(WASHINGTON)— PEN America has announced the appointment of Hadar Harris as managing director of its Washington office. Harris, a human rights lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in civil society and government, has served in the role in an interim capacity since January.

Before joining PEN America this year, Harris was executive director for five and a half years of the Student Press Law Center, the only legal assistance group solely devoted to supporting U.S. student journalists against censorship. She began her career in Washington as executive director of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus under the leadership of the late Congressman Tom Lantos of California.

Harris, who grew up in northern California, has worked in more than 25 countries, focused on a broad range of human rights issues including freedom of expression and association, protecting civil society space, gender equality, and domestic implementation of international norms. She served as an election observer in Nakchivan, Azerbaijan; worked with the government and civil society in Botswana on compliance with human rights treaties, helped establish the Gender and Law Association of India; consulted on criminal justice reform in Morocco; and conducted the first trainings of the Kosovo Judicial Training Institute on obligations under CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. 

From 2002-2015, Harris served as executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law. Upon leaving, she became executive director of the Northern California Innocence Project, working on exonerating the wrongfully convicted and reforming the criminal justice system. 

“I am thrilled to join PEN America at this critical moment,” said Harris. “Free expression is core to free and open societies and writers are at its forefront. At a moment when we see free expression being constrained or weaponized, protecting and defending it is vitally important. I look forward to leading PEN America’s DC office to engage with policymakers, diplomats and changemakers to help PEN America fulfill its mission of defending free expression at home and abroad.”

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Hadar spearheading our advocacy work in Washington, including addressing issues that impact censorship in public schools and libraries in the US, free expression rights online, and imperiled writers and artists overseas,” said Summer Lopez, chief of Free Expression programs at PEN America.  “Hadar brings deep knowledge and experience and strategic insights to the causes that are core to our free expression mission.”

A graduate of Brown University and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, Harris served on the boards of directors of Amnesty International USA, the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, and B’Tselem USA.  She is currently also an International Visiting Scholar and adjunct professor at American University Washington College of Law.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], (201) 247-5057