Law 717 - International Human Rights Clinic

Joseph Berra

Joseph Berra

Clinical and Experiential Project Director
B.A. St. Louis University, 1981
M.Div. Universidad Centroamericana, 1990
M.A. University of Texas at Austin, 1994
J.D. St. Mary’s University School of Law, 1997
Course Description:

The International Human Rights Clinic requires students to navigate international human rights law theory and practice in the service of real clients.  It has two components: clinical projects and a seminar. In groups of two to four students, clinic participants will collaborate with international human rights and other partner organizations on a variety of projects. By working with partner organizations to achieve their legal and advocacy goals, students will gain firsthand experience with international human rights lawyering and develop important skills in this regard. The seminar will provide the theoretical counterpart to students’ practical work. Through several modules, this seminar will map the field of international human rights advocacy; introduce students to some of the most contentious debates surrounding the theory and practice of international human rights law; provide students with the tools they will need to identify and address ethical concerns in the practice of international human rights law; and sharpen lawyering skills relevant to their clinic projects. Enrollment is limited and admission to the clinic is by application. A demonstrated background in international human rights law is required.

Projects for the Fall semester will be developed with our partners and clients, but will likely build on past Clinic work. Each project will be a collaboration between the Clinic and a partner organization committed to advancing international human rights either here in the United States or abroad. Past Clinic projects have included work with human rights activists in Latin America and litigation in the Inter-American Human Rights System; work with Native American and Indigenous peoples’ organizations in the U.S. and Latin America under international treaties and instruments on the rights of Indigenous peoples; and work with domestic organizations on immigrant rights and the rights of incarcerated people from a human rights framework.

There will be no international travel in the Fall Clinic.  However, professor Berra has a proposal to take students to Honduras during the 2018 January term for an IHRC International Field Experience that is pending approval.  The International Field Experience will be offered by the Promise Institute for Human Rights, and will involve work with Clinic partners in Honduras.  Students who have taken the IHRC will be given preference in the selection process for the International Field Experience.

Course Specific Learning Outcomes:

Acquire interviewing skills for human rights documentation and reporting; be able to conduct legal research and writing for advocacy in the international human rights system; have had exposure to trauma-informed advocacy; have had exposure to cross-cultural communication; have had exposure to debates surrounding the theory and practice of international human rights law; acquire skills identifying and addressing ethical concerns in the practice of international human rights law.