Human Rights in the Americas

The Human Rights in the Americas Project seeks to build on collaborative relationships with grass-roots activists, human rights practitioners and scholars to support human rights struggles in the Americas and contribute to the development of the human rights framework of the Inter-American System for Human Rights. Joseph Berra directs the Project. Collaborative projects with community-based partners and human rights practitioners provide students with an opportunity to engage in human rights advocacy.  Events and programming bring together key actors from across the Americas for dialog and shared work on key and emerging issues in human rights in the Americas.

  • Re-Imagining Rights in the Americas

    Programming for the coming years will focus on the Project's signature initiative of Re-Imagining Rights in the Americas, which will culminate with a planned period of sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the UCLA campus in late 2021 or 2022. This initiative will spotlight emerging struggles in the Americas around autonomy for Indigenous peoples, environmental defense, racial justice and state accountability. It will promote dialog, action and research to expand the legal framework for these struggles, building towards the visit of the Commission. In its period of sessions, the Commission will hold public hearings on human rights violations by state parties and emerging human rights issues in the Americas.

  • Collaborative Projects

    The Promise Institute is engaged in ongoing collaborative human rights work and litigation in the Inter-American System through the Human Rights in the Americas Project. Students have the opportunity to participate in this work through advanced clinics, independent study, and pro-bono initiatives. Contact project director Joseph Berra if interested.

  • Fellowship Opportunity

    The Promise Institute has a collaborative agreement with the Special Rapporteur for Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Promise Institute will provide a graduating student who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to human rights in the Americas with an award and post-graduate fellowship opportunity with the Special Rapporteur at the Commission. Contact Joseph Berra for more information.

  • International Trial Observation and Monitoring

    Human Rights in the Americas Project Director Joseph Berra is part of the International Observer Mission to the murder trial of Honduran environmental and Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres. Cáceres was assassinated in March 2016, after winning the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her work leading the Lenca community's fight to stop construction of a dam on the Gualcarque River. Berra represents the Promise Institute on the Mission, which includes 17 national and international human rights organizations from North and South America and Europe.

    From October to December of 2018, eight defendants stood trial for the murder of Berta Cáceres. Seven were found guilty: the four material authors and three who organized them. The latter group includes a mid-level manager and a former security guard for the dam-building company DESA, and an active duty military intelligence officer. The executive president of DESA is awaiting trial as the only intellectual author so far to face justice. The family of Berta and the Lenca organization COPINH continue to demand investigation and prosecution of the intellectual authors of the crime, which implicates powerful individuals in Honduran society.

    Berra and Amy Kimbel (UCLA Law 2019) were observers during the first trial. The Mission's final report and other information on the trial can be found here. The Mission found irregularities and serious deficiencies in the Honduran justice system in the course of the trial, and made recommendations to help overcome endemic structures of impunity. Berra is a frequent spokesperson for the Mission due to his expertise on Honduras and work in collaboration with COPINH on Indigenous rights issues. He will be observing the upcoming trial of DESA president David Castillo as part of the Mission. The trial date has not been set.

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