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Biographies of Panelists

Mariclaire Acosta
Marta Altolaguirre
Carlos Ayala
Marcela Briceño-Donn
His Lordship, the Hon. Chief Justice Sir Dennis Byron
The Hon. Chief Justice Abdulai Osman Conteh of Belize
Roberto Cuéllar
Katherine M. Gorove
Professor Lucie Lamarche

Juan E. Méndez
Pedro Nikken
Professor Flavia Piovesan
Clare K. Roberts
Dr. Leopoldo H. Schiffrin
Jorge E. Taiana
Rodrígo Uprimny
Professor Penny White
José Zalaquett
Professor Leo Zwaak

Mariclaire Acosta

Mariclaire Acosta is the Deputy Secretary for Human Rights and Democracy at the Mexico Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Preceding her appointment to Deputy Secretary, Amb. Acosta served as Special Ambassador for Human Rights and Democracy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Advisor to the Social Convergence Working Group for Civil Organizations, Political Coordinating Office, Transition team of President-Elect Vicente Fox. Amb. Acosta’s involvement with human rights also encompasses a wide spectrum of non-profit, public and private activities. She is a founding member and former President of Comision Mexicana de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos (Non-profit Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights), a founding member and former Executive Director of Academia Mexicana de Derechos Humanos (Mexican Human Rights Academy) and served as Chairperson of the Mexican section of Amnesty International amongst other posts held. Amb. Acosta has also lectured extensively.

Marta Altolaguirre

Marta Altolaguirre is currently the President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and has been a Member of the Commission since January 2000. During her time on the Commission, Commissioner Altolaguirre has also acted as its Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women. Prior to her election to the Commission, Commissioner Altolaguirre served as Chair of the Presidential Steering Commission for Executive Policy in Human Rights in Guatemala, and held numerous other advisory and representative positions with the Government of Guatemala. Her duties in this regard have included participating in proceedings on behalf of the Government of Guatemala before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Commissioner Altolaguirre has published and lectured extensively on human rights, economics and other domestic and foreign policy issues. She is an attorney and notary, and completed her graduate studies in Juridical and Social Sciences and post-graduate studies in Political Science at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala.

Carlos Ayala

Dr. Ayala is the former chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (OAS). Prior to this appointment he was the Rapporteur for Latin American Indigenous People Rights Matters. Dr. Ayala served as President of the Venezuelan Association of Constitutional Law and was bestowed the honour of President Honoris Causa in 1998. He is a Member of the Board of the Latin American Institute of Constitutional Law and member and Director of the Andean Commission of Jurists. He is also a Member of the Institute of Research of the State at Universidad de Belgrano, Argentina and of the Argentinean, Colombian and Peruvian Constitutional Law Associations respectively. Currently he is a Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law at Universidad Catolica “Andres Bello” (UCAB) and Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) and has been the Head of the Department of Constitutional Law at UCAB since 1992. Dr. Ayala has also lectured extensively at Georgetown University and the Washington College of Law, American University. He is the author of several publications on Constitutional Law and Human Rights.

Marcela Briceño-Donn

Marcela Briceño-Donn is the Director of the Office of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law with the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Relations. Prior to assuming this position in January 2002, Ms. Briceño-Donn held various other posts with the Foreign Relations Ministry in Colombia, including Chief of Cabinet and Assistant to the Minister. From 1991 to 1993, Ms. Briceño-Donn was a Human Rights Specialist with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington. Her academic experience includes participating in numerous courses, programs and conferences with such institutions as the Federation of Social Sciences of Latin America, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, and the Faculties of Law and Political Science at Javeriana University in Bogotá. Ms. Briceño-Donn has also written and published on the inter-American human rights system.

His Lordship, the Hon. Chief Justice Sir Dennis Byron

Sir Dennis graduated with an M.A and LL.B. from Cambridge University in 1966. In 1965 he was called to the Bar at the Hon. Society of Inner Temple as Barrister-at-Law of the High Court of Justice in England. He practiced as a Legal Practitioner in St. Kitts and the Leeward Islands between 1966 and 1982. In 1982-1990 he became Puisne Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) with special assignment as Acting Chief Justice of Grenada in relation to the Maurice Bishop murder trial. Sir Dennis attended numerous Conferences on Judicial Reform Programme and he is particularly interested in Judicial Education Activities. Sir Dennis acted as Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court from 1996 and was confirmed in April of 1999. In the year 2000 the non-hereditary title of “Sir” was conferred upon him by the Queen of England.

