Deborah Alejandra Popowski
Lecturer on Law
Deborah Alejandra Popowski is a Lecturer on Law and Clinical Instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic. Her areas of expertise include human rights and counterterrorism, protest and assembly rights, and the Inter-American system. Popowski’s work addresses human rights violations in various countries, with particular focus on the United States and Latin America. Her practice and pedagogy are centered around the belief that U.S.-based advocates have heightened responsibility and opportunity to hold the United States accountable by addressing local problems and, through their international work, by focusing on violations that result from U.S. projection of power.
In January 2012, in collaboration with international human rights and U.S. civil liberties experts at seven law school clinics across the United States, Popowski co-founded the Protest and Assembly Rights Project to examine various U.S. cities’ responses to the Occupy Wall Street movement in light of the government’s international legal obligations.
Prior to her Harvard appointment, Popowski was a Skirball Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she supported the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative and launched When Healers Harm, a campaign to end the involvement of U.S. health professionals in torture. She has continued that work at HRP, as Project Coordinator of the Program for Medical Professionals, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Law. Popowski’s contributions have included supporting legislation to reform state health professional codes; filing complaints before state licensing boards; creating a public education website; and providing support for detainees and U.S. servicemembers and veterans who suffer medical and other health-related abuse. She was co-counsel in Bond et al. v. Ohio State Psychology Board, a suit seeking to compel that board to investigate a professional misconduct complaint against Col. (ret.) Larry James, former senior intelligence psychologist at Guantanamo. She also served on the Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers, convened by the Open Society Institute and Columbia University’s Institute for Medicine as a Profession.
Popowski received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and her B.A. from the University of Virginia. She worked as an intern with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, the U.N. Committee against Torture, and Justiça Global, a Brazilian human rights organization. Prior to law school, she worked in Argentina, her country of birth; Angola; and Niger, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer and coordinated the organization’s HIV/AIDS program from 2002-2003. She speaks native Spanish, fluent Portuguese, and is proficient in French and Zarma/Djerma.