Interim Director and Visiting Clinical Professor of Law: Professor Carolyn Patty Blum

Telford Taylor Visiting Assistant Professor of Law: Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum

Telford Taylor Fellow and Lecturer in Clinical Law: Diana Kearney

Visiting Clinical Professor of Law: Gregory Smith

Program Coordinator: Susan Braden

As part of the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR), the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention (HRAP) Clinic provides students with hands-on legal training under the supervision of clinical professors and faculty members. The HRAP Clinic trains the next generation of human rights advocates while offering students the opportunity to make a difference.

The Clinic adheres to the Institute’s three-part strategy of preventing genocide and mass atrocities, recognizing that it implies protecting populations and rebuilding during and after crisis. The Clinic partners with human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to allow students to experience human rights advocacy in its various forms. The Clinic’s human rights case projects often fall into one of the Institute’s Projects. The Clinic litigates before international and regional tribunals, investigates human rights violations, publishes cutting-edge academic and policy scholarship on atrocity prevention, and engages in strategic advocacy before the UN and other relevant bodies.

The Clinic houses the Refugee Representation Project, which allows law students the opportunity to represent asylum seekers in the United States. Drawing upon human rights law and the Institute’s framework on genocide and mass atrocity prevention, students have a unique lens through which to view issues of forced migration and asylum law. Students will sharpen their skills in areas of client interviewing, client counseling, legal brief writing, and legal research. Students will also learn to work with interpreters, as it is often necessary to communicate with their clients.

How to Apply

To apply for the HRAP Clinic, students should have completed a law school or graduate level course in International Law and/or Human Rights. Significant undergraduate course work in a related field may also be accepted. A demonstrated interest in human rights and genocide prevention as well as the law of asylum is a plus.

Students should submit their transcript, writing sample, and letter of interest through the clinic application process. Please note that students must list clinic choices in the order of preference.

An advanced clinic is offered during the Spring semester for students who have completed the Fall clinic and want to stay on to complete their cases or who want to continue to explore the world of human rights.

The Clinic Structure

Orientation and Training
There is an intensive orientation and training in late August, before the semester begins, in an effort to ensure that all students have had a primer in International Law, Human Rights Law, and Asylum Law. This two-day training covers core concepts that will be explored over the course of the Fall semester during the weekly seminar.
Students will be given a reading list upon request over the summer so that they can familiarize themselves with the materials that will be covered during the weekly seminar.

Case Assignments
Students, working in two-person teams, are assigned a human rights case project and an individual asylum client’s case. Students will be given summaries of the human rights case projects before the semester begins and asked to rank them in the order of their preference. However, projects will be assigned based on the right match between clinic needs and skills. Asylum cases are assigned in the same way.


Atrocity Prevention

Social Responsibility

In partnership with the Auschwitz Institute For Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), HRAP clinic students engaged in the development of two new curricula on the prevention of genocide.  First, the team was invited back to the AIPR training for mid-level government officials to add a new component on corporate social responsibility and the prevention of genocide. Their work and the training the team developed formed the basis of the first forum on Corporate Social Responsibility and Genocide Prevention to be organized by AIPR and the Office of The Special Adviser on The Prevention of Genocide. The team also delivered the curriculum previously developed by the HRAP Clinic called Foreseeing, Preventing and Responding to Genocide: the Legal Framework on the legal aspects of preventing genocide at a training which took place in the Polish town of Oświęcim [Auschwitz].

Students: Sarah Efronson, Class of 2013 and Tiferet Unterman, Class of 2014


Developing curriculum on the Legal Underpinnings of Genocide Prevention

HRAP clinic students engaged in two international programs on the prevention of Genocide through the Auschwitz Institute For Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR). First, the team developed and delivered the curriculum on the legal aspects of preventing genocide at a training that took place in the Polish town of Oświęcim [Auschwitz]. The curriculum entitled: Foreseeing, Preventing and Responding to Genocide: the Legal Framework was updated by the student team to include a section on deterrence through state exclusion of genocide perpetrators.

Second, at the request of the government of Paraguay, the students examined whether atrocities committed against the Ache people in the 1970s under the Stroessner regime amounted to genocide. The student team worked in collaboration with AIPR and the Office of The Special Adviser on The Prevention of Genocide.

