Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law: new challenges




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Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law: new challenges


Washington College of Law

Summer 2012


Professors Claudia Martin and Diego Rodríguez-Pinzón



  1. Course Summary


The purpose of this class is to provide an overview of current international human rights law and the mechanisms for its implementation and enforcement. The first segment of the course will focus on modalities of protection of international human rights law. We will resort to comparative examples from the universal human rights system (United Nations) and the three existing regional human rights systems (Inter-American, European and African). Next, we will study some of the main tools developed by the UN Human Rights Council and the treaty bodies under a selected UN human rights treaty. Subsequently, we will explore the crucial role that civil society and non-governmental organizations play in the implementation and enforcement of contemporary human rights law. Finally, we will study international humanitarian law, as an autonomous branch of international law that recognizes specific protections to human beings.


II. Grading Policy


The grade will be based upon a final exam taken online through MyWCL after classes end on Friday, July 6, 2012. Students are also expected to participate in class upon thoughtful preparation of assignments.



III. Contacting Faculty


You can reach Claudia Martin by e-mail at cmartin@wcl.american.edu or Diego Rodríguez-Pinzón by e-mail at drodrig@wcl.american.edu.


IV. Course Materials


The principal source of class assignments will be handouts. Additionally, students are expected to read, in advance of the course, the following document: Buergenthal, Shelton and Stewart, International Human Rights in a Nutshell (4th edition). The book can be purchased from West Publishers in the following webpage (or from other vendors such as Amazon): http://west.thomson.com/productdetail/143532/40647959/productdetail.aspx?PromType=external&PromCode=622444H15668


Students are expected to be acquainted with the relevant human rights treaties covered in each session. UN human rights treaties and Geneva Conventions can be found at the website of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Inter-American treaties at the website of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; European treaties at the website of the European Court of Human Rights; and African Treaties at the website of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.


To access those treaties and carry out additional research, a list of relevant human rights websites follows:


* Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org


* International Committee of the Red Cross: http://www.icrc.org/eng/


* European Court of Human Rights: www.echr.coe.int


* Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: http://www.cidh.org/


* Inter-American Court of Human Rights: www.corteidh.or.cr


*African Commission on Human and People’s Rights: http://www.achpr.org/


* University of Minnesota Human Rights Library: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/


* Amnesty International: www.amnesty.org


* Human Rights Watch: www.hrw.org


* Human Rights First [former Lawyers Committee for Human Rights]: www.humanrightsfirst.org


1Course Outline and Readings


June 20 11:30 am – 1:20 pm

Introductory Lecture: International Political Implementation and Enforcement of Human Rights Standards.


Required readings

-Joseph and Kyriakakis, The United Nations and human rights, in Reseach Handbook on International Human Rights Law, Joseph and McBeth, Eds. (2010);

-Rodríguez-Pinzón and Martin, The Inter-American human rights system: selected examples of its supervisory work, in Research Handbook on International Human Rights Law, Joseph and McBeth, Eds. (2010);

-Steiner, Alston and Goodman, International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals, Read pp. 891-899.


Additional readings


- Henkin, Cleveland, Helfer, Newman and Orentlicher, Human Rights, Read pp. 675-681;


- Steiner, Alston and Goodman, International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals, Read pp. 933-946;


Heyns, Padilla and Zwaak, A schematic comparison of regional human rights systems: An update, 5 African Human Rights Law Journal 308 (2005).


June 21 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm

The United Nations Treaty Bodies: Selected Examples.

Visit to the Palais Wilson, United Nations.

Invited speaker: Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Human Rights Treaty Branch, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


Required readings

-United Nations Human Rights Treaty System: An introduction to the core human rights treaties and treaty bodies, Fact Sheet 30;

- Henkin, Cleveland, Helfer, Newman and Orentlicher, Human Rights, Read pp. 444-479.


Additional readings


- Catalina de Albuquerque, Chronicle of an Announced Birth: The Coming into Life of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights-The Missing Piece of the International Bill of Rights, 32 Human Rights Quarterly 144 (2010);


-Dublin Statement on the Process of Strengthening the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Body System: Response by non-governmental organizations (November 2010), at http://www.ccprcentre.org/en/treaty-body-reform;

-The Poznan Statement on the Reforms of the UN Human Rights Treaty Body System (28-29 September 2010), at http://www.ccprcentre.org/en/treaty-body-reform.


June 22 11:30 am – 1:20 pm

Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Invited Speakers: Jorge Araya and Isabel Ricupero, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations.


Required readings


-Sweeney and Saito, An NGO Assessment of the New Mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council, 9 Human Rights Law Review 203 (2009);


-Recommendations to the USA under the UPR process, adopted March 18, 2011;


-Recommendations to Sudan under the UPR process, adopted September 23, 2011;


-Q&A on the modalities of the UPR process, UPR.info at http://www.upr-info.org/.


June 25 11:30 am – 1:20 pm

Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Invited Speaker: Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.


Required readings


-SURYA P. SUBEDI, Protection of Human Rights through the Mechanism of UN Special Rapporteurs, 33 Human Rights Quarterly 202 (2011).


Additional readings


-Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, A/66/265, August 4, 2011.



June 26 12:00 pm – 2:00pm (Lunch)

The United Nations Human Rights Council.

Visit to the Mission of Mexico to the United Nations.

Invited speaker: Juan José Gómez Camacho, UN Ambassador of Mexico


Required readings


-Steiner, Alston and Goodman, International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals, Read pp.791-810.


Additional readings


-Paul Gordon Lauren, “To Preserve and Build on its Achievements and to Redress its Shortcomings”: The Journey from the Commission on Human Rights to the Human Rights Council, 29 Human Rights Quarterly 307 (2007);


June 27 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm

Visit to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)


Required readings


UNHCR, The State of the World’s Refugees 2006: Human Displacement in the New Millennium, 2006, at http://www.unhcr.org/4a4dc1a89.html

(Read the following sections of report: Preface by UN Secretary-General; Forward by UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Introduction; 1. Current Dynamics of Displacement; 2. Safeguarding Asylum.)


June 28 11:30 am – 1:20 pm

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Invited Speaker: Juana Sotomayor, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Required readings


Ramcharam, Bertrand, The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Challenges of Protection, International Studies in Human Rights, Volume 71, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (2002), pp. 29-43; 73-106.


June 29 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

A View of the Human Rights Council from Civil Society.

Visit to Human Rights Watch.

Invited Speakers: Phillipe Dam / Juliette de Rivero


Required reading


-Human Rights Watch, Keeping the Momentum: One Year in the Life of the UN Human Rights Council, 2011.


Additional reading


-Menno Kamminga, The Evolving Status of NGOs under International Law: A Threat to the Inter-State System? in P. Alston (ed.), Non-State Actors and Human Rights (2005).


July 2 2:00pm - 4.30 pm

International Humanitarian Law.

Visit to International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)


Required reading


-Kalshoven, Frits and Liesbeth Zegveld, Constraints on the waging of war: An introduction to international humanitarian law. Geneva: ICRC (2001), pp. 37-79.


Additional reading


-Robert Goldman and Brian Tittemore, Unprivileged Combatants and the Hostilities in Afghanistan: Their Status and Rights Under International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, in Am. Soc. Intl. L.: Task Force Papers (Dec. 2002).


July 3 11:30 am – 1:20 pm

International Humanitarian Law.

Invited speaker: Jamie Williamson, International Humanitarian Law Expert


Required reading


-Kalshoven, Frits and Liesbeth Zegveld, Constraints on the waging of war: An introduction to international humanitarian law. Geneva: ICRC (2001), pp. 11-18, 19-36.


Additional reading


Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols, available at: http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/CONVPRES?OpenView


July 4 1:00 pm – 2:50 pm

Non-State Actors and Human Rights: The role of NGOs.

Visit to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).

Invited speakers: Allison Jenow, Senior Legal Advisor of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Project and Sandra Ratjen Economic, Senior Legal Advisor of the Social and Cultural Rights Project



Required readings


-Henkin, Cleveland, Helfer, Newman and Orentlicher, Human Rights, Read pp. 790-814;

- Steiner, Alston and Goodman, International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals, Read pp. 1421-1432.


Additional reading


-Stephen Hopgood, Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International (2006), Chapter 8 – Amnesty in Practice.


July 5 11:30 am – 1:20 pm

The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and Human Rights.

Invited Speaker: Mac Darrow, Chief, MDGs Section, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


Required readings


-Marc Darrow, The Millennium Development Goals: Milestones or Millstones? Human Rights Priorities for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal, Volume XV, March 2012


Additional readings


-Kuruvilla, Bustreo, Hunt and Singh, The Millenium Development Goals and Human Rights: Realizing Shared Commitments, 34 Human Rights Quarterly 141 (2012).


July 6 Review

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