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Summer Human Rights Institute

Faculty Biographies

  • Julie Mertus, Professor, American University
  • Bonnie Docherty, Senior Researcher, Human Rights Watch; Lecturer, Harvard Law School
  • Joseph Eldridge, University Chaplain, American University
  • Robert Tomasko, Writer & Busines Consultant
  • Janet E. Lord, Senior Partner, BlueLaw international LLP & Research Associate, Harvard Law School Project on Disability
  • Cathy Albisa, Constitutional and Human Rights Lawyer

Julie Mertus is a Professor and Co-Director of the MA program in Ethics, Peace and Global Affairs at American University. During academic year 2006-2007, she was a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Denmark where she is working with the Danish Institute of Human Rights. A graduate of Yale Law School, her work focuses on human rights, U.S. foreign policy, refugee and humanitarian law and policy, gender and conflict and post-war transitions. Her geographic expertise is in Central and Eastern Europe, with a specialty on the former Yugoslavia, but she has also participated in human rights projects in such diverse places as Vietnam, Brazil, China, Jordan and South Africa. Her prior appointments include: Senior Fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace; Human Rights Fellow, Harvard Law School; Writing Fellow, MacArthur Foundation, Fulbright Fellow (Romania), and Counsel, Human Rights Watch.

As a scholar, Professor Mertus has published widely. Her book Bait and Switch: Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy (Routledge, 2004) was named "human rights book of the year" by the American Political Science Association Human Rights Section. Her other books include: Human Rights and Conflict (United States Institute of Peace, 2006)(editor, with Jeffrey Helsing); The United Nations and Human Rights (Routledge, 2005); Kosovo: How Myths and Truths Started a War (U. Cal. Press 1999), War's Offensive Against Women: The Humanitarian Challenge in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan (Kumarian, 2000); The Suitcase: Refugees' Voices from Bosnia and Croatia (U. Cal. Press, 1999); and Local Action/Global Change (UNIFEM 1999)(with Mallika Dutt and Nancy Flowers). Her work has also appeared in leading multi-disciplinary journals such as: Ethics and International Affairs, Global Governance, International Studies Perspectives, International Feminist Journal of Politics and The Harvard International Review.

As a practitioner, Professor Mertus has nearly twenty years experience in the human rights field, as a field researcher, lawyer, advocate, political analyst and trainer. At the international level, she has conducted human rights trainings with NGOs, political leaders, school teachers and student activists in over a dozen countries. She has also served as a consultant on human rights and humanitarian issues to UNHCR, the Humanitarianism and War Project, the Watson Institute for International Affairs, Women Waging Peace, OXFAM, the Soros Foundation, and many other nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations. She has also appeared as an expert witness in asylum proceedings and has offered expert commentary on CNN, NPR, and Voice of America, and in such newspapers as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and The International Herald Tribune.

As a teacher, Professor Mertus has been recognized for her innovative course designs and interactive teaching. Among several colleagues, she has been a pioneer in distance learning teaching, offering at least one distance learning course each spring for the past three years. She has written curriculum for several human rights courses and her own book on teaching women's human rights has been translated and used in Albanian, Arabic, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Thai and Ukrainian. In 2003, she received the School of International Service, American University Faculty Award for Outstanding Curriculum Development, and in 2002 and 2006, the School of International Service, American University Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Professional Service. In 2005, Professor Mertus won the School of International Service award for Scholar/Teacher of the Year.

Read more about Julie Mertus' publications and work.


Bonnie Docherty is a lecturer on law at the International Human Rights Clinic in Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program and a senior researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW). Docherty is an expert on international humanitarian law, particularly involving cluster munitions and civilian protection during war. She investigated cluster munition use and/or the conduct of war in Georgia (2008), Lebanon and Israel (2006), Gaza (2006), Iraq (2003), and Afghanistan (2002). She produced an HRW report from each of these field missions. She also actively participated in negotiations for the new Convention on Cluster Munitions, lobbying states and providing legal advice at conferences in Lima, Vienna, Wellington, Dublin, and Oslo from 2007-2008. At the Harvard Clinic, her areas of focus include international humanitarian law, human rights and the environment, and freedom of expression. She received her A.B. from Harvard University and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. Before law school, she worked as a journalist for three years.

In addition to her HRW work, her publications include “Breaking New Ground: The Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Evolution of International Humanitarian Law,” 31 Human Rights Quarterly 934 (2009); “‘More Sweat…Less Blood’: U.S. Military Training and Minimizing Civilian Casualties,” Carr Center for Human Rights Policy (2007); “The Time is Now: A Historical Argument for a Cluster Munitions Convention,” 20 Harvard Human Rights Journal 53 (2007); “Challenging Boundaries: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and International Environmental Law Protection,” 10 NYU Environmental Law Journal 70 (2001); “Defamation Law: Positive Jurisprudence,” 13 Harvard Human Rights Journal 263 (2000); “Maine’s North Woods: Environmental Justice and the National Park Proposal,” 24 Harvard Environmental Law Review 547 (2000).


Joseph Eldridge is the University Chaplain of American University and responsible for managing the programs of the Kay Spiritual Life Center. For over 25 years he has been involved with Latin American human rights and development issues. He founded an NGO, the Washington Office on Latin America, and established the Washington operation of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First). He was recently received the Louis B. Sohn award from the United Nations Association for his contributions to advancing human rights. He has a doctor of divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary.


Robert Tomasko has had a career that has straddled the worlds of activism and business. He is author of four management books and has worked as a consultant on issues of organization and strategy to companies including Coca-Cola, Exxon, Infosys, Marriott, Mitsubishi, Petroleum Authority of Thailand, and Toyota. He has been an advisor to UNICEF and the Auditor General of Canada. For seven years he evaluated the performance of the American companies who were signatories of the Sullivan Principles on how well they violated the apartheid laws of South Africa. He studied organization at Harvard Business School and with Saul Alinsky. He has a masters degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education where he specialized in organizational learning. He is also a Professorial Lecturer in the School of International Service at American University where he teaches courses in NGO management, social entrepreneurship, and effective activism.


Janet E. Lord is a senior partner at BlueLaw International, LLP, a service-disabled, veteran-owned international law and international development firm based in Washington, DC where she directs and implements human rights, disability & democracy and governance programming. She has worked with human rights organizations in more than 25 countries worldwide, most recently in Iraq, Armenia, Mexico, and Zambia. She is also Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Maryland where she teaches health and human rights law and Research Associate at the Harvard Law School Project on Disability. An international lawyer by training, she holds law degrees from the University of Edinburgh (LLB; LLM) and the George Washington University Law School (LLM). Janet participated in all of the negotiating sessions for the UN Disability Convention, serving as legal advisor to Disabled Peoples’ International and providing counsel to lead governments, including Mexico and Costa Rica. She has taught part-time at American University, School of International Service since 1996. She has published both scholarly and practitioner-oriented works on the human rights disability and, most recently, she co-authored Human Rights YES!, a participatory human rights education manual on the rights of persons with disabilities.


Cathy Albisa is a constitutional and human rights lawyer with a background on the right to health. Ms. Albisa also has significant experience working in partnership with community organizers in the use of human rights standards to strengthen advocacy in the United States. She co-founded NESRI along with Sharda Sekaran and Liz Sullivan in order to build legitimacy for human rights in general, and economic and social rights in particular, in the United States. She is committed to a community-centered and participatory human rights approach that is locally anchored, but universal and global in its vision. Ms. Albisa clerked for the Honorable Mitchell Cohen in the District of New Jersey. She received a BA from the University of Miami and is a graduate of Columbia Law School.