Promise Institute Students Engage in Experiential Opportunities

June 10, 2019
Clinical and Experiential Project Director Joe Berra and students gather testimony and evidence while in Honduras.
Clinical and Experiential Project Director Joe Berra and students gather testimony and evidence while in Honduras.

This year, Promise Institute students traveled to Honduras, Mexico, Switzerland and New York to participate in a range of experiential learning opportunities.

Students in the International Human Rights Clinic attended summits in New York and Geneva, Switzerland, to support the work of professor E. Tendayi Achiume, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. At the U.N. General Assembly in New York in October, Achiume presented two reports: One focused on the ways in which national populism from Austria to the United States threatens racial equality, and the other detailed the rise of neo-Nazism on the internet. She also convened a discussion with representatives of U.N. member states and human rights agencies to discuss her reports in light of recent hate crimes, including the October 2018 mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn. Shortly after the New York trip, Achiume, human rights fellow Sarah Khanghahi '16, and three International Human Rights Clinic students — Daniel Johnson '19, Abigail Kerfoot '20 and Nicole Van Zyl '19 — traveled to the University of Geneva for a conference on human rights and cyberspace.

Students in the International Human Rights Clinic: International Field Experience traveled to Honduras during the 2019 January term to conduct fieldwork in partnership with the Community of Pajuiles and their attorneys with the Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia. Students collected testimony and evidence from community members for their case against the construction of a hydroelectric dam that has contaminated the community's drinking water. In another case, students accompanied the Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación de Honduras and the Foro de Mujeres por la Vida as they met with prosecutors investigating the assassination of peasant and women's rights activist Margarita Murillo. Students also met with clinic partners the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras and the Organización Fraternal Negra de Honduras (OFRANEH) to discuss ongoing collaborative projects. The field experience was led by Clinical and Experiential Project Director Joe Berra.

Students in a Spring clinic, Human Rights in Action: Collaborative Grassroots Lawyering in Honduras, built upon some of the fieldwork conducted in January by preparing and filing an amicus brief in the Pajuiles case in the Supreme Court of Honduras. They also prepared legal memos for our partners in both the Margarita Murillo case and a project with OFRANEH analyzing the situation of human rights in Garifuna communities. Students prepared a series of memos that offered critiques the U.S. role in the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Honduras. They traveled to Washington, D.C. in April to engage with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and to meet with lawmakers and policy makers on Capitol Hill and at the State Department to discuss U.S. policy and human rights in Honduras.

Amy Kimbel '19 traveled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in October to observe the first trial of the alleged killers of indigenous and environmental activist Berta Cáceres. The Promise Institute was part of a coalition of 17 human rights organizations that formed the International Observer Mission at the trial. Cáceres was assassinated in 2016 for leading opposition to construction of a hydroelectric dam by the company DESA in the territory of the indigenous Lenca people.

Kimbel played a key role in drafting, editing and translating the preliminary report of the mission, as well as a communique in early November denouncing the involuntary removal of the attorneys for Cáceres family and other irregularities at trial.

Throughout the year, Promise Institute students traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, in partnership with National Lawyer's Guild - Los Angeles and Al Otro Lado. At the border, students worked as legal observers for asylum seekers and conducted client intake, credible-fear interview preparation training and know-your-rights presentations.

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