Introduction to International Human Rights Research

For presentations September 2011 to Prof. Bridget Arimond's Human Rights Advocacy and IHR Colloquium classes and Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights staff by Irene Berkey, Foreign and International Law Librarian. For questions, contact Library Reference, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Librarian (e-mail | (312) 503-8451) .

Substantive Introduction:

  • Buergenthal, Thomas, et al., International Human Rights in a Nutshell (4th ed., 2009) I,MON K 3240.4 .B84 2009 ON RESERVE

Current Awareness Sources:

For resources to help with keeping up to date on international law developments and as an aid in topic selection, see our page Some Current Awareness Sources for International Law.

Research Guides:

Citation and Abbreviations Guides:

A few important resources are listed below. For additional resources see our page Identifying Abbreviations and Acronyms: International and Foreign.

  • Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations - Abbreviations for "English language legal publications, from the British Isles, the Commonwealth and the United States, including those covering international and comparative law. A wide selection of major foreign language law publications is also included."
  • The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 19th ed. 2010. See Rule 20 “Foreign Materials” and Rule 21 “International Materials,” as well as Table 2 “Foreign Jurisdictions,” Table 3 “Intergovernmental Organizations,” Table 4 “Treaty Sources,” and Table 5 “Arbitral Reporters.”
    R,REF KF 246 .B55 (ON RESERVE)
  • Guide to Foreign and International Legal Citations. Journal of International Law and Politics, New York University, 2006.
    I,REF K 89 .G85 2006
  • International Citation Manual. Washington University Global Studies Law Review.
  • "The Inter-American Citator: A Guide to Uniform Citation of Inter-American Sources for Writers and Practitioners." Compiled by the editors of the University of Miami Inter-American Law Review under the direction of Kristen Broyles, 37 University of Miami Inter-American Law Review 339 (2005-2006). Available in HeinOnline
    I,PER K 25 .N6785

Identifying Official Hard Copy Sources for Treaties:

Electronic Full-Text Sources:

  • EISIL: Electronic Information System for International Law (American Society of International Law) Authenticated full-text of primary and other materials. See especially section for International Human Rights. Note: this database links to free resources only. Also note: EISIL does not link to the United Nations Treaty Collection. However, EISIL can be used to obtain a citation to U.N.T.S. (United Nations Treaty Series). Click on the "more information" link for a document; the "legal citation" provides the U.N.T.S. citation (as well as citations to other official print sources) when available. The U.N.T.S. citation can be used to find the document in hard copy or in PDF in the HeinOnline United Nations Law Collection.
  • HeinOnline
    • Full-text PDF backfiles of law journals. Section for "International and Non-U.S. Law Journals" includes International Legal Materials (I.L.M.)
    • "Treaties and Agreements Library," which includes the following sources for U.S. treaties: United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (U.S.T.); Treaties and International Acts Series (T.I.A.S.); KAV agreements; International Legal Materials (I.L.M.). Note: of these titles, the library has the following in hard copy: U.S.T. (Int 83 1952-), T.I.A.S. ( Int 83 1952a-), and I.L.M. (I,REF JX 68 .I5). It has KAV agreements in microfiche (M,MFC JX 231 .U54).
    • "Foreign and International Law Resources Database," which includes the following: international yearbooks and periodicals; U.S. law digests; international tribunals/judicial decisions; other significant works related to foreign and international law.
    • United Nations Law Collection Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community

United Nations Treaties and Documents:

U.N. Treaties

  • United Nations Treaty Series in hard copy
    Int 82 U58 (4th floor)
  • United Nations Treaty Collection provides texts of treaties registered with the United Nations, as well as treaty ratification status and the texts of reservations and declarations. Under "Status of Treaties," which links to "Status of Multilateral Treaties deposited with the Secretary-General," see Chapter IV: Human Rights. Citation to United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS) is provided. To access full text PDF text of a treaty from UNTS, click on "full text/details" icon, then scroll down to "Text document(s)" for link(s) to PDF.
  • HeinOnline. United Nations Law Collection Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community. Allows searching by U.N. T.S. citation.

