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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Soft Vengeance: The story of Albie Sachs and his fight against the apartheid regime

albie sachs.jpg On November 13, the University of Minnesota hosted a screening of the film "Soft Vengeance" followed by a discussion with filmmaker Abby Ginzberg . The event was part of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change distinguished lecture series. The documentary focused on the life of jurist and activist, Albie Sachs and South Africa's fight against the apartheid regime. At a young age of 17, Albie Sachs attempted to start a movement by purposely sitting on a non-white bench.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Panel discusses University's role in effecting social justice and global change

icgc.jpgAs part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Global Change, the University of Minnesota hosted a panel discussion titled "Social Justice and Global Change: The University's Role" on November 14. The discussion focused on the University's role in effecting social justice and positive change in the world. The panel was chaired by Raymond Duvall, Professor of Political Science and ICGC Affiliate Faculty, University of Minnesota and included prominent speakers like August Nimtz, Professor of Political Science and ICGC Affiliate Faculty, University of Minnesota, Naomi Scheman, Professor of Philosophy and Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies and ICGC Affiliate Faculty, University of Minnesota, Barbara Frey, Director, Human Rights Program and ICGC Affiliate Faculty, University of Minnesota and Suren Pillay, Associate Professor, Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Israel-Palestine: Working towards a non-violent conflict transformation

compeace.pngOn October 8, the University of Minnesota hosted Combatants for Peace as part of a series of events to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Members of Combatants for Peace work towards building peace and understanding between Palestinians and Israelis by breaking the cycle of violence. During the event, the speakers shared their stories of what led them to pursue nonviolent means and reach an understanding between the two sides.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Former Student Advisory Board member Christie Nicoson awarded for her commitment to the advancement of peace

Christie Nicoson3.jpgThe Human Rights Program is thrilled to announce Christie Nicoson as the recipient of the 2015 Rotary Peace Fellowship. Christie is the Program and Operations Director at World Without Genocide, a human rights organization headquartered at William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota. She is one of fifty individuals selected this year from around the world for a fully funded academic scholarship. Christie will start her master's degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at Uppsala University, Sweden in fall of 2015.

Panel explores the role of theatre in forging new narratives around separation barriers

berlin.pngAs part of its ongoing "Thursdays at 4" series, the Institute for Advanced Studies, in collaboration with the Human Rights Program, held a panel discussion titled "Cracks in the Wall: 25 Years After Berlin" on November 6. In light of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the panel discussion brought to the fore possible ways to animate the ruptures of divided groups.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Malala and Satyarthi: Shaping the discourse on gender equality in education

malsat.png Although a number of initiatives spearheaded by international organizations like the UN and UNESCO to promote gender equality in education have seen some success, the overall state of gender equality and education rights in the world remains deplorable. With women constituting nearly two-thirds of the world's illiterate population, a world with equal access to education for women remains a distant dream. The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Malala Yousafzai, an impassioned teenager from the Swat Valley in Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi, a child rights advocate from the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, therefore, has immense potential to shape the future of gender and education rights in the coming years.

The Human Rights Program presents perspectives from students and faculty on why they view the Nobel Peace Prize as a water-shed moment in the struggle for gender and education rights globally.

Frey speaks at the 4th meeting of the International Working Group on Leprosy and Human Rights in Morocco

iwg.png Today, freely available multi-drug therapy has ensured that leprosy does not pose a serious public health concern. However, the stigmatization of millions of people affected by the disease remains largely unaddressed. This work was taken up by the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the early 2000s. Their work led to the adoption of Resolution A/RES/65/215 by the UN General Assembly in 2010 which outlined the "Principles and Guidelines for the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy and Their Family Members". It was followed by the Nippon Foundation's initiative in 2011 to disseminate the Principles and Guidelines throughout the world.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Professor Fran Quigley assesses the role of human rights in rebuilding Haiti

un2.jpgOn October 22, the Twin Cities community and the University of Minnesota students, faculty, and staff spent the afternoon listening to Fran Quigley, a clinical professor of law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and a specialist in human rights advocacy. Using his book, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: The Lawyers, the Activists, and the Grassroots Movement, as a framework for discussion, Quigley educated and engaged his audience on the Haitian cholera epidemic and its implications with respect to human rights.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Human Rights Program welcomes a new Student Advisory Board

sablunch.png The Human Rights Program is excited to welcome a new Student Advisory Board. As a diverse cohort committed to human rights practice and scholarship, it will coordinate a number of human-rights activities and events on campus. In addition to providing direction to the staff, the members will also assist in disseminating human rights scholarship in the graduate and undergraduate student community thereby enhancing the educational experience for all. Here's a snapshot of the Student Advisory Board member profiles.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sullivan Ballou Award recognizes the outstanding work of Amy Cosimini in human rights

amyc.jpgThe Human Rights Program and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies are thrilled to announce Amy Cosimini as the recipient of the 2014 Sullivan Ballou Award for her outstanding work in promoting and protecting human rights. Amy is a PhD candidate in the department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at the University of Minnesota where she researches the relationship between human rights and memory production discourses in Southern Cone literature and popular culture.

The Act of Killing: Reflections on the documentary

act of killing.jpgOn October 16, students, faculty, and the greater University of Minnesota community attended a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary The Act of Killing. The powerful film documents former Indonesian death squad leader Anwar Congo and other gangsters as they re-enact the torture and mass killings they committed in North Sumatra in the 1960s and attempt to come to terms with the atrocities. The film-screening was followed by an enlightened discussion led by expert panelists Catherine Solheim, Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi, and Simon Robins.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Professor Brian Atwood leads US delegation to an international human rights conference in Poland

atwood.pngProfessor Brian Atwood, the chair for Global policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, led the US delegation to the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) held in Warsaw, Poland, from September 22-October 3. Other key members of the delegation included Ambassador Daniel Baer, U.S. Permanent Representative to the OSC; Ira Forman, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism; Thomas Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Ambassador David Killion, Chief of Staff, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Lynne A. Davidson, Senior Advisor to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State.

Activist and Jurist, Albie Sachs, reflects on Human Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa

ALBIE PHOTO.pngOn October 2, 2014, the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change hosted honored guest, former South Africa Constitutional Justice Albie Sachs, who delivered a lecture concerning the "Challenges and Successes in Post-Apartheid South Africa." Dr. Albie Sachs is a highly distinguished human rights defender and opponent of the South African apartheid regime. The writer, lawyer and former South Africa Constitutional Court Justice's passion for human rights work began at the age of 17, when he participated in the Congress of the people at Kliptown, and eventually went on to serve the South African Constitutional Committee and the National Executive of the African National Congress (ANC) during South Africa's transition to democracy. In 1994, President Mandela appointed Dr. Sachs to serve on the new Constitutional Court.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Barbara Frey Speaks on the Uneven Role of Human Rights Advocacy in Mexico

BarbF.jpgAs part of the first workshop in a series initiated by the Holocaust, Genocide, and Mass Violence Studies (HGMV) Interdisciplinary Graduate Group, held on October 2, Barbara Frey, Director of the Human Rights Program, led a talk and discussion on her investigations on the role of human rights advocacy in México.

Graduate minor student promotes the rights of internally displaced persons in Colombia

sarah.jpgSarah Hoffman, a current graduate minor student in Human Rights and a doctoral student in Nursing, completed a six-weeks' fellowship at the Grupo de Acciones Públicas de Icesi (GAPI), Human Rights Law Clinic, Universidad Icesi, Cali, Colombia in July 2014. Under the guidance of Diana Quintero, Director of the Human Rights Legal Clinic, Sarah worked on promoting the right to health of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia and Cali. Specifically, her work focused on supporting the development of a strategy to access information regarding the rights of IDP children, promoting dialogue across disciplines and identifying new avenues for protecting and promoting their health.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Program collaborates on shadow report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture

tamms2.jpgAs the United States enters a year of increased scrutiny with regard to the protection of human rights by several U.N. monitoring bodies, Program staff is playing an important role in addressing the government's responsibilities under the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Claire Leslie Johnson is serving on the US Human Rights Network's CAT Task Force and is collaborating with regional partners on the drafting of a shadow report to the Committee Against Torture to be submitted on behalf of the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Human Rights Program Welcomes Visiting Colombian Scholars

colombia.pngHuman Rights Program faculty, staff, and students welcomed four visiting scholars from Medellín, Colombia in early September. These visits were made possible through the Minnesota-Antioquia Human Rights Externship Program - a key component of the Minnesota-Antioquia Human Rights Partnership (or Alianza). The Program provides an opportunity for the Colombian scholars to complete four to six-week externships in Minnesota each semester with the goal of enhancing skills and knowledge in international human rights law and advocacy.

