to the Human Rights Essay Award Competition and you could be the lucky winner to receive a scholarship to attend the 2015 Program of Advanced Studies in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. This year’s topic is “Transitional Justice, International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law” and the deadline to submit is February 1, 2015. Participants have the flexibility to choose any subject related to the assigned topic. The best articles may be published in the American University International Law Review.

This annual competition sponsored by the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law seeks to stimulate the production of scholarly work in international human rights law. The Academy will grant two Awards, one for the best article in English and one for the best article in Spanish. The Award in each case will consist of: a scholarship to the Academy’s Program of Advanced Studies, travel expenses to Washington D.C., housing at the university dorms and a per diem for living expenses. For detailed guidelines about the award please visit: or contact us at:

3. Program of Advanced Studies on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law – Application opens December 1, 2014
The Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law is pleased to announce that the Program of Advanced Studies on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law will be accepting applications beginning December 1, 2014. The program will take place from May 26 to June 12, 2015. This Program offers 18 courses in English and Spanish lectured by over 39 scholars of relevance in the field of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and gathers more than 150 participants from more than 25 different countries and with different levels of professional experience. The Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law provides through this Program the unique opportunity to learn and interact with judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Special Rapporteurs of United Nations, members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and professors from all over the world. The Program is offered in three categories which include the modality of Certificate of Attendance for lawyers, law students and HR professionals of any country, ABA Credits for U.S. students and finally, the Diploma Course that is offered to a select group of 35 law professionals who fulfill the admission requirements. The application form for this program will be available at For more information please contact us at:


*DISCLAIMER: The ABA SIL IHRC is not in any way affiliated with American University Washington College of Law’s Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law or any of the program enumerated and described above. Please contact AUW College of Law directly ( if you need additional information or have any questions regarding its programs or this announcement.

Monday, November 10, 2014

ABA SIL Fall Meeting 2014: Record Number Attend IHRC's Panel Discussions

The American Bar Association, Section of International Law's 2014 Fall Meeting was held at the Buenos Aires Hilton, in Argentina. The International Human Rights Committee sponsored or co-sponsored four panel discussions. The IHRC's 2-part panel discussion on Freedom of the Press and the Law were the highest attended panels of the week! A short description of IHRC's Fall 2014 Programs is included below. Additional information on each panel, including the names of moderators and speakers, is located under the Programs' tab above.

Special Thanks to IHRC CO-CHAIRS Elizabeth "Liz" Turchi and Joseph "Joe" Federici; IHRC VICE CHAIRS Gregory MacKenzie (Moderator) and Catherine "Cathy" Vernon (Speaker); OTHER SPEAKERS & MODERATORS Marissa Farsi, Kevin Fandl, Anamaria Dutceac Segesten, Gonzalo Smith, Thomas A. Valenti, Robert Cox, Andres D'Alessandro, Daniel Seckman, John Folks, Muria Gonzalez, Leila Mooney, Gerardo Noto, and William Black; and everyone else who help coordinate and/or participate in the ABA SIL Fall Meeting 2014. Without you, none of it would have been possible.


Buenos Aires Hilton, Argentina (Oct 21- 25) 

Being the Good Global Corporate Citizen: Dealing with the Current Business Guidelines and Standards of Conduct for Multinational Corporations

Thursday, October 23 at 9:00 am – 10:30 am


With the recent development and adoption of guidelines and standards of conduct regulating business conduct with respect to human trafficking, labor rights, privacy, etc., including UN Guidelines, it is clear that the rules are changing for multinational corporations operating in disparate jurisdictions. The panel will present and clarify this new order of business responsibility and conduct, the risks and the best practices for dealing with the current business and regulatory environment.

Primary Sponsoring Committee: International Corporate Counsel Forum

Co-Sponsoring Committees: Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, International Ethics Committee, International Human Rights Committee, International Trade Committee, Latin American and Caribbean Committee, Transnational Legal Practice Committee, UN & International Organizations Committee

Undoing Business in Latin America: Rule of Law and the Informal Economy

Friday, October 24 at 9:00 am – 10:30 am


Rule of law programs aimed at strengthening legal institutions in developing countries capture only one segment of the business community—the formal segment. The informal economy—often referred to as the gray market—is often left behind. New ‘formalization’ programs have attempted to bring informal enterprises into the legal fold but have thus far been unsuccessful. The panelists will present their research on rule of law and the informal economy in Latin America using case studies of the Colombian gray market, including an analysis of the newly enacted formalization law in Colombia.

Primary Sponsoring Committee: International Human Rights Committee

Co-Sponsoring Committees: Africa Committee, NGO and Not-for-Profit Organizations Committee

Freedom of the Press and the Law, Part I: The Prosecution of Journalists

Friday, October 24 at 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm


The killing and prosecution of journalists and human rights defenders has reached alarming proportions. The problem threatens freedom everywhere. The world has seen journalists murdered while covering the Syrian conflict; threatened and killed while covering Mexican drug cartels; and imprisoned in Sub-Saharan Africa for exposing corrupt government activities. Our experts will address the dangers journalists encounter in these regions. In particular, our experts will discuss the prosecution of journalists in Argentina during the “dirty war” and the prosecution and harassment of journalists in South America and the Middle East, among other regions. Through a moderator question and answer format, these case studies will allow the audience to develop an understanding of the legal rights and protections afforded to journalists under domestic, regional and international law.

Primary Sponsoring Committee: International Human Rights Committee

Co-Sponsoring Committees: Middle East Committee

Freedom of the Press and the Law, Part II: Freedom of Expression in a Post-9/11 World 

Friday, October 24 at 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm


This panel of experts will explore the protections afforded to journalists under law. In particular, our experts will discuss foundational international instruments securing the Freedom of Expression and other relevant rights, the scope of those freedoms and a State’s ability to derogate therefrom. Our panel will discuss the impact of 9/11 on the Freedom of Expression and recommend what measures the legal community must take to ensure that journalists are able to function without illegal constraint. This panel will look at the freedoms of speech and press and the precarious balance struck by different legal systems when looking at government claims of national security, and will discuss the importance of a free and robust press to democratic societies and how, in the 21st century, that freedom-and the freedom of speech-have become increasingly vulnerable to manipulation, influence and censorship without the heavy-handed repression associated with totalitarian regimes of the past. The program will be presented in a moderated question and answer format.

Primary Sponsoring Committee: U.S. Lawyers Practicing Abroad

Co-Sponsoring Committees: International Courts Committee, International Human Rights Committee, International Judicial Affairs Committee, Latin American and Caribbean Committee, Women’s Interest Network (WIN), Young Lawyers Interest Network (YIN)

❃ ABA SIL Fall 2014 Meeting (Complete Program Guide). 

Visit our Programs page for more information.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Arbitrary Detention in Azerbaijan 2014

With the rise of the Arab Spring in 2011, authoritarian governments around the world responded by rolling-back civic space; in Azerbaijan, a country situated at the crossroads of Eurasia, the government has continued to silence independent voices instead of addressing the legitimate concerns of peaceful protesters and dissidents. Now, the government in Baku has ensnared the very human rights defenders and lawyers who seek to protect the rights of others.

In July and August 2014, the Azerbaijani government arrested some of the country’s most prominent human rights defenders, including the renowned human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev and activists Rasul Jafarov and Leyla Yunus. They are now being held in pretrial detention on a barrage of criminal charges from tax evasion to treason. As the head of the Legal Education Society, a human rights organization that provides legal support to NGOs and low-income individuals, Intigam Aliyev has submitted more than 200 applications to the European Court of Human Rights in cases of election rigging, abuses of free speech, and fair trial violations.

The Court has begun addressing some of the complaints submitted by him, and he recently made a speech at the at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe openly criticizing the Azerbaijani authorities for human rights abuses and cracking down on independent NGOs. It was following these activities that Intigam was arrested on August 8th on charges of tax evasion, illegal business activities, and abuse of official power—crimes he denies ever committing. Aliyev was then sent to pre-trial detention. If the court finds Aliyev guilty of the charges, he faces up to seven years in prison.

This treatment of the human rights defenders violates a number of international treaties to which Azerbaijan is a party, as well as UN General Assembly resolutions which affirm the right of human rights defenders to undertake their important work unhindered. Azerbaijan is party to three of the major international human rights treaties: the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention Against Torture (CAT). All three treaties ban the use of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and the ECHR and ICCPR stipulate the right to a fair and public trial by an impartial tribunal.

The ECHR also prohibits the use of arbitrary detention, stating that a person may not be deprived of his liberty except through the reasons and procedures provided by established law. The ECHR authorizes pretrial detention of a suspect only on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offense, to prevent an offense, or to prevent escape after having committed an offense. Domestic Azerbaijani law complements this prohibition, providing strict guidelines for when a pretrial detention may be imposed, and requiring the consideration of less restrictive measures such as house arrest or bail.

Complementing theses international treaties, the UN General Assembly passed a Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. The General Assembly reiterated its concerns and stances as stated in the Declaration in at least five subsequent resolutions, the most recent of which was in 2013. The Declaration was adopted by consensus in the General Assembly and therefore represents a strong commitment by States to its implementation. States are increasingly considering adopting the Declaration as a binding national legislation. The Declaration addresses the protections accorded to human rights defenders (including to develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance and to form associations and NGOs), and the duties of states. Such duties include ensuring the protection of everyone against violence, threats, retaliation, adverse criminality, pressure, or other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the Declaration; promoting and facilitating the teaching of human rights; and providing an effective remedy for persons who claim to have been victims of a human rights violations.

It is not fully known the scope of political imprisonment in Azerbaijan. The most recent list compiled by local activists contains 98 individual cases. The number of recent detainees, the categorical variety of individuals, and the severity of the charges and length of prison terms are alarming. The trend began around the time of the Arab Spring movements in 2011 and continued through Baku’s hosting of the 2012 Eurovision contest, the presidential elections of 2013, and Azerbaijan’s leadership of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers this year. At each step, the Azerbaijani government has had the opportunity to embrace openness and its obligations under international law – concepts to which it claims to aspire and adhere. Instead, the government of President Ilham Aliyev has ushered in legislation aimed at closing down civil society in the country; harassed journalists, activists, and opposition leaders; and imprisoned those that call attention to this betrayal of its obligations and responsibilities.

We urge lawyers in all nations who enjoy freedom of expression to speak out against such violations. We cannot allow these prisoners of conscience to struggle alone. The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders addresses the responsibilities of not just governments, but also of us, of everyone: our duty to promote human rights and to safeguard democracy and its institutions. We must let the Azerbaijani government know that the illegal detention of prisoners of conscience is unacceptable.

Asma Peracha, Kexin Zheng, and Janelle Pelli are law students at New York University and members of Law Students for Human Rights. They have partnered with the legal advocacy organization Freedom Now to raise awareness about the imprisonment of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.