February 18, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 10

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    [the symbol of the death squad], by susan meiselas  Mano Blanco, the symbol of the Death Squad left on a victim’s door in El Salvador, is shown on the poster designed for the conference on torture.

    Scholars will discuss human rights abuses at conference on torture

    By William Harms
    News Office

    Chicago faculty members and researchers with an interest in human rights are doing more than studying the issue––they also are developing ways to deal with the problems of human rights abuses. On March 4 through 7, internationally known leaders on human rights will come to the University for a conference titled Investigating and Combating Torture: Exploration of a New Human Rights Paradigm.

    “Our conference brings together human rights activists, legal and historical scholars, forensic practitioners and anthropologists, said Jacqueline Bhabha, Director of the Human Rights Program at the University and Lecturer in the LawSchool. “We intend to combine large, public sessions involving activists and professionals with other, more in-depth scholarly discussions.” The conference will open at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, March 4, in Swift Hall, 1025 E. 58th St., with a session on “Surviving Torture” moderated by Radhika Coomaraswamy, director of the International Center for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, and U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women.

    A keynote session titled “Global Definitions: Torture, Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Modern Legal and Political Thought” also will be held in Swift Hall at 7 p.m. March 4. The topic will be addressed by Sir Nigel Rodley, professor of law at the University of Essex and U.N. special rapporteur on torture, and Kate Millet, activist and author of The Politics of Cruelty. Geoffrey Stone, University Provost, will serve as moderator.

    The conference will continue with a series of panel discussions and addresses on Friday, March 5, and Saturday, March 6, and a roundtable discussion on “Enforcing the International Prohibition Against Torture” will conclude the conference on Sunday, March 7. The roundtable will be moderated by Bhabha and will feature Coomaraswamy and Douglas Cassel, director of the Northwestern University Institute of Human Rights.

    The Human Rights Program at the University is supported by a $630,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. In addition to the conference, the grant supports a fellowship program for human rights activists, a teaching program that consists of a three-course, core sequence on human rights, and “University in Exile,” a program to bring persecuted scholars to North American universities.

    The University’s Human Rights Program is a new approach to the study of human rights, said Rashid Khalidi, Professor in History and Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and Director of the Center for International Studies, of which the Human Rights Program is a part.

    “Our Human Rights Program draws on the insights and theories of a broad range of disciplines,” he said. “It prizes serious intellectual inquiry ––but in recognition of the pressing real-world problems we daily face––tempers scholarly work with a strong and steady interaction with those working in the field.”

    For more information on the conference, contact the Human Rights Program at (773) 702-9455.