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Souryal accepts U.N. appointment

By Michelle C. Lyons
The Huntsville Item

A Sam Houston State University criminal justice professor soon will be packing his bags and heading out of the country after receiving an appointment from the United Nations to monitor human rights issues abroad.

Professor Sam Souryal recently was asked by United Nations officials to go to Indonesia for six months to study the country's human rights situation and make recommendations for improvements to Indonesian lawmakers and government officials. He is scheduled to leave for Indonesia next week and will begin work March 1.

Souryal, who has taught criminal justice classes at Sam Houston State for 25 years, first was approached about the prospect of doing such work for the United Nations about one year ago, following an out-of-state lecture he gave on prisons and the humane treatment of inmates.

Souryal said he was approached by two representatives of Amnesty International who wanted to know if he would like to be considered for a job as a type of United Nations consultant, monitoring countries for possible human rights violations and making recommendations to officials on how they can improve their human rights situations, particularly in the prison system.

It was about six months later when Souryal was approached about two different assignments monitoring human rights situations, including one in Afghanistan. But both times the timing was bad, he said, adding that the United Nations wanted someone who could essentially begin work immediately - something impossible for him to do with his job as a professor.

Souryal's appointment in Indonesia may be renewed after six months should he choose to stay. He reportedly will be taking a university-approved leave of absence and will be joined abroad by his wife, Maggie.

"I'm very excited (about going)," he said, adding that he will be the first human rights commissioner assigned by the United Nations to Indonesia. "They want to make sure the prisons are basically humane - that people are treated fairly.

"My function is to enhance democracy by peaceful means by consulting with members of government and by increasing awareness of human rights."

Souryal received his master's degree from the University of New York at Albany and his doctorate from the University of Utah. He said while he has not focused on it his entire career, for many years his biggest interest has been not in the justice system itself, but rather how justice is served - and whether it is served fairly.

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SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Feb. 22, 1999
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