The Hon. Chief Justice Abdulai Osman Conteh of Belize

Chief Justice Conteh holds an LL.B. and LL.M. from Kings College, University of London and an LL.B. and Ph.D. from Kings College, Cambridge University. He is a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn and practiced in Sierra Leone and Gambia. Prior to his appointment as Chief Justice of Belize in January 2000, he served as a Member of Parliament in Sierra Leone, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone, Minister of Finance, Attorney General, Minister of Justice and was First Vice-President and Minister of Internal Affairs. He also worked for the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET). Chief Justice Conteh is the author of several articles on law, governance and democracy and the environment and a book of essays on the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991. He has also lectured and taught law in both the University and Law School in Sierra Leone.

Roberto Cuéllar

Since October of 1999, Roberto Cuéllar Martínez has held the position of Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica. Dr. Cuéllar began his career in the field of human rights in 1975, in San Salvador, when he directed the Office of Juridical Assistance of Arzobispado of that city. He arrived in Costa Rica in 1984 and has been affiliated with the IIDH since 1985. Before assuming his position as Executive Director, Dr. Cuéllar was responsible for the Management of Investigation and Development and the Area of Civil Society.

Katherine M. Gorove

Ms. Gorove is currently an Attorney in the Office of the Legal Advisor, Office of Human Rights and Refugees in the U.S. Department of State. Prior to this appointment Ms. Gorove served as an attorney for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Hungary, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and at Wiley, Rein & Fielding, Washington, D.C. Ms. Gorove has lectured extensively in the areas of International Law, International Human Rights and International Business and Trade as an adjunct professor at Washington College of Law, American University, Washington, D.C.; George Washington University; ELTE State and Law Faculty, Budapest; Central European University and the University of Mississippi, School of Law. She holds a J.D. from Columbia University, an M.Sc. in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Mississippi.

Professor Lucie Lamarche

Professor Lamarche is a member of the Faculty of Juridical Science at the University of Quebec at Montreal and has been a member of the Bar of Quebec since 1978. She holds a law degree and an LL.M. from the University of Montreal, a Doctorate from the Free University of Brussels and in 1998-99 was the recipient of a Jean Monnet Post-Doctoral Fellowship with the European University Institute in Florence. In the course of her career, Professor Lamarche has been affiliated with numerous nongovernmental organizations, including SORIF Inc. and the Canadian Legal Education and Action Fund for Women. She has also been extensively involved in international initiatives involving the advancement and protection of gender rights, which has included participation in committees and delegations associated with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and the Fourth Official United Nations Conference on Women in 1995. Professor Lamarche has published extensively in Canadian and international publications in the areas of human rights, constitutional law, and social policy and development.

Juan E. Méndez

Juan E. Méndez, an attorney of Argentine nationality, has been a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights since January 2000 and served as its President in 2002. He was the Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights from 1996 to 1999 and is a professor of law and Director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights of the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, USA. He has also taught courses in human rights in other universities, including Oxford, in Great Britain and Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, in the United States, and held senior professional and executive posts in Human Rights Watch in the period from 1982 to 1996. In addition to his responsibilities as Rapporteur for several countries in the Hemisphere, Dr. Méndez is Rapporteur for the rights of migrant workers and their families.

Pedro Nikken

Dr. Nikken is a former Judge and President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. His expertise within the area of Human Rights is extensive. In 1990 he was appointed as Legal Advisor to the UN Secretary General on El Salvador’s peace process; this was followed by his appointment as a UN Independent Expert to assist El Salvador on Human Rights. He was also part of the UN Special Envoy to Burundi on the establishment of a Truth Commission / International Judicial Commission of Inquiry. Dr. Nikken also has extensive experience within the public sector and governmental affairs. From 1969 to 1971 he served as Assistant to the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela and Advisor to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela from 1979 to 1984. He was also an advisor to the Legislative Committee of the Venezuelan National Congress and as an Alternate Judge, Political Administrative Chamber, Supreme Court of Justice. Dr. Nikken is a Founder, Board Member and currently Permanent Counselor of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights and has served in the capacity of President and Vice-President. He is currently Emeritus Professor of Civil and International Law at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. Prior to this appointment he served a Director of the Law School and General Director and Dean of the Juridical and Political Sciences Faculty at this same institution.

