International Law: A Casualty in the War on Terror?

L to R: Gabor Rona and Marco Sassòli

On June 18, 2018, Visiting Professor Gabor Rona moderated a discussion entitled “International Law: A Casualty in the War on Terror?”with Professor of International Law at the University of Geneva Marco Sassòli.The discussion marked the end of the Third Annual Workshop, “Revisiting the Role of International Law in National Security: A Papers Workshop,” that Rona organized with the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Workshop brings together international law scholars from the U.S. and abroad to discuss emerging issues at the intersections of international law and national security.. The program was hosted by the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy, Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights, the Burns Foundation and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Rona and Sassòli discussed the flawed notion of “war on terror,” and specifics such as targeting, including drones and autonomous weapons, grounds and procedures for detention, and military commission trials being conducted at Guantanamo.  The talk addressed differences between U.S. and European  interpretation and enforcement of international law, in  international and non-international armed conflicts, as well as in the absence of armed conflict. Sassòli  noted that European states take a more restrictive view of wartime authority to kill and detain than does the United States. Sassòli also argued that civilian courts are more legitimate and more efficient than the military commissions used at Guantanamo

To view video of the discussion, click here.

Professors Getgen Kestenbaum and Rona Lead Team of Human Rights Clinic Students to Brazil 

L to R: Professor Getgen Kestenbaum, Clinic Student Greta Cristini, and Professor Gabor Rona

From May 16 to 24, 2018, Cardozo Law’s Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic accompanied Professor Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum and Visiting Professor Gabor Rona, Chair of the UN Working Group on Mercenaries, on an unofficial visit to Brazil. The visit’s purpose was to understand the human rights concerns related to operations of private militias, as well as private military and private security contractors. The team spoke with more than 100 civil society leaders—including human rights defenders, victims and survivors of human rights violations, indigenous community leaders, Afro-descendant community leaders, members of impoverished and excluded neighborhoods—and other concerned citizens from both urban and rural contexts in Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Dourados (MS), and Belém do Pará. From these discussions, the team has made observations for possible follow up and coordinated action of various UN human rights Special Procedure mandate holders.

The team was informed of numerous acts of violence committed by members of private militias and private security contractors in both rural and urban settings. Forced evictions/forced removals, intimidation and threats to human rights defenders, assassinations of community leaders, and mass killings are among the most common concerns about which individuals spoke. In both contexts, individuals cited control over territories and occupation or demarcation of lands as motives for violence. In rural settings, land conflicts stem mainly from increasing large-scale extractive industries and agribusiness interests; in the favelas, the turf wars result largely from fights to control illegal provisions of basic services to communities (that the state fails to provide) and/or to control the illegal drug trade and its routes. Victims of these land conflicts include indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, the poor, women and LGBT activists, human rights defenders, and men, women and children caught in the crossfire. 

The team's findings will be shared with UN human rights "special procedures" experts, including the UN Working Group on Mercenaries chaired by Rona, and civil society actors. The goal is to build a strategy for bringing international scrutiny about these issues to the attention of Brazilian authorities. A coordinated response and action would support a reduction of violence and promotion of human rights. "The work we did in Brazil was a great opportunity for our terrific clinic students to get some first hand experience in human rights investigation and advocacy,” said Rona. "They're learning not just to make a point, but to make a difference." 

Clinic Students Collaborate with Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation to create National Mechanisms Booklet

Gabrielle Flaum (L) and Lori Waichmann (R) present their findings 

May 15, 2018 – Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic students Gabrielle Flaum (’19) and Lori Waichman (’18) coauthored a section of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) annual booklet on National Mechanisms for the Prevention of Genocide and Atrocity Crimes. Flaum and Waichmann undertook a comparative review of national-level draft legislation efforts, which helped to create the booklet’s third section on institutionalization. At the launching event, Flaum and Waichmann presented their research findings following a comparative study on draft legislation for the establishment of institutionalized national mechanisms for atrocity prevention. 

The Uses of Truth: Truth Commission Archives, Justice and the Search for the Disappeared in El Salvador 


L to R: Professor Getgen Kestenbaum, Eduardo Gonzalez Gueva, Trudy Peterson, Kate Doyle, Leonor Arteaga, Benjamin Cuellar, Cath Collins (translator) and Cecilia Gebruers Hanya (Translator)

April 23, 2018 - CLIHHR and Observatorio de Justicia Transcional UDP, supported by Open Door Society, welcomed Eduardo Gonzalez Cueva, a Transitional Justice Consultant, Trudy Peterson, Certified Archivist, Leonor Arteaga, the Senior Program Officer at the Due Process of Law Foundation, Benjamin Cuellar, a Salvadoran Human Rights Activist, and Kate Doyle, the Senior Analyst of U.S. policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive, to Cardozo Law to discuss the truth commission archives as a source for justice and search for those disappeared in times of conflict. The Panel began with an overview of the Salvadorian Truth Commission, the importance of the Commission and the arguments made against releasing Truth Commission archives. The panelist discussed specifically the origins of the Salvadoran Truth Commission archives and its mission to address a human rights violations by reporting perpetrators responsible for Human Rights violations and calls for judicial and legal reform. El Salvador’s Truth Commission is interestingly established not by national law, but through a presidential decree which can be unstable when political parties change. The panel concluded with how the United Nations could emphasize the support for Salvadoran Truth Commission archives. If you were unable to attend the event, you can find a video of the panel discussion below.   


Strategies for Promoting Human Rights Through The Private Sector: The Shareholder, The Advocate, and Finding Common Ground


 L to R: Josh Zinner, Irit Tamir, Michael Littenberg, Jaren Dunning and Professor Yablon 

April 11, 2018- CLIHHR and the Heyman Center co-hosted a panel discussion at Cardozo Law School on strategies for promoting human rights through the private sector.

Professor Charles Yablon of Cardozo Law School, moderated the discussion. The participants included Jaren Dunning of PepsiCo, Michael Littenberg of Ropes & Gray, Irit Tamir of Oxfam America, and Josh Zinner from Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

The panelists took part in an engaging discussion, which focused on various strategies for motivating corporations to act in socially responsible ways. The panelists explained that, based on their varied experiences, some of the more successful strategies include shareholder engagement, public campaigns, education and embedding corporate social responsibility principles into corporate structure and culture. Panelists highlighted the importance of establishing trust and openness for constructive dialogue between civil society and corporations and that internally, corporations should strive to create a corporate culture where leadership and management focus on issues of human rights, sustainability and public policy.  The discussion also touched on the need for shareholders to consider long-term growth and that ESG principles promote sustainability to achieve such growth.

Film Screening of "1945" 

 L to R:  Profesor Harry Chotner, Professor Greenberg-Kobrin, and Professor Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum

March 28, 2018- Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR) and the Indie Film Clinic hosted a film screening of the movie “1945.” 1945 tells the story of an Orthodox Jewish man and his adult son returning to a village in Hungary. The villagers are suspicious, remorseful, fearful, and cunning – expecting the worst and behaving accordingly against the father and son. The town clerk fears the men may be heirs to the village's deported Jews and expects them to demand the return of the towns’ illegally acquired property. The film paints a complex picture of townspeople trying to come to terms with the recent horrors they have experienced, perpetrated, or just tolerated for personal gain.

 After the film screening, CLIHHR Director, Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, along with Director of Indie Film Clinic Director, Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin, and Adjunct Assistant Professor at NYU on film studies Harry Chotiner engaged in a discussion about the film and its impact.

 Professor Getgen Kestenbaum discussed the aftermath of mass atrocities like the Holocaust and the ways in which society must rebuild and move forward. She also remarked that no society is immune to mass atrocities. Professor Greenberg-Kobrin spoke about her family’s history and how her own experiences resembled that of the movie. She also found it interesting that this film, unlike other films, focused on the properties after the war rather than the people affected by the Holocaust. Professor Chotiner commented on how the film director’s creative choices allowed the audience to think about the difficult themes and issues raised in the film. Lastly, audience members shared their own stories and discussed becoming reconciled to being children of Holocaust survivors.

Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic begins strategic human rights advocacy to stop abuses against Guarani-Kaiowa Peoples 


Strategy meeting with the Guaraní-Kaiowá leaders on atrocity prevention 

February 1, 2018 - Last week, the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention (HRAP) Clinic traveled to Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil to consult with indigenous communities facing forced displacement, violence, and other human rights abuses at the hands of large-scale agro-business interests encroaching onto their ancestral lands. In Mato Grosso do Sul, the Guaraní-Kaiowá peoples have been pushed onto reservations to the brink of group extinction. Harsh refugee camp-like living conditions on the reservations have left community members without adequate food, water, education, access to medical care, and other basic services. Childhood malnutrition and suicide rates have soared, and clashes with local farmers over land rights have sparked a string of assassinations of their leaders. Communities are in serious crises, and the Guaraní-Kaiowá expressed fear that they will not survive as a people. Indeed, community leader Elisa Lopes remarked, “If this continues, we will no longer exist. We will be nothing but statues in a museum.”

In light of these complex challenges, the Clinic and its partner organizations met with community leaders to discuss ways forward. Clinic Director Professor Jocelyn Getgen-Kestenbaum spoke with leaders about recognizing the risks and warning signs of atrocity crimes, the legal definition of genocide, and the importance of engaging with the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (UNSAPG) to help raise the international profile of the plight of the Guaraní-Kaiowá.

As Getgen-Kestenbaum observed, “the Guaraní are facing a very real threat of genocide and crimes against humanity. It is imperative that they are equipped with all tools, legal and otherwise, to draw attention to their cause and find solutions to these complex human rights issues.” Next, Clinic Fellow Diana Kearney explained the ways in which foreign corporate interests connect to local land grabs. The team detailed which multinational companies are tied to land conflicts in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil and advised the Guaraní on advocacy strategies to press these companies to stop contributing to land grabs, violence, and other serious human rights abuses in Brazil. The Guaraní-Kaiowá embraced both advocacy strategies, inviting the UNSAPG to visit their reservation and the Cardozo team to proceed with their human rights advocacy strategy in corporate accountability and indigenous rights. The Clinic team plans continue to engage on both of these fronts to advocate with and on behalf of the Guaraní-Kaiowá in preventing further violence.  

Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic Students Assist UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Dr. Ahmed Shaheed 


L to R: Aashini Shrivastav, Jennifer Kleinman, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, Professor Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, and Visiting Fulbright Fernanda Frizzo-Bragato 

On October 25, 2018 HRAP Clinic students Aashini Shrivastav (‘19) and Jennifer Kleinman (‘19) attended the United Nations Third Committee of the General Assembly’s interactive dialogue with the UN Special Procedures mandate holders in support of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed. The students assisted Dr. Shaheed in preparation for his country visit to Uzbekistan in October 2017 and contributed legal research and analysis for his annual report that he presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2018.


Taking: The Intersection Between Colonialism and Gender- Based Violence 


 Caroline LaPorte speaking to Cardozo Law 

November 13, 2017 - CLIHHR welcomed Caroline LaPorte from the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center to discuss indigenous rights and the effects of colonialism on gender-based violence in the United States. LaPorte discussion the false public image of oversexualized Native American women and how the false image has impacted the perception of gender-based violence in Indian country. She also explained how tribal sovereignty and laws affect the number of support and intervention services for Native American women. Further, she discussed issues among state, tribal and federal jurisdiction with regard to issues of domestic violence.  

Book Discussion with Professor Amos Guiora 


 Professor Guiora discussing his book                          

On October 23, 2017, CLIHHR welcomed Professor Guiora of S.J. Quinney College of Law the University of Utah to Cardozo to discuss his book "The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust." During the book discussion, Professor Guiora recounted his family's experiences in the Holocaust and how his family members had dodged death several times. After hearing his families' experiences, he decided to write a book addressing the obligations of bystanders and his experiences engaging with children of bystanders in the Holocaust.

Professor Guiora’s definition of bystanders is that they are people “who see others in distress in their height of vulnerability and turn his or her back.” Currently, there is no legal obligation for bystanders to act in these situations, but Professor Guiora argued that we should owe others a duty to act. He then continued by discussing the role of bystanders in the well-known campus sexual assault cases at Vanderbilt and Stanford Universities.

Professor Guiora ended by asking each one of us not to just say “oh my” when witnessing others in distress, but to act and dial 911. Even saving one person is better than none.

2017 Ralphael Lemkin Book Award  


 L to R: Professor Jacoby and Professor Madley            

On October 17, 2017, CLIHHR together with the Institute for the Study of Genocide (ISG) presented this year’s Raphael Lemkin Book Award to Benjamin Madley for his book An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe.The book award ceremony included a public presentation by Professor Madley, as well as a discussion led by Professor Karl Jacoby of Columbia University’s Department of History and Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. The Raphael Lemkin Book Award is awarded to the best nonfiction work that focuses on explanations of genocide, crimes against humanity, state mass killings and gross violations of human rights, and strategies to prevent such crimes and violation.

Professor Madley started off his presentation by explaining the severe drop in the California Indian population (from 150,000 to 30,000), that occurred between 1846 and 1870. This plunge was a result of disease, dislocation, starvation, abduction, unfree labor, mass death on reservations, and individual homicides, as well as battles and massacres, which took thousands of lives and hindered reproduction. Madley narrated the involvement of state and federal officials in supporting the violence, the indigenous resistance, and ultimately, the reasons the killings ended. Using the definition of genocide from the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention as a rubric, he concluded that there is sufficient evidence to designate the California Indian catastrophe a genocide.

At the end of the presentation, Professor Madley focused on the bigger picture. He emphasized that examining cases using the definition set forth by the United Nations Genocide Convention will help move the discussion of genocide forward in the U.S. He remarked, “Such investigations may be painful, but they will help all Americans, both Indian and non-Indian, to make more accurate sense of our past and ourselves.” In the discussion with Professor Jacoby, Madley explained how his book title came to be. He decided to call the book "An American Genocide" because the word "An" would open up reader's eyes to exploring additional genocides. 

Hate Speech and the Cultural Wars 


 L to R: Professor  Michel Rosenfeld, Professor Robert Post, Professor Stanley Fish, Professor Ulrich Baer, Professor Susan Benesch, Professor  Ekow N. Yankah, Professor Kate Shaw, and Dean Melanie Leslie                                                

September 18, 2017 - CLIHHR, together with the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at Cardozo Law hosted a public panel discussion at Cardozo Law School on hate speech and its impact on democracy and on current events from Charlottesville to Facebook's policies and their impact.  

Professor Kate Shaw, who co-directs the Floersheimer Center, moderated the discussion. The participants included Ulrich Baer of New York University; Susan Benesch of Harvard University; Robert C. Post, former Dean of Yale Law School; and Cardozo's own faculty members, Professor Stanley Fish, Professor Michel Rosenfeld and Professor Ekow N. Yankah. 

The panel covered issues such as how the rise of the Internet has impact free speech, who is responsible for creating free speech rules on the Internet and how private companies and academic institutions can deal with speech issues in classrooms and throughout the culture. Much of the discussion on how various constitutional democracies regulate speech and whether the American system, with its First Amendment guarantee of free speech, can deal differently with hate speech in the context of the current political climate and the magnifying effect of social media. Susan Benesch, who oversees the Danger Speech Project at Harvard, pointed out that the rules of free speech on the Internet are opaque and asked, "who makes the rules?" 

Robert Post commented, "We are all struggling with how to understand the Internet." He and conference organizer University Professor Michel Rosenfeld sparred over definitions of hate speech and whether the United States with its First Amendment protections actually does or does not restrict speech. Cardozo Visiting Professor Stanley Fish argued that there is no such thing as hate speech, that it is merely definitional and determined by the speaker. 

Professor Yankah's commentary at the end of the panel focused on the bigger picture: "Things that I know well are the ways in which the law can stop crises to democracies... where we all agree is that there are many things that the law can't fix. Much of this is just the work we have to do to keep our norms healthy. They are the work of civil society, not civic society. My worry is that I look at a country where the only thing that shocks is Charlottesville."

See the recording of the discussion here.

CLIHHR hosts public panel event: "Justice for the Yazidi Genocide" 


L to R: Sareta Ashraph, Patricia Sellers, Ambassador Stephen Rapp, Pari Ibrahim, and Scott Gilmore 

 On September 11, 2017, the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR), together with the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law and The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), hosted a public panel discussion at Cardozo Law School. The important and timely discussion followed on the heels of the third anniversary of the ISIS attack on the Yazidi population on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq on August 3, 2014.

