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Fall 2024 Seminar

Human Rights Lawyering in Action: Skills, Strategies, and Challenges

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Required Clinic Component: International Human Rights Clinic (3-5 fall clinical credits). Students enrolled in the fall clinic must enroll in this seminar or the Promises and Challenges of Disarmament clinical seminar. Students are not guaranteed their first choice of clinical seminars. Clinical seminar selection and enrollment occurs once a student has enrolled in the fall clinic and is orchestrated by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.

Additional Co-/Pre-Requisites: None.

By Permission: No.

Add/Drop Deadline: August 23, 2024.

LLM Students: LLM students may enroll in this clinic through Helios.

What does it mean to be a human rights lawyer? How do advocates around the world translate the human rights legal framework into a tool for meaningful change? And what are the strategic, ethical, and tactical considerations that arise in different human rights contexts?

This seminar provides a map of the human rights field, including its dominant strategies and methods. It offers students a reflective, contextualized, and participatory exploration of what it means to work in human rights, whether one’s advocacy focuses on local or international human rights issues. Through case studies, simulations, and interaction with practitioners, the course explores methods such as litigation, media engagement, documentation of human rights abuses, and advocacy to strengthen international law. It considers the parameters of various advocacy approaches, analyzing not only the rationales behind selection of tactics but also the opportunities and limitations of the methods chosen to influence governments and other responsible actors.

Combining discussion-based modules with experiential exercises, students develop skills that they can utilize in multiple advocacy settings. Students engage with the practical dilemmas that advocates face in a variety of scenarios and evaluate the ethical and strategic implications of different choices. A workshop on collaboration familiarizes students with the complexities of joint human rights advocacy, addressing questions of power, representation, identity, and legitimacy. Students also facilitate rounds of project-based workshops and self-reflection focused on their practical experiences as advocates in the International Human Rights Clinic.

At the completion of the course, students will leave with the knowledge and skills to navigate the varied practice settings in which human rights advocates work. They will be able to confidently evaluate and choose from the range of methods human rights lawyers use to achieve advocacy goals.