IHRC LEADERSHIP TEAM 2015-2016
Tammie Smith-Long is Co-Chair of the IHRC. She is founder of Hames and Johnson Group, Inc., a women own Building & Facilities Management Company specializing in General Construction. Tammie has also assisted in building a successful commercial and residential painting company that has been voted the “Best Painting Company” in Dallas D Magazine for the 5th year in a row.
Tammie is the founder of Tahrir International for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization that focuses on human trafficking in North Texas.
She graduated from Dallas Baptist University with a degree in Business Administration. She earned a Masters in Liberal Studies, with a focus on Human Rights, from Southern Methodist University and a Masters in Political Science from Oxford University.
Tammie is a member of the American Bar Association. In addition to her leadership position on the ABA IHRC, she serves as Vice Chair on the ABA NGO/Non-Profit Committee. She also serves on the State and Local Grant Law Committee, the Small Business & Other Socioeconomic Programs Committee as well as the Construction Industry Forum.
Ms. Williams has been an active member of the American Bar Association, Section of International Law since law school. She served as Vice Chair on the International Models Project on Women’s Rights' (IMPOWR) Task Force from 2011-2014; as the ABA-SIL Liaison on President Laurel G. Bellow’s Task Force on Human Trafficking from 2012-2013; and as an IHRC Vice Chair from 2013-2015. In December 2015, she coordinated and moderated The Global Refugee Crisis, Part 1: A True Account of a Syrian Refugee's Journey to Safety. Since 2014, she has received 4 awards from the ABA Section of International Law for committee-related work.
Ms. Williams earned a Bachelor's of Art, magna cum laude, in political science with minors in gender studies and international relations. She has studied abroad at the University of Oxford, the University of Ghana, and the University College of London. Ms. Williams earned a Juris Doctor with distinction from the University of Miami School of Law, where she was the recipient of the Sonia Yadr Schneider Scholarship, the H.O.P.E. Fellowship, and the Res Ipsa Loquitur Writing Award. She was also the Executive Editor of the University of Miami International & Comparative Law Review, an Executive Officer on UM Honor Council, and a founding member of the UM Wrongful Conviction Project, now known as the UM Innocence Clinic.
Upon her return, Ms. Conde worked for the Executive Director of the Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE), one of the principal think-tanks of the Dominican Republic, before joining the Constitutional Tribunal of the Dominican Republic as a law clerk for Justice Víctor J. Castellanos Pizano in 2012, where she deals with matters pertaining to Constitutional and Administrative Law, International Human Rights Law, treaty law, State responsibility, and other aspects of domestic procedural law. She is also a member of the Law Faculty of her alma mater, where she lectures on Public and Private International Law at the undergraduate level. Currently, Ms. Conde holds a Master’s degree in Civil Procedure Law from PUCMM, is a candidate for the double-degree master’s program in Constitutional Justice and Fundamental Liberties at PUCMM, in coordination with Castilla-La Mancha University (Spain), and was selected by the ABA Section of International Law as a Diversity Fellow for the 2015-2017 period.
Osas Justy Erhabor is IHRC's Co-Vice Chair of Membership. Mr. Erhabor passed the Nigerian Bar and enrolled as a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1988. Since passing the Nigerian Bar, Erhabor has worked as a solicitor, arbitrator and courtroom advocate, representing a diverse range of clientele. Erhabor is Founder and Head of Chambers of OJ Erhabor & Company, a law firm with offices and a team of lawyers at Ibadan in Oyo State and Ilesa in Osun, State of Nigeria. The Law Firm was established in 1990. An indigene of Edo State of Nigeria, one of the oil producing South-South States of the Country, Erhabor is both a victim of oil companies' activities in the Niger delta region of Nigeria and an activist in the crusade for respect of environmental rights and a better deal for the oil producing communities of Country.
Mr. Erhabor is the First Vice President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) of Abuja, Nigeria. He has been active in Pan African Law Union (PALU) activities and an associate member of ABA. Married to Oluwatoyin, a princess of from Ile-Ife, South West Nigeria, Mr. Erhabor and Mrs. Oluwatoyin are the proud parents of four lovely children.
