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International Perspectives on the Obama Administration and Human Rights

Horacio Verbitsky

Center for Legal and Social Studies

69-year-old Horacio Verbitsky presides over Argentina’s Center for legal and social studies since 2000. He is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and of the Board of Human Rights Watch/Americas.  

Verbitsky is a political columnist with the Argentine newspaper "Página/12", author of twenty books and has been granted the Martín Fierro Award as the best journalistic anchorman in Argentine TV. In its November/December 1995 issue, "Columbia Journalism Review" termed him "Argentina's Mike Wallace, an aggressive, powerful and determined investigative reporter, respected for a consistent string of major stories". The Latin American Studies Association granted him its 1995/96 Media Award "in recognition of a long-term journalistic contribution to analysis and public debate about Latin America" and "outstanding media coverage".  The jury commended "his behavior during the military regime from 1976 to 1983, when Verbitsky performed an absolutely essential role investigating humans rights violations" and praised "his investigations on corruption in the Argentine State and on the packing of the Supreme Court". A survey conducted by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation revealed Verbitsky as the ideal journalist to his Argentine colleagues.  

His 20 books on political, economic, social, religious and military subjects and on the process of democratization had a strong impact in the public agenda. "Civil society and the military.  Secret memories of the transition" is about the trial to former Military Junta Chiefs and Alfonsin's pardon Act; "I steal for the Crown. The forbidden fruits of corruption" and "The packing of the Supreme Court” depicts political corruption in the Argentine government of the 1990’s and its control of the Judiciary. "The Flight, Confessions of a dirty-warrior" contains the chilling confession of a former Argentine Navy officer who threw out 30 people alive from naval planes into the Ocean during the so-called dirty-war. "A world without journalists" summarizes the battle of the Argentine press for freedom of expression. His last six books are a Political History of the Catholic Church in Argentina, and the impact of the religious right in Argentine society along a century.  

As president of CELS and former secretary general of the PERIODISTAS Association he got the repealing of the penal type of contempt (desacato), in 1993, and the decriminalization of slander in cases of public interest, in 2010, in both cases litigating through the Inter American System on Human Rights. From 2001 to 2011 he was a member of the Board of the Iberian-American New Journalism Foundation (Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano-FNPI), created by Gabriel García Márquez. 

In march 2001 a case brought by CELS jointly with the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, got the declaration as null and void of the pardon laws. This ruling was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2005 and permitted that today 300 cases are open in Argentine domestic courts and 167 convictions for gross human rights violations of the past dictatorship have been already pronounced.

Thulani Maseko

Managing Director
T.R. Maseko Attorneys, Swaziland

Thulani Rudolf Maseko is an admitted attorney of the Courts of Swaziland and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Law (BA Law) and a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB) from the University of Swaziland. He also holds a Masters Degree with Specialization in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa, from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. While pursuing his LLM he did short courses on Election Observation and International Law. Maseko had the privilege of doing an internship at the Constitutional Court of the Republic of South clerking for the then Chief Justice, Justice Pius N. Langa. Maseko is a founder member of Lawyers for Human Rights (Swaziland) as well the National Constitutional Assembly (Swaziland), which are civil society organizations involved in defending and promoting human rights and peaceful change in Swaziland. As a practicing lawyer, Maseko has handled a number of human rights cases and represented Lawyers for Human Rights (S) in a complaint filed with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights against the Kingdom of Swaziland. He is a constitutional and human rights defender and activist. On June 3, 2009 Thulani was arrested and charged under a draconian and oppressive piece of legislation, Seditious and Subversive Activities Act of 1938 after he had addressed a workers’ meeting during Workers’ Day Celebrations in the City of Manzini. He is currently out on bail and will go back to Swaziland to stand trial. Thulani believes in his innocence and that the arrest is merely to silence the voices of change in Swaziland. He is the US as a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow sponsored by the US Department of State under the Fulbright Fellowship Program.

Peter Starr


American University College of Arts and Sciences

Peter Starr joined American University as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in July 2009. In this role, he bears principal responsibility for 279 full-time faculty in 17 departments, 1650 undergraduate majors, 1150 graduate students, and an annual operating budget of $44M. His primary goals for the College include recruiting and supporting a more research-active and diverse College faculty, developing new, sharply-targeted doctoral programs in the sciences and humanities, and building bridges to partner organizations in the District and around the globe.

Before coming to AU, Starr was a professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California, where—but for a fellowship year at Harvard University—he had taught since 1985. In 2006-2007, Starr served as interim Dean of USC’s College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. In this role, he completed the College’s four-year Senior Hiring Initiative, markedly improved the College’s research support infrastructure, and raised a then-record amount toward the College’s $400M campaign goal.

Ruslan Garipov

The State and Law Disciplines' Department
Tatar State Humanitarian and Pedagogical University
Kazan, Russia

Ruslan is Chair of the Department of State and Law Disciplines at Tatar State Humanitarian and Pedagogical University in Kazan, Russia. His areas of interests are Human Rights, Self-Determination Rights, Democracy Development and Indigenous Peoples Rights Protection. Ruslan also lectures on International Law and Human Rights at various universities in Kazan.  

Prior to this Ruslan spent 6 months in the United States where he worked at the Kennan Institute of Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, United Nations in NYC and visited American Indian reservations in the south-west. 

He is a member of a number of non-profit organizations which include the Global Alliance for Justice Education (Nashville, Tennessee, USA) and the Russian Association of International Law (Moscow, Russia). He is also a member of the Council of Experts affiliated with Ombudsman of the Republic of Tatarstan, Corresponding Member of the Information Academy of the Republic of Tatarstan and Editorial staff member of the Kazan Journal of International Law. Ruslan also has practical experience in law. From 2005 to 2007, he worked as Chief Legal Adviser of Liquefied Gas Ltd., an affiliate of Gazprom and was Legal Adviser at the Republican Centre of Social and Psychological Assistance attached to the Ministry of Social Welfare of the Republic of Tatarstan in 2002 – 2003. 

He is now a Public Policy Scholar at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and International Visiting Scholar at American University, Washington College of Law.

He has a PhD in International Law and has published more than 60 scientific papers, including several articles in English (in the US and India). He is also a former Fulbright Scholar (2007) and Brazil Open Leaders Quest Participant (2009). As a result of his activity Ruslan was recognized as the best lecturer and scientist at the University in 2010. In his free time Ruslan likes to travel, read historical novels, cook, play sports and spend time with wife Guzel and little son Oscar.

Fernanda Nicola

Associate Professor of Law
American University Washington College of Law

Fernanda Giorgia Nicola joined the WCL faculty in Fall of 2006. She is an expert in European and Comparative Law, the law of the European Union, Contracts and Tort Law. Prior to teaching at the WCL, Fernanda was an Adjunct Professor of Law at the New England School of Law. She has also taught at Harvard Law School and the University of Turin Law School at the ILO Training Center of Turin. She has been a summer associate and law clerk at Goodwin Procter, LLP in Boston, a research assistant at Harvard Law School, and a trainee attorney at Studio Legale Ferreri in Turin, Italy. In 1995, she was an intern at the European Parliament in the Civil Rights, Civil Liberties Committee; and in 1996, at the Council of Europe, Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly.  

Professor Nicola holds an SJD from Harvard Law school and a Ph.D. in Comparative Law from Trento University, Italy. She received her Laurea in Legge (J.D. Equivalent) from the University of Turin Law School in Italy; A Postgraduate in International Trade Law, European University Institute of Turin; Laurea in Scienze Politiche (B.A. in Political Sciences) from the University of Turin and a Certificat d'Etudes Politiques in International Relations, from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques, Sciences Politiques, Strasbourg (France).