Post Date: January 26, 2004

Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights, a student group that works closely with the law school’s Human Rights Program, has recently filed a friend of the court brief with the Indian National Human Rights Commission regarding the disappearance of thousands of Sikhs in Punjab by the Indian government in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The brief argues that international law requires the government to investigate thoroughly all allegations of disappearances and to accept and consider a wide variety of evidence in making its determinations.

The brief, which was co-signed by Human Rights Watch, focuses on the current investigation by the Indian Commission of the illegal disappearance and cremation of 2,098 Sikh victims, whose bodies were discovered in three specific crematoria in Amritsar, Punjab. Indira Jaising, one of the leading human rights attorneys in India, will argue the brief on behalf of HLS Advocates. It will be the first international submission to be heard by the Indian Commission.

The brief to the Indian National Human Rights Commission is one of many projects the HLS Advocates have/are currently engaged in. Other activities include:

More than 80 students are currently involved in Advocates programs, which are divided into five regional/thematic initiatives: Latin America; Europe; Russia; Africa; and human rights and Islam.

“By developing collaborative relationships with a diverse group of human rights organizations located all over the world, HLS Advocates has been able to appeal to a wide range of students,” said third-year student Dan Schlanger, the president of HLS Advocates. “The diversity of the organizations has allowed us to develop projects in many different regions, and to gain experience with many different modes of advocacy.”

HLS Advocates began three years ago when a group of students assisted the El Salvadoran human rights organization, CODEFAM, in its efforts to present cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. From its founding, the group has received support and guidance from the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, which fosters coursework, research and scholarship through visiting fellowships, summer internships abroad, clinical work, and its speaker series.