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Harvard Law team helped group that won the Nobel Peace Prize

Back row (left to right): Molly Doggett, HLS JD ’17; Alice Osman, HLS LLM ’17; Erin Hunt, Mines Action Canada; Elizabeth Minor, Article 36 (a UK-based organization) Front row (left to right): Lan Mei, HLS JD ’17, Anna Crowe, clinical instructor at HLS International Human Rights Clinic; Matthew Bolton, Pace University; Bonnie Docherty, associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection at HLS International Human Rights ClinicRalf Schlesener

A small group from Harvard Law School was basking in a bit of reflected Nobel Peace Prize glow on Friday.

The team of six people helped the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the prize, by providing legal advice as the organization participated in negotiations for the first treaty to abolish nuclear weapons, one of the Harvard group’s leaders said.

Bonnie Docherty, a lecturer at the school and an associate director of the school’s International Human Rights Clinic, said Friday afternoon that she and her colleague, Anna Crowe, headed a group of four law students in assisting ICAN, a Geneva-based coalition of disarmament activists.


The treaty was adopted in July after negotiations between UN member countries that also included ICAN, Docherty said. The treaty opened for signatures on Sept. 20. Already 53 countries have signed on. The final step for countries that have signed on is ratification by their congresses or parliaments. Three of the 53 countries have taken that step. Docherty said she expects more countries to sign on and to ratify.

The treaty will go into effect 90 days after 50 member states have formally ratified it. The world’s nine nuclear powers, including the United States, boycotted the negotiations. The treaty, which some have criticized as naive, would ask them to disarm.

But the treaty is a “major legal, political, and moral statement that nuclear weapons are wrong and countries should take action to move away from their reliance on nuclear weapons,” Docherty said.

“It’s a step on the road,” she said, particularly at a time of increased tension because of nuclear saber-rattling by both the United States and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

“We need this kind of symbol to show this is not the road to go down, that countries should be thinking of other ways to resolve their differences,” she said.


She said the Harvard team also pushed to get post-nuclear attack assistance to victims and remediation to the environment included in the treaty.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it was giving the award to ICAN for drawing attention to the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

The students on the team were Carina Bentata Gryting, Molly Doggett, Alice Osman, and Lan Mei, said Docherty.

“The students are thrilled,” said Docherty. Popping open a bottle of champagne with them isn’t possible because three have graduated and a third is on a student exchange in Geneva. But “e-mails are flying” and “some kind of Skype party” might be arranged, she said.

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.