Susan H. Farbstein

Clinical Professor of Law

Co-Director, International Human Rights Clinic

Biography

Susan Farbstein is a Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the International Human Rights Clinic.  Her current work focuses on Southern Africa; economic, social, and cultural rights (in particular the right to education); transitional justice; litigation under the Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act; and community lawyering. She is an expert on South Africa, having worked on a variety of human rights and transitional justice issues in that country for fifteen years. Her writing has been published in scholarly journals including the Harvard Law Review and the Harvard International Law Journal, as well as more popular outlets including The New York Times and SCOTUSBlog. She was selected by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as one of the Commonwealth’s “Top Women of Law” in 2015.

Farbstein served as co-counsel in In re South African Apartheid Litigation, a suit against major multinational corporations for aiding and abetting human rights violations committed by the apartheid state. She is also co-counsel in Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada, which brings claims against the former Bolivian president and defense minister related to a 2003 civilian massacre. She participated in litigating Wiwa v. Shell, which charged Shell with complicity in the torture and killing of non-violent Nigerian activists in the mid-1990s and successfully settled in 2009. Farbstein was honored as finalist for the 2010 Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for her work on the Wiwa case. She has authored numerous amicus curiae briefs, including to the Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (on behalf of legal history scholars), Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman (on behalf of international law scholars), and Samantar v. Yousuf (on behalf of human rights organizations).

Over the past fifteen years, Farbstein has engaged on a range of transitional justice issues in South Africa, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Rwanda, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Myanmar, Thailand, and Argentina. Her recent projects focus on advancing the right to equitable, quality education guaranteed by South Africa’s constitution; seeking accountability for apartheid-era abuses in South Africa; and recommending options for post-harm assistance to civilian survivors of the armed conflict in South Sudan. Her prior projects have helped enshrine economic, social, and cultural rights in Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution, and promoted policy reform and accountability to improve civilian protection and change military behavior in Myanmar.

Farbstein has a strong interest in clinical pedagogy and received the Harvard President’s Innovation Fund for Faculty Grant in 2011-2012. Building on this interest, between 2012-2014 she developed and implemented a training and exchange program on clinical pedagogy with practitioners and academics in South Africa. She also actively supports and mentors students pursuing human rights careers, including by serving as an attorney advisor for the law school’s Office of Public Interest Advising.

Before joining the Harvard Law School faculty in 2008, Farbstein worked at the Cape Town office of the International Center for Transitional Justice. Prior to that, she clerked for the Honorable Morris E. Lasker of the Southern District of New York. She holds a B.A. from Princeton University, an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Areas of Interest

Susan H. Farbstein, Reflections on the Question of When, if Ever, Violence is Justified in Struggles for Social or Political Change, 27 Harv. Hum. Rts. J.1 (2014).
Categories:
Discrimination & Civil Rights
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Law & Public Policy
,
Law & Social Change
,
Human Rights Law
Type: Article
Susan H. Farbstein, Justice Ginsburg's International Perspective, 127 Harv. L. Rev. 429 (2013).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Judges & Jurisprudence
,
International Law
,
Biography & Tribute
Type: Article
Tyler Giannini & Susan H. Farbstein, Online Kiobel Symposium: The Alien Tort Statute and the Importance of Historical Evidence, SCOTUS Blog (July 17, 2012, 7:14 PM).
Categories:
Civil Practice & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Torts
Type: Other
Susan H. Farbstein & Tyler Giannini, Liability for Harms, N.Y. Times, Feb. 28, 2012.
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Corporate Law
,
Human Rights Law
,
International Law
Type: News
Susan H. Farbstein, The Alien Tort Statute and Corporate Liability, 160 U. Pa. L. Rev. Online 99 (2011).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Corporate Law & Securities
Sub-Categories:
Corporate Law
,
Human Rights Law
,
International Law
Type: Article
Tyler Giannini & Susan H. Farbstein, Corporate Accountability in Conflict Zones: How Kiobel Undermines the Nuremberg Legacy and Modern Human Rights, 52 Harv. Int'l L.J. Online 119 (2010).
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Corporate Law
,
Human Rights Law
Type: Article
Susan H. Farbstein, Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in Zimbabwe: Options for Constitutional Protection (2009).
Categories:
Discrimination & Civil Rights
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Civil Rights
,
Discrimination
,
Social Welfare Law
,
Foreign Law
Type: Book
Prosecuting Apartheid-Era Crimes?: a South African Dialogue on Justice (Tyler Giannini, Susan H. Farbstein, Samantha Bent & Miles Jackson eds., 2009).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Criminal Prosecution
,
Human Rights Law
Type: Book
Abstract
In December 2005, South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) promulgated a controversial policy on the prosecution of apartheid-era crimes, sparking renewed debate about such prosecutions and their role in the transition to democracy since 1994. The book presents a diverse collection of perspectives on prosecutions in South Africa, including a foreword by playwright and actor John Kani. Other reflections from former Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) commissioners, survivors of apartheid, civil society members, and government officials outline the serious questions facing South Africa as it deals with prosecutions today. The book traces the history of the prosecutions in South Africa including their relationship to the TRC and a recent legal challenge that asserts the NPA policy is an unconstitutional re-run of the TRC amnesty process. Throughout, the book highlights the important themes related to any post-conflict prosecution scheme including rule-of-law concerns, questions of evenhandedness and moral relativism, competing priorities and resource allocation, the limits of a court-centered approach to justice, and the potential transformative power of prosecutions.
Susan H. Farbstein, Effectiveness of the Exercise of Jurisdiction by the International Criminal Court: The Issue of Complementarity (Eur. Ctr. for Minority Issues, Working Paper No. 12, Aug. 2001).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Civil Practice & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Jurisdiction
,
International Law
Type: Other

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