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Opening Remarks Dean Claudio Grossman and Mark Thomson

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1INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE PREVENTION OF TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT* Claudio Grossman is the Chair of the UN Committee Against Torture and Dean at American University Washington College of Law in Washington, DC. Mark Thomson is Secretary General for the Association for the Prevention of Torture in Geneva, Switzerland.Opening Remarks Dean Claudio Grossman and Mark Thomson*dE A n gr o s s M A nGo o d m o r n i n g . i w o u l d l i k e t o w e l c o m e a l l o f y o u t o t o d a y ’s in t e r n a t i o n a l co n f e r e n c e o n t h e Pr e v e n t i o n o f to r t u r e a n d ot h e r il l -tr e a t m e n t . This conference takes place as part of American University Washington College of Law’s (WCL) annual Founders’ Celebration. For those of you who are not familiar, WCL was the first law school in the world founded by women, in 1896, during a time when women were largely barred from attending law schools and participating in legal practice, purportedly because, at the time, women were considered “by nature” unsuited to understand the complexi-ties of the law. WCL’s two founding mothers, Ellen Spencer Mussey and Emma Gillett, thought that an essential component to achieving gender equality, and thus a better society, was the creation of an educational institution that would educate law-yers, without regard to gender, about the important values of the rule of law. A very relevant outgrowth of their message is the idea that if human beings can imagine a better society, we should not be afraid to fight what is regarded as “the conventional wisdom of the time.” We also need to be aware that because of the perfect-ibility of democracy and its institutions, we have an essential role to play in bringing about positive change. In pursuing this vision of a better society, our task is facilitated by the universal-ity of basic human rights. This universality provides a powerful narrative that the responsibility for the promotion and protection of human dignity is shared by everyone. Our founding mothers demonstrated a deep understanding of the value of universality, and provided expert advice in support of the struggle of women in other countries. Inspired by this compelling message, WCL organizes over 60 conferences each spring during our Founders’ Celebration, attracting more than 5,000 lawyers, judges, activists, students, and educators, among others, to explore the fundamental issues of our time. We are honored today to cosponsor this important event on the prevention of torture and other ill-treatment, as part of the 2009 Founders’ Celebration, with the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT). APT is a leading non-governmen-tal organization that has contributed to the prevention of torture since 1977. Through its many activities, APT has stressed, for example, the value of unannounced visits, the constant need for training, and the critical role of exchanging experiences through conferences such as today’s, to ultimately achieve the commonly-held goal of a world without torture.In the past, law schools were the only ones teaching, con-ducting research in the legal field, and storing the results of their research in libraries. Now, however, other institutions also con-tribute to the training and research in the legal realm. In today’s increasingly interconnected world, artificial barriers present an obstacle to, and conspire against, the possibility to be more effective. For these reasons, joint projects between academia and civil society organizations, such as this conference, become very relevant, as they bring together different perspectives and experiences that work toward achieving the common goal of preventing torture. Through our collaboration with APT, we have been able to convene top experts and renowned scholars and practitioners today to explore and contribute to that collective goal. The multidisciplinary expertise and the different backgrounds of the participants create a unique environment to explore the numer-ous issues involved: the legal, cultural, and political aspects involved in torture prevention. The message of WCL’s founding mothers continues to be valid today and serves as an important source of inspiration for the promotion of human rights. Their own belief in the value of the rule of law and in the role that lawyers could play in its real-ization applies just as forcefully to the prevention of torture as it applies to the struggle for gender equality. Their idea that all of us share a universal language of dignity also finds a direct appli-cation here as we understand that irrespective of geography, culture, politics or backgrounds, we recognize the commonality of all human beings. I want to thank the experts who are here. We tremendously value your presence and we look forward to your participation. Let me also say that we are very much indebted to Jennifer de Laurentiis, who coordinates WCL’s United Nations Committee Against Torture Project. We would not be convened here today if not for her dedication and participation. I want also to thank our law students. Our Human Rights Brief, which will publish a special issue with the conference proceedings, is a superb exam-ple of their professionalism and commitment to human rights.2Without further ado, I would like to invite Mark Thomson, APT’s Secretary General, to the podium. Again, I want to thank APT and Mark, personally, for what we will all accomplish today. MA r k th o M s o nle t m e s t a r t w i t h a f e w w o r d s o f t h a n k s . on b e h a l f o f t h e as s o c i a t i o n f o r t h e Pr e v e n t i o n o f to r t u r e , otherwise known as APT, I’d very much like to thank the Washington College of Law and particularly its Dean, Claudio Grossman, and Special Assistant Jennifer de Laurentiis, for their co-organization and hosting of this important event. I’m also very grateful for the preparatory work of our UN & Legal Program Officer, Marina Narváez, who started preparing for this meeting, with some of today’s Panelists, back in October 2007. We’re very fortunate to have together some of the world’s leading experts on torture prevention. And I’d also like to thank our panelists and moderators for their contributions and par-ticipation today. And


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