More options for students interested in human rights studies

modimage.jpgHere's some exciting news for human rights studies enthusiasts. Course offerings in the area of human rights continues to grow at the University. Professor Frey's International Human Rights Advocacy course (GLOS 5403/LAW 6058), is moving to the Spring semester. One of the three core courses for the graduate minor (but open to all graduate students), it examines the theoretical basis of the human rights movement, the nature of organizations in the human rights field, their strategies, tactics and programs. In addition, a new three-credit graduate level course on human rights research methods will be offered by Shannon Golden, PhD. This course will be offered by the Human Rights Program with a Global Studies course listing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Genocide and its Aftermaths: Lessons from Rwanda

A Series of Events to Commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda
Sponsorship made possible in part by the Ohanessian Endowment Fund for Justice and Peace Studies of The Minneapolis Foundation.
Learn more

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Considering the Intersection of Gun Violence & Human Rights

150507_Knotted_gun_sculpture.jpgHow can human rights advocates work to prevent gun violence? This was the motivating question for a strategy session hosted by the Human Rights Program recently, with the support of the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, the Advocates for Human Rights, and the U.S. Human Rights Network.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Busy Year for the United States before International Human Rights Mechanisms

UNHRC-OHCHR_CI.jpgIn the upcoming months, the human rights record of the United States will come under scrutiny by several U.N. monitoring bodies, including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee against Torture, and the Human Rights Council. These mechanisms provide a consolidated period of opportunity for advocacy on a range of human rights issues occurring in the U.S. or being carried out by U.S. officials abroad.

Both of the previously mentioned Committees are made up of independent experts to monitor State parties' implementation of the particular international human rights treaty related to their respective field of knowledge. More specifically, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination oversees the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and the Committee against Torture monitors activity relating to Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The Human Rights Council, different in nature from the Committees, is an inter-governmental body made up of 47 states (elected by the UN General Assembly) that together lead the Universal Periodic Review mechanism through which the human rights situation in all 193 UN Member States is assessed.

The Human Rights Program is engaging with these mechanisms by coordinating and contributing to the shadow reporting process and other forms of advocacy, particularly in the context of CAT. Specifically, the HRP's Claire Leslie Johnson is acting as the co-chair for the US Human Rights Network's CAT Task Force. She is joined in this work by Antonio Ginatta, Director of Advocacy for US Programs at Human Rights Watch.

The purpose of the CAT Task Force is to coordinate civil society participation in advocacy as it relates to CAT, including drafting and presenting shadow reports before the Committee with supplemental information about torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in the U.S. and abroad. Human rights abuses of this nature occur regularly in the context of the national security, immigration detention and deportation, and criminal justice systems and institutions. The Task Force will also help coordinate advocacy based on the Committee's recommendations to the U.S. government following the review, which is scheduled for November, 2014.

The CERD (August 13-14, 2014), CAT, and UPR (April/May, 2015) sessions follow close on the heels of the recent review of the U.S. record with regards to its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) before the Human Rights Committee, which occurred this past March. The timing of the review of the U.S. record by each of these four mechanisms in unusually close. On the one hand the unique timing provides an opportunity for a consolidated period of dialogue on the promotion and protection of human rights by the U.S. government. On the other hand, it presents a challenge to the ability of civil society organizations with limited capacity to participate fully, since they have to keep track of and respond to multiple mechanisms simultaneously.

The CAT Task Force is made up of 14 members representing diverse organizations, communities, and human rights issues across the U.S. The Task Force meets several times a month via conference call to envision, plan, and coordinate civil society in advance of the November session. The Task Force is interested in involving a broad array of organizations and individuals in CAT advocacy, and in particular aims to draw new people into the process. By doing so the Task Force hopes to be able to present a broader and more comprehensive array of concerns to the Committee next fall.
The Task Force's main focuses currently are on publicizing the opportunity to submit shadow reports to the Committee and explaining the process for doing so. Civil society "shadow reports" are meant to fill in any gaps and elaborate on the U.S report to the Committee, which was submitted last December, 2013. Shadow reports are due to the Committee by October 17th or by mid-September to the US Human Rights Network for anyone who would like to submit their report as a part of the Network's compilation.

Additional Resources:
"Guide to International Human Rights Mechanisms," The Advocates for Human Rights
"10 Steps to Writing a Shadow Report," The Advocates for Human Rights & the US Human Rights Network
"How to Get Involved in the US CAT Review," US Human Rights Network
"How to Get Involved in the US ICERD Review," US Human Rights Network
"2014/2015 USHRN UN Human Rights Mechanisms Calendar", US Human Rights Network

-Written by Salma Taleb and Claire Leslie Johnson

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Minnesota-Antioquia Human Rights Partnership Bids Farewell to Clinical Coordinator, Diana Quintero

Diana Photo.pngIn June the Human Rights Program and our many partners at the University of Minnesota and in Antioquia that comprise our Minnesota-Antioquia Human Rights Partnership (or "Alianza") bid farewell to our esteemed Clinical Coordinator, Diana Patricia Quintero. Diana was deeply engaged with the development of the Alianza starting in October of 2012 and has been a key contributor ever since. Her efforts on the project focused mainly on enhancing the capacity for human rights legal clinical work at the four Antioquia schools engaged in the Partnership. In particular, she focused on providing the schools with resources and support to advance methodology and pedagogy in the areas of strategic litigation on behalf of vulnerable communities, individual case acceptance and advocacy, and community outreach and education on behalf of vulnerable populations.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

HRP is thrilled to announce Jason Zencka as a 2014 Scribe for Human Rights

The Human Rights Program is thrilled to announce Jason Zencka--an MFA candidate in fiction writing at the University of Minnesota-- as a 2014 Scribe for Human Rights. The goal of the Scribe for Human Rights Fellowship is to use creative narrative to reflect the different faces of victims of human rights abuses and to provide a broader array of professional experience to graduate student writers. It tries to create a platform for human rights advocacy through creative art.

Zencka graduated from the St. Olaf University with a B.A in Classics. After graduating, he worked as news reporter for a small newspaper in Wisconsin before moving to Washington D.C., where he spent four years working for the Public Defender Service as an investigator.
Zencka will spend this summer writing a fictional play, The Plea, in which he will discuss the issue of incarcerating an overwhelming percentage of the U.S population. During his time with the Public Defender Service, Zencka witnessed the inside workings of the incarceration system, granting him a deeper understanding of the human consequences associated with high incarceration rates. Inspired by this experience, Zencka chose to focus his creative pursuits on the ethical and humane dimensions of this issue. "The play makes use of the radical idea that the men and women we incarcerate - even those who have done terrible things - still suffer the full range of human feelings. Their humanity doesn't disappear when we stop seeing them. The play is an effort to see these people, to open a window into the hole into which we are throwing almost one percent of our adult population." explained Zencka.
"Working under the banner of the Human Rights Program is an honor. I am thrilled to be invited to take part in the rich and impassioned conversation on human rights the Scribe Fellowship has been hosting for years." stated Zencka.
Written by
Salma Taleb

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Path to Peace for South Sudan

South Sudan Article.pngThe Human Rights Program continues to stay updated with the events occurring in South Sudan, a conflicted region where the HRP has carried out human rights work in the past. Read about HRP's past work with Child Protection International and its Save Yar Campaign. Six months into the civil war in South Sudan, the crisis continues to intensify despite peace overtures made far away from the front lines in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. A fragile peace agreement signed last month between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President turned rebel leader, Dr. Riek Machar, has not yet been fully implemented. A report published by the Enough Project presents a guide to the fundamental issues that must be addressed to end South Sudan's new civil war and establish peace and security. The report draws on a wealth of research and analysis from policy and advocacy groups, South Sudanese intellectuals and civil society, and Enough Project conversations over the past six months. Read the report.

Amnesty International requests letter signing for Syrian asylum seekers pressured to return

Reports in the media show that staff at the Manus Island, Papua New Guinea detention centre, run by the Australian Government, are pressuring Syrian asylum seekers to return to Syria where they will be in extreme danger. Read more on the Amnesty International website.

Monday, June 9, 2014

UMN Develops Spanish-Language Resources for Online Human Rights Library

umsmlogo.gifVisit the online library.

Over the course of this past year, the Minnesota-Antioquia Human Rights Partnership has working to develop access to Spanish-language materials through the Online Human Rights Library. The online library is a great way for the partnership to share information pertinent to Colombia, human rights issues, vulnerable groups, human rights institutions, among humanitarian law, and among other important topics, in a very user-friendly way.

