ACLU Convenes First National Conference On the Use of International Human Rights Law in the U.S. Justice System

October 8, 2003 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – In a new campaign to bring internationally recognized human rights law to the American justice system, the American Civil Liberties Union is convening a national conference, October 9-11 at the Carter Center, in Atlanta. The conference, Human Rights at Home: International Law in U.S. Courts, combines an overview of international laws with practical workshops to help lawyers and others develop legal and organizing strategies for enforcing human rights in specific areas, including criminal justice, economic justice, the rights of non-citizens and women’s rights.

“”Our goal is no less than to forge a new era of social justice where the principles of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights are recognized and enforced in the United States,”” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero in announcing the conference. “”There could be no more fitting venue for this meeting than the Carter Center, which exemplifies a passionate commitment to human rights abroad and at home.””

Several Supreme Court Justices have recently cited international law in rulings concerning domestic legal issues, and the use of international law in U.S. courts is increasing, the ACLU said. The Bush Administration and American multi-national corporations operating overseas who have been sued under these provisions oppose the trend.

“”From the grassroots level all the way to the Supreme Court, international human rights law is beginning to emerge as a tool for the victims of discrimination here at home,”” said Ann Beeson, conference organizer and Associate Legal Director of the ACLU.

An overflow audience of lawyers and community activists from 30 states will attend workshops featuring presentations by practicing lawyers, scholars, judges and grassroots organizers from the United States, Britain and South Africa (a country whose decade-old constitution was modeled upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Workshops and practice breakouts are designed to help practicing lawyers bring international law into everyday litigation and to help advocates and policy makers broaden public awareness of human rights issues at home.

Highlights of the three-day conference include:

  • Opening Reception Honoring Atlanta Human Rights Organizations, October 9, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
  • Why a Human Rights Framework in Domestic Advocacy?, Opening Plenary, October 10, 8:30 – 10 a.m.: with panelists representing grassroots organizing and litigation, and the implementation of human rights abroad.
  • Human Rights in the U.S., Post 9-11, October 10, 3:15 -4:45 p.m. and October 11, 4:30 – 5:45 p.m. with speakers from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU
  • “”An International Law Perspective on Civil Liberties in the U.S.A.”” Conference Banquet, October 10, 7:30-9:30 p.m.
    Juan E. Mendez, Director, Center for Civil and Human Rights, Notre Dame Law School, himself the subject of torture and administrative detention in the 1970’s in his native Argentina.
  • A Dialogue with Judges, Luncheon Plenary, October 11, 1-2:30 p.m.
    Sitting judges will discuss the recent shift by U.S. Supreme Court Justices toward use of human rights law, and the controversy over lawsuits by foreigners against U.S. corporations in American courts:
    • Hon. Mary Schroeder, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit
    • Hon. Myron Thompson, U.S. District Court, Middle District, Alabama

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