Alumna Pushes for Human Rights Reform in Chicago

Recently, the City of Chicago made history when it passed the reparations ordinance, the first of its kind legislature to address police brutality in the country. Shubra Ohri ’12 helped push support for this reform.

Turning Focus to the Law

Ohri at the U.S. Government consultation at the UN

Ohri has been interested in human rights advocacy for as longas she can remember. She came to American University Washington College of Law with deep understanding of human rights issues in Egypt, Turkey, and India.

“After years of human rights advocacy, I thought the law would best equip me with tools to promote and protect human rights,” she says. 

During law school, Ohri served on the Center on Human Rights & Humanitarian Law’s student advisory board and wrote for the Human Rights Brief.

Ohri continued to expand her international advocacy experience by participating in the United Nations Committee against Torture project and interning with the United Nations and the American Civil Liberties Union.

After graduation, Ohri moved back to her native Chicago, where she accepted a position at the People’s Law Office, an organization that fights for civil rights in police brutality and wrongful arrest cases. 

Ohri is a member of the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials project (CTJM), a group that seeks justice for survivors of Chicago police torture, and a pro bono legal consultant for the South Asian American Policy and Research Institute.

Fighting Police Brutality

In the fall of 2014, Ohri travelled to Geneva on behalf of CTJM to request the UN Committee against Torture to call on the U.S. Government to support a grassroots campaign calling for the City of Chicago to provide reparations for racist police torture by former Police Commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command.

On November 28, 2014, the United Nations Committee against Torture condemned the U.S. Government and the City of Chicago for failing to provide sufficient redress to those who were tortured who the Committee noted “have received no compensation for the extensive injuries they suffered.” 

The Committee specifically called on the U.S. Government to provide redress for the torture survivors by supporting "the passage of the ordinance seeking reparations for the Chicago Police Torture Survivors" that was pending in Chicago City Council.

'Unprecedented Legislation'

Six months later, on May 6, 2015, the City of Chicago passed unprecedented legislation providing reparations for the Burge torture survivors, their family members, and affected African American communities.

“The ordinance crucially ensures that the public never forgets the heinous human rights violations that occurred at the hands of some Chicago police officers,” Ohri says. “This is paramount in holding the tortures accountable.”

She hopes that the ordinance will help promote vitally necessary police reform or at the very least heighten awareness of current injustices.

Looking Forward

“At the moment, I am excited about my very full case load which addresses issues related to police misconduct, government misconduct, torture, prisoners’ rights, and post-conviction criminal petitions. ” Ohri says. 

She is especially interested in continuing to incorporate international human rights law into her domestic litigation.