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Global human rights scholar to join College of Law

June 29, 2010

An anthropologist and human rights scholar who has chronicled atrocities and advocated for justice in dozens of countries, from Afghanistan and Haiti to Iraq and Sierra Leone, will join the faculty of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in the fall.

Daniel Rothenberg was named executive director of the college’s Center for Law and Global Affairs by Dean Paul Schiff Berman. Rothenberg currently is managing director for International Projects at the International Human Rights Law Institute, De Paul University College of Law in Chicago.

“Daniel Rothenberg melds a high-level scholarly intellect with the ability to translate ideas into actual positive change in the world,” Berman said. “As such, he is the perfect person to help make our Center for Law and Global Affairs into a world leader by pursuing law projects abroad and involving our students and faculty in seeking solutions to global challenges.”

Rothenberg’s research and writing focus on human rights, rule of law and transitional justice, particularly truth commissions, amnesty laws, tribunal and reparations. He said he is looking forward to the adventure of living in Arizona, where immigration and human rights are hot topics, and working with Laura Dickinson, the center’s faculty director and its renowned faculty members.

“I’m so impressed by what is happening at ASU, in general, and specifically at the College of Law,” he said. “It’s unique and exciting, and there’s no other law school in the country doing work like this. Paul and Laura are quite interested in the broad understanding of how the law affects life, how regulations affect the real world of people, and I’ve always been very interested in that.”

A former professor, Rothenberg also will teach a transitional justice course at the law school, in addition to directing the center. He is most enthusiastic about designing a project to research and create a set of human rights indicators for use in monitoring civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights.

“You can create healthcare policy to improve the lives of children, because you have a set of indicators – maternal mortality, infant mortality, life expectancy – which are widely accepted and understood,” Rothenberg said. “Human rights have no such set of indicators, and to create a baseline and subsequent measurement of that is one of the most exciting issues in human-rights work. This type of project will help position ASU as the place to do cutting edge rule of law/human rights governance work.”

Rothenberg’s upper middle-class upbringing in suburban Connecticut produced in him a desire to see how the other less fortunate lived. Following his graduation from Brown University, he hitchhiked around the United States, and later enrolled in a graduate program at a university in Peru, where his passion for social justice was solidified.

“It was a tumultuous time, punctuated by civil war and vast economic disparities, and I started working in a shanty town. Although I had traveled a lot, I had never lived with people who were really poor,” Rothenberg said. “I began to see how profoundly important policy decisions are in the real lives of people, and I saw how mistakes had enormously tragic costs.”

But his work also had an uplifting aspect, in that he found the soldiers, farm workers, border-crossers, children and parents he met in developing countries to be eloquent, dignified and fun, he said. “I met quite loving, very beautiful families who lived in dirt shacks,” he said. “Living that is quite transformative.”

At DePaul, Rothenberg has designed, managed and raised money for human rights and rule of law projects for the past five years. Among them: the documentation and analysis of victim testimonies of political violence in Iraq, establishment of grassroots legal clinics for indigenous peoples in Latin America, and policy planning on legal services delivery, assessment and institutional reform in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also has raised nearly $15.5 million for rule of law and human rights projects.

Rothenberger, who is fluent in Spanish, has two forthcoming books, "Guatamala: Memory of Silence" and "I Pray Never Again to See What I Saw in My Beloved Sierra Leone," and has written or edited three other books and dozens of articles.

He is a former senior fellow at the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School, a former assistant professor at the University of Michigan Department of Anthropology and a former visiting professor at both the University of Michigan Law School and the University of California, Irvine, Department of Criminology, Law & Society.

Janie Magruder,
(480) 727-9052
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law