Viviana de la Peña Escobar is IHRC's Co-Vice Chair of Programs. She is a Legal Officer working for Chambers at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague. She has fourteen years of experience at the national and international levels, including in private practice, the Mexican public administration, and in the United Nations. She earned her Law Degree from the Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City and holds an LL.M. degree in Public International Law from Universiteit Leiden in The Netherlands. She is admitted to practice law in Mexico since 2003. Viviana is fully bilingual (English/Spanish) with good knowledge of French and Portuguese.
Russell Kerr is the Editor of the ABA-SIL Human Rights Committee e-Brief newsletter. He is a personal injury attorney and managing partner with Kerr & Sheldon, a Southern California firm focusing exclusively on plaintiff personal injury matters.
Mr. Kerr is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, recognizing trial lawyers who have demonstrated exceptional advocacy skill, experience and excellence. He has authored more than thirty articles on domestic and international litigation published in the Pepperdine Law Review, the California International Practitioner, the Orange County Lawyer, the ABA-SIL International Lawyer and California Litigation.
Mr. Kerr has served as Chair of the State Bar of California International Law Section, Co-chair of the ABA-SIL Human Rights Committee, Division Chair of Public International Law II and as Liaison to the Center for Human Rights and California State Bar, Editor-in-Chief of The International Law News and Editor of the ABA-SIL Human Rights Committee e-Brief newsletter.
Mr. Kerr received an Honorary Degree from Coastline College for his extensive efforts in establishing and providing legal services through community based legal clinics. Mr. Kerr was also a featured guest speaker for the Office of the Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Conference on Hate-Crimes and served as a Judge Pro Tem, Arbitrator, and an adjunct Professor of Law at Western State University College of Law.
Ayesha Khan is the IHRC's Co-Vice Chair of Membership and a human rights advocate in India and Fellow with the International Innovation Corps, an initiative of the University of Chicago. As a Fellow, Ayesha is working with the Indian Government on improving working conditions for laborers in India's manufacturing sector, especially women. Ayesha is also working with the National Skills Development Corporation on strengthening India's vocational education framework to impart job-ready skills for its massive youth population and reduce unemployment.
Prior to this, Ayesha worked at a leading law firm in India, specializing in both litigation and commercial matters. During this time, she was also Vice-Chair of the ABA-SIL's Women's Interest Network (2013-14). Ayesha graduated from the National University of Juridical Sciences in 2012, with a specialization in Humanitarian Law, Labor Law and Environmental Law. While at law school, Ayesha was the recipient of the prestigious Jacob D. Fuchsberg Scholarship, awarded by Touro Law School at New York, for the study of International Humanitarian Law, focusing on the rights of the Tibetan refugees in India. During this time, Ayesha also worked as a Research Assistant with Prof. Armin Rosencranz, Professor of Environmental Law at Stanford University and Vrinda Grover, a prominent human rights lawyer, in the Supreme Court of India.
Nicholas Leddy is IHRC's Vice Chair of Year-in-Review (YIR) and a criminal prosecutor with both domestic and international experience. Currently, Nick serves as an Assistant District Attorney in the Public Corruption Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Previously, he worked for the Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG) in Washington, D.C. and Kampala, Uganda where he advised clients on transitional justice issues including war crimes prosecution. He also worked as a law clerk in the Office the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), where he helped investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity in the DRC.
He currently serves as a member of the Editorial Committee of the Journal of International Criminal Justice (Oxford UP), and has published articles in the Human Rights Brief and the Administrative Law Review. He is a graduate of New York University, and has graduate degrees from American University in law and international affairs.
John Mukum Mbaku, J.D., Ph.D., ESQ., is IHRC's Co-Vice Chair of Publications. He is a Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor of Economics and Willard L. Eccles Professor of Economics & John S. Hinckley Research Fellow at Weber State University. He is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. and an Attorney and Counselor-at-Law (licensed in the State of Utah). Dr. Mbaku has consulted widely with governments, non-governmental organizations and various civil society organizations on issues dealing with governance, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and economic development in Africa.