The U of M commemorates the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda through event series

176.jpgOn April 16, 17 & 19, the U of M held a series of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda that took the lives of an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The commemoration began with the public conference, Genocide and its Aftermath: Lessons from Rwanda, featuring an opening address by Taylor Krauss, founder of Voices of Rwanda, an organization dedicated to filming testimonies of Rwandans to inspire a global sense of responsibility to prevent atrocities.

Krauss theorized that the final stage of genocide is to eliminate its trace, erase its history, so that it is made complete. As such, Krauss has been working since 2006 to film the testimonies of survivors in order to remind us what aftermath really means. He shared excerpts of three of these testimonies, demonstrating survivors' essential need to remember. Krauss concluded his address stressing that listening is not a passive act, it demands a response, reminding the audience that many nations still harbor perpetrators of this horrific crime. See the opening address here.
The first panel, which followed Krauss' address, was titled Rwanda 1994 and its Representations. It examined the failure of nation-states to intervene in Rwanda, the use of commemoration to promote peaceful coexistence, the response of the international human rights community to the genocide, and the narrative on 'lessons learned' surrounding genocide today. The panel was chaired by University of Minnesota Humphrey School Dean, Eric Schwartz, and panelists included University of Minnesota Law School Dean, David Wippman, Director of Research at the Rwandan National Commission for the Fight against Genocide, Jean-Damscene Gasanabo, Director of the Center for Victims of Torture, Curt Goering, and Badzin Fellow, Wahutu Siguru. See the first panel here.
The conferences' second panel, Immediate Aftermaths: Justice, Redress and Memory, explored the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, Gacaca courts, memory, identity, and memorials. The panel was chaired by the University of Minnesota Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies Director, Alejandro Baer. Panelists included Director of the University of North Dakota (UND) Center for Human Rights & Genocide Studies and Former Legal Officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwand, Gregory Gordon, McKnight Professor of Sociology, Chris Uggen, University of Minnesota Sociology Ph.D. candidate and future Ohio State Assistant Professor, Hollie Nyseth Brehm, Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education at St. Cloud State University, Dan Wildeson, and Brandeis University Sociology Ph.D. candidate, Nicole Fox. See the second panel here.
The final panel, Long-term Implications: Impact, Prevention and Intervention, dealt with the long-term implications of interventions, or non-interventions, on societies that have experienced genocides. The panel was chaired by the University of Minnesota Human Rights Program Director, Barbara Frey. Panelists included Professor of Sociology of Latin America and Director of the Latin American Centre at Oxford University, Leigh Payne, University of California Sociology Ph.D. candidate, Marie Berry, Professor of Political Science at the University of Arkansas and a leading scholar in genocide education, Samuel Totten, and Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Macalester College and co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Center in Kigali, Rwanda, Jean-Pierre Karegeye. See the third panel here.
Finally, Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, delivered the evening Keynote Address. Dieng addressed the lessons learned of past failures to intervene in the crime of genocide, acknowledging that the United Nations and its member states have not been as effective as they could have been and discusses how current and future atrocities can and should be treated. He discussed the importance of the work of Special Adviser's Office in predicting and preventing mass atrocity, by raising the alarm early to situations that could lead to genocide and by coordinating with all stake holders within and outside of the United Nations to prevent genocide quickly and effectively. Mr. Dieng also called attention to the fact that the public has a role in the process. He noted a special emphasis on young people, with programs planned to allow their voices to be more widely heard in the international political and humanitarian arena. See the keynote address here.
The public conference was followed the next day by a student conference at Coffman Union. Twelve students participated from across the country and world. Students presented papers on three panels, whose themes were Sexual Violence in Mass Atrocity, Western Involvement and Representation of Genocide and Mass Atrocity, and Genocide around the World. Specific topics included Valparaiso student Kayla Nomina's presentation of political cartoons and how they represented genocide and mass atrocity, University of Minnesota student Selena Ranic's presentation on sexual violence and gender discrimination in mass atrocity and Swarthmore University student Daniel Hirschel-Burns' presentation on civilian self-protection.
The final event was an Educator Workshop, held on April 19th. The workshop was conducted by leading genocide scholar Samuel Totten. More than 40 local teachers attended, from elementary, high school and college levels. Totten discussed the meaning of genocide, its legal framework, his past work in Rwanda and his current work in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. Teachers were encouraged to explore their knowledge of genocide and mass atrocity and discuss ways to effectively bring this knowledge to the classroom.
These three events, hosted by the Human Rights Program, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and the Institute for Global Studies brought together research, practice, academia and activism. Both speakers and attendees were able to participate in all events through questions, public receptions and one-to-one interactions. This commemoration drew attention to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and how the genocide continues to affect daily life in Rwanda today. It also drew attention to other current atrocities happening around the world. With a focus on "Lessons from Rwanda", we hope that the ideas discussed at this series of events will bring about positive change in how atrocities are viewed, represented and responded to in the future.
To view videos and photos from the events, click here.
Written by Kaela McConnon

Students in Antioquia and Minnesota Collaborate on Community-Based Clinical Cases

la picacha.pngOne of the major accomplishments of the UMN - Antioquia Human Rights Law Partnership thus far has been the work done in regards to the joint clinical cases that both the Colombian universities and the University of Minnesota have been working on, in particular the ongoing case of La Picacha.

Within the country of Colombia, the state of Antioquia, and the city of Medellin, La Picacha is a very large river, which since 2011 has flooded annually, leaving the city residents of Medellin at great risk, particularly in the neighborhoods of Altarista, Belén, and Laureles-Estadio.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Scholar Gabriel Gómez visits the U through the UMN - Antioquia Human Rights Partnership

10394508_504850862977448_1399930758647928571_n.jpgGabriel Gómez is a professor at the University of Antioquia (U de A) whose invaluable insight and leadership has been an important contribution to the University of Minnesota - Antioquia Human Rights Law Partnership. Learn more about the partnership. In the dynamic international collaboration to develop human rights curriculum, Gabriel's input has enriched the conversation and the project as a whole through his focus on network-building, sustainability, and the enhancement of interdisciplinary human rights study.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The ICRC releases video on Colombian human rights situation

It's a crucial time for Colombia with presidential elections slated for this Sunday and ongoing peace talks between the government and FARC guerrillas continuing in Havana, Cuba. In a new Intercross video, the head of the ICRC's delegation in Bogotá, Jordi Raich, says Colombia is at a crossroads -- poised on the verge of economic growth, shrinking poverty, and the potential to put an end to half a century of war. Watch the video on the Intercross website.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Lecture on grave exhumations in Spain unearths the dynamism of memory restoration processes

ferrandiz-2.jpg Watch the lecture online.

On May 8th, 2014, the U of M hosted honored guest Francisco Ferrandiz of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) as part of the in-public, one-credit course "Reframing Mass Violence: Human Rights and Social Memory in Latin America and Southern Europe." Ferrandiz's lecture Exhumations, Memory, and the Return of Civil War Ghosts in Spain investigated the connections between the anthropology of the body, violence and social memory in the context of the current exhumations of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). In his talk, Ferrandiz unearthed the complexity and dynamism of the process of grave exhumations--a process that has largely focused on the abandoned graves of civilians killed during the Francoist rearguard by paramilitary groups. Since 2000, the exhumation of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War and the Post-War years has become a central element in highly charged social and political debates in the country surrounding the nature of the armed conflict and the dictatorial regime following it.

