One of my favorite blogs and an excellent one to consider subscribing to if you are interested in the field of International Law, IntLawGrrls, covered the passing of former Fletcher School professor, Ellen Lutz, today.

I have never met Ellen Lutz but I found her life’s work and the sense of her character that came through in this article to be very inspiring. As a Fletcher student interested in human rights law, a follower of Cultural Survival‘s work and campaigns, and as someone who hopes to find a life of balance while working in this field I feel so passionate about, her story is one I will hold close as a role model.

Ellen Lutz, photo credit: Intlawgrrls

In passing: Ellen L. Lutz

Ellen L. Lutz, an international human rights lawyer, teacher, and activist, died this past Thursday, November 4, at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The cause was metastatic breast cancer. She was 55.

During her final two years battling the disease, Ellen directed the Cambridge-based human rights organization Cultural Survival, co-edited two pioneering books (Prosecuting Heads of State, (Cambridge U. Press) and Human Rights and Conflict Management in Context (Syracuse U. Press), submitted formal reviews on state behavior to the UN Human Rights Council, led international litigation on behalf of Panama’s threatened Nobe Indians, and sang alto with the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus. She did each with equal enthusiasm and skill.

Her concern for human rights began when, as a 15-year-old exchange student to Uruguay, she witnessed the onset of Uruguay’s state sponsored “Dirty War,” and supported the international human rights movements such actions spawned across Latin American during the 1970s. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Temple University (1976) and obtaining a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr (1978), Ellen took a Law Degree in International Law and Human Rights from Boalt Hall Law School (University of California at Berkeley) in 1985.

Ellen’s persistent interest in Latin America continued as professional work with Amnesty International (1979-81), in Washington, D.C., and in San Francisco.

She later headed the California office of Human Rights Watch (1989-94), where she conducted research and published on little-known but extensive human rights abuses in Mexico, and she was co-counsel in two groundbreaking human rights cases in U.S. courts, against the infamous Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Argentine General Suarez-Mason.

Moving with her family to Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1994, she helped to set up and then served as Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, taught international law. human rights, and mediation at Tufts, Harvard and the University of Massachusetts, and wrote widely. One of her students, now a professor at Occidental College, recalled how
warm and desirous she was of connecting to students amid the formal Fletcher iciness, a marvelous force of nature.

Ellen was asked to become Executive Director of Cultural Survival in 2004, where she increased the participation of indigenous people on the Board of Directors and Program Council, while steering the organization away from local development projects to broad human rights initiatives. Ellen said:

Development work like building schools, digging wells, and providing services is what governments should be doing. Our work is to make sure governments live up to their obligations.

One of her colleagues wrote,

It would be difficult to quantify Ellen’s ferocious passion for justice. Her zeal and natural warm-heartedness combined with a legal rigor that made her a truly formidable advocate.
There was much of such personal and professional praise. But, perhaps the most encompassing and, for Ellen, meaningful compliment came from Stella Tamang, a Nepalese tribal leader and friend:

To Ellen, my Kalyana Mitra,
In Buddhism Kalyana means Wellbeing and Mitra means friend. Kalyana Mitra therefore means friends who always think about their wellbeing. You have been such wonderful friend, a constant support during the problems I was facing about the political problem back in Nepal. We also talked about family, our children, and life. I am blessed to have a friend like you. We believe that if a person has done good Karma, he or she gets to meet with wonderful people, and you are the one for me…

And Ellen was not a Buddhist. Ellen is survived by her husband, Theodore Macdonald, an anthropologist previously with Cultural Survival and now with Harvard University, and her two children from a previous marriage, David and Julia Randall, now studying at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard, respectively. Her cat, Misty, and dog, Churi, are well taken care of. Her friends, among them many women human rights lawyers, are grateful to her for her wise counsel and unflagging dignity. All are thankful to their Kalyana Mitra.

By: Naomi Roht-Arriaza of Intlawgrrls

Drinking my laast mango-pomegranate-orange tango shake and sipping a long black before heading state-side later this morning! Here’s the last Cambodge news round-up for the summer!

