New Programs of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Shape Global Conversations, Explore Emerging Intersections, and Create Dynamic Advocates

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American University Washington College of Law and RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights Launch New Speak Truth to Power Human Rights Teaching Fellows Program

The Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (Center) at American University Washington College of Law and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFKC) have launched a new transformative initiative for student-to-student peer education in the field of human rights, the Speak Truth To Power (STTP) Human Rights Teaching Fellows Program.

The first-of-its-kind program brings together law students, high school teachers, and high school students to promote human rights education and activism. Building on the success of the RFK Center’s STTP human rights curriculum, the new STTP Human Rights Teaching Fellows Program expands on more than two decades of work by the Center and RFKC promoting human rights education in the United States and around the world by empowering law students to become human rights educators and by inspiring high school students to become human rights advocates.

The program trains law students in effective communication techniques for teaching and talking about rights – an important skill which will be useful for attorneys advocating their cases and for activists promoting their causes. The program provides law students with practical experience in using those skills by enabling them to teach high school students from a variety of communities in the Washington, D.C. area, basing their lessons on the highly acclaimed Speak Truth To Power Human Rights curriculum. In addition, through exposing high school students to law student-educators, the program seeks to create peer-to-peer educational models to inspire young people to make positive change in the world around them.

Participating area schools include the Maya Angelou Academy, Annandale High School, and Georgetown Day School.

Following a competitive application process, ten American University Washington College of Law students were selected as 2012 STTP Human Rights Teaching Fellows. Fellows include former professional teachers, a woman who worked with refugees in Uganda, as well as a former auctioneer. Learn more about the teaching fellows.

Read the full announcement.

Innovative Disability and Human Rights Fellows Program Offers Theoretical, Doctrinal and Practical Perspectives

The Center will welcome the first cohort of Disability and Human Rights Fellows from around the world, consisting of five human rights attorneys who are coming to American University Washington College of Law for a year to engage in a specialized course of study focused on Disability and Human Rights as part of the International Legal Studies Program, hosted by the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law.

The program is the first of its kind, focused on the implementation of the new Convention on the Rights of Persons (CRPD) with Disabilities and its integration into national and local law. The program was developed and is being co-directed by Professor Robert Dinerstein, director of the AUWCL Disability Law Clinic, and Hadar Harris, executive director of the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law. AUWCL is one of six universities around the world participating in this new program in its inaugural year, supported by the Open Society Foundations Scholarship Program.

The five DHR Fellows are: Bijay Dahal (Nepal); Alpana Bhandari (Nepal); Facundo Chavez Penillas (Argentina); Juan Ignacio Perez Bello (Argentina); and Adalberto Mendez Lopez (Mexico). Read more about the Disability and Human Rights Fellows.

“With the recent adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, this is a very exciting time for the field of disability rights,” said Dinerstein, an expert in the fields of clinical education and disability law. “We are very pleased to welcome the first cohort of Disability and Human Rights Fellows, as our selection as one of the host universities reflects the law school’s strengths in human rights and disability rights. The Fellows will be exposed to a vibrant program that emphasizes human rights and disability rights from theoretical, doctrinal and practical perspectives. Upon their return to their home countries, they will be well-positioned to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities and elaboration of their rights under the CRPD.”

The Center Partners With ASIL to Hold Third International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Student Writing Competition

The Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law has also partnered with the American Society of International Law’s (ASIL) Lieber Society on the Law of Armed Conflict to announce the third International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Student Writing Competition, an initiative aimed at enhancing scholarship among students in international humanitarian law while deepening their understanding of the field.

The Competition seeks submissions of academic papers on the topic of international humanitarian law (IHL) from students currently enrolled in a law degree program in the United States or abroad. Last year, the Competition received over 50 submissions from 13 different countries.

The winning authors will be flown to Washington, D.C., to present their papers at a conference at American University Washington College of Law focused on emerging issues in IHL with a panel of expert professors and practitioners. In addition, winners will receive a complimentary registration to the ASIL 2013 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. on April 3-6, 2013, and a one-year ASIL student membership. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) EST.

Learn more about the IHL competition.

Newly-Founded Local Human Rights Lawyering Project Makes Notable Achievements

The Center's new Local Human Rights Lawyering Project has made notable achievements in recent months. The program works with legal aid attorneys in targeted jurisdictions to normalize human rights in their daily work.

In Aug. 2012, Project Partner Maryland Legal Aid submitted a communication to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, regarding the practice of denying legal advocates and other community service providers meaningful access to migrant farmworker labor camps. Under the leadership of Maryland Legal Aid’s Human Rights Coordinator Reena Shah and in collaboration with Local Human Rights Lawyering Project Director Lauren E. Bartlett, five legal aid organizations (including Project Partner Texas RioGrande Legal Aid) submitted information for and co-signed the communication. This communication was the first of its kind from U.S. legal aid organizations to any UN Special Procedure.

The Project also held a widely attended national webcast briefing in July 2012 on the human rights implications of key U.S. Supreme Court decisions from the 2012 term, specifically the landmark decisions on health care, immigration, and juvenile justice.

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