After the fall of Franco's regime, Spanish society emphasized the need for collective reconciliation, passing amnesty laws and focusing on the rebuilding of democracy. Few questions were asked, and no responsibility was assigned. However, the atrocities of the Civil War and Post-War years were not to be entirely forgotten, as they proved to be sedimented in the shared memory of Spanish society, and despite efforts to submerge these memories as part of a definitive past, demands for justice following Francoism gained visibility in their push for grave exhumations. The process of grave exhumation proved to be a highly effective way for forcing into the public arena neglected topics of past violence and oppression, challenging an unspoken, widespread understanding that silence was the price to be paid for the building of social order after the fall of Francoism.
Since 2000, grave exhumations in Spain have captured the public's fascination, a fascination reinforced by the new popularity of forensic science TV-shows and widespread media coverage. The unearthing of buried bodies has come to represent the resurfacing of social truths that had previously been obscured, as these graves provide the site for a collective refocusing on the past, and thus create an avenue into historically taboo conversations. As more graves are exhumed, the Spanish geographic landscape becomes a physical "memory-scape," representing a national quest for truth restoration.
Although exhumations have become a crucial tool for symbolic reparation and have triggered claims for justice for the crimes committed and now unearthed, the social process unleashed by their opening extend far beyond the grave sites and is quite complex, propelling the surfacing of a broader, fragmented and heterogeneous political culture regarding the memory of the defeated in the war. This emergent political culture is expressed in multiple acts of 'memory recovery' and 'dignification' of the diverse victims of Francoism, such as concerts, homages, book publishing, street renaming, battleground tourism, pressure over Francoist monuments, or even academic conferences. Particularly striking is the transformation of memory production that has taken place through the use of new technologies, as online social networks become political models, and memory sharing and circulation become digitalized. The unprecedented digital element of the memory restoration process adds new iconographies and means of exposure to the dynamics of the surrounding political culture.
This "memorial movement" as Ferrandiz termed it has been laregly characterized by human rights language, thus positioning itself within a larger, global conversation on human rights, bringing to the dialogue a discussion on the political and social power of grave exhumations in demanding rights and justice. But the grave exhumation process in Spain has linked itself to the global arena in other ways as well; many in Spain have adopted the terminology of "disappearances", popularized in Latin America following periods of terror and violence perpetrated on behalf of states across the region. The adoption of such vocabulary has received mixed feedback, also becoming yet another focal point of contentious debate in the social process of memory restoration. Some find the sharing of language to symbolize a crucial element of global networks, in that it provides a cohesive, global linguistic platform that can act as a base of understanding for human rights activists to convene, strategize, and express solidarity. Others stress the importance of nuances of each localized context of violence and attrocity, which run the risk of being undermined or neglected when not understood through the lense of each locale's particular traditions, customs, culture and history.
The dynamic human rights conversation that has emerged along with bodies, memories, and political culture in the process of grave exhumation in Spain is one that has captured global attention, opening new questions and possibilities for future efforts aiming to use memory restoration as a channel for improving human rights practices and reclaiming justice. Through Ferrnandiz's talk, participants witnessed an academic approach to harnessing the complexity and electricity that arises around this politically and culturally charged social process, perhaps providing the human rights community with deeper understanding that can offer insight, direction, and enhanced strength moving forward.
The lecture was organized by the IAS Reframing Mass Violence Research Collaborative. Cosponsored by the Human Rights Program, and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. This talk occurred on May 8, 2014, from 3:00-4:30pm in 1-109 Hanson Hall.
Written by Anna Meteyer

Monday, May 12, 2014

Student-led art exhibition brings scholars, artists, activists and students together in conversation on art and politics

unnamed-4.jpgOn April 23rd, a public forum took place to celebrate the opening of the art exhibition The Enduring of Labor. Student curator Anna Meteyer organized the exhibition under the supervision of Howard Oransky, Director of the Nash Gallery, in hopes to spark conversation concerning topics of labor and social justice. The exhibition, open April 22nd - May 3rd, spoke to injustices rampant in labor industries and services, and celebrated the struggle against systemic forces of oppression. The artists that were included drew upon their own personal experiences, worked with marginalized communities, and/or incorporated their academic research in their artistic practice and advocacy. The forum, also organized by Anna Meteyer, was intended to provide a space for individuals from across the community to gather in conversation surrounding the issues raised in the exhibition, and about the use of art as a vessel for social change.

Participants in the forum included activists, scholars, labor union members, students, and artists, all of whom engaged in dynamic dialogue on the intersection of art and activism, the incredible social power of political art, and the complexities of representation in artistic activism. Following the discussion, participants enjoyed hors d'oeuvres, continued to converse, and had the opportunity to speak with the artists while walking through the exhibition. A vibrant exchange of ideas regarding issues of injustice in labor took place as attendees reflected on the art displayed in the gallery.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Colombian and Minnesotan students use technology to spark international dialogue on human rights

unnamed-1.jpgTechnological advances have made communicating across borders incredibly easily--as simple as logging on through email and clicking that strange little green button resembling a video recorder. With such tools at our fingertips, we have unprecedented potential for strengthening human rights networks that transcend spacial and political obstacles. Human rights students at the University of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia, and at the University of Minnesota have initiated a collaborative project that looks to take advantage of the new possibilities presented through innovations in communication technology. These young individuals seek to spark international dialogue among university students surrounding human rights issues and philosophy, which will supplement their human rights classes and add rich dimension to their studies. Such conversation provides an opportunity to gain genuine multicultural understanding of social justice issues, and to create a fortified and united global student body, a body well-suited for addressing the extremely powerful global forces shaping injustice, poverty, and violence across the world today.

On April 25th, 2014, ten students met via Google Hangout to begin an intercultural student conversation on human rights. These students discussed their interests and backgrounds, and imagined what new possibilities could be achieved through fortifying non-institutionalized, international connections between young human rights activists. They shared their frustrations with the limitations of existing legal mechanisms and with the current inaccessibility of human rights discourse to those of low socioeconomic status. They also discussed celebratory elements of international human rights, stressing the potential efficacy that such rights could gain through the spread of interdisciplinary and multi-directional approaches--through building horizontal (i.e. characterized by equitable distribution of power and participation) human rights networks across classes, cultures, races, disciplines, and ideologies.
The students look forward to beginning regular meetings, and are excited to continue engaging in the dynamic exchange of ideas. They hope to build an increasing student base at their universities, and aspire to incorporate more schools as time goes on. As a generation quite distinctly characterized by advances in technology, these students wish to harness the networking power offered through this progress to usher in a new era of social justice activism. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Anna Meteyer at metey001@umn.edu

THIS FRIDAY Celebrate Exceptional Human Rights Students


Friday, May 9, 2014 at 12:00 PM
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
1210 Heller Hall (West Bank)
271 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Join us as we recognize and celebrate three amazing University of Minnesota undergraduate students and their accomplishments in promoting and protecting human rights, Melanie Paurus (receiving the 4th Annual Inna Meiman Human Rights Award) and Joe Fifield and Anna Meteyer (receiving Sullivan Ballou Awards).

Melanie, Joe and Anna embody the spirit with which these awards were created - recognizing a significant personal contribution to protecting human rights and the heartfelt energy that compels an advocate to take meaningful action.
We are thrilled to welcome back Kathryn Sikkink (Faculty Emeritus at the U of M, the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study) to provide the opening remarks.
Lisa Paul, Inna Meiman Award founder and U of M alum, will present the award to Melanie and Bruce & Elissa Peterson, Ballou Award co-founders, will present awards to Joe and Anna.
We will also be recognizing the wonderful contributions of the 2013-14 HRP Student Advisory Board, taking specific note of our recently graduated and graduating seniors, Kirstin Benish, Jenny Cafarella, Lauren Yon-Soo Kim, Natalie Miller, Aoife O'Connor, Cady Phillips, Lars Røed, Kaile Sepnafski, and Kim Wilson.
Program to include lunch and time to celebrate!
Directions to and parking for Heller Hall

US: A Nation Behind Bars

Far too many US laws violate basic principles of justice by requiring disproportionately severe punishment, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 36-page report, "Nation Behind Bars: A Human Rights Solution," notes that laws requiring penalties that are far longer than necessary to meet the purposes of punishment have given the United States the world's highest reported rate of incarceration. These laws have spawned widespread and well-founded public doubts about the fairness of the US criminal justice system. Continue reading on the Human Rights Watch website.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Support Diversity at the U of M

1399071622.jpgStudent Group "Whose Diversity?" Presents Diversity Demands to the UMN Administration
Endorse the Demands Here
View the Endorsements Here

"In demanding engagement with more substantial diversity, we are continuing a conversation that began in 1492, and that was highly visible during the 1969 Morrill Hall Student Takeover. This conversation was most recently revitalized by the Whose University? Campaign in 2010-2011. In continuing the questions that were asked at that point, and still in conversation with the leaders of that campaign, we emphasize the need for permanent and substantial structural changes as well as a sustained commitment to equity within the University."


Monday, April 28, 2014

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Hears Testimony About Worker Abuse in U.S. Meatpacking, Poultry Plants

Civil rights groups and meat and poultry workers testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today, describing how U.S. government policies have failed to protect meat and poultry workers by allowing dangerously fast work speeds that cause crippling injuries. Click here to read more about the hearing on the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights website.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Enduring Spirit of Labor

enduring spirit.pngA series of events surrounding an art exhibition on labor and justice
Presented by The Human Rights Program, The Institute for Global Studies and The Department of Art

View the flyer.

