2024 Conference


NEW YORK, APRIL 17-19, 2024

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights will celebrate its 75th birthday on December 10, 2023. Since that statement of principles following the mass atrocities of WWII, the world has witnessed the spread of human rights discourse, norms, law, and institutions at both the domestic and international levels. Eleanor Roosevelt’s prediction that “a curious grapevine” would spread the ideas articulated in that 1948 General Assembly document seems to have come to fruition. Nevertheless, the aspirations of the Declaration remain far from fulfilled, as grave violations of rights continue to be perpetrated around the globe, often with impunity.  Economic inequality, racism, sexism, and multiple refugee crises have engendered and exacerbated the rise of political extremism.  Addressing such issues, as well as many others, the Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Conference aims to explore the contested legacy of human rights in increasingly uncertain times.  It seeks to foster dialogue and scholarship from a wide range of perspectives. Some conference presenters are scholars and activists who continue to view the human rights project as a moral and ethical challenge to power; others see it as an enabler of political and economic domination. The Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Conference participants seek to reassess the origins, foundations, and contemporary forms of human rights discourse, ideas, and practice today, seventy-five years on.

The Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Conference is part of a larger initiative at The City College of New York, CUNY, shared between the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Division of Humanities and the Arts, and the President’s Office dedicated to human rights studies, public programming, and scholarship. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Irene Victoria Massimino is a lawyer specialized in international criminal law and human rights. She is a graduate of the Faculty of Legal and Social Sciences of the National University of La Plata, in Argentina; has a Master of Laws from Robert H. McKinney School of Law at Indiana University, in the United States of America, where she is currently residing, and teaching as an adjunct professor. She also holds a Master of Arts and Humanities in Human Rights from the School of Advanced Studies of the University of London, in the United Kingdom. Ms. Massimino has served as Rapporteur of the High Criminal Court of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, where she focused on institutional violence, police brutality and gender violence cases, many of which became leading jurisprudence and became internationally known for their contribution to human rights. In this capacity, she became a member of the Provincial Roundtable for Discussions to address the emergency situation in Buenos Aires Province’s Prison System. She works actively in the fields of internal and international conflicts, human rights violations, and atrocity crimes -especially genocide- in relation to the experiences of Argentina, Armenia, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh), Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Iraq, Somaliland, and Ukraine. She has served in international investigative delegations and trial observation missions, and she is the former co-founding president of the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention.



Purging the Odious Scourge of Atrocities: The Limits of Consent in International Law
Thursday, April 18, 2024 | 3 - 4:30 PM
In-Person | Auditorium

Purging the Odious Scourge of Atrocities explains the growth of a small body of human rights law that bans the use of violence against a state's own population when it is deemed a mass atrocity. These laws are binding on all states regardless of whether they have accepted it by signing treaties, or whether it is consistent with widespread state practice. Yet, this challenges the doctrine of consent, which has traditionally been the foundation of international law. Bruce Cronin argues that qualitative changes in the form of global governance are leading to an expansion in the theoretical underpinnings of international law and its role in contemporary world politics. Specifically, in limited and well-defined areas of international law, states have begun to recognize the authority of collective international consensus over individual state consent as the source of some legal rules.

Cronin supports this theory by examining the degree to which the international community has, via multilateral conferences among states, developed a consensus around the legal control of "excessive internal state violence"--that is, a level of coercive force that the international community considers to be disproportionate and illegitimate for pursuing state interests within its own borders. These practices, which the Genocide Convention refers to as an "odious scourge", include widespread, systematic attacks on civilian populations; violent persecution of defined groups (including genocide, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid); torture; and the violation of civilian immunity in internal armed conflicts. In these cases, state action is subject to general international law that overrides their consent. By allowing us to rethink the mechanisms that give international law actual force, Purging the Odious Scourge of Atrocities promises to reshape our understanding of why states are required to abide by human rights norms they never consented to by treaty or customary practice.

Bruce Cronin is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Human Rights Program at the City College of New York.  He specializes in human rights, international law, and the laws of armed conflict.  He is the author of Bugsplat: The Politics of Collateral Damage in Western Armed Conflicts (Oxford University Press, 2018) and more recently Purging the Odious Scourge of Atrocities: The Limits of Consent in International Law (Oxford University Press, 2023).



Silvia Scarpa is Associate Professor of International Relations and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at John Cabot University of Rome (Italy). She is the author of Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery (Oxford University Press, 2008), of the manual An Introduction to International Human Rights Standards for Law Enforcement Authorities (UniversItalia, 2012), of the European Parliament’s Study on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (European Union, 2018) and of scholarly articles published in relevant journals and edited collections. 



Jack Snyder, the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations in the political science department and the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, is the author of Human Rights for Pragmatists (Princeton University Press, 2022).





2022 ↗ CONFERENCE | April 20-20, 2022
2022 conference


The Second Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Conference returns to The City College of New York, CUNY, in 2022, offering another compelling platform for scholars and activists to explore the intricate dimensions of human rights. Building upon the rich legacy of the 2019 conference, this edition continues its tradition of examining the evolution of human rights discourse, norms, law, and institutions, both domestically and internationally. While the ideals of human rights have become increasingly prominent on the global stage, persistent rights violations and inequalities underscore the ongoing relevance and urgency of this discourse. The conference remains dedicated to nurturing diverse dialogues and scholarly investigations, inviting fresh assessments of the origins, foundations, and contemporary expressions of human rights discourse, ideas, and practice in today’s complex world.

2019 ↗ CONFERENCE | March 13-15, 2019


The First Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Conference, held at The City College of New York, CUNY, in March 2019, provided a dynamic forum for scholars and activists to examine the multifaceted landscape of human rights. Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the conference examined the evolution of human rights discourse, norms, laws and institutions at the domestic and international levels. While the declaration’s ideals have become globally pervasive, persistent violations and inequalities persist. The conference aims to promote dialogue and scholarship from diverse perspectives, inviting contributions from all parties to reassess the origins, foundations and contemporary forms of human rights discourse, thought and practice today, seventy years later.

Last Updated: 02/21/2024 16:02