He is especially interested in the impact of corruption and other forms of impunity on human rights, especially those of vulnerable groups (e.g., women, girls, youth, rural inhabitants, urban poor, and ethnic and religious minorities). He has published quite prodigiously in many of the aforementioned areas in the form of books, articles, and book chapters. Dr. Mbaku is a Resource Person for the Nairobi-based African Economic Research Consortium, an NGO dedicated to capacity building for policy effectiveness in Africa. Dr. Mbaku also works extensively with various groups to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms in Africa.
He received the J.D. degree and Graduate Certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law from the S.J. Quinney College of Law, The University of Utah, where he was Managing Editor, Journal of Land, Resources & Environmental Law, the winner of the Stephen Pierre Traynor Outstanding Legal Writing Award, the Nathan Burkan Memorial Competition in Copyright Law (American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers), and other awards in environmental law, international law, and business organizations. Dr. Mbaku also received the Ph.D. (economics) degree from The University of Georgia.
Tanya Sukhija is the IHRC's Rule of Law (ROL) Co-Vice Chair and Program Officer in Equality Now’s New York office. She works on legal advocacy and strategic litigation to promote and protect the human rights of women and girls worldwide, focusing on advancing access to justice for adolescent girls and on ending female genital mutilation. She first joined Equality Now as a Legal Fellow, during which she split her time between the Nairobi and New York offices and worked on addressing adolescent girls’ rights, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, and discrimination in law.
Prior to working at Equality Now, Ms. Sukhija gained experience on promoting gender equality and ending sexual violence in South Africa, international human and civil rights litigation in U.S. courts, monitoring cases in international criminal courts in The Hague, and providing legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence among the South Asian immigrant community in California. She holds a J.D. from the UCLA School of Law, where she focused on human rights, transitional justice, and international criminal law, and a B.A. in International Development Studies and Political Science from UCLA.
Ms. Sukhija is licensed to practice law in California. She is also a member of the ABA’s International Law Section Women’s Interest Network (WIN).
Mr. David Taylor is the IHRC's Rule of Law Co-Vice Chair. He began his studies of China in 1966 where in 1969 he graduated from the University of South Carolina School of International Studies. There he attained an A.B. degree, specializing in Soviet-East European and Sino-Soviet Affairs. David served in the US military before returning to USC to pursue his Juris Doctor in 1971. He remained in the USAR until 1976 as a member of 12th JAG.
In 1974, David attained his Juris Doctor from USC and is a founding member of the SC Criminal Defense Trial Lawyers Assn. He has tried more than a hundred cases in state and federal courts. He has been awarded Stalwart status with the American Association for Justice (formerly Association of Trial Lawyers of America) and serves on numerous committees of the ABA as well as the Steering Committee of the International Human Rights Committee. In 2007 he served as an American Association of Justice Trial Lawyer Delegate to China traveling extensively in China studying its legal and political systems as well as its culture and history.
A frequent moderator, speaker and lecturer in law he is a firm believer that all lawyers must think globally even if they act only locally. He is driven by a conviction that American Lawyers should rally behind and provide as much support as possible for those who work for religious freedom, freedom of speech and rule of law worldwide and, today, particularly China. He keeps up on a daily basis with events in and involving China and serves as Legal Counsel to the international NGO China Aid Assn. He prepares various petitions to the United Nations on behalf of persecuted persons and works hand in hand with many human rights defenders on a regular basis.
M. Catherine Vernon is the IHRC's Co-Vice Chair of Programs and Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Trafficking. She is an international corporate attorney providing consulting and legal services to nonprofits and humanitarian organizations. She retired in 2013 as Vice President, Secretary, and General Counsel of the Formica and Laminex Group of companies, owned by New Zealand-based Fletcher Building Limited, the largest building products company in Australasia [FBU.NZ & FBU.AX].
Ms. Vernon is active in the American Bar Association Section of International Law (ABA SIL) and was awarded its Outstanding International Corporate Counsel award in 2012. In February 2015, she was part of the ABA SIL ILEX delegation that traveled to Cuba and Ecuador to consult with local attorneys, judges, and media on rule of law and governance issues. She is Division Chair of the Business Regulation Division, a SIL Council Member, Vice Chair of the Section’s International Human Rights Committee, and Co-Chair of the Intl. Models Project on Women’s Rights (IMPOWR). In October 2014, she organized and moderated a panel in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the Fall Meeting of the ABA SIL that addressed the topic of Being the Good Global Corporate Citizen. In December 2013, she served as an ABA delegate to the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a member of the ABA SIL Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
Catherine serves as an advisory board member and member of the fundraising committee of Selah Freedom, a nonprofit working to abolish sex trafficking in Southwest Florida. Over the past year she has served as a governance and strategic planning consultant to Filter Pure, Inc., a nonprofit which manufactures ceramic water filters in the Dominican Republic and Haiti for at risk populations, and advised them on their recent merger into Wine to Water. She presently serves as Executive Director of Key Chorale, Inc., Sarasota’s symphonic chorus, and also sings in the chorale. Catherine has served on many nonprofit boards, including the Cincinnati Ballet, Girls Scouts of the Western Reserve, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Summit & Medina Counties, and the Cleveland & Akron Councils on World Affairs. She is on the advisory board of the Institute for Global Business at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, and also the advisory board of the Canada-US Law Institute at Case Western Reserve University.
Ms. Vernon has undergraduate degrees in both economics and international studies from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and attended the Miami University Dolibois European Center in Luxembourg. Her law degree was awarded with honors by Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She presently is completing graduate studies in the University of Florida’s Graduate Certificate Program in Nonprofit Leadership.
Ms. Vernon moved from Cincinnati, Ohio to Sarasota, FL in May 2014 with her husband, David, a retired bank CEO. She has lived, worked or traveled in over 40 countries and has a working knowledge of French.
IMMEDIATE PAST CO-CHAIRS
Elizabeth "Liz" Turchi is the IHRC's Immediate Past Co-Chair and now serves the committee as a Senior Advisors. Ms. Turchi is a human rights advocate and international attorney serving on the legal advisory team to the United Nations’ Assistant Secretary General at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague, The Netherlands. She previously served as an associate legal officer at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Victims and Witnesses Unit. As the Co-Chair of the ABA International Human Rights Committee, she leads a team of professionals to monitor international developments, prepare educational seminars, collaborate responses to persecutions of human rights defenders, and prepare research and reports on human rights violations.
Liz also consults on human rights matters to the Lori E. Talsky Center for Human Rights of Women and Children at Michigan State University Law School, and advises on nonprofit governance matters to Stahili Foundation, an international nonprofit based in Kenya combating child trafficking.
Prior to moving to The Hague, she served as the Assistant Director of International Programs for Temple University Beasley School of Law, handled cross-border contracts in Florence, Italy and litigated civil disputes before State and Federal courts in the USA.
Ms. Turchi while obtaining her LL.M in Transnational Law held a contracted position with The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Rome, Italy, where she focused on humanitarian aid law. Before working at the WFP, Ms. Turchi interned at the United Nations Mediation and Ombudsman Office (UNOMS) in New York. In connection with her LL.M studies, Ms. Turchi wrote thesis papers which include: “The Lisbon Treaty and It’s Non-Impact on International Legal Personality,” “Somali Piracy and Universal Jurisdiction,” “Climate Change as the Newest Human Rights Cause of Action” and “Human Sex Trafficking as a Universal Jurisdiction Crime.”
Joseph P. Federici is the IHRC's Immediate Past Co-Chair. After serving as a law clerk in the New Jersey Superior Court, Mr. Federici worked as an attorney for The Williams Law Firm, P.A., in a variety of corporate and commercial litigation matters. He then served as the General Counsel and Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). His work at AUAF focused on communications, development, monitoring and evaluation. Mr. Federici is currently working toward a master's degree at Georgetown's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Additionally, he serves as "of counsel" for RJ Gaudet & Associates L.L.C., and is a Senior Legal Fellow at the Syria Research & Evaluation Organization ("SREO").