In the course of those three years, not one perpetrator has stood trial for the international crimes inflicted upon the Yazidi people. “This is the challenge for us today,” began Scott Gilmore, Staff Attorney for CJA and moderator of the panel event. “How do we achieve justice and accountability for a mass atrocity where, despite the fact that the perpetrators have no allies and no safe harbor, the system of international justice has not been able to prevent or punish the occurrence of genocide?”

Panelists included Founder and Executive Director of the Free Yazidi Foundation Pari Ibrahim, Former Chief Analyst of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria Sareta Ashraph, Special Advisor on International Criminal Law Prosecution Strategies, International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor Patricia Viseur Sellers, and Former Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice Stephen J. Rapp.

The public event followed a two-day high level meeting bringing together many of the organizations collecting evidence and seeking justice and accountability for the Yazidi victims-survivors of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.                 

CLIHHR's Professor Gabor Rona delivers the UN Working Group Annual Report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva 

Visiting Professor Gabor Rona is Chair of the UN Working Group on Mercenaries, which is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to study and report on, among other things, the effects of mercenarism, mercenary-related activities (such as 'foreign fighters') and private military and security contract operations on the enjoyment of human rights, in particular, the right of peoples to self-determination. On Wednesday, September 13, Rona delivered the Working Group's Annual Report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva and engaged in an interactive dialogue with interested States and civil society organizations. The Re   port focused on the Working Group's now completed four year-long global studies of national legislation regulating the private military and security industry. The study found significant legal gaps in accountability of private military and security operators for violations of human rights and in the availability of enforceable remedies for victims. The Report recommends measures to close these gaps under both domestic and international law. It also addresses the Working Group's recent mission to the Central African Republic.

See the recording of his initial presentation here. Professor Rona then responds to questions and comments at 1:08:27, and makes his closing statements at 1:53:09

Report Release: Respecting Rights? Measuring the World's Blasphemy Laws, co-authored by Professor Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum 

August 10, 2017- Today, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a report co-authored by Assistant Clinical Professor Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, Director of the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic and Faculty Director of the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR), and Joelle Fiss entitled Respecting Rights? Measuring the World’s Blasphemy Laws. The groundbreaking Report analyzes 71 of the world’s 195 countries with laws prohibiting blasphemy, examining and comparing the content of the laws. 

Blasphemy is defined as “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.” Penalties for blasphemy in these countries can range from public censure and fines to imprisonment and death. Blasphemy laws are actively enforced in many countries throughout the world. Many governments deem repeal not feasible or desirable and justify the prohibition and criminalization of blasphemy as necessary to promote religious harmony.

This study evaluates the content of blasphemy laws to understand what aspects adhere to—or deviate from—international and human rights law principles. A better understanding of the laws’ compliance with these principles may assist in developing clear, specifically tailored recommendations for areas for reform.

According to the study:

· Blasphemy laws are astonishingly widespread. Seventy-one countries, spread out across many regions, maintain such statutes.

· Every one of these blasphemy statutes deviates from at least one internationally recognized human rights principle. Most of these laws fail to respect fully the human right of freedom of expression.

· All five nations with blasphemy laws that deviate the most from international human rights principles maintain an official state religion.

· Most blasphemy laws studied are vaguely worded, as many fail to specify intent as part of the violation. The vast majority carries unduly harsh penalties for violators.

· Most blasphemy laws are embedded in criminal codes and 86 percent of countries with blasphemy laws prescribe imprisonment for convicted offenders. Some blasphemy statutes even impose the death penalty.

The authors are grateful to the students and staff of the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic, including Susan Braden, Sophie Duffy, Afrodite Fountas, Phyllis Kaufman, Ryan Lavigne, Sharon Montazeri, Amit Noor, Anna Shwedel, Séhzad Sooklall, and Angel Sutjipto, who contributed significantly to the research and analysis of findings of the Report.

International Law and National Security: A View from Abroad on Current Trends in Targeting, Detention, and Trials 


L to R: Beth Van Schaack, Noam Lubell, Joanna Harrington, Marko Milanovic, and Kevin Jon Heller 

May 25, 2017- CLIHHR, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at Cardozo Law, and the Jacob Burns Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, hosted a public panel discussion at Cardozo Law School on May 18, 2017. The above titled discussion explored international experts' perspectives on the applicability of international law to national security issues in the United States. Panelists included Joanna Harrington, Professor of Law at The University of Alberta; Kevin Jon Heller, Professor of Criminal Law at SOAS, University of London and University of Amsterdam; Noam Lubell, Professor in the School of Law at University of Essex; and Marko Milanovic, Associate Professor at The University of Nottingham School of Law. The discussion was moderated by Beth Van Schaack, Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor in Human Rights at Stanford Law School. If you were unable to attend the event, you can find a video of the panel discussion below.



CLIHHR's Professor Gabor Rona quoted in "James Mattis, A Warrior in Washington" 

May 29, 2017 Posted from The New Yorker

The following is an exerpt from the complete article, found at the link included above. 

(...) When the Marines moved in, they provoked what amounted to a popular uprising. As footage of the battle aired across the Arab world, Iraq's civilian leadership rebelled, threatening to withdraw its support of the occupation. President Bush abruptly ordered commanders to stop the operation. Mattis was furious; he thought that the order made his men look simultaneously brutal and ineffectual. In a meeting with General John Abizaid, his boss, he quoted Napoleon: "If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna!" But the Administration thought the operation too costly to continue.

In the aftermath of the fighting, the extent of the Marines' ferocity became clear. "About a thousand civilians were killed," Saad Manthor, a senior Iraqi police officer and an ally of the American forces told me; other estimates suggest at least seven hundred. The city's cemeteries were so full that the main football stadium was converted to a burial site. Warzer Jaff, a Times photographer who was there, told me, "I saw entire families inside the graves, the bodies of women and children, along with small pieces of paper that had their names. Everywhere in the city you smelled bodies."

When I asked Mattis about this, he didn't dispute the numbers, but suggested that they were relatively low compared with Falluja's population of three hundred thousand. In any case, he said, the Marines went to great lengths to spare innocents, allowing them to leave the city before and during the attack. "This enemy didn't give a damn about them," Mattis said. "We went out of our way to take care of the civilians."

Other eyewitness accounts suggested that ambulances had been fired on and passengers killed, that snipers shot Iraqis as they tried to pull the dead off the streets, and that marines blocked military-age males from leaving the city, often separating fleeing families in order to keep the men inside. All those actions are banned by international treaties, to which the United States is a signatory. There were also widespread reports that the Americans had attacked Falluja with white phosphorous, a chemical agent that burns through human skin. 

Gabor Rona, a professor of law at Cardozo and a legal adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross during the battle, told me that he regarded the claims of harsh tactics as credible. "There is plenty of evidence that either the U.S. was targeting civilians or that the U.S. was conducting indiscriminate attacks withotu knowing, or taking sufficient precautions to determine, whether individuals were combatants or civilians," he said.

Cardozo Law's Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic Contributes to Report Advising Sri Lanka on Missing Person's Investigation 

December 12, 2016- On December 5, the South Asian Centre for Legal Studies (SACLS) published Operationalizing the Office on Missing Persons: Manual of Best Practices, a report on conducting missing persons investigations in post-conflict Sri Lanka. Cardozo Law students Daniel Koburger ('16) and Thomas Laverty ('18), as part of the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic, contributed research support to the report, outlining how Sri Lanka's newly established Office on Missing Persons (OMP) can most effectively locate, identify, and return those who disappeared during the nation's twenty-six year civil war. 

"An estimated 16,000 Sri Lankans remain missing today and their families cannot move on until they know the fate of their loved ones," Laverty said. "The emotional,legal, and financial toll of having a family member disappear is overwhelming."

The report surveys a range of tasks the OMP will undertake in the years to come. These include staffing, witness protection, mass grave investigations, and family outreach. Operationalizing the Office of Missing Persons takes a holistic look at the Office's mandate. The manual reviews recommendations made by international organizations with expertise in missing persons investigations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP); analyzes tactics that various national authorities have used to confront their own conflict-ridden pasts; and suggests how the OMP might adapt these best practices to the Sri Lankan context. 

