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Release: Immediate

Nobel winners Wiesel and Menchu speaking at UI in 1998

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Nobel Peace Prize winners Elie Wiesel and Rigoberta Menchu Tum will speak at the University of Iowa during 1998 as a part of a university-wide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a planning committee has announced.

Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, and Menchu, an activist for Mayan rights in Guatemala who won the prize in 1992, have accepted invitations to speak on campus. They are two of several major figures in human rights circles expected to come to the UI during the next year.

Invitations also have been extended to Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, former Philippine president Corazon Acquino, and former Republic of Ireland President Mary Robinson, who is the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

International law professor Burns H. Weston, chair of the Human Rights '98 committee, says the commitment of such luminaries as Wiesel and Menchu has gotten programming for the year-long celebration off to a bold start. Dates for each appearance will be announced as they become available.

The committee continues to seek comments, suggestions and support from interested people and groups who would like to participate in planning events and activities related to human rights, domestic as well as international.

"We are delighted that Elie Wiesel and Rigoberta Menchu have accepted our invitations to come to the University of Iowa to help all of us on campus and throughout the state renew our commitment to human rights," Weston says. "But I also want to extend an invitation to campus, community and state organizations to join us in planning, organizing and celebrating this historic milestone."

UI President Mary Sue Coleman says the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an opportunity for the campus community to reflect on the important role concepts of human rights have for educational institutions and for society.

"We hope all Iowans will join us in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Coleman says. "Without fundamental ideals of freedom of thought, expression, association, and other basic principles, the University of Iowa -- and the United States -- would be vastly different. Unfortunately, not everyone in the world is able to enjoy those same freedoms."

Spelling out freedoms, legal protections and other guidelines that signatory nations have pledged to follow, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is among the most influential instruments of international law in the last half century, Weston says. The declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1948.

Weston, Bessie Dutton Murray Professor and associate dean for the International and Comparative Law Program at the UI, said organizers hope the year beginning Dec. 10, 1997 will be a chance for educators, civic groups, and citizens to reflect on the importance of human rights in their lives and the lives of others.

At its first fall meeting, the committee also unveiled a logo to be used for all activities connected with the celebration.

Other proposed activities, intended for the fall 1998 semester or the 1998-99 academic year include:

-- A campus-wide lecture series featuring distinguished human rights scholars and activists;

-- Topically oriented panel discussions with international civil servants, governmental representatives, scholars, and activists from the Non-Governmental Organizations community (for example, Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights);

-- Collegiate and departmental projects and events, including curricular initiatives, cross-departmental and otherwise;

-- Articles and symposia in UI publications and journals, such as Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems (TLCP is a 6-year-old student-faculty international and comparative law journal published by the College of Law. A tentative title for the fall 1998 issue is, "The Universal Declaration at Fifty: The Next Half Century");

-- Publication of essays or articles about human rights in the fall 1998 issue of the Iowa Law Review;

-- A book of commissioned essays to be published by a distinguished academic press;

-- Explorations of curricular approaches to teaching human rights at the K-12, undergraduate, graduate and law school levels;

-- Cultural events at Hancher Auditorium, the University Theatres, the University of Iowa Film Series, the University of Iowa Art Museum, University of Iowa School of Music, and others;

-- Programming on WSUI-KSUI and other radio and TV stations;

-- Activities of local civic institutions and associations, such as the Iowa Division of the United Nations Association-USA and the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council.

For more information, contact James Leaven, Division of Sponsored Programs, 100 Gilmore Hall, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-1320, (319) 335-2128; e-mail: