Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Violation: Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. US

The ABA Section of International Law's International Human Rights Committee in Cooperation with the Human Rights Clinic at University of Miami School of Law is pleased to announce a FREE teleconference on April 26, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. EDT discussing the use of international human rights systems to address domestic violence cases.

The teleconference will introduce participants to the Jessica Gonzales case that was filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; discuss the use of international human rights mechanisms to address domestic violence issues, and; engage in a comparative analysis of European human rights mechanisms and how the case might have been adjudicated in Europe.

Jessica Gonzales, a domestic violence survivor from Colorado whose three children were killed when local police failed to enforce a restraining order against her estranged husband, filed suit against the Town of Castle Rock that went before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Commission's acceptance of jurisdiction in this matter marks the first time the Commission has been asked to consider the nature and extent of the U.S. Government's affirmative obligations to protect individuals from private acts of discriminatory violence.

  • Professor Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, Director of the Human Rights Clinic at University of Miami Law
  • Professor Margaret B. Drew, Professor of Clinical Law and the Director of Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic at University of Cincinnati College of Law
  • Jessica Sandberg, Family Law attorney at The Law Firm of Jessica Sandberg; Co-Chair of the American Bar Association Section International Family Law Committee
  • Vivian Huelgo, Chief Counsel to the Commission on Domestic Violence of the ABA (moderator)
Listeners are invited to e-mail their questions during the call to Vivian at Vivian will read your questions to the moderators at the end of the presentation.

For resources on the Jessica Gonzales case, please visit the links below:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Office of UNHCR to Commemorate 60th Anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention at John Jay College


The Center for International Human Rights (CIHR), John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York and the New York Liaison Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are organizing an event commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 50th Anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The focus of this event is a discussion of the gaps in the implementation of the international protection framework for displaced and stateless persons. The event will take place at John Jay College on the sixth floor of the BMW building (555 West 57th Street), room 615/616, on Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 5:00-7:00 p.m.

WELCOMING REMARKS: Jeremy Travis, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and

Anne-Christine Eriksson, Deputy Director, UNHCR Liaison in New York

· Susana B. Adamo, Associate Research Scientist, Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), The Earth Institute, Columbia University
·  Bill Frelick, Director, Refugee Program, Human Rights Watch
·  Janice Marshall, Deputy Director, Policy and Law Pillar, Division of International Protection, UNHCR
·  Lori Nessel, Professor of Law & Director, Center for Social Justice, Seton Hall University School of Law

MODERATOR: George Andreopoulos, Director, Center for International Human Rights & Professor of Political Science, John Jay College & The Graduate Center, CUNY

Forced displacement, statelessness, and mixed migratory movements remain prominent global issues in terms of their magnitude and complexities. Conflict, violence, and persecution continue to cause displacement. At the same time, a myriad of social, economic, political, and environmental factors, such as population growth, urbanization, climate change, water scarcity, and food and energy insecurity are exacerbating conflict and combining in other ways that oblige people to flee their countries. The 1951 Refugee Convention, which is central to the protection regime, has proved flexible enough to accommodate new forms of persecution, however, the complexity of the current factors affecting cross-border displacement is resulting in gaps in the response to current protection challenges. Gaps in international protection occur primarily in three ways:

·         Through insufficient accessions to relevant instruments,

·         through inadequate implementation of existing treaties, and

·         through gaps in the existing international protection framework.

Statelessness is often referred to as the “forgotten problem,” despite the fact that citizenship is necessary for fully realizing one’s human rights. There is limited accession to the 1961 Statelessness Convention and related international treaties, there are obstacles to the acquisition of nationality and even the size of the statelessness problem is not comprehensively mapped.

New responses are needed to address the gaps and obstacles in protection of the displaced and stateless. The Panel Discussion will serve as a forum to:

·     Analyze and assess situations of forced displacement which may not be covered by the 1951 Refugee Convention and explore plausible responses to the challenges posed by them.

· Analyze the statelessness problem and identify effective ways to reduce it.

RSVP by Wednesday, April 20, 2011 to

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Religious Freedom and Religious Persecution: Pakistan's blasphemy laws

The International Human Rights Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of International Law is presenting a timely CLE brownbag teleconference on the topic of “Religious Freedom and Religious Persecution.”

Join prominent Human Rights Lawyer and President of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association, Ms. Asma Jahangir and a panel of other distinguished speakers as they address current controversies around the globe. Ms. Jahangir will be joined by Elizabeth Cassidy of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and Mr. David Matas an international human rights lawyer.

Pakistan’s “blasphemy laws” have been the subject of much recent controversy and are also blamed for two high profile assassinations. Earlier this year, Salman Taseer, the powerful governor of Pakistan’s most populous state of Punjab was gunned down by his own bodyguard for his pursuit of amendments to the laws. Recently a Christian, Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minister for minority affairs was gunned down by religious extremists, allegedly for his views on the blasphemy laws.

It is not clear how far Pakistani politicians are willing to go in order to prevent misuse of the blasphemy laws, which carry the death penalty for those convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammad. Some argue that it would be enough to ensure that the cases of those accused of blasphemy be heard by higher courts better qualified to interpret the laws fairly and less likely to be swayed by the mob pressure which can be used to get convictions in lower courts.

Others argue that the actual wording of the laws needs to be amended if they are to be fairly applied. The original blasphemy law, introduced in British India in 1860, imposed a prison term of up to two years for any damage to a place of worship or sacred object carried out “with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion…”

The current provision in the Pakistan Penal Code, as amended in 1986, both introduces the death penalty for insulting the Prophet, and drops the concept of intent. According to Section 295-C of the Penal Code, “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.”

This omission of the need to prove malicious intent has opened the door to some of the more absurd accusations of blasphemy, many of which are made against Muslims — like a student accused of blaspheming in an answer on an exam paper, or a doctor who threw out a business card from a salesman named Mohammed. It is unclear whether the misuse of the laws can be stopped without the reinsertion of the notion of intent in some form. Whether Pakistan and other parts of the world will be able to achieve a resolution to the situation remains to be seen.

Join our teleconference for a discussion of the blasphemy laws and other topics such as the treatment of Falun Gong in China, the Koran burning in the USA and other incidents that are worthy of the attention of the international human rights committee.

Please click on the link above for event details.