Professor Flavia Piovesan

Flavia Piovesan LL.M., Ph.D., is a Professor of Constitutional Law and Human Rights at Catholic University of Sao Paulo. She is also a visiting fellow at the Human Rights Programme at Harvard Law School. Professor Piovesan is the author/editor of several books including Human Rights and Constitutional International Law (200, 5th ed., 481 p.); Human Rights Themes (1998, 2nd ed., 447 p.); Judicial Protection against Legislative Omissions (1995, 191 p.); Women in Family Cases (1993, 157 p.); Law, Citizenship and Justice (1995, 288 p.); The Inter-American System for Protection of Human Rights and the Brazilian Law (200, 466 p.); Human Rights, Economic Globalization and Regional Integration (2002, 727 p.). Professor Piovesan is also a state attorney and has served as the coordinator of the Human Rights Working Group at the General state Attorney Office in the State of Sao Paulo. In 1998 she was the UN Observer at the 42nd Session of the Commission of the Status of Women. She is a member of the Latin American Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM), National Council on Human Rights, Centre for Global Justice and the Association of Democratic Constitutionalists.

Clare K. Roberts

Clare Roberts is a Member and Second Vice-President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and is also an Attorney and Principal of Roberts & Co., Attorneys at Law in Antigua and Barbuda. Commissioner Roberts has held the positions of Attorney General & Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda and Solicitor General of Antigua and Barbuda, as well as positions as Director of the Antigua Commercial Bank, ACB Mortgage & Trust and Founding Member and Director of the National Development Foundation of Antigua and Barbuda. Commissioner Roberts received his LL.B. (Honours) and B.A. in History from the University of the West Indies and has lectured extensively in the areas of fisheries legislation, administration and management and the Law of the Sea. He is a Member of the Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Dominica and BVI Bars, an Associate Member of the American Bar Association, and Vice President of the Antigua Offshore Association.

Dr. Leopoldo H. Schiffrin

Dr. Leopoldo Héctor Schiffrin has been a judge of the Federal Court of Appeals of La Plata in Argentina since 1987, and occupied the Presidency of that Court in the periods of 1993 and 1998. Prior to this, Dr. Schiffrin had an extensive legal career, acting as Legal Secretary and General Secretary of the Attorney General of the Nation between 1996 and 1972 and 1973 and 1975 respectively, and as Secretary of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation between 1984 and 1987. In the administrative area, Dr. Schiffrin has held the position of Secretary of the Minister of the Interior in 1973 and as assistant to the Legal and Technical Secretary of the Presidency of the Nation between December 1983 and June 1984. In the academic field, Dr. Schiffrin received his law degree with honours from the Faculty of Law of the University of Buenos Aires and a Doctorate in Laws from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid. In addition, he completed course specializing in Criminal Law, Philosophy of Law, and International Human Rights Law with the Faculty of Law in Bonn between 1974 and 1979. As an lecturer, he has worked as an assistant lecturer with the Institute of Penal Law of the Faculty of Law at the University of Buenos Aires, under the direction of Dr. Luis Jiménez de Asúa, who has been a lecturer with the Chair of Penal Law I, and under the direction of Dr. Eduardo H. Mardquart of U.B.A. and adjunct Professor of Constitutional Law at the same faculty, during periods between 1973 and 1976 and 1984 and 1988. He has also been a Professor of State Theory and History of Political Thought in the Postgraduate program in Political Science of the Faculty of Law of the University of Los Andes in Mérida, Venezuela. In addition, Dr. Schiffrin has been a post-graduate lecturer in the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences of U.B.A. and the University of Palermo, and is in charge, at present, of a post graduate course on International Criminal Law at the Notarial University of La Plata. He has assisted the Minister of Justice and the Supreme Court of the Republic of El Salvador concerning criminal justice reform. Finally, Dr. Schiffrin has participated in numerous conferences on Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Constitutional Law and is the author of numerous publications in these areas.

Jorge E. Taiana

Ambassador Jorge Taiana presently holds the position of Secretary for Human Rights with the Government of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Prior to assuming this post, he was the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights from 1996 until 2001. Ambassador Taiana has also held numerous diplomatic and executive positions with the Government of Argentina, including serving as that State’s Ambassador to Guatemala and Belize between 1992 and 1995, and as Director of International Organizations, Sub secretary for Foreign Policy and Sub secretary of Organizations and Special Affairs with the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Relations and Culture at various periods between 1987 and 1991.

