The University of Chicago News Office
April 8, 2002 Press Contact: Sabrina Miller
(773) 702-4195

Posner, Keck to speak at conference on international human rights activism at the University of Chicago

Leading human rights activists will address a University of Chicago conference on Saturday, April 13. In a one-day schedule of panels, “A Conference on Civil Society and the Practice of Human Rights” will bring together leaders of local and international human rights organizations as well as scholars to examine the subject from many perspectives. The keynote addresses will be given by Michael Posner, Executive Director of the Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights, and Professor Margaret Keck from Johns Hopkins University.

The day’s discussions, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., will cover the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), human rights practice in the Midwest United States, the establishment and implementation of human rights policies, and transnational human rights advocacy.

Keck, a noted authority on the role of civil society in the protection of human rights, will open the day’s discussions with a look at how European civil society organizations work for the abolition of the death penalty in the United States. Posner, founding director of the Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights, will close the conference with an examination of the role of U.S. non-governmental organizations in the protection of human rights around the world. Posner has been a leading advocate for the ratification of the International Criminal Court, which will enter into force April 11, 2002. The International Criminal Court, located at The Hague, would prosecute individuals who commit genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.

During the morning and afternoon sessions, panels will discuss a wide range of current human rights projects including:

• An initiative by a University of Chicago pathologist, Robert Kirschner, and a Salvadoran Jesuit, Jon Cortina, to find Salvadoran children of the “disappeared” adopted unknowingly by U.S. families;

• A Chicago-based project where University of Chicago students volunteer to help detained immigrants;

• A project in Mumbai, India, where University of Chicago students have worked with abused women;

• A Washington-based NGO where University of Chicago students have helped prepare cases for presentation to the Inter American Human Rights Commission.

“Our panels are intentionally very diverse. We’ve invited individuals who work in all aspects of human rights, at the local, national, and international levels,” said Susan Gzesh, Director of the University of Chicago’s Human Rights Program.

Other panelists include John Donahue, Director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless; Krishanti Dharmaraj, Executive Director of WILD, a human rights advocacy group for women and girls; Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director of the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center; and Standish Kwame Willis of the National Conference of Black Lawyers.

Panelists from the University of Chicago include Dean Edward Lawlor of the School of Social Service Administration; Professor Michael Geyer and Assistant Professor Mae Ngai in the Department of History and the College; and Alison Boden, Dean of the Rockefeller Chapel. Other academic institutions will be represented as well.

The University of Chicago’s Human Rights Program was established in 1997. The program is an interdisciplinary initiative that taps expertise from across the campus while based in the Center for International Studies.

The conference is free and open to the public. Members of the press are invited to attend. Both still photography and broadcast video are permitted: please contact Andrew Johnson or Satish Moorthy at the Human Rights Program at (773) 834-0957 or Peter Schuler in the University News Office at (773) 702-4195 to confirm. Complete details on the conference are available at
Last modified at 03:13 PM CST on Monday, April 08, 2002.

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