University of Wisconsin–Madison

Mildred Fish Harnack Human Rights and Democracy Lecture

The Mildred Fish-Harnack Human Rights and Democracy Lecture is named after a Milwaukee native who was a UW–Madison student in the 1920s. While living in Germany, Fish-Harnack assisted in the escape of German Jews and political dissidents. She is the only American civilian executed under the personal instruction of Adolf Hitler, for her resistance to the Nazi regime. This lectureship is designed to promote greater understanding of human rights and democracy, and enrich international studies at UW-Madison. The lecture brings to campus a person who contributes to the cause of human rights through academic scholarship and/or active leadership. UW-Madison's Office of International Studies and Programs established the lecture in 1994 and coordinated it until the Human Rights Program was created. 

More information on Mildred Fish Harnack is available through:
The UW Archives "Honoring Mildred Fish Harnack"
PBS video on the Mildred Fish Harnack story:

Upcoming Lecture: TBA

Previous Lectures:

Judge Navi Pillay

"Current Challenges and the Future of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights"

Navanethem Pillay, Former UN Commissioner for Human Rights

September 13, 2018
4:00pm Alumni Lounge, Pyle Center
Reception to follow

This event is free and open to the general public.
For planning purposes please register at Eventbrite

Article from the Badger Herald summarizing the lecture.

About Judge Pillay:

Ms. Pillay, a South African national, was the first woman to start a law practice in her home province of Natal in 1967. Over the next few years, she acted as a defense attorney for anti-apartheid activists, exposing torture, and helping establish key rights for prisoners on Robben Island.

She also worked as a lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and later was appointed Vice-President of the Council of the University of Durban Westville. In 1995, after the end of apartheid, Ms. Pillay was appointed as acting judge on the South African High Court. The same year she was elected by the UN General Assembly to be a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, where she served a total of eight years - from 1999-2003 as President. She played a critical role in the ICTR's groundbreaking jurisprudence on rape as genocide, as well as on issues of freedom of speech and hate propaganda. In 2003, she was appointed as a judge on the International Criminal Court in the Hague, where she served on the Appeals Chamber until August 2008. She was appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2008 and served until 2014. 

In South Africa, as a member of the Women's National Coalition, she contributed to the inclusion of the equality clause in the country's Constitution that prohibits discrimination on grounds of race gender, religion, and sexual orientation. She co-founded Equality Now, an international women's rights organization, and has been involved with other organizations working on issues relating to children, detainees, victims of torture and of domestic violence, and a range of economic, social and cultural rights. 

Sponsored by the Human Rights Program, International Division, and the Global Legal Studies Center.

In commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Distinguished people throughout the world have given Mildred Fish Harnack Lectures, such as President of Ireland Mary Robinson, International Court of Justice Judge and Holocaust survivor Thomas Buergenthal, and UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Learn about their lectures and more through the UW Law School's Digital Archive (coming Fall 2018). 

Return to Human Rights Program Homepage

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