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Inter-American Defense College Hosts its first Seminar on Human Rights

WASHINGTON, DC (April 8, 2008) - The Seminar on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the Western Hemisphere, which began at the Inter-American Defense College last Monday, is the first of its kind for this institution.

Nine guests joined Class 47’s 54 students in welcoming a litany of world-renown speakers. The speakers, all experts in their field, included Hadar Harris and Ann Jordan of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Washington College of Law, American University; Aleardo Ferreri, Senior Delegate to the Armed Forces, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); José Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director, Americas Division, Human Rights Watch; and GEN(Ret) Otto Pérez Molina of the Guatemalan Army.

The seminar, which consists of lectures, panels and workgroups, was organized in close partnership with Washington College of Law and the ICRC.

In her opening remarks, IADC Director, Rear Adm. Moira Flanders said the theme of the seminar was appropriate and timely. She pointed out that on April 4, throughout the United States, people had commemorated the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., “who certainly is known throughout the world for his work on civil rights and human rights.”

“Working on human rights and civil rights is not something you do because it looks good on your resume,” said Flanders. “It’s something we need to do every single day because it’s work that is performed every single day that is important for everyone in our hemisphere and throughout the globe.”

“It is quite relevant that people understand the importance of analyzing the facts, causes and consequences of human rights violations and international humanitarian law,” added IADC seminar coordinator and advisor Col. Julio Souffront (Dominican Republic). “In my opinion, that is the only way to prevent reoccurrences of the kind of human rights violations we have seen in the past.”

Class 47 student Capt. Freddy Cabrera, whose country, Colombia, was the focus of many of the week’s discussions, said the most important thing one can take from this seminar is the urgency of a close working relationship between military and civilian authorities to combat human rights violations.

“Every military person, from the person seated at the top to the lowest ranking officer has an obligation to protect the people of their country,” said Cabrera. “Military and civilian authorities need to work together if they want to retain the trust of the people, and develop relationships within villages and towns that will help them investigate human rights violations.”  

The IADC, located on Fort Lesley J. McNair, is one of the foremost institutes of learning for senior-level military, police, and diplomatic officials with an interest in security and defense issues facing Latin America today. An entity of the Organization of American States, the IADC is able to offer approximately 60 students a year from member states of the OAS an unparalleled educational and research experience. Former IADC students include two presidents, 31 ministers, 539 generals or admirals and 11 other high-ranking officials.