Heather Keachie, CCIJ FellowHeather is an associate lawyer in Toronto practicing corporate law with a focus on small business and not-for-profit organizations. She holds a BA (Hons) from the University of King’s College, Halifax; an MA in international relations from the Munk School, University of Toronto; and a JD/LLB from the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. During law school Heather was an associate editor of the Journal for International Law and International Relations, and researched and wrote on numerous areas of international governance. She also received the A. Alan Borovoy Prize in Civil Liberties.

After law school, Heather clerked at the Federal Court of Appeal in Ottawa. The next year she went to teach law at the University of The Gambia, West Africa, developing curricula and helping to launch a legal aid clinic. Her courses included Public International Law, Comparative Constitutional Law, Intellectual Property Law, and Mooting and Trial Advocacy. She also coached the first ever Gambian Jessup team, and took them to the final rounds in Washington, D.C., where they were awarded Best New Team for 2012. She recently returned from a month long field research project in Niger looking at the legal protection and educational framework available to children with disabilities.

Heather has also been involved in Canadian politics and continues to volunteer with several not-for-profit organizations in Toronto and Ottawa. We are very fortunate to have her on  board.


On January 24, 2013 CCIJ hosted a screening of Granito: How to Nail a Dictator as part of its ongoing outreach and awareness initiative. This showing at Osgoode followed other successful screenings at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University.

Granito follows the contemporary search for reconciliation and justice in Guatemala through the struggle by advocates and victims to bring charges against José Efrain Rios Montt, a government and military leader from 1982-1983.

During his reign, over 200,000 deaths contributed to the labelling of this period of Guatemala’s history as one of genocide. Charges have been brought against Rios Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity. It is this saga for justice through which Granito illuminates the decades-long legal battle that finally found footing during the first genocide case launched in a Spanish court in 1999.
Granito’s director, Pamela Yates, had filmed an earlier, classic documentary When the Mountains Tremble at the height of Rios Montt’s power. As a young documentary filmmaker, she had ranged far afield to film both the indigenous Mayan Guerrilla Army of the Poor, as well as the military that would eventually commit mass atrocities during “Operation Sofia,” a scorched earth campaign to extinguish all dissent in land disputes favouring the elite.

By coming under fire alongside Guatemalan combat troops, she “earned the right” to interview progressively senior officials, including Rios Montt himself. Decades later, we join Yates reviewing the original interview footage which now provides crucial evidence in legal proceedings. Rios Montt’s statements of impunity, first made at the height of his power, now help to prove his high command had established the two-way flow of information and orders from field units and operatives that underlies command responsibility perpetrating atrocities.

Rios Montt was formally charged in Guatemala in January 2012 for genocide, and is only now awaiting trial only after 3 decades of impunity. In tracing the struggle for justice, Granito shows the challenges of costs, time and politics that have forced human rights advocates to seek redress from The Netherlands to Spain and beyond. Even when a warrant had been issued by a Spanish judge, the Guatemalan government blocked any enforcement.

Granito also shows the story of the families of the disappeared. In 2005, thousands of government records were found in an abandoned police archive. Interviews with children of the disappeared and the volunteer forensic anthropologists unearth the decades-buried mechanisms of disappearances: dictatorship-era surveillance of visits to cemeteries of family seeking loved ones, and the deliberate burial of victims without identification.

One is struck by the sheer magnitude of how disappeared segments of society affect those of us that remain. Yates finds the children of the disappeared, who even now demand the truth as young advocates. Their voices belie the simplicity of childhood hopes to someday find their parents. We meet the witnesses to mass killings, waiting for decades for Rios Montt to stand trial, smiling at the dream of achieving closure even after years of living in abject poverty. And so Yates leaves us with the meaning of her title: that each granite, or grain of sand, represents the country and people of Guatemala. Granite de arena is the phrase for healing, an understanding that change cannot come from an individual, a victim or advocate alone, but only from the collective unity of Guatemalan society.

Following the film, CCIJ hosted a panel discussion featuring Prof. Carlota McAllister of the Department of Anthropology at York University and Deputy Director the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC); Caren Weisbart, who lived in Guatemala from 2001 to 2010 where she served as Director of the international human rights accompaniment project ACOGUATE, and who is presently a doctoral candidate in Environmental Studies at York University; and Omar Cano, a journalist who worked for two of the main Guatemalan newspapers Prensa Libre and Siglo Veintiuno until he was forced into exile by Guatemala’s Serrano government of the early 1990s. Cano subsequently founded the Guatemalan Canadian Association ASOGUATE, a cultural association that also supports social and educational projects in Guatemala.

