Clinical Programs - International Human Rights

International Human Rights: Litigation and Advocacy with Professors Sandra Babcock  and Zohra Ahmed

Students in the International Human Rights 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 treaty bodies, the UN Human Rights Council, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.  Examples of current and past clinic projects can be found here. Clinic students have had a profound impact on the lives of our clients. For example, students have been instrumental in a multi-year project in Malawi that has led to the release of over 140 former death row prisoners. This project recently won the World Justice Challenge at the World Justice Forum in The Hague. Professor Babcock is also faculty director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, and some of the clinic’s projects draw on the Center’s ongoing work around gender and the death penalty.

“Through this semester, I grew so much more than I would have expected or known. I learned the technical stuff, but I learned skills that no doctrinal classes would have taught me. The storytelling skills, the teamwork, and the advocacy were all part of the bigger picture of being a lawyer that I had forgotten about during my first year here.” 

                                                                                                            -- Ji Hyun Rhim, J.D. 2020


The clinic is dedicated to advancing social justice through collaboration with partners in the U.S. and abroad. The clinic engages students in critical reflection about human rights practice and progressive legal practice.  Students learn about substantive human rights law as well as lawyering skills, including brief writing, strategic judgment and storytelling techniques. 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.

You can find more information on how to apply to the clinic here.

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Maame Esi Austin (JD' 18) with clinic client Ismael Gome, in Malawi's Zomba prison Laurel Hopkins (JD '18) interviewing released prisoner in his home village in Malawi Didon Misri (Exchange Student Fall '17), taking notes during an interview in a Golan apple orchard Emile Masoud, representative of farmer's collective in the Occupied Golan, with former clinic student Amal Aun (Cornell CIP A '18), Professor Zohra Ahmed, and Joon Lee (JD '19) Former death row prisoner Mtilosera Pindani on the day of his release from Malawi's Zomba prison, with his parents Christa Maiorano (JD '17) interviewing a client's mother in his home village in Malawi Former death row prisoner Wilson Mkandawire on the day of his release, along with Florence Seaman (JD '16), Professor Sandra Babcock, Aysha Valery (JD '16), and Carolina Veltri (JD '16) Harpreet Ahuja (Exchange Student Fall '16) and Laurel Hopkins (JD '18) interview prisoners in Malawi's Zomba prison