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Human Rights Activists Conference to Focus on Rule of Law in War on Terrorism

CONTACT: Kay Torrance

CONTACT: Nicky Lazar

ATLANTA…Human rights activists are often the first to sound the alarm bell on crises that escalate into conflict and even genocide, and they increasingly find themselves under attack from extremists and silenced by repressive regimes whose actions are overlooked because of their cooperation in the war on terrorism.

Alongside the promising development of democratic elections taking place in some countries, there are still mounting human rights violations worldwide. Governments label activists as "terrorists" in order to quash their work under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Some fear a trend of militarization and repression is emerging. Is the international community falling into a new Cold War-like paradigm, when dictators were propped up in the interest of fighting communism, as similar arguments are being used to bolster the arbitrary power of governments in the fight against terror? Do revelations of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan weaken human rights principles and erode the prospect for deepening the rule of law in new democracies and repressive countries alike?

These concerns will be addressed by human rights activists from around the world when they convene in Atlanta June 6-7 at The Carter Center to address how the international community can advance global security while protecting the rule of law. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, U.N. Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders Hina Jilani, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will be in attendance. The conference, entitled Human Rights Defenders on the Frontlines of Freedom: Advancing Security and the Rule of Law, is co-sponsored by The Carter Center and Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights).

"The best way to ensure democracy in any country is to support the work of grassroots activists who are on the front lines of protecting human rights and investigating violations," President Carter said. "Shaping foreign policy is every global citizen's responsibility and learning about the courageous work of these activists will help us do this."

Co-sponsor of the conference, Human Rights First has a long track record defending human rights activists around the world. "The international community must develop more consistent and effective ways to support pro-democracy and human rights movements as they tackle the complex challenges involved in establishing and nurturing democratic institutions and societies," said Michael Posner, executive director of Human Rights First.

Learn more about the Carter Center's Human Rights Initiatives

Conference participants will generate recommendations for governments and the United Nations to correct human rights violations and develop systematic dialogue with human rights activists, aimed at generating early responses to emerging patterns of abuse and violence. The recommendations will be disclosed at a press conference June 7 at 3 p.m.

Other conference participants include:

  • Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an activist and professor at American University in Cairo, who was sentenced to prison for allegedly tarnishing Egypt's image and later released after intense international pressure on the Egyptian government
  • Nozima Kamalova, director of Legal Aid Society, a leading organization investigating human rights abuses in Uzbekistan
  • Mufti Makarim Al-Alahlaq, secretary general of the Indonesian human rights organization Kontras, whose founder was poisoned in September 2004
  • Bo Kyi, a former political prisoner in Burma and founder of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
  • Betty Murungi, director of Urgent Action Fund and legal advisor on gender-related crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
  • Gustavo Gallón, director of the Colombian Commission of Jurists, an organization that documents human rights violations on all sides of the conflict in Colombia.



The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 65 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. Please visit to learn more about The Carter Center.

Human Rights First is a leading human rights advocacy organization based in New York City and Washington, DC. Since 1978, we have worked in the U.S. and abroad to create a secure and humane world-advancing justice, human dignity, and respect for the rule of law. All of our activities are supported by private contributions. We accept no government funds. Visit our Web site:

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