‘Bold plan’ for Mekong area rail link approved

By: Ian Timberlake in AFP, August 21, 2010

A “bold” plan for a railway system connecting more than 300 million people who live around one of the world’s great rivers, the Mekong, was approved Friday, officials said. Ministers from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam adopted the plan which they called “a significant first step toward the development of an integrated… railway system”.

"Sea of Trees" in Mondulkiri

Stronger wildlife laws needed, officials say

By: Chhay Channyda in Phnom Penh Post, August 19, 2010

NEW laws and harsher penalties are needed to prosecute people who trade in illegal wildlife, government officials said yesterday. Speaking at the opening of a two-day regional anti-wildlife trafficking workshop in Phnom Penh, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said that a lack of concrete wildlife management legislation combined with weak penalties for illegal traders meant there was little to deter would-be perpetrators.

Cellphones help Cambodian students — to cheat

By: Dara Saoyuth, AFP, August 19, 2010

Standing in front of a school in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, Than Vichea read out answers over his mobile telephone to his sister who was taking national exams inside. He was not alone. Even the police deployed outside schools to stop relatives providing answers to the more than 100,000 students who sat the tests last month could not prevent cheating in many of the exam centres.

Commodities Pork sales decline over blue-ear fear

By: Jimmy Ellingham and Veng Rachana in Phnom Penh Post, August 16, 2010

PHNOM Penh pork vendors are selling up to two-thirds less meat than usual, as consumers continue to stay home due to concerns about blue-ear disease in pigs. Government officials have warned there is a risk people could suffer severe diarrhoea if they eat infected meat that has not been cooked properly, although a United Nations official has said the disease could not be contracted by humans.

Cambodian Woman Faces Prison in Land Grabbing Case

By: Mu Sochua, August 16, 2010

Mu Sochua took part today, Monday 16th August, in a Press Conference organized in the context of a recent land dispute case (in Kompong Thom Province – see full case description in previous post). Local representative, Lem Nath, has been physically abused and thrown into prison for stepping up in the case of local land grabbing.


The beat goes on … and on

By: Phnom Penh Post, August 13, 2010

The musical aspect, the cello playing, is minimal. It simply intersperses an emotive, and at times slightly paranoid, spiel by the good doctor, mainly to raise funds, but also to pay out on all those he has deemed as attempting to stand in his troubled way, trapped as he is by his own unappreciated philanthropy.

Littering law cleans up

By: Chhay Channyda, August 13, 2010

CITY Hall has collected more than 9 million riels (US$2,148) in fines since a crackdown on littering began in May, an official said yesterday. Chiek Ang, director of the municipal Environment Department, said most of the fees, collected between May 1 and July 31, had been paid by people caught littering in marketplaces.

Rice Fields in Central Cambodia

Climate yields rice concerns

By: Jerermy Mullins and Sun Mesa in Phnom Penh Post, August 11, 2010

TROPICAL Asia’s rice yields are at risk because of climate change, as evidence suggests higher temperatures have already cut growth rates as much as 20 percent in some areas, according the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation.

Facing history in Cambodia

By Akshan deAlwis in Boston Globe, August 10, 2010

Akshan deAlwis will be a freshman at Noble and Greenough School in the fall.

I was nine when I read “First They Killed my Father.” It had a profound impact on me and I wanted to learn more about both the glory that was the Khmer civilization and its more recent history of conflict.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Battambang demonstrators get bussed out of town

By: May Titthara in Phnom Penh Post, August 9, 2010

UNICIPAL and Daun Penh district police yesterday forcibly broke up a demonstration near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh home by villagers from Battambang province, loading them onto a bus out of town in a move that drew swift condemnation from rights workers.

Cambodia marches away from its troubled past

By: The National News Paper, August 7, 2010

This year the Cambodian economy is expected to grow by just 5 per cent, but for most of the past decade the economy has registered an annual growth rate of about 10 per cent – an almost China-style growth story that the world press has largely ignored. Given this economic background, outsiders should not regard the Cambodia Stock Exchange as some sort of vanity project. If it opens and succeeds it can serve as another avenue for attracting foreign capital to a country desperately in need of development funds.