Students: Carse Ramos and Chauniqua Young, Class of 2012


Normative Development of International Law: The Responsibility to Protect  (R2P)

The Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (formerly the Holocaust and Human Rights Program) received a two-year research grant from the Australian government concerning the evolving Responsibility to Protect doctrine.  Partnering with the Global Centre on the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P), as well as regional partners, the project was designed in three phases. After an expert meeting in New York that resulted in a concept paper, regional roundtables were set up in Accra, Ghana and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Thereafter, a paper setting forth the results of that fact-finding was developed.

Through extensive research and participation in the Cambodia regional roundtable, the student team set out to conceptualize and operationalize a critical subset of the R2P doctrine, namely when the international community must act pursuant to its R2P obligations. They worked to develop an evidentiary standard specifically for R2P by looking to other areas of the law including, e.g., international criminal law, international human rights law, tort law (duty of care), national criminal law, and corporate law. They engaged in critical conversations with the international community and played an important role in the larger process of the way in which international norms develop.

Students: Sam Permutt and Laura Schaefer, Class of 2012


Developing a paper on Genocide by Attrition

Many unfolding genocides have gone unrecognized and have not been prevented because each death, each massacre, was treated as if it were a photograph, a snapshot to be compared in that instance against the definition of genocide. Genocide, however, is not an event.  Genocide can be waged by a wide array of methods beyond direct and violent murder. Many victims of historical genocides die from slower, indirect and less immediately deadly methods of annihilation than outright murder. This study argued that genocide is a process that can unfold over several years, even decades. It proposed a notion of “genocide by attrition” that takes the usual linear (causal) accounts of mass death as its starting point and expands on them to suggest a more complex picture of genocidal processes. More specifically, this study aimed to illuminate the concept of “genocide by attrition” in its proper legal and historical contexts, and identify indicators thereof through the lens of existing international human rights laws and obligations so as to assist legal, humanitarian, and political actors in the difficult task of genocide identification and prevention. The paper drew on empirical evidence from various cases of genocide by attrition to identify a set of attributes that allow a fresh rethinking of the process of genocide and prevention tools.

This paper was distributed to relevant policy actors and presented at multi-disciplinary conferences. It was published in 2009 as an Occasional Paper by the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights.


Early Warning in Ethiopia: Analysis

The HRAP Clinic prepared a genocide early warning analysis on Ethiopia. Among others, the paper was shared with the Office of The Special Adviser on The Prevention of Genocide and the Berne Advisory Task Force. An excerpt of the paper was published by the Institute for the Study of Genocide (ISG). The excerpt is located on page 7.

Early Warning in Ethiopia: Analysis

The ISG Newsletter

Number 39 - Winter 2007/2008

Helen Fein, Editor

Accountability and Justice


The Jesuits Massacre Documentation Project (JMDP) is directed by Professor Patty Blum with the assistance of Research Specialist Heidi Rhodes, Cardozo law student and research assistant Chanel Vegh, and Cardozo students enrolled in the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic. This project houses an ever-growing database of material related to the November 1989 Salvadoran military massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter. 

For the Salvadoran people, the fact that those who ordered the murders were never tried and enjoyed total impunity is a bitter pill. In Professor Blum's work, in coordination with the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), she has pursued litigation strategies that open up the possibility of bringing the intellectual authors of the crime to account. The JMDP has already created a detailed index with hundreds of documents. The JMDP will provide critical documentary support for litigation efforts, be they in Spain or in the U.S. where one of the defendants lives, and for efforts to bolster the historical record about what exactly happened in El Salvador that fatal night on which Salvadoran soldiers fired shots which reverberated around the world.

Students: Alison O’Brien Class of 2016 and HaYeon Maeng Class of 2015


Ending Impunity for Grave Crimes in Mexico Project

Coincident with Mexico’s increasingly militarized response to organized crime and the “war on drugs” over the past decade, an alarmingly high numbers of grave crimes have occurred throughout the country.  According to advocacy groups, approximately 69,000 murders, 160,000 displacements and 3000 enforced disappearances have taken place, with many directed against persons not affiliated with criminal organizations.  What is more, justice eludes victims.  According to estimates, only about 1% of crimes end in convictions.  The Clinic partnered with Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) to examine this issue from an international criminal justice perspective with the aim of combating impunity and enforcing criminal accountability for these attacks on civilians.

