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Former Amnesty International Secretary General to Teach at UB Law School

By Ilene Fleischmann

Release Date: January 14, 2011

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Irene Zubaida Khan is teaching at UB Law School this spring.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The immediate past secretary general of the influential human rights organization Amnesty International will teach two specialized seminars in human rights this spring at the University at Buffalo Law School.

Irene Zubaida Khan, who led the 2.2 million-member rights organization for more than eight years, will conduct the seminars "Business and Human Rights" and "Poverty and Human Rights" for a select group of second- and third-year law students. She will come to UB Law as a visiting professor at the invitation of UB Law Dean Makau W. Mutua, a well-known and well-connected figure on the international human rights stage.

"Irene Khan is a giant in the international human rights field," said associate professor Tara J. Melish, who directs the UB Law School's Human Rights Center. "Through her stewardship of Amnesty International over the last decade, she has helped transition the international human rights movement toward its next necessary phase -- one focused on voice, powerlessness and accountability to the poor. The opportunity to learn directly from her vast firsthand experience and expertise will be a highlight for every student in UB Law School's human rights program. We are both thrilled and honored to have her join us."

Khan's "Business and Human Rights" seminar will focus on the notion of corporate accountability for human rights, an emerging area of international law. Students will learn about the rapidly expanding scope and power of multinational corporations and efforts by activists and civil society members to hold them accountable for human rights violations.

Students in the "Poverty and Human Rights" seminar will draw from Khan's wide experience as they study the application of international human rights law to public policy initiatives designed to address the issue of poverty in the developing world. According to the course description, "The aim of the seminar is to generate a critical discussion around moral and legal issues relating to poverty, such as inequality, social justice, power and social change, what impoverishes people and keeps them poor, and how effective is the response of international human rights law and institutions to grass-roots action to fight poverty as well as international development policies and strategies."

At Amnesty International, Khan expanded the organization's vision, strategy and operations globally to encompass economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights, with particular emphasis on the human rights of women and girls. She expanded the group's presence in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and also led high-level missions to over 40 countries, engaging directly with heads of state and government leaders as well as with the United Nations, Arab League, European Commission, Council of Europe and Inter-Parliamentary Union. During her tenure, Amnesty's membership and income doubled.

Since completing her work with the group in December 2009, Khan has worked as an adviser to several international organizations and institutions in Bangladesh, her home country, on women's human rights, democracy and development projects. She is a 1979 graduate of Harvard Law School.

Since its founding in 1887, the University at Buffalo Law School – the State University of New York system's only law school – has established an excellent reputation and is widely regarded as a leader in legal education. Its cutting-edge curriculum provides both a strong theoretical foundation and the practical tools graduates need to succeed in a competitive marketplace, wherever they choose to practice. A special emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, public service and opportunities for hands-on clinical education makes UB Law unique among the nation's premier public law schools.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.