Global Justice Clinic

Through the Global Justice Clinic, JD and LLM students at NYU School of Law work to prevent, challenge, and redress human rights violations in situations of global inequality.

Taking on cases and projects that involve cross-border human rights violations, the harmful impacts of activities by state and non-state actors, and emerging problems that require close collaboration between actors at the local and international levels, students engage in human rights investigation, advocacy, and litigation in domestic and international settings. Serving as legal advisers, counsel, co-counsel, or advocacy partners, Clinic students work side-by-side with human rights activists from around the world.

Serving as advisors, co-counsel, or advocacy partners, LLM and JD students engage in human rights investigation and data gathering, cross-disciplinary research, social movement support, litigation, and advocacy, in collaboration with activists domestically and around the world.

For more information about the Clinic and application instructions, please visit the NYU School of Law website.

A Human Rights-Based Approach

The Global Justice Clinic prepares law students to be self-reflective, accountable, and innovative human rights lawyers. The Clinic works in a rights-based manner that embraces critical legal empowerment aimed at shifting power to marginalized communities as they claim their rights. The goal of these efforts is not only justice in outcomes: it is ensuring that individuals and communities deprived of their rights lead efforts to achieve systemic change.

The Clinic embraces anti-racist methods and views human rights practice as a means to challenge structural oppression in partnership with directly impacted individuals and communities.

To tackle complex challenges and shift power, the Clinic innovates and expands the human rights toolbox, including through interdisciplinary methods. The Clinic draws on insights and works in collaboration with experts in other fields, including earth sciences, open source investigations, journalism, public health, forensics, sociology, and anthropology.


Project Impact

Projects tackle situations of global injustice where the Clinic has a valuable contribution to make, and where it can support–and not displace–local expertise and capacity. Most projects are multi-year: the Clinic fosters long-term relationships of solidarity with partners. This includes both planned project activities and, frequently, additional legal and advocacy support as needs arise. Over the last decade the Clinic has secured important legal and advocacy victories alongside our partners.

In Haiti, the Clinic’s almost ten-year collaboration with social movement Kolektif Jistis Min and community organizations resisting mining has helped forestall environmental degradation and human rights violations inherent to the development of the gold mining industry. More recent climate and environmental justice work is supporting community mobilization and resistance to pervasive land grabbing.

The Clinic’s work in Haiti includes frequent statements of political solidarity that catalyze scrutiny of damaging U.S. foreign policy. Clinic staff and students have testified and prepared colleagues to testify before the U.S. Congress, at the UN Security Council, and before international and regional human rights bodies. Work on Haitian migration has supported successful federal court litigation to preserve Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti, direct U.S. government advocacy to halt deportations to Haiti and secure TPS redesignation, and the groundbreaking conference on immigration and racial justice, Jean v Nelson at 35.

In Guyana, the Clinic supports the South Rupununi District Council’s (SRDC) extensive territorial and environmental monitoring program to protect indigenous Wapichan lands from mining, grazing and deforestation. The Clinic works with the SRDC to access key international fora, to mount successful legal challenges to projects that would undermine their land rights and sovereignty, and to facilitate the essential leadership of women environmental defenders through the Wapichan Women’s Movement.

In the U.S., the Clinic challenges cycles of incarceration through the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative (JLI), a partnership between NYU’s Bernstein Institute and the Legal Empowerment Advocacy Hub (LEAH). JLI works with jailhouse lawyers to ensure they have the tools to know, use, shape and ultimately transform legal systems from the inside out.

For nearly two decades, the Clinic–and its predecessor, the International Human Rights Clinic– has been a leading advocate in exposing U.S. national security abuses. The Clinic brought pioneering cases challenging the U.S.-led extraordinary rendition program in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the African Commission on Human Rights. Its legal analysis and investigative work has been cited by courts, investigative mechanisms, and human rights bodies around the world.

Work on these diverse projects allows students to find their role as human rights lawyers alongside collaborative partners, while delivering real world impact.


Fieldwork consists of projects undertaken for or with individual clients, human rights organizations, and social movement groups in the United States and abroad, as well as intergovernmental human rights experts and bodies, including the United Nations. Projects focus on situations of global injustice where the Global Justice Clinic has a comparatively valuable contribution to make, and where it is not displacing local expertise and capacity.

