A Tapestry of Human Rights

Post by: Sherri Sturgeon

As I was leaving South Korea this summer, my mind was brought back to the intricate needlework that is a tradition on this little peninsula. Dating back centuries, this beautiful art is one originally displayed on the tapestries of royal families, but today finds its way to the streets of Insadong where artists showcase their talents in hopes some passerby will appreciate their artistry and buy their works. A funny thing to think of after a summer spent knee-dip in research on varying international topics, yet somehow, a fitting analogy. You see, each of these delicate works of art requires signal strands, intentionally and thoughtfully placed over and over until a beautiful piece of artwork emerges. This was precisely how I felt this summer at Handong International Law School – I was a thread placed with care and intentionality in the tapestry of human rights work, fulfilling a role that without, the piece would be askew – not quite complete.

I had the privilege of playing a role – being a thread – in several substantial issues this summer. One issue revolved around the rights for persons with disabilities in North Korea. North Korea is well-known for its issues in protecting the basic human rights of its citizens as well as its apprehension towards engaging the international community. What is lesser known is its positive attempts to seek to protect the rights of its citizens. In one such effort, the “Hermit Kingdom” ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In ratifying this convention, North Korea came into agreement in an unprecedented manner with the international community in seeking to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. My research focused on the progress they have made, according to their own reports, reports from the UN, as well as eye-witness reports from refugees. While their efforts have not been perfect, it is shocking and positive to see North Korea interact with the international community in this arena and make positive efforts to protect its citizens. This evaluation of codified law in conjunction with implemented programs evolved into a report that will hopefully be published, having the potential of being put into the hands of policy makers who can help further North Korea’s efforts to protect its citizens. Though just a thread, this small effort may play a bigger role in a tapestry of hope for the people of North Korea.
I further had the opportunity to do research regarding the adoption of South Korean children by American families living in South Korea. Adoption is a complicated issue in South Korea as the government has restricted the adoption of South Korean children by foreigners. Unfortunately, this has led to an increase in orphans as adoption of Korean children by South Koreans is incredibly uncommon. As a result, most adoptions of South Korean children occur through agency adoptions, which is a very defined, expensive process, and limited by the South Korean government. As a result, many children are unable to be adopted, continuing through the governmental system until they reach the age of majority, where they are vulnerable to homelessness and trafficking. My research this summer was part of a bigger work to develop an adoption manual which will seek to help American families residing in South Korea to adopt a South Korean child. This traditionally has been impossible but through a relatively unknown part of South Korean law, this is becoming a possibility for families, paving a way for orphans to find love and safety in a family. One question the courts look to in this “private adoption” process is whether these children, in being adopted by American families, will be able to become U.S. citizens. Researching the depths of U.S. law in regards to how to citizenship is acquired and specifically the bars to citizenship was an exhausting and enlightening process. Given the current climate surrounding immigration in our nation, my research into the depths of immigration law was fascinating to me and has further shifted my plans for my 2L year as I seek to learn more about this field and the manner in which immigration laws intersect with basic human rights.

I am thankful to have been a tiny thread in the bigger tapestry of human rights work this summer. I learned so much through this opportunity, grew in my capacity, and was exposed to issues that have broadened my perspective on my career moving forward. Though I have no idea what significance my part in this immense field may have, every thread, no matter how big or small, is a necessary part of a beautiful tapestry. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a thread this summer, placed with intentionality, and for the opportunity to glimpse the bigger purpose each small stitch can have in seeing that all are treated with equal value and dignity.  

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Intern. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.


Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking

Post by: Katrina Sumner

My name is Katrina Sumner and I am a 2L at Regent University School of Law. This semester, I have the privilege of working on a project for Shared Hope International, an organization that works to combat human trafficking in the United States by encouraging states to enact legislation targeting specific outcomes.

Human trafficking is a horrific problem. A victim of labor or sex trafficking may be standing right next to us and yet remain unseen. Victims often spend years in abusive situations while their trauma and their status as victims goes unrecognized by others around them. Sometimes, victims of trafficking go unidentified as victims even after they are arrested.

Victims of sex trafficking are forced to commit the crime of prostitution against their will. Yet, many states still criminalize these victims through arrests and prosecutions for prostitution.
In states without adequate legislation, victims are arrested, jailed, and have criminal records that can follow them for the rest of their lives. Shared Hope International is working to shine a light on this injustice and to encourage policies that penalize traffickers without criminalizing victims.

I am working on a project assessing whether state laws mandate training in human trafficking for law enforcement, judges, doctors, child protection agencies, foster parents, and various professional license holders. Children are often forced into sex trafficking as young as age 11. Training initiatives can help people identify victims who are in plain sight, yet not recognized.

I have seen the difference it makes when law enforcement is trained to recognize a person who has been forced into prostitution against his or her will. I did an internship at a law firm that works with victims of trafficking from other countries. There was a case in which a person was forced into prostitution while visiting America. The victim was arrested, but law enforcement recognized that the person was a victim and immediately took the person to an emergency shelter rather than to jail. The victim was later able to aid law enforcement in the prosecution of the traffickers and move forward with life.

In my research into current state laws, I am finding that many states or organizations are referencing Shared Hope International’s assessment of their progress and taking recommendations for additional legislation to heart. It is humbling to know that as a law student, I have the opportunity to work on a project that may impact state human trafficking legislation all over the country. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve on the student staff at the Center for Global Justice.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.


Hate Speech Laws in India

Post by: Alexandria Overcash

This semester I have the privilege of leading a project for Alliance Defending Freedom. Along with two other CGJ staff members, I am researching blasphemy and hate speech laws throughout Asia. Our ultimate goal is to provide a recommendation to Alliance Defending Freedom on how they can combat the hate speech laws within India to protect the freedom of speech. To do so, my team and I are intensely researching the current standing of hate speech law in India, other Asian countries, and within the United Nations. So far, my research has primarily focused on the current standing of hate speech law in India. Though India recognizes freedom of expression in its constitution, hate speech laws are deeply ingrained in the country’s penal code and criminal code of procedure.

Some of you may be asking, as I was when I first began this project, what exactly constitutes “hate speech.” Unfortunately, the answer to that question is not simple because countries have used the term “hate speech” in a variety of ways. In India, the term is primarily used to describe speech that disrespects someone on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community. In India, the application of this definition extends to oral communication and written communication.

Though hate speech laws are ingrained in the penal code and criminal code of procedure in India, the Supreme Court appears to be making a shift in its understanding of what it means to protect the fundamental right of people to express themselves. In a 2014 case where a party was seeking intervention in directing the Election Commission to curb hate speeches, Justice RM Lodha stated, “We cannot curtail fundamental rights of people. It is a precious right guaranteed by the Constitution.” We are hopeful that this change in perspective continues and that the laws of India return to protecting the freedom of expression.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.


Religious Freedom in Bulgaria and Canada

By: Corrie Evans

For the last year and a half I’ve had the opportunity to work on multiple projects for the Center for Global Justice in my capacity as a student staffer and now law clerk. I recently submitted a brief that I worked on for close to 8 months regarding Bulgarian legislation that impacted churches and minority religions. It may seem minor, but this legislation would have had far reaching effects if legislators in Bulgaria had their way. The brief we authored at the Center focused on the unconstitutionality of the Religious Denominations Act and its attempts to show favoritism to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. This Act attempted to provide the church numerous benefits that no other religion in Bulgaria enjoyed as freely. For example, in order to own property a religious organization was required to register as a legal entity. By comparison, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was granted legal entity status in the Act itself. This is just one provision that was clearly in violation of the Bulgarian Constitution’s provision that all religions must be treated equally in Bulgaria. 

This semester I have the opportunity to work with CLF Canada researching how international courts and legal bodies have approached laws that restrict wearing religious clothing and symbols. This is in relation to Quebec's controversial Bill 21, which bans religious symbols of any kind for certain public workers, including government lawyers. 

I am continually challenged and grown through my work at the Center and am grateful to have the opportunity to work with a group that is so dedicated to promoting justice and the rule of law all over the world.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.


The Crime of the Online Sexual Exploitation of Children

Post by: Lauren Moustakas

My name is Lauren Moustakas and I am a 2L serving as a Law Clerk at the Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law. This semester I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to serve on two projects for International Justice Mission (IJM)– one focused on the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) in Romania and the other on intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual violence against children (SVAC) in Uganda.

My focus as of now has been on the OSEC project for IJM Romania. Online sexual exploitation of children is a fast-growing form of human trafficking as is the online production and publication of photos, videos, or livestream sexual abuse or exploitation of a child. Usually, the abuse is for the use of an individual who is elsewhere, often in Western countries, who will pay the traffickers/abusers to physically or sexually abuse children in specific ways and document the abuse with photos, videos, or stream it live. This abuse continues long after the physical or sexual abuse ends, as the purchaser can continue to use the documented abuse for their own “entertainment”, share it with other offenders, or share it online.  Additionally, buyers are increasingly contacting children directly online, sending sexual content through social media, and asking children for sexual photos and videos.

For this project, I have been focused on researching the legal standards and legal process of prosecuting OSEC cases in Romania from the moment an offense is committed till the perpetrator is placed in jail. This work alongside the work of other Global Center student staff will assist IJM as they seek to address OSEC in Romania, rescue child victims, and bring perpetrators to justice.

During the course of my research on this project I have come across articles about cases of, in my opinion, are some of the most horrible injustices that occurs against children. One in particular that struck my heart was the rescue of a seven-year-old boy from a group of men who took “turns” sexually abusing him both in person and online since he was a newborn.  While reading this story, I felt a sense of darkness, that this is the type of evil and injustice that occurs in our world to our most vulnerable. But I also felt hope, hope because of the fact that despite the darkness and despite the evil and abuse this boy endured, the perpetrators were overcome, brought to justice and the boy was rescued.

