Human Rights Clinic - Projects & Cases

The projects of the Human Rights Clinic cover the full range of human rights advocacy. Priority areas include gender and racial justice, immigrant and Indigenous women’s rights, and the rights to housing, health, and food.

Projects have a cross-cutting gender and racial justice dimension and have focused on:

Addressing Gender-Based Violence

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

    The Human Rights Clinic works to strengthen responses to gender-based violence, including domestic violence and sexual assault, locally in Miami, nationally and globally, through the Human Rights Program’s COURAGE Initiative.

    • Miami Law’s Human Rights Clinic developed a human rights framework for improving law enforcement responses to gender-based violence, as well as a series of country case studies, focused on Canada, Brazil, and the U.S., assessing good practices and challenges using this framework.
    • Litigation:
      • 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.
    • A package of materials pushing for the repeal of Florida law SB 168 and other anti-immigrant laws in the U.S.:
      • In September 2020, the Clinic submitted an Amicus Brief to the Southern District of Florida in support of the plaintiffs in City of South Miami, et al. v. Ron DeSantis, et al. The brief discusses how SB 168 will negatively impact immigrant survivors of gender-based violence.
      • In February 2020, the Clinic published a law review article in the Harvard Latinx Law Review that discusses how anti-immigrant laws violate the international human rights law to which the United States is bound. 
      • In November 2019, the 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 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 at Clinic Submits Four Reports to the United Nations Alleging Violations in the U.S. The Clinic additionally developed a factsheet on the impact of SB 168 on Immigrant survivors of gender-based violence.
    • Community Surveys:
      • In February 2019, the Human Rights Clinic launched two surveys in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole, geared towards survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their advocates in South Florida on their experience with law enforcement responses to domestic violence and sexual assault. The COURAGE team developed these surveys following roundtables with various community-based organizations in South Florida.
      • Additionally, the Clinic developed a survey in English and Spanish geared towards service providers of domestic violence and sexual assault in South Florida on their experience with the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 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.

  • 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 here. Professor 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 & Resources

    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.
    • 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.

    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

    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.

Food Rights

Health Rights

Housing Rights

Immigrant Rights

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  • Stop Deportations to Haiti
  • 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.

Indigenous Rights

The Human Rights Clinic has a number of projects focused on Indigenous women's rights.

• The Human Rights Clinic developed a factsheet on Indigenous Peoples and the Right to Water.
• In March 2021, the Human Rights Clinic produced an advocacy brief and U.N. submission on behalf of Indigenous women leaders on the interpretation of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) with respect to Indigenous women and girls. The submission was drafted on behalf of MADRE and FIMI and seeks to inform the CEDAW Committee’s development of a new General Recommendation on the rights of Indigenous women and girls.
• The Human Rights Clinic developed a series of reports on the intersection of Indigenous rights with gender and environmental violence, submitted to the CEDAW Committee and UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls. The reports provide a human rights framework to address gender and environmental violence, a synopsis with key recommendations, and case studies focused on Pipelines and Man Camps on Indigenous Lands in the Northern United States and on Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Please also find a complementary case study on Environmental Destruction, Land Dispossession, and Gender-Based Violence against Indigenous Peoples in Brazil, developed by the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. In 2022, The Clinic submitted a report, “The Climate Crisis and Gender-Based Violence against Indigenous Peoples: Impacts and Responses,” to the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women. Additionally, the Clinic published Human Rights at Home blogs on Celebrating World Water Day by Calling for Respect for our Environment and Indigenous Communities and Past Time for Respect for Indigenous Peoples and the Environment.
• The Human Rights Clinic produced a report on the impacts of COVID-19 on Indigenous Peoples and women, in particular.
• The Human Rights Clinic produced a report on the “Rights of Nature and Indigenous Communities.” For more information on the Clinic’s work on the rights of Nature, please also see the Clinic’s report on the rights of rural and Indigenous women in Ecuador and advocacy brief and CEDAW submission on the rights of Indigenous women and girls.
• Additionally, the Human Rights Clinic advocates on behalf of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, along with Canadian partner organizations. In February 2019, the Human Rights Clinic contributed to a written and oral submission before the Canadian National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, with a report focused on the right to truth. Read the web story and partners' press release. From March 26-28, 2012, a Human Rights Clinic team presented at a thematic hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in British Columbia, Canada.


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