Clinic students Adriana Greaves (LLM ’14), Adi Assouline (’15) and Glenis Pérez (’15) contributed significant legal research and analysis to the findings and recommendations of the report, which provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the structural deficiencies of Guerrero’s justice system.  Specifically, the Clinic team analyzed federal and state laws in Mexico related to grave crimes, as well as victim and witness protection laws crucial to successfully prosecuting perpetrators and combating impunity. The Clinic team's research contributed to an in-depth report on atrocity crimes and justice system failures in Guerrero, Mexico.

To read the full report in English and Spanish, visit:

Students: Glenis Perez, Class of 2016, and Adi Assouline, Class of 2015


Challenging Restrictions on Refugee Rights in Ecuador

In partnership with Asylum Access Ecuador and Human Rights Watch, the Clinic wrote and filed and amicus brief challenging Ecuador’s Decree 1182 in the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court.  Specifically, the brief called on Ecuador to abide by its obligations under constitutional, international human rights and refugee law. In September 2014, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court struck down the most restrictive provisions of the presidential decree that violated basic rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. 

Read the amicus brief in English and Spanish


Students: Julie Geifman, Class of 2013, Sara Levine, Class of 2013, Diana Duarte, Class of 2014, and Anna Maslyanskaya, Class of 2014


The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

A tribunal was established to try the offenses committed by the Khmer Rouge called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea (Extraordinary Chambers or ECCC) - a Cambodian court with international participation that applies international standards.

The Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic partnered with the defense team for Nuon Chea (“Brother No. 2”) with an eye toward strengthening the legitimacy of the court. Clinic students drafted a Memorandum setting out the current state of international criminal law on the defense of necessity as a justification for each of the crimes in the indictment against the Defendant. The Memorandum then set out some of the potential factual grounds for the general application of this defense. The student team researched international criminal law, as well as the historical and political background of Cambodia during the 1970s. They travelled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to visit the court and meet with the other members of the defense team.

Students: Amy Kowalski and Stephanie Pell, Class of 2012


Mugesera v. Citizenship and Immigration Canada

By helping to bring the definition of genocide to the attention of the Canadian Supreme Court, the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic has helped to ensure that those individuals responsible for grave human rights violations will not find safe haven in Canada.

On June 28 2005, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Mugesera v. Citizenship and Immigration Canada, that a Rwandan politician who gave a passionate speech inciting genocide can be deported to his home country for committing crimes against humanity. The Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic joined forces with the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the University of Toronto to write an intervener brief. Specifically, the Clinic was asked to write on the meaning of incitement to genocide in international law.  It is notable that international law played an important role in the Supreme Court’s decision.


Darfur Victims Cases

The Clinic provided research and litigation assistance to counsel for victims of the Darfur conflict before the International Criminal Court.


International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

The HRAP provides ongoing research support to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Rwanda.

Equality and Non-Discrimination

The rights of the Wayeyi community within the multi-ethnic government of Botswana

The Clinic partnered with Minority Rights Group International, to conduct legal research on a case before the African Commission: Communication 331/2006 – Kamanakao Association, Reteng & Minority Rights Group v. Botswana.

The Wayeyi are a non-Setswana community of approximately 60,000 people living in the north of Botswana. They have a distinct culture and language (Shiyeyi, as opposed to the official language, Tswana). Despite having their own chiefs and selection process, Wayeyi chiefs are not legally recognized by the Botswana authorities.

Despite criticism by the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CERD) and a judgment by the High Court of Botswana in 2001 ordering the amendment of discriminatory laws, the government of Botswana continued to discriminate against the Wayeyi, in violation of numerous provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The student team conducted legal research and writing relating to the submission on the merits to the African Commission. They developed legal arguments, researched and assessed secondary sources from Botswana and the United Nations. They also conducted comparative legal research on direct and indirect discrimination across the African, European, and Inter-American systems of human rights enforcement.

