What are human rights, and what is the meaning and impact of their current prominence? How are human rights formulated and how can they be enforced? This course will address these questions by exploring human rights in theory and in practice. It will examine the historical and philosophical origins of contemporary human rights standards, the uses and limitations of the international human rights treaty system, and the relationship between international human rights obligations and domestic human rights enforcement.
An internship with a nongovernmental organization or government agency working on human rights issues is an opportunity to assist victims of human rights abuses, carry out human rights research, and see first-hand how human rights concerns influence political, economic, and/or social policy. Internships are available with organizations working on a wide variety of human rights topics, including immigrants’ rights, women’s rights, and the right to free expression.
This seminar, limited to students who are pursuing a certificate in Human Rights, examines how human rights organizations approach the practice of human rights research and advocacy. Designed for students who have completed a human rights internship, or who are currently undertaking an internship, the course explores the role of human rights organizations —- both governmental and non-governmental —- in promoting human rights. Students will read current scholarship, both critical and approving, analyze the history, goals, politics and methods of human rights organizations, and discuss their own experiences as interns. They will consider the constraints under which human rights organizations operate, the impact of political and financial pressures, and the relationship between human rights theory and human rights practice.
Why has the past century been so marked by horrific genocides, not only in Europe during WWII, but also in Rwanda, Bosnia, Guatemala and elsewhere? Beginning with the slaughter of Turkey’s Armenian population in 1915-18, which led legal scholar Raphael Lemkin to coin the term “genocide,” the world has witnessed a series of organized mass killings in which the victims have often been targeted because of their nationality or ethnicity. This course will explore the history, causes, and consequences of genocide, as well as the related human rights violations of extermination and forced deportation (often referred to as “ethnic cleansing”). It will examine these phenomena from historical, socio-political and legal perspectives, and ask what might be done at the international level to stop these ultimate human rights violations from occurring.
Is development a human right? Is poverty a violation of rights? This seminar will explore the linkages between global poverty, human rights and development from a historical, theoretical, practical, and policy-making perspective. It will examine the emergence of the “human rights and development” trend over the last two decades, and will consider how the rights ideal has impacted poverty and development in Africa.
The course will navigate several fault lines: between civil/political rights and social/economic ones; between rights and development; between states and citizens, and between Africa and the West, among others.
At the opening of the 1945 trial of leading Nazi war criminals, chief prosecutor Robert Jackson explained why once-powerful defendants like Hermann Goering were in the dock. “The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people,” he said. “It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched.”
Since that time, the world has seen many people with great power commit acts of great evil. This seminar will explore the legal and policy options available in the wake of such massive violations of human rights. It will examine international legal mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court, national processes such as trials and truth commissions, and hybrid approaches such as the Cambodia Tribunal.
In their vulnerability to treatable diseases, the rich and the poor live in different worlds. Every year, millions of people in developing countries die of illnesses that they would likely have survived were they living in Europe or the United States. A key factor in the enormous global disparities in death rates is poor people’s lack of access to needed medicines.
This seminar will examine access to medicine as a human right. It will explore the scope and meaning of the human right to health care, examining its practical application in the developing world. It will take up some of the most pressing and significant questions relating to access to products like vaccines, antibodies, and pain relievers: Do pharmaceutical companies have a moral or legal obligation to make their products available globally, including to the world’s poorest? Do governments like Brazil have a right to facilitate broad access to medicines by making low-cost generic substitutes? And what is the role of corporate power, patent protections, global rules on trade, and international human rights standards on these issues?