U. N. Documents

  • See Bluebook 19th ed. (Rule 21.7) "United Nations Sources."
  • United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This web site is the single most important resource for U.N. human rights documentation. Provides the texts of human rights treaties and other human rights instruments. The page for each treaty text includes a navigational link to “Status of ratification, reservations and declarationsâ€� from the United Nations Treaty Collection. (Links to treaty texts and information can be found on the page for the relevant treaty body.) The "Human Rights Bodies" page includes links to "Charter based bodies document search" and "Treaty body document search," as well as the new "Universal Human Rights Index."
  • UNBISnet - For resolutions, search (browse) by document symbol; "search results" list often includes session, supplement number, and document symbol of the supplement (required by Bluebook if using "official record" source for resolutions) and it will often retrieve the resolution as found in the official records supplement.
  • United Nations Official Document System (ODS) - Documents 1992- in PDF.
    A "simple search" for a resolution will search only the UN documentation database, which contains the preliminary version only of resolutions.
    For final version of resolutions, must do "advanced search." However, this will retrieve PDF of official records supplement, but will not include citation. For complete citation information to official records supplement, must use UNBISnet (see above).
  • UN Documents page - Access to resolutions from first page is a convenience. If using Bluebook "UN website" option--note that this page has preliminary version only.
  • General Assembly Official Records (GAOR) (1946-1990) in hard copy - Int 783 O32
    Security Council Official Records (SCOR) (1946-1985) in hard copy - Int 784 O32
    U. N. Documents 1986-1997 in microfiche; contact Foreign & International Law Librarian.

International Courts and Tribunals

Law library website, especially the following:

Hard copy reports of human rights and international criminal courts--selected:

  • The Tokyo Major War Crimes Trial
    I,MON KZ 1181 .J57 1998
  • Nuremburg trial material
    Int 6156 (etc.) (several sets)
  • Inter-American Court of Human Rights
    I,MON KDZ A52I58 (etc.); annual report is at N,KAA KDZ 579 .I58A7337
  • Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. Annual Report
    N,KAA JC 599 A45I58
  • European Court of Human Rights
    N,EAA KJC 5132 .A52E88 (etc.)
  • International Tribunal for Rwanda
    I,MON KZ 1201 .A2I58 1999
  • International Tribunal for Yugoslavia
    I,MON K 5301 .A495 .J83 1999 (etc.)
  • Judicial Reports / International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia = Recueils judiciaires / Tribunal pÉnal international pour l'ex-Yougoslavie
    (Kluwer Law International, 1999- )
    I,MON K 5301 .A47J83
  • International Criminal Court
    I,MON KZ 6311 .A87
  • Annotated Leading Cases of International Criminal Tribunals
    I,MON KZ 1190 1999 vols. 1-8
  • Global War Crimes Tribunal Collection
    I,MON KZ 1168.5 .G56 1997
  • International Human Rights Reports
    I,MON K 3239.23 .I58

Case Law Databases and Finding Guides:

Finding Print (hardcopy) Materials in the Library:


Books about the international protection of human rights in a global context or the human rights situation in countries in more than one region of the world are usually shelved in the "location" I,MON (3rd floor). Example of a location symbol and call number:

I,MON K 3240 .B34 2004 (The Role of Human Rights in Foreign Policy).
Many books on human rights will be found nearby.

Books about the protection of human rights or the human rights situation in a particular country or region are shelved with that country or region. These areas are also on the 3rd floor. Examples:

N,EAA KJC 5132 .F86 2001 (Fundamental Rights in Europe...)
N,IAA JC 599 .A36C85 2002 (Cultural Transformation and Human Rights in Africa)
N,HCP JC 599 .C6R43 2004 (Realms of Freedom in Modern China)

Books about the philosophy of rights are likely to be shelved in MON (the Anglo-American and general collection), as are books on human rights in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Within these broad shelving areas, materials relevant to human rights may be found under many different call numbers--not only for "law," but also for subjects such as political science, criminology, and business. It is essential to use NUcat (see below).

For a geographical approach, see the Human Rights Browsing chart.

Periodicals that tend to include articles on these subjects are shelved in I,PER (2nd floor), which incorporates periodicals on international, comparative, and foreign law, arranged (generally speaking) in alphabetical order by title. Articles on human rights are also published in journals shelved in PER (Anglo-American and general periodicals)(2nd floor). It is essential to use periodical indexes or databases (see below) to identify articles. To ascertain the location symbol and call number for a periodical, do a "title" or "journal title" search in NUcat. The NUcat record will also provide a link to electronic sources for the journal, if available.

[Note: some older foreign law material is in closed shelving, and must be requested at the Circulation Desk.]

Using NUcat to Identify Books and Periodicals:

  • "Guided Search"
    • Keyword search can lead to Contents notes (chapter headings)
    • Keyword search can lead to Subject Headings.
  • "Subject" search (must use Library of Congress subject headings)

    Selected LC subject headings:
    Human rights
    Humanitarian law
    Crimes against humanity
    Criminal jurisdiction
    Criminal liability (international law)
    Criminal procedure (international law)
    International criminal courts
    International offenses
    War crimes

  • NUcat Searching Tips

NOTE: NUcat is used to determine if the library system owns a particular periodical, but it is not used to identify periodical articles. For periodical articles, use a periodical index/database (see below).

Indexes/Databases for Periodical Articles

There are many resources for identifying and locating journal articles, working papers, etc. See the following pages of the law library's web site:

For questions or comments, please consult the Foreign and International Law Librarian.

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