Students: Elyssa Emsellem and Brett Kaminsky, Class of 2013


The right to determine one's identity

The right to determine one’s identity is a cornerstone principle of minority rights. International human and minority rights standards provide that individuals have unique ways of identifying with ethnic or racial minorities and that the means of that self-identification may not be determined by the State. An integral part of the right to self-identification is the right to choose ones name. Both international human and minority rights law recognized that a name is an integral part of an individual’s personal identity, family linkages and self-identification.

In collaboration Minority Rights Group International, the Clinic assisted clients with cases alleging racial/ethnic discrimination in the right to choose one’s name.

One such case involves the Turkish government’s denial of the right of a Turkish citizen to register his Kurdish name. The Turkish case is pending before the European Court of Human Rights.

The second case involves a Greek citizen who has been denied the right to register his Macedonian surname. The Greek case is currently pending before the appeal court in Greece. Viability of the Rainbow Case Before the European Court of Human Rights


Minority rights to education: Yean y Bosico v. Dominican Republic

The Clinic assisted Minority Rights Group International with an amicus brief before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. The Center for Justice and International Law and the Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitianas, filed a complaint before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights on behalf of two young girls who were denied birth certificates. Without official recognition of their birth in the country, our clients and hundreds of thousands of other Dominican-born children of Haitian ancestry are denied the right to attend public school and are vulnerable to arbitrary expulsion. In 2003, the case was referred to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Our amicus focused specifically on the effects of the denial of the right to education. On October 7, 2005 the Inter-American Court issued a historic ruling recognizing the right of Dominican-born children of Haitian ancestry to nationality and education. The Inter-American Court found the Dominican Republic had discriminatorily denied our clients their birth certificates and violated their right to nationality, equal treatment, a name, among other rights. The binding ruling ordered the Dominican Republic to reform its birth registration system, open primary schools to all children regardless of their race, ethnicity or legal status, hold a public ceremony to recognize responsibility for the violations and ask forgiveness from the victims in addition to other measures.

Case of Yean and Bosico Children v. The Dominican RepublicCaso de las Niñas Yean y Bosico v. República Dominicana


Implementation of Sedjic and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina

In partnership with Minority Rights Group International, the Clinic students worked on the implementation of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights Sejdic and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina. The judgment requires that that the Bosnian state constitution be amended to jettison the direct discrimination against minorities in their right to public participation in the office of the presidency and upper house of parliament.

The students and the litigation team were faced with the task of strategizing around the best road forward for implementation of the decision. In particular, they engaged in a comparative assessment of minority rights protection in ethnically based federal systems. The team conducted a fact-finding trip to assess the situation on the ground among the minority rights groups in Sarajevo, BiH to determine its role and concluded that discussions were already underway so a roundtable hosted by the Clinic did not add value to the process. Clinic students travelled to Strasbourg to lobby the relevant country delegations instead. Students gained skills in comparative legal research, legal writing, and creating innovative strategies around the enforcement of human rights law.

Listen to a podcast on the Sedjic and Finci case:

Students: Marie Winfield and Joby Emmons, Class of 2013


Right to Civic Participation in a Post-Conflict Country: Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina

In 2006, the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic served as co-counsel with Clive Baldwin and Minority Rights Group International on behalf of an individual (Mr. Finci) who was prevented from running for political office in BiH because provisions in the Constitution proscribed the bounds of participation in government on the basis of ethnicity. This is one of the first cases to challenge at the European level the discriminatory laws found in Bosnia's Constitution that prohibit individuals from minority groups from running for the highest offices. This case is considered to have significant precedential value. 


This case is part of the HRAP’s sustained engagement on the issue of discrimination in participatory rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This work has included organizing meetings/workshops with partners in Sarajevo, BiH, filing shadow reports before the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and drafting recommendations for the ongoing constitutional reforms in BiH.



•  Finci Application to the European Court of Human Rights

•  ECHR Statement of the Facts

•  Joined Case - Government Observations on Admissibility and Merits

•  Joined Case - Finci Reply to Government Observations on Admissibility and Merits 

•  Joined Case - Sejdic Reply to Government Observations on Admissibility and Merits

•  Additional Government Observations on the Claims for Just Satisfaction 

•  Additional Government Observations on Grand Chamber Proceedings

Third Party Interventions

•  Third Party Intervention - AIRE Centre 

•  Third Party Intervention - OSJI

•  Third Party Intervention - European Commission for Democracy Through Law 

Decision of December 22, 2009

Freedom of Expression: Griswold v. Driscoll

The HRAP filed an amicus brief on behalf of the International Association of Genocide Scholars before United States District Court of Massachusetts. The brief was filed in support of the defendants, the Massachusetts Department of Education, et. al. motion to dismiss a first amendment claim brought by a student, a teacher and the Turkish American Association. Plaintiffs allege that their First Amendment rights were abridged by the school board’s refusal to include ‘contra-genocide’ material in its guide to teaching on the Armenian genocide.

