Kean University To Host International Human Rights Conference

UNION – The Human Rights Institute at Kean University will host its third annual international conference on human rights, Combating Hatred, on Friday, Jan. 29, 2010, at Wilkins Theatre, located at 1000 Morris Avenue, Union.

The conference will bring together an international panel of experts to examine the issue of hatred. Educators, students and groups are encouraged to attend this timely symposium. The event, which includes lunch, is free and open to the public. Space is limited. To register, visit Check-in for registered guests begins at 8 a.m.


Morris Dees, founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, will deliver the keynote address. Other speakers include Mark Weitzman, director of Government Affairs and the director of the Task Force against Hate and Terrorism for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and David L. D’Amico, a detective with the Office of the Monmouth County Prosecutor.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines hate crimes as criminal offenses that are motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a victim’s perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin or disability. According to the FBI, law enforcement agencies reported 7,624 hate crime incidents involving 9,006 offenses in 2007. Of these, 759 incidents occurred in New Jersey, and more than 11 percent took place in schools or colleges across the country. Every year, countless others go unreported.

Dees founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, in 1971, to monitor the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups. Prior to creating the law center, Dees was a successful businessman and owner of a book-publishing company when a personal epiphany about racial injustice inspired him to sell the company and establish a civil rights law firm. Over the past 30 years, he has used the center to publicize hate crimes, raise awareness of human rights violations and to sue those who violate civil rights laws.

In one of its more publicized cases, the Southern Poverty Law Center successfully sued the Ku Klux Klan and won a $7 million dollar judgment for the mother of Michael Donald, a black lynching victim in Alabama. Payment of the judgment bankrupted the United Klans of America, and led to the selling of its national headquarters. More recently, Dees and the center have successfully sued various Aryan nation organizations, resulting in multi-million dollar awards that have forced the organizations into bankruptcy.
Weitzman is the director of government affairs and the director of the Task Force against Hate and Terrorism for the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC).

He works as chief representative of the SWC to the United Nations in New York and was the founding director of the center’s New York Tolerance Center. A member of the official United States delegation to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, Weitzman is also a board member and former vice-president of the Association of Holocaust Organizations. Additionally, he is a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the official Jewish-Catholic Dialogue Group of New York, and the advisory board of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy at Yale University.

He has published and co-edited numerous articles, essays and books, and has contributed to various films. He has lectured and worked around the world with various groups including Congress, the U.N., the European Union, the U.S. Army and the FBI.

Detective D’Amico is a 20-year veteran of law enforcement who, for the last six years, has been investigating bias crimes and promoting community relations for the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. He received training certification from The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Bias Crimes Investigations, and is a certified trainer in cultural diversity, community relations, sensitivity training and criminal investigations.
Kean’s Human Rights Institute aims to raise awareness of human rights violations worldwide among the general public, teachers and students.

The Institute’s goals are to combat genocide and promote conflict resolution through wide-ranging activities, including conferences, seminars, teacher training and curricula development for New Jersey school children. A state-of-the-art gallery will highlight issues, artwork and publications related to human rights violations and victories around the world.

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