Participants in International Human Rights Course in France Include Persecution of Falun Gong in List of Urgent Concerns

Every July the International Institute for Human Rights in Strasbourg, France holds a four-week study session on international human rights law. This summer, I joined 300 lawyers, professors, students and human rights activists from around the world to participate in a study session on international protection of human rights in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. At the end of the session, the participants wrote a "Declaration of Commitment" to engage in the promotion and protection of human rights. In the declaration, they included the persecution of Falun Gong in a list of contemporary human rights issues of particular concern.

To commemorate the five-year mark since the persecution of Falun Gong began in China, on July the 22nd 2004, a member of Amnesty International and I organized a panel discussion. At the event, I explained about Falun Gong and the lawsuits filed in different countries against Jiang Zemin and others responsible for the persecution, while the representative of Amnesty International spoke about the human rights violations committed against practitioners in China. At the end, we showed the award-winning film, False Fire.

Approximately 40 people attended the discussion, including participants from the session and members of the community who had heard about the event after it was publicized in a local newspaper. At the end of the presentation, many of them took informational VCDs and asked for additional materials. One lawyer from California said he would like to organize a similar event at his local library to tell people about the genocide happening in China. Several representatives from human rights organizations in Africa promised to tell more people about the persecution when they returned to their countries.

At the closing ceremony on July 29, two people read aloud an open letter that was signed by over 100 of the session's participants. In the letter entitled, "Declaration of Commitment," the signatories summarized what they had learned during the session, made recommendations for improving international human rights protection mechanisms, and listed over 20 current human rights problems that they have committed to working to resolve. Included in that list was the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

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