In 2010, the United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit, upheld US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf’s June 2009 ruling that the challenge against the Massachusetts Department of Education could not go forward.


Freedom of Expression: TCA v. University of Minnesota

The HRAP filed an amicus brief on behalf of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) before the United States District Court of Minnesota. The brief was filed in support of defendants, the University of Minnesota, the President of the University of Minnesota and the Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS), motion to dismiss a First Amendment claim brought by a student and the Turkish Coalition of America.

Plaintiffs allege that their constitutional rights to free speech, equal protection, and due process were abridged by the inclusion of the TCA website, which espouses a "contra-genocide" viewpoint, on a list of "unreliable websites" maintained by CHGS. Plaintiffs also asserted state law claims for defamation.

The brief concerns fundamental issues of academic freedom and the damaging effects of genocide denial in the U.S. and abroad.

On March 30, 2010, the United States District Court of Minnesota granted Defendants' motion to dismiss.

Discriminatory deprivation of citizenship specifically targeting disfavored minority groups is a global problem, which often results in statelessness. Approximately 11-15 million people around the world are not considered to be a national of any state. Individuals who are ‘stateless’ generally are denied the most basic human rights protections, including the right to education, the right to own property, and the right to freedom of movement. The Clinic has been engaged in research and advocacy around the issue of discriminatory deprivation of citizenship since 2006. Our goal is to assist in the development of international norms that would reduce discriminatory policies and citizenship restrictions leading to statelessness.


“Still Targeted: Continued Persecution of Iraq’s Minorities”

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq has made great strides to rebuild its legal framework. The Institute for International Law and Human Rights (“Law and Rights”) works with government and NGO partners in Iraq and beyond to ensure that key legislation is drafted and enacted in a way that reinforces respect for minority rights and the rule of law. The Institute for International Law and Human Rights commissioned the HRAP to examine Iraqi citizenship laws and the extent to which, if at all, they discriminate against Iraqi minority groups. Utilizing a public international law lens, including minority rights, and case studies, the report analyzed the normative international and regional law frameworks relevant to the right to citizenship and provided a set of recommendations for Iraqi parliamentarians and civil society leaders, including amendments to the Iraqi legal framework and changes to the implementation strategies to create a robust and effective citizenship regime. In response to this report, the Clinic was invited to present its findings and participate at a conference hosted by Minority Rights Group International (MRGI), the leading international human rights organization working to secure rights for ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities and indigenous people around the world. The conference coincided with the press release of MRGI’s 2010 report, “Still Targeted: Continued Persecution of Iraq’s Minorities,” examining the situation of Iraqi minorities, in territory controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and in disputed areas bordering KRG.


Statelessness Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, Central African Republic 

In partnership with the Open Society Justice Initiative Citizenship and Equality Program, clinic students engaged in the legal research and fact-finding phases of litigations before the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights. The project focused on three different country contexts: Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, Central African Republic.

The student team researched and drafted possible new citizenship legislation for Côte d’Ivoire in connection with the pending case before the African Commission that the clinic had previously worked on. The case was brought on behalf of Ivorians who have suffered unlawful discrimination in respect of citizenship by agents of the state.

Students also conducted a fact-finding mission to Burundi where they interviewed members of the Swahili speaking community about the discrimination they are subject to under Burundi’s strictly jus sanguinis citizenship law. They met with local counsel to assess the exhaustion of local remedies and proceedings before international tribunal(s). Upon return, the clinic drafted an initial strategy memo for the development of a new citizenship case again the Central African Republic before the African Commission.

Finally, clinic students began preliminary research into a new case concerning discriminatory deprivation of citizenship in the Central African Republic. In the process, students learned about the substantive issues of direct and indirect racial discrimination, and minority rights, as well as litigation practice before regional human rights bodies.