Over the last decade, the Clinic has provided cutting edge legal analysis exposing human rights abuses premised on national security and counter-terrorism imperatives, including practices such as extraordinary rendition, disappearances, and detainee abuse. As the landscape of the “War on Terror” continues to shift and evolve, so do the Clinic’s areas of concern, which have spread to include the gendered impacts of U.S. counter-terrorism measures, the impacts of lethal robotics and drones, and, most recently, the misuse of commercial spyware by the surveillance state.

In addition to tackling these and other pressing civil and political rights issues, the Clinic works to defend and promote economic, social and cultural rights. It does so by using cutting-edge methodologies to assess—and advocate for—the fulfillment of rights, such as the rights to water and food, examining the roles played by international institutional actors, pushing for corporate accountability, and fostering dialogue between the development and human rights communities.

Projects on these diverse issues give students an opportunity to find their role alongside collaborative partners in formulating policy, conducting research, and developing strategic legal responses to challenging human rights problems.

GJC supervising attorneys Nikki Reisch and Ellie Happel with GJC students Tyler Walton and Astha Sharma Pokharel, and GJC partner Samuel Nesner (Kolektif Jistis Min), meeting with partners in a community empowerment project in Kenyasi, Ghana
GJC supervising attorneys Nikki Reisch and Ellie Happel with GJC students Tyler Walton and Astha Sharma Pokharel, and GJC partner Samuel Nesner (Kolektif Jistis Min), meeting with partners in a community empowerment project in Kenyasi, Ghana


The seminar component of the Clinic critically examines the human rights field, while teaching the core skills of human rights work, including fact-finding, interviewing, advocacy, litigation, and evaluation. The Clinic is committed to interrogating and expanding the human rights toolbox by using methods drawn from—and in collaboration with experts in—other fields, including geology, hydrology, public health, forensics, and anthropology.

Students also address questions of ethical, political and professional responsibility related to human rights work. Through readings, discussions, and simulations, students gain familiarity with substantive human rights law and methodologies of human rights practice, developing a base of knowledge that serves them in their Clinic projects and beyond.

For more information on the Clinic and application instructions, please visit the NYU School of Law website.

Margaret L. Satterthwaite
CHRGJ Faculty Director
Director, Global Justice Clinic
Professor of Clinical Law
Ellie Happel
Adjunct Professor, Global Justice Clinic
Co-Director, Haiti Justice and International Accountability
Co-Director, Caribbean Climate Justice Initiative
Sienna Merope-Synge
Co-Director, Caribbean Climate Justice Initiative
Supervising Attorney, Indigenous Land Rights and Earth Defence Project
Gabrielle Apollon
Co-Director, Haiti Justice & International Accountability Project
Supervising Attorney, Torture, Rendition, and Disappearances Project
Alejandra Torres
Research Scholar, Global Justice Clinic
Current Projects
Caribean Climate Justice Initiative
Haitian Justice and International Accountability
Indigenous Land Rights and Earth Defense
Jailhouse Lawyer Initiative
Rights Without Borders: Haitian Immigrant Rights
Torture, Rendition, and Detention
Past Global Justice Clinic Projects
Student and Partner Voices
Recent News
November 21, 2022
Protect Human Rights Defenders and Peasants Facing Land Grabs: Haitian Human Rights Defender Milostène Castin Submits Communication to UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
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November 18, 2022
Global Justice Clinic Stands in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples’ Demands at COP27
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July 6, 2022
Racism Causes Climate Vulnerability in Haiti: Collaborative Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism
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Related Documents
Press Releases and Statements
June 8, 2021
Joint Statement from U.S. Human Rights Clinics on Haiti’s Constitutional Referendum
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Press Releases and Statements
June 8, 2021
Deklarasyon Tèt Kole Klinik Dwa Moun ki baze nan peyi Etazini sou Referandòm Konstitisyonèl Ayiti a
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Press Releases and Statements
February 17, 2021
Letter to UN SC Members Final – French
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Related Events
April 27, 2022
Challenging Newmont’s Rhetoric: Stories from Community Activists
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October 1, 2021
Best Practices for Haitian TPS Applications
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May 6, 2021
Resisting Extractivism, Advancing Climate Justice: Views from the Caribbean on the eve of Regional Climate Week
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