UW News

September 18, 2015

‘Access to Information as a Human Right’ public conference Oct. 5

UW News

The University of Washington Center for Human Rights will hold a daylong conference Oct. 5 at the UW School of Law, underscoring a crucial international theme even with its title: “Access to Information as a Human Right.”

The conference springs from the center’s partnerships with communities and organizations struggling for truth and accountability in postwar El Salvador. Panels will include 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.

The conference will conclude with a keynote address by Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzón, discussing access to information as a tool in securing truth, justice and reparations for victims of crimes against humanity. Garzón is responsible for landmark cases that have advanced the principle of universal jurisdiction in international law, including the 1998 indictment of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. He is currently head of Julian Assange‘s legal team.

Angelina Godoy, professor in the UW Jackson School of International Studies and director of the Center for Human Rights, is the principal organizer, though the conference has many sponsors.

Just before the conference begins, the center will announce an update in the ongoing Unfinished Sentences Project, a UW initiative that has filed Freedom of Information requests with the U.S. government to learn the truth about El Salvador.

In the video below, Godoy says the center has filed more than 200 different requests with U.S. federal agencies about specific cases of interest to its Salvadoran partners seeking access to information.

“In some cases it’s information as basic as what fates befell some of their lost loved ones. Other times people are seeking information that would enable them to recover the remains of those lost loved ones,” she said.

Godoy added, “Our job as researchers is to provide access to that information — it’s a fundamental human right, access to information, and it’s also part of the right to truth, which Salvadorans and Americans both have — in regards this war in which both of our governments were so heavily involved.”

The conference will be live-streamed on YouTube by the School of Law and live-tweeted by the Unfinished Sentences Project at @trutheelsalvador. The event is free and open to the public but space is limited so those interested are asked to RSVP online.

The conference has many sponsors: 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. Visit online for a full list of presenters.


To learn more about the conference, contact Godoy at 206-616-5903 or agodoy@uw.edu; or Phil Neff, Center for Human Rights program coordinator, at 206-221-2031 or philneff@uw.edu.

Video below: