Mohammed “Musa” Mahmodi (present) is a human rights lawyer and defender based in Kabul, Afghanistan. He served as Executive Director of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission for ten years, providing strategic direction for programs and activities to monitor, protect, and promote human rights in a conflict-affected country. As part of his work, he focused on transitional justice, women rights, children rights, human rights education, and -investigations of human rights violations and abuses by all parties to the conflict. Mahmodi also advocated for reviews of laws and policies of Afghanistan to comply with the international human rights instruments. He previously worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, whereby he led and ran programs strengthening democracy and political parties in Afghanistan. Mahmodi holds a law degree from Kabul University and in 2007 was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University for his Master’s degree. Mahmodi is using his time at Yale to research transitional justice mechanisms with an eye towards a post-conflict Afghanistan.
Alfred Brownell (present) is an internationally recognized environmental rights activist and lawyer from Liberia. Brownell has advocated for more than two decades to protect the environment and human rights in West Africa and to empower Liberians and West Africans victimized by resource exploitation. He co-founded and headed the public interest law nongovernmental environmental rights organization Green Advocates International. Trained as a lawyer but with the spirit of an organizer, Brownell has co-founded numerous initiatives in the region, including the Public Interest Lawyers Initiative for West Africa and the Mano River Union Civil Society Natural Resources Rights and Governance Platform – consisting of activists, communities, and indigenous peoples in eight of the fifteen West African countries affected by the operations of transnational corporations. With Green Advocates, Brownell pioneered a framework for environmental law within Liberia’s legal system. His efforts have led to significant successes, including the temporary protection of six million acres of forest from development by palm oil companies. Brownell’s advocacy has also led to backlash targeting him and his family; in 2016, following repeated death threats, Brownell was forced to flee Liberia and is living with his family in the United States in temporary exile. In 2019, Brownell won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, considered the “green Nobel,” which honors the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists. Brownell was Associate Research Professor and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Northeastern University School of Law from 2017–2019. During his time at Yale, Brownell has continued his environmental litigation in West Africa and has also supported human rights and environmental defenders in the region.
Rayhan Asat (present) is an internationally recognized human rights lawyer and a non-resident senior fellow at The Atlantic Council. A graduate of Harvard Law School and former anti-corruption attorney at a major U.S. law firm, Asat has worked on high-profile corruption cases. Asat specializes in international human rights law, anti-corruption, and compliance with best business practices. Her legal and policy work centers around enforcing international human rights norms, fighting against corruption, advancing civil liberties, atrocity prevention, curtailing forced labor, and promoting corporate accountability. She previously advised the World Bank and OECD to design Human-Centered Business Integrity Principles and now works with civil society, diplomats, and lawmakers to address various human rights concerns, particularly the atrocities in Xinjiang. Asat has testified before the Canadian House of Commons, The UK House of Commons, the Lithuanian Parliament, and the US Congress at a joint hearing convened by the China-Congressional Executive Commission and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission concerning egregious human rights abuses. Western democracies and lawmakers, including the United States, have adopted her policy recommendations in their atrocity prevention and response strategy.
Nixon Boumba (October 2017 and February 2019) is a longtime and highly regarded human rights activist in Haiti. As a founding member of the Kolektif Jistis Min nan Ayiti (Haiti Mining Justice Collective), he has led efforts in mining-affected areas of Haiti to protect the rights of local people affected by the extractives industry. Boumba is also a leading figure in calling for just and equitable development in other industries, and he works on issues of gender and sexuality in the context of humanitarian aid. While he was at Yale, Boummba gave several talks, including a public talk on his work to build solidarity among groups protesting the development of the mining industry in Haiti. His motivations for working on mining-related issues and goals for supporting economic and cultural rights in Haiti are described in his fellowship spotlight. Boumba – who is already fluent in four languages – used his time at Yale to perfect his English and to decompress from the daily stress of being a human rights defender in Haiti.
Soli Özel (Spring 2019), a Turkish journalist and scholar, is a Senior Lecturer at Kadir Has University in Istanbul and has previously been a visiting fellow at Institut Montaigne in Paris and, before that, at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin. He has taught at Johns Hopkins-SAIS, the University of Washington, Northwestern, and Sciences Po, and he has held additional fellowships at Oxford, the EU Institute of Strategic Studies, and Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. Professor Özel used his time at Yale to work on two books, one tentatively entitled The History of Turkey’s Future and the other a comparison of Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Turkey, looking at their developmental and democratic successes and failures, co-authored with Michael T. Rock of Bryn Mawr. Like other prominent critics of Turkey’s recent turn towards authoritarianism, Professor Özel works under severe pressures at home in Istanbul. He used his time at Yale to write and to recuperate, which he discussed in his fellowship spotlight.
