BY ERIN ARCHERD
One student and one alum were honored this week with a 2007 Gary Bellow Public Service Award. 3L Rebecca “Bec” Hamilton and Ariel Dulitzky, LLM ’99, received recognition for the public service both at the Law School and internationally. The two winners were chosen by a school-wide vote.
The Gary Bellow Public Service Award was created in 2001 to recognize excellence in public interest work at HLS and to honor Professor Bellow, the founder and former faculty director of Harvard Law School’s Clinical Programs. This year’s winners were chosen from field of over 25 candidates, all of whom were nominated by members of the law school community.
Hamilton, who is also a student at the Kennedy School of Government, was nominated by the board members of HLS Advocates for Human Rights, as well as a large portion of her 1L section. She was thrilled at being nominated for the award by fellow students.
“If I could accomplish half as much as Gary Bellow did in one lifetime I would be happy,” she said. “These kinds of awards are designed to make individuals look amazing, but in truth there’s nothing I’ve done on Darfur that I’ve done alone. From my 1L section classmates who put up with me talking human rights non-stop, to the students across the University that are the lifeblood of the Harvard Darfur Action Group – it is always a collective effort behind the scenes.”
Dulitzky is a Human Rights Senior Specialist for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where he advises governmental and international organizations on human rights policies and legal standards. He has done a great deal of work on racial discrimination and human rights issues throughout Latin America and the world.
“It is an honor for me to receive this award,” he said. “It encourages me to continue in my field and renews my commitment to public service and to clinical education. As the same time, I hope that this initiative run completely by students encourages more students to engage in public service.”
Dulitzky was part of the first class to enter law school after the return of democracy to Argentina, a time in which much attention was turned toward the military’s human rights violations. Two of his cousins were kinapped during the military dictatorship, never to be seen again.
“From there, it was very natural for me to move to work in this field,” he said. “I became an assitance to a well known human rights professor and with some classmates we created a a human rights foundation. We filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of victims of the military dictatorship…Later, I had the opportunity to do a clerkship with a very progressivce federal circuit court judge where I was able to work on some human rights cases.”
Hamilton has worked extensively on international human rights issues, and is co-Chair of the Advocates Africa Group as well as a managing editor of the Harvard Human Rights Journal. She stressed that the situation in Darfur is getting worse, with 2.8 million people sitting in camps. She has helped set up a phone service – 1 800 GENOCIDE – that lets American citizens know how to contact their representatives and ask them to enforce the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. She also urged people to check out harvarddivest.com and genocideintervention.net as well as attend next Wednesday’s Dinner for Darfur fundraiser.
“Don’t let anyone think that this situation is resolved, even if it is not on the front pages as much as it was three years ago,” she said. “In fact, the violence has spread beyond the borders of Sudan – its like a cancer – if you don’t deal with it, it only gets worse.”
She highlighted continuing atrocities in Uganda, the DRC, Burma, and Chad and pointed out that a 10 second media spotlight is not enough. People need to be permanently engaged in these issues.
“Human rights approaches are as relevant to dealing with Hurricane Katrina, immigrants in New Bedford, and terrorism as they are to dealing with mass atrocity,” she said. “If we paid sustained attention to economic rights and had less people living in situations of unbearable resource scarcity, if education really was accessible to everyone, if environments weren’t being degraded, if HIV/AIDs wasn’t devastating entire communities and so on – then you would see a dramatic improvement in levels of violence – not a panacea of course, but any improvement counts.”
Dulitzky also felt there were many ways to improve human rights around the world. First, he stressed the protection of economic, social, and cultural rights, for which he feels human rights lawyers have yet to develop effective tools. Second, countries need to focus on the relationship between citizen security and human rights.
“It is unacceptable that in many countries the principal reason of death for young males of color is violent homicides. The criminal justice systems in many countries have proven ineffective at dealing with this situation and generally act in a discriminatory way.”
He pointed out the need to focus more on discriminatory practices worldwide and to curb the unequal distribution of wealth, political power, and social opportunities. Finally, he felt a central task was to protect the advances made in human rights from encroachments by “people in power in some powerful countries.”
Hamilton praised the work of the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising and the availability of SPIF funding. She will be working for the International Criminal Court in the fall, and may help a friend make a documentary in South Sudan over the summer.
“I think that OPIA does an amazing job in the context of an incentive structure set up to encourage law students to basically get on an escalator in 1L year and not have to do really anything pro-active or take any risks in order to get off 3 years later at a law firm with a $160K salary attached,” she said. “A law firm is great if that’s what you love doing – but too often it’s just the default option.”
Dulitzky, too, was influenced by the public interest community in his choice of schools.
“I was lucky enough to be admitted to several top law schools and I opted for HLS because of its opportunities for people like me who are interested in public service. The Human Rights Program was one of the attractions for me, as well as the impressive faculty.”
Still, as an LLM, he occasionally felt disconnected from the law school intellectual life, and believed that more could be done to “incorporate the value of different legal cultures brought by LLM students into the legal training at HLS.”
“While I had some professors who truly engaged LLM students, I remember a couple of classes where I made comments based on how I conceived of the law and the professor would look at me as if I were a Martian.”
“To make HLS a truly international law school you need to be open to other legal cultures, be willing to explore different understandings of the law, and engage in discussions with your students,” he concluded. “If not, the law school will only be attempting to globalize on particular and limited legal culture and that is not going to serve the purpose of training the best lawyers in an integrated world.”