Immunity vs. Impunity? International Organizations and Human Rights

“Absolute immunity” is a phrase typically favored by ex-dictators and other human rights abusers. Yet later this week, the United Nations’ agents in the State Dept. will argue before a Manhattan federal judge that the UN has absolute immunity from legal process[1].

The case concerns the fact that the UN introduced cholera to Haiti in 2010. The dispute isn’t over causation – the scientific community concurs that the UN is to blame. The issue is whether the UN is immune from service and lawsuit for any harms caused in any country, no matter how grotesque.

Most people don’t realize yet, but this case will matter to everyone interested in international humanitarian or inter-governmental work. While the UN Charter provides the basis for immunity in this case, the question lurking in the background is this: will the world opt for an international equivalent of a “Good Samaritan” law that protects those doing “good work” from liability for any harms committed abroad while working for an international organization? Legal scholars are already framing the case in those terms.

Yet there are signs of an emerging trend toward accountability for international organizations. Most notably, the UN Mission in Congo was pushed to adopt heightened standards for civilian protection in peacekeeping. Eventually, the UN adopted due diligence standards to ensure the UN’s Congo forces weren’t underwriting human rights abuses. But as of now, these accountability mechanisms are exclusively internal – which, as Haiti painfully illustrates, can be woefully inadequate.

The Haiti cholera case stands to be a milestone in the development of this area of international law.

That’s why we hope you’ll join us for an event with the legal team bringing the lawsuit on behalf of Haitian families, and the Al Jazeera filmmakers who documented the case. See the flyer below for more details, and contact Nathan Yaffe (ndy207 [at] nyu [dot] edu) with any questions.

Haiti in the Time of Cholera Poster

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[1] The exception to this is if they “expressly waive” their right to immunity, which has never happened in the UN’s 69-year history.

LSHR Study Break 4/22 6-8pm in Golding!

Tired of studying? Come join the Law Students for Human Rights for cookies, brownies, chips, and other junk food! What better way to take a break from the library and forget about finals than to indulge in delicious treats?? And for those of you who ACTUALLY want to forget, adult beverages will be on hand as well!

Come eat, drink, and talk about…. whatever you want! There is no agenda, just food and good company!

Welcome to our new Exec Board members!

Thank you to everyone who applied for LSHR Exec Board positions! We were thrilled by the amount of interest and dedication, and can’t wait for another great year.

Congratulations to the new officers for 2014-2015:

Chair: Rita Astoor
Vice Chair/Treasurer: Patti Shnell
Advocacy Co-Chairs: Lizzie Davis and Shane Meckler
Education/CHRGJ Chair: Nina Sheth
Outreach Chair: Allie Wilson
Career Development Chair: Amy Zajac
Social Chair: Ariela Pier

BOARD APPLICATIONS!

If any of you have been interested in becoming more involved in LSHR, take this opportunity to apply for one of the exec board positions! There are several to choose from, depending on your interests, and you’ll be working with some great people who share your passion and dedication.

Applications can be found under the 2013-2014 Applications tab (not sure how to change the title yet). Due by Wednesday, March 26th at midnight. There are position descriptions on the application form. If you have any questions, feel free to email Amanda (als755@nyu.edu). If you have any questions specific to positions, our website has a list of all the current officers (http://nyulshr.wordpress.com/meet-the-board/).

International Women’s Day Film Screening

Location: VH 204
Date: March 5, 2014
Time: 4:30 pm – 6 pm
 
Join Law Women and Law Students for Human Rights for a film screening in honor of International Women’s Day. We will be showing two short films: Pray the Devil Back to Hell (winner of the 2008 Best Documentary Award at the Tribeca Film Festival) and Through Her Eyes (a powerful documentary co-produced by Rebecca Gerome, a current NYU Law student). Dinner and drinks will be served.
 
Our first short film, “Through Her Eyes,” is a documentary about a woman’s inspiring story of strength and survival. Through scenes of her daily life in Amman, Jordan, Mervat shares how she rebuilt her life and regained her sense of dignity after surviving domestic violence and a crime “in the name of honor” which left her disabled. (17 mins) 
 
“Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” the second film, is the astonishing story of the Liberian women who took on the warlords and regime of dictator Charles Taylor in the midst of a brutal civil war, and won a once unimaginable peace for their shattered country in 2003. Featuring Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee. (54 mins)  
 
International Women’s Day is held on March 8 every year and is a day to honor women’s achievements across political, economic, social, and cultural spectrums. 

The Vagina Monologues

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February 12th, 13th, and 14th at 8pm in Tishman Auditorium.
Come out to see NYU Graduate Women perform Eve Ensler’s play to join the global effort to stop violence against women and girls! It is a great show: it’s about vaginas, people with vaginas, people who love vaginas, and people who love people with vaginas. It is also honest, uncomfortable and hilarious. Tickets will be available for $10 in advance in Golding starting tomorrow. Tickets will also be available for $15 at the door. Join us for some snacks and drinks before the show in Kushner at 7pm and after the show on Wednesday at Malt House and Thursday’s SBA/VM Bar Review at Village Pourhouse.

The Human Rights Defenders Series Presents: Understanding Haiti Today: Human Rights, the Resource Curse, and the Plunder of Poverty: A Talk with Nixon Boumba of the Haiti Mining Justice Initiative.

Friday, February 7, 12:30-2:00pm, WILF Hall, 5th Floor Conference Room

CHRGJ and LSHR’s Human Rights Defenders Series is proud to present a close colleague and partner of the Global Justice Clinic, Nixon Boumba, a Haitian human rights activist and member of the Kolektif Jistis Min nan Ayiti (Haiti Mining Justice Collective). Boumba has been working in mining-affected areas of Haiti to ensure that local people understand their rights in regard to the extractives industry. Besides his work on mining, Boumba is also a supporter of economic and cultural rights in Haiti, a staunch advocate on behalf of all marginalized and oppressed populations in Haiti, and a leading figure calling for vigilance and justice in Haiti’s current development climate, which is marked by notoriously low wages and controversial efforts to create industrial and tourist zones.

In his talk, Boumba will discuss the challenges inherent to being a human rights defender in a country where human rights advocates are increasingly being persecuted for their work. He will also discuss the specific tools and tactics available to advocates hoping to minimize the potential harms of mining on local communities.

Film Screening: The Second Meeting

The NYU-SCPS Global Affairs Program and Law Students for Human Rights at NYU Law invite you to a unique evening of film and discussion. After successful screenings in NYC and L.A., numerous reviews from BBC, NY Times, LA Times, Variety, The Huffington Post, IT News, Le Figaro and more, The Second Meeting documentary is now an official runner for the 2014 Oscars. 

Following the screening, director Zeljko Mirkovic and one of the film’s protagonists, former US pilot Dale Zelko will be available to take questions and and share their thoughts. Professors Jennifer Trahan and Belinda Cooper will also be featured panelists as they join the discussion to weigh in on the international law and human rights aspects of this gripping true story and it’s implications for the similar disputes in the context of global affairs. 
The Film is supported by Serbian Ministry of Culture, US Embassy Belgrade, German Marshal Fund-Balkan Trust for Democracy.

Special Guest Panel Speakers: 
Professor Jennifer Trahan, J.D., LL.M. and Professor Belinda Cooper, J.D
Special Guests From the Film: 
Zeljko Mirkovic – Award Winning Director and Producer, Lt. Dale Zelko Former U.S. F-117 NATO Pilot Who Was Shot Down by Serbian Soldier and Zoran Amar 

Sponsored by:
PACT (Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation), THRILL (The Human Rights International Law League), and Law Students for Human Rights at NYU Law in conjunction with the NYU-SCPS Global Affairs Program

 

Watch the trailer at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWG0byQevjA

Sheinberg Lecture 11/4

“Predator Economics, Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples”  
Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe), Founder and Co-Director of Honor The Earth
Monday, November 4, 2013, 4:00PM - Vanderbilt Hall Room 210
 
Please join us for the Twentieth Annual Rose Sheinberg Lecture presented by Winona LaDuke. Her lecture is titled, “Predator Economics, Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples.” Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe), an internationally acclaimed author, orator and activist who has devoted her life to protecting the lands and life ways of Native communities. LaDuke is founder and Co-Director of Honor the Earth, a national advocacy group encouraging public support and funding for native environmental groups. With Honor the Earth, she works nationally and internationally on issues of climate change, renewable energy, sustainable development, food systems and environmental justice. In her own community in northern Minnesota, she is the founder and Executive Director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, one of the largest reservation-based non-profit organizations in the country, and a leader on the issues of culturally-based sustainable development strategies, renewable energy and food systems. Her work includes efforts to protect Indigenous plants and heritage foods from patenting and genetic engineering. 
 
The lecture will take place on Monday, November 4, 2013 at 4:00pm in Vanderbilt Hall Room 210. 1Ls will receive PILC credit as part of the Leaders in Public Interest Series. 
Registration:
Please take this opportunity to register online. Click here, or copy and paste the following registration link:http://its.law.nyu.edu/rsvp/events/20131104/
The Rose Sheinberg Program is endowed by Jill and Richard Sheinberg, Dale J. and Arthur Galston, and the estate of Joel Dolkart to honor the memory of Rose Sheinberg. Each year the Sheinberg Committee, a joint student-faculty committee, invites a scholar working on cutting-edge issues of gender, race, and class to participate in a day of informal discussion, classroom teaching, and formal lecture to expose the Law School community to a variety of ideas, insights, and initiatives. 
 
This year’s lecture is co-sponsored by the Black, Latino, Asian Pacific American Law Association; Center for Human Rights and Global Justice; Coalition on Law and Representation; Environmental Law Society; Environmental Law Journal; Law Students for Human Rights; National Lawyers Guild; Native Studies Forum; and Women of Color Collective.
 
 
Event Schedule: 
12:15 – 1:45 p.m. 
Lunch with Winona LaDuke, the Sheinberg Committee and Members of the Law School Community 
RSVP: Tsion Gurmu tfg215@nyu.edu 
 
4:00 p.m. 
Keynote Speech by Winona LaDuke 
Introduction by Tiokasin Ghosthorse, host of First Voices Indigenous Radio and member of the Cheyenne River Lakota (Sioux) Nation of South Dakota 
Vanderbilt Hall, Room 210 
 
Reception immediately following in Vanderbilt Hall, Golding Lounge 

Registration:
Please take this opportunity to register online. Click here, or copy and paste the following registration link:http://its.law.nyu.edu/rsvp/events/20131104/