Michael Reed-Hurtado (Fall 2015 and Spring 2016) is a Colombian/US journalist and lawyer with more than 25 years of experience in the field of Latin American human rights. During 2014-2015, he was a Coca-Cola World Fund Faculty Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies at Yale. Prior to that, he was a consultant with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Colombia. His research interests include state crime and control, the limits of criminal law to address mass atrocity, effective criminal investigation of complex crime, and the conceptual and practical limits of transitional justice. Reed-Hurtado used his time at Yale to plant the seeds for the Guernica Center for International Justice, which he co-founded in 2016.
Adam Michnik (Spring 2016) is the founder and editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's highest-circulating daily newspaper. He is also co-founder of KOR (Committee for the Defense of Workers) in 1976. Michnik was detained many times during 1965-1980. A prominent “Solidarity” activist during the 1980s, he spent a total of six years in Polish prisons for activities opposing the communist regime. Michnik participated in the Round Table Talks in 1989, was a member of the first non-communist parliament from 1989 until 1991, at which point he created the first independent Polish newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza. He was been awarded many prizes and titles: the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, the Erasmus Prize, the Francisco Cerecedo Journalist Prize (the first non-Spanish author to do so), Grand Prince Giedymin Order; Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur. His most recent book is The Trouble with History: Morality, Revolution, and Counterrevolution (2011). He has also written Ko?ció?, Lewica, Dialog (Church, the Left, Dialogue), Paris 1977; Z dziejów honoru w Polsce. Wypisy wi?zienne (From the History of Honour in Poland. Prison Notes), Paris 1985; Midzy Panem a Plebanem, Warszawa 1995; Wicieko i wstyd, Warszawa 2005; and W poszukiwaniu utraconego sensu, (In Search of Lost Meaning), Warszawa 2007. Michnik gave public talks while at Yale, including his April 14 Human Rights Workshop, and used the time for research and writing.
Kajal Bhardwaj (Fall 2014) is a global leader in the access-to-medicines movement. She is a lawyer who has been working on health and human rights for more than a decade. She has worked particularly closely with the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit, Medecins Sans Frontieres (India office), and the Delhi Network of Positive People. Kajal’s engagement with health and HIV started in 2002 with her involvement in the drafting of India’s HIV/AIDS Bill, including intensive research and consultations on the Bill’s drafting, capacity building related to the Bill, and advocacy with law and policy makers. Since 2005, she has been working extensively on developing legal and advocacy approaches to improve HIV/AIDS treatment access in light of India’s new patent law. Since 2009, she has also been working regionally in South Asia, including on capacity building for government officials and civil society groups in Nepal, Myannmar and Cambodia. In 2012, she designed and coordinated an eight-country U.N. capacity-building workshop on the use and adoption of TRIPS flexibilities. In April 2020, she was featured on a panel for the Transnational Institute, a think tank based in the Netherlands, on “Taking Health Back from Corporations: Pandemics, Big Pharma, and Privatized Health.” While at Yale, she engaged with the broader legal community at events co-sponsored with the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership as a fellow there as well.
Wan Yanhai (Spring and Fall 2013) is one of the most prominent leaders in the global campaign against HIV/AIDS. He launched China's first HIV/AIDS counseling hotline in 1992 while working for China's National Health Education Institute. In 1994, he founded AIZHI Action Project, an NGO that uses health education, research, publishing, and conferences to confront the growing HIV/AIDS crisis in China, in addition to co-founding the Beijing LGBT Center, the first gay community center in China. He directs the Beijing Aizhixing Institute, the largest AIDS NGO in China. The institute works on HIV/AIDS and public health related policy, legal aid and human rights, and community outreach among the most vulnerable population. He organized several challenging campaigns in China including a national compensation campaign for the victims of HIV infection caused by blood transfusion or blood products, a national working group for the educational rights of people with HIV, hepatitis or other health problems, and a China HIV/AIDS NGO Network. In October 2020, The City reported that Yanhai called on New York City’s Chinese community to vote for President Biden in the 2020 presidential election through social media, committed to fighting for “the essence of democracy” from Tiananmen Square to Trump.