In the midst of learning how to address injustice and advocating for human rights it is often easy to be overcome by the amount of darkness and forget the work advocates, such as IJM, are doing that is making a difference in lives such as this young boy. Yes, there is an incredible amount of injustice, but there are also dedicated advocates and individuals who are working tirelessly to address injustice and who are making a difference in lives such as this young boy. That is why I am especially grateful to work on these projects for International Justice Mission, whose staff work tirelessly to be that hope for the oppressed as well as those seeking to be human rights advocates, and through their work bring light into the dark injustices of our world.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.


Interning in the Miami State Attorney's Office

Post by: Jessica Sherwood

The second half of my summer, I had the privilege of interning with the Miami State Attorney’s Office, splitting my time between the human trafficking and mental health divisions. I worked closely with ASA, Lourdes Roberts, who was the head prosecutor for Baker Act and Veteran’s Court cases. My experience working alongside of her exposed me to the phenomenal work of treatment courts within our justice system. Currently, Miami has three treatment courts: Veteran’s Court, Drug Court, and Baker Act Court. 
Veteran’s Court offers a rehabilitative alternative to prison time for former veterans who have committed a misdemeanor or low-level felony. Likewise, this rehabilitation option is also available to defendant’s who were arrested for possession or selling drugs. Finally, Baker Act Court is for defendants who have been involuntarily committed to a hospital due to severe mental illness. Oftentimes, they have committed a petty crime in part due to their current unstable mental state. They too, have an option to choose treatment rather than serve prison time. 
Treatment courts work from the framework of rehabilitation rather than punishment. Specifically, these courts use innovative problem-solving methods to create a model in which the judge, prosecution, defense, mental health services, and treatment communities work together to help offenders into long-term recovery. I was able to observe these courts as well as conduct relevant research for them. The Miami State Attorney’s Office was the first office both domestically and internationally to develop a drug treatment court. Miami has continued to be a leader in rehabilitative approaches to the traditional criminal punitive system. 
In order to remain eligible to participate in treatment rather than prison time, the defendant must follow rigorous requirements. Treatment plans range from ninety days to one year. If a defendant fails to meet one of the requirements, there is often a grace period before they have to serve their sentences. Other times, the judge will give them a week in jail and set a hearing for the following week. 
The ASA serving as the lead prosecutor for the drug treatment court told me the success rate of the drug treatment court is close to 95%. This means, 95% of criminals who choose rehabilitation and successfully complete treatment are never seen in the criminal justice system again. Unfortunately, defendants charged with using or selling drugs and taken into custody with no chance for treatment often return to the court system within a matter of months after their release.
This experience allowed me to expand my thinking in regards to the role of the criminal justice system. Although justice can be seen through retribution and punishment for crime, I believe justice can also be achieved through rehabilitative and restorative measures. I am learning to not be content with the status quo, but rather to take steps towards innovation. If the Miami State Attorney’s Office had not taken a leap of faith to develop the first drug treatment court more than thirty years ago, there would not be the 3,000 drug treatment courts in effect today. Through these courts, thousands of people are given the power to choose rehabilitation and commit to a new lifestyle.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Intern. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.


Restoring Personhood

Post by: Konstantin Oshchepkov

For the second part of my summer internship, I am clerking with Tom Parker, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. In his chambers, I intern with a group of staff attorneys working on cases dealing with the rule of law, including those involving the protection of children. Chief Justice Parker has issued many judicial opinions regarding protection of unborn children under existing jurisprudence, explaining that unborn children are recognized and protected as persons in various aspects of law, and concluding that Roe v. Wade is inconsistent with these protections.
In his opinions, Chief Justice Parker has listed existing statutes in many states that already recognize fetuses as persons with legally-enforceable rights. For example, states already have laws that give inheritance rights to unborn children, laws that ban pregnant inmates from being executed, laws that give fetuses legal guardians for the purposes of protecting their interests, and laws that allow parents to sue for damages if fetuses are injured or killed as the result of negligence or some other wrongful act. In one of his opinions, Chief Justice Parker wrote, “Today, the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion, and that denial is only because of the dictates of Roe.”
Step by step, as a case dealing with unborn children has come to the Alabama Supreme Court, Chief Justice Parker has taken the opportunity to add his special concurring opinion, pointing out the logical fallacy of treating the unborn children as a distinct person in some respects and yet denying them full personhood when it comes to abortion. All this work is directed at building the legal foundation for the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize the logical inconsistency and overturn Roe. (In Ex parte Phillips, Chief Justice Parker overtly called on SCOTUS to do just that.)
Pro-abortion advocates are, not surprisingly, deeply worried about the legal arguments that Chief Justice Parker’s opinions might provide to the U.S. Supreme Court because his opinions point out all the ways the law already treats unborn children as a person; meanwhile, the pro-abortion argument against personhood hinges entirely on the women’s perception of what constitutes a person. It is easy to see why the U.S. Supreme Court may struggle to reconcile the two views.
This post was written by Konstantin Oschepkov, an intern with the Center for Global Justice. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.