Deborah Alejandra Popowski

Executive Director  (email)

Deborah Alejandra Popowski is Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. Her current research interests are institutional vulnerability to capture by the national security state; accountability ethics; the role of media and the arts in shifting attitudes towards human rights; and the incorporation of testimony and performance into legal pedagogy. Popowski’s areas of focus have included human rights and counter-terrorism; professional ethics; protest and assembly rights; and the inter-American system.

Popowski came to CHRGJ in 2016 from Harvard Law School, where she taught human rights for seven years, most recently as a lecturer and clinical instructor.

Prior to her Harvard appointment, Popowski was a Kaufman-Skirball Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she worked with the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative and advised the habeas bar on matters involving health and medical ethics. She is co-author of a chapter in Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror (2013) and served on the Task Force for Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Settings convened by the Open Society Initiative and Columbia University’s Institute for Medicine as a Profession.

During her time at CCR and at Harvard, Popowski organized and led an innovative torture accountability campaign that incorporated a legislative reform initiative and the use of state professional boards as impact litigation forums. As part of that campaign, she represented Ohio residents in an ethics complaint against retired U.S. Army colonel Larry James, a former senior intelligence psychologist at Guantánamo, and as lead counsel in a subsequent lawsuit, Bond et al. v. Ohio State Psychology Board.

Popowski has advocated in or appeared before various international bodies, including the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the U.N. Committee Against Torture, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and association.

She holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia, where she studied political rhetoric, literature, and public history. Born in Argentina and raised mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean, Popowski has worked in Argentina, Brazil, Austria, Angola, and Niger, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Zarma.