SIA to host World on Trial screening and discussion in Philadelphia

The Penn State School of International Affairs has joined the Global Philadelphia Association and will sponsor a screening of the first episode of World on Trial, followed by a discussion with the creator and host of the program, Randall Robinson, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Penn State Law, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 22, at the Penn State Philadelphia Center. The event is free and open to the public. Because of limited capacity, please register for the event to reserve your seat.

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The pilot episode of "World on Trial" deals with the 2004 French law banning the conspicuous display of religious symbols in public schools, most notably affecting the right of young Muslim women to wear traditional head scarves or other forms of cover. The program brings together the best legal talent in the world to argue both sides of sharply contested human rights issues before live juries, and asks jurors and viewers to consider whether the law is a violation of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Cherie Booth, the eminent human rights barrister and wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, presides over the trial. Harvard Law Professor and renowned trial lawyer Charles Ogletree leads the challenge to the headscarf law; noted French advocate Remy Schwartz, who served as Rapporteur of the Stasi Commission that recommended the headscarf law, leads the defense. Prosecution witnesses include John R. Bowen, the Dunbar-Van Cleve professor of arts and sciences at Washington University, St. Louis, and author of "Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves" (Princeton 2007) and "Can Islam be French" (Princeton 2009), and Widney Brown, senior director of international law, policy and campaigns with Amnesty International in London, and a specialist in women’s rights. Defense witnesses include Hanifa Cherifi, a leading sociologist and official of the French Ministry of Education who served as the only Muslim woman member of the Stasi Commission, and Karima Bennoune, an authority on international law and the approach of international law to Muslim fundamentalism, who is professor of law and the Arthur L. Dickson Scholar at Rutgers School of Law in Newark, N.J.

In addition to the jury watching the live courtroom debate in the Lewis Katz Building in University Park, remote juries at distinguished universities throughout the world viewed the proceedings by video. They then deliberated and render their own verdicts. Professional commentators and viewers then assess any differences among verdicts.

The School of International Affairs and Penn State Law partnered with Penn State Public Broadcasting to produce the series. Robinson is an internationally acclaimed author and founder of TransAfrica and the Free South Africa Movement. His advocacy on behalf of the people of Haiti spurred a multinational operation to restore Haiti’s first democratically elected government. His current interests include U.S. foreign policy towards the Caribbean and Africa, the use of foreign policy to achieve social goals, and racial equity. The government of South Africa recognized him as one of 31 heroes of the anti-apartheid movement at a Freedom Day ceremony on April 27, 2012.

Friday, January 22, 2016 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm
Penn State Philadelphia Center - 675 Sansom St., Philadelphia