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Senator Lesniak To Compete In Final Round Of International Human Rights Competition

UNION – Senator Raymond J. Lesniak has been selected by Le Mémorial de Caen to compete in the final round of their international human rights competition. Speeches were submitted from lawyers around the globe and only 10 were selected for the prestigious final round.

Senator Lesniak, a graduate of St. John’s University School of Law and partner in the law firm Wiener Lesniak, will travel to Caen, France to defend his speech, entitled “The Road to Justice and Peace,” on Sunday, February 1, 2009.

Judges for the final competition will include:

• Leïla Aslaoui: an instructor from the Algerian Institute of International Law and Institutions

• Boutros Boutros-Ghali: an Egyptian Diplomat who was the sixth Secretary General of the UN from January 1992 to January 1997.

• Abdou Diouf: Second president of Sengal, served from 1981 to 2000. Diouf is notable both for coming to power by peaceful succession and leaving willingly after losing the 2000 elections.

• Barbara Hendricks: an American-born operatic soprano concert singer. She is also known for her work as a human rights activist

• Hauwa Ibrahim: a Nigerian Human Rights Lawyer who won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2005. She was especially cited for her pro bono work defending people condemned under the Islamic Sharia.

• Abraham Serfaty: an internationally prominent Moroccan dissident, militant, and political activist who was imprisoned by King Hussein II of Morocco, for his political actions in favor of democracy.

• Mario Stasi: French diplomat

The Senator’s essay focuses on his historic efforts to abolish the death penalty in New Jersey, the possibility of executing an innocent person and the devastating impact that capital punishment has on the families of murder victims, and society as-a-whole. He cites the cases of Byron Halsey, Troy Davis, and a 13 year old girl who was stoned to death by Islamic militants for adultery because she was raped by three men.

He begins by examining a case that hit close to home: Byron Halsey, a man from Plainfield, NJ who served 19 years in prison for a murder he did not commit and, who, by the grace of one juror, evaded the death penalty and was recently released from prison. His speech then explores the case of Troy Davis, a Georgian man incarcerated on death row since 1989 for a murder he maintains, and compelling evidence supports, that he did not commit. Davis, in spite of recent stays of execution and widespread support for his release, is still awaiting execution on Georgia’s death row. The Senator concludes his work by citing cases of abuse of the death penalty from outside our borders: in particular the case of a 13 year-old Somalian girl who was stoned to death, in a brutal spectacle that drew an audience of roughly 1,000 people, for adultery because she was raped.

Senator Lesniak hopes his work will draw, “attention to the abolitionist efforts and bring the issue of the death penalty to the forefront of international human rights efforts.”

A transcript of Senator Lesniak’s speech will be available to the press after the February 1st event. For more information about the Senator’s efforts to abolish the death penalty, please visit his website,

For more information about the contest, please visit Le Mémorial de Caen’s website at