Fatima Hassan (Fall 2012) is a human rights lawyer and social justice activist from South Africa. She has worked at the University of Cape Town’s Institute for Development and Labor Law on a project that seeks to reform discriminatory compensation practices for mine workers in Southern Africa. She is a former research fellow with the Constitutional Court of South Africa under Justice O’Regan and worked as Special Adviser to Minister Barbara Hogan in the Health Ministry and Public Enterprises Ministry. She previously served as co-director of Ndifuna Ukwazi (Dare to Know), a South African organization addressing social justice issues, and is now founder and head of Health Justice Initiative, an organization focusing on the intersection between racial and gender inequality with a special focus on access to life saving diagnostics, treatment, and vaccines for COVID-19, TB, and HIV in South Africa. At Yale, she collaborated with the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership to produce a report analyzing the weaknesses in South Africa’s statutory compensation system for occupational lung disease.
Octovianus Mote (Spring 2012) is an activist for Papuan human rights. Before moving to the United States in 1999, he was Bureau Chief of Kompas in Indonesia’s Papua Province. At Yale University, he has been affiliated with the Genocide Studies Program, the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School, and the Yale Indonesia Forum of the Council on Southeast Asia Studies. He has lobbied the U.S. Congress and State Department, has testified before the U.S. Congress on the issue of Papua and has participated in the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network / ETAN and the West Papua Advocacy Team. In 2011, he was elected by the Papuan people in Jayapura, the capital of Papua Province, as one of five Papuans to represent the Papuan people in possible future dialogue with the Indonesian Government to resolve 50 years of conflict. Later, in 2015, Mote received the Solomon Islands Prime Minister’s support for joining the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional body, and in 2017, as Secretary General for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Mote attended the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
John Prendergast (Fall 2011) is the co-founder of the Enough Project, an initiative affiliated with the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. In the past, he has worked for the Clinton White House, the State Department, two members of Congress, the National Intelligence Council, UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and the U.S. Institute of Peace. He is also the author or co-author of ten books, has appeared in several documentaries and four episodes of 60 Minutes, and has traveled to Africa with NBC’s Dateline, ABC’s Nightline, The PBS NewsHour, CNN’s Inside Africa, Newsweek/The Daily Beast, and The New York Times Magazine. His work has been profiled in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Men's Vogue, Time, Entertainment Weekly, GQ, Oprah Magazine, Capitol File, Arrive, Interview, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He is also the co-founder with George Clooney of The Sentry, an investigative initiative chasing the assets of African war criminals and their international collaborators, and in 2018, he co-wrote a Foreign Affairs article on how this anti-corruption initiative can help promote peace in African countries torn by conflict.
Shadi Sadr (Spring 2011) is an Iranian lawyer, human rights defender and journalist. As a practicing lawyer, she has successfully defended several women activists and journalists in court. She is the founder of Justice for Iran, which promotes and defends women's rights in Iran through political pressure and international accountability mechanisms, and of the website, Women in Iran. She has been involved in the campaign to eradicate the practice of capital punishment by stoning, particularly of women, in a campaign known as End Stoning Forever.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim (Fall 2010) is a founder of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, and he is credited for playing a leading role in the revival of Egypt’s contemporary civil society movement. A prominent critic of former President Mubarak, Ibrahim served time in prison due to his human rights advocacy. Trained as a sociologist, Ibrahim taught at American University in Cairo for most of his career and also visited at Indiana University and Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.
Michael Posner (Spring 2009) is currently the Jerome Kohlberg Professor of Ethics and Finance and a Professor of Business and Society at NYU’s Stern School of Business. He also serves as Director of the Center for Business and Human Rights at NYU, the first-ever human rights center at a business school. Prior to joining NYU Stern, he served from 2009 to 2013 as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. From 1978 to 2009, he led Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights), a New York-based human rights advocacy organization. He played a key role in proposing and campaigning for the first U.S. law providing for political asylum, which became part of the Refugee Act of 1980, as well as the Torture Victim Protection Act, which was adopted in 1992. He also led the Human Rights First delegation to the 1992 Rome conference, at which the statute of the International Criminal Court was adopted.