• Chicago Director of HRW, Jobi Cates, was quoted in the Chicago Bureau for her work on juvenile life-without-parole (JLWOP) sentence reform in Illinois.

    In 2012, the US Supreme Court declared mandatory JLWOP a “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the 8th amendment. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also prohibits JLWOP, a treaty only 2 out of 193 nations did not ratify: Somalia and the US.

    Since the 2012 Supreme Court decision, however, many states have amended their legislation, accounting for the offender’s youth and life circumstances. While Illinois has yet to make changes, the state is currently considering alternatives to mandatory JLWOP, as well as whether such alternatives should apply retroactively for those already sentenced.

    Human Rights Watch is working with the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth and other allies on reform and retroactivity. For more information, please email

  • To celebrate the beginning of our 10th year in Chicago and the recent passage of the marriage equality bill in Illinois, the Human Rights Watch Chicago Committee will host a screening of "The New Black" on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 6 PM at the Harold Washington Library. The film, a documentary by Yoruba Richen, explores how the African-American community is grappling with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in light of the marriage equality movement and the fight over civil rights.

    A panel discussion and Q&A featuring director Yoruba Richen and noted activist Maxim Thorne will take place following the screening.

  • Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments on whether Adolfo Davis – who was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he committed at 14 years old – should be eligible for parole. While SCOTUS affirmed in 2012 that sentencing youth to mandatory life-without-parole is unconstitutional as a "cruel and unusual punishment," states are split as to whether the SCOTUS ruling should apply to those sentenced before the 2012 ruling, not just future cases.

  • Last week, the Chicago Committee proudly presented Libyan activist Hassan al-Amin with Human Rights Watch’s highest honor, the Alison Des Forges Award, at the Voices for Justice Dinner. The Voices for Justice Dinners – which take place in 21 cities throughout the world – celebrate activists who risk their lives to protect the rights and dignity of others. This year, Chicago kicked off the 2013/14 dinner season with an impressive 600 guests in attendance. Honoree al-Amin spoke openly to the crowd of his experiences fighting for reform, including his 27 years in exile, his parliamentary position after the fall of Gaddafi and his hopes for the future. The Dinner raised over $1 million – a new record for the Chicago Committee – all of which will support Human Rights Watch in its mission to investigate atrocities and defend individuals in 90 countries throughout the world.

  • The Chicago and Midwest division of Human Rights Watch has local events throughout the year: film screenings, seminars, lunches with HRW researchers, advocacy campaigns and more. We also fight for human rights here, in the Midwest, where juveniles are currently serving life without parole in adult prisons – a sentence that violates both the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Join our newsletter to learn more about the Chicago and Midwest division of Human Rights Watch and how you can get involved, or connect with us on the Human Rights Watch-Chicago Facebook page (

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized sentences imposed upon children must differ from adult sentences.  The Supreme Court now requires judges in all states to carefully consider the age and age-related characteristics of youth facing life without the possibility of parole sentences and provide a “meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”  (Miller v. Alabama citing Graham v. Florida) California has made significant legislative progress, and Illinois must strive to do the same.  Please sign up for our local e-mail list (above right) to receive more information about this issue in Illinois.

  • Every year 14 million girls are married worldwide. One in seven girls in the developing world is married before her 15th birthday – some as young as eight or nine. In 2010, over 67 million women ages 20-24 had been married as girls, and, if the trend continues, 142 million will be married by 2020. Human Rights Watch is one of the founding members of global movement Girls Not Brides and has produced new research and advocacy campaigns to expose and change child marriage practices in South Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan.

  • Last month, we welcomed Anya Neistat and Ole Solvang to Chicago for a special Emergencies Missions and Crisis Reporting Researcher Seminar. Over four hours, Chicago Committee members and friends learned how to apply HRW's mandate to current events, designed their own research projects, and participated in an interactive scenario of what a day in the life of a researcher looks like.