Human Rights Clinic: Projects & Cases

 

 

Members of the Human Rights Clinic at the United Nations Closed Consultation on the Right to Food and Nutrition at the Commission for the Status of WomenThe projects of the Human Rights Clinic cover the full range of human rights advocacy. Projects have focused on: 

Gender Justice

Economic Justice

Migrant / Immigrant Rights

Juvenile Justice

 

 

Gender Justice

 COURAGE (Community Oriented and United Responses to Address Gender Violence and Equality) in Policing

The Human Rights Clinic works to strengthen the law enforcement response to domestic violence and sexual assault locally in Miami, nationally, and globally through the COURAGE in Policing Project.

  • In November 2019, the COURAGE-Immigration team of the Miami Law Human Rights Clinic published an op-ed in the Miami Herald. The link to the article can be found here: Repeal Florida law that leaves immigrant domestic-violence victims in greater danger | Opinion
  • In October 2019, the COURAGE-Immigration team of the Miami Law Human Rights Clinic submitted a report on the impact of anti-immigrant laws in the U.S. on immigrant survivors of gender-based violence, as part of the upcoming Universal Periodic Review of the U.S. by the U.N. Human Rights Council, The Clinic's report highlights Florida’s new anti-immigrant law, SB 168, as a prime example of how such laws place survivors in greater danger, exacerbate their trauma, and undermine public safety. A web story on this advocacy can be found here: Clinic Submits Four Reports to the United Nations Alleging Violations in the U.S.
  • In February 2019, the Human Rights Clinic COURAGE team launched two surveys in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. The COURAGE team developed these surveys following roundtables with various community-based  organizations in South Florida. The surveys are geared towards survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their advocates in South Florida.
  • In October 2018, the Human Rights Clinic authored an intervention before the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Toradze v. Georgia, focused on addressing officer-perpetrated domestic violence.

 Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States of America

The Human Rights Clinic represents Jessica Lenahan, the petitioner in Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States—a groundbreaking decision from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) finding the U.S. in violation of its human rights obligations in the context of domestic violence.

 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

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The Human Rights Clinic advocates on behalf of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, along with Canadian Partner Organizations.

 Discrimination, Violence, and Drug Policy

The Human Rights Clinic works to address discrimination and violence against women as a result of drug policy.

The Clinic has collaborated with partners to ensure the rights of women who use drugs and women living with HIV in Estonia and Russia. This has entailed U.N. advocacy with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Health, Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, and Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice. Please find a web story on this advocacy at Via U.N. Advocacy, Clinic Addresses Discriminatory Drug Laws Against Women, and please find a submission on Estonia by the Clinic and partners. Advocacy has resulted in strong Concluding Observations protective of human rights from the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to Estonia on both drug policy and HIV/AIDS in paragraphs 44-47. 

Globally, the Clinic submitted a report on obstetric violence experienced by women who use drugs to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. Additionally, the Clinic has also published the following reports with partners: Harm Reduction and Women: A Human Rights Approach, Drug Policy and the Fundamental Human Rights of Women Who Use Drugs, and Women Who Use Drugs: Key Issues, Violations, and Recommendations.

Furthermore, the Human Rights Clinic made two submissions in response to the International Commission of Jurists’ call for civil society consultation to help develop “principles that address the detrimental impact on health, equality and human rights of criminalization with a focus on select conduct in the areas of sexuality, reproduction, drug use and HIV.” Please see Alternative Models to Punitive Drug Policy and The Impact of Criminalization on Women Who Use Drugs in Estonia.

Additionally, the Clinic has addressed drug policies in the United States in two submissions to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The first submission discusses drug policies resulting in arbitrary detention and discrimination on the basis of gender and race. Please find a web story on this at Via U.N. Advocacy, Human Rights Clinic Addresses Arbitrary Detention Resulting from Drug Policy. The second submission to the Working Group discusses the problems with drug courts, which put drug treatment in the hands of the criminal justice system, which lacks medical expertise, and function in a context of scarce treatment resources.

