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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Exploring the Mind of Nuon Chea, A Khmer Rouge Leader Responsible for the Deaths of Millions.

This November, the Human Rights Program hosted the visit of Rob Lemkin, director and co-producer of the award-winning documentary, Enemies of the People, for the Minnesota premiere of the film. Enemies of the People follows Thet Sambath, a Cambodian journalist intent on uncovering the secrets of the Khmer Rouge regime whose policies resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. Among the dead were Sambath's parents and his brother.

To learn the highly protected secrets of the Khmer Rouge, Sambath had to earn the trust of Nuon Chea, the highest ranking Khmer Rouge still alive today. It took seven years before Nuon Chea opened up about the innermost decisions of the Khmer Rouge regime to Sambath. Ultimately, Nuon Chea admitted his involvement in decisions that led to systematic killings. Such orders were seen by the Khmer Rouge leaders as necessary to protect the Kampuchean state along the ideological lines that he and Pol Pot had envisioned. Chea, along with four other Khmer Rouge leaders are now awaiting trial at the international criminal tribunal in Cambodia, facing charges of crimes against humanity for the "Killing Fields."

Enemies of the People.JPGThis November, the Human Rights Program hosted the visit of Rob Lemkin, director and co-producer of the award-winning documentary, Enemies of the People, for the Minnesota premiere of the film. Enemies of the People follows Thet Sambath,
To learn the highly protected secrets of the Khmer Rouge, Sambath had to earn the trust of Nuon Chea, the highest ranking Khmer Rouge still alive today. It took seven years before Nuon Chea opened up about the innermost decisions of the Khmer Rouge regime to Sambath. Ultimately, Nuon Chea admitted his involvement in decisions that led to systematic killings. Such orders were seen by the Khmer Rouge leaders as necessary to protect the Kampuchean state along the ideological lines that he and Pol Pot had envisioned. Chea, along with four other Khmer Rouge leaders are now awaiting trial at the international criminal tribunal in Cambodia, facing charges of crimes against humanity for the "Killing Fields."
Beyond its value as an explanation of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, the documentary provides critical insights into the psychology behind genocide violence. Besides its footage of Nuon Chea, the documentary follows the stories of a couple Khmer Rouge foot soldiers who actually carried out the killings as part of the machinery of violence. The low level perpetrators were perhaps initially motivated by ideology, but continued to do the work primarily out of fear and upon the orders of the next higher levels of authority. Mainly, they seemed concerned about how to get the "work" done, and recruited others to help them in the process. Interestingly, when their superiors suddenly told them to stop the killing, they stopped immediately and report that they never practiced violence again. The responses of these perpetrators seem to confirm Hannah Arendt's observations about "the banality of evil," as confirmed by psychological and sociological studies about what makes ordinary people commit genocide. For those interested in learning more about this topic, we recommend Becoming Evil by James Waller (Oxford, 2nd ed. 2007)
Rob Lemkin has worked for many years as a journalist and producer of documentary film, with a special focus on Asia. He met Sambath during an investigatory visit to Cambodia and was struck with the significance of Sambath's work. The partnership resulted in the production of Enemies of the People, with Lemkin and Sambath as co-directors. Lemkin did most of the film work in the documentary, which focuses on Sambath as its protagonist. During Lemkin's time in Minneapolis he met with local educators, students, human rights advocates and community members to discuss his experience building the documentary. At a discussion before the film Lemkin was joined by award-winning author, Patricia Hampl, where the two shared their insights about documenting human rights violations through film and writing. Lemkin discussed the Khmer Rouge's success in gaining power in Cambodia and his personal motivations for producing this beautifully tragic film.
The sold out premiere of Enemies of the People was at the St. Anthony Main Theater. Throughout the film, audience members, including many first and second generation Cambodian survivors of the Killing Fields watched at the edge of their seats, as they heard directly from Nuon Chea and other Khmer Rouge killers how and why 1.7 million Cambodians were "smashed." Following the film, audience members stayed to hear and engage in a panel discussion with Lemkin, HRP Director Barbara Frey, and Cambodian-American and University of Minnesota graduate Vuth Chhunn.
Lemkin and Sambath have received widespread recognition and awards for their film including the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival 2010. They are now in competition with 14 other documentaries to be considered for an Oscar nomination in January.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Enemies of the People.JPG
Left to right: Vuth Chhunn, Barbara Frey and Enemies of the People director Rob Lemkin. Photo taken at the sold out Minnesota film premiere of Enemies of the People, an award winning documentary that turned the camera on Nuon Chea, the highest ranking Khmer Rouge official still alive today.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Year One Report Card: Human Rights and the Obama Administration's Immigration Detention Reforms