"We hope that this guidance can help the OMP bring a measure of closure to some of the familites, and help Sri Lankan society move forward," Koburger concluded.

Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic students prepare leading international criminal law expert Patricia Viseur Sellers for testimony before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights 

October 13, 2016 - Quito, Ecuador. Under the supervision of Telford Taylor Visiting Clinical Professor of Law Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, students in the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic prepared research and analysis in emerging areas of international criminal and human rights law to support prominent expert Patricia Viseur Sellers’ testimony in the case of Genoveva and Others (Favela Nova Brasilia) v. Brazil before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  Elena Sarver (’16) and Danielle Singer (’17) researched and analyzed the issues of the states’ special obligations toward child victims of sexual and gender-based violence as acts that constitute torture under international and regional human rights law.

The Inter-American Court held a public hearing to hear witness and expert testimony with regard to extrajudicial killings and sexual violence committed at the hands of the Brazilian police during raids of the shantytown “Favela Nova Brasilia” in 1994 and 1995.  The case could be precedent-setting regarding crucial legal issues concerning the special due diligence obligations the state owes to child-victims of sexual and gender-based violence with regard to investigating, prosecuting and punishing perpetrators of these crimes.

“I feel very grateful for the opportunity we were given to contribute to such an important case and to work with Patricia Viseur Sellers. Listening to one of the victims testify before the Inter-American Court was also a moving moment, as we rarely get to see the faces or hear the voices of the individuals at the heart of these cases,” Sarver reflected. “Patricia’s work is inspirational to me as I begin my own legal career in the international human rights field. I am thankful to the Clinic for the legal education, guidance and support I received, which has helped me form a strong foundation for success in the professional world.”

Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights launches the Atrocity Prevention Legal Training Project

CLIHHR team and APLT Project team together with Benjamin B. Ferencz, former prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. (Top, L to R: Carse Ramos, Susan Braden, Paula Iwanowska, Sarah Lesser, Gretchen Kail, and Alicia Cook; Bottom L to R: Patty Blum, Benjamin B. Ferencz, and Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum)   

August 1, 2016- The Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR) has received funding to launch the Atrocity Prevention Legal Training (APLT) Project. Cardozo alumna Carse Ramos joins CLIHHR as the APLT Project's principal researcher. 

The project aims to develop learning modules for broader dissemination within the law school community of the principles, purposes, and implementation of atrocity prevention. The initial phase of the APLT Project includes an in-depth review of the current materials used in related academic fields, as well as those developed by NGOs working in atrocity prevention education. In addition, research interns have interviewed educators to learn best practices in teaching atrocity prevention and have spoken with law professors to determine how best to create a useful tool to mainstream atrocity prevention in law school curricula.

Professor Getgen Kestenbaum returns from teaching at Brazil’s UNISINOS Faculty of Law

July 29, 2016- After receiving a Fulbright- FAPERGS teaching fellowship, Telford Taylor Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor of Law Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum traveled to UNISINOS Faculty of Law in Porto Alegre, Brazil to deliver an intensive two-week course on indigenous rights and atrocity prevention. The short course focused on the way that atrocity crimes can occur against indigenous peoples in contexts of extreme levels of intolerance, racism, discrimination and extreme displacement, and the dehumanizing discourse that denies groups of people their dignity and rights. As a result of this experience, Professor Getgen Kestenbaum’s colleague, Professor Fernanda Bragato of the Faculty of Law at UNISINOS, will replicate and continue to teach the course. Also, Professor Bragato plans to offer short training courses in indigenous rights and atrocity prevention for human rights officers working in the Secretariat of Justice and Human Rights in Rio Grande do Sul toward increasing the visibility of indigenous rights issues in Brazil. Through Cardozo Law’s Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic, Getgen Kestenbaum will continue to collaborate with the Human Rights Centre and Faculty of Law at UNISINOS on projects focused on human rights, indigenous land claims and atrocity prevention.

Amnesty Law Ruled Unconstitutional in El Salvador, Prosecutions Now Possible

July 14, 2016- CLIHHR's own Professor Carolyn Patty Blum has been in pursuit of accountability and justice for the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housemaid, and her daughter by military officials during El Salvador's civil war. Now, El Salvador's amnesty law has been ruled unconstitutional, allowing the space to pursue justice for those crimes. See more details in the following articles.

Salvadoran Court Overturns Wartime Amnesty, Paving Way for Prosecutions (New York Times)

El Salavdor Scraps Amnesty Law, Opens Door for Prosecutions (U.S. News and World Report) 

Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights' Professor Gabor Rona receives the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Vermont Law School Alumni Association.

The Vermont Law School Alumni Association will be awarding the sixth VLSAA Distinguished Alumni Award to Gabor Rona JD'78. The VLSAA Distinguished Alumni Award was established by the Board of Directors of the Vermont Law School Alumni Association in March 2011. The award shall be given "to that alumnus/a who exemplifies and enhances the VLS core values of community, diversity, service, ethics, and justice, and who enhances the reputation of Vermont Law School in the greater community." See more details about Professor Rona's receiving this award here

Cardozo Law's Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic Assists Win in European Court of Human Rights Nondiscrimination Case 

On June 9, 2016, the European Court of Human Rights decided Pilav v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, a precedent-setting case affirming principles of nondiscrimination and equality to participate in the country's presidential elections. A Bosnian politician residing in the Republika Srpska, Pilav has a constitutional right to run for president as one of the nation's "constituent people." He is prohibited, however, from running for office of the president in Republika Srpska. Under the constitution, Pilax would have to move to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to stand for election. The court, unanimously finding a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 12, considered that Pilav's exclusion from election to the presidency was based on a combination of ethnic origin and place of residence, which amounted to discriminatiory treatment. The Cardozo Law Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic joined Minority Rights Group and Human Rights Watch in an amicus curiae brief in support of Pilav's claims.

This decision builds upon earlier case precedent in Sejdić Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which declared the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina to be in violation of international human rights law by not allowing individuals from Roma and Jewish origin to stand for election to the presidency in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The clinic represented Finci in that case and continues to advocate for implementation of the court's judgment in an effort to further equality and nondiscrimination in a post-conflict, post-atrocity context. 

The Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR), together with the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), host workshop on revisiting the role of international law in national security.

May 19, 2016- Today, public international law scholars and practitioners will convene at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law to revisit the role of international law in U.S. national security.  Professor Gabor Rona, Visiting Professor of Law at Cardozo and Member of the U.N. Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination, is leading the daylong workshop.  Topics include: detention operations in non-international armed conflict; state responsibility for non-state actors in conflict; and the application of human rights law to extraterritorial counterterrorism operations.  Participants will exchange ideas and discuss works in progress on existing and emerging issues in the field with the goal of furthering the dialogue and policy reform on national security issues in the United States and globally. 

Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR) Professor Getgen Kestenbaum awarded Fulbright Scholarship to teach at Brazil's UNISINOS Faculty of Law

Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, Telford Taylor Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor of Law at the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR), has received an International Fulbright- FAPERGS expert fellowship. She will teach an intensive two-week seminar on human rights, indigenous rights, and atrocity prevention during summer 2016 at the Faculty of Law of Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (UNISINOS) in Brazil.

This short course focuses on the way that atrocity crimes can occur against indigenous peoples in contexts of extreme levels of intolerance, racism, discrimination and extreme displacement, and the dehumanizing discourse that denies whole groups of people dignity and rights. Getgen Kestenbaum and Cardozo Law Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic students have been collaborating with the Human Rights Centre and Faculty of Law at UNISINOS on innovative projects at the intersection of atrocity prevention and human rights in the litigation context in Brazil since 2015.

Fulbright-FAPERGS International Cooperation

In December 2015, in an effort to enhance academic cooperation, The Foundation for the Rio Grande do Sul State Research (FAPERGS) in Brazil and Fulbright in the United States sent out a notice of cooperation and call for applications. Activities of this cooperation will take place through seminars in higher education institutions in the State of Rio Grande do Sul during the summer of 2016. The teaching and research seminars will be led by experts in the fields of Sociology, Political Science, Philosophy, Law, History, Anthropology, and International Relations.

