Felice Gaer has served on the UN Committee Against torture since 1999, making her the longest serving American elected to a UN Human Rights body. Though there is little power vested in the independent experts who staff treaty organizations, Gaer has been able to move the needle on human rights cases worldwide through creatively deploying the little power she has. This was an lesson she first learned while investigating the disappearance of the soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov in the early 1980s.
Felice has had a very long career in human rights, and we trace the origins of her commitment to human rights from an early age, and more recently to her work on the Committee Against Torture and as the director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. We kick off our conversation with about a 15 minute conversation about the UN’s evolving posture on women’s rights and LGBT rights. Gaer tells an interesting story about how an early bureaucratic decision about the structure of the UN’s Economic and Social council enabled the integration of women’s rights into the broader UN human rights agenda.