Course Details

Nation Building: International Human Rights in Transitional Societies

This seminar course will explore the nation building elements that must be in place in a state emerging from a period of state oppression or armed conflict in order for that state to become a society where human rights are respected. In the course we will examine the concepts of international human rights, democracy, rule of law, constitutionalism, self-determination, civil society, gender justice and minority rights, and the role these factors play, individually and in combination, in creating and maintaining an emergent society that respects international human rights. We will consider the role of a number of devices designed to aid broken societies transition to rights respecting ones, including truth and reconciliation commissions, judicial intervention, and collective action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Throughout the course we will relate international legal principles to real life situations in places such as Iraq; Afghanistan; Palestine; Libya; Kosovo; Sudan; Syria (and elsewhere in Africa); Columbia; Sri Lanka and elsewhere in the world. Course Particulars The course will be presented in a seminar format and will meet once a week for 2 hours. I will approve all student requests for multi draft papers. There is no exam. Grades are based on 75% on a research paper and 25% on oral participation. The latter will consist of participation in class discussion, interaction with me concerning progress on your course papers and a brief oral presentation near the end of the course. The reading for the course will be provided on Blackboard supplemented by relevant contemporary materials from the media that I will regularly provide. Regarding the writing requirement of the course, my practice is to meet individually with students during the term to allow for a close interaction between us as your work progress. At the outset of the course, I will offer a set of suggested paper topics that you are free to consider. I will also provide a list of (and means of access to) relevant international instruments that we will be considering. Course Purpose This course is one of several that I present with the intent of exposing the student to the whole range of legal, political, economic and social issues that are presented under the broad heading of public international law. My purpose in presenting this course (and the others) is to introduce the student to a subject matter that is compelling and topical (as it will often deal with events that are happening in real time) and to position him or her to pursue (if desired) a career in the field of public international law. Moreover, at a minimum, the course will provide a basis for understanding the legal ramifications of the reporting on events that are the subject of daily headlines in the press. In presenting the course, I draw upon my experience of many decades in the active practice of law (in the criminal and civil fields) in order to relate classroom materials and discussion to the real world of legal practice.


Catalog Number: CONPUB 700
Practice Areas: Civil and Human RightsInternational Law Practice Area


Course History

Fall 2014
Title: Nation Building: International Human Rights in Transitional Societies
Faculty: Sawyer, Stephen P. (courses  |  homepage)
Section: 1     Credits: 3.0
Capacity: 25     Actual: 16



Fall 2013
Title: Nation Building: International Human Rights in Transitional Societies
Faculty: Sawyer, Stephen P. (courses  |  homepage)
Section: 1     Credits: 3.0
Capacity: 25     Actual: 11



Fall 2012
Title: Nation Building: International Human Rights in Transitional Societies
Faculty: Sawyer, Stephen P. (courses  |  homepage)
Section: 1     Credits: 3.0
Capacity: 25     Actual: 19



Fall 2011
Title: Intl HR Law: Nation Building
Faculty: Sawyer, Stephen P. (courses  |  homepage)
Section: 1     Type: Seminar     Credits: 3.0
Capacity: 25     Actual: 16