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ASU human rights seminars focus on African issues

October 28, 2008

Two upcoming seminars at Arizona State University’s West campus will focus on issues critical to Africa’s future. Both events feature prominent attorneys who are directly involved with advancing human rights in Africa in innovative ways. One speaker will argue that countries have a legal obligation to provide food for the poor and marginalized. The other has recently filed a legal petition against his native country of Eritrea for widespread human rights abuses.

“The Right to Food in South Africa: Giving Substance to Socioeconomic Rights” will be addressed on Nov. 3 from noon to 1:30 p.m., in the University Center Building, La Sala C. The speaker is Dave Holness, director of the Campus Law Clinic at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. Holness is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa, focusing on public interest litigation and legal awareness. He has traveled throughout South Africa’s rural Eastern Cape province, assisting community-based paralegal offices in meeting the needs of indigent clients. His writings address the realization of socio-economic rights, with a focus on the constitutional right to food.

“The Human Rights Situation in Eritrea: The Promise Betrayed” is the subject of a seminar on Nov. 10 from noon to 1:30 p.m., in room 180 of the CLCC Building. Eritrean human rights activist Simon Weldehaimanot is the speaker. Weldehaimanot received the TMF Human Rights Fellowship at Columbia University. He has worked as a legal officer for the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (in Banjul, the Gambia) and for the International Centre for Transitional Justice (in New York). Weldehaimanot has filed a complaint against the government of Eritrea before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Both events, on ASU’s West campus at 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in Phoenix, are free and open to the public. (There is a fee for visitor parking on campus.)

The seminars are presented by the Master of Arts in Social Justice and Human Rights (MASJHR) degree program. Housed in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, the master’s program admitted its first group of students in August.

“Mr. Holness and Mr. Weldehaimanot are leading attorneys working in very creative ways to advance human rights in Africa,” says William Simmons, associate professor of social and behavioral sciences and MASJHR program director. “Meeting them will be an invaluable experience for our students, and we also are pleased to offer the public an opportunity to meet them and to learn first-hand about issues that are vital to the advancement of human rights around the world.”

For information about the Nov. 3 and Nov. 10 seminars, contact Tosha Ruggles at (602) 543-6241 or Details about the MASJHR program may be found at