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University of Iowa News Release

May 11, 2005

UI Students Win Weston International Human Rights Essay Competition

A third-year University of Iowa law student and a UI junior are the winners of the UI Center for Human Rights first-annual Burns H. Weston International Human Rights Essay Competition. Mary Sevandal won the $1,000 prize in the graduate and professional student category for her essay, "Bringing Back the 'Real Iraq': Eliminating Honor Crimes in Post-War Iraq." Neil Peterson, an anthropology and women's studies major, won the $750 undergraduate prize for his essay "Speaking from Behind Closed Doors: World Health Organization, Maternal Health, and Hegemony."

The competition is intended to promote understanding and the continuing advancement of international human rights, as well as to honor Weston, the former and founding director of the UI Center for Human Rights (UICHR) and an internationally renowned scholar in international human rights law.

"It was a very competitive pool of applicants. The diversity and quality of submissions were very gratifying, especially for the competition's first year," said Kenneth Cmiel, UICHR director. "University of Iowa students demonstrate in their work in and beyond the classroom great commitment to creative and critical thinking about human rights concerns."

Essay topics submitted to the competition included the historical relationship between colonialism and 20th century ideology in the French Congo; protection of linguistic rights of indigenous peoples in Scandinavia; the use of unilateral military intervention to enforce human rights; and health and human rights in Haiti.

Weston is the Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus at the UI College of Law, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1966. Weston has spent the bulk of his career teaching, writing and working on behalf of human rights. He is currently editing a collection of essays titled, "Child Labor and Human Rights," that developed from the multi-faceted and multi-year Child Labor Research Initiative at the UIHCR funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Weston founded the UIHCR as an outgrowth of activities surrounding "Global Focus: Human Rights'98," the largest academically based commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "Global Focus: Human Rights '98" brought many Nobel laureates, dignitaries, scholars and other important international human rights figures to Iowa City.

"I am pleased and honored by the creation of this essay competition," said Weston. "It is a wonderful way to highlight the important scholarship in human rights undertaken by Iowa students and the importance of human rights education."

An annual event, the Burns H. Weston International Human Rights Essay Competition will accept submissions again during the 2005-2006 academic year. The UICHR will announce eligibility guidelines and application deadlines in the fall. For more information, contact the center, 319-335-3900 or

The UICHR is part of International Programs, which consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost for academic programs and dean of International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026,; Program: Amy Weismann, 319-335-3900,; Writer: Julia LaBua