Year One Report Card: Human Rights and the Obama Administration's Immigration Detention Reforms

October 6, 2010 - Midwest Coalition for Human Rights

The Human Rights Program administers the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights from its offices. The Coalition is a network of 50 organizations, including advocacy organizations, service providers, and university-based human rights centers, collaborating to promote and protect human rights in the Midwest, the U.S., and the world. For more information, see www.midwesthumanrights.org

On October 6, 2010 a coalition of immigrant rights organizations, released a Year One Report Card analyzing Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) progress towards reforming the immigrant detention system. The Report Card finds no significant improvement to the immigrant detention system since reform initiatives were announced by ICE one year ago today. Immigrants across the country continue to report mistreatment by guards, limited access to counsel, inadequate medical care, misuse of solitary confinement, and other degrading treatment.

On the first anniversary of the Obama administration's pledge to overhaul the immigration detention system, including improving human rights conditions for detained noncitizens, a report card released today shows no significant improvements for the approximately 32,000 immigrants held in custody each day.
"One year after the administration announced its intention to improve the immigrant detention system, it remains broken," said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center. "And while ICE leadership has expressed a commitment to improving conditions at these facilities, lack of transparency and accountability plague the system while individuals in detention suffer."
Year One Report Card: Human Rights & the Obama Administration's Immigration Detention Reforms, a joint project of the National Immigrant Justice Center, Detention Watch Network, and Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, demonstrates that ICE's reform proposal has been undermined by the agency's continued overreliance on penal incarceration practices and by the pervasive anti-reform culture at local ICE field offices. Immigrants detained across the country report mistreatment by guards, limited access to counsel, inadequate medical care, misuse of solitary confinement, and other degrading treatment.
"This report card shows that the Obama administration must take greater action to bring the U.S. in line with its human rights obligations," said Jacki Esposito, director of policy and advocacy, Detention Watch Network. "The government's excessive use of prisons and jails to detain men, women and families is unjustifiable, and at direct odds with this administration's promise of reform."

Among the report card's key findings:
• Persistent human rights violations at many detention facilities indicate that ICE leadership's commitment to reform has not been adopted by local ICE officials nationwide.
• Due to the continued absence of robust oversight measures at detention facilities, local staff can disregard internal ICE policies and procedures resulting in grave human rights violations. Recent steps taken by the agency to improve oversight practices, including the appointment of regional detention managers and the creation of a Detention Monitoring Council, have not substantially increased transparency and accountability.
• Systemic reform cannot be achieved if ICE and Congress continue to ignore the enormous human and economic costs of harsh and arbitrary immigration enforcement and detention practices. Exorbitant spending on expanding enforcement programs and detention beds remain fundamental obstacles to the detention reform process.

ICE leadership must work with its field offices to implement the agency's reform agenda and bring the U.S. government in compliance with its international human rights obligations. Specifically, ICE must:
• Use cost-effective alternative to detention programs for noncitizens who do not pose a security threat to ensure that individuals are not unjustly deprived of their liberty.
• Provide the least restrictive setting for detained immigrants and facilitate civil, non-punitive detention, which includes access to lawyers and legal materials, case management services, regular family visits, recreation, and the freedom to worship.
• Offer appropriate medical, dental, and mental health care to detained individuals and remedy the medical neglect, mistreatment, and abuse practiced by some local personnel.
• Standardize and monitor practices and policies across local detention facilities to promote a culture of accountability among local officials, and ensure that all human rights grievances are addressed professionally and expeditiously.
"As a coalition of more than 50 human rights organizations, we will continue to hold the administration accountable for its promises to overhaul the immigration detention system," said Barbara Frey, convener, Midwest Coalition for Human Rights.

About the authors/organizations:

Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education.

Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a coalition of community, faith-based, immigrant and human rights service and advocacy organizations and concerned individuals working to reform the immigration detention and deportation system so that all who come to our shores receive fair and humane treatment.

Midwest Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR) is a network of organizations collaborating to promote and protect human rights in the Midwest, the U.S., and internationally. MCHR provides broader visibility for urgent human rights issues in the Midwest and projects a strong advocacy voice in the national and international human rights debate.

A copy of the Report Card can be downloaded ICE report card FULL FINAL 2010 10 06.pdf.

