2013 Past Headlines

Human Rights Lawyer Delivers Commencement Address for IU McKinney Graduates

05/14/2013

Mario JosephMario Joseph, who has led the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, since 1996, delivered the commencement address for graduates from the Indiana University Robert. H. McKinney School of Law. The ceremony was held on May 11 in the Sagamore Ballroom at the Indiana Convention Center.

During his commencement address, Joseph talked about lawyers' critical role as rights enforcers for the most vulnerable in society, and encouraged graduates to advocate for rights enforcement no matter where their careers take them.

"As you continue along these different career paths, I would ask you to keep in mind the most vulnerable, in Indianapolis, in Haiti, and elsewhere, and to keep in mind the ways that you can serve as a highly-qualified and sorely-needed Rights Enforcer," Joseph said. That kind of advocacy can take the form of voter, donor, consumer, community leader, or member of a church or civic organization.

“In the tradition of attorney human rights advocates like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, Mario truly embodies our best hopes for how lawyers and the rule of law can remedy the suffering of the poor and disenfranchised,” said IU McKinney Professor Fran Quigley. Professor Quigley has done extensive human rights work in Haiti.

During his more than 20 years of human rights work, Joseph has been a part of many historic human rights cases, including the Raboteau Massacre trial in 2000, which has been called one of the most important human rights cases in the Western Hemisphere. BAI’s cooperation with U.S. immigration officials lead to the deportation of three former Haitian generals, including the highest-ranked officer ever deported from the U.S. on human rights grounds.

BAI filed claims with the United Nations in November 2011 on behalf of 5,000 victims of the cholera brought to Haiti by UN peacekeepers. Joseph and his team at BAI also represented rape victims in seven successful trials in 2012, which demonstrated that the justice system can be compelled to respond fairly and competently to rapes against poor women.

Joseph was awarded the Judith Lee Stronach Human Rights Award from the Center for Justice and Accountability, the Alexander Human Rights Award from Santa Clara University, and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of San Francisco. He is one of three finalists for the 2013 Martin Ennals Human Rights Defenders award, which will be presented in October in Geneva, Switzerland.


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