International Human Rights Clinic

Photo by Nick Chudeau – New Delhi, India (January 2013)

Photo by Nick Chudeau – New Delhi, India (January 2013)

The year-long International Human Rights Clinic provided students with an opportunity to explore multifaceted approaches to human rights lawyering in both domestic and international settings.  Through Clinic projects and weekly seminars, students focused on a wide range of issues at the heart of global struggles to ensure fundamental rights, substantive equality, and economic and social justice.

In the fieldwork component of the Clinic, students used cutting-edge tools to investigate and document rights abuses and formulate legal, policy, and community-based responses to current human rights problems. Students worked closely with grassroots human rights organizations, international NGOs, and U.N. human rights experts and bodies.  Fieldwork focused on a wide range of issues in the U.S. and abroad, including: economic and social rights, such as the right to food; human rights and counter-terrorism; the accountability of international financial actors for human rights violations; and the human rights of groups marginalized on the basis of caste, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, and sexuality, among other categories.

IHRC students examined obstacles to the realization of the right to food in the United States, undertook empirical research and formulated legal responses to the human rights impacts of large-scale land development projects on three separate continents.  In these projects and cases, students worked with grassroots social movements and with international human rights actors to defend the rights of indigenous communities, small-scale farmers, and rural and low-income communities most marginalized by current conditions of economic globalization.

IHRC’s seminar classes focused on issues relevant to the Clinic’s docket and tackled difficult questions related to human rights lawyering, human rights movements, and human rights actors.  Case studies illustrated crucial debates in human rights law and examine the factors that influence human rights strategies.  Skills sessions emphasized the development of practical tools for human rights practice, such as: developing effective strategies to challenge human rights abuses; investigating, documenting, and publicizing human rights violations; bringing claims before domestic, regional, and international human rights mechanisms; and managing trauma in human rights work. Project rounds enabled direct reflection on the relationship between theory and practice and provide an opportunity for collaborative discussion and feedback on clinic work.  Teach-ins were student-led and invite deeper engagement with issues of students’ choosing.  Students also addressed questions of ethical, political, and professional accountability related to human rights lawyering.


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