Human Rights Q&A #5: Noah Novogrodsky

Theory to the practice and practice to the theory

NoahNoah Novogrodsky Novogrodsky’s work in human rights is sprawling—from championing marriage equality to challenging “seafood slavery” to defending the health of Ugandan mothers to analyzing the Islamic State. What binds it all together is a commitment to fusing legal theory and academic scholarship with an unwavering eye on the prize: the practical impact on human rights. He is the co-director of the Center for International Human Rights Law & Advocacy and a professor of law at the University of Wyoming. He was also the founding director of the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. The father of two, Novogrodsky is a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center this year while his wife, also a University of Wyoming professor, conducts research in her field of cultural history.

 Q. What sparked your career in human rights?

A. I read about the work that Harold Koh was doing at Yale Law School on behalf of Haitian refugees trying to get to the United States who were intercepted and taken to Guantánamo Bay. You don’t need a lot of reasons to go to Yale for law school, but I had an extra one in that I was studying international relations in graduate school at Cambridge but there was a human face to the work that folks were doing at Yale. When I went into academia, I was influenced by both the practice and scholarship of Yale Law School. I’ve tried to keep my foot in both worlds ever since.

Q. What does “practice and scholarship” mean to you?

A. I think there is a problem with academics in general when they become too far removed from real-world issues. If they are only operating at the theoretical level, it’s hard to test their ideas and see if they are applicable as problem-solving or framing devices. The practitioners are in the trenches every day and sometimes they don’t get to think beyond their immediate circumstances and more holistically about law and society and what it means to be an advocate for social justice. I think that the best practitioners draw from interesting ideas, many of them theoretical concepts, and the best scholarship, research, and writing is informed by real world events and practice. I’ve tried to bring theory to the practice and practice to the theory.

“There are some times when it is disappointing, but I draw a distinction between disappointment and discouragement.”


Q. Is academic scholarship compromised when it is influenced by advocates?

A. Some academics are pretty elitist and they don’t want to be sullied by practitioners so they turn out constitutional tomes that have very little applicability in practice. I believe the sweet spot for an academic is to be able to step outside of the trenches occasionally and pay attention to interesting scholarly developments and bring some of those ideas and influences to your work as a practitioner.

Q. Is that what we do here at Berkeley?

A. One of the things I like about the Human Rights Center at Berkeley is that the investigative reports that come out of this office have application for both academic scholarship and real-world human rights advocacy. It starts with excellent research and analysis and writing in clear unexaggerated terms. Human Rights Center reports are a reflection of real problems and how people are negotiating the resolution of those problems, as opposed to an aspirational document about a vague duty that may crystallize in the future but doesn’t exist right now. I think studies of victim participation at the International Criminal Court or sexual violence experienced by migrants have practical and institutional implications for how we do this work better or more sensitively or in ways that are for victims or in support of human rights and the rule of law. It’s my go-to resource for academic writing on similar topics. I’m concerned about academics who fall in love with an idea and don’t test it against a reality.

Q. We tend to think of the United States as a great leader on the marriage equality front, but it’s not necessarily so.

A. The United States is both a leader and a laggard, because some states were out front and others resisted. Some of our state supreme courts came up with loony ideas about marriage. The Indiana Supreme Court, for example, ruled that marriage exists to save the children of unwed teenagers from bastard status. They were down to one, decidedly unromantic, reason for limiting marriage to opposite sex couples: to give a status incentive, usually to young people who accidentally get pregnant, to rescue them and their unborn children from stigma and discrimination.

Q. What’s the gist of the amicus brief on marriage equality that you drafted and filed in the U.S. Supreme Court? 

A. The struggle for marriage equality has played out in human rights terms and has occurred with dizzying speed. In a dozen years we went from one or two states experimenting to 50-state marriage equality. That is in a sense a whole generational or multigenerational civil rights project playing out in a 12-month period. The Obergefell case asked whether same sex marriage should be a legal possibility in all 50 states. The claim we made in the brief was that the United States does not exist in isolation and that we can learn from developments in other constitutional democracies and how we determine constitutional rights and principles influences what happens in other countries. We are not an island. The lead author [of the amicus brief] was [Yale’s] Harold Koh. The argument that the six professor amici made in this case was that principles of dignity and equality in our Constitution have been interpreted by the Supreme Courts of other nations to allow marriage equality. About twenty countries globally now allow same-sex marriage. The trend is undeniable. From Canada to Argentina, they have all embraced marriage equality for reasons of the dignity of the participants and the notion that it is unseemly for the state to create separate and unequal forms of legal partnership. We made the argument that in this circumstance, the U.S. could learn from other countries that have, in turn, learned from us on issues of dignity, equality, and liberty.