The lively discussion covered various perspectives. Beginning with the calculated use of genocide to destroy hope, Professor McAllister emphasized the modern materiality of victims and families; the lived experiences of continuously exhuming and identifying bodies from mass graves or living day-to day, beside known perpetrators still escaping blame.

The discussion then posed the question of how a “wall of impunity” should be faced following mass violence. Where the very institutions of government that perpetrated the violence are now tasked with supporting reconciliation efforts, tensions between perpetrators, victims and the truth continue to be driven deeper underground. One speaker raised the point that it is not so simple a matter for a country or a people to lay down the “3 R’s” of transitional justice: reparation, responsibility and reframing without sacrificing the continuity of societal ascent. For the pre-1987 dictatorship-era cases, the Guatemalan court has already made a declaration to effectively refute all past and future proceedings, such that even IACHR jurisdiction is now in question. For the youngest generations and outsiders, this enforces the myth that all conflict has been resolved.

Finally, Mr. Cano drew on his personal experiences from working as a journalist covering the killing areas and military bases. He shared anecdotes of the pressure tactics and daily threats that coerced silence with the threat of very serious consequences.

The discussion concluded on a modern note: how modern mining projects and hydroelectric dams have elicited social movements of resistance which are being suppressed by the Guatemalan government in much the same way, and often on the same land, that dictatorship-era elites had once coveted for their plantations. The present criminalization of any resistance, the speakers warned, is much more relevant from a Canadian perspective as, quite often, Canadian mining companies have financial stakes in the outcomes.

The CCIJ Toronto Working Group would like to thank the panelists; the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Centre for Research on Latin American and the Caribbean (CERLAC) at York University for hosting the screening; and the CCIJ volunteers who organized the event and helped to make the evening a success.

By Eric Cheng, with notes from Eden Tefferi

We will be holding the next meeting of the Toronto Working Group at Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, 194 Jarvis Street, 2nd Floor (just south of Dundas) from 6 – 8 pm this coming Tuesday, February 12th.

We will be discussing CCIJ TWG plans for 2013. All working group members or interested partners are welcome. If you cannot attend the meeting and have any suggestions for undertakings in 2013, please email us at toronto@ccij.ca.

Hope to see you Tuesday!

Joanne Preece
Operational Manager
Toronto Working Group

ASOGUATE (the Guatemalan Canadian Association) invites you to attend this event in commemoration of the 33rd Anniversary of the burning of the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala.

Friday, February 1st at 7:00 pm.
1230 Finch Ave. West, 2nd Floor

This event is particularly timely given that it is just this week that Guatemala has begun a court case against former dictator Rios Montt for genocide. For more information about this landmark case see the article Guatemalan Genocide on Trial.

We are pleased to announce the following panelists for our January 24th screening of Granito:

• Omar Cano, Guatemalan journalist, President of ASOGUATE (Guatemalan Canadian Association).

Professor Carlota McAllister, Department of Anthropology, York University whose research focuses on the formation of political and moral agency in situations of violent conflict, particularly Guatemala.

Caren Weisbart, 2011 winner of CERLAC’s Baptista prize for her analysis of contemporary political economy and cultural politics in Guatemala.

Join us for this story of destinies joined by Guatemala’s past, and how a documentary film about a nation’s turbulent history emerges as an active player in the present offering evidence to put Efrain Rios Mont, former General and Guatemalan President, on trial for genocide.
York University
Room 1014
Osgoode Hall Law School
Ignat Kaneff Building
4700 Keele Street

January 10 – University of Toronto Faculty of Law, International Human Rights Program Constitutional Roundtable presents:

Jeff King, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Laws, University College, London

Judging Social Rights

Thursday, January 10 , 2013 – 12:30 – 2:00 (A light lunch will be served.)
University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
Flavelle House, 78 Queen’s Park, Room FLC

Jeff King is a distinguished visitor this year at the Faculty of Law, teaching an intensive course on social rights. His discussion will focus on some of the central themes of his book, Judging Social Rights (Cambridge Studies in Constitutional Law).  His book offers an extended argument about why abstract social rights to housing, education, health care, and social security should be part of constitutions.  He argues that judges should be able to interpret and enforce social rights, including by striking down legislation, but should act incrementally, taking small steps to expand the coverage of existing rules and principles in a controlled fashion.

