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The MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions is awarded to the Human Rights Center and eight other extraordinary organizations during a ceremony in Chicago this summer. (Pictured from left to right: Stephen Smith Cody, Julie Freccero, Alexa Koenig, Keith Hiatt, and Kim Thuy Seelinger.) 

News and Events

New Human Rights Center study calls on the world to increase support for victims 

VP cover imageA multi-country study of more than 600 survivors of war crimes and crimes against humanity—The Victims’ Court? A Study of 622 Victim Participants at the International Criminal Court—will be issued by the Human Rights Center, UC Berkeley School of Law, during the Assembly of States Parties meeting in The Hague on November 20.

Berkeley’s study finds that meaningful victim participation at the International Criminal Court (ICC) hinges on greater investment by member states in outreach and educational programs, so that victims can more fully understand their rights under the Rome Statute. Presently, most victim participants have insufficient knowledge to make informed decisions about their participation in trials.

“This research offers the world’s first look at how ICC victims feel about their interactions with the court across four countries,“ said Stephen Smith Cody, Atrocity Response Program director at the Human Rights Center. “We learned that, by and large, these survivors want more sustained contact with the court, more information about their cases, and greater support.”

The independent study—undertaken at the request of the ICC and based on in-depth interviews with 622 victim participants in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Côte D’Ivoire—finds that the ICC has reached a critical juncture in its victim participation program. The court must invest more resources and think more creatively about how it can meet the programmatic and psycho-social needs of victim participants, or revamp the program entirely.

Download the full report: The Victims’ Court? A Study of 622 Victim Participants at the International Criminal Court

Download the executive Summary: Victims’ Court? Executive Summary

Read Stephen Smith Cody’s piece in Justice in Conflict: The ICC: A Victims’ Court? Could Happen


Big success during #CalBigGive 2015! 

With your help during Berkeley’s Big Give day of fundraising, the Human Rights Center raised $10,505! We appreciate all of the support that makes our work possible. If you didn’t get a chance to donate, please make your tax-deductible, year-end gift today. DONATEThank you! 


Berkeley Human Rights Q&A #1—Three Words from Ben Ferencz: ‘Law. Not War.’ 

ferencz and student.smallIf Ben Ferencz can be hopeful, so can we. The 95-year-old lawyer fought in the major battles of World War II, witnessed the horrors of Dachau and Buchenwald, and—at age 27—prosecuted Nazis in the Einsatzgruppen case, the ninth of twelve trials at Nuremberg. Twenty-two SS leaders of paramilitary death squads were charged with more than a million murders in what has been called the biggest mass murder trial in history. Among the world’s first war crimes investigators, Ferencz has devoted his life to promoting international justice. His alma mater Harvard Law recently awarded him their medal of freedom—an honor bestowed on the likes of Nelson Mandela. Ferencz recently visited UC Berkeley School of Law, recounting his life’s work and delivering his signature catchphrase: “Law. Not war.” He told students that the law is not static and exhorted them to adapt it to promote human rights. “Don’t tell me it’s impossible,” he said. “Things have changed.”

Ferencz fielded 10 questions for our inaugural Berkeley Human Rights Q&A


New research on sexual violence released at Missing Peace workshop in Uganda

The Human Rights Center’s Sexual Violence Program launched The Long Road: Accountability for Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings at the Missing Peace Practitioners’ Workshop  in Kampala on August 26. More than 80 participants from Sierra Leone, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo at #MissingPeaceKampala discussed the findings and other key concerns related to ending sexual violence during and after armed conflicts.
Read an article about the study by The Guardian’s Liz Ford and Amaka Apara. 
Read the Human Rights Center’s blog about the Missing Peace workshop in Kampala. 


Reiter and Koenig break ground with Extreme Punishment—a new book on prisons 

Extreme Punishment (Reiter and Koenig, 2015)

Extreme Punishment—a new book from Palgrave edited by HRC Executive Director Alexa Koenig and UC Irvine Professor Keramet Reiter— investigates the physical architecture, legal administration, and the lived experience of 21st-century prisoners, including the mentally ill, non-citizen immigrants, and enemy combatants in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. Contributors address the question: How do punishers exert power, and how do the punished experience that power?

“Groundbreaking in its research and documentation, this bracing collection forces us to think again–and in unexpected ways– about how law abets and sustains a global network of military, immigration, and penal polices, unprecedented in their severity and reach,” says  says Vanderbilt University Professor Colin Dayan about Extreme Punishment.

More about Extreme Punishment. 

Human Rights Center wins MacArthur award

Clyde Snow and Judge.x rayThe Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law is one of nine nonprofit organizations around the world to receive the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today.

Known for its “genius awards” to individuals, the MacArthur Foundation also honors extraordinary organizations—in this case, recognizing the Human Rights Center’s investigations and research on war crimes and human rights abuses in more than a dozen countries and spotlighting the Center’s recent work on wartime sexual violence. MacArthur will award the Center $1 million to establish an endowment and expand its Sexual Violence Program.

“The Human Rights Center combines rigorous, leading-edge scientific research with on-the-ground work, yielding valuable contributions to our understanding of rights’ violations and our collective commitment to hold perpetrators accountable,” said MacArthur Vice President Elspeth Revere, who leads the awards program. “MacArthur applauds the Human Rights Center’s creativity and effectiveness, and we hope this recognition and investment will help sustain its work and expand its impact.”

Watch a video about the Human Rights Center
Read a press release about the award