Deborah Alejandra Popowski
CHRGJ Executive Director
Wilf Hall 514

Deborah Alejandra Popowski is Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and a Research Scholar at NYU School of Law, where she co-created and co-directs the American Poverty and Human Rights project and the Arts, Law, and Social Justice project. Her research interests include the role of media and the arts in shifting attitudes towards human rights; incorporation of testimony, performance, and art into legal pedagogy; and institutional vulnerability to capture by the national security state. Her areas of expertise include human rights and counter-terrorism; prisoners’ rights; professional ethics; health and human rights; protest and assembly rights; and the inter-American system. Her regional focus is on human rights in the United States and Latin America.

Deborah came to CHRGJ in 2016 from Harvard Law School, where she taught human rights for seven years, most recently as lecturer and clinical instructor. While at Harvard, she developed and taught or co-developed and co-taught three new courses: The “War on Terror” Memoir, Human Rights Advocacy and the United States (with James Cavallaro), and Gender and Human Rights (with Mindy Roseman). She co-taught the introductory clinical seminar Human Rights Advocacy with Tyler Giannini from 2013 to 2015.

Prior to her Harvard appointment, Deborah 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, and co-led by Aryeh Neier and David Rothman. During her time at the Center for Constitutional Rights and at Harvard, Deborah 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 effort, she represented Ohio residents in an ethics complaint against retired US 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.

Deborah 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 UN Committee Against Torture, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and association. She was a member of the litigation team representing the petitioner in the landmark case, Damião Ximenes Lopes v. Brazil, which led to the first Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling to recognize the vulnerability of people living with mental illness.

Deborah holds a JD from Harvard Law School and a BA in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia, with concentrations in political rhetoric, media analysis, literature, and public history. Born in Argentina and raised in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States, Deborah has worked in Angola, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, and Niger, where she served in the Peace Corps as a rural maternal-child health agent and HIV/AIDS Coordinator. She speaks native Spanish, fluent Portuguese, and is proficient in French and Zarma.

Before law and after development, Deborah worked with journalists and documentary filmmakers. She has always written bad poetry. These days, she is writing a play (for real) and a children’s book (completely in her head), exploring drawing and design, and taking any excuse to hang out with artists.

Areas of Expertise

Security and Conflict
Gender, Women, and LGBTQI Persons
Selected Publications
Reports and Briefing Papers
December 4, 2017
Infographic: Visit to the US by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights
View Document
Legal Filings
October 23, 2015
Remedies for US CIA Program: IACHR Thematic Hearing Submissions Annex: US Failure to Prosecute Senior Officials for Torture
View Document
August 24, 2015
Beyond the APA: The Role of Psychology Boards and State Courts in Propping up Torture
View Document

Additional publications can be found in the Document Center.

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