Clinical Programs - International Human Rights

Potential Student Participants in Prof. Sandra Babcock's Human Rights Clinic

Students in Professor Babcock's clinic promote the implementation of international human rights norms through litigation and advocacy before domestic and foreign courts as well as international bodies. Students have handled a wide array of projects in several countries (including the United States) that address prisoners' rights, women's rights, the death penalty, truth and reconciliation in post-conflict societies, the right to self-determination, and cultural rights. Clinic students have also advocated before UN organs and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The clinic teaches students about substantive human rights law as well as lawyering skills, including brief writing, strategic judgment and effective presentation of facts. Students work in teams, conducting international and comparative research and brainstorming about legal arguments. Through their practical work and the clinical seminar, students learn to integrate theory with practice. They grapple with cultural barriers, learn new advocacy tools, and work to achieve tangible results for individuals and groups whose human rights have been violated.

Participation in the Clinic involves a classroom component as well as a practice component. In the classroom component, students obtain a foundation in international human rights law and practice through lectures, discussions, and simulation exercises. In the practice component, students are divided into collaborative teams, each of which works on a substantive human rights project. These projects can involve litigation, investigation and drafting of reports on human rights violations, or legislative advocacy. They often require collaboration with international NGOs. Examples of past clinic projects can be found here. Some projects may involve international field research. For instance, Clinic students recently traveled to Malawi to advocate for the rights of prisoners formerly sentenced to death. Student teams work closely with the Clinic director throughout the course, receiving close guidance and regular feedback.

Student Selection

If you would like to apply to the Clinic, please pre-register for the Clinic and also submit your resume and a short essay describing why you are interested in taking the Clinic and highlighting your experience in the area of human rights (if any) as well as any language abilities to Professor Babcock ( slb348@cornell.edu) by the deadline given in current course registration materials. Professor Babcock considers the following factors:

  • Interest and experience in working on human rights issues
  • Prior course work in international law or human rights
  • Availability and commitment to clinic experience
  • Legal writing and research skills
  • Ability to work well with others