For more information about the Fulbright-FAPERGS International Cooperation, visit this link. 

CLIHHR's Professor Gabor Rona quoted in "Foreign Fighters: Emerging Challenge for Human Rights"

April 20, 2016   Posted from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' News Page

An estimated 30,000 people are fighting in armed conflicts outside their country of residence across the world. The motivations of these foreign fighters, but more importantly, their effects on communities, including when they return to their home countries, are the focus of a multi-year study by the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination.

“We are seeing a rather frightening phenomenon of people going from country to country, engaging in wars, sometimes purely for profit, sometimes for ideological reasons,” said working group member Gabor Rona. “They come and they fight. And then they may go back to their home country and as a result of their experience they may be radicalized or go back home and engage in acts of violence and criminality.”

Foreign fighters occupy an internationally legal grey area. There are specific laws that cover mercenaries – defined as someone who is fighting almost exclusively for profit and are making more money than regular soldiers. And there are specific laws that address those foreign fighters who join terrorist organizations. However, there are many foreign fighters who fall into neither category, Rona said.

“There is a whole activity and development that creates risks for the security of States and for people,” he said. “We want to encourage a conversation among States, NGOs, and all potentially affected people concerning the consequences of this phenomenon, especially to civilians.”

For more than two years, the working group has been gathering information on the emerging foreign fighter issue, Rona said.

“We want to find facts about who is recruiting these people, what their motivations are and, importantly, to follow up. When and if they survive the conflict and go back to their home country, [we want to know] have they brought back knowledge and experience about the war that creates a security risk in their home country,” Rona said.

The working group has visited countries including Tunisia, Belgium and Ukraine. Group members have spoken with parties on both sides of conflicts, as well as with journalists, NGOs and civilians.

They have also held panel discussions with other experts on the issue. The most recent panel “Foreign Fighters and New Forms of Mercenarism,” took place in Geneva this month. Participants discussed if foreign fighters are a contemporary form of mercenary-related activity and implications for accountability and remedy.

Yet, are foreign fighters that contemporary? History is replete with accounts of people who have fought in wars outside the country they reside in. Think of Ernest Hemmingway fighting in the Spanish Civil War. How are today’s foreign fighters different from these people?

Rona said the issue is not differences between past and present foreign fighters. It is what effect does fighting in an informal military structure -- with a lack of accountability, discipline and design, as is the case with many of the groups foreign fighters take part in – have on the psyche of those who take part. And how can States best handle their return.

“What they need more help with is how to stop the cycle of violent and anti-social behaviour that preys on communities. In that respect I am hopeful that our findings can pinpoint the cause and motivations of particularly what happens to people when they come back home from war,” Rona said. “And through that information we can provide a factual basis that states and civil society can use to implement and create rehabilitation mechanisms rather than just punitive ones to help ameliorate these risks that result from the experience people have when they go off to war and come back home.”

Extradition appeal among setbacks in Jesuit massacre case
Linda Cooper   James Hodge   |  Apr. 13, 2016

Two months ago, the Spanish National Court seemed poised on the brink of proceeding with a long-delayed trial on one of the most notorious crimes of El Salvador's civil war: the 1989 assassinations of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter.

In a landmark ruling on Feb. 5, U.S. Magistrate Kimberly Swank ordered the extradition to Spain of former Salvadoran Col. Inocente Orlando Montano, who's been illegally living in the U.S. since 2002 when he lied on immigration papers.

Spain indicted him and 16 others for plotting and carrying out the Jesuit murders. Five of the six slain priests were Spanish citizens. Because under Spanish law a defendant in a criminal case cannot be tried in absentia, at least one of the defendants had to be present before the trial could commence. With the extradition order, it seemed as if that requirement would no longer be an obstacle.

Swank's ruling was another blow to once untouchable high-ranking Salvadoran military officers who'd been former allies of the United States. Last year, U.S. officials deported two retired Salvadoran generals living in Florida who were implicated in the 1980 murders of four U.S. churchwomen, among other crimes.

The pair -- Gens. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova and Jose Guillermo Garcia -- were both recipients of the U.S. Legion of Merit award. And like Montano, the former Vice Minister of Defense for Public Safety, they were trained at the U.S. Army's School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

The effect of Swank's ruling was immediate. Just hours after her ruling was made public, the National Civilian Police in El Salvador began raiding the homes of other suspects and quickly made four arrests on Interpol warrants that had been re-issued weeks earlier, but never acted on.

International human rights groups hailed the breakthrough and the coming trial. After more than a quarter of a century, the full details would finally spill out about the early morning of Nov. 16, 1989, when a U.S.-trained anti-terrorist unit stormed the Central American University in San Salvador and blew out the brains of the priests with high-powered weapons, and killed their housekeeper and her daughter.

The prospect of an imminent trial, however, has dimmed considerably in the last two months.

On April 1, Montano's lawyer filed a last-minute petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court in North Carolina, seeking to reverse the extradition order and to have him released from custody, in part due to bladder cancer and other health issues.

The request to reverse the extradition is unlikely to "get much traction substantively," said Patty Blum, senior legal adviser with the Center for Justice and Accountability, which filed the original complaint in the Jesuit case with the Spanish court in 2008.

Swank already rejected the core arguments in the appeal, and she "did a thorough job of reviewing the record and giving a reasoned, detailed opinion," Blum said. The appeal "raised no material issues that he had not raised before."

While hopeful that Montano, 72, will one day be put on a plane to Madrid, Blum estimates it will take three to six months for the appeal to be resolved.

The extradition appeal will keep him rooted in the U.S. -- unlike Vides and Garcia, who were deported last year even though that federal appeals were pending in their cases. Unlike deportation laws, statutes and regulations governing extradition require that habeas corpus issues be resolved before a subject can be extradited.

The case is complicated by Montano's health. His appeal includes documentation that bladder cancer surgery left him with "a urine bag attached to his stomach that requires careful maintenance to avoid" life-threatening infections. Further, he suffers from diabetes and progressive arthritis in both legs, requiring him to use a walker.

Montano's appeal and health issues are not the only setbacks to the Spanish court. The National Civilian Police in El Salvador has failed to arrest any other suspect in the case since Feb. 5, leaving 12 of the indicted men at large.

The 12 include several members of the high command who sat in the room along with Montano to plan the Jesuit murders, according to the U.N. Truth Commission. They have ignored a plea from Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén to turn themselves in.

None of the four arrested in February were members of the high command; they were lower-level participants who faced charges in 1991 at a show trial that ended in the convictions of two officers who were released as soon as the amnesty law passed.

Sánchez Cerén, a former leftist rebel commander, wants the Salvadoran Supreme Court to decide both the amnesty and extradition issues.

A lawyer for the four is seeking their release, which could force the Salvadoran Supreme Court to rule on the issues that have polarized the country.

The right wing, meanwhile, has mounted a fierce opposition to the extraditions in the Jesuit case, fearing it could dismantle the amnesty law and thus open the door to future prosecutions of other major atrocities -- atrocities like the massacre at El Mozote, where the army slaughtered nearly 1,000 peasants in cold blood, many of them women and children.

The Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), the right-wing party in power at the time of the Jesuit massacre, has pressed the Supreme Court not to rule in favor of the extraditions, saying it would open up old wounds.

It was ARENA that pushed the amnesty law through the legislature in 1993 -- just five days after the U.N. Truth Commission announced that the Salvadoran military and its death squads had committed 85 percent of the war's worst atrocities.

Norman Quijano, the ARENA candidate who narrowly lost the 2013 presidential race to Sánchez Cerén, called the 17 Salvadorans indicted by Spain "our heroic and brave soldiers."

Retired generals have also publicly denounced the Feb. 5 arrests and attempts by Spain to put the defendants on trial. Among them were a former minister of defense, retired Gen. Jaime Guzmán, a graduate of the School of the Americas and an instructor there from 1989 to 1990.

What's more, four former members of the high command indicted by Spain released a statement, denying their involvement and claiming they were "victims" of political persecution and "a smear campaign" by El Salvador's human rights ombudsman David Morales.

All four are SOA graduates and were present at the meeting where the Jesuit murders were planned: Gens. Rafael Humberto Larios, Juan Rafael Bustillo and Juan Orlando Zepeda, and Col. Francisco Elena Fuentes.

