HEALTH & REPARATIONS PROJECT (HARP) LAUNCH & IJP POLICY ADVISORY MEETING
On October 23-24, 2012, representatives of the International Justice Project (IJP), IJP Co-Founders Wanda M. Akin, Esq. and Raymond M. Brown, Esq., and their Darfurian allies traveled to Boston, Massachusetts to launch IJP’s newest program—the Darfurian Community Health and Reparation Project (HARP)—in partnership with Boston College’s Institute for the Liberal Arts (ILA). Nearly 100 people attended the event, including Boston College students and faculty, IJP partner organizations, NGOs, human rights activists from the region, friends, and family.
Following the Launch Event, the IJP held a Policy Advisory Meeting to discuss the implementation of HARP and its promotion of transitional justice, address sexual violence in Sudan and ways of engaging women in HARP, and update partners on activity on the ground in East Africa.
HARP Launch Event: Have We Forgotten the Darfur Genocide?
Speakers: Akin and Brown, IJP Co-Founders
Location: Fulton Hall, Boston College
After discussing International Criminal Law and the ongoing cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Akin and Brown presented on the forgotten genocide in Darfur, the need for transitional justice for the Darfurian people and the launch of IJP’s newest program, HARP, in partnership with Boston College’s ILA.
HARP is a health and welfare audit of the Darfurian Diaspora living in the U.S. which will assess the conditions, needs, and desires of this population. The IJP and Boston College ILA have partnered to develop an assessment tool and create a systematic and scientific way to determine and understand the issues facing this community. The goal is to give voice to Darfurians, including the Diaspora, in the transitional justice process and inform the discussions on reparations and other transitional justice mechanisms both in the context of the ICC and as part of potential diplomatic solutions for the Darfur conflict.
To date, an estimated 1,500-2,500 refugees of this conflict have fled to the United States, and there will be additional influxes in the coming years. No transitional justice mechanisms have been systematically developed for this population. Although now safe from the violence, Darfurians in the U.S. continue to suffer from different kinds of trauma: Medical or psychological problems directly related to the atrocities, trauma caused by displacement and loss of family members, and difficulties adjusting in a new country. There is a clear need to better understand this trauma and detachment and to help the international legal, medical, humanitarian, and Darfurian communities find ways in which to address it. HARP is an innovative tool to gain this understanding, advance justice for victims of the Darfur conflict, and help them rebuild their lives.
HARP was born from the challenges that Brown and Akin encountered during IJP missions to various communities in the United States. Akin cites the missions as what sparked the idea for HARP. “Whenever we went on missions to educate and communicate with Darfurians in the Diaspora, we encountered a community that was traumatized and searching for justice,” said Akin. “At first, the IJP focused solely on seeking justice through International Criminal Law and the ICC, but quickly we saw that there were those who presented these traumas but who may not qualify to participate as victims in the ICC proceedings.”
Unwilling to leave a large portion of the Diaspora community out of the justice process, the IJP looked for other ways to achieve justice. And, it was Brown’s passion for transitional justice that laid the foundation for HARP. According to Brown, “transitional justice is the process and principles by which you make whole people who are victims of mass atrocities. Holding perpetrators of the genocide accountable at the ICC is only one part of the transitional justice process for the people of Darfur. At the moment, the Court does not have ample resources to provide adequate reparations for the millions of victims, and looking at all transitional justice mechanisms is essential.”
Like Akin, during missions, Brown noticed that the community had “a deep sense of despair about returning to Darfur,” and that “there were special challenges in integrating the Diaspora into life in the United States and other refugee and asylum states.” The IJP thus began working across sectors and disciplines to examine different transitional justice mechanisms, like HARP, that would incorporate individual criminal justice and accountability, human rights, education, and health, and that would have long-lasting, sustainable effects.
To bring this important interdisciplinary project to fruition, the IJP will work with Boston College’s ILA, various NGOs, and other academic institutions to develop and conduct the assessment and analysis across the country.
When commenting on the launch, Brown stated that “this is the beginning, not the end.”
IJP Policy Advisory Meeting
Speakers: Ms. Akin and Mr. Brown, IJP Co-Founders; Dr. Pooja Agrawal, Harvard International Emergency Medicine Fellow, Division of International Health & Humanitarian Programs, Attending Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, & Affiliated Faculty, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative; Olivia Bueno, Associate Director, International Refugee Rights Initiative; Omaima Khamis, Founder of Darfur Women’s and Children’s Association and IJP Community Outreach Leader; Dr. Shawn McGuffey, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and African and African Diaspora Studies, Boston College; Kristin Rosella, IJP Program Director; Hawa Salih, Darfurian Human Rights Activist and IJP Community Outreach Leader; Fatima Sattar, Boston College Darfuri Workshop Graduate Student Intern; Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director, Physicians for Human Rights; and Dan Verderosa, Communications Consultant, Coalition for the ICC
Location: Corcoran Commons, Heights Room, Boston College
To begin the IJP Policy Advisory Meeting, Brown provided an overview of HARP, how it will advance transitional justice, how we hope to reach the end goal, and some of the challenges ahead, such as funding, implementation, and raising awareness in communities regarding the project.
Dr. Shawn McGuffey of Boston College then presented some next steps for HARP, including a first draft of the assessment tool. Fatima Sattar, Susannah Sirkin, and Dr. Pooja Agrawal offered insightful commentary and suggestions for improving the tool. Together, the HARP partners will work to produce a final product.
After receiving a brief update from Olivia Bueno on activities in East Africa, including Sudan, Dan Verderosa provided an overview of some key media stories during 2012 relating to Darfur, Sudan, and the ICC.
The day ended with IJP Program Director Kristin Rosella interviewing Darfurian activists, Hawa Salih and Omaima Khamis, about the systemic problem of sexual and gender-based violence in Sudan, particularly in the IDP camps; effective interview techniques for women to be adopted in HARP; the importance of engaging women in projects, like HARP; and their experiences building a local network to address women’s needs from health and education to childcare and English classes.
To see more pictures from the HARP Launch, check out the preview below and visit our Facebook page to see the entire album!
About the IJP
The IJP is an independent, nonprofit organization based in Newark, New Jersey. Our mission is to promote human rights through the rule of law and provide holistic support, through transitional justice mechanisms, to victims of the world most heinous crimes—genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
IJP Co-Founders Brown and Akin currently represent the first Darfurian individuals recognized by the ICC to participate as victims in the proceedings related to the Darfur Situation. They also represent four Darfurian victims participating in the case against Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir.