Under the direction of Professor Connie de la Vega and with the assistance of Amanda Solter '09, the University of San Francisco was one of the primary organizers of a San Francisco consultation regarding the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a U.N. Human Rights Council process where the human rights records of U.N. Member States are assessed. This is the first time that the United States human rights record will be reviewed by the council.
USF law students at the United Nations. Photo taken by Professor Connie de la Vega.
The event, which was held at USF, was one of two listening sessions that took place in the Bay Area. Representatives of the U.S. Department of State and other federal agencies attended the events as research for the 20-page report that they will prepare and submit to the UPR.
"The consultation with the United States government on the UPR...gave an opportunity for diverse communities to present information on human rights issues of particular concern in California," de la Vega said. "Topics included racial discrimination, discrimination against the LGBT community, criminal justice including juvenile life without parole sentences and the death penalty, disability rights, environmental justice, and health related issues."
Director of Human Rights Programs Michelle Leighton presented on juvenile life sentences without possibility of parole. De la Vega welcomed attendees, provided an overview of the UPR process, and moderated two panels. Law students and alumni, including Brahmani Houston 3L, Amol Mehra '09, and Jeff Kaloustian '09, also spoke on human rights issues. Several graduates volunteered their time to help with the conference, including Mehra and Alex Tuzin '09.
To view student presentations to the U.N., click on the topics below and search for Human Rights Advocates:
*Second HRA presentation listed on page
De la Vega and participants from the Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic also spent two weeks at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. As representatives of the non-governmental organization Human Rights Advocates, students made oral presentations to the council, talked with government delegates, and participated in resolution drafting sessions on issues such as prison privatization, the right to food, counter-terrorism, death row phenomena, the right to truth, the right to vote, and juvenile justice.
At a Justice Forum April 13, students reported on their experiences at the U.N. "Although I was working on a very political issue that delegates had difficulty with, it was still great to promote something that I really believe in," said Lani Virostko 3L, who advocated for a universal definition of terrorism in Geneva.
In addition, USF law students attended the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in New York City as Edith Coliver interns. The three students who attended, accompanied by Cari Nutt '07, focused on trafficking of women and children, violence against migrant women, domestic violence, and employment discrimination.
"It was very inspiring...to see all these different people from all corners of the world come together and talk about women's issues. Perhaps the biggest highlight for me was being able to speak at a panel discussion," said Kimberkly Kaufman 3L, who focused on combating violence against migrant women. "Once I finally was able to speak and have this captive audience of delegates from all over the world listening to me...(on this) topic I felt very passionate about and also being the only person during the whole three-hour discussion talking about violence against migrant women...it was a very empowering experience."