Jeff King, BA Hons in Phil (Ottawa) 1996, LLB/BCL (McGill) 2002, MSt (Oxford) 2006, DPhil (Oxford) 2009, is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Laws University College London, where he teaches public law, human rights, and legal and constitutional theory. He is Co-Editor of the journal Current Legal Problems. Previously, he was a Fellow and Tutor in law at Balliol College, and CUF Lecturer for the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford (2008-2011), a Research Fellow at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford (2008-2010), a Research Fellow and Tutor in public law at Keble College, Oxford (2007-08), and an attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York City (2003-04). His research and teaching broadly examines doctrinal, theoretical and empirical aspects of comparative public law. He has published articles on the justiciability of resource allocation, judicial restraint, complexity in adjudication, the function of constitutions, the value of legal accountability, proportionality in administrative law, odious debt in international law, and a monograph setting out the case for constitutional social rights and a theory of adjudication in respect of them.



January 15 – University of Toronto Faculty of Law, International Human Rights Program and The Muslim Law Students Association present: Challenging America’s Targeted Killings Program in U.S. Courts: Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 – 12:30 – 2:00p.m. (Lunch will be served.)
University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
Flavelle House, 78 Queen’s Park, Flavelle Classroom A: FLA (Basement)

Speaker: Jameel Jaffer,  Director, Centre for Democracy, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Routinely since 2009, the U.S. has carried out deliberate and premeditated killings of suspected terrorists overseas. In Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) allege that the U.S. government’s killings of three American citizens in Yemen last year violated domestic and international law. This case follows an unsuccessful suit filed by the ACLU and CCR in 2010 (Al-Aulaqi v. Obama) challenging Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s placement on the government kill list.

Jameel Jaffer, originally from Toronto, directed the ACLU’s National Security Project from 2007-2010 and is currently the Director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy. Since 2004, has served as a human rights monitor for the military commissions at Guantánamo. His book, Administration of Torture, was published by Columbia University Press in 2007. Prior to joining the ACLU, he clerked for Amalya L. Kearse, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, and Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada. He is a graduate of Williams College, Cambridge University, and Harvard Law School.


February 8 – Conference: Sexual Violence in the Recent Conflicts in Libya and Syria: Challenges to Protecting Victims and Pursuing Accountability

Featuring human rights defenders, leading academics, international lawyers, and policy makers from
the region and around the world. View draft list of presenters here.

University of Toronto Faculty of Law, International Human Rights Program and the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Friday, February 8, 2013 – 8:30 am – 6:00 pm
University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
Bennett Lecture Hall, 78 Queen’s Park Crescent, Basement

Free and open to the public. Registration opens January 7: http://munkschool.utoronto.ca/events/


February 21 – Reflections on Current Challenges Facing the ICC

University of Toronto Faculty of Law, International Human Rights Program presents: James K. Stewart (LL.B. ’75) Deputy Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC)

February 21, 2013 – 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
Falconer Hall, 84 Queen’s Park, Solarium

Just days prior to commencing his post as Deputy Prosecutor of the ICC, James Stewart (LL.B. 1975) will return to the Faculty to reflect on current challenges facing the International Criminal Court. This will be an intimate event featuring an alumnus of the Faculty poised to take on one of the most prominent roles in the field of international justice. On 16 November 2012, Stewart was elected Deputy Prosecutor of the ICC by the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute; he will commence his post on March 8, 2013. Prior to joining the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC, Stewart worked as General Counsel in the Crown Law Office within the Ministry of the Attorney General, in Toronto. He joined the Downtown Toronto Crown Attorney’s Office as an Assistant Crown Attorney in 1979, handling criminal trials at all levels of court. Since 1985, Stewart has served in the Crown Law Office – Criminal, where his practice expanded to include appeals before the Court of Appeal for Ontario and the Supreme Court of Canada. On leaves of absence from his office, he worked at the UN international criminal tribunals, serving as Senior Trial Attorney in the OTP at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR); as Chief of Prosecutions in the OTP at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); and as Senior Appeals Counsel and then Chief of the Appeals and Legal Advisory Division in the OTP at the ICTR.

Canadian Centre for International Justice Toronto Working Group in partnership with Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security and the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) presents Granito: How to Nail a Dictator.

Granito: How to Nail a DictarorA story of destinies joined by Guatemala’s past, and how a documentary film about a nation’s turbulent history emerges as an active player in the present offering evidence to put Efrain Rios Mont, former General and Guatemalan President, on trial for genocide.

Film Screening and Panel Discussion
Thursday, January 24th, 6:30 p.m.
York University
Room 1014
Osgoode Hall Law School
Ignat Kaneff Building
4700 Keele Street

Pay-what-you-can (suggested donation of $5.00)
Panelists to be announced.