Aside from practicing law, Mr. Federici has been very active in the collegiate rowing community. From 2008-2012, he was the head coach of the University of Delaware Men’s Lightweight Crew team and from 2012-2013, he served as an assistant coach at the United States Naval Academy. Mr. Federici currently resides in Washington, D.C.
The Honorable Cara Lee Neville (Ret.) is an IHRC Senior Advisor and Chair of the Fellows. Judge Neville is immediate past Secretary of the ABA, served two terms on the ABA’s Board of Governors, has served as a member of the House of Delegates for more than 25 years, and served on the ABA Nominating Committee as State Delegate from Minnesota. She chaired the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section, the Coordinating Council of the ABA Justice Center, and the Coalition for Justice. Judge Neville is past President of the National Association of Women Judges and Amdahl Inns of Court. Judge Neville is a past member of the Standing Committee on Judicial Independence and served on the Judges Advisory Committee to the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility. She is a past member of the Board of Directors of the American Judicature Society and a "founding mother" of the Minnesota Women Lawyers Association and currently serves on their advisory committee and in the Assembly of the Minnesota State Bar Association. Judge Neville is on the Executive Board of the ABA Center for Human Rights, the Governing Council for the Tort and Insurance Practice Section of ABA, and Vice-Chair of the Human Rights Committee of the ABA’s International Law Section.
Judge Neville served on the Minnesota Supreme Court Advisory Committee to revise the Minnesota Judicial Code, chaired the ABA Judicial Division’s Ethics and Professionalism Committee, the National Association of Women Judges Ethics Committee, the American Judicature Ethics Committee, and was one of the eleven Commissioners nationally who wrote the Model Code of Judicial conduct.
She is a graduate of William Mitchell College of Law where she was named one of its most distinguished graduates and listed as one of 100 graduates who have made a difference. In 2015 Judge Neville will receive the Honorable Warren E. Burger Distinguished Alumni Award. The 2015 Warren E Burger Distinguished Alumni Award is given to graduate who exhibit the highest values and ethical standards while providing outstanding leadership within the Profession. Judge Neville is also a previous recipient of The Fellows’ Outstanding State Chair Award for the state of Minnesota.
Judge Neville served approximately 30 years on the state of Minnesota’s District Court. Having taken Senior Status two years ago, she now serves as President and founder of Benchmark National ADR, LLC which provides Alternative Dispute Resolution including serving the courts as a special master and providing private mediation and arbitration services.
Gigi Nikpour is an IHRC Senior Advisor and an international human rights advocate. She formerly served as IHRC's Vice Chair of Teleconferences. She has a degree in Information Systems and Design from Carnegie Mellon University and works as a paralegal at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, PA.
Ms. Nikpour has over 20 years of combined experience working with nonprofit organizations in both the legal and medical fields at various capacities. Within the U.S., she is at the forefront of social justice movement, working on issues such as anti-bullying, violence against women, human trafficking, refugee rights, poverty, and the environment.
Ms. Nikpour has been at the forefront of human rights reporting and a champion for Iranian human rights victims and advocates. She is also skilled graphic designer and digital activist who uses her technical and political expertise to bring awareness to important human rights issues via social media and other online platforms.
Ms. Nikpour has worked closely with various human rights campaigns and organizations, such as Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran (CFPPI), the New Iran, Neda for Free Iran, Iran Roundtable, Iranian Refugee Amnesty Network, and Protecting Our Waters. As a refugee and asylum activist, Gigi is an advocate for Iranian LGBTs, Kurds, Bahais, Jews, and political prisoners who apply for asylum with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In this capacity, she protects refugees rights while in transit abroad; assist individuals and families with settlement; and advocates for medical and social assistance of refugees in America.
Ms. Nikpour is an active member of the LGBT sports community. She has participated in the Gay Games and facilitated participation of LGBT athletes in the Gay Games via local chapter entities.