Students: Melissa Lefas, Class of 2012; Stephanie Jean-Philippe, Class of 2013; Anastasia Holoboff and Joseph Franco Class of 2014


Unlawful discrimination: The Justice Initiative v. Côte d’Ivoire

In 2006, the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) submitted a communication to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on behalf of Ivoirians who have suffered unlawful discrimination by agents of the state of Côte d’Ivoire. With the assistance of HRAP Clinic, a revised submission on admissibility was submitted in May, 2009. In fall, 2010, HRAP Clinic assisted in the preparations for an admission on the merits of the case.

The civil war in Côte d’Ivoire and the atrocities committed against the suspected “foreign” minority community in the North is an example of how discriminatory deprivation of citizenship, rooted in ethnic intolerance and political machination, can evolve into full fledged conflict and near-genocide. HRAP Clinic developed legal arguments with our colleagues at OSJI, prepared memoranda of law and assessed procedures implemented under the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement in 2007 for issuing new national identity cards in connection with the October 2010 presidential election.

Holocaust Remembrance and Justice

CLIHHR continues its pioneering work on Holocaust Remembrance and Justice, led by Professor Richard Weisberg. In this area, we work to preserve memory, further understanding, seek justice and train the next generation of lawyers to engage in thoughtful advocacy. Students are working with faculty and practicing lawyers pursuing justice for Holocaust victims and their heirs, most recently in federal court cases in Chicago against the Hungarian National Railroad, among others, for genocidal acts in 1944. Our goal is to live in a world in which “Never Again!” rings true. In addition to supporting litigation that seeks compensation for victims of the Holocaust, we organize events -- such as the conference A Thousand Years of Infamy: The History of Blood Libel, which brought together legal and literary scholars to discuss blood libel trials and their significance in fueling anti-Semitism.


Refugee Rights

Preserving International Refugee Protection

In partnership with Asylum Access Ecuador and Human Rights Watch, the Clinic wrote and filed and amicus brief challenging Ecuador’s Decree 1182 in the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court.  Specifically, the brief called on Ecuador to abide by its obligations under constitutional, international human rights and refugee law. In September 2014, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court struck down the most restrictive provisions of the presidential decree that violated basic rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. 

Read the amicus brief in English and Spanish

Students: Julie Geifman, Class of 2013, Sara Levine, Class of 2013, Diana Duarte, Class of 2014, and Anna Maslyanskaya, Class of 2014


Rights of Unaccompanied Children in Esmeraldas, Ecuador

The Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project partnered with Asylum Access Ecuador to examine the rights of unaccompanied and separated children (UAC) in Esmeraldas, Ecuador.  A student team traveled to Esmeraldas to conduct research on unaccompanied and separated children’s cases that Asylum Access had identified and managed.  In addition, students interviewed key stakeholders and researched international, regional and domestic frameworks for the protection of UAC in Ecuador.  The findings will be published in a forthcoming report.

Student: Alexandra Douglas, Class of 2015


The Refugee Representation Project is an integral part of HRAP’s work. The asylum seekers represented by HRAP students through RRP come from all over the world and face myriad human rights violations. Most clients are fleeing conflict or are from post-conflict countries of origin. They seek protection from discriminatory deprivation of citizenship (Ethiopia/Eritrea), persecution on account of political opinion (Rwanda, Syria, Cameroon, Nigeria), imputed political opinion (Congo-Brazzaville, Guinea, Iraq, Haiti, Benin, Ethiopia/Eritrea), religion (Syria, Iraq, China), membership in a particular social group (Rwanda, Honduras, Guinea, Haiti, Benin) which may include domestic abuse (Honduras), gender based violence (Syria), FGM (Nigeria), or sexual orientation, (Grenada, Russia). Cases are brought before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) asylum office and before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR – Immigration Court).