Q. You are working on another landmark case halfway around the world, to improve maternal health in Uganda.

A. I’m involved in an interesting case in partnership with a Ugandan NGO—a challenge under the Ugandan Constitution to provide safe Cesarean sections and other emergency obstetrics to pregnant women. Uganda has an appallingly high mortality rate. It also has a constitution that contains protections for women and children. The claim in that case is that right to life and right to health mean that women should be able to give birth in as safe an environment as possible. In Uganda, poor women sometimes have a hard time getting to hospitals and clinics to deliver and women who need C-sections often don’t get them because they don’t get the medicine or procedure to deliver babies safely. Somewhere on the order of sixteen women a day on average die in childbirth in Uganda. That’s almost fifty times the death rate of the United States and other developed countries and seven times that of neighboring Rwanda, which has a similar GDP.

I was asked to join the case after a Ugandan Court issued an adverse ruling based on a misreading of the U.S. law, specifically the political question doctrine.  Our role was to help our allies appeal that issue to the Ugandan Supreme Court.  We helped to contribute briefing material for the local lawyers who argued the case and helped them to construct an argument about the role of the judiciary, based largely on US law.

My 13-year old daughter, Ruby, said I had done good work on the Uganda case and that mattered to me. David is 9. He’s concerned about Star Wars and fighting injustice on that level.


Q. How is this case about North-South collaboration?

A. There are many lessons in this case. We should think hard about the right times for us to share our experience with foreign advocates and human rights activists. It’s very rarely appropriate for us to say, ‘that’s how we do things in the US and you should do it here.’ We don’t want to be neocolonialists and we don’t want to be telling the rest of the world how to behave. But in a case that interprets US law, we have a lot to say. The work in Uganda pairs nicely with the same sex marriage case because effective human rights advocacy needs to be a two-way street. We need to be sharing the best of what happens here with partners internationally and we need to be importing positive developments internationally.

Q. You’re an expert on failed states and what constitutes a state. Why does it matter?

A. I’m writing an article that asks whether ISIS is a state. The Montevideo Convention is the international building block for ‘what is a state’ and it has only four criteria: a permanent population, a government, a territory, and the ability to enter into negotiations with other states. The state doesn’t need to be representative or democratic or secular or even constitutive of the hopes and aspirations of people in the unit. It’s an authority on a piece of territory that can negotiate with its neighbors and defines where one state starts and another one begins. It could be a capitalist state. A monarchy. A radical Communist state. It’s still a state if it meets the minimum criteria.

The Islamic State is challenging some of our core notions of what it means to be a state. Scholars have long recognized that the Montevideo Convention is an incomplete analysis of what constitutes a real country, but the Islamic State is calling itself a state. Unlike Boko Haram or al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations that use violence to further their aims, the Islamic State has territory under its control. It has imposed an austere and authoritarian government structure. It has engaged in horrific human rights abuses of the population it dominates. But that’s no different than other states.

 Q. Who decides if a state is a state?

A. Ultimately, the State Department here and foreign ministries of other states make determinations about when they will recognize other countries and when they won’t. Usually when there are strong political or economic interests that equation looks different than instances when there aren’t. Very few Americans have a stake in the question of whether East Timor becomes a sovereign nation and not part of Indonesia. But there are a lot of Americans who care deeply on both sides of the issue about whether Palestine is recognized as a sovereign state. Part of my agenda here is to help distinguish between the Kurds and the Palestinians, who clearly meet international legal standards for statehood, and the Islamic State, which offends our sensibilities with its horrific abuses. We need a reason for denying statehood. One of the problems is that existing states commit atrocities all of the time. It’s a little rich to tell a would-be state that it cannot be a state. I think part of getting a seat at the table is signing on to international conventions and making commitments and promising to respect borders and boundaries. And with statehood comes immunity from prosecution. Before we talk about the Islamic State becoming a state, it’s reasonable that we demand that it refrain from massacring groups or throwing gay men off of buildings or committing other barbaric acts.

Q. We have learned, in recent months, that shrimp, tuna, and other fish we buy at our local stores may have been caught by men who are literally enslaved on fishing boats. How can this be and what are we doing about it?

A.The Human Rights Clinic in Wyoming has been involved in a project to study possible remedies to this odious practice of seafood slavery. There’s a lot of expertise at Berkeley on the same issue. So some of this is a question of forced labor and of other forms of modern slavery and [Human Rights Center Faculty Director] Eric Stover and others at Berkeley have written extensively of the rights abuses and implications of global and domestic forced labor. Seafood slavery is a relevant and understandable problem: individuals are being duped or coerced to work, not paid for their labor, and sometimes locked in with the fish. The Guardian and others have exposed the abuses. There are companies like Costco and Purina that don’t actively want to abet human rights violations but are buying cost-competitive goods for sale here from suppliers that have a lot of blood on their hands. Most businesses, certainly those with a brand that can be punished by consumers in the marketplace, don’t want to be associated with violations. We need to move to a whole other level of concerted advocacy and coordinated actions and that might take the form of legal regulations in deveoped countries or cracking down on the worst abusers at the source. It might take the form of consumer boycotts or changes in behavior. There are a lot of ways of addressing and trying to correct for a problem once we know it exists.

Q. Have you seen any changes since you started to work on this issue?

A. I think there is a concern among the big players in the seafood industry and they are trying to certify that they aren’t sourcing their fish from certain places. But corporate social responsibility is notoriously voluntary. Some consumers are starting to wonder where their seafood comes from and whether getting seafood at affordable prices is worth it if we know what goes into production….I think we’re at a pretty early stage of exposing the violations.

Q. Do you talk to your young children about your work?

A. My 13-year old daughter, Ruby, said I had done good work on the Uganda case and that mattered to me. David is 9. He’s concerned about Star Wars and fighting injustice on that level.

Q. Do you ever get overwhelmed with the urgency and amount of work there is to do for human rights and feel your work is just a drop in the bucket?

A. Like Bob Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch, I think I’m a happy warrior. You’ve got to do something that gives you energy. One of the reasons I left a corporate law firm for a less lucrative career is that I don’t find myself watching the clock. I feel inspired to work on a range of issues. I feel privileged. There are some times when it is disappointing, but I draw a distinction between disappointment and discouragement. If you have a privileged tenured position like I do, you get wide latitude to make all sorts of contributions. I have great sympathy for people who work in the trenches on issues that are hard to confront every day. The psychologists working in war zones or the rape counselors in the eastern Congo or the journalists covering the Yazidi survivors of ISIS assaults. I think that can be so dispiriting that it’s hard to go to work the next day. I remember how fortunate I am when I go back to my academic office, and I have students who are lined up and eager to join me in this work.

Berkeley Human Rights Q&A #4: Danny Murillo

Sharing his life to change lives

Danny Murillo1
Danny Murillo, Co-Founder of the Underground Scholars Initiative at UC Berkeley

Danny Murillo grew up on the “one-way streets” of Norwalk, California, southeast of Los Angeles, at the height of the crack epidemic in the early 1990s, landing in a California prison before he could even vote. At first he just learned how to be a smarter prisoner, to work the system, to survive. Facing solitary confinement in the Security Housing Unit of Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City with more than five years to go on his 15-year sentence, Murillo found the people (mainly cell mates or fellow prisoners on the yard) and the books (Voltaire and Galeano) that shifted his focus to scholarship and began to transform his life. Upon his release at age 31, he finished his AA degree and was then accepted at several University of California schools. He chose UC Berkeley, where he become a Ronald McNair Scholar and a Peter E. Haas Public Service Leader. Murillo, the middle of five siblings, co-founded the Underground Scholars Initiative, a network of formerly incarcerated students and family members that is thriving today. Now he is working at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York and the NJ-STEP Mountainview Program at Rutgers University in New Jersey—serving formerly incarcerated people and helping carve pathways to college. He is a John W. Gardner Fellow in Public Service at the University of California, Berkeley. Murillo returned to UC Berkeley in February for The [in]Justice System series on California prisons. 

Q. How would you describe your neighborhood growing up?

I grew up in a predominantly Mexican-American/Chicano neighborhood [in an area known to some as the “one-ways”]. I saw three gang-related shootings before the age of 13. By the time I got to the third one, it was already very normalized. The first one, when I was about 8 years old, happened on my block. The next day, I was scared to even walk out to the corner.

The second time, I was at baseball practice. Not far from baseball field was the basketball court where young men were playing. Other men came out and started shooting. I just hit the ground. It was interesting because my baseball coach, who never experienced this, just started running around. I remember he asked me, ‘How did you know what to do?’

The first time I was placed in handcuffs and taken to the police station, I was 8 years old.

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Berkeley Human Rights Q&A #3: Hernán Reyes

Watching the world’s prisons

Hernan speaking on prison panelDr. Hernán Reyes thought he was signing up for a brief stint with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) after finishing his medical studies and specialization as an Ob/Gyn.  The job turned into a passion and a three-decade career, taking him to hundreds of prisons worldwide to document and bear witness to torture and other abuses. While most people are aware of the Red Cross—especially the country-specific American Red Cross, French Red Cross or Turkish Red Crescent—the ICRC itself is less known. The organization was launched in 1863 with the first Geneva Convention to ensure that the battlefield wounded weren’t left to suffer and die. Later, the ICRC helped implement wartime protocols to protect prisoners of war. The son of a United Nations translator, Reyes was born in Chile and raised in New York and Geneva. Reyes is retired from the ICRC now, living with his wife in Geneva, and serving as a Human Rights Center Senior Fellow. His grown children are traveling (and positively impacting) the world. He recently visited UC Berkeley to speak on a panel about prison conditions, solitary confinement, and hunger strikes.

Q. Your career path in medicine shifted pretty radically, from obstetrics to prisons. How did that happen?

A. I knocked on the ICRC’s door, thinking they might need a gynecologist. They said no, we need surgeons or midwives, not a gynecologist. But would you be interested in looking into prisons and prison medicine?…The last delivery I did was my youngest daughter who is now 24! All in all, I’ve spent 28 years working for the International Committee of the Red Cross, visiting hundreds of prisons in more than 40 countries, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe and practically everything in the middle, including Guantánamo and Maze prison in the UK—the worst and the best, and the most gruesome prisons you can imagine.

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Berkeley Human Rights Q&A #2 Keramet Reiter

Shedding light on solitary


UC Irvine Professor Keramet Reiter is one of the nation’s leading experts on U.S. prisons, solitary confinement, and mental health. From her first blog post on crime and delinquency as a Human Rights Center Fellow at UC Berkeley in 2010 to her new book (co-edited with Human Rights Center Executive Director Alexa Koenig) Extreme Punishment: Comparative Studies in Detention, Incarceration and Solitary Confinement, Reiter has illuminated egregious flaws in the United States prison system. Her forthcoming Prisons within Prisons: The Hidden Hell of the American Supermax is due out from Yale University Press next year. Reiter recently came back to Berkeley (where she earned her Ph.D. in Jurisprudence and Social Policy in 2012) to speak about the court settlement spurred by Pelican Bay prisoners that ended indefinite detention in solitary confinement in California.

Why did you start studying prisons?

While I was in college in Boston I worked with the American Friends Service committee, which is a Quaker organization that has historically done prison reform work. They were just beginning to look at solitary confinement issues in Massachusetts. That’s when I first learned about it as a practice that people were thinking about challenging.

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On #CalBigGive: Students at the heart of HRC’s work

The Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law is known around the world for our research and investigations. But here on the UC Berkeley campus, we’re also known by students for something else: human rights education. Last spring, close to 100 students took the legal studies class our Executive Director Alexa Koenig taught along with our Faculty Director Eric Stover. One of the students, Sayaka Ri, shared with us how this class changed the trajectory of her life:

“There are few classes at Berkeley that have the ability to redefine a student’s academic career….From the start of the semester, it was clear that Professor Stover and Koenig were not only interested in lecturing about human rights, but were invested in developing the next generation of human rights activists. Lectures were invigorating, discussion sections were thought-provoking and office hours were mentoring sessions, where the professors did everything within their capability to realize your aspirations. Through personal experience, after Professor Stover’s health and human rights lecture and many office hours with Professor Koenig, LS 154 helped me discover my passion towards medicine and human rights, allowed me to critically and skillfully apply lecture material to research projects in the Human Rights Center and introduced me to a summer internship in New York with Physicians for Human Rights that changed and consolidated my life pursuits entirely. For these opportunities, enrolling in LS 154 has been one of the most invaluable decisions I have made and know that this class and its exceptional professors will be pivotal for the lives of many Cal students to come.”

Powerful perspectives from students like Sayaka have led us to think of new ways to engage undergraduates in research. In 2016, the Human Rights Center will work on the following projects:

    • Expand our course on human rights to include research methodologies and an engaged research project—both to strengthen undergraduate research opportunities at UC Berkeley and increase the number of undergraduate students prepared to participate in graduate-level work.
    • Launch a human rights tech lab to engage students in real-world coding and programming projects focused on addressing human rights challenges. Students will also learn how digital technologies are becoming increasingly critical to human rights investigations, research, and legal practice.
    • Award our coveted Human Rights Center Fellowships to undergraduates. To date, we’ve enabled 275 fellows, mostly graduate students, to work on the front lines with international human rights organizations, and we hope to give select undergrads the same life-changing opportunity.

Our strongest and most important collaborations over the past twenty years have been with students, and we believe that focusing on students will lead to both a stronger human rights movement and a more optimistic future. The next generation of human rights researchers and advocates is right here at Berkeley.

To make these projects possible, we need your help. Each year, the Human Rights Center must raise more than 95 percent of our budget from grants as well as from individuals and BIG GIVE is a great time to give! Every tax-deductible gift we receive directly benefit students by providing new human rights research opportunities—opportunities that will contribute to human rights globally and empower the next generation of scholars, lawyers, and advocates to harness their world-class education for good.Donations of any size will help the Human Rights Center win day of contests and prize money, increasing the impact of your gift.

Click here to donate to the Human Rights Center today. Any amount is a contribution to our work.

Berkeley Human Rights Q&A #1

Three words from Ben Ferencz:

‘Law. Not War.’

Ferencz and Buxbaum small
Ben Ferencz speaks at Boalt Hall in October as Berkeley Law professor and event moderator Richard Buxbaum looks on.

If Ben Ferencz can be hopeful, so can we. The 95-year-old lawyer fought in the major battles of World War II, witnessed the horrors of Dachau and Buchenwald, and—at age 27—prosecuted Nazis in the Einsatzgruppen case, the ninth of twelve trials at Nuremberg. Twenty-two SS leaders of paramilitary death squads were charged with more than a million murders in what has been called the biggest mass murder trial in history. Among the world’s first war crimes investigators, Ferencz has devoted his life to promoting international justice. His alma mater Harvard Law recently awarded him their medal of freedom—an honor bestowed on the likes of Nelson Mandela. Ferencz recently visited UC Berkeley School of Law, recounting his life’s work and delivering his signature catchphrase: “Law. Not war.” He told students that the law is not static and exhorted them to adapt it to promote human rights. “Don’t tell me it’s impossible,” he said. “Things have changed.”  

Ferencz fielded 10 questions for our inaugural Berkeley Human Rights Q&A

Q. Your family landed in New York in the 1920s after fleeing poverty and the persecution of Jewish people in Transylvania. How did an immigrant kid growing up in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen decide to become a lawyer?

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Missing Peace workshop in Uganda strengthens response to wartime sexual violence; Human Rights Center launches new research

MP 2015 group shot

The Missing Peace Practitioners’ Workshop—co-hosted by the Human Rights Center—brought together more than 100 people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Liberia, in Kampala, Uganda, last week to talk about sexual violence during and after armed conflict.

Contributing to recent global efforts to highlight and address wartime sexual violence, the workshop convened doctors, forensic experts, lawyers, judges, and other first responders in a dynamic three-day conversation about supporting survivors, collecting evidence, and investigating alleged perpetrators in countries with severely limited resources. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Uganda Fund, U.S. Institute of Peace, Women in International Security, and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo.

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HRC to launch new research on wartime sexual violence at international workshop in Uganda

Kampala, Uganda—
As part of a global movement to end wartime sexual violence, more than 70 legal, health, and law enforcement leaders from six African countries will meet in Kampala, Uganda, August 26–28, to discuss strategies for seeking justice and supporting survivors.

The Missing Peace Practitioners’ Workshop will take up new findings from a groundbreaking, four-country study on conflict-related sexual violence to be launched at the workshop by the Sexual Violence Program of the Human Rights Center, UC Berkeley School of Law. The study, in part, highlights barriers to investigating and prosecuting sexual violence and recommends better training and more funding for the local healthcare workers and police officers on the front lines.

The workshop builds on the UK’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict spearheaded by actress Angelina Jolie last summer and the 2013 Missing Peace Symposium in Washington, DC.

“There is so much focus on what the International Criminal Court is or is not doing about sexual violence committed as a war crime, crime against humanity, or act of genocide,” said Kim Thuy Seelinger, director of the Human Rights Center’s Sexual Violence Program, “But it’s the nurse at the county clinic or the rural police officer who can actually play a central role in the pursuit of justice, even when the crime violates international law.”

The workshop provides a rare opportunity for frontline responders from Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan to collaborate.

“These experts and practitioners are those closest to survivors,” said Ketty Anyeko, transitional justice expert with the Uganda Fund—The Fund for War-Affected Children and Youth in Northern Uganda. “Their work can be challenging because victims are sometimes unwilling to pursue legal justice—fearing revenge, stigma, or loss of child support.”

Workshop hosts include the Human Rights Center, Uganda Fund—The Fund for War-Affected Children and Youth in Northern Uganda, United States Institute of Peace, the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, and Women in International Security.

“Whether in violent conflict, extremist settings or in the domestic sphere, we must create a zero tolerance for this form of violence,” said Kathleen Kuehnast, senior gender advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “Just as the world community outlawed slavery in the 19th century and landmines in the 20th century, we must outlaw sexual violence in the 21st century.”

Innocent Zahinda Balemba, who heads the Office of the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict under Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura, will give a keynote address at the opening session on August 26.

Human Rights Photo, Day 9: Stephen Goldblatt

Goldblatt, Painting Buddha's Lips_Paddle8

Painting Buddha’s Lips, Burma, 2007
Stephen Goldblatt

Acclaimed cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt traveled to Burma in 2007 to capture moments of ordinary life during military rule. He has donated his work to the Human Rights Center’s efforts to uphold human rights in Burma and around the world. This photo is of a man painting Buddha’s lips, a coveted job.

Goldblatt, who has been nominated for two Academy Awards, is especially known for his work on Angels in America, The Help, and most recently Get On Up, the biographical drama about James Brown.


In celebration of the Human Rights Center’s 20th birthday, we are sending you a photo a day from 10 world-class photographers. These photographers have generously shared their work with the center as part of the Envisioning Human Rights exhibit curated by Pamela Blotner at Berkeley Law this fall. Each photo touches on the center’s work with people who have suffered injustice and demonstrated great resilience.

To learn more about the photographs and the online auction, visit or The auction ends Monday!

Human Rights Photo, Day 10: Sebastião Salgado

salgado for web

During a Demonstration in Support of the MPLA, Angola, 1975
Sebastião Salgado

Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1974, but immediately descended into a protracted civil war between nationalist movements involving widespread abuses of human rights. In this photo, Sebastião Salgado photographs a scene of children in the Angolan capital of Luanda, who are watching a demonstration of the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA).

Writes Sebastião Salgado:
“I very much like to work on long-term projects….There is time for the photographer and the people in front of the camera to under­stand each other. There is time to go to a place and understand what is happening there. …When you spend more time on a project, you learn to understand your subjects. There comes a time when it is not you who is taking the pictures. Something special happens between the photographer and the people he is photographing. He realizes that they are giving the pictures to him.”


In celebration of the Human Rights Center’s 20th birthday, we have been pleased to send you a photo a day from 10 world-class photographers. These photographers have generously shared their work with the center as part of the Envisioning Human Rights exhibit curated by Pamela Blotner at Berkeley Law this fall. Each photo touches on the center’s work with people who have suffered injustice and demonstrated great resilience.

To learn more about the photographs and the online auction, visit or