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“Defending Dissent” Conference Draws Human Rights Activists, Lawyers and Scholars – April 13-14


The Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU School of Law will host “Defending Dissent: Human Rights and Civil Society in the Global Crackdown,” a conference that brings together leading human rights activists, lawyers, and scholars from India, China, Russia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Turkey, and Egypt.

“Defending Dissent” Conference Draws Human Rights Activists, Lawyers and Scholars – April 13-14

Facing a growing attack on dissent around the globe, human rights advocates are engaged in a creative and critical fight to defend fundamental rights and freedoms. On April 13-14, 2017, the Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU School of Law will host “Defending Dissent: Human Rights and Civil Society in the Global Crackdown,” a conference that brings together leading human rights activists, lawyers, and scholars from India, China, Russia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Turkey, and Egypt to share legal strategies to safeguard crucial spaces for dissent.

These strategies encompass litigation, legal empowerment, network building, and leveraging the Internet as forms of resistance. “When democratic leaders openly deride institutions like the judiciary and the free press, there is an urgent need to build solidarity and learn from global activists and movements who have experienced similar challenges,” said Sukti Dhital, deputy director of the Bernstein Institute.

Speakers include fearless and outspoken critics of authoritarianism like Zelalem Kibret, Ethiopian law professor and co-founder of the award-winning Zone 9 blogging collective, Yara Sallam, Egyptian feminist and human rights advocate, Xiao Qiang, legendary Chinese human rights activist and MacArthur genius, Olga Sadovskya, leading Russian human rights lawyer with expertise on torture cases, and Biraj Patnaik, Indian human rights activist and Amnesty International’s South Asia Director. Panelists will spotlight lessons and tactics to counter the crackdown of dissent within their countries and regions, draw parallels to the current American political landscape, and offer strategies to counter the closing of safe space around the world.

With “serious threats” to civil freedoms documented in more than 100 countries in 2015, governments are engaged in a systematic attack on human rights values, institutions, and advocates. Maina Kiai, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association observes that the world is experiencing a “democratic recession,” with governments passing restrictive laws regulating the operation of NGOs, policing freedom of speech, and engaging in extra-legal forms of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders.

“As government repression escalates, a resilient network of lawyers, activists, and academics continue to innovate to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Margaret Satterthwaite, professor of clinical law at NYU Law and faculty director of the Bernstein Institute. “‘Defending Dissent’ offers a space to hear their stories of resistance and to build new collaborative efforts aimed at defending human rights in the face of rising repression.”

The event takes place at Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012. Space is limited and registration is required.

Reporters interested in attending the event must RSVP to Michelle Tsai, NYU’s Office of Public Affairs, at 212-998-6849 or michelle.tsai@nyu.edu.