Overview of the Human Rights Clinic
The Human Rights Clinic prepares students for lifelong careers in social justice advocacy around the globe. Through the Clinic, students join a community of advocates working to promote human rights and to recalibrate the global power imbalances that drive economic and political inequality, exploitation, threats to physical security, poverty, and environmental injustice. Through fact-finding, reporting, litigation, media engagement, advocacy, training, and innovative methods, the Clinic seeks to prevent abuse, advance respect for human rights, and promote accountability for violations. Embedded in the Clinic’s work is a commitment to the values of equality and mutual exchange in transnational partnerships; respect for rights-holder autonomy, voice, and power; and diversity, full participation, and justice within the human rights field.
Through a combination of Seminars and Project Work, and with the mentorship of the Clinic’s professors and supervisors, students develop the wide range of skills necessary to be strategic and creative human rights advocates, critically analyze human rights, and advance human rights methodologies.
Clinic Seminars provide a map of the terrain of international human rights advocacy, including the field’s dominant forms of action, strategies, methods, and critiques. The Seminars equip students with the knowledge and the tools to navigate the field with confidence and critical reflection. Students learn to assess where they and human rights projects are positioned, the available tools or routes for action, and how to ethically, pragmatically, and responsibly choose which steps to take toward which ends. They learn project selection, design, and strategy; choice and sequence of advocacy tactics; fact-finding methodologies and evidence assessment; interdisciplinary research methods; interviewing witnesses, experts, and perpetrators; digital and physical security; report and brief-writing; using judicial and quasi-judicial processes; advocacy options at the local, national, regional, and international levels; engaging the press and using social media; mitigating vicarious trauma and promoting resilience and well-being; ethical frameworks and the navigation of ethical dilemmas; and accountability and project evaluation. The Clinic engages students in an active and co-creator mode of education, and students are taught to self-assess and monitor their own progress, and are involved in building the methods, pedagogy, and institution of the Clinic itself.
Students work in teams on projects that are designed to pursue social justice in partnership with civil society and communities. The Clinic Projects vary from year to year, each addressing marginalized, urgent, and complex human rights issues around the world, including in the Central African Republic, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Yemen, Kashmir, and the United States. This year’s projects focus on corporate accountability for human rights violations and environmental harms in the extractives industry, labor rights among immigrant communities, education rights and religious and ethnic discrimination, the right to fair trial, human rights and humanitarian law violations in counterterrorism operations and armed conflict, the right to mental health during armed conflict, and sexual violence. Through its project work, the Clinic functions similarly to a non-governmental organization, with students implementing advocacy projects.
Drawing upon its seat at the intersection of theory and practice, the Clinic is also a laboratory for testing and modeling new and innovative modes of human rights work, and seeks to be a model of rigorous and critical human rights advocacy. This includes a focus on enhancing human rights methods through interdisciplinary partnerships, critical reflection on human rights practice, and sustainable advocacy through attention to vicarious trauma and resilience.
To provide a support structure for these goals, and to contribute to a strong and collaborative human rights community at Columbia Law School and beyond, the Clinic builds a network of current students, alumni, scholars, and advocates who support one another and collaborate toward the advancement of human rights.
** Human Rights Clinic Mentorship Program**
Faculty and Staff
Sarah Knuckey, Director, Human Rights Clinic; Faculty Co-Director, Human Rights Institute
To read Sarah Knuckey's full biography and to find her contact information, visit the faculty webpage.
Benjamin Hoffman, Deputy Director, Human Rights Clinic
To read Ben Hoffman's full biography and to find his contact information, visit the HRI webpage.
Gulika Reddy, Clinical Teaching Fellow
To read Gulika Reddy's full biography and to find her contact information, visit the HRI webpage.
Alex Moorehead, Director, Project on Counterterrorism, Armed Conflict, and Human Rights; Lecturer-in-Law
To read Alex Moorehead's full biography and to find his contact information, visit the HRI webpage.
JoAnn Kamuf Ward, Director, Human Rights in the U.S. Project; Lecturer-in-Law
To read JoAnn Kamuf Ward's full biography and to find her contact information, visit the HRI webpage.
Sarah Mehta, TrialWatch Legal Fellow
To read Sarah Mehta's full biography and to find her contact information, visit the HRI webpage.
Anjli Parrin, Legal Fellow, Advancing Reconciliation and Accountability through Forensic Investigations in the Central African Republic Project
To read Anjli Parrin's full biography and to find her contact information, visit the HRI webpage.