Art Exhibition: April 22nd - May 3rd

Public Forum on the Intersection of Art and Activism: April 23rd, 6 - 7 PM

Public Reception: April 23rd, 7 - 9 PM

Historical Art Exhibition: April 1 - July 18

Regis Center for Art (East) Quarter Gallery
The exhibition speaks to injustices rampant in labor industries and services, and celebrates the struggle against systemic forces of oppression. The artists included often draw upon their own personal experiences, work with marginalized communities, and/or incorporate their academic research in their artistic practice and advocacy.
PUBLIC FORUM: A Discussion on the Intersection of Art and Activism
APRIL 23RD 6:00 - 7:00PM
Regis Center for Art (East) INFLUX
Artists, activists, students, and scholars will gather in discussion on the intersection of art and activism. The conversation will touch upon the politics and ethics of representation in artistic activism, as well as the potential of art to be a driving vessel for radical social change. Please join the conversation and share your thoughts!
APRIL 23RD 7:00 - 9:00PM
Regis Center for Art (East) Atrium
A public reception will follow the public forum, where all are welcome to celebrate the unveiling of the exhibition alongside artists in the show. Hor d'oeuvres and refreshments will be served.
HISTORICAL ART EXHIBITION : Labor in the Eyes of Artists
T.R. Anderson Gallery, located on the 4th floor of the Wilson Library
This historical art exhibition examines the role of art across different eras of labor advocacy. From radical anarchist and socialist zines of the 1920's to works generated under the Federal Art Project (FAP), from World War II posters to prints from Occupy Wall Street, this exhibition illustrates how art has been used as a tool for labor mobilization and organization throughout America's history. View the flyer.
Photo is credited to artist Maddy Grimmer. It is an image of her work, titled The Industry

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Beyond Iberian Colonialisms: Spanish Arabs and the Fate of the Western Sahara

Aminatou Haidar Beyond Iberian Colonialisms.pngThe Global Studies Department at the University of Minnesota and the Iberian Studies Initiative for collaborative research present a conference that will illuminate and draw together the histories of Iberian colonialisms with the present realities of African immigration and cultural production. International scholars, poets and speakers will explore why contemporary poets are rallying to the Saharan cause.

Friday, April 5, 2014
Nolte Center 125
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Keynote Speaker Aminatou Haidar is a Sahrawi human rights activist, advocate for the independence of Western Sahara, and president of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA). Known as "Sahrawi Gandhi" for her nonviolent protests, she was imprisoned from 1987 to 1991 and from 2005 to 2006 on charges related to her independence advocacy. In 2009, she attracted international attention when she staged a hunger strike after being denied re-entry into Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. Haidar has won several international human rights awards for her work, including the 2008 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the 2009 Civil Courage Prize. In 2012 she was nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize.

A related film screening and an educator workshop are also to take place April 4th and 5th. For more information, please view the complete event schedule here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will investigate human rights violations in the meatpacking industry

Meatpacking.pngThis past week, the Human Rights Program received news that a petition to the Inter-American Comission of Human Rights (IACHR) regarding the widespread, unsafe working conditions in US meatpacking plants will be heard before the court on March 25th. This petition--an effort of the Human Rights Program in partnership with the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, and the Southern Poverty Law Center--expressed severe concern on account of the dangerous and degrading work environment faced by meatpacking and poultry processing workers in the US.

The speed of the assembly line in American meatpacking and poultry processing plants is currently dangerously fast, and the USDA is pushing to make it even faster. A proposed regulation change for the poultry industry aims to increase processing line speeds, allowing poultry companies to accelerate the speed from 140 to 175 birds per minute, requiring workers to process approximately one chicken every 6 - 7 seconds. It also proposes removing hundreds of federal inspectors from the processing lines, replacing them with plant workers charged with the responsibility of identifying and removing tainted chicken. The deregulation of the means of production in poultry processing signifies the government's granting of greater power to this industry, allowing companies to control how their products are inspected and to intimidate workers from speaking up and stopping a line if they find contaminated poultry. When regulations and inspectors are slimmed down, this gives the companies more freedom in doing whatever it takes to cut costs of production and increase profit. And this has unsettling implications for the health of workers and the safety of American food.
The rapid pace of the line forces workers to carry out the repetitive motions of inspecting poultry and cutting meat (with dull knives) at shocking speeds, labor that leads to severe physical degradation of the body, particularly of the workers' hands. Moreover, workers are regularly exposed to dangerous chemicals and extremely cold temperatures without sufficient protective equipment. Nearly three out of four Alabama poultry workers interviewed for a report carried out by the Southern Poverty Law Center described suffering a significant work-related injury or illness, such as debilitating pain in their hands, cuts, gnarled fingers, chemical burns or respiratory problems; moreover, workers also described feeling silenced from reporting work-related injuries, forced to endure constant pain, and discouraged from slowing the processing line, even when they are hurt. As poultry processing companies (together with the USDA) push for an increase in the speed of the line, it remains that there are no set of mandatory guidelines to protect the health and safety of workers. The passing of the proposed USDA line-speed rule would surely exacerbate the already precarious and unsafe conditions faced by meatpacking and poultry processing workers.
This current system may be profitable for poultry companies, but it relies on the systematic exploitation of workers, the majority of whom are women, African Americans, and Latinos. As these groups continue to feel the heightened burden of faster production, they also are fearful of losing their jobs if they report injuries or ask for safer working conditions. The silence imposed upon workers by their employers is oppressive--it facilitates increasing levels of exploitation, and it further entrenches systemic discrimination and injustice in American society.
These issues are of profound importance in the struggle to improve human rights practices and to eliminate systemic discrimination and exploitation in the United States. They demand immediate address. The Human Rights Program shares a history of collaboration with the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, and the Southern Poverty Law Center in its dedication to eradicate the widespread injustice and to improve the protection of workers' human rights in the meatpacking industry. Through their combined efforts, these organizations have formed a coalition committed to the improvement of human rights practices in the meatpacking and poultry processing industry.
This coalition hopes that an investigation by the IACHR will raise awareness about the serious dangers meatpacking workers face and will pressure the U.S. government to improve human rights protections in the industry. The hearing presents an opportunity for the coalition to encourage US law and policy makers to urge the Administration to withdraw the proposed USDA line speed rule, to work with these law and policy makers to create new health and safety protections for workers in the meat and poultry industries, and to continue educating the media, law and policy makers, consumers, and others about the inadequate health and safety protections for workers in the meat and poultry industry and the detrimental effects on these workers' health.
The granting of a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is a huge success in the efforts of the coalition, and signifies a leap forward for workers rights in the United States. The Human Rights Program hopes that the hearing will lead to improved working conditions not only in the meatpacking industry, but in other job sectors as well, as it represents the implementation of a new, higher standard in American corporations' labor practices, a standard that respects the human dignity of all individuals.
Written by Anna Meteyer

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Join the Human Rights Program in support of human rights internships!

Japanese cultural orientation.jpgWednesday, March 19, 2014
5:30 - 7:00 pm

Heritage Gallery
McNamara Alumni Center
200 Oak Street SE
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455

The U of M Human Rights Program will host a night of wine, hors d'oeuvres, conversation, and fundraising this Wednesday in support of our students. College of Liberal Arts Interim Dan Raymond Duvall will give remarks and four former human rights interns will share their stories. The Human Rights Program supports opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to gain irreplaceable field experience in human rights organizations around the world. This summer we plan to send our magnificent human rights students to Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Switzerland, and Turkey, among other locations. They need our financial support. We also work to attract the best and brightest scholars and advocates to the University of Minnesota to study. Having a robust internship fund will help us to accomplish this goal. The reception will feature four former human rights interns: David Greenwood-Sanchez, Anna Meteyer, Kristen Rau, and Paul Walters. We hope to see you there!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Partnership Supports the Establishment of a Human Rights Legal Clinic at Universidad Católica de Oriente

During the first year of the Minnesota-Antioquia Human Rights Partnership, the University of Minnesota has worked collaboratively with the Universidad Católica de Oriente (UCO), located in Rionegro, Colombia, to establish a Human Rights Clinic in their Law School. The clinical program officially started in July of 2013, and the first group of participants was comprised of one faculty member, Professor Maribel Ocazionez, and eleven upper-level law students. It has since added six new students and one new faculty member, Professor Carolina Rojas. In preparation for the launch of this new clinic, the Partnership provided UCO's faculty with training in human rights advocacy strategy and engaged faculty in constructive conversation and brainstorming around the academic and administrative challenges and opportunities inherent to creating, maintaining and running a human rights legal clinic.

