Chair named in honor of Mrs. Leana D. Bresnahan, former director of the United States Southern Command Human Rights Office.
WHINSEC Bestow Center for Human Rights and Democracy Honorary Academic Chair
WHINSEC bestowed Center for Human Rights and Democracy Honorary Academic Chair to Human Rights Champion in Americas. Mrs. Leana D. Bresnahan was honored for her over 30 years of Human Rights work in the Americas. (Photo Credit: Milton Mariani Rodriguez) VIEW ORIGINAL
"The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened." -John F. Kennedy

FORT BENNING, GA (Sept 8) -- Today, members of the Institute came together as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), bestowed the WHINSEC Center for Human Rights and Democracy Center Academic Chair to Mrs. Leana D. Bresnahan.

The Chair is created to recognize the significant contributions made by a legendary US Government employee to further the education and training of human rights and democracy to Partner Nation service members, law enforcement officials, and ministry of defense civilians, of the Western Hemisphere. Research was conducted to find candidates who embody the qualities that inspire and empower students to become promoters of human rights and democratic principles.

Based on this criterion, Bresnahan was selected. She served at USSOUTHCOM's Human Rights Office for over 30 years, 13 as the director, and was instrumental in creating and implementing USSOUTHCOM's Human Rights Initiative.

During her tenure, Bresnahan has developed the Human Rights program, unique in the Department of Defense. She has designed a training program in human rights principles for SOUTHCOM personnel and all U.S. military and civilian personnel who are assigned to the region, or travel to the region on official DoD business. She also served as the Command's liaison officer to foster dialogue with the human rights community, non-governmental organizations, and regional and international organizations.

Additionally, Bresnahan designed and lead the Human Rights Initiative (HRI) program, a long-term cooperative program that seeks to foster, strengthen, and measure a culture of respect for human rights within the armed and security forces in the region. The program seeks to bring together representatives of military, security forces, civilian government and civil society to develop a model human rights program for military forces focused in four areas: doctrine, education and training, internal control systems, and cooperation with civilian authorities. The Human Rights Office supports the efforts of 11 countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay) and one regional organization, the Conference of Central American Armed Forces (CFAC) that have made a formal commitment to implement the Human Rights Initiative within their armed forces.

Prior to assuming her position at SOUTHCOM, she served at the U.S. Embassy in Panama as a Department of Justice analyst and worked for several years in the private sector. Bresnahan has also worked on human rights advocacy campaigns with non-governmental and faith-based organizations.

U.S. Department of State Interagency Representative/Faculty Advisor for WHINSEC, Mr. Joseph I. Nieto, delivered the opening remarks.

The creation of academic and leadership professorships is fundamental to WHINSEC's strategic vision. In the long term to be recognized as a world-class center of excellence in leadership and academic security studies for regional partner nations in the Western Hemisphere.
Academic and leadership professorships are established to recognize, pay tribute and honor distinguished individuals of good professional reputation who have made extraordinary contributions and achievements in the field of study of the intended professorship.
The role of the Chair is to assist the Center Director with the execution of his or her mission. This academic chair will foster the professional education, policy, doctrine, and change necessary to ensure that the Center for Human Rights and Democracy at WHINSEC maintains a focus on providing graduates with the knowledge and skills in human rights, democracy, and the rule of law to prepare them as joint leaders, staff officers and strategists for the complex scenarios of the twenty-first century.
The Chair will be the driving force in developing a collaborative work environment to ensure that instructors are prepared to teach, and students are willing to learn. We are grateful that leading expert Leana Bresnahan, who served as Chief of the Human Rights Office of the Southern Command for over 30 years and dedicated her life's work to promoting human rights, has agreed to honor the establishment of this Chair of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in her name, thank you very much.

Peruvian Navy Partner Nation Human Rights Instructor, Lt. Cdr. José Champa, introduced and welcomed Bresnahan.

