Amnesty International Leader to Speak at UB Law School

Also will meet with law students studying human rights and domestic violence

Release Date: October 3, 2007

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Irene Zubaida Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International, will present the UB Law School's 2007 Mitchell Lecture on Oct. 25.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Irene Zubaida Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International, will deliver the University at Buffalo Law School's Mitchell Lecture at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 25 in 106 O'Brian Hall on the UB North (Amherst) Campus.

The first woman, Asian and Muslim to serve as secretary general of Amnesty International, Khan will discuss "The Rule of Law and the Politics of Fear: Human Rights in the 21st Century." Her talk is free and open to the public.

Khan will address violence against women as a human-rights violation, the genocide in Darfur and human-rights implications of the war on terror. She also will address reforms she made at Amnesty International to make the organization more inclusive, universal and responsive to world events. For more information about the lecture, go to

"The Law School is excited to host this path-breaking world leader," said Dean Nils Olsen. "This is an historic time in the human-rights movement as new voices add additional perspectives, goals and ideas to the field. Amnesty International, one of the largest and most important human-rights organizations in the world, is fortunate to have Irene Khan at its helm."

Khan's visit to UB is at the invitation of SUNY Distinguished Professor of Law Makau Mutua, an internationally renowned advocate for human rights and director of UB's Human Rights Center. Khan consulted with Mutua as she initiated internal reforms that broadened Amnesty International's focus on human-rights abuses in southern hemisphere countries.

"Ms. Khan's reforms have opened a new window into Amnesty International and have made it a more legitimate organization across the world, especially in the global south," said Mutua, who is completing a book on human rights NGOs in East Africa. "We are honored to be graced by this human-rights advocate from the world's premier human-rights organization."

In addition to her formal lecture, Khan will speak to UB law students enrolled in Mutua's course on human rights and in a course on domestic-violence law taught by UB clinical law professor Suzanne Tomkins. Khan also will meet with UB Provost Satish K. Tripathi and Professor Stephen Dunnett, UB vice provost for international programs, among others.

Khan joined Amnesty International as the organization's seventh secretary general in August 2001. She took up the leadership of Amnesty International in its 40th anniversary year as the organization began a process of change and renewal to address the complex nature of contemporary human-rights violations, and confronted challenging developments in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Khan has broadened the work of Amnesty International in areas of economic, social and cultural rights. She also has focused on the issue of women's human rights and violence against women.

In recent remarks, Khan cited the power of individual activism in the struggle for human dignity.

"The need for individual activism has never been greater at a time when fear and failed leadership threaten peace and human rights today.

"A new agenda is in the making in which the rules are being rewritten for the benefit of the powerful and the privileged, while the real sources of insecurity -- such as poverty, violence, discrimination and HIV/AIDS, which affect the lives of many more -- go unaddressed," she said.

Prior to joining Amnesty International, Khan worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for 21 years, serving in many different parts of the world, including as deputy director in the Department of International Protection, chief of mission in India, senior legal advisor for Asia and senior executive officer to the High Commissioner.

The UB Law School's Mitchell Lecture series was endowed in 1950 by a gift from Lavinia A. Mitchell in memory of her husband James McCormick Mitchell, an 1897 graduate of the UB Law School.

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