Projects

Clooney Foundation for Justice TrialWatch ReportsThe Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch initiative monitored criminal proceedings against Evelyn Hernandez and “Diana,” two women charged with murder in El Salvador after being treated for obstetric emergencies after they gave birth in their homes. The two reports, co-authored by Clinical Professor of Law and Trial Watch Expert Juliet Sorensen and Schuette Clinical Fellow in Health and Human Rights Alexandra Tarzikhan, detail the extensive human rights violations against the two women—one of whom was pregnant as a result of a rape—because of El Salvador’s draconian and discriminatory approach to reproductive justice. Though the defendants in these cases were not convicted, their trials are part of a pattern of persecution of similarly situated women. Over the past two decades, El Salvador courts have convicted and imprisoned dozens of women because they had an abortion or simply suffered a miscarriage, the majority being women of limited means. Many of these women were brought to the attention of the police by healthcare professionals who themselves feared prosecution for not reporting abortions or obstetric complications. Read the reports: Evelyn Hernandez and "Diana."

Enhancing Community Health Education through Technology in Lagos, Nigeria. The Access to Health Project in Nigeria works with the Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI), a civil society organization working in Nigerian urban informal settlements, and the Nigerian Slum / Informal Settlement Federation (Federation). The partnership with JEI has centered on community health education with the aim of developing a curriculum that was responsive to the needs of the informal-urban communities. Community health educators (CHEs) are lay community members who are trained in providing peer-led health information discussions and can serve as health advocates for their community. The topics were chosen based on an initial needs assessment and include basic information on anatomy, water and sanitation, safe pregnancy, family planning, malaria, HIV, STDs, other common infections, and vaccines. To date, the CHE program has impacted 112 communities each made up of 1,000 to 30,000 people. In 2018 a partnership was developed with Slalom, a consulting firm with expertise in informatics and business processes. The Slalom team designed a website and mobile application solution to increase access to health information and transparency to services. The website solved the need to get updated, visual training materials to the CHEs and, because the team used a template that did not require coding skills, the solution was scalable and user-friendly for the JEI data team. Slalom also developed a mobile platform so that CHEs could access the information in the field. In 2019, the Slalom team and ATH fellow and faculty traveled to Lagos to train a new cohort of CHEs and field test the mobile application and pilot the website. Current Schuette Clinical Fellow in Health and Human Rights, Alexandra Tarzikhan, presented on ATH’s work during the virtual poster session that was hosted by the Institute for Global Health's Center for Global Health Education and received an honorable mention for her presentation.

Advocacy on behalf of community victimized by toxic contamination from Ethiopia’s Lega Dembi gold mine. The Lega Dembi gold mine is a large privately-owned mine that has caused catastrophic harm to the environment and to the health and well-being of the indigenous agro-pastoral Guji people who live near the mine. Since August 2018, CIHR students and faculty have collaborated with two Ethiopian NGOs to bring international pressure on the government to (a) make public the results of environmental, health and socio-economic impact assessments; (b) engage in consultations with the local community regarding whether and under what conditions the mine should be allowed to operate; and (c) ensure that either the company or the State remediates the existing contamination and provides compensation to community members whose health and livelihood have been impacted by the toxic contamination. As part of this effort, in October 2019 they filed an urgent appeal to certain of the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures, who are independent experts with a mandate to advise and report on human rights issues involving the environment, toxic wastes, indigenous peoples, the right to health, the right to water, and business and human rights.

Northwestern Access to Health Project. The Access to Health Project (ATH) is an interdisciplinary health and human rights project in which students and faculty from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Kellogg School of Management, and Feinberg School of Medicine work with a community in the developing world to assess the public health needs of that community, and, together with local NGOs and partners design targeted, sustainable interventions. Founded in 2012, ATH has partnered with communities in Ethiopia, the Dominican Republic, Mali, and Nigeria. ATH commenced a new partnership in Lebanon at the start of 2017.

International Human Rights Advocacy Clinic. Students participating in our IHR Advocacy Clinic, led by Clinical Professor Bridget Arimond, have the opportunity to work on diverse human rights issues around the world. In recent years, clinical work has focused on advocacy efforts before human rights treaty bodies charged with promoting and monitoring compliance with international human right treaties. Working with local NGO partners on behalf of the LGBTI community, CIHR has prepared reports on the countries of Ghana, Kazakhstan, the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka and Jamaica that carefully document human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, Clinic students have travelled to Colombia to interview and report on Colombian campesinos who have been victimized by agovernment coca eradication program that violated their right to life, personal security, and reparations.

Cambodia Tribunal Monitor. In collaboration with the Documentation Center of Cambodia and thanks to the financial support of the Robert Bosch Foundation, CIHR operates the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor website. This site provides daily coverage of and expert commentary about the trial proceedings of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia before which senior Khmer Rouge leaders and others most responsible for the atrocity crimes of the Pol Pot era are being brought to justice.

Advocacy on behalf of prisoners in Malawi. Most years, CIHR students have the opportunity to travel to Malawi and work directly with prosecutors, legal aid lawyers, and prisoners to reduce the severe prison overcrowding in that country. Their efforts have led to successful plea bargains that have reduced sentences, conserved scarce judicial resources, and enabled many prisoners to become free after serving time proportionate to the crimes they had committed. In March 2011, documentary filmmakers Michael O’Connor and Celia Rumann produced a film about the CIHR's clinical work in Malawi.

Technical Assistance to the Uganda Human Rights Commission with respect to proposed anti-torture legislation. At the request of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, CIHR faculty and students prepared a report and recommendations assessing a draft anti-torture law against (1) the requirements of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and (2) best practices gleaned from the experience of other countries around the world.  In April 2012, the Ugandan Parliament passed a revised version of this bill that incorporated a number of the recommendations of our report.

Provision of assistance to international and hybrid criminal tribunals. Under the guidance of CIHR faculty, Center students prepare memoranda for these tribunals on legal issues raised by particular cases pending before the tribunals. These include amicus briefs in contentious cases.

Participating as plaintiffs' counsel and as amicus curiae in federal court cases brought under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act to hold accountable multinational corporations and government officials for atrocities committed in violation of the law of nations.

Our Work

Youth Rights Resource Compass (website), created May 2020

Access to Health Project: Dominican Republic (pdf), March 2013

Malawi Fieldwork Presentation (pdf), October 2012

Cambodia 2012:  Collaborating in Efforts to Advance Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law (pdf), March 2012

Access to Health Project:  Ethiopia (pdf), March 2012

Malawi Fieldwork (pdf), March 2012

Report: Regulating Death in the Lone Star State (pdf), March 2011

Students Travel to Malawi During Spring Break to Aid Prisoners, April 2010

Report: Sounding the Horn: Ethiopia’s Civil Society Law Threatens Human Rights Defenders (pdf), November 2009

A Toolkit for Local Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (pdf), November 2009

Law Students Spend Spring Break in Malawi Courtrooms (video), August 2009

The Use of Force and Accountability in International Law: A U.S. Perspective, David Scheffer, Council on Foreign Relations (transcript | video | audio), May 2009

Symposium: International Law and Justice: International Obligations Toward Victims of Mass Atrocities, David Scheffer, Council on Foreign Relations (transcript | video), October 2008

The Future of the International Criminal Court, David Scheffer, Washington & Lee University School of Law (audio), September 2009

Symposium: Corporate Human Rights Responsibility, Keynote Address by Chip Pitts (video), January 2008

Symposium: Humanitarian Crises in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (audio | video), October 2006