 Gender-Based Violence and Workers' Rights

The Human Rights Clinic works to address discrimination and gender-based violence affecting low-paid workers, in particular low-paid immigrant women farmworkers, domestic workers, and nursery workers. The Human Rights Clinic, WeCount!, Miami Workers Center, and Community Justice Project are the joint recipients of a grant to support low-paid immigrant women workers in South Florida who have experienced workplace sexual misconduct or related retaliation. The community coalition has used the grant to collectively initiate a new project, Voces Unidas/VWA Ini: Building a Local Movement to End Workplace Sexual Harassment and Violence against Low-Wage Immigrant Women Workers in South Florida. The coalition’s work has entailed the creation of surveys and focus group discussion guides to assess the prevalence of workplace gender-based violence in South Florida as well as tools for organizers and workers to recognize and respond to gender-based violence in the workplace. Additionally, the Human Rights Clinic engaged in  U.N. advocacy on the topic through the submission of a civil society report to the Universal Periodic Review of the U.S. entitled Violations of the Human Right to Equality and Non-Discrimination in the United States: Low-Paid Migrant Workers’ Experiences with Workplace Gender-Based Violence.

 Domestic Violence and Housing

In February 2014, the Human Rights Clinic submitted comments to the Miami-Dade Public Housing and Community Development’s Proposed Policies for Section 8 Housing and the Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy. The Human Rights Clinic recommended that these policies expand protections for victims of domestic violence and cite to Miami-Dade County’s Local Resolution (which the Clinic helped to draft in 2012) declaring freedom from domestic violence to be a fundamental human right.

The clinic’s suggestions were incorporated into the sections on domestic violence in Miami-Dade County’s Public Housing and Community Development’s FY 2014-15 Public Housing Agency Plan, Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy, and Section 8 Administrative Plan. For example, on page 131, the Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy (ACOP) states that “Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Miami-Dade County Resolution…PHCD is required to implement internal policies to include provisions for protections of victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, sexual battery and stalking.”

Subsequently, Human Rights Clinic 3L student Charlotte Cassel testified before the Miami-Dade Board of Commissioners in early April, where she reiterated the Clinic’s concerns and advocated for increased protections in housing for victims of domestic violence.

 Domestic Violence and Gun Laws

  • Participating in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In March 2014, the Human Rights Clinic participated in a thematic hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to look at the impact of Stand Your Ground laws on minority groups throughout the United States. Clinic partners included the Dream Defenders, Community Justice Project of Florida Legal Services, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Free Marissa Now Campaign. Additionally, Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, and Ronald Davis, the father of Jordan Davis, both spoke as part of our delegation before the Commission.

The video of the hearing can be found here.

A copy of the Petitioners’ testimonies can be found hereProfessor Bettinger-Lopez appeared on Jamaica Radio's Behind the Headlines on March 25, 2014 to discuss the hearing.

Click here and here for blog posts by Professor Deena Hurwitz (UVA) about the hearing.

  • Submitting a shadow report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

In September 2013, the Human Rights Clinic drafted and submitted a "shadow report" on Domestice Violence, Gun Violence, and "Stand Your Ground" Laws to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in anticipation of the review of the United States' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva in March 2014.

  • Participating in an ABA (American Bar Association) Task Force Hearing.

The Human Rights Clinic participated in the ABA National Task Force’s Hearing on Stand Your Ground Law – Miami Law 3L Charlotte Cassel discussed the application of the Stand Your Ground law to victims of domestic violence belonging to ethnic and racial minorities and framed the issue in terms of international human rights.

 Domestic Violence Resolutions

The Human Rights Clinic has worked with law clinics and advocates across the country to develop Resolutions Recognizing Freedom from Domestic Violence as a Fundamental Human Right.

  • HRC students' resolution declaring that "freedom from domestic violence is a fundamental human right" is approved by Miami-Dade County Commission.
  • Read a Miami Herald op-ed co-authored by HRC student Michael Stevenson and Commissioner Sally Heyman about the resolution.
  • Professor Margaret Drew and students from the University of Cincinnati prepared a toolkit on local DV resolutions.

 Other Domestic Violence Resources

  • Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault in the United States: A Human Rights Based Approach & Practice Guide

In August 2104, the Miami Human rights Clinic, along with the Colombia Law School Human Rights Institute, and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, published Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault in the United States: A Human Rights Based Approach & Practice Guide

  • Battered Women's Justice Project Webinar

In January 2014, the clinic hosted a webinar on “New Perspectives in Gender Justice in Clinic Teaching.” The webinar focused on the case of Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States of America, the clinic’s work on implementing the Inter-American Commission’s 2011 decision, and how local governments can resolve to recognize freedom from domestic violence as a fundamental human right.

 Gender Justice Convening

The clinic worked to organize the first Gender Justice of the Americas Conference in February 2011. The event focused on revitalizing and challenging the transnational dialogue regarding sexuality, violence, reproductive and human rights. This event brought together 150 advocates from 20 countries in the Americas.