WHINSEC Bestow Center for Human Rights and Democracy Honorary Academic Chair
WHINSEC bestowed Center for Human Rights and Democracy Honorary Academic Chair to Human Rights Champion in Americas. Mrs. Leana D. Bresnahan was honored for her over 30 years of Human Rights work in the Americas. (Photo Credit: Milton Mariani Rodriguez) VIEW ORIGINAL
During her remarks Bresnahan commented, “It is a tremendous honor to be here for this momentous occasion, the inauguration of the academic chair that will carry my name. I am honored beyond description. This is an honor that I would have never expected.
My career as a civil servant in the Department of Defense (DoD) was dedicated to creating and building a human rights program at U.S. Southern Command, most commonly referred to as ‘SOUTHCOM.’ My work during my 25 years, the last 13 of which I was privileged to serve as Chief of the Human Rights Office, was not just a job to me. Rather it was a vocation and a passion, a mission I believed deeply in from the very outset.
Throughout those years, as you may well imagine, building the first of its kind program, unique in all of DoD, brought many rewards and satisfactions. It also brought a not insignificant number of obstacles and frustrations. When those obstacles and frustrations occurred, I was always able to rely on my deep belief in the inherent value of the mission to give me the strength necessary to persevere. I was always convinced that our work in human rights was contributing in an important way, not only to the security of the United States of America, but also to the well-being of millions of citizens of our partner nations. Every day was another day I knew I was dedicating my work to something truly important.
Throughout my career at SOUTHCOM, I was always able to depend on WHINSEC, the Center for Human Rights and Democracy, and on Dr. Tony Raimondo specifically, to support our human rights mission. There were very few times when I requested support for conducting a Human Rights Initiative conference or seminar that Dr. Raimondo was NOT able to provide that support. And the very few times he was not able to do so, it had everything to do with a lack of excess capacity and with the large, demanding mission and vitally important work of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy here at WHINSEC. It never had to do with the lack of will to support. In short, WHINSEC was always a wonderful partner to SOUTHCOM on human rights. Dr. Raimondo and his team supported the work of our Human Rights Office in events throughout the hemisphere, generously sharing their expertise with our partner nation military counterparts. I will be forever grateful for the generous sharing of their extensive expertise.
One of the core tenets we at SOUTHCOM promoted was the centrality of respect for human rights and democracy to military and security forces, both in the US and throughout the rest of our hemisphere. Simply put, respect for human rights is a necessary component of military professionalism. Not only is it necessary to respect human rights in order for military forces to meet their legal, constitutional, international, and moral and ethical obligations. It is also something that makes our forces much more effective. It is a powerful force multiplier.
I am proud to have dedicated my career to a command that emphasized the importance of the human rights. I am proud to have had the privilege to work with so many honorable military officers, NCOs, and soldiers throughout our hemisphere, also dedicated to protecting human rights. And I am proud to have had such an excellent partner at WHINSEC.
As you know, I retired from my government career at the end of 2021. So the message I would leave with you is this. The work of WHINSEC is vitally important. This is a place of convergence, where officers, NCOs, soldiers, police, and civilians from all over the hemisphere come together to learn, and along the way, form bonds of camaraderie and friendship that will last forever. This is also a place that has incorporated democracy and human rights into everything it does. The Center for Human Rights and Democracy is a shining example of the leadership WHINSEC has demonstrated. From my position as the Chief of the Human Rights Office at SOUTHCOM, I always knew what institution I could count on to give the highest quality education and training on human rights for military officers, NCOs and soldiers. That was the WHINSEC Center for Human Rights and Democracy!
The abiding values embedded in democracy and human rights unify us a hemisphere. They will be increasingly important in the years to come. Respect for human rights is an absolutely unconditional requirement for military and security forces to train, to exercise, and to integrate in all aspects of its activities.
Congratulations to the Center and to WHINSEC on the establishment of this academic chair. I am profoundly honored, and I thank you once again. I am proud that my name will now forever be officially linked to this important institution. I know you will keep moving forward on this vital mission. If there is ever anything I can do to be of support, please know that you can count on me.
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(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

As part of the conclusion of the ceremony, Raimondo and Bresnahan unveiled a display case containing human rights memorabilia donated by the Bresnahan in honor of the creation of the academic chair at CHRD. The display case will take its place of honor at the entrance of the center.