The goals behind the development of the Human Rights Legal clinic at UCO are to train students and docents in skills necessary for effective human rights advocacy, to stimulate further research in the human rights discipline, and to generate opportunity for advancement by students and docents in the field of human rights. Alongside the establishment of this new clinic at UCO, the Partnership is working to further develop and enhance existing clinics at other Antioquia institutions - including Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad de Medellín, and Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana - in collaboration with faculty and administrators at those institutions and particularly with regard to clinical work on human rights topics.
UCO students have responded with great enthusiasm to the implementation of this new clinic and are clearly excited about the opportunity to tackle local human rights issues. For example, they are already conducting in-depth research on human rights issues resulting from pollution and contamination in the Oriente Antioqueño, the eastern portion of Antioquia in which Rionegro is located. Also, they are working in collaboration with the University of Minnesota Human Rights Clinic, led by Professor Jennifer Green, in the drafting of a joint shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding the Colombian government's failure to ensure the human rights of children in the Antioquia region. And finally, they have just started work on a project regarding the rights of incarcerated individuals, through which they will be assessing factors such as overcrowding, staffing, health care, education, etc. in local prisons.
Enthusiasm for human rights advocacy by UCO students is reflected in the aforementioned surge of human rights clinical work and in their diligent participation in trainings put on by the Partnership. For example, when Professor Barbara Frey visited Medellín in August to give a four-day short course on human rights advocacy, the clinical students from UCO traveled about an hour and a half every day from Rionegro to Medellín in order to attend. While the long commute may have deterred some people from participating in the seminar, the students from UCO attended the presentation each day without fail.
With the goal of sustaining the passion of these outstanding students and engaging an even broader community of students and faculty in human rights work, the Partnership remains committed to the ongoing development of legal clinical work at UCO, not only through curriculum development but also through the growth of administrative support. Over the next couple years the Human Rights Clinic at UCO will engage in strategic selection of cases in order to address the most pressing human rights issues in the region and allow for continued collaboration with the Human Rights Clinic at the UMN. Furthermore, UCO's Human Rights Clinic will continue to receive meaningful guidance from and work collaboratively with legal clinical teams working in other Antioquia institutions, including Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad de Medellín, and Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Austrian Doctoral Research Fellow Verena Stern investigates human rights issues in Somali transnational migration

foto.jpgVerena Stern is an Austrian Doctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Austrian Studies at the University of Minnesota, researching the situation of the undocumented immigrants in the European Union (E.U), particularly the Somali undocumented immigrants in Austria.

"I am a second year Political Science doctoral candidate at the University of Vienna, but I joined the University of Minnesota because of the reputable research and experts on the subject, and because of the large Somali community in the Twin cities," said Stern.

Stern's interest in the undocumented Somali immigrants began in October 2012 when Somali refugees living in Austria formed an organization and decided to camp in front of the Austrian Parliament in Vienna to raise attention to their own, as well as Somalia's, current situation.
In her research, Stern is examining the situation of Somali immigrants living in Austria, as well as their journey to get there. How did they escape the violence present in their homeland, which is a matter of life and death? Which countries did they have to pass through before arriving to the E.U. and what happened along the way? Besides the case study of Austria´s Somali community, Stern is also asking questions about the alienating tactics of nation-states and what it means to illegalize people. She is also trying to understand the legal dimension of how a nation's homeland security could be more important than the human rights situation of the undocumented immigrants. Stern examines instances when the rights and needs of the state are put before those of the immigrants who are seeking asylum, and analyzes the accompanying consequences.
Somali immigrants, who are victims of violence, are escaping a civil war in Somalia. However, when they arrive at their destination, their hopes of refuge, and perhaps even a better life, are not met. Many of them live in poverty, lacking the most basic necessities; many others are deported back to Somalia based on which part of the country they come from, regardless of if their individual safety is at risk or not.
Ms. Stern's fellowship ends this summer and she will be continuing her work on Human Rights and Somali immigrants at the University of Vienna, Austria.
Written by Salma Taleb

Austrian Doctoral Research Fellow Verena Stern investigates human rights issues in Somali transnational migration

foto.jpgVerena Stern is an Austrian Doctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Austrian Studies at the University of Minnesota, researching the situation of the undocumented immigrants in the European Union (E.U), particularly the Somali undocumented immigrants in Austria.

"I am a second year Political Science doctoral candidate at the University of Vienna, but I joined the University of Minnesota because of the reputable research and experts on the subject, and because of the large Somali community in the Twin cities," said Stern.

Stern's interest in the undocumented Somali immigrants began in October 2012 when Somali refugees living in Austria formed an organization and decided to camp in front of the Austrian Parliament in Vienna to raise attention to their own, as well as Somalia's, current situation.
In her research, Stern is examining the situation of Somali immigrants living in Austria, as well as their journey to get there. How did they escape the violence present in their homeland, which is a matter of life and death? Which countries did they have to pass through before arriving to the E.U. and what happened along the way? Besides the case study of Austria´s Somali community, Stern is also asking questions about the alienating tactics of nation-states and what it means to illegalize people. She is also trying to understand the legal dimension of how a nation's homeland security could be more important than the human rights situation of the undocumented immigrants. Stern examines instances when the rights and needs of the state are put before those of the immigrants who are seeking asylum, and analyzes the accompanying consequences.
Somali immigrants, who are victims of violence, are escaping a civil war in Somalia. However, when they arrive at their destination, their hopes of refuge, and perhaps even a better life, are not met. Many of them live in poverty, lacking the most basic necessities; many others are deported back to Somalia based on which part of the country they come from, regardless of if their individual safety is at risk or not.
Ms. Stern's fellowship ends this summer and she will be continuing her work on Human Rights and Somali immigrants at the University of Vienna, Austria.
Written by Salma Taleb

Professor Alejandro Baer delivers enlightening presentation on the role of human rights discourse in the shaping of collective memory

alejandro-baer.jpgOn Thursday, February 20th, University of Minnesota professor Alejandro Baer gave an enlightening lecture on his research on social memory, its cultural representations and its consequences. As the Director for the Center of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and as an Associate Professor in the department of Sociology, Baer is interested in identifying the culture of memory, looking at mass violence from different perspectives, and examining human rights within a sociological context. Continuing the theme of this spring's lecture series called "Reframing Mass Violence," Thursday's event was titled, "The Collective Memory of Mass Atrocities: Traveling Ghosts of the Holocaust."

Baer began his lecture by introducing the concept of "collective memory" as illuminated in the theories of sociologists Emile Durkheim and Maurice Halbwachs. Durkheim defined social memory as a real or imagined link to the past that creates unity within a society. The first to establish the term "collective memory," Halbwachs expanded Durkheim's theory by arguing that memory is shaped by the needs of the present and that individual memory is also shaped by collective memory. According to Halbwachs, shared memory cannot exist outside of the group framework. However, Baer countered that in the global age when people no longer define themselves strictly within these groups of society, new approaches to collective memory have emerged. Highlighting the works of contemporary sociologists, Baer explained how the theories of cosmopolitan memory, multidirectional memory, postmemory, and cultural trauma show how collective memory in the global age has been revisited and reinterpreted beyond the group context through the narrative of human rights, with the Holocaust as the quintessential example of this phenomenon. One such example is The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age, in which Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider discuss the ways that the Holocaust has been remembered in the age of globalization, as it transcends the group framework and adopts universal narratives of human rights, tolerance, and other cosmopolitan norms. Similarly, Michael Rothberg argues in Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization that the memory of the Holocaust has become a platform for articulating the interactive relationship between the global and the local that generates transnational symbols like human rights, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Other research that Baer referenced on this subject include The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust by Marianne Hirsch and Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity by Jeffrey C. Alexander, Neil J. Smelser, and Bernhard Giesen.
According to Baer, these new approaches to collective memory are tools to help us see human rights as a form of memory. He used the example of transitional justice in Spain, as there is a movement today among younger generations to reframe the mass violence of Francisco Franco's dictatorship in the 1930s-1940s from a narrative of civil war to one of genocide and crimes against humanity. Rather than attempting to rewrite history, the postmemory generation in Spain is inverting the previous narrative in hopes of finally gaining closure through truth and justice. However, Baer argues that there is an analytical price we pay for memory as we simplify at the expense of history and when we transform the narrative from agency to victimhood. Collective remembering and collective forgetting are part of the same process, constructing a selective memory that often forgets the political history of a conflict. In the case of Spain and other related mass atrocities, the fact of a civil war does not excuse human rights, but in embracing a human rights memory regime, history often gets blurred in the process. As Baer ended his lecture, he emphasized that there is no such thing as one truth, there are different forms of justice, and there are innumerable memories, and it is therefore worth exploring how a human rights discourse shapes our understanding of events and what the consequences are of these collective memory narratives.
Written by Kailey Mrosak

Friday, February 28, 2014

Dr. Steven Miles creates leading website on "doctors who torture"

Untitled 2 miles.pngOver 7 years ago, Dr. Miles created an online archive of 60,000 pages of government documents describing the medical system in "War on Terror" prisons, published at the online Human Rights library, hosted by the University of Minnesota. "Those documents were made available by the government through the Freedom of Information Act, but the government did not want the public to be able to analyze them," says Dr. Miles. "My idea was to connect the information for each case such as autopsy reports and death certificates in order to tell the larger story. The documents are useless unless you connect them. As a physician, I can read some of the documents better than historians could. Consider death certificates for example. I can see what is on the document and what is missing." The archive has over 1.5 million visitors- mainly researchers, attorneys who are engaged in prison work, and academics who study the system.

Dr. Steven Miles has a lifelong endeavor to use his medical credentials and expertise to address some of the most challenging human rights issues of our time. He is a Professor of Medicine and Bioethics at the University of Minnesota. He is also on the Board of the Center for Victims of Torture in the United States.
The archive's success prompted Dr. Miles to create his own website doctorswhotorture.com/, which was intended to increase holding doctors accountable, legally and ethically, and to prove that it is possible to hold governments accountable. The website archives countries' records and work on torture and aims to provoke governments to change their policies regarding the use of torture.
The establishment of the website required a lot of time and effort. "Hundreds of websites were searched in different languages, which required translations before documentation," explained Dr. Miles.
The goal of those websites is to "help document, excavate and rewrite the history of the medical complicity with torture. The websites also had an impact on changing the Defense Department's policy and on attorneys who are handling the defense of prisoners. They showed the new way to create an online archive for Human Rights purposes, and are a model on how to do it for other countries like Guatemala, Argentina and many more," said Dr. Miles.
The message Dr. Miles would like to send to the public is that "victims and people who are affected by torture are among us--in our backgrounds, family, schools--but those victims are invisible. The silence surrounding them is negating the need to deal with the impacts of torture on individual and communal levels. Addressing the impacts of torture provides not only a form of treatment to the victims, but also acts as a preventative measure. Thus, in order to prevent torture, societies need to start talking about it because making the topic a taboo doesn't stop it or make it disappear."
Dr. Miles is the author of four books, more than twenty book chapters, and over 200 medical articles on medical ethics, torture, human rights, end-of-life care and other related topics.
Written by Salma Taleb

The Act of Killing: Free public screening and conversation with the Oscar Nominated director

Untitled 2.pngSaturday, March 8
5:00 - 8:00 pm
Bell Museum, University of Minnesota, East Bank

Join us for a free public screening of The Act of Killing. We will be showing the Director's Cut, and a Q&A session with the highly-acclaimed, Oscar-nominated director, Joshua Oppenheimer, will follow from 8:30 -9:30pm. The filmmakers examine a country where death squad leaders are celebrated as heroes, challenging them to reenact their real-life mass-killings in the style of the American movies they love. The hallucinatory result is a cinematic fever dream, an unsettling journey deep into the imaginations of mass-murderers and the shockingly banal regime of corruption and impunity they inhabit.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


March 6, 7, 8 & 11

Providing a forum for interdiscursive theoretical discussions and dialogue, The State of Iberoamerican Studies Series, at the Spanish and Portuguese Department, supports a number of critical symposia that bring together not only the monologues of traditional scholarly disciplines, but also the powerful, struggling and often unarticulated voices, postures and assumptions of contemporary non-canonical, grassroots cultural discourses. Organized by Luis Ramos-García, Nelsy Echávez-Solano, and Alberto Justiniano in collaboration with the College of St. Benedict / St. John's University; Teatro del Pueblo; and other interdepartmental, intercollegiate, and international organizations, this symposium on Human Rights as well as Art and Theater festival will take place at the University International Center; the Department of Art (Studios); Whiting Proscenium, Rarig Center; and at St. John's University Hispanic Studies.

Carlos Satizabal, an important Human Rights activist in Colombia and an international playwright, will present alongside many other leading voices in the field of international human rights. Other featured individuals include Ana Paula Ferreira, Davide Carnevali, Steven Miles, Alejandro Baer, David Feinberg, Aristides Vargas, Roxana Pineda, and Lorenzo Fabbri. The symposium will be a spotlight for discussion on human rights issues from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds. Also in conjunction with the symposium, the outstanding and internationally acclaimed Latin American theater group Malayerba will stage La Razón Blindada at the U of M Rarig Whiting Proscenium Theatre on March 6th and 7th. This production follows two political prisoners during Argentina's bloody dictatorship as they create a unique retelling of Don Quijote de la Mancha. Their story illustrates the power of imagination in overcoming physically limiting and repressive conditions. The performance is presented in Spanish with an opening caption in English, and ticket information can be found at brownpapertickets.com.
1. Malayerba bio .pdf more about the performance by Malayerba.
3. KEYNOTE SPEAKERS AT THE XIX STATE OF IBEROAMERICAN STUDIES SERIES .pdf the list of keynote speakers and biographies.
2. FINAL SCHEDULE .pdf an official schedule of the series.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Q&A with leader, activist, and alumnus Lindsey Greising

329.jpgFollowing the completion of her law degree from the University of Minnesota, Lindsey Greising was hired to run the Women's Rights Project branch at the exemplary organization Ba Futuru in Timor-Leste. A leader in its community, Ba Futuru is Timor-Leste's preeminent national child protection and peace building organization. Lindsey's main role at the organization is as an international adviser for the Empowering Women and Establishing Grassroots Protection Networks Project (EWP), which focuses on increasing access to justice for victims of domestic violence in Timor-Leste through trainings of key actors, empowering and supporting female community leaders to refer cases, and conducting advocacy to the national government on identified issues. Lindsey also serves as a human rights advisor to the organization generally. Through this work, she helps develop training materials for the organization's various projects and also provides trainings for staff on legal frameworks and human rights principals.

How did you get involved with Ba Faturu?
I originally travelled to Timor-Leste in 2005 after participating in a workshop at my university where then-Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta spoke and inspired me to research and volunteer in Timor-Leste. While there, I met Ba Futuru's founder and learned about their work. When I earned my BA in 2008, I decided to return, and coordinated with Ba Futuru. After receiving my law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School, I received a Robina Public Interest Law Fellowship to work for a year on Ba Futuru's women's project, a project is funded jointly by the European Commission and Australian AID for nearly 300,000 EURO and $70,000 USD, respectively.
What is your specific role in the organization?
As it is a small organization in a developing nation, I have many roles! My main role is as an international adviser for the Empowering Women and Establishing Grassroots Protection Networks Project (EWP), which focuses on increasing access to justice for victims of domestic violence in Timor-Leste through trainings of key actors, empowering and supporting female focal points to refer cases and take larger leadership roles in their communities, and conducting advocacy to the national government on identified issues. I also serve as a human rights advisor to the organization generally. Through this work, I help develop training materials for the organization's various projects and also provide trainings for staff on legal frameworks and human rights principals.
How does it provide training in conflict resolution, conflict analysis, decision-making, child protection, and access to justice? Who provides the training and what does it entail? These topics seem complex and difficult to teach, how is it done in an effective but also timely way?
The organization has developed its training program since it was founded in 2004. Trainings are conducted by Timorese trainers who have various backgrounds. Many were teachers previously. Several were previously members of gangs or involved in conflict. All receive training and capacity building from Ba Futuru's international and high-level national staff. The training materials have been developed by Ba Futuru based on lessons learned and also with support of various consultants and international experts. For example, I have redeveloped their legal frameworks, and gender and civil rights components through my work here.
While the topics are complex, Ba Futuru has developed its materials and trainings in consultation with local staff that understand the nuances. It uses a lot of role-plays and arts in order to make high-level concepts accessible to various audiences. In several areas, we have addressed illiterate populations, and facilitators skillfully revised the training to accommodate this challenge.
What are some other challenging aspects of your work?
It is incredibly challenging to work on access to justice issues in a country with a bit more than 10 years of independence. Having been trained as a lawyer at the U, I am now confronting situations in which much of that training is inapplicable. For example, while the law requires domestic violence cases to be processed through the formal court system, there are not enough qualified people to make the courts function, and thus processing times can be more than a year. There are also only four courts for a country of 1 million people, with the population widely dispersed over areas that have poorly maintained roads and infrastructure, making it nearly impossible for some people to access the courts. And, very few people understand the law; the literacy rate is only 58.3% (UNESCO), the laws are often only available in Portuguese rather than the more commonly spoken language, Tetum, and the majority of the population has had very little education based on years of colonialism/occupation. Thus, I am constantly challenged by knowing how the system should function to protect victims, but being confronted by daunting constraints.
On top of all these structural challenges, I confront deeply rooted cultural values, especially regarding women and justice, which make this work incredibly difficult. Even among women, many believe domestic violence victims should not report their cases unless they are severely physically injured. Domestic violence is considered a private issue, and unless there is blood (ra'an sae, in the local language) it should not be reported. Some police hold many of these values and therefore refuse to report cases even where victims report to them. Economic dependence of women on men prevents many from reporting their cases, and also encourages the formal system to apply "protective" treatment such that some police will refuse to report cases, and courts often issue suspended sentences so that the perpetrator can support the family.
In terms of training female advocates, have you seen the training play out in any real-life successes, as these women go out into the community and voice their concerns?
This has been the best part of my work so far! Within the organization, I work closely with two women who I have trained as advocates. Their confidence and understanding of political advocacy and liaising with government officials has been incredible to see. Within the community, the female focal points we have trained are also showing exponential growth. We recently held a training for these women and, afterward, several reported that they felt more confident to speak out in their communities and support other women. One from a rural area was so inspired that she began conducting stronger outreach to victims in her community, which resulted in two people filing their cases with the police--a huge accomplishment considering this took a 4 hour boat ride (one way) on high seas to get to a lawyer. And, another focal point who had been a victim of violence herself, finally came forward to share her experience within the group after being too scared to do so before.
What is it like to work at such an organization as Ba Futuru?
It's been really inspiring! I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people who have experienced incredible violence but are still positive and dedicated to improving their country. The women with whom I work are incredible. My work colleagues are powerful, insightful, smart, dedicated women who balance tough work with family life. And, they confront the myriad of issues and depressing challenges of our work with incredible passion and positivity. One colleague was attacked and saw numerous others harmed in a terrible massacre during the Indonesian Occupation in Timor-Leste. Yet, she is often more positive than I am, and constantly strives to improve herself and her country. So many others with whom I work have similar stories and are similarly inspiring.
The Human Rights Program extends its sincere thanks to Lindsey for her thoughtful and generous comments. What truly incredible work!

