Human Rights Advocacy and Litigation: Clinical Seminar

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Spring 2013 Seminar
Meets: T 5:00pm - 7:00pm in WCC Room 5052
2 classroom credits

This seminar is only open to students in the SPRING International Human Rights Clinic.

Co-requisite Clinic: International Human Rights Clinic (2-4 Spring credits). Students must first enroll in the clinic before attempting to enroll in this class.
Early Add/Drop Deadline: January 18, 2013.
LLM Students: This class and its clinic is open to LLM students through an application process.

Human rights advocacy and litigation are mainstays in efforts to protect and promote the rights of communities around the world. From the Arab Spring, to debates over U.S. policy at home and abroad, to the role of corporations in alleged violations, to potential reform and transition in countries like Burma, the discourse of rights today pervades and influences numerous international and national arenas. Nonetheless, serious questions face the human rights advocate when translating words and law into action and sustainable change for affected communities. Through case studies and role plays, this seminar examines the various dimensions and limitations of human rights advocacy and litigation, including strategic, ethical, and tactical challenges.

This seminar considers the tough questions that confront every human rights advocate: How can human rights be harnessed to effectively influence and change behavior? Which methods and mechanisms should an advocate deploy, when, and in what contexts? What does it mean to be a human rights advocate? What are the main critiques and dilemmas facing those engaged in rights promotion and defense? It allows students to critically examine the human rights movement, while also developing core advocacy, litigation, and problem-solving skills. While engaging with the critiques, the seminar also moves beyond them to discuss the choices advocates must make in practice for the communities they serve. In addition to case studies, students workshop and reflect on their participation in supervised clinical projects, which provide rich materials for discussions about fact-finding investigations, media work, negotiations, advocacy, and litigation. Students also consider how to balance the often differing agendas of the western international nongovernmental organizations and their counterparts in the (frequently non-western) developing world. Finally, the seminar grapples with the limits of established approaches of the movement such as litigation and “naming and shaming”, and explores in-depth the role of community lawyering and human rights.

A spring clinical practice component is required of all students. Clinical placements are with the International Human Rights Clinic.

Subject Areas: Human Rights , Procedure & Practice , International, Comparative & Foreign Law .

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