Friday, September 17, 2010

March 1, 2011 Deadline International Human Rights Exchange (Johannesburg South Africa / Bard College sponsring)

March 1, 2011 Deadline

International Human Rights Exchange (Johannesburg South Africa / Bard College sponsring)

Dear Colleague:

May we ask for your help in sharing information on the International Human Rights Exchange (IHRE) program in Johannesburg, South Africa with students who may be interested? Our next application deadline is March 1, 2011. We thank you in advance for your assistance. Please find a brief program description below.

International Human Rights Exchange (IHRE)
Johannesburg, South Africa

The International Human Rights Exchange (IHRE) is the world's only full-semester, multidisciplinary program in human rights. The program is housed at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa and is a joint venture with Bard College. Each year -- starting in July and ending in November -- students and faculty from Africa and North America come together to participate in a deep and multifaceted intellectual engagement in human rights. In addition to a required core course, students choose from 12 or more electives exploring human rights from the perspective of a variety of academic disciplines.

IHRE also opens up possibilities for substantive participation in human rights work. Students enrolled in the Engagement with Human Rights course intern with an NGO working on contemporary rights in post-apartheid South Africa. Students also explore human rights challenges in rural South Africa through a Community Human Rights Workshop, visit the Apartheid Museum and other relevant sites, and attend guest lectures from human rights experts from South Africa and around the world.

Application Deadline = March 1, 2011

For more information on the International Human Rights Exchange: http://www.ihre.org

Best wishes,

Jennifer Kloes
International Program Manager
Institute for International Liberal Education / Bard College
Tel: (845) 758-7081
E-mail: kloes@bard.edu

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Capital Semester in Washington, DC

Spring 2011: January 12 - April 30, 2011


Sponsored by The Fund for American Studies and held at Georgetown University, Capital Semester combines substantive internships, courses for academic credit, professional development activities, site briefings and lectures led by prominent policy experts. Students choose between two tracks - public policy and political journalism.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the final deadline of November 1, 2010, but students are encouraged to apply by the early deadline in order to receive 5% off the tuition balance and priority consideration for scholarship awards and internship placement. There is a substantial amount of scholarship funding available, and awards are made based on financial need and merit.

Capital Semester combines hands-on professional experience for 25 hours a week with a challenging academic experience. This fast-paced, residential program provides students from around the world with the opportunities to gain an edge in today's competitive job market and graduate school admissions, and experience the excitement of Washington first-hand.

• Internships - Competitive placements with top sites in Washington, DC.
• Classes - 12 transferable credits from Georgetown University
• Housing - Roommate matching and furnished Capitol Hill apartments in the heart of D.C.
• Guest Lectures - With Washington's top policy and industry experts
• Site Briefings - At the World Bank, State Department, Pentagon and Federal Reserve
• Leadership & Professional Development - Leadership, mentoring and career building activities
• Networking - Interaction with seasoned professionals and student leaders from around of the world
• Scholarships - Generous scholarships are awarded based on merit and financial need

For more information and an online application, please visit our website www.DCinternships.org/CS. Should you have any questions, please email Dana Faught at admissions@tfas.org or call 1-800-741-6964.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

U.S. Universal Periodic Review Report to U.N. Human Rights Council

The U.N.'s first Universal Periodic Review of the U.S., is scheduled for November 5, 2010. The UPR offers an important opportunity both to measure how the U.S. is meeting its human rights obligations and to continue pressuring the government to live up to those obligations.

Every four years, the UPR assesses each country's adherence to its human rights obligations under the U.N. Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), human rights treaties ratified by the country, its voluntary commitments, and applicable international law. Reviews are conducted by the UPR Working Group, which consists of 47 members of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

During the review, in addition to the146379.pdf provided by the country under review and the reports of U.N. bodies, the Working Group considers reports from other "stakeholders" such as civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and national human rights institutions. The US Human Rights Network coordinated a joint submission of 24 reports, including one attempting to provide an overview of human rights in the United States. These reports were submitted to the UN in mid-April 2010 and will also be available on the UN website.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Welcome Back Students!

The Human Rights Program would like to welcome all students back to campus as they return from summer vacations and begin preparing for school to start once again. We look forward to hearing your stories about your summer adventures and working with you this fall! Stop in anytime in room 232A Social Sciences to visit and to learn about some exciting new volunteer opportunities we are offering this semester.

If you're a graduate student looking to get published check out our new publications guide!

Best of luck with your fall semester!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

CPI Pushes Ahead on Human Rights for Sudanese Children

Child Protection International (CPI), the student-run NGO working to end child abductions in Southern Sudan, has expanded its advocacy work to another continent - our own. This summer, with the help of many dedicated interns, CPI investigated the situation facing Sudanese youth in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, which hosts the largest Sudanese refugee population in the United States. Six CPI representatives carried out a fact-finding mission in July 2010 to investigate why so many Southern Sudanese refugee youth were subject to juvenile delinquency proceedings and detention.

