SLU LAW Students Represent Human Rights at Home Litigation Clinic in Geneva
On October 16, 2023, Saint Louis University law students Lily Iler (3L) and Sydney Rempe (3L), traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, alongside Professor Lauren Bartlett to represent the Human Rights at Home Litigation Clinic at SLU Law. They traveled to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), a treaty body of independent human rights experts from various countries around the world. The UNHRC reviewed the United States’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The Human Rights at Home Litigation Clinic advocates for the most vulnerable populations in the community. Students of the Human Rights at Home Litigation Clinic, alongside the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, prepared a shadow report submitted to the UNHRC titled “Racism, Torture, & Deaths at the St. Louis City Jail” (found here). A shadow report is a tool that nongovernmental organizations can submit to provide information that is an alternative to that of the government under human rights treaty obligations.
The Human Rights at Home Litigation Clinic, the MacArthur Justice Center, and Arch City Defenders represent detainees in a case against the city of St. Louis for violating their constitutional rights by use of chemical agents and water deprivation. Read more about this case.
Iler and Rempe, alongside Christa Huelskamp (3L), quoted those impacted by these abuses and made recommendations to the UNHRC in the shadow report. The report is used to guide questions by the UNHRC and their recommendations to the U.S. government.
Both Iler and Rempe had a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Geneva to answer the UNHRC questions about the shadow report submitted. They also attended Civil Society events to network with other human rights advocates. The United Nations Civil Society assists with the dissemination of information on the work and role of the U.N. It works with civil society organizations (CSOs), which are any nonprofit, voluntary citizens’ group that is organized on a local, national or international level. CSOs monitor policy, provide early warning mechanisms, and encourage political participation at all levels.
Both students took a lot away from the C.S.O. event.
“I was nervous about the Civil Society networking event at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. because I am an introvert, but it was nice to be around other law students and advocates who were at the U.N. for the same reasons I was. It was very empowering,” Iler said.
“The most inspiring part was seeing how many other individuals were impacted, advocates, people advocating for their own local community X it was the largest turnout the U.N. has seen at a Civil Society event, at least in recent years," Rempe said. "It’s amazing to see how many human rights issues are interconnected.”
The SLU Law students also each prepared an elevator pitch to talk to U.N. members and government officials ahead of arriving in Geneva, since they knew it would be such a fast-paced environment. To assist with their short pitches, they created a flyer that provided more information about their cause. SLU Law students Camilla Moreno and Gregoire Hignard translated the flyer into Spanish and French, respectively.
Overall, both Iler and Rempe said that they received support from the SLU Law community to prepare for and experience this opportunity. They also emphasized the support of the Human Rights at Home Litigation Clinic advisor, Professor Lauren Bartlett, who empowered and supported them on their trip to Geneva.