Government Can Help in Tribunal Reconciliation

By: Sok Khemara in VOA Khmer, August 6, 2010

Compensation for victims of the Khmer Rouge is in part a responsibility of the government, a tribunal monitor said Thursday. “Because the state has an obligation to take responsibility for all kinds of people’s suffering,” said Lat Ky, a court monitor for the rights group Adhoc, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Cambodian Sex Workers Protest (© 2008 AP Photo)

Cambodia: Sex Workers Face Unlawful Arrests and Detention

Officials Should Investigate and Close Government Centers Where Abuses Occur

By: Human Rights Watch, July 20, 2010

For far too long, police and other authorities have unlawfully locked up sex workers, beaten and sexually abused them, and looted their money and other possessions. The Cambodian government should order a prompt and thorough independent investigation into these systematic violations of sex workers’ human rights and shut down the centers where these people have been abused.

Inflation ‘manageable’ in first half of 2010

By: May Kunmakara in Phnom Penh Post, July 20, 2010

INFLATION, recorded at 5.22 percent in the first half of the year, has grown at a “stable” and “manageable” rate according to commentators. According to National Institute of Statistics consumer price index released yesterday, the first six months of 2010 saw inflation reach 5.22 percent compared to the same period last year. Quarter-on-quarter inflation was slight at 0.3 percent.

US envoy defends military relations with Cambodia

By: AFP, June 19, 2010

A senior US diplomat on Sunday defended relations with allegedly abusive Cambodian military units as he concluded a two-day visit to the capital Phnom Penh. William Burns, US Under-Secretary of State for political affairs, said military aid from the United States to Cambodia was intended to boost a civil-military relationship that was essential to a “healthy political system”.

Sochua at ‘war’ with courts

By: Meas Sokchea in Phonm Penh Post, July 16, 2010

OPPOSITION lawmaker Mu Sochua reaffirmed yesterday that she would refuse to pay fines levied after she was convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, again daring the government to imprison her for failing to meet a court-ordered payment deadline.

Human rights head ‘seriously concerned’ at pursuit of opposition MP

By: Earth Times, July 16, 2010

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed “serious concern” Tuesday at the Cambodian government’s pursuit of a criminal case against opposition parliamentarian Mu Sochua.

Hundreds of families block land-clearing

By: May Tithara in Phnom Penh Post, July 16, 2010

AROUND 256 families from Kampong Speu province’s Trapaing Chor commune held a sit-down protest in Phlout Leu village yesterday to prevent a sugar firm from clearing their farmland, villagers said. Villager Lot Sovan, who claims to have occupied the land since 2000, said the company began clearing the land at 3:30pm Wednesday. Villagers asked the company to stop, insisting that the dispute over the concession had not been resolved. The villagers then prevented further clearing by protesting yesterday, he said.

Cambodia women see future in sports and big muscles

By: Kounila Keo, Christian Science Monitor, July 16, 2010

Cambodia women are rising fast in the wide world of sports. Pétanque player Duch Sophorn has alone won gold, silver, and bronze medals in international competitions over the past decade.

Photo of Tonle Bassac Commune by Jake SchonEker

Group 78 anniversary rally planned

By: Jake Schoneker and Tang Khyhay in Phnom Peh Post, July 15, 2010

AYEAR ago this week, police and red-shirted demolition workers arrived at dawn on a Friday morning to clear out a tract of land in Tonle Bassac commune known as Group 78. Once a close-knit community of street vendors and civil servants that contained 146 families, the land is now empty, a fenced-in plot of grass and sand. On Saturday, former Group 78 residents plan to reunite and demonstrate at their old home, a year to the day after the last families were forced to abandon the site and scatter to the outskirts of the city.

100,000 Cambodian officials to be required to declare assets as part of anti-corruption fight

By: Canadian Business, July 14, 2010

Some 100,000 government officials in Cambodia will be required to declare their assets this year in an effort to combat corruption, a senior official said Wednesday. Under an anti-corruption law passed in March, any official found guilty of taking bribes could face up to 15 years in prison. Cambodia, a poor country heavily dependent on foreign aid, is routinely listed by independent groups such as Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries in Asia.