Mr. TG (Ethiopia/Eritrea)

Mr. TG was born in Ethiopia. At the age of four he moved to Asmara, the capital of the neighboring country, Eritrea. His father was a high-ranking official in the Ethiopian military that was occupying Eritrea at that time. He was arrested by members of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front and imprisoned for several months and finally “disappeared.” Mr. TG and his family continued to be persecuted by members of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front after his father’s disappearance. Armed soldiers would enter the family home, ask them to stand against the wall, and accuse them of being traitors to Eritrea. The family’s movements were closely monitored and Mr. TG was arrested for having refused to join the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front in its struggle against Ethiopian domination. He was arrested, severely tortured, and accused of treason. He was released and sought protection in Ethiopia but rather than offering him safe harbor, Ethiopian authorities accused Mr. TG of being a spy for Eritrea and at that point he was effectively stateless. He was held at a military camp before he was transferred to Ziway Prison where he was interrogated and tortured again. He knew he had to flee. No state would protect him and he feared for his life and the lives of his family members. Mr. B arrived to Washington, DC with the intention of seeking protection. He boarded a northbound Amtrak train when he was asked for documents and because he did not have any, he was detained in Batavia, NY. The RRP represented Mr. B at his hearing in Immigration Court making a novel statelessness argument.

Mr. TG came to the United States and was referred to the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project by Human Rights First.

Students: Adam Goebel and Jessica Borlack, Class of 2012



Ms. D (Congo-Brazzaville)

Ms. D was born in Congo-Brazzaville. Her parents ran a café where the customers came to discuss politics. Although the family did not have any particular political affiliation, the conversations were monitored by the government authorities, and they were targeted by the regime for their imputed political opinion. Ms. D’s family was massacred and she was sexually assaulted at the hands of government soldiers. Once she reached temporary safety at the home of her uncle, Ms. D had to make a plan. She was fortunate enough to be able to study in Senegal. Upon her return, she shared her story openly at a human rights organization meeting and she was arrested and jailed for speaking out against the government. Ms. D was interrogated, beaten, and sexually assaulted by government actors again while in jail. Once released, Ms. D fled the country. The RRP represented Ms. D and in addition to the imputed political opinion, and novel social group argument, the student team used international legal precedent to support its claim of rape as torture before USCIS in the asylum office.

Ms. D was referred to the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project by Legal Services of New Jersey.

Students: Carse Ramos and Chauniqua Young, Class of 2012


Ms. U (Rwanda)

Ms. U’s parents were killed during the Rwandan genocide. She and her siblings grew up as orphans under the care of a neighbor. After the formation of the Gacaca courts, Ms. U’s sister, the eldest, was called to testify against the perpetrators of their parents’ murder. The Gacaca model provided little protection to victims who had to stand up and testify against perpetrators publicly and Ms. U was threatened by the family members of the perpetrators of her family’s murders and then by the perpetrators themselves. She was forced to flee to safety in the United States. The RRP represented Ms. U making novel social group arguments in her affirmative asylum case before USCIS.

Ms. U was referred to the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project by the Genocide Survivors Support Network.

Students: Brett Kaminsky and Elyssa Emsellem, Class of 2013


Mr. G (Grenada)

Mr. G was a Baptist minister and homosexual man from Grenada where he suffered persecution and was unable to live an openly gay lifestyle due to the culturally imposed gender norms and expectations that he faced. Mr. A was excommunicated from his church when he came out of the closet and he was ostracized by his community. He suffered several instances of violence targeting him because he was gay and he ultimately fled to the United States for safety. The RRP represented Mr. G in Immigration Court making novel legal arguments on the basis of religion as it relates to sexual orientation.

Mr. G had to leave his homeland leaving behind, his family, and the place he loved. He was referred to the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project by the law firm of White and Case, LLP.

Students: Sam Permutt, Class of 2012 and Laura Schaefer, Class of 2013



Mr. S (Guinea)

Mr. S worked as a journalist in Guinea, West Africa covering domestic politics. He had a television show called new television show called “La Plateau de la Transition” which debated Guinean political issues and discussed ways to improve the protection of human rights and the democratic process. He was then was appointed as the Communication Secretary where he was responsible for maintaining relations between the Prime Minister and the media through the press. He was fired from this position in retaliation for his political views but continued to cover Guinean politics independently. He spoke about what he observed at a large protest in Conakry on a radio station called Radio Liberté FM denouncing the flagrant violations of the citizens’ rights to assemble and protest. That same evening a group of military police arrived in a pickup truck and knocked at his door. Mr. S was arrested and accused of being a political opponent of the regime. He was indicted on charges of attempts to destabilize the regime, disturb public order, and incite a revolt. Without a chance to reply, Mr. S was undressed to his underwear and put in cell N-5 with 14 other prisoners, where he spent the night. He was interrogated and beaten. He was denied food and although he was being coerced into signing a confession, Mr. S refused. Several days later, he was presented with a document that he would no longer criticize the government, which he did sign. Mr. S maintained a low profile and was able to flee the country. The RRP represented him in his affirmative asylum interview where his case was granted despite the challenges in the law of the Second circuit for journalists as a social group.


Mr. S was referred to the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project by the NYU/Bellevue Hospital Program for Survivors of Torture (PSOT).

Students: Stephanie Jean-Philippe, Class of 2013; Joseph Franco and Anastasia Holoboff, Class of 2014


Ms. C (Syria)

Ms. C lived in Syria as a single woman providing humanitarian aid through her work at the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to refugees fleeing the various conflicts in the region. When the violence broke out in Syria, Ms. C who was accustomed to providing protection to refugees whose lives were in danger, was in need of protection herself. Humanitarian workers were regularly targeted and killed after the uprising. Checkpoints were everywhere and as a member of a minority religion, Ms. C was presumed to support the Assad regime – a dangerous proposition in the now rebel controlled streets of Damascus.  It was not long before Ms. C was targeted as a single, Christian woman living alone. She received threatening phone calls, Her movements were monitored, her home was broken into, and her religious icons were thrown on the floor. Finally, she was forced to give up her dream of living in her home country and pursuing her career with the United Nations. Ms. C was forced to flee to the United States in search of protection. The RRP represented her in her affirmative asylum interview making claims based on religion, political opinion, and membership in a particular social group.


Ms. C was referred to the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project by Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York.

Students: Joy Emmons and Marie Winfield, Class of 2013


Ms. M (Haiti)

Ms. M the wife of a prominent human rights defender in Haiti. He was arrested on trumped up charges for suing the president of Haiti. Because of her husband’s work, she was targeted by government authorities on several occasions. She was the subject of government surveillance, monitoring, and sexual violence. Ms. M’s life was at extreme risk in Haiti because of her imputed political opinion. She fled to the United States for protection. The RRP provided representation to Ms. M during her asylum interview based on her political opinion, imputed political opinion, and membership in a particular social group.

Ms. M was referred to the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project by Human Rights First.

Students: Tara Pistilli Class of 2014 and Gabriela Gonzalez Class of 2015


Mr. L (Benin)

Mr. L is from Benin where he used his role as a businessman and the owner of a newspaper to shed light on issues government corruption bringing them to the public’s attention. As a result of his work, Mr. L was arrested on trumped up charges and was forced to flee the country. The RRP represented him in his asylum interview making arguments based on his political opinion and membership in a particular social group.


Mr. L was referred to the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project by a former client.

Students: Adriana Greaves Class of 2014 and Joseph Corsello Class of 2015


Ms. S (Syria)

Ms. S, a young Kurdish woman and political activist resisted targeting by the Assad regime and ISIS. Through her work against the Assad regime, she became a target and feared violence by government forces. Ms. S also feared gender-based violence at the hands of ISIS because she was also a survivor of SGBV. She fled Syria in need of protection and the RRP represented her before the Asylum Office making novel legal arguments on political opinion, ethnicity, and membership in a particular social group with a focus on gender.

Ms. S was referred to the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project by Human Rights First.

Students: Akhtar Qureshi and Shoshana Smolen Class of 2014



Ms. I (Nigeria)

Ms. I is young teenage girl from Nigeria who is afraid to return because she will be subjected to the harmful traditional practice of FGM. She is a member of a powerful family within the Esan tribe who place great importance on ensuring that all female members of the tribe are marriageable and for that reason must be subjected to FGM. Ms. I’s personal opposition to the practice matters little in the face of this long-standing tribal practice. Ms. I’s mother had her bride price returned and she was abandoned by the family for not allowing her daughter to be mutilated. Ms. I knew that she needed to apply for asylum to be safe from her family.

Ms. I was referred to the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project by a former client.

Students: Noelle Forde Class of 2016 and Young Suk Lim Class of 2015