The City College of New York

The series of lectures, conversations, film showings, exhibitions, and courses brings together faculty, students, and staff at CCNY and the New York City community to examine human rights through multiple lenses.



Human Rights Forum 2015-2016 Launch

The Future of Human Rights

Guest Speakers: Aryeh Neier, Gay McDougall, Martina Vandenberg, moderated by Eric Weitz

Monday, October 5, 2015

6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Shepard Hall, The Great Hall

Human Rights: A Multiyear Forum at the City College creates a space for discussion about one of the most critical issues of our time. The series of lectures, conversations, film showings, exhibitions, and courses brings together faculty, students, and staff at CCNY and the New York City community to examine human rights through multiple lenses. Individual events will focus on the history of human rights, questions of humanitarian intervention, and particular cases of violations abroad and at home. The forum aims to develop a critical perspective on human rights and to ask how we work towards justice for victims and bear witness to human rights violations.


Aryeh Neier is president emeritus of the Open Society Foundations. He was president from 1993 to 2012. Before that, he served for 12 years as executive director of Human Rights Watch, of which he was a founder in 1978. He worked 15 years at the American Civil Liberties Union, including eight years as national executive director. He served as an adjunct professor of law at New York University for more than a dozen years, and has also taught at Georgetown University Law School and the University of Siena (Italy). Since 2012, he has served as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Paris School of International Affairs of Sciences Po.

Gay J. McDougall served as the first United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues from 2005 to 2011. She was executive director of the international NGO Global Rights from 1994 to 2006. From 1997 to 2001, she served as an Independent Expert on the UN treaty body that oversees compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, during which time she negotiated the adoption of General Recommendation XXV on the Gender Dimensions of Racial Discrimination, which requires governments to report explicitly on the situation of women impacted by racial discrimination. She played a leadership role in the UN Third World Conference Against Racism.

Martina E. Vandenberg is the founder and president of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center (HT Pro Bono). Vandenberg has spent nearly two decades fighting human trafficking, forced labor, rape as a war crime, and violence against women. Vandenberg has represented victims of human trafficking pro bono in immigration, criminal, and civil cases. She has testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, the Helsinki Commission, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House Armed Services Committee on an array of human rights issues.

Eric D. Weitz is Dean of Humanities & Arts and Distinguished Professor of History at the City College of New York. Trained in modern European and German history, his work in recent years has extended to the history and politics of international human rights and crimes against humanity. Weitz is a frequent lecturer in public and academic settings, especially on the historical development of human rights and on comparative genocides.


The US Counter-terrorism Policy and the Undermining of Human Rights

Guest speakers: Jonathan Horowitz, Avram Ludwig, and Larry Siems, moderated by Danielle A. Zach

Monday, November 9, 2015

6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
The City College of New York, Center for Worker Education
25 Broadway, 7th floor

In the wake of September 11, Americans were offered a false choice between the safeguarding of individual rights and national security. Since then, as the US government opted in favor of the latter, hundreds of individuals have been imprisoned for years, held in legal limbo, denied due process, and subjected to torture in Guantánamo Bay detention center (Gitmo), in secret CIA facilities around the world, and in the prisons of foreign countries known to commit abuses. While rights advocates charged that such practices undermined the rule of law, domestically and internationally, and damaged human rights norms, proponents claimed that indefinite detention, rendition, and “enhanced interrogation techniques” were necessary to combat threats to the United States.  Fourteen years into the Global War on Terror, the proposed tradeoff between security and human rights has been exposed as a false one: injustice fuels support for radicalism, undermines international cooperation, and tears the moral fabric of global society. This panel examines the legal and ethical implications of Gimto and other counter-terror practices, their long-term legacy, and how and why securing human rights is not only a moral imperative, but also indispensable to national and international peace and security.



Jonathan Horowitz, Legal Officer, Open Society Justice Initiative

Jonathan Horowitz is a legal officer for the Open Society Justice Initiative. He focuses on issues of human rights, national security and counterterrorism, and the law of armed conflict.

Prior to joining the Justice Initiative, Horowitz worked at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul where he advised the embassy on detention policies. Previously, he was an Open Society Foundations grantee documenting detainee and night-raid abuses in Afghanistan. As the research director at One World Research, he also managed a team of investigators who documented human rights abuses in Pakistan, provided factual research for asylum lawyers, and was an investigator for habeas lawyers representing Afghan nationals detained at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. Horowitz has also worked as a Sudan/Chad analyst at the International Criminal Court and as a consultant for Human Rights Watch. From 2005 to 2007, he was a U.N. human rights officer in Sudan.

Horowitz obtained an LLM from the University of Essex in 2004 and has published on the application of human rights in times of armed conflict; international law pertaining to transfers of conflict-related detainees; human rights fact-finding methodologies; and the “Responsibility to Protect” in Darfur. He has also authored and co-authored several reports that document human rights abuses in the context of armed conflict and counterterrorism.



Avram Ludwig, Producer, Reckoning With Torture

Noted for his collaborations with directors Doug Liman and Amos Kollek, Avram Ludwig’s most notable productions have included: Swingers and Fair Game. He is in preproduction on George Orwell’s first novel, Burmese Days, to be shot on location in the Far East starring Ralph Finnes. He is developing Attica, Attica! with Liman about the famed prison insurrection in Upstate New York in 1971 and recently directed the successful political commercial, “America the Beautiful,” against the Ryan Plan to privatize Medicare, depicting Paul Ryan throwing Grandma off the cliff.



Larry Siems, Editor, Guantánamo Diary

Larry Siems was born in St. Louis, Missouri and grew up in New Hope, Minnesota, graduating from Neil Armstrong High School in 1977. He studied English and Classical Greek at the University of Notre Dame and poetry in the MFA program at Columbia University, and he was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in 1987-1988.

Since then, he has balanced writing and activism, publishing scores of articles on human rights and cross-cultural themes and serving for many years as director of Freedom to Write Programs for the writers advocacy organization PEN, first at PEN USA in Los Angeles and then at PEN American Center in New York. His work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Slate, The Nation, LA Weekly, and Ironwood, Epoch, and Southern Poetry Review. 

He has three books: Between the Lines: Letters Between Undocumented Mexican and Central American Immigrants and Their Families and Friends (Ecco 1992, University of Arizona Press 1993); The Torture Report: What the Documents Say About America’s Post 9/11 Torture Program (OR Books, 2012); and Guantánamo Diary (2015). 


Danielle A. Zach, Moderator, Acting Director of Human Rights Studies and Postdoctoral Fellow, City College, CUNY

Danielle A. Zach is Acting Director of Human Rights Studies at The City College of New York, CUNY; and Frances S. Patai Postdoctoral Fellow in Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies at The City College’s Department of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the Center for Worker Education (CWE). She is also Senior Editorial Associate and Research Fellow at The CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, and Visiting Scholar of Irish Studies at New York University. Her research interests include civil wars and violence, social movements, immigration, and transnationalism, and human rights, global governance, and international organization. She is co-author of the report Burden-sharing Multilevel Governance: A Study of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (OEF, 2013). She is currently working on a manuscript on diaspora-insurgent transnationalism.