What effect the political and military pressure will have on the Supreme Court in deciding whether to end the blanket impunity enjoyed for decades by war criminals is not clear. The court has yet to act on a suit challenging the amnesty law filed by the Central American University's Human Rights Institute.

But Morales, the human rights ombudsman, is not hopeful. He was quoted by The Guardian April 8 as saying he sees little possibility of justice in El Salvador.

"The legal process has been manipulated and the most senior judges have violated the constitution, international treaties and national laws," he said.

[Linda Cooper and James Hodge are the authors of Disturbing the Peace: The Story of Father Roy Bourgeois and the Movement to Close the School of the Americas.]

ICTJ and Cardozo School of Law Partner on a Project on the Missing and Disappeared

February 16, 2016—The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law are pleased to announce a strategic research partnership to examine international law and practice regarding enforced disappearance and the missing.

Under the agreement, student participants of the clinic will review the evolution of these concepts and their legal implications, and share their results with ICTJ, an international organization that works in countries seeking to address legacies of mass human rights violations.

“Our collaboration grew out of a joint interest in taking a fresh look at the ongoing and emerging challenges of finding the truth and advancing justice for families with a forcibly disappeared or missing relative, one of the most wrenching issues in many societies that have gone through armed conflict or dictatorship,” said Marcie Mersky, ICTJ Program Director.

“We already do considerable work on these issues, but we hope the partnership with Cardozo will help us identify ways to make this work even more effective.”

The results of the research conducted by Cardozo students and discussions with the Cardozo faculty will help ICTJ frame advice to victims and authorities in places as diverse as Colombia, Nepal and Lebanon.

“As a law school-based clinic, one of the chief ways we can help advance ICTJ’s work is to examine some of the legal issues embedded in questions of enforced disappearance,” said Carolyn Patty Blum, Interim Director, Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights and  Cardozo’s Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic. “To begin with, we will focus on the relationship between enforced disappearance and the meaning of the ‘missing’ in international law.” 

Blum has assigned a team of four students to begin work on the project for the spring 2016 semester, under the supervision of Telford Taylor Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor of Law Jocelyn Getgen.

“This is the beginning of a continuing partnership to assist ICTJ as it advances its work on this vital issue in countries in transition and post-transition,” said Mersky. “We trust that this research will be as beneficial to Cardozo clinic students as it will be for ICTJ.”

Media Contact

Refik Hodzic, ICTJ Communications Director

E-mail:  Phone: +1 917-637-3853

About ICTJ

ICTJ assists societies confronting massive human rights abuses to promote accountability, pursue truth, provide reparations, and build trustworthy institutions. Committed to the vindication of victims’ rights and the promotion of gender justice, we provide expert technical advice, policy analysis, and comparative research on transitional justice approaches, including criminal prosecutions, reparations initiatives, truth seeking and memory, and institutional reform. For more information, visit

About Cardozo Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic

As part of the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights, the 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 to allow students to experience human rights advocacy in its various forms. For more information, visit


Cardozo Law’s Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic Students Contribute to In-Depth Report on Atrocity Crimes and Justice System Failures in Guerrero, Mexico


September 3, 2015 –– Last year, 43 student activists from a teacher’s college in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico were detained and loaded into police vehicles by armed men.  None of these students have been seen since.  The student disappearances and lack of justice for these crimes sparked massive protests throughout the country.  These and other atrocities demonstrate the Mexican government’s wider failure to protect individuals from extrajudicial killings and disappearances, as well as to successfully prosecute and punish those responsible for such crimes.

The Open Society Justice Initiative, with Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan and the Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez, published a Report entitled “Broken Justice in Mexico’s Guerrero State” to examine the justice system failures in the region and to offer recommendations for change.  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.

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

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Launches Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights

March 9, 2015—Cardozo Law is pleased to announce the launch of the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR, pronounced “clear”). CLIHHR is a leading global center dedicated to strengthening laws, norms and institutions to prevent mass atrocities and promote human security. Consistent with Cardozo Law’s reputation for its distinguished faculty and innovative programs, CLIHHR offers invaluable opportunities to students in international human rights, humanitarian, refugee and criminal law while contributing to scholarship, policy and advocacy in the field.

The Institute began as the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Program in 2005 with unclaimed funds from a Holocaust claims litigation settlement. The Program then became the locus for high-level discussion on Holocaust remembrance and atrocity prevention. Today, the Program has expanded into an Institute to meet the ever-evolving challenges in mass atrocity prevention and response.

CLIHHR is the only law school institute in the world that focuses squarely on mass atrocity prevention. The Institute employs a unique and sophisticated approach developed through a decade of research, scholarship and advocacy in the field. CLIHHR’s holistic three-part strategy is to prevent atrocities, protect populations, and rebuild societies during and after crisis.

“We are living in uncertain times – from the humanitarian and global security crises in Syria and Iraq to the continued violence in Darfur and South Sudan,” said Cardozo Law Dean Matthew Diller. “We are proud to continue our tradition of excellence in preparing the next generation of international law professionals while developing solutions to preventing genocide and other atrocity crimes.” 

Professor Sheri P. Rosenberg, who helped found the Program and directs the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic, will serve as CLIHHR’s faculty director. Professor Gabor Rona, a renowned scholar in humanitarian law, and Professor C. Patty Blum, an expert in international justice and accountability, join the Institute and Cardozo Law faculty, further expanding course offerings and clinical projects in international humanitarian and criminal law. 

“I am thrilled to lead an excellent team committed to scholarship, instruction and advocacy in international law and atrocity prevention,” said Professor Rosenberg. “Our students will enter the legal profession with the critical skills necessary to confidently tackle complex issues of international law and policy in today’s changing world. The goals are to move students and others away from a reactionary culture to one of prevention by understanding and responding to risk factors and to focus more deeply on developing strategies for entry points for mitigating atrocities.”

As part of the Institute, the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic offers law students the opportunity to make tangible and meaningful change. In the Clinic, students represent individual clients seeking asylum in the Refugee Representation Project and partner with organizations to promote human rights and prevent mass atrocities. As Allison O’Brien (’16) puts it: “The Clinic is a rigorous and rewarding experience for us as students who want to practice human rights law.”

The Institute positions itself at the center of important issues in genocide and mass atrocity prevention by hosting conferences, lectures and symposia; publishing cutting-edge academic and policy scholarship; and engaging with government officials, international and regional organizations, and advocates.  The idea is to partner with scholars, practitioners, and policymakers across multiple disciplines to strengthen laws, norms and institutions toward a world in which “Never Again!” rings true.

“Appreciating the dark lessons of history without being responsive to the future world violates the memory of the past.” Rosenberg reflected. “Thus, with a profound compassion for the victims of genocide and other mass atrocities we pursue our work with scholarly rigor, passion and commitment.”


Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights

Click here to read our newly published brochure in full.
Use the left and right arrow keys on the keyboard to flip through the pages.

Past Events

Fall 2016 Lunchtime Lecture Series

                                                                                                                  Image Credit: Corporación Jurídica Libertad

Paramilitarism, Transitional Justice,

and Cultural Survival


Join us for a lunchtime lecture with Afro-Colombian human rights advocate and organizer, Héctor Marino Carabalí, to discuss the current situation in Colombia.

A former educator and municipal councilman, Héctor Marino Carabalí co-founded the first victim’s rights organization of Northern Cauca, Colombia in the immediate aftermath of a paramilitary incursion and occupation that resulted in grave and widespread violations of human rights for the predominantly Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities of the area. Currently serving as the coordinator of Cauca’s Departmental Board of Victims, Mr. Carabalí will travel to the U.S. to speak with scholars, students, and advocates in an effort to bring attention to the effects of the Colombian armed conflict, and to seek solidarity in the struggle to make transitional justice processes relevant and accountable to local communities.

                        Fall 2016 Lunchtime Lecture Series

      Image credit: Marjorie Apel, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Past Wars, Present Uncertainty:

Legal Answers to the Quest for Information on Missing Persons


Join us for a lunchtime lecture with Alessandra La Vaccara, Visiting Researcher at CLIHHR, to learn more about the issue of missing persons in armed conflict and the legal avenues for access to information.