CPI story web size.jpg
(From left: CPI members Kori Tudor, Sigin Ojulu, Morley Spencer, Kou Solomon, Corey Brodsky)

UNICEF's director of Office of Emergency Programmes, Nils Kastberg, in Issue 15 of Forced Migration Review, noted that refugees face a "precarious situation" when moving to host countries and that refugees and their children "may endure a range of human rights abuses, including incarceration and exclusion from schooling" once resettled. CPI agrees with this sentiment and after investigating the situation in Omaha and Lincoln has identified several root causes of youth delinquency within the Sudanese refugee population that are all traceable back to weaknesses within the current refugee resettlement program in the United States.

"You need to be educated about this community, so that you know how society works...You have the option of going to school or feeding your family, so you will choose, you know, to feed your family", said Dech Machar, a Sudanese Advocate at the Lincoln Asian Community Cultural Center (LAC), who helps educate Sudanese families with cultural and legal norms in the United States.

When refugees arrive in the United States they are given two weeks of language classes before being expected to secure employment, typically at a job site that requires minimal English and professional skills. Forced immediately to find work upon their arrival prevents adult refugees from learning English or and gaining any significant understanding of the local culture, legal system and social norms in their host community.

While parents are working jobs that provide little opportunity to learn English, refugee children are placed into the public school system where they quickly develop language skills and cultural awareness. A divide grows as children become aware of legal and social customs while parents struggle to acculturate when balancing work and caring for their families. Karen Parde, the Refugee Program Coordinator for the Department of Health and Human Services, has said that Sudanese parents have told her that "We feel like we're in a foreign country in our own home."

The education gap that is formed between refugee parents and their children leads to situations where children serve as cultural liaisons between their parents and the world outside the Sudanese community. Children are placed in power positions over their parents that make it easy to develop delinquent behaviors without their parent's knowledge. A confrontation with law enforcement can lead to a youth's detention without their parents understanding the laws by which their children are being held accountable. Language barriers prevent parents from understanding their requested presence at court proceedings that leads to missed court dates on behalf of their children. This consequently can result in state officials drawing conclusions about home environments that can end with the termination of parental rights and children being placed in the foster-care system. The chain of events that leads to the separation of refugee families profoundly alienates the Sudanese from their American host communities.

After fleeing for their lives, refugees and their families often face extreme hardship once resettled. Although the 1951 UN Refugee Convention sets the standards for the treatment of refugees and the obligations of host countries, many refugee families can suffer a wide range of human rights violations in their host countries. To avoid human rights violations and to grant assistance to an already vulnerable population, CPI firmly believes that all refugees need to be provided, at minimum, with a basic education of the social and legal norms of their host communities. The two-week language training needs to be extended so refugees can successfully communicate and work with people outside of their native community. After-school programs geared towards refugee children need to be made available to refugee children whose parents work late hours. Cultural awareness trainings provided to law enforcement and state officials are a necessary tool to opening up communication between the refugee population and their host communities about the root causes of issues like youth delinquency. Communication and cultural understanding between the two populations is essential in the long term protection of refugee health and well-being.

CPI's investigation of Southern Sudanese youth in Nebraska complements its work on the problems of child abduction and exploitation in Southern Sudan. We advocate for the human rights of children, here and abroad. This semester, CPI will invite more students to bring their energy and talents to its projects. To learn more visit childprotectioninternational.org.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2011-2012 Human Rights Watch Fellowships

These fellowships are open to recent graduates of law schools or graduate programs in journalism, international relations, area studies, or other relevant disciplines from universities worldwide.

For more information on the application process see attached HRW Fellowships 2011-2012.pdf.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Silencing of Congo's Voice of the Voiceless

Eight weeks after Floribert Chebeya Bahizire's death 70 civil rights organizations have released a public letter stating that Congo's official investigation into Bahizire's death looked like a cover up and are now calling for an independent investigation into the killing. To follow the story, click here. Keep reading below for more information.

Chebeya Web.jpgOn June 2, Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, Congo's most prominent human rights activist, was found dead in his car outside of Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His driver, Fidele Bazana Edadi, is still missing. Mr. Chebeya dedicated his life to investigating and exposing the actions of the corrupt and repressive government run by President Joseph Kabila. Mr. Chebeya was the head of Voice of the Voiceless, a leading Congolese human rights organization that he began in 1983. For years Mr. Chebeya faced constant threats from Congolese security forces for his work in promoting human rights, and his death is a tragic loss to the human rights community.

