Between 1989 and 2016, a total of 317 human rights advocates from 88 countries attended HRAP. In recent years, advocates have ranged from early career advocates who have cut their teeth in very urgent human rights situations to mid-career advocates who have founded organizations.
Below are the biographies of current Advocates and descriptions by select alumni as to why they became human rights advocates.
To see a list of additional past Advocates click here.
To read about more about the work of our Advocates click here .
Member of the House of Representatives, Uruguayan Parliament
1990 Advocate Felipe Michelini Delle Piane, Esq., visited ISHR during a trip to NYC in the spring of 2011. He informed us of his activities: “I am a member of the House of Representatives in the Uruguayan Parliament for Nuevo Espacio, one of the political parties that comprise the governmental left-wing coalition of the Frente Amplio. I have a seat at the key Legal and Constitutional Committee and at the Special Committee on Human Rights and Violence, among others. I also serve as a member of the Uruguayan delegation to the MERCOSUR Parliament. In addition to my political duties I teach International Human Rights Law at the University of the Republic of Uruguay.” Between 2005 and 2009, he was the Deputy Minister of Education and Culture and I chaired Uruguay's delegation to UNESCO.
We asked him how HRAP affected him both professionally and personally. He replied: “My participation in HRAP gave me a broad and full overview of human rights issues and a basic approach to international law. It was an opportunity to meet the society of New York and America as a whole . To experience the Columbia campus life was also a key ingredient of the program. Finally I was able to build an international network in the area, that has lasted since those times until these very days.” After HRAP, he earned the LL.M. at Columbia Law School.
When asked what he felt was the greatest benefit of his participation in HRAP, he replied: “The greatest benefit of having attended the Columbia HRAP is to be part of a worldwide community of human rights advocates who share the same experiences and the same commitment.”
—Article composed by Stephanie V. Grepo, Director, Capacity Building, April 2011
Palestinian Authority, 1990
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Raji Sourani, a 1990 graduate of the Human Rights Advocates Program, writes, “My life would have been very different without my experience at HRAP.”
Since he finished the program, Raji Sourani, a human rights lawyer has gone on to achieve notable professional accomplishments. In 1995, Raji co-founded the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), a non-profit organization based in Gaza dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Since then, PCHR has become the leading human rights organization in the Gaza Strip, serving as an independent legal body in Gaza that documents and investigates human rights abuses and provides legal aid and counseling to victims.
Raji has received several awards for his work in Gaza, including the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Human Rights in 2002, the International Service Human Rights Award in 2002, the Human Rights Prize awarded by the Republic of France in 1996 and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award with Israeli lawyer, Avigdor Feldman in 1991.
The Human Rights Advocate Program at Columbia University provides Advocates with unique access to a range of human rights organizations, institutions and policy makers that are based in New York City. Raji cites that these networking opportunities greatly enhanced his work at PCHR, he writes, “The professional and personal relationships that I developed during my time at HRAP have lasted until today, remain ever present, and are of invaluable importance in the work of PCHR.”
When reflecting on his experience in HRAP and its impact on his current work, Raji concludes, “My participation in HRAP has significantly helped my work in human rights advocacy and litigation. My time at Columbia University was an eye opening experience and provided me with access to an international legal network, and especially within the New York human rights community. It has expanded the reach of my work and that of PCHR immensely.”
—Article composed by Allison Tamer, Program Assistant, April 2013
January 2014 update: Raji received the 2013 Right Livelihood Award for his work defending and promoting human rights for all in Palestine and the Arab World for 35 years. Please read more here.