OU Law Professor Appointed to Venice Commission

July 22, 2013 | By Brian King, Director of Public Affairs

(U.S. Mission Geneva Photo by Eric Bridiers)

In June, Evelyn Mary Aswad, Professor of Law and Herman G. Kaiser Chair in International Law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, participated in an Istanbul Process conference held at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.  Professor Aswad, an international human rights expert, was invited to speak to UN member countries on the state of international law with respect to freedom of expression and incitement to imminent violence. 

The Istanbul Process is an initiative launched by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in partnership with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and others to combat religious intolerance throughout the world.  The Process implements a landmark UN Human Rights Council resolution that sets forth an action-oriented approach to combatting religious intolerance while promoting freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination.  Following the 2011 meeting of experts in the Istanbul Process, Clinton remarked, “religious freedom and freedom of expression are among our highest values.  They are enshrined in our Constitution.  For people everywhere, faith and religious practice is a central source of our identity.  It provides our lives with meaning and context.  It is fundamental to who we are.”

“I believe the Istanbul Process has the potential to build bridges in the international community on one of the critical issues of our time,” Professor Aswad said.

In June, the U.S. Government appointed Professor Aswad to serve as the U.S. substitute member on the Council of Europe’s Commission for Democracy through Law, which is better known as the Venice Commission.  The Venice Commission was established in 1990 to assist emerging Eastern European democracies in drafting constitutions.  Experts appointed to the Commission serve in their independent capacity.  The Venice Commission now provides advice on human rights and rule of law matters to a wide variety of countries, including Arab Spring countries.  At the June meeting of the Venice Commission, Professor Aswad participated in consideration of Egypt’s draft NGO law.  She will provide recommendations on a variety of matters, including Tunisia’s constitution, at the next meeting of the Venice Commission in October.

Professor Aswad recently joined the OU College of Law faculty.  She previously served as the head of the Legal Bureau's Office of Human Rights and Refugees at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.  In her most recent position as the Department’s Assistant Legal Adviser for Human Rights and Refugees, she supervised ten attorneys in providing legal advice on a wide range of international human rights law matters.  This fall, Professor Aswad will be teaching International Human Rights and International Law Foundations.

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