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Felice D. Gaer

(1946- )

GAER, FELICE D. (1946– ), international human rights activist. Born in Englewood, N.J., to Beatrice and Abraham Gaer and educated at Wellesley College and Columbia University (receiving a master's in political science, 1974), Gaer became a program officer of the International Division of the Ford Foundation in 1974, focusing on Soviet and East European programs, including advocating emigration rights and refugee assistance for Soviet Jewish refuseniks. From 1982 to 1991, she served as executive director of the International League for Human Rights, where she pressed for information about the whereabouts of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. She also encouraged the Carter administration to ratify international human rights treaties and successfully lobbied the U.N. Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities to adopt the first U.N. resolution critical of China after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Beginning in 1993, Gaer directed the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of the American Jewish Committee. From 1999, she served as the first American and first woman on the U.N. Committee Against Torture. In 2001, she was appointed by then House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, serving as its chair (2002–03) and vice chair (from 2003); she was reappointed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in 2004.

Between 1993 and 1999, Gaer was appointed to nine U.S. delegations, six to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and three to U.N.-sponsored world conferences, and she served on numerous boards. She was the chair of the Steering Committee of the National Coalition on the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1997–99), a member of the board of directors of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation (from 1993), a member of the Steering Committee of Human Rights Watch/Europe and Asia (from 1996), vice president and a member of the board of governors of the International League for Human Rights (from 1991), and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (from 1991).

Gaer advocated for repeal of the infamous U.N. "Zionism = Racism" resolution of Nov. 10, 1975, a goal which was achieved in 1991, and she played the key role in ensuring passage by consensus of the U.N. General Assembly's first-ever condemnation of antisemitism on Dec. 9, 1998, the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Later she worked with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on regional measures to combat antisemitism. In her address to the first U.N. conference on antisemitism on June 21, 2004, at U.N. headquarters in New York, she argued that antisemitic incidents are a form of human rights abuse and should be treated as such by U.N. bodies. Gaer was also the architect of many initiatives linking women's rights to human rights. After the Srebenica massacres in the Bosnia conflict, Gaer helped craft a joint statement of 27 NGOS arguing that rape and other gender-specific crimes must be prosecuted by international war crimes tribunals


Sources:[Michael Galchinsky (2nd ed.)]

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