Arthur Helton

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Arthur Helton (January 24, 1949 - August 19, 2003) was a lawyer, refugee advocate, teacher and author. He died in the 2003 Canal Hotel bombing while he was in Baghdad to assess humanitarian conditions in Iraq.

Helton graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University in New York City in 1971 and from New York University School of Law in 1976.

Helton began his work with refugees in 1982, when he joined the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in New York. He created a much-replicated program under which lawyers from some of the most prestigious firms in the United States provided free help to poor refugees in their quest for asylum. The program Helton started now represents more than 1,000 asylum seekers each year, winning more than 90 percent of its cases. During his first year at the Lawyers Committee, Helton secured the release of some 2,000 fugitives from Haiti held in Florida after convincing a federal judge that he would find volunteer lawyers to represent them at formal asylum hearings.

In 1994, Helton founded and then directed the Forced Migration Projects at the Open Society Institute.

From 1999, Helton served as program director of peace and conflict studies and senior fellow for refugee studies and preventive action at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Helton was widely respected in the human rights community. His last book The Price of Indifference - Refugees and Humanitarian Action in the New Century] both compiles copious data on refugee-inducing conflicts, and makes major policy recommendations. It won praise from Kofi Annan as "highly original" and "ambitious". Kenneth Bacon, the president of Refugees International, called it "required reading". Human Right Watch lauded his "hard-nosed and persuasive advocacy". Helton was not just an analyst; he took action. The head of the Lawyers Committee, Michael Posner, said "...Arthur was legendarily hard working and tenacious....Refugees around the world have lost of their leading lights."

Helton was an adjunct professor at Columbia University and is survived by his wife, Jacqueline D. Gilbert, his mother, Marjorie Helton of Florida, and a sister, Pamela H. Krause of Virginia.


Iraq: lurching toward recovery (by Arthur Helton and Gil Loescher)