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Oct. 5 Conference: Access to Information as a Human Right

July 22, 2015

On Monday October 5, 2015, UWCHR held a conference on Access to Information as a Human Right. View conference recordings below.

This fall, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights hosted a one-day conference, “Access to Information as a Human Right,” on October 5, 2015, at the UW School of Law. Grounded in the UWCHR’s partnerships with organizations and communities struggling for truth and accountability in post-war El Salvador, the conference explored the right to access to information as a frontline of transnational campaigns for justice. Preceding the conference, the UWCHR announced a lawsuit against the CIA, seeking information about human rights violations in El Salvador.

The conference concluded with a keynote address by renowned Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzón, addressing access to information as a tool in securing truth, justice and reparations for victims of crimes against humanity. Panels included conversations with international experts in human rights, access to information, and international law; and with Salvadoran human rights defenders and survivors of grave human rights violations committed during the Salvadoran civil war. Click here for a recordings of the panels and presentations.

A library research guide has been developed to facilitate ongoing research into the political, philosophical, historical, social and cultural significance of the idea of access to information as a human right.

Sponsored by: the Puffin Foundation, the Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities and the UW School of Law.

Co-sponsored by: the William H. Gates Public Service Law Program; the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies; UW Libraries; the Law, Societies, & Justice Program; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; and the Information School.

Conference Schedule & Presenters

Conference  live-streamed on YouTube by the UW School of Law

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm (LAW 115): Access to Information as a Human Right: a conversation with Kate Doyle of the Evidence Project at the National Security Archive. Moderated by Ricardo Gómez, UW Information School.

3:00 pm – 4:30 pm (LAW 115): Access to Information as a Tool for Human Rights in El Salvador: a conversation with Salvadoran human rights defenders Mirla Carbajal, lawyer with the Human Rights Institute of the Universidad Centroamericana, and Dina Cabrera, community activist and survivor of the Santa Cruz massacre; and Philippe Bourgois, Professor of Psychiatry and Anthropology at UCLA and survivor of the Santa Cruz massacre. Moderated by Tony Lucero, Chair of Latin America and Caribbean Studies at the UW Jackson School of International Studies.

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm (LAW 115 & Lobby): Evening reception.  

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm (LAW 138): Keynote address by Baltasar Garzón of the Fundación Internacional Baltasar Garzón, who spoke on access to information in international human rights law. Baltasar Garzón is a Spanish jurist responsible for landmark cases which have advanced the principle of universal jurisdiction in international law, including the 1998 indictment of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.


Post-conference Graduate Research Workshop, Oct. 6 

The Ethnography of Life and Death:
A Conversation with Philippe Bourgois and Robert Desjarlais

On October 6, in conjunction with Latin American and Caribbean studies, South Asian Studies, and Comparative History of Ideas,  we hosted a conversation for graduate students with Professors Philippe Bourgois (UCLA) and Robert Desjarlais (Sarah Lawrence College), whose investigations of life, death, and violence span many countries and communities. Graduate students and faculty members to met with these leading scholars to discuss the challenges of fieldwork, writing, and the ethics of ethnography at the margins of life.  October 6, 10:00 am – 12 noon, Communications 202.

Learn More About the UW CHR’s FOIA Research

Since 2012, a team of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students at the University of Washington Center for Human Rights has conducted research on human rights abuses committed during the armed conflict in El Salvador (1980-1992). This work provides an interesting window on freedom of information concerns. Since 2013 we have filed approximately two hundred Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with various US government agencies, uncovering previously unseen information pertaining to rights abuses. We have developed a unique digital archive of survivor testimonies that, in some cases, contest the “official story” of US policy as reflected in government documents, shedding light on the human costs of the counterinsurgency campaigns. Through meticulous fieldwork in rural communities, we have gathered evidence of crimes against humanity, sharing this with the broader public through a combination of rigorous empirical research reports and online digital storytelling. This work probes both the promise and limitations of current freedom of information frameworks, questions to be explored in this daylong conference.


Sponsors & Participating Institutions

The Puffin Foundation, the Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities, the UW School of Law and William H. Gates Public Service Law Program, the Jackson School of International Studies, UW Libraries, the Law, Societies, & Justice Program, Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Information School.

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