Remarks delivered to The International Human Rights Framework Opportunities for Attorneys and Advocates, "The Role of Lawyers in Defending Human Rights"


Good morning. I am very pleased to be here with you, and I thank the International Justice Resource Center for inviting me to share some thoughts on a subject that is close to my heart. My thanks go also to the co-organizers of this important training conference, the ACLU of Massachusetts, Physicians for Human Rights and other involved entities and individuals.

For many years I have worked in the United States to ensure that all people have access to legal assistance, including particularly working class individuals who rely on legal services funded by the US government to ensure – for example – that they are not subjected to unsafe housing conditions or discrimination in the workplace.

During my term as president of the ABA I appointed several commissions and task forces, including a bi-partisan Task Force to examine the US government’s practice of surreptitiously recording private communications between attorneys and alleged terrorist suspects. Now as Chair of the ABA Center for Human Rights I oversee a number of human rights programs, including the Justice Defenders Program which provides pro bono legal assistance to human rights activists anywhere in the world who face retaliation as a result of their advocacy efforts. All too often, lawyers who take up the cause of human rights are themselves subject to harassment and persecution by governments and non-state actors.

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