Law 717 - International Human Rights Clinic
E. Tendayi Achiume
Faculty Director, Promise Institute for Human Rights
J.D. Yale Law School, 2008
The International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) requires students to navigate international human rights legal theory and practice in the service of real clients and partners. It has two components: clinical projects and a seminar. In groups, students collaborate with leading human rights organizations and advocates on a variety of projects, to advance these partners’ legal, policy and advocacy goals. By doing so, students gain firsthand experience with international human rights lawyering and develop important skills for this practice, and for public interest-oriented lawyering more broadly.
In November 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed Professor Achiume to the position of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Students in the IHRC provide legal support to the Special Rapporteur mandate, including cutting-edge legal and policy research, drafting, oral advocacy, and possible travel to the United Nations. In the past, international projects have also included regional human rights litigation in the Inter-American system, and provision of legal support for Indigenous peoples’ litigating in national fora in Latin America. The IHRC’s domestic projects have largely focused on advancing human rights compliance and legal and policy reform in Los Angeles, including in partnership with immigrants’ rights advocates, and with formerly and currently incarcerated women and youth.
The IHRC seminar provides the theoretical counterpart to students’ practical work. Through several modules, this seminar maps the field of international human rights advocacy; introduces students to some of the most contentious debates surrounding the theory and practice of international human rights law; provides students with the tools they will need to identify and address ethical concerns in the practice of international human rights law; and sharpens lawyering skills relevant to their clinic projects. In addition to the seminar, students are required to set aside additional time each week for casework, which may include client meetings and site visits.
A demonstrated background in international human rights is required.
At the end of this course students will have developed:
1. an understanding of the conceptual underpinnings of different methods of international human rights legal advocacy
2. legal research and drafting skills essential in different contexts including litigation, and fact-finding and reporting
3. tools essential for identifying and addressing ethical concerns in the practice of international human rights
4. competence in basic communication skills and techniques used in working with advocacy organizations and government officials;
5. a deeper understanding of the tension between theory and practice in social justice advocacy, and the critical thinking skills essential for resolving this tension