Via HLS Advocates for Human Rights 

Danae Paterson, J.D. ‘16, and Brian Klosterboer, J.D. ‘16, met one another at the start of their 1L year while working on a project in Advocates for Human Rights. Now in their final year of law school, they have applied the human rights strategies they learned in Advocates to their work in the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) and with human rights organizations in Syria, the West Bank, Turkey, Uganda, and Washington, DC.

Advocates for Human Rights is a student practice organization that enables students to hone their human rights skills and gain practical legal experience, while simultaneously fostering an active and aware human rights community at Harvard Law School. Historically, Advocates was a hotbed of student activism, spearheading campaigns to oppose the Iraq War and U.S. torture programs. Today, Advocates performs legal work on behalf of nongovernmental organizations and works to advance human rights in Boston and around the world.

Both Danae and Brian entered law school with a strong interest in human rights. Within the first few weeks of school, they joined in Advocate’s project called “Thinking Big.” Working with teams, they began to think critically of the systemic problems in human rights. And, throughout the year, they helped develop an anti-sex trafficking project and reading group, which culminated in a “gap analysis” of anti-trafficking organizations in Boston.

Before starting Harvard Law, Danae served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Rwanda, and earned an MSc in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics, where she specialized in nationalism and conflict. Both experiences fueled her interest in human rights and served as a foundation for engaging in work related to conflict-affected areas and human rights.

Building on the experience she gained in Advocates, Danae worked as part of a legal team with the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) in Washington, D.C. to support the state of Yemen and United Nation Envoy to Yemen in their constitution-drafting negotiations. She also went on to work on incendiary weapons treaty negotiations in Geneva as well as principles of assistance to conflict victims in IHRC. During Winter Term, Danae went back to work with PILPG’s Syria team in Gaziantep, Turkey, to support peacebuilding and local negotiations with Syrian community activists.

Before law school, Brian studied African history at Centre College in Kentucky and studied abroad in China and Cameroon. He then traveled to Uganda as a Fulbright Research Fellow to study the media and the military. There, he also worked as a journalist for a Ugandan newspaper that was shut down by the military and co-founded a bar and restaurant in Kampala.

Brian used the skills he learned in Advocates to return to Uganda during his 1L summer and work for the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), a local nonprofit that successfully overturned Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in the Constitutional Court. As a 2L, he worked on the Alien Tort Statute Project with IHRC and went on to work as a Summer Associate at Cohen Milstein in Washington, D.C., a plaintiff-side firm with practice areas in human rights and civil rights.

This year, Danae and Brian serve as co-presidents of Advocates and continue to be involved in promoting and enforcing human rights. They have both continued their work with the International Human Rights Clinic, Danae has continued to support PILPG’s Syria Team, and has worked to debut at Harvard the Caesar Project, a series of photos by a defected military forensic scientist exposing systemic torture in Syria, and Brian is co-authoring a book on the Ugandan gay rights movement.

Advocates has grown since Danae and Brian’s first year of law school and this semester has five active projects. The Criminalization of Homelessness in Massachusetts project investigates how municipal codes in Massachusetts affect people who are homeless. The Corporate Accountability and Legislative Action team is working to pass a bill in the Massachusetts legislature that will open legal channels to individuals who have suffered human rights abuses. The Accountability for the Rohingya project works with local activists in Myanmar to examine and explore legal mechanisms that provide accountability for human rights abuses on behalf of the Rohingya people. And there are two projects on Corporate Accountability for International Crimes in Latin America, one of which focuses on tort liability and another on international criminal law. In addition to these projects, Advocates is also continuously developing projects for the future and hosting speakers, workshops, and events designed to enrich the human rights community at Harvard Law.

Filed in: Clinical Student Voices

Tags: HLS Advocates for Human Rights, International Human Rights Clinic

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