"For more than 20 years, Chebeya Bahizire had survived many death threats, arrests, and ill treatment due to his work as a human rights defender. He believed in the cause of human rights and was not afraid to pursue it against all odds," said, Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

The Congo police inspector general, John Numbi, had summoned Mr. Chebeya for questioning the afternoon before his death. Mr. Numbi, a prominent official in the government of President Kabila has been suspended and several officers have been arrested since the investigation into Mr. Chebeya's death began. No cause of death has been released and no charges have been filed.

Journalists and human rights advocates reporting from the DRC have faced increasing harassment, threats and intimidation as a result of their work. Past assaults of human rights defenders have been poorly investigated with the trials flawed with irregularities. Those responsible for the killings are rarely brought to justice.

The Human Rights Program is requesting the Congolese government follow the International Principles of the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions and establish a thorough, prompt and impartial enquiry to investigate the death of Floribert Chebeya and the disappearance of his driver. Establishing a concrete and impartial investigation will bring justice for the crime and also protect other Congolese human rights defenders from future persecution.

50 human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have written a public letter to President Kabila expressing their shock of Mr. Chebeya's murder and his driver's disappearance. The letter calls on President Kabila to establish an immediate and fair investigation into Mr. Chebeya's death. To read the letter click here.

To send your support of the international condemnation of the death of Mr. Chebeya please address respectful letters to the addresses below.

D.R. Congo Embassy-Washington D.C.
1726 M Street, N.W
Suite 601
Washington, D.C. 20036
Telephone : (202) 234-7690
Fax : (202) 234-2609
United Nations Organization Mission in DR Congo
12 Av. des Aviateurs
Kinshasa - Gombe
DR Congo

Post box Kinshasa
Post Box Kinshasa BP 8811
Kinshasa 1 DR Congo

Post box New York
Post Office Box 4653 Grand Central Station
NY 10163-4653
United States of America

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Colleen Coyne Selected as 2010 Scribe for Human Rights

Collene Coyne Scribe Photo.jpg
Colleen Coyne, a second year MFA candidate in the Creative Writing Program, is this year's Scribe for Human Rights. Coyne was awarded a $4,000 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellowship to work as a writer-in-residence with the Human Rights Program. Coyne will use the summer fellowship to design and implement a creative writing initiative with a human rights focus, "Writing for Rights," in conjunction with my work at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Red Wing (MCF-Red Wing), a facility for chronic, serious juvenile offenders. She also hopes to complete a series of writings--blog posts and essays--on the experience and its place within the broader context of human rights.
Coyne received her MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago in 2005 and her BA in English from Johns Hopkins in 2003. She describes herself primarily as a poet, though her work also encompasses memoir, essay and other hybrid forms. She looks forward to developing further human rights themes in her creative work, which already deals with issues such as healthcare and gender equality. "Specifically," says Coyne, "my projects explore how the body is contained and restrained by space and geography, time and chronology, social and cultural hierarchies, and illness and death--and I look for possibilities of emancipation within/from these kinds of confinement."
In addition to her work at the Red Wing facility, Coyne will supervise undergraduate interns in the Human Rights Program this summer in the development of a web digest on human rights that they are in the process of creating. Welcome, Colleen!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Universal Human Rights and Extraterritorial Obligations

Book with Barb Chapter web2.jpg
Human Rights Program Director, Barbara Frey, has written a chapter in a new book, Universal Human Rights and Extraterritorial Obligations, on the obligations to protect the right of life by constructing a rule of transfer regarding small arms and light weapons. The book examines both the international and domestic foundations of human rights law and addresses how states' actions or omissions may affect the human rights of individuals in foreign states.

Please follow link for more information and to read an excerpt from the introduction.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Newest Member of the HRP Family: Corey Brodsky!

Corey Brodsky, a University of Minnesota-Twin Cities senior, majoring in Global Studies and French with a Political Science minor, is interning for the Human Rights Program throughout the spring semester. Corey is dedicating most of his internship to Child Protection International, a student run human rights organization addressing child abductions in South Sudan. Corey is working on compiling research on U.S. legislation in Sudan which is helping CPI move forward in their goal of forming a working relationship with the U.S. government when it comes to foreign policy on Sudan. Corey has plans to attend graduate school in the fall where he will continue to pursue a career dedicated to human rights. We are very excited to have Corey working with us and welcome his new ideas and creative energy to our organization.