Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10 — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated document in the world.
The UN’s theme for 2020 was “Stand Up For Human Rights” – a calling to all nations and people to rebuild after the pandemic by creating equal opportunities for all, address the failures exposed and exploited by COVID-19, and apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.
CMBG3′ DEI Committee honored Human Rights Day by inviting two renowned experts (Anoush Baghdassarian and Harout Ekmanian) on international law to discuss the recent military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. While this conflict was very briefly reported on in the media, what was not reported on were the significant humanitarian issues that arose from the conflict, all of which were identified and brought to light by humanitarian watchdog organizations. The guest speakers used the Armenia conflict as the foundation for the day’s topics, which included:
- The Armenia / Azerbaijan conflict: why it arose and the history behind the tensions between the two countries
- Humanitarian concerns and violations of international law that stemmed from the conflict, including:
- Ethnic cleansing
- Targeting civilians and non-combat structures (churches, hospitals, etc.)
- The use of weapons such as white phosphorous and cluster munitions that are inadequately addressed under current international law
- Other recent examples in other countries with similar concerns
- What international law says about these issues and why existing laws are inadequate to protect innocent civilians caught in conflicts
- What each one of us can do to try to help (actions, not just donations)
More information on the guest speakers can be found below.
ANOUSH BAGHDASSARIAN (JD ‘22)
Anoush Baghdassarian is a J.D. Candidate at Harvard Law School. She has a Master’s in Human Rights Studies from Columbia University, and a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Genocide Studies from Claremont McKenna College. She is co-founder of the Rerooted Archive, documenting over 200 testimonies from Syrian-Armenian refugees who have fled Syria in the last ten years. She has a career focus on transitional justice and international criminal law, and some of her work experiences include interning as an advisor to the Armenian Permanent Mission to the U.N. and serving as an upcoming visiting professional at the International Criminal Court.
HAROUT EKMANIAN (LLM ‘18)
Harout Ekmanian is a New York attorney working in public international law at Alston & Bird. He graduated from Harvard Law School, LL.M. class of ‘18, where he was also a research associate at the Program on International Law and Armed Conflict and an editor of the Harvard International Law Journal. He previously worked as an associate at Human Rights Watch. He was also a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights of Columbia University and an O’Donnell Global Studies Fellow at Whitman College. Harout has spoken to numerous groups, both nationally and internationally, on human rights, humanitarian and war crimes issues.