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Stephanie Farrior

A photo of Stephanie Farrior
I’m inspired by Vermont Law students and their passion for learning how to use international law to promote human rights.”

Director of International and Comparative Law Programs
Professor of Law

The daughter of a career diplomat and an archaeologist specializing in Chinese oracle bones, Stephanie Farrior was born in Bangkok and grew up there and in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. During her five years in Tokyo at ages eight through thirteen, she attended Nishimachi International School, established in 1949 in response to the destruction of war and the dangers of ultranationalism. The school sought to raise "citizens of the world" recalls Farrior. "We held many UN-related activities and cultural events that reflected the varied backgrounds of my fellow students," who hailed from Japan, India, the Philippines, Taiwan, Czechoslovakia, Hong Kong, Israel, Vietnam, and other nations.

"The multicultural environment at the school nurtured the work I do now," says Farrior-work that has centered on international human rights. Her activities have focused on addressing issues of discrimination on the basis of race, sex and sexual orientation; establishing accountability for torture and other severe rights violations; and improving the effectiveness of the United Nations and other organizations in protecting human rights.

Farrior's concern for human rights was first sparked by an experience in the United States not long after moving there from Malaysia. "I became aware of discrimination at age six, when I was stunned to learn that an amusement park just outside of Washington D.C. would not allow African-American children in."

In high school she became active in anti-poverty activities through American Freedom from Hunger Foundation. Her volunteer work with Amnesty International after college exposed her to the developing area of human rights law. "I decided to go to law school in order to become a more effective human rights advocate," she says. She earned her JD degree from American University, where she was research assistant to then Dean Thomas Buergenthal, now a judge on the International Court of Justice. She went on to earn an LLM degree from Harvard Law School.

While working as a lobbyist on civil liberties issues in Washington, D.C., she and several other lawyers founded the Amnesty International Legal Support Network and undertook a massive research project on incommunicado detention for Amnesty's legal office. "Amnesty had determined that most torture was taking place in the first days of secret detention," she says. "We researched the detention laws in countries around the world," information that Amnesty used in helping to draft the 1984 United Nations Convention against Torture.

She also represented Amnesty International on human rights field missions to such countries as Yemen, Malawi, Pakistan and India, meeting with presidents and ministers of justice as well as human rights activists there. "I bring these experiences into the classroom," Farrior says, "to share with students ways in which human rights law operates in practice."

In 1999 Farrior moved to London to become legal director and general counsel for Amnesty International. In that capacity she met with then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan regarding the UN role in Sierra Leone, East Timor and Kosovo, and worked closely with numerous UN and other human rights bodies. She also oversaw the organization's ongoing legal efforts to have the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet extradited to stand trial for the forced disappearances, torture, and murder of thousands of Chileans, including a man named Carlos Lorca, whose case Farrior had worked on when she first joined Amnesty International in 1977. Ultimately Pinochet was not extradited, but allowed to return to Chile. The dictator died before being brought to trial, but his case is regarded as a key event in international law: the UK House of Lords ruled that a former head of state is not immune from prosecution for torture and other crimes against humanity.

Farrior joined Vermont Law School in 2008 as professor of law and director of International and Comparative Law Programs. Of Vermont, she says: "I feel there are so many people of kindred spirit here, in terms of politics, community, and environmental consciousness-a sense of stewardship not just for the land but also for the people around us."