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  August 30, 2004

Human Rights In An Age Of Terrorism To Be
Explored At Conference September 9-11

Civil liberties vs. security. Human rights vs. the War on Terror.

As these seemingly conflicting goals began to dominate both the international headlines and the upcoming presidential election, the Human Rights Institute at UConn began its own exploration into what has become a key issue of the new millennium.

The result is the Institute's inaugural conference, Human Rights In An Age of Terrorism, the brainchild of institute director, social anthropologist, and longtime author-activist Richard Ashby Wilson.

"We started organizing this conference last year, long before Abu Ghraib, because it struck us early on that the war on terror was being conducted without regard for human rights," says Wilson.

The conference, scheduled for Sept. 9-11, brings together leading figures in the field of human rights. For three days, they will examine the impact of the war on terror on human rights worldwide, and seek ways to reconcile civil liberties with the need for security. All sessions are open to the University community and the general public.

U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd will give the introduction.

Michael Ignatieff, director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, is the conference's keynote speaker and will deliver the Sackler Human Rights Lecture on Sept. 9, at 7:30 p.m. in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Ignatieff's most recent books include The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics In An Age Of Terror (2004) and Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (2003).

"There was a general drift toward an abusive environment," Wilson says. "You could see it in the Patriot Act, which allowed such rights violations as having your phone tapped without a warrant. You could see it in the actions of the presidency. You could see it in the designation of prisoners as 'enemy combatants' who had no recourse to a lawyer or judicial review."

Wilson stresses the importance of adhering to the rule of law and international legal norms in the war on terror.

"Right now, placing emphasis on a war on terror means there is an overemphasis on the military solution and not enough on the human rights solution," Wilson says.

Conference speakers include:

Richard Goldstone, retired justice of the South African Constitutional Court and former chair of the International Task Force On Terrorism;

Angelia Means, former law clerk for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia;

Julie Mertus, consultant with the Humanitarianism &War Project at the Watson Institute for International Affairs;

Aryeh Neier, president of the Open Society Institute and former executive director of Human Rights Watch;

Geoffrey Robertson, a judge for the Special Court for Sierra Leone and counsel in many landmark human rights cases;

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights;

Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union.

They will discuss and debate topics that include "Do We Have To Choose Between Human Rights and Security?" "Connecting Human Development and Human Security;" "Privacy, Technology, and Civil Liberties;" "Can Terrorists Get a Fair Trial?" and "The Shaken Kaleidoscope of Human Rights Since 9/11." The sessions will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 10, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 11, in the Nafe Katter Theatre, in the Fine Arts Complex.

All sessions are free of charge to UConn students, staff, and faculty. Registration information and further details about the conference can be found at