Economic Justice

 Criminalization of Poverty & Marginalization

The Clinic has focused on addressing the criminalization of poverty and marginalization. Throughout the globe, petty offenses, such as loitering laws, are used to exert social control. In Africa, laws against “vagrancy,” being a “rogue or vagabond,” “loitering,” “wandering,” and “idleness” are used to target unpopular groups, such as the poor, migrants, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and sex workers and to justify “sweeping exercises,” or mass arrests to get unwanted people off the streets. In the United States and locally in Miami, the use of petty offenses to criminalize poverty is also a critical issue where homeless people regularly face the threat of criminal sanctions for fulfilling basic needs.

In September 2019, the Clinic hosted a global Symposium on Petty Offenses: Challenging Criminalization of Poverty, Marginalization, and Gender Non-Conformity in collaboration with the University of Miami Law Review, University of Miami Race and Social Justice Law Review, University of Miami School of Communication, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the Open Society Foundations’ Human Rights Initiative. The symposium provided an opportunity for the sharing of experiences and strategies in challenging petty offenses, exploring the use of litigation; human rights advocacy at international, regional, national, and local levels; and creative campaigning. The symposium drew on work from Ghana, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, India, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and the United States facilitated joint strategizing across movements, issues, and countries. It featured a photography exhibit, and videos are available from advocate talks. A special symposium issue of the University of Miami Law Review further captured lessons and reflections. A blog on the Symposium was also published as part of the Human Rights at Home Blog series.

A communications workshop prior to the symposium, hosted with the University of Miami School of Communication, provided an opportunity for advocates to strengthen communication strategies and creative campaigning to complement legal advocacy. At the workshop, advocates developed a shared hashtag for work in this area: #PoorNotGuilty.

The Clinic also engages in advocacy, challenging the criminalization of poverty and marginalization. In June 2020, the Clinic submitted a comment providing a human rights analysis of the problems with a proposed ordinance in Miami that would criminalize food sharing, or the feeding of people experiencing homelessness in large groups in public places without a permit at non-designated feeding locations (with only 5 inconvenient locations designated).

In April 2019, the Clinic filed a submission with the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights on the gender impacts of vagrancy laws, in collaboration with Lawyers Alert-Nigeria. The submission considered the colonial roots of vagrancy laws and examined how they facilitate discriminatory policing of gender norms, provide a cover for officer-perpetrated gender-based violence, and stifle economic development based on gender identity and expression. Please find a web story with additional information at Clinic Addresses Gender Impacts of Vagrancy Laws Before African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

 Right to Housing

The Human Rights Clinic engages in advocacy to realize the right to housing. In October 2019, HRC submitted a report on housing and homelessness in Miami-Dade County, Florida as part of the upcoming Universal Periodic Review of the U.S. by the U.N. Human Rights Council. The report provides a human rights analysis of the criminalization of homelessness, access to health services, and access to housing, as well as provides recommendations to address these issues. Please find a web story on this advocacy at Clinic Submits Four Reports to the United Nations Alleging Violations in the U.S. The Clinic additionally developed a factsheet on Housing and Homelessness in Miami-Dade County.  In May 2020, the Miami Herald published the Clinic's Op-Ed on homelessness and COVID-19, and in June 2020, the Clinic submitted a report to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing on informal settlements and homelessness in the context of COVID-19.

 Right to Food

The Human Rights Clinic works to promote and protect the human right to food and nutrition, in particular as it affects rural women. This work has entailed U.N. advocacy around rural women’s right to food in March 2018 during the U.N. 62nd Commission on the Status of Women in New York. Human Rights Clinic students participated in side events focused on women’s access to natural resources and health in the context of the right to food. Additionally, the Human Rights Clinic contributed to a thematic closed consultation on the use and implementation of FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) Voluntary Guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security. As a result of this consultation, a civil society report on the use and implementation of FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) right to food guidelines, which can is also available in Spanish or French, was published. In March 2019, the Human Rights Clinic contributed to an amicus brief presented by the former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and current member of the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Olivier De Schutter, before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights in the case of the Indigenous Communities of the Lhaka Honhat Association v. Argentina arguing that Argentina violated the human right to food of the Lhaka Honhat Indigenous communities. In October 2019, the Human Rights Clinic engaged in U.N. advocacy around the right to food through the submission of a civil society report to the Universal Periodic Review of the U.S. entitled, The Human Right to Food in the Context of Political Participation, Equality and Nondiscrimination. In November 2019, the Clinic submitted a request to the Organization of American States on the Rural Women’s Right to Food and in June 2020, the Clinic submitted a report to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food on systemic racism and hunger in the context of COVID-19 in the U.S.

