Elisa Massimino

Senior Fellow, Human Rights Center for American Progress; Secretary, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Elisa Massimino, Secretary of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Board of Directors, is also President and CEO of Human Rights First, a nonpartisan, international human rights organization which she joined in 1991 as a staff attorney.

Massimino has a distinguished record of human rights advocacy in Washington. As a national authority on human rights law and policy, she has testified before Congress dozens of times and writes frequently for mainstream publications and specialized journals. Since 2008, she’s been repeatedly named one of the most effective public advocates in the country.

Massimino has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, on ABC News, NBC Dateline, The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, CNN, National Public Radio, BBC and many other news outlets.

The daughter of a nuclear submarine commander, Massimino was instrumental in the organization’s recent effort to assemble a group of retired generals and admirals to speak out publicly against policies authorizing the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. This coalition of military leaders has played a pivotal role in the effort to restore compliance with the Geneva Conventions standard for treatment of prisoners.

Massimino holds a law degree from the University of Michigan, a Master of Arts in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University, and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Previously a litigator at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Hogan & Hartson, she served as pro-bono counsel in numerous human rights cases.

Massimino serves as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where she teaches human rights advocacy, and has taught international human rights law at the University of Virginia and refugee law at the George Washington University School of Law. She is a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court.

Before joining the legal profession, she taught philosophy at several universities in Michigan.

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