Center Staff

Hadar Harris is the Center's executive director. As such, she is responsible for an annual program of 50-70 events and conferences, a variety of grant-funded programs and approximately 20 ongoing collaborative projects with students and NGOs around the world. These include current projects focused on the teaching of International Humanitarian Law; the integration of human rights approaches and legal arguments into the work of legal service providers (poverty lawyers); and the launch of a key web-based resource for the human rights community: hrbrief.org.

Ms. Harris is an international human rights attorney and specializes in issues of civil and political rights, gender equality, and domestic implementation of international norms. She has worked extensively in assessing and reviewing national compliance with international human rights treaties, working both with NGOs and governmental bodies and advising on implementation of recommendations. In Spring 2002, she piloted an assessment tool developed by the American Bar Association/CEELI to review national compliance with the provisions of the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The pilot project was run in Armenia and the final report was submitted for review to the United Nations and to the Armenian government. She developed an implementation protocol and consulted on similar assessments in Serbia, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Macedonia. She has assisted in developing shadow reports, government reports or trained government and civil society representatives on a variety of treaties in various parts of the world including Botswana, Israel, Lao PDR, Kosovo, and the United States.

In addition, Ms. Harris has worked on a variety of other human rights issues. In 2002, she consulted on proposed reforms to the Moroccan Criminal Procedure Code which resulted in 70% adoption of recommended changes by the Moroccan parliament. In 2001, she was involved in a trial on behalf of four Bosnian Muslims suing their Serbian torturer in U.S. Federal Court in Atlanta, Georgia, which resulted in nearly $140 million in damages awarded to the victims. From 2003-2006, she helped create the first-ever network of legal academics and activists discussing gender mainstreaming and legal education in India, the Gender and Law Association of India (GALA). Since 2006, she has run a collaborative project to build capacity for the Human Rights Studies Centre and Gender Studies Department at the University of Peshawar (Pakistan). Ms. Harris has worked as an international election observer with the UN/OSCE joint mission in Azerbaijan and taught law at Khazar University in Baku. She has also lived and worked in Jerusalem, where she was the Director of Program and Resource Development for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). Formerly, she served as the Executive Director of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a bipartisan legislative service organization of the United States House of Representatives.

Ms. Harris holds her B.A. in Political Science from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and her Juris Doctor in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).


Melissa C. del Aguila is the Center's assistant director and also serves as director of the Center's Human Rights Education Program. In this role, she is responsible for the implementation of several collaborative human rights education projects, including the USAID-sponsored Colombia-U.S. Human Rights Teaching and Research Partnership Program, the Speak Truth To Power Human Rights Teaching Fellows Program developed in collaboration with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and the Teaching International Humanitarian Law Initiative.  Ms. del Aguila has worked extensively on the issue of the right to education and has experience working with domestic legal accountability mechanisms in Colombia. In particular, she has worked on issues relating to the education, non-discrimination, and equal protection rights of Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples within the Inter-American Human Rights System, has presented as a panelist at the Colombian National Congress in Bogotá, and also assisted the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in developing observations and recommendations for the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Working Group charged with preparing a Draft Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance. Prior to law school, Ms. del Aguila served as a Princeton-in-Latin America Fellow at the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress in San José, Costa Rica, where she worked on projects relating to gender, political participation and human security. She has also held internship and research positions at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children, where she focused on issues relating to asylum law and human trafficking.

Ms. del Aguila earned an A.B. in Politics from Princeton University and a Juris Doctor in Law and LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from Cornell Law School.


Lauren E. Bartlett is director of the Center's Local Human Rights Lawyering Project. Ms. Bartlett is a former legal aid attorney who worked at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services from 2008-2011. In 2007, Ms. Bartlett co-founded the Louisiana Justice Institute, a nonprofit civil rights legal advocacy organization, where she focused on protecting the rights of persons affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Ms. Bartlett has extensive international human rights experience, including but not limited to providing numerous trainings on incorporating human rights law in everyday U.S. advocacy, providing live testimony to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing after Hurricane Katrina, and participating as a research assistant for a member of the United Nations Committee Against Torture. She has taught as an adjunct professor of law at both Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and at American University Washington College of Law. Before obatining her law degree, Ms. Bartlett worked with non-profit organizations in California, Nepal, Ghana, Bangladesh and India, alongside advocates fighting for social and environmental justice.

She received her B.A. from the University of California, Davis and is a graduate of American University Washington College of Law. Ms. Bartlett is admitted to practice law in California and Louisiana. Follow her on Twitter at @moony8888.


Maria Noel Leoni is coordinator of the Center’s Anti-Torture Initiative. Ms. Leoni has experience working on issues of gender equality, human rights and transitional justice mechanisms in post-conflict situations, and human rights impact litigation. She has worked as a Foreign Legal Specialist for the Public International Law and Policy Group, advising countries such as Libya and Tunisia on issues of transitional justice mechanisms, the drafting of constitutions and laws in accordance with international standards and international justice. She has also worked at the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), where she worked on the litigation of cases of torture and conditions of detention of women before the Inter-American System of Human Rights. While pursuing her LL.M., Ms. Leoni worked as a Research Assistant for the Academy of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. She also worked with the WCL International Human Rights Law Clinic, researching and filing petitions before the Inter-American System of Human Rights and domestic courts on cases related to internal displacement in Haiti, as well as crimes against humanity in the Colombian internal conflict. Previously, Ms. Leoni worked as a corporate and tax law attorney in Uruguay and Argentina, and has held internship positions at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington D.C. and at the Center for Implementation of Public Policies for Equality and Development in Buenos Aires, Argentina.    

Ms. Leoni holds her Juris Doctor in Law from the Universidad de Montevideo (Uruguay), a Diploma on Gender and the Law from the Universidad de la Republica (Uruguay), and an LL.M. in International Legal Studies and Human Rights from American University Washington College of Law.


Rebecca DeWinter-Schmitt is co-director of the Center's Human Rights in Business Program. Dr. DeWinter-Schmitt is an expert in business and human rights, in particular pertaining to the private military and security industry. She currently co-chairs Amnesty International USA’s (AIUSA) Business and Human Rights Group and chairs the Working Group on Private Military and Security Companies. In various capacities, she has been involved in multi-stakeholder efforts to develop standards for private security providers. Through her joint inter-disciplinary research with the Kogod School of Business, she is undertaking applied research to identify best practices in voluntary self- regulation as applicable to the private security industry.

Dr. DeWinter-Schmitt’s consulting and advocacy work are linked to her academic research interest in civil society efforts to ensure corporate accountability.

Until 2012, Dr. DeWinter Schmitt was an Assistant Professor at American University’s School of International Service’s Peace and Conflict Resolution Program, teaching courses on international affairs, human rights, ethics, economics of violence and peace, and corporate social responsibility. From 1998- 2002, Dr. DeWinter-Schmitt was a staff member of AIUSA, first in its National Field Program and then as Program Associate to the Just Earth! Program on Human Rights and the Environment.

In 2007, Dr. DeWinter-Schmitt received her PhD from American University’s School of International Service for her dissertation, “Business as Usual? The Mobilization of the Anti-sweatshop Movement and the Social Construction of Corporate Identity.” Dr. DeWinter-Schmitt received her master’s degree from the University of Marburg, Germany and her undergraduate degree from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.


John Richardson is co-director of the Center's Human Rights in Business Program . For the past fourteen years, Mr. Richardson has been CEO of JMR Portfolio Intelligence, Inc. a corporate governance and human rights consultant based in Washington DC.

He was formerly the Co-Director and President of the Center for Political Accountability, an advocacy group focused on corporate political giving. For Prior to forming JMR Financial Inc. in 1997, he was a Vice President with American Capital Strategies, an investment bank located in Bethesda, Maryland.

From 1993 to 1996, Mr. Richardson administered the pension investment program of the Laborers International Union of North America. He was responsible for overseeing both the corporate governance and the institutional shareholder programs. In addition, he was the union's Assistant Director of Research & Education. From 1990 to 1993, Mr. Richardson was the Special Projects Coordinator with the Southern California District Council of Carpenters and gained further experience as a research analyst and community organizer for the Service Employees International Union in Los Angeles. From 1983 to 1990 Mr. Richardson was President of the Labor Research Group in San Francisco, a consulting firm that helped construction trade unions to investigate public works construction projects, research, and organizing campaigns. He also worked as the Northern California Investigator for the Painting & Drywall Work Preservation Fund, in Oakland, California.

Mr. Richardson received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara, his Juris Doctor degree from Golden Gate University, in San Francisco and his LLM degree in International Law at American University, Washington College of Law in Washington DC.


Michael Baney is the Center's Program Coordinator.  Prior to working at the Center, Mr. Baney served Assistant to the Chair of the Department of Justice, Law & Society at the American University’s School of Public Affairs. He also served as the Development and Operations Coordinator at School of the Americas Watch, where, in addition to rasing a record amount of funds for the organization, he coordinated a successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit regarding the disclosure of U.S. training of Latin American troops implicated in human rights abuses. Mr. Baney additionally worked as a Research Assistant at the National Security Archive, where his work focused on human rights issues in Peru and Colombia. Mr. Baney also worked in Lima, Peru on a joint effort between the National Security Archive and the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos to obtain formerly-classified documents to use as evidence in the trial of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori on charges of murder and crimes against humanity. His research was cited by the Peruvian courts in their conviction of Fujimori as well as by the Peruvian Supreme Court of Justice in upholding the conviction. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from American University and is currently pursuing an M.A. in International Affairs as well as a Graduate Certificate in International Economic Relations at American University.