Alessandra La Vaccara is a PhD candidate in International Law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Switzerland) and a Visiting Researcher at Cardozo Law School. Her research interests include jus post bellum, transitional justice, and the interplay between humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law. She has served as Diplomatic Attaché at the International Committee of the Red Cross, focusing on the right of habeas corpus in armed conflict and business and human rights in complex environments. La Vaccara has worked on disaster response law with UN ISDR, the IFRC, and the European Commission. She has been Albert Gallatin Fellow at Harvard Law School; she holds an LLM from the Geneva Academy of IHL and Human Rights (Switzerland), an MA in Political Science from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (Italy), and a BA in Diplomatic Studies from the University of Trieste (Italy).                                                                                         



                                                                                                                                                       Image Credit: National Endowment for Democracy 


The Closing Space for Civil Society Around the World:

What does it mean for Human Rights?


Join us for a lunchtime lecture with Ed Rekosh, Director of Human Rights Initiatives and Visiting Professor of Law at Cardozo Law School, for this engaging discussion.

Edwin Rekosh is Director of Human Rights Initiatives and Visiting Professor of Law at Cardozo Law School. He is also a Senior Consultant to the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO) and a Senior Advisor to PILnet: The Global Network for Public Interest Law, an organization he founded and served as CEO until 2015. Rekosh has assisted civil society organizations and law schools in developing public interest legal programs in over 30 countries around the globe. He has also led global efforts to develop pro bono practice by law firms and corporations as a strategy for complementing and supporting the efforts of civil society organizations. Rekosh has written and spoken extensively about human rights, pro bono and the rule of law, and he received the American Bar Association's International Human Rights Award in 2009. He is a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia Law School. 

Monday, April 11, 12:00 -2:00 pm (Room 1008)

2016 International Advocate for Peace Award Ceremony honoring Benjamin B. Ferencz, former Chief Prosecutor for the United States at the Nuremberg trials.

Lunch will be served.

Awarded by the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution

RSVP by clicking here.

Thursday, April 7, 12:00 -1:00 pm (Room 1008)

Lunchtime Lecture Series

“Victims who Victimize”

Mark Drumbl, LL.M, J.S.D, Professor, Washington and Lee University School of Law, author of Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy.

RSVP required by April 3 to receive a boxed lunch at


Tuesday, April 5, 6:00-8:30 pm (Room 205)

Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today [The Schulberg/Waletzky Restoration], Film Screening and post-film Q & A with Restoration Producer and daughter of the original filmmaker Sandra Schulberg and H.E. Mr. Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the UN; Chairman of the Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression (2003-2009) & Chair of the negotiations resulting in the ‘Kampala Amendments’ to the Rome Statute (2010).

Sushi and wine will be served.

Co-sponsored with The Indie Film Clinic.

Please RSVP to

Land Grabs and Human Rights in the Developing World
Lunchtime Lecture with Diana Kearney
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Room 420
Falafel will be served
Please RSVP to
Imagine hearing a knock on your door one day and being evicted form your home at gunpoint—being told that you no longer have the right to remain on the land that has provided you and your ancestors with food, shelter, employment, and a connection to your spiritual life. For thousands of communities in developing countries, this nightmare has become a reality. These deals are known as land grabs: illicit land transfers that occur without the communities’ free, prior, and informed consent. These deals often result in violence and threaten to push the evicted communities deeper into poverty. While the transfers are occurring at an astonishing scale, advocates can turn to legal and non-legal tactics to challenge these land grabs and stop the attendant human rights violations.
Diana Kearney joined the Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic as the Telford Taylor Clinical Teaching Fellow in January 2016. Prior to Cardozo, she served as a legal advisor in Oxfam America’s private sector department, where she focused on corporate accountability for human rights abuses. Her work centered around land conflicts/indigenous land rights, labor abuses along corporate supply chains, and advocating for local communities harmed by the operations of transnational corporations and international financial institutions like the World Bank.

Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights and Fordham Law Center on National Security cordially present

Liberty and Security: A New Normal?

February 26, 2-15

7pm - 8:30pm

Jacob Burns Moot Court Room

Given renewed fears of terrorism driven by the rise of ISIS and their skilled use of social media, how is the continuing conflict over security and liberty evolving? What can we expect in the future as the renewal of the Patriot Act looms and debate over authorizations for the use of force and surveillance come to the floor of Congress?

Is there a new normal?  And if so, what does it mean for civil liberties and for the safety and security of Americans?


Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director, ACLU

Deborah Pearlstein, Associate Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Scott Shane, New York Times


Karen J. Greenberg, Director, Center on National Security at Fordham Law School

This event has been approved for 1.5 transitional/non-transitional New York State CLE credits in the category "Areas of Professional Practice."

To register for CLE credits, please RSVP to



The Abolition of War

February 20-21, 2015

Why has war never become a taboo? This topic and others connected to the experience of war will be explored at a two-day symposium at Cardozo School of Law and Rutgers School of Law.

Admission is free and lunch is included both days.


To attend, RSVP to


To see the full list of events, download the event flyer: {C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}


Recent Publication

Professor Gabor Rona, Visiting Professor of Law at Cardozo and Director of CLIHHR's Law and Armed Conflict Project, recently published an article entitled "Is There a Way Out of the Non-International Armed Conflict Detention Dilemma," in 91 Int'l L. Stud. 32 (2015).

To read the article: Rona_ILS_2015_02_03.pdf

For more information, please visit:


January 13, 2015 - NEW YORK, NY - On January 13, 2015 Professor Sheri Rosenberg, Director of the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR, pronounced CLEAR) [formerly Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Program] participated in a panel discussion, with 3 other esteemed speakers, entitled, "Preventing Genocide and Mass Atrocities: International Law and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)." 

Other esteemed speakers included: Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect; Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General for the Prevention of Genocide; and, H.E. Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States.

The panel addresses challenges within the existing international legal framework for the prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities. The discussion challenged panelists to consider why, nearly a decade after heads of state and government agreed to the principles of R2P, mass atrocities continue across the globe in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, and beyond.

More than 75 people attended the two-hour discussion at the New York City Bar Association’s NYC headquarters.

For more information:

For an audio recording of the event:


Op-Ed and Article

Joëlle Fiss, one of the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic's partners, recently published an op-ed in Le Monde  on the Charlie Hebdo attacks as it relates to blasphemy laws. 

Original article in French:

English translation of the article:  Le Monde_Anti-blasphemy laws a tool of repression threatening the entire world_ENG.pdf


Fiss has also recently published an article in Libération entitled, "Lois antiblasphème pour mieux persécuter." 

Original article in French:

English translation of the article:  Libération_Blasphemy Laws to Improve Persecution ENG.pdf


Ecuador: Historic Win for Refugee Rights


September 16, 2014 – QUITO, ECUADOR – The Human Rights and Genocide Clinic’s Refugee Representation Project (RRP) celebrated a landmark victory for refugee rights on Friday when Ecuador’s Constitutional Court struck down restrictive provisions of a presidential decree that violated basic rights of refugees and asylum-seekers.  In support of the petitioners’ claims, the RRP submitted an amicus brief with Human Rights Watch last June calling on Ecuador to abide by its obligations under constitutional, international human rights and refugee law. Cardozo law students Julie Geifman (Class of 2013), Sara Levine (class of 2013), Diana Duarte (3L), and Anna Maslyanskaya (Class of 2014) all contributed to the RRP’s brief.

In Decision No. 002-0524, the Court declared Articles 27, 33, and 48 of Presidential Decree 1182 unconstitutional, extending the time for individuals to request asylum from 15 days to 3 months and the time to appeal from 3 to 15 days.  In addition, the Court modified Article 8’s definition of a refugee to include the Cartagena Declaration of 1984’s expanded content, allowing individuals to be recognized as refugees “because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order.”

“This is an important and historic win for refugee rights in Ecuador,” said RRP Associate Director Teresa M. Woods.  The Clinic’s Telford Taylor Fellow Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum added: “We are thrilled that our Clinic students were able to contribute to real gains for those fleeing persecution and seeking safety in the region.”  Indeed, under these new changes—and closer to Ecuador’s generous past practices and leadership on refugee rights in Latin America—thousands of refugees arriving in Ecuador from Colombia and elsewhere will have greater access to protections under the law.

