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April 9, 2009

UT Law launches Human Rights Clinic

The University of Texas School of Law has launched a new legal clinic, the Human Rights Clinic, to undertake cases and projects that illustrate the breadth of human rights practice, including fact finding, reporting, and press and other public advocacy.

Under the supervision of Law School Professor Ariel Dulitzky, an interdisciplinary group of law students and graduate students will work on human rights projects and cases from the advocate’s perspective. The clinic seeks to develop both theoretical and practical skills through student involvement in activities such as supporting litigation of human rights claims in domestic and international fora; investigating and documenting human rights violations; supporting advocacy initiatives before United Nations, regional, and national human rights bodies; and engaging with global and local human rights campaigns.

The clinic draws from the successful experience of Dulitzky’s spring 2008 course, Advanced Human Rights Advocacy. In that course, students helped to prepare an amicus brief submitted to the Peruvian court trying former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori for human rights abuses; analyzed and documented human rights violations taking place as a result of plans to construct a wall along the Texas-Mexico border; documented the situation of rural workers in Guatemala; supported the request of the Ecuadorean Truth Commission for the declassification of documents related to human rights abuses in that country; drafted a legal analysis supporting the reopening by a prosecutor of a criminal investigation into a 1980s forced disappearance in Honduras; prepared a study for a Colombian think tank regarding the functioning of public institutions dealing with discrimination in Latin America; and prepared a claim for protection of traditional lands to be brought by an Afro-Brazilian quilombo community before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

“We look forward to offering students the opportunity to participate in our new Human Rights Clinic,” said Eden Harrington, director of clinical education at the School of Law. “The clinic will expand on the valuable human rights work that has been undertaken by the Bernard and Audrey Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice and several of our other clinics, and I’m sure it will be a great success.”

Dulitzky is a leading expert in the inter-American human rights system. Prior to joining the Law School, he was assistant executive secretary of the IACHR, an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS). Dulitzky received the 2007 Gary Bellow Public Service Award from Harvard Law School for his career in human rights. He has served as advisor to the IACHR’s first special rapporteur on Afro-descendants, a position he helped to establish in 2005, and as technical advisor to the OAS Working Group discussing the adoption of a new Inter-American Convention against Racial Discrimination. He has been a consultant for the Office of the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner and the Inter-American Institute on Human Rights. Professor Dulitzky has directed the litigation of more than one hundred cases in front of the Inter-American Commission and Court on Human Rights.

“The Human Rights Clinic is unique and deploys an innovative approach,” Dulitzky said. The clinic is one of the very few—if not the only one—that is truly interdisciplinary. All the projects and cases allow working across disciplines and use the perspectives of different fields to enhance the overall theoretical framework. In addition, while all the projects and cases entail working in partnership with international institutions, national agencies, and/or nongovernmental organizations, some of those projects will be part of long-term relationships with partner organizations and community activists to advocate for the advancement of the specific rights. As part of this long-term involvement, students will be offered the opportunity of continuing with their work on their projects through summer internships with our partner organizations.”

All the clinic cases and projects involve research, writing, and an opportunity to discuss the strategies used by our organizational and individual partners. The cases and projects provide the students an opportunity to gain practical skills in partnering with other students, institutions, and organizations, thus forming a team of advocates. Through working on specific projects and participation in the classroom component of the clinic, students learn substantive human rights law, practice important advocacy techniques, and explore different models for ethical, responsible, and effective human rights advocacy.

Related links:

Ariel Dulitzky

Human Rights Clinic

The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice

Contacts:

Kirston Fortune, UT Law Communications, 512-471-7330, kfortune@law.utexas.edu

Ariel Dulitzky, Director, Human Rights Clinic, 512- 232-1256, adulitzky@law.utexas.edu