Rodrígo Uprimny

Rodrígo Uprimny has served as a Deputy Magistrate with the Constitutional Court of Colombia since 1994. He received his law degree from the Externado University in Bogotá in 1984, and holds a D.E.A. in Sociology of Development from Paris I University and a Ph.D. in Economics from Amiens University, also in France. In addition to his position with the Constitutional Court, Dr. Uprimny has taught as a Professor with the Department of Law of the National University of Colombia since 1993. Much of Dr. Uprimny’s work has been in the areas of Human Rights, Constitutional Law, Communitarian Justice, and Sociology of Law, particularly in third world countries, and he has written extensively on these subjects. Among his publications are an article entitled Violence, Power and Collective Action: A Comparison between Bolivia and Colombia, which appears in the 2001 text VIOLENCE IN COLOMBIA, 1990-2000: WAGING WAR AND NEGOTIATING PEACE published by Scholarly Resources Books, and a paper addressing the Constitutional Court and Control of Presidential Extraordinary Powers in Colombia, which Dr. Uprimny presented to a workshop on the accountability functions of courts in new democracies held in Bergen, Norway in November 2002 and which will be published in the Journal of Democracy.

Professor Penny White

Penny White has served as a judge at every level of the court system in Tennessee. In 1990, she was elected to serve as Circuit Judge in the First Judicial District of Tennessee, the first woman to seek and hold that office. In 1992, she was appointed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, and in 1994 she was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the second woman and youngest person to ever hold that office While on the Supreme Court, she was very involved in devising the State’s judicial evaluation and alternative dispute resolution programmes and in redrafting the state’s post-conviction procedure. Ms. White is presently an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law where she teaches evidence, professional responsibility, trial practice and pretrial litigation. In addition, she is a member of the faculty and the Faculty Council at the National Judicial College. Ms. White also teaches in judicial and legal education courses across the country on the topics of criminal procedure, evidence, ethics, death penalty, judicial independence and trial techniques. In 2001, Ms. White authored two books for the Tennessee Judiciary, one a bench-book for Circuit Court Judges and the other a bench-book for General Session Court Judges. She has also written several articles on topics including judicial independence, capital punishment and trial practice techniques and a book on sentencing for the National Judicial College.

José Zalaquett

José Zalaquett was elected to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2001 and presently serves as its First Vice-President. Commissioner Zalaquett, a Chilean, is well known as a jurist and professor of human rights. His background includes teaching in numerous universities in the Hemisphere, particularly in Chile and the United States of America. He has held executive posts in various human rights organizations and organizations concerned with international humanitarian law and international relations; of particular note are the Vicaría de la Solidaridad of Chile and, at the international level, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, and the Center for Transitional Justice.

Professor Leo Zwaak

Leo Zwaak is a Senior Researcher and Senior Lecturer at Utrecht University and the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) where he holds principal responsibility for teaching and organizing international and national courses on the protection of human rights and is the Course Coordinator of the LL.M. program within this area. He is also Partner and visiting Professor in the Masters program on human Rights and Democratization at the University of Malta and Partner and visiting Professor at the Academy of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law of the Washington College of Law, American University. Professor Zwaak has extensive international teaching experience and has taught in many countries including Central and Eastern Europe; Poland; Albania; Bosnia; Herzegovina; South Africa; Zimbabwe; Tanzania; Ghana and Morocco. Professor Zwaak is the author of several major publications and numerous articles. Professor Zwaak is currently involved in two projects: the Digest of Strasbourg Case Law Relating to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Council of Europe, which is designed to meet the needs of all those who are required to be, or have an interest in becoming, familiar with the case law of the organs of the European Convention on Human Rights; and a project on Gross and Systematic Violations of Human Rights in Europe: the Case of Turkey, which addresses the question of whether the mechanisms under the European Convention on Human Rights will be effective in case of gross and systematic violations of human rights. Professor Zwaak also serves as Co-editor of the Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights and National Correspondent to the Directorate of Human Rights of the Council of Europe. Professor Zwaak is a member of the Advisory Board, Kurdish Human Rights Project, London and a Member of the Board of International Experts of the Center for International Human Rights, Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago.