John Heffernan joins EIHR Board of Directors

The Educators’ Institute for Human Rights Board of Directors officially welcomes Human Rights leader John Heffernan to the Board of Directors. Heffernan brings over thirty years of experience in human rights, humanitarian relief and post-conflict reconstruction projects in the United States, Africa, South America, Asia and Europe to his work with EIHR.


Board President Andrew Beiter states, “John's name is synonymous around the world with genocide prevention, and we’ll benefit from his wealth of knowledge as we proceed with an exciting new chapter for our organization.”

In 2014, Heffernan became the Executive Director of RFK’s Speak Truth To Power human rights education initiative. Before arriving at RFK Human Rights, Heffernan was the Director of the Genocide Prevention Initiative at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where he supervised advocacy efforts aimed at responding to genocide today, which included: the opening of a major Museum exhibit, From Memory to Action; the development and implementation of the Museum’s Genocide Prevention Mapping Initiative in partnership with Google Earth, Crisis in Darfur and World is Witness; and the Genocide Prevention Task Force, co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen.

As a Senior Investigator with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) he led three investigations to the Darfur region of Sudan and was the lead author of PHR’s report, Assault on Survival.  He presented the report to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands in February 2006.  In 2002, he conducted a PHR investigation to Afghanistan where he discovered a mass grave which was later the subject of a Newsweek magazine cover story. Previously, he served as the Chief of Party for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Guyana, South America.  In 1995, Heffernan established and ran as, Executive Director, the Coalition for International Justice, a Washington-based non-governmental organization created to support the work of the international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.  

As Country Representative for the former Yugoslavia, he managed a humanitarian relief program for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and from 1990 to 1993 he managed IRC’s refugee resettlement program in Khartoum, Sudan.  Prior to working overseas, Heffernan served as the Vice President of the Business Council for the United Nations in New York City.  Heffernan has written opinion articles for the New York Times, Washington Post, International Herald-Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego Union- Tribune and other publications.

Heffernan is a graduate University of California, Santa Barbara and of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.  He is also a former Coro Fellow. He serves as the board chair for Disability Rights International and is on the Advisory Board of the Dodd Center for Human Rights.  He lives in Washington, DC with his wife and three daughters.