The RRP’s support to Asylum Access Ecuador (AAE) and University of San Francisco’s litigation was one of several coordinated, collaborative efforts among these institutions to promote and protect refugee rights in Ecuador. In addition to the brief, for example, a group of Cardozo law student volunteer advocates will again travel to Esmeraldas in northern Ecuador over the winter session this year to work directly with refugees seeking asylum in partnership with AAE. Moreover, the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic plans to continue advocacy efforts toward implementing the Court’s favorable ruling and further advancing refugee rights in the region.  Such efforts fit squarely within the Clinic’s overall “prevention, protection and rebuilding” framework toward the promotion of human rights and prevention of mass atrocities globally.

For additional press, see:


Press Release

Ecuador: Amicus Brief on Refugee Rights


June 16, 2014 – NEW YORK, NY – Ecuador should revoke a presidential decree that includes provisions that violate basic rights of refugees provided for by international law, The Refugee Representation Project of the Cardozo Human Rights and Genocide Clinic said today. Working within the clinic’s frame of prevention, protection, and rebuilding, the clinic combines different areas of expertise within human rights law. Refugee issues in Ecuador provided the clinic with an opportunity to effectively utilize this model.

On May 30, 2012, President Rafael Correa adopted Presidential Decree 1182 to regulate asylum procedures in Ecuador, the Latin American country with the largest number of registered refugees – approximately 55,000 in September 2013. On June 16, 2014, the Refugee Representation Project of the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law submitted a joint amicus with Human Rights Watch before the Constitutional Court of Ecuador, arguing that the decree violates Ecuador’s international legal obligations protecting refugees and asylum-seekers. Cardozo law students Julie Geifman (Class of 2013), Sara Levine (class of 2013), Diana Duarte (class of 2015), and Anna Maslyanskaya (Class of 2014) all contributed to the amicus.

“Decree 1182 provisions violate an asylum seeker’s due process rights and jeopardize these and other fundamental rights—including the right to seek asylum… and the principle of non-refoulement,” the brief says.

The brief argues that the presidential decree imposes short, inflexible procedural time limits that make it difficult, if not impossible, for asylum seekers to apply for refugee status and, if necessary, appeal adverse status determinations. The decree also sets a high admissibility standard for applications to be considered for refugee status determination; allows officials broad power to exclude asylum seekers from the asylum procedure; and grants overly broad powers to authorities to revoke refugee status. Twelve Cardozo law students travelled to Esmeraldas province in the north of Ecuador and worked directly with refugees impacted by the decree over winter break in partnership with Asylum Access Ecuador.[1] One of the appeals the students brought in a particularly complicated case was overturned immediately – something that is unprecedented in the Office of the Refugee Directorate in Ecuador.

These provisions violate international standards in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, in the 1981 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, and guidelines on basic safeguards adopted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, The Refugee Representation Project said.

The brief was submitted in a case brought before the Constitutional Court in 2012 by the nongovernmental organization Asylum Access Ecuador and the human rights clinic of the San Francisco de Quito University. Both institutions challenged the constitutionality of several articles of the decree. The Human Rights and Genocide Clinic will continue to engage in advocacy efforts to round out the third prong of its prevention, protection, and rebuilding framework as it awaits the decision of the Constitutional Court.

*Read the Human Rights Watch release

*Read the Amicus Brief in English 

*Read the Amicus Brief in Spanish

[1] Sara Barlowe (class of 2016), Steven Bravo (class of 2014), Rikki Dascal (class of 2016), Afrodite Fountas (class of 2015), Anna Kaminsky (class of 2016), Ali O’Brien (class of 2016), Adam Rave (class of 2014), Gaudys Sanclemente (class of 2014), Johanny Santana (class of 2015), Sarah Segal (class of 2016), Anna Shwedel (class of 2015), Pamela Takefman (class of 2014)



Recent Publication

Compendium Details Blasphemy Laws Challenging Human Rights Worldwide

New York City - Human Rights First and the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic of Cardozo Law School today released the first publicly available compendium to outline blasphemy laws from around the world. The compilation is a useful tool for human rights defenders, governments, civil society leaders and legal experts working to combat abuses created by blasphemy laws that permit the prosecution of individuals for defaming or insulting religions.

“This first-of-its-kind compendium gives us a better understanding of the legal landscape of blasphemy and how the sweeping language of these laws often poses grave human rights concerns, and heightens social and political instability in many countries,” said Human Rights First’s Joelle Fiss. “This resource will provide valuable insight to those working to tackle human rights abuses rooted in allegations of blasphemy.”

According to Fiss, blasphemy laws and the international concept of prohibiting “defamation of religions” are inconsistent with universal human rights standards that protect groups and individuals from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, political opinion and other criteria. Blasphemy laws often foster intolerance through governmental restrictions on freedom of expression, thought, and religion, resulting in devastating consequences for religious minorities and stifling political dissent. Accusations of blasphemy in the Islamic world and beyond have sparked assaults, murders and mob attacks, and have resulted in arrests and arbitrary detentions. 

The research included in the compendium released today is divided into two separate documents:

1.   Laws that specifically reference the sanctioning of insult, blasphemy or defamation of religion. These “blasphemy laws” in the narrow sense seek to punish individuals for offending, insulting, or denigrating religious doctrines, deities, symbols or the sacred, and more broadly, for wounding or outraging religious feelings. These laws use precise reference to the prohibition of insulting religion.

2.    Related laws that do not specifically reference blasphemy, but can be used to prosecute for that offence or are misused for the purpose of punishing minority communities or political dissidents. Although the laws do not specifically address blasphemy or the insult to religion, they have still been used by the state to punish individuals who have allegedly committed blasphemy.  In many cases, governments provide for a state religion and have laws that prohibit the “violation of public morals,” which may equate to offending religious values.  

For more information, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at or 212-845-5269.


Report Launch

"A Common Standard for Applying the Responsibility to Protect"

A Report by Cardozo Law School's Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Program

On October 7, 2013, the Cardozo Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Program, with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, launched a Report & Policy Brief in New York entitled “A Common Standard for Applying the Responsibility to Protect.” The Report seeks to advance the implementation of the R2P principle by elaborating on how one of its key elements – prevention – can be operationalized by international society.

The Report—based upon the results of a multi-staged research study led by Professor Sheri P. Rosenberg with significant input from Ekkehard Strauss—clarifies and addresses the normative concerns embedded within R2P through: 1) systematically developing a common R2P standard (the “Standard”) to assess incoming information related to R2P; 2) coherently developing guiding principles for the application of the Standard; and 3) rigorously assessing the benefits of, and challenges to, adopting a common standard.  Ultimately, the Report concludes that the development of this common Standard will:

  • Promote the full continuum of R2P action. The standard is adapted specifically to address R2P’s normative preventive concerns in addition to its late-stage concerns.

  • Enhance legitimacy. A unified common standard adds a level of transparency and credibility to R2P;

  • Reduce uncertainty. The standard will reduce the depth and duration of debate centering on early to mid-term application of R2P.

The Report sets forth the application standard, along with the research methodology, development and construction of the Standard and the guiding principles for operationalization. The researchers pursued academic rigor, while at the same time consulting with relevant policymakers at all levels of international society, in order to ground the articulated standard in real world policy and practice. The standard and related principles are intended to be utilized by States, international and regional organizations, civil society, academia and other actors called upon to determine the relevance of applying an R2P framework to the real risk of a given situation.

We encourage all interested stakeholders to make active use of this Report. And please contact us with your feedback at


Download full Report  A Common Standard for Applying the Responsibility to Protect_Full Report.pdf

Download Policy Brief  A Common Standard for Applying the Responsibility to Protect_Policy Brief.pdf


Report Launch

A Common Standard for Applying the Responsibility to Protect

October 7, 2013 from 6:00pm to 8:15pm

Room 9204, 9th Floor, CUNY Graduate Center 

Professor Sheri Rosenberg, Director of Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Program at Cardozo Law School
Ms. Jette Michelsen, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations
Commentator: Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide
Moderator: Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Recent Publication

Eric Freedman and Richard Weisberg, The Haennig-Nordmann Papers: Two Lawyers in Occupied France, New York, Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Program, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, 2013.