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Human Rights Conference to Explore the Use of Torture

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March 27, 2007 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Sister Diana Ortiz -- an Ursuline nun from New Mexico who was a victim of torture in Guatemala and today directs the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International -- will deliver the honorary address at the Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights March 29 through 31. The conference exploring domestic and global aspects of torture will take place on the University's Evanston campus.

Free and open to the public, the event brings together distinguished academics, activists, and policy makers from around the globe to take a critical look at torture from historical, political, psychological, cultural, legal, health and other perspectives to the McCormick Tribune Center, 1870 Campus Drive. It also provides a forum for selected undergraduate and graduate student delegates from more than 30 universities and colleges across the country to discuss this crucial issue.

Other speakers include the authors of “Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture,” “The Abu Ghraib Effect,“ “A Lexicon of Terror”; physicians, psychologists and mental health care workers who have treated and trained others to treat torture victims; a retired U.S. Army interrogator; the Washington bureau chief of the online magazine Salon; a professor at The U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's School; and the lead counsel in a Supreme Court case against the government involving the detentions at Guantanamo.

Sister Ortiz will open the conference at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 29, when she delivers the honorary address about her work with torture victims in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive, Evanston campus. All conference events will take place in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum.

Friday (March 30) morning and afternoon panels will explore the ecology of torture (10 a.m.), torture in a historical context (1 p.m.), and torture in the media and culture (3:30 p.m.). The day's keynote address by M. Cherif Bassiouni, who in 2004 was appointed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan.

Saturday (March 31) will include panels on health and torture (9 a.m.), on women and torture (1:30 p.m.) and a panel of torture survivors (4 p.m.). Marijana Senjak will speak at 7 p.m. prior to an 8 p.m. screening of the film “Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams (Esma's Secret).” Now program director of a multi-ethnic trauma treatment and therapy center, Senjak was a consultant to the film's director on the psychological effects of rape on women during the Bosnian War.

The human rights conference is organized by students with support from the Office of the President; Office of the Provost; Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences; Roberta Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies; and departments of African American Studies, anthropology, English, history and political science; and the international studies program. For further information or a complete schedule of events, visit http://www.nuchr.org/ or call (847) 828-6009.