2013 Past Headlines

Professor Edwards' Work in International Human Rights Law Extends to Guantanamo Bay


George EdwardsConsidering everything that’s on Professor George Edwards’ plate: the new Guantanamo Bay Observation Project, the Program in International Human Rights Law, his work with the United Nations, the talks he gives around the world regarding human rights or his book on LL.M. programs in the U.S. for International Students, you might wonder when he sleeps.

Professor Edwards learned in late winter that his Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL) had been chosen by the Pentagon’s Convening Authority for nongovernmental organization (NGO) observer status for Guantanamo Bay U.S. Military Commissions. He formed the Military Commissions Observation Project (MCOP) http://mckinneylaw.iu.edu/human-rights/military-commission-observation-project.html  to handle the selection of students, alumni, faculty and staff of IU McKinney who wish to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to witness the criminal proceedings first-hand, or travel to Fort Meade, Maryland, to view them by a secure video link. The first IU McKinney representatives traveled to Guantanamo and Fort Meade in April to monitor the proceedings and file reports. The next group will travel to Guantanamo and Fort Meade in May and June. Any IU McKinney affiliate may sign up on the website for possible travel to hearings.

“The Pentagon selected IU McKinney because we have the ability to observe, assess, and draw informed conclusions about the Guantanamo Bay Military Commission system,” Professor Edwards said. “Our program’s pledge is to present findings based on what we observe, and not based on any preconceived views. Our students will be better legal analysts after this type of Guantanamo Bay experience. One of McKinney’s goals is to expose our J.D., LL.M. and other students to experiences that will help those students achieve their post-degree career goals. Participating in a Guantanamo mission will help students prepare for their profession.”

Professor Edwards, who had been tendered as an expert witness in the Guantanamo case of Australian David Hicks, the first Military Commission case to be concluded since World War II, said “A great deal has changed at Guantanamo Bay since I was there in 2007. Our students worked on Guantanamo cases in the 2000s, but they did not witness hearings in person. Our program’s new Pentagon status permits us to deepen the insights and understanding that can be gained as students faculty, staff, and alumni sit in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom during live proceedings.”

While Professor Edwards was overseeing this new effort, he was simultaneously preparing four students for their travels and work this summer as interns through PIHRL. Founded in 1997, the program has facilitated about 200 internship placements in 55 countries on six continents..

PIHRL also prepares shadow reports  http://mckinneylaw.iu.edu/human-rights/shadow-reports.html  for the United Nations, detailing human rights violations throughout the world. These reports are often presented to different UN bodies by the IU McKinney students who prepare them, either in New York City or Geneva. PIRHL was granted Special Consultative Status by the UN in 2011. Professor Edwards is the main representative to the UN World Headquarters in New York and Geneva. This summer, law students will present a shadow report to the UN Human Rights Committee alleging electoral rights violations in the Republic of Georgia.

He also is the author of the book, “LL.M. Roadmap: An International Student’s Guide to U.S. Law School Programs,” http://www.llmroadmap.com/  published in 2011. Professor Edwards has also been calling for the adoption of a “United Nations Universal Declaration on the Rights of International Students.”

He said “International students who travel from one country to another for school are vulnerable to discrimination and exploitation, not only in the communities in which they live in their new countries, but also within their new schools. A Universal Declaration on the Rights of International Students would help protect these students. International students should not be enrolled in a cash cow degree program, a diploma mill, or at a school that is unable or unwilling to adequately address or appropriately further students’ reasonable academic, professional development and career expectations.”

Professor Edwards commented on other national and regional instruments that have already been promulgated on rights of international students. He said “The United Nations should develop an instrument to protect international students globally. The UN Declaration could follow the models of the Australian Government Principles to Promote and Protect the Human Rights of International Students, and the International Student Mobility Charter of the European Association for International Education. Furthermore, other countries, international education associations, and schools should design and adopt similar localized principles and guidelines to protect international students.”

Professor Edwards is the director of PIHRL, the Carl M. Gray Professor of Law, and a John S. Grimes Fellow. He is also Special Assistant to the Dean for Inter-Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations.

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