Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law Celebrates 25th Anniversary

From l to r: Dean Claudio Grossman, Director Macarena Saez,
Associate Director Melissa del Agulia, Prof. Juan Mendez, and Hadar Harris


For the past 25 years, the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law has worked with students, academics, practitioners, and activists to provide scholarship and support for human rights initiatives around the world.

American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL) established the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law in 1990 as part of its long-standing commitment to international human rights and the rule of law. In addition to serving as a clearinghouse for the wide scope of activity concentrated on human rights and humanitarian law at AUWCL, the Center has also created a host of original projects with partners around the world – bringing in experts and creating projects to support faculty initiatives, which have often been on the cutting edge of emerging areas of international law. All this has helped to ground the Center as a core resource to the NGO community and a bridge between academia and activists.

This year, the Center celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a daylong conference on April 12 with expert panel discussions examining several subjects, including the enforcement of international standards in the fight against torture, business challenges and human rights surrounding the case of Apple, promoting human rights in the U.S., and advancing human rights though impact litigation.

Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, gave the keynote address. Ms. Kennedy addressed attendees by quoting Robert F. Kennedy's famous line: "Law is the strongest link between people and freedom." She added that she was among human rights pioneers Dean Claudio Grossman and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez, who helped advance human rights law, education, and advocacy both domestically and internationally. "The RFK Center's work would not be possible without the support and partnership of American University Washington College of Law." 

Following the conference, a reception was held to recognize Hadar Harris for her 13 years of work at the Center. Harris, who served as the Center's Executive Director, now serves as the Executive Director of the Northern California Innocence Project. The Center also announced the launch of the new Human Rights Brief online.

"Our work with students has been humbling and inspiring. We strongly believe in the long-term impacts they can make in their personal and professional lives," says Melissa del Aguila, associate director of the Center. "At the end of the day, we're helping to create dynamic advocates and changemakers."