Center for International Human Rights
The Center for International Human Rights (CIHR) is highly esteemed for its deep commitment to and success in securing human rights for countless individuals around the globe. The Center also plays a vital role in Northwestern University School of Law’s expanding international programs. Essential efforts focus on researching and addressing emerging human rights issues as they occur, as well as providing valuable clinical experiences for students interested in the protection of human rights on a global scale.
Students are attracted to the CIHR largely because of the Center’s reputation as a leader in international human rights and international criminal law. In many cases, issues addressed here represent legal topics that have not yet been investigated anywhere else, and students are afforded direct human rights and legal experience in countries around the world.
For example, through the Center’s work in Africa, students spend a week in detention centers in Malawi with judges and prosecutors. They pore through dozens of files of prisoners who have been lost in the system; people who have spent years in prison whose cases have not yet been brought to trial. CIHR students have the rare opportunity to combine an immersive, hands-on, real-world investigation of international law, while also witnessing the life-changing fruits of their labor. Their participation in the CIHR often marks the first time a prisoner has communicated with a lawyer, and this attention and dedication often transforms the lives of prisoners and their families. For most students, helping a client who has been wrongly incarcerated for years – to watch as he or she leaves prison to freedom – is an unforgettable experience.
With faculty supervision, CIHR students provide advocacy before international tribunals and human rights bodies, traveling to countries such as Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Switzerland, and France to speak on behalf of marginalized groups. Students participate in federal court litigation challenging noncompliance with human rights norms under the Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act. They gain valuable experience by assisting in the representation of foreign nationals facing the death penalty and by drafting amicus briefs in a wide range of human rights cases before federal and international and hybrid criminal courts.
In August 2012, the CIHR was granted special consultative status with the Economic and Security Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN). This prestigious status offers CIHR faculty and student representatives (under faculty supervision) the opportunity to participate in events, conferences, and activities of the UN, including the Secretariat, programs, funds and agencies, ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, the General Assembly, Human Rights Council, and other UN intergovernmental decision-making bodies.
A roster of events is sponsored throughout the year on cutting-edge issues in the field of international human rights and international criminal law, and distinguished guest speakers present regularly.