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International Human Rights Clinic Makes Major Headway on Ugandan Women’s Health Rights Case

April 28, 2020
Addie Myers

Founded in 2013, the International Human Rights Clinic is one of eight clinics at the College of Law designed to allow students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience during their legal education. Dedicated to a unique and distinct area of the law, the international clinic combines lawyering skills, international legal research, and supervised human rights casework. In addition to aiding local immigration cases and offering advice to DACA students, one of the major tasks of the clinic is to partner with international organizations, non-governmental organizations, non-profits, and law firms in need of research support on important international human rights issues.

One such case has been an effort to combat maternal mortality and recognize women’s health rights as a human right in Uganda. The clinic has been working with the Center for Health Human Rights & Development (CEHURD), which is a non-profit research and advocacy organization, working to advance health rights for vulnerable communities.

Serving in a support role to the organization, the clinic has been involved in the project for over seven years, providing research, conducting client interviews, and meeting with stakeholders for their strategic litigation of the issues. Over the years, the case has been making its way through the Ugandan court system. At the end of September 2019, oral arguments were finally heard before the Ugandan Constitutional Court. CEHURD and the clinic are still awaiting a decision.

As a follow-up to the hearing, third-year law student Adelaide Myers traveled to Uganda with the faculty supervisors of the clinic, Carl M. Williams Professor of Law and Ethics Professor Noah Novogrodsky, and Jamie Crawford, the Robert J. Golten Fellow at the College of Law.

“The purpose of the trip was to figure out what could happen based on the decision, and what are the next possible steps in the case depending on that outcome,” says Myers. “We had the opportunity to meet and strategize with potential stakeholders regardless of the decision, but most certainly if a favorable decision is granted.”

Myers found the trip to be enlightening on a number of levels.

“First and foremost the country was incredibly beautiful and the people were wonderful,” she says. “I learned so much from them in even my limited interactions than I ever could have imagined in a classroom. You really have to meet with your clients face-to-face to really understand their problems. Meeting with women’s healthcare workers and other organizations really helped to grasp the sheer magnitude of the barriers that we were seeking to overcome.”

While the human impact left a last impression, the legal impact was equally eye opening. Longevity of projects in the international realm is one of the distinguishing features that make human rights issues so complex. The challenges associated with their duration, were another one of the major takeaways for Myers.

“I think the biggest lessons this case has taught me is to have a clear picture of the end goal, and that it is critical to ask that questions before you write your initial pleadings,” she remarks. “This case has been winding its way through the Ugandan courts over a decade and now we are trying to figure out the best possible outcomes from a ruling that can only be based on the pleadings that were submit in the first place.”

“I also learned the limitations of strategic litigation for human rights issues,” she says. “It can be a bit daunting and overwhelming and it is certainly very easy to get discouraged, wondering if anything you are doing is going to have an impact. However, while a successful litigation effort wont completely shift the tide, it does start to slowly change the direction.”

The clinic hopes the outcome of the case will be a favorable one to establish a precedent in which other cases can look to in the future.

“The experience has been very humbling, and I am so grateful to have been a part of it,” says Myers. “We have served on this case in a supporting role, but I hope that through our efforts we have garnered additional interest and support for the case. It is comforting to know that once our role ends, it doesn’t end the overall fight.”

Originally from Colorado, Myers calls Saratoga, Wyo. home. She attended Colorado State University for her undergraduate education in English and earned her M.A. in Library Science from Louisiana State University. While in law school, she has been actively involved in the International Human Rights Clinic for multiple years, as well as the Wyoming Society of International Law, the Women’s Law Forum, and PAD. She competed in the Phillip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition where she won best oralist at Regionals in 2019. This year, she wrote the brief and helped to coach the 1L and 2L students competing. She is also a student editor on the Wyoming Law Review Editorial Board for 2019-2020. Following graduation, Myers will serve as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Kate M. Fox of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

addie with members of Ugandan organization in a libraryaddie with Professor Novogrodsky and Jamie Crawford in front of the Ugandan courts

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