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:
Panel Event and Reception
"New York Symposium on the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities"
Raoul Wallenberg Legacy of Leadership Project
September 18, 2014
5-6:30pm | Jacob Burns Moot Court Room
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. 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.
 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)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-845-5269.
"Crisis in Syria: The Human Face"
6-8pm | Jacob Burns Moot Court Room
The conflict in Syria is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time. As fighting enters its fourth year, more than 100,000 lives have been lost and over 2 million people have been displaced from their homes. These numbers, however, fails to convey the situation of Syrians and Syrian refugees. With this in mind, the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights (HGHR) Program At Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law organized a panel and reception event on March 24, 2014 entitled “Crisis in Syria: The Human Face.”
The HGHR Program invited four esteemed panelists to describe the situation in Syria and the challenges experienced by displaced Syrians: Eleanor Acer, Director of the Refugee Protection program at Human Rights First; Bassel Diebo, M.D., Research Fellow at the Spine Research Institute at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases; Oubai Shahbandar, Senior Advisor to the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces; and, Sandra Krause, Director of the Reproductive Health Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission.
The event began with a brief introduction from Professor Sheri P. Rosenberg, Director of the HGHR Program. The first speaker of the evening was Dr. Bassel Diebo, whose vivid and jarring account of treating those wounded by the conflict as a physician in Damascus brought the human consequences of the conflict to the foreground of the discussion. Dr. Diebo ended his presentation with a passionate call for peace. Next, Ms. Acer discussed the scope of the refugee crisis and how the U.S. government should do more to protect Syrian refugees. Then, Mr. Shahbandar discussed his involvement in the Geneva peace talks between the Opposition Coalition and the Syrian regime as well as the role of the international community in bringing the conflict to an end. Last but not least, Ms. Krause presented the findings of an inter-agency report with regards to the reproductive health of Syrian refugees: although reproductive health services existed in refugee camps, the lack of community outreach meant that few female Syrian refugees knew how to access the resources or receive effective reproductive health advice. The panel event was followed by a Q & A session and a reception.
This panel event was organized by Anastasia Holoboff and Kathleen Rende, Fellows of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Program.
Panel Event and Reception
"Crisis in Syria: The Human Face"
6-8pm | Jacob Burns Moot Court Room
Eleanor Acer, Refugee Protection Director, Human Rights First
Oubai Shahbandar, Senior Advisor to the Syrian Opposition Coalition
Sandra Krause, Reproductive Health Program Director, Women's Refugee Commission
Moderator, Professor Sheri P. Rosenberg, Cardozo Law
TO RSVP, please send an email to email@example.com or leave a message at (212) 790-0363.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
Blood Libel Conference
November 14, 2013 from 8:30am to 5:30pm
November 15, 2013 from 9:00am to 12:30pm
Jacob Burns Moot Court Room
On , the Program on Holocaust Human Rights Studies and the Law & Humanities Institute will sponsor a conference on the tragic history of the "Blood Libel", in which Jews have been accused across the millennia of killing Christian children to use their blood in the Passover ritual. Originating in England early in the second millennium, the libel spread eastward to Russia, and it is not unknown in the United States and Canada. One of the most infamous of these libels was the Mendel Beilis case in the waning days of Tsarist Russia, and it is the 100th anniversary of the near-miraculous acquittal of Beilis that occasionalizes this conference. The scholarly centerpiece of our discussions will be Hannah R. Johnson's influential recent book, BLOOD LIBEL, a complex history of the phenomenon, and Prof. Johnson of the U. of Pittsburgh will speak; the literary centerpiece will be Bernhard Malamud's fictional rendering of the Beilis case, THE FIXER , which will be discussed widely by various speakers. Panelists include the grandson of Beilis and attorney Jeremy Garber, who have a major bone to pick with the novel; Prof. Vivian Curran of the U. of Pittsburgh Law School; Prof. David Fraser of the U. of Nottingham (UK); Prof. Jeffrey Mehlman of Boston U.; Prof. Harriet Murav of the U. of Illinois; Prof. Sanford Levinson of U. Texas Law School; and Prof. Richard Weisberg of Cardozo.
A Common Standard for Applying the Responsibility to Protect
October 7, 2013 from 6:00pm to 8:15pmRoom 9204, 9th Floor, CUNY Graduate Center
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.