Human Rights Speakers

  • Janet Benshoof, Esq.

    President and Founder, Global Justice Center

    Janet Benshoof is an internationally recognized human rights lawyer who has established landmark legal precedents on women’s reproductive and equality rights, the right to free expression, freedom of religion, and gender crimes in transitional justice law. Ms. Benshoof has litigated in courts in over forty states and in the United States Supreme Court. As President of the Global Justice Center, Ms. Benshoof is currently developing new legal tools to implement gender equality, focusing on transitional democracies and enforcing criminal accountability during conflict. Ms. Benshoof has been selected by the National Law Journal as one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America”, and is the recipient of numerous awards including the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship in recognition of her singular contributions to advancing women’s legal rights.

    Ms. Benshoof graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Minnesota and received her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. As Director of the American Civil Liberties Reproductive Freedom Project, for fifteen years she spearheaded national litigation focusing on shaping Supreme Court jurisprudence on gender equality and reproductive choice. In 1992 Ms. Benshoof founded the first international human rights organization specializing in reproductive choice and equality, now the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). In the organization’s first ten years, under Ms. Benshoof’s leadership, CRR obtained consultative status to the UN, established legal projects in over 40 countries, and won major class action constitutional cases in the United States Supreme Court.

    Ms. Benshoof lectures at law schools and universities globally and has taught human rights law at Bard College and Harvard Law School. Ms. Benshoof is an international law advisor to several Burmese exile groups and is currently working on a project to refer the military in Burma to the International Criminal Court. Since 2005 Ms. Benshoof has conducted three human rights law trainings in Iraq, including a historic three-day training on gender rights and international law for Iraqi women leaders and the Judges of the Iraqi High Tribunal. This training resulted in the first legal decision by a high court in the Middle East according women rights under international law. In the precedential Anfal decision the Iraqi High Tribunal adopted the gender crimes standards of the International Criminal Court and held the officials directing the genocide guilty of rape as an element of genocide, crimes against humanity, and torture. Ms. Benshoof is also advising women from Burma and Kudistan, Iraq, on constitution drafting and writing a book on the exclusion of women in Burma from political leadership from 1886 to the present.

    Ms. Benshoof has published numerous articles in the Harvard Law Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The New York University Journal of International Law and Policy, the Law Ka Nat, a Journal of The Burma Lawyers’ Council, among other respected publications. She has appeared on the BBC, CBS evening news, Good Morning America, ABC evening news, Nightline, and McNeil /Lehr. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and served on its Burma Task Force.

  • Ejim Dike

    Urban Justice Center

    Ejim Dike is Director of the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center. She has worked on social policy issues for over ten years and in the domestic human rights arena for the past six years. Her human rights work focuses on addressing poverty and discrimination using a human rights framework. She recently coordinated a shadow report of over 30 local groups on racial discrimination in New York City for submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in December 2007. Since its inception in 2002, Ejim has coordinated the New York City Human Rights Initiative (NYCHRI), an organizing and legislative project to get principles based on two international anti-discrimination treaties enacted as a New York City ordinance. Ms. Dike came to the Urban Justice Center from the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, where she worked for several years to implement programs aimed at increasing access to employment in low-income neighborhoods. She has a Master of Urban Planning from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University. Ms. Dike moved to the United States from Nigeria in 1990, and speaks Igbo and French.

  • Andrea D. Friedman

    Senior Counsel, Global Justice Center

    Andrea Friedman is a human rights lawyer with a focus on international law and women’s rights. As Senior Counsel at the Global Justice Center, Ms. Friedman manages legal and advocacy projects working with women leaders in transitional democracies to enforce the international legal guarantees for women’s political and legal rights. Her work at the GJC has included advocating for women’s inclusion in the political process and constitution drafting within the exiled community of Burma and advancing women’s rights through the judiciary and legal reform in Iraq. Her article, “Using the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to Advocate for the Political Rights of Women in a Democratic Burma”, was published in the Summer 2005 issue in the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender. She has also been invited to speak as an expert on legal and judicial reform.

    Previously, Ms. Friedman was the Program Manager of the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where she worked on domestic and international women’s rights, including coordinating research and events on women in international development, women’s health, combating sex trafficking and women’s political participation. While at WAPPP, she helped to coordinate the first Women Waging Peace Colloquium, which brought together over 100 women from areas of conflict, and provided them with skills and advocacy training as well a forum for the exchange of ideas and strategies.

    Ms. Friedman holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. summa cum laude in Political Science from Tufts University where she was chosen to give the Wendell Phillips Commencement Address at Tufts. She currently resides in New York City. She is a frequent speaker at conferences and law schools on international law and human rights.

  • Cindy Soohoo

    Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School

    Cynthia Soohoo directs the Bringing Human Rights Home Project, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School and is a supervising attorney for the law school’s Human Rights Clinic. BHRH encourages U.S. compliance with international human rights law, including through the use of international and regional human rights mechanisms and the development of strategies to use human rights and comparative foreign law in U.S. courts. Ms. Soohoo has worked on U.S. human rights issues before U.N. human rights bodies, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and in domestic courts on issues including juvenile justice and challenges to the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies post-9/11. Prior to coming to HRI, she practiced law at the firm Covington & Burling for six years and was co-counsel in the landmark Alien Tort Statute case Doe v. Karadzic. Ms. Soohoo is on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Human Rights Network and the co-editor of a three volume book on human rights and the United States, entitled BRINGING HUMAN RIGHTS HOME.

    Ms. Soohoo is cum laude graduate of Williams College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was an editor of the Law Review and member of the Order of the Coif. She is a former law clerk to the Hon. Gerard L. Goettel, U.S.D.J., S.D.N.Y.

  • Caroline Bettinger-López

    Deputy Director, Human Rights Clinic, Columbia Law School

    Caroline Bettinger-López is the Deputy Director of the Human Rights Institute and a Lecturer in the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School. Caroline focuses on international human rights law and advocacy, including the implementation of human rights norms at the domestic level. Her main regional focus is the United States and Latin America, and her principal areas of interest include domestic violence and violence against women, gender and race discrimination, and immigrants’ rights. At Columbia, Caroline helps to coordinate the Human Rights in the U.S. Project and the Bringing Human Rights Home Lawyers’ Network. Prior to joining Columbia, Bettinger-López clerked for Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. in the Eastern District of New York and worked as a Skadden Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, Women’s Rights Project. At the ACLU she focused on employment and housing discrimination against domestic violence victims and low-wage immigrant women workers.