The Bernstein Symposium began in 1997 in honor of Robert Bernstein, the founding chair of Human Rights Watch, for his extraordinary contributions to the international human rights movement. The symposium is an integral part of the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights, which was established the same year. Each year, current and past fellows are invited back to Yale Law School to engage in human rights discussions and to connect with each other and with symposium participants. The 2022 Bernstein Symposium was held on March 31. You can find a description of the event below.


Bernstein Symposium  
Exile: Struggling for Human Rights from Afar

Wars and atrocities around the world, seemingly one after another, have displaced unprecedented numbers of people from their homes in recent years. Conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and now Ukraine have caused mass flight within and across borders, and we have become familiar with, perhaps inured to, images of refugees, in long columns, small boats and tent encampments. We are confronted less often with the lives in exile of those advocates for human rights and justice forced to sustain their work far from home.

Three such extraordinary defenders – Rayhan Asat, Alfred Brownell, and Musa Mahmodi – will speak about their stories of personal commitment, sacrifice, and courage in the struggle for human rights. Each of them faced persecution for their work and made the wrenching decision to leave their homes in Xinjiang, Liberia and Afghanistan. Now, as visiting fellows with the Schell Center, each is, not only adjusting to loss and navigating a new culture and building new lives for themselves and their families, but also re-envisioning how to carry on the fight for human rights back home. This conversation will connect the fellows’ experiences with broader questions about building transnational solidarity for justice and a healthy environment. It will focus, too, on the particular role that institutions like Yale can and should play in providing human rights defenders in exile with safe refuge and opportunity to continue their work.

Thursday, March 31
4:15 -6:00 PM
Room 127


Rayhan Asat
Tom and Andi Bernstein Human Rights Fellow, Yale Law School, and Non-resident Senior Fellow, The Atlantic Council.  Rayhan is a prominent human rights lawyer whose work focuses on corruption,  civil liberties, atrocity prevention, forced labor, and corporate accountability. Asat’s writing and speaking have addressed various human rights concerns, particularly the atrocities in Xinjiang.

Alfred Brownell
Tom & Andi Bernstein Human Right Fellow, Yale Law School, and Founder, Green Advocates, Liberia.  Alfred is an environmental rights activist and lawyer from Liberia and recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, Brownell has long advocated to protect the environment and human rights in West Africa and to empower West Africans harmed by resource exploitation.

Musa Mahmodi
Tom and Andi Bernstein Human Rights Fellow, Yale Law School, and Former Executive Director, Afghanistan Independent  Human Rights Commission.  Musa is a human rights defender and lawyer from Kabul, Afghanistan.  His work has focused on accountability, transitional justice, victims’ participation in criminal proceedings, justice reform and minority rights.

Moderated by Jim Silk
Binger Clinical Professor of Human Rights, Yale Law School

Members of the Yale Community may attend in person, others can join by Livestream