 Submissions to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

Twenty second- and third-year students from Professor Carrie Bettinger-López’s International Human Rights Law and Advocacy class teamed with the law school’s Human Rights Clinic and South Florida anti-poverty organizations to produce six reports for the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. The rapporteur, Professor Philip Alston, used the reports to supplement his official visits to several U.S. cities in December 2017. Alston presented his findings on the interlinkages between U.S. poverty and the realization of human rights before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in early 2018.

Click here for the six consolidated reports submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

Click on the links below for the individual reports:

 Collaboration with Coalition of Immokalee Workers

The Human Rights Clinic has partnered with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) over the years on projects related to housing and employment rights.

Migrant / Immigrant Rights

 Asylum Claims at the U.S. Border

  • The Human Rights Clinic is collaborating with Catholic Legal Services to advocate for asylum in the U.S. for victims of gender-based violence.
  • The Human Rights Clinic filed a petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights alleging rights violations by the U.S. against asylum seekers who have been detained in harsh conditions and arbitrarily denied the chance to apply for asylum on the Southern border.
  • The clinic was involved in representing a Haitian immigrant in deportation proceedings, arguing that deporting her would likely result in her being tortured back in Haiti, a violation of the Convention against Torture (CAT).

 Human Rights in Post-Earthquake Haiti

The Human Rights Clinic co-organized an international “Stop Deportations to Haiti” Campaign in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, with advocacy before the United Nations, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and U.S. and Haitian lawmakers.

  • Shadow Reports to U.N. Treaty Bodies

On June 30, 2014 the Human Rights and Immigration Clinics contributed to a shadow report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination regarding Deportation from the United States to Haiti: A Violation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

The Human Rights Clinic further contributed to a shadow report to the U.N. Human Rights Committee in anticipation of the review of the United States' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva in October 2013 on U.S. Deportations to Haiti. In February 2014, the clinic submitted an update to their original shadow report. View our Congressional briefing flyer (March 2012) with the latest updates on Haitian deportations.

  • Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Advocacy

The Human Rights Clinic, together with the Immigration Clinic and other partners, brought a “precautionary measures” case before the IACHR asking the United States to immediately stop deportations of Haitian nationals from the U.S. to Haiti in light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis there. The petition was granted for dozens of Haitian nationals. The Clinic worked on a follow-up “merits petition” to the IACHR.

  • Engagement withthe U.N.'s Independent Expert on human rights in Haiti

The U.N.'s Independent Expert on human rights in Haiti, as well as UM Clinics and South Florida immigration advocates, have renewed their call on the United States, Dominican Republic and others to halt deportations to Haiti.

  • Press Release
  • UN report, Forced returns of Haitians from third states
  • Read the statement presented on July 3, 2012 at the United Nations Human Rights Council by the ACLU, UM's Human Rights and Immigration Clinics, and others concerning Haitian deportations from the U.S. following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
  • ACLU delivered a statement on behalf of several groups at UNHRC urging US government to refrain from deporting Haitians (July 4, 2012).

 Migrant Rights in the Dominican Republic

This project was initially focused on supporting efforts in the Dominican Republic to implement a regularization program for undocumented individuals. In the wake of a September 2013 decision by the Dominican Constitutional Court—which stripped citizenship from hundreds of thousands of Dominican citizens of Haitian descent—the Clinic quickly switched its focus to addressing the harmful consequences of the Court ruling. As part of these efforts, the Clinic submitted a press release and an amicus curiae brief in the case of Benito Tide Méndez et al., v. Dominican Republic before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, focused on the rights of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic.

Juvenile Justice

 Youth Incarcerated in Adult Prisons

The Human Rights Clinic has engaged with local, state, and national juvenile justice advocates to develop advocacy and other strategies for rectifying some of the rights problems facing youth in the criminal justice system. Some of the Florida-focused topics the Clinic has focused includes: children being filed into the adult justice system without judicial review; pretrial detention of juveniles in county jails; and conditions of confinement of juveniles, including solitary confinement and other abuse allegations.

The Clinic provided research support for a shadow report on Youth Incarcerated in Adult Prisons in the U.S. to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

 Criminalization of Minority Youth

On June 30, 2014 the Human Rights Clinic along with partner organizations submitted a Shadow Report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination regarding Criminalization of Minority Youth: Youth Criminally Tried and Incarcerated as Adults.