A powerful discussion follows the screening of highly acclaimed film Granito: How to Nail a Dictator

Untitled.pngOn Thursday, February 6, the University welcomed director and filmmaker Pamela Yates and producer Paco Onís at St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis to screen their powerful documentary Granito: How to Nail a Dictator. The narrative centers on the investigation of the 1982 genocide of Maya people by the military in Guatemala and on the determined fight for justice. The event was free to the public and included both a Q & A session with Yates and Onís as well as a viewing of their short film, The Verdict, on the 2012 trial of General Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity.

In her introduction to the audience, Yates explained that she had traveled to Guatemala in 1982 to film her first documentary, When the Mountains Tremble, on the guerilla war between the Maya people and the Guatemalan military, and that she never would have believed at the time that her film outtakes would be used twenty-five years later as evidence of human rights abuses. Granito: How to Nail a Dictator followed Yates, international attorney Almudena Bernabeu, and others as they pored over the captivating footage and slowly built a case against Ríos Montt and the military regime. Yates expressed that, for her, Granito was both a documentary of human rights abuses and a love letter to human rights workers.
During the Q & A session, she spoke of the importance of documentary filmmaking as a broader way to engage people in human rights work. There has been considerable controversy regarding the interaction between filmmaking and human rights. Both Yates and Onís disagree with the belief that artists should avoid politics, arguing that well-told stories have the power to bring about social change. This is, in fact, the mission of Skylight, the media production company they founded together over twenty-five years ago. Yates considers herself a social issue filmmaker, and often asks, "What is the role of art in human rights?" At least when it comes to documentation, Yates believes there is immense power in creating a story that allows people to see their own reflection of humanity and inspire social change.
In January 2012, Ríos Montt was indicted for genocide of the Maya people. While the ruling was overturned by the constitutional court on procedural grounds and a retrial is unlikely, Yates maintained that the trial still marked a transformative moment of departure for the Guatemalan people as an unprecedented statement of justice. Indeed, the motivation behind Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, and for all of Yates' and Onís' work, is "memory, truth, and justice" to ensure that human rights violations such as the Maya genocide serve as a reminder that we are all granitos de arena, or tiny grains of sand, in the collective endeavor for change.
Yates and Onís have launched a companion digital project to preserve the collective memory of the genocide. Granito: Every Memory Matters is accessible at http://granitomem.com/.
Written by Student Advisory Board member Kailey Mrosak

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Professor Barbara Frey presents on the role and value of transitional justice in human rights

On January 23rd, Barbara Frey, Director of the Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota, gave a lecture on the topic of "Transitional Justice: Seeking Truth and Accountability for Systematic Human Rights Violations." Her presentation covered the definition of transitional justice, which includes the fundamental questions of whether to respond to atrocity, why we should respond to atrocity, and what are the appropriate responses to atrocity.

Watch a recording of Professor Frey's lecture.

Since 1980, the methods and practices by which human rights are characterized has changed dramatically. Ban Ki-moon, the current U.N. Secretary General, called the new era, "The Age of Accountability." The increased number of truth commissions, prosecutions of human rights violations in domestic courts, and participation in the drafting of international criminal laws demonstrate a greater awareness of responsibility. For example, in 2006, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights declared the "right to truth about serious violations of human rights law is an inalienable and autonomous right." Many human rights lawyers have debated the impact of these trials and commissions; this debate highlights the importance of seeking truth and justice because the two concepts are intertwined when an institution or commissions responds to atrocity.
Frey's presentation also addressed the effectiveness of truth commissions. Truth commissions calculate reparations, acknowledge a historical narrative, and document the truth through public reports. Key aspects of truth commissions include political context, sponsorship, membership, and mandates. Latin America is the world leader in transitional justice; truth commissions have found success in South Africa, Guatemala, Chile, and Argentina. In the Guatemalan case, over 42,000 victims, 23,000 deaths, 6,000 disappearances, and 626 massacres were documented. However, the exposing of these "truths" does not guarantee reconciliation.
Finally, Frey's presentations underscored the overall trend of increasing human rights awareness through trials, commissions, and the subsequent drafting of laws. Because the number of new amnesty laws drafted has remained constant, turning our attention to the past, instead of simply pushing forward, has become paramount in today's "Age of Accountability."
Written by Volunteer Sean Van Domelen

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Save the date! Conference will commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda

rwanda conference.pngGenocide and its Aftermath: Lessons from Rwanda
April 16, 17 & 19

Singled out as the biggest failure of the international community since the Holocaust, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda has loomed large in the decisions of states and international organizations in response to mass violence. Because of the ongoing importance of the Rwanda experience in relation to genocide prevention efforts, the Institute for Global Studies, the Human Rights Program and the Center for Genocide & Holocaust Studies are jointly hosting a series of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide. "Genocide and its Aftermath: Lessons from Rwanda," will take place on April 16, 17 and 19, exploring what we have come to know about the genocide in Rwanda, discussing the immediate responses by the international community, and analyzing the long-term consequences that the cataclysmic failure to prevent the genocide had on international policy and action. The events are funded by Ohanessian Endowment Fund for Justice and Peace Studies at The Minneapolis Foundation.

Highlighting a distinguished list of speakers for the April 16 public conference will be the U.N. Special Advisor on Genocide Prevention, Mr. Adama Dieng; Jean-Damscène Gasanabo, Director General of Research with the Research and Documentation Center of the Rwandan Government; and Professor Samuel Totten, renowned genocide scholar and activist. These figures will be joined by leading academics, activists and diplomats. Other speakers will include Eric Schwartz, Dean of the Humphrey School and former National Security Adviser to President Clinton; Gregory Gordon, former Legal Officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; Curt Goering, Executive Director, Center for Victims of Torture and former Chief Operating Officer at Amnesty International USA; Chris Uggen, Professor of Sociology; Leigh Payne, Professor at Oxford and Senior Research Fellow for the Institute for Global Studies; and emerging scholars Hollie Nyseth-Brehm, Wahutu Siguru, Nicole Fox, and Marie Berry. This event will be free and open to the public.
The second day of the conference, April 17, will highlight the work of undergraduate students from different disciplines regarding the genocide in Rwanda or other genocides and mass atrocities. Any undergraduate students interested in submitting work to be presented at the conference should see the Call for Papers below. Papers for consideration must be submitted by February 28, 2014, to Wahutu J. Siguru (siguru@umn.edu). The series of events will conclude on April 19, with a workshop for K-16 educators on genocide, conducted by Samuel Totten, one of the foremost scholars of curriculum on Holocaust and genocide education. Those interested in participating should return to this website for further details in the coming weeks.
Call for Undergratuate Papers- Rwanda Commemorative Events, Student Conference.docx
For information on this event and other events being hosted by the Human Rights Program, please check http://www.hrp.cla.umn.edu/. For more information on events being hosted by the Center for Genocide & Holocaust Studies, please check http://www.chgs.umn.edu/news/.
Event Co-sponsors: The Center for Victims of Torture, The Advocates for Human Rights, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, St. Cloud State Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education, World Without Genocide, Department of History, Department of French and Italian, the Institute of Diversity, Equality and Advocacy, the Program in Human Rights and Health and the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota
Event artwork is titled "Valentina's Nightmare (Hands/Face Rough)" by Peter Driessen