Human Rights the Focus of Recent Visit to U.N.

The Hon. Joseph H. Melrose recently accompanied several Ursinus students to the United Nations in New York City. The trip, the Fifth Annual Emilio Mignone Lecture, was an opportunity to learn more about the topic of transitional justice and featured speakers.  “This was a great opportunity for a group of Ursinus students interested in Social Justice to hear from two of the leading practitioners in the field of Human Rights about some of the problems they have encountered in their careers,” says Melrose, Acting U.S. Representative for Management and Reform at the United States Mission to the United Nations.

Jessica McIlhenny 2011, who is majoring in International Relations and French, wanted to better understand transitional justice and what type of role it plays in places that have been plagued by violations of human rights. “Because the subject of the discussion focused on the dilemmas of human rights fact finding, I learned just how difficult it can be for fact finding missions to report objective information that can then be later used to analyze the situation at large. Many factors come into play when human rights violations occur. Producing information that is not only valid but also pertinent is more difficult than one would hope.”

McIlhenny is working on an honors thesis in which she is analyzing current Turkish politics. “I’m writing three chapters, each with a different focus. For my third chapter, I’ll be writing about Human Rights in Turkey. I would love to eventually work for an NGO that works to promote human rights.”

The discussions included the speakers’ experiences with Truth Commissions and International Criminal Tribunals (such as the one set up for the former Yugoslavia). The two speakers, Radhika Coomaraswamy and Richard Goldstone, had very different experiences with transitional justice, says Carolyn Smith 2011, an International Relations and French major. Smith was selected to attend as president of the International Relations Club. She is working on an Honors Thesis in International Relations and an Honors Paper in French on the exotic in 19th century French literature.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, is an Undersecretary General and the Secretary General’s Special representative for Children in Armed Conflict. Richard Goldstone has often worked for the international community as a judge in these trials, or heading commissions to fact-find about some of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. “Their dialogue was rich and interesting, especially since their experiences and viewpoints were often different,” says Smith.  – KC , Photo by Allison Cavanaugh, 2013