Help Us Make a Difference

The Human Rights Clinic relies on charitable contributions to:

  • Offer high-quality legal support to underserved and disadvantaged communities
  • Give students firsthand experience in cutting-edge human rights litigation and advocacy at the local, national, regional, and international levels
  • Provide students with opportunities to engage in multidimensional legal advocacy, including:
    • Documentation and report-writing
    • Litigation
    • Media engagement
    • Work with legislative and administrative bodies
    • Campaigning
    • Community organizing
    • Global networking
  • Empower students to evaluate and propose reforms for laws and legal institutions
  • Invest in the next generation of skilled, ethical, and reform-minded lawyers
    Support Us   

Support Us


CONTACT INFORMATION

Human Rights Clinic
University of Miami School of Law
1311 Miller Drive, E295A
Coral Gables, FL 33146
Phone: 305-284-1678
Fax: 305-284-6093


FACULTY

Caroline Bettinger-López
Caroline Bettinger-López
Professor of Law & Director, Human Rights Clinic
 

Tamar Ezer
Tamar Ezer
Associate Director, Human Rights Clinic & Lecturer in Law
 

Denisse Montes
R. Denisse Córdova Montes
Practitioner in Residence
Human Rights Clinic & Lecturer in Law

STAFF

Rose Dominguez
Rose Dominguez
Senior Manager
(305) 284-4542
rdominguez@law.miami.edu

 

Dalgys Estrabao
Dalgys Estrabao
Senior Manager
(305) 284-8537
destrabao@law.miami.edu

 

SUPPORT THE COURAGE PROJECT

The Human Rights Clinic works to strengthen the law enforcement response to domestic violence and sexual assault locally in Miami, nationally, and globally through the COURAGE in Policing Project.

 

PHOTOS

See more photos of the Human Rights Clinic in action on Flickr


Carrie Bettinger Lopez with Joe Biden
Human Rights Clinic Director (and former White House Advisor on Violence Against Women) Caroline Bettinger-Lopez with former Vice President Biden at the It's On Us Rally at the University of Miami (March 20, 2018).

clinic students
Human Rights Clinic students Maria Rodriguez, Riva Ryan, and Danielle Befeler attended the YWCA Congressional Hearing on eliminating racism and empowering women in Washington DC (April 25, 2018).

Charlotte Cassel, 3L, makes opening remarks during a thematic hearing before the IACHR.
Charlotte Cassel, 3L, makes opening remarks during a thematic hearing before the IACHR.

James Slater, 3L, delivers statement on immigration and deportations to Haiti before the UN Human Rights Committee
James Slater, 3L, delivers statement on immigration and deportations to Haiti before the UN Human Rights Committee

Support Us


CONTACT INFORMATION

Human Rights Clinic
University of Miami School of Law
1311 Miller Drive, E295A
Coral Gables, FL 33146
Phone: 305-284-1678
Fax: 305-284-6093


FACULTY

Caroline Bettinger-López
Caroline Bettinger-López
Professor of Law & Director, Human Rights Clinic
 

Tamar Ezer
Tamar Ezer
Associate Director, Human Rights Clinic & Lecturer in Law
 

Denisse Montes
R. Denisse Córdova Montes
Practitioner in Residence
Human Rights Clinic & Lecturer in Law

STAFF

Rose Dominguez
Rose Dominguez
Senior Manager
(305) 284-4542
rdominguez@law.miami.edu

 

Dalgys Estrabao
Dalgys Estrabao
Senior Manager
(305) 284-8537
destrabao@law.miami.edu

 

SUPPORT THE COURAGE PROJECT

The Human Rights Clinic works to strengthen the law enforcement response to domestic violence and sexual assault locally in Miami, nationally, and globally through the COURAGE in Policing Project.

 

PHOTOS

See more photos of the Human Rights Clinic in action on Flickr


Carrie Bettinger Lopez with Joe Biden
Human Rights Clinic Director (and former White House Advisor on Violence Against Women) Caroline Bettinger-Lopez with former Vice President Biden at the It's On Us Rally at the University of Miami (March 20, 2018).

clinic students
Human Rights Clinic students Maria Rodriguez, Riva Ryan, and Danielle Befeler attended the YWCA Congressional Hearing on eliminating racism and empowering women in Washington DC (April 25, 2018).

Charlotte Cassel, 3L, makes opening remarks during a thematic hearing before the IACHR.
Charlotte Cassel, 3L, makes opening remarks during a thematic hearing before the IACHR.

James Slater, 3L, delivers statement on immigration and deportations to Haiti before the UN Human Rights Committee
James Slater, 3L, delivers statement on immigration and deportations to Haiti before the UN Human Rights Committee