Four great places to study human rights law


From the millions of refugees fleeing Syria to banana plantation workers striking in Costa Rica, human rights violations are unfortunately common around the world.

“No country is immune from human rights violations,” said George Edwards, faculty director and founder of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law’s program in International Human Rights Law.  “Governments and non-governmental actors are responsible for a wide range of abuse in all corners of the globe.”

But, lawyers can help. “Lawyers work with many different types of human rights issues, in many types of organizations, wearing many different types of hats,” Edwards said.

Study abroad programs give law students firsthand exposure to what is happening outside America’s borders. This summer, 11 schools are offering 17 study abroad programs in human rights in 12 countries.

Santa Clara University
Human Rights Law in the Americas 

For Anahi Millot-Audetat, meeting banana plantation workers in Costa Rica opened her eyes to international human rights law.

Learning about their working conditions and experiences in the field was just one of the lessons she had during Santa Clara University School of Law’s summer abroad program. “This experience was a humbling, real life example of the importance of international human rights,” she said in a write-up of her summer.

Millot-Audetat participated in Santa Clara University’s three-week summer program in 2016, followed by an eight-week internship with the American Civil Liberties Union in Puerto Rico. Millot-Audetat, who expects to receive her J.D. from Western State University College of Law in 2018, said the summer was the “perfect balance of education and adventure.”

The four-unit course also includes sites visits to rural communities that lack access to clean water, and to a hearing before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Duquesne University
Law of the EU, Human Rights Law, International Arbitration & Dispute Resolution

Duquesne University School of Law’s three-week Summer Study of Law in Ireland program is offered in conjunction with the University College Dublin Faculty of Law and the Queen's University Belfast Faculty of Law.

Each week, students learn about a different topic: Law of European Union, International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution, and Human Rights. 

Part of the program is held in Dublin at Trinity College, which is one of the top universities in the world. The remainder of the program is in Belfast, at the Queen’s University. 

Upon completion, students can choose to have an externship in an international law firm, business office, government agency or judicial chambers.

In a testimonial, one student said: “I traveled to Ireland to study law, and it was absolutely phenomenal. I cannot wait to go back. I particularly enjoyed learning about international human rights law, as it is relevant to the current refugee crisis.”

DePaul University
Law and Critical Social Justice

Leading international human rights NGOs in Berlin are working to secure asylum and improved living conditions for refugees, and to redress police brutality and state violence for Europe’s vulnerable populations.

Students in DePaul University’s summer programs, Law and Critical Social Justice, can help. They will work on five projects related to refugees and police/state violence. Courses include Intersectionality and Human Rights (2 credits) and History, Memory and Law (3 credits). Both incorporate Berlin as part of the “living classroom” so students can examine major world events as they relate to law and social justice lawyering.

The three-and-a-half week program is in partnership with Humboldt University of Berlin, one of the world’s top 50 universities. 

American University Washington College of Law
Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law 

You don’t have to go far to study human rights law from world-renowned experts.

American University, located in the nation’s capital, offers an annual human rights academy in two languages. Typically, more than 150 participants from 25 countries convene for the three three-week program, which starts May 30. Students can choose from 20 courses (nine in English, 11 in Spanish), establish connections with faculty around the world, and earn academic or CLE credits, a certificate of attendance or a diploma. 

Program directors say the program offers an innovative and diverse curriculum tailored to meet the needs of professionals specializing in human rights. Among the impressive faculty members are directors of U.S. and foreign-based NGOs and non-profits, judges for international courts, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague, United Nations representatives, and faculty from law schools around the world. 

“Defining and celebrating the fundamental rights of all human beings is an obligation for all of the world’s citizens to fulfill, whether we represent government, civil society or ourselves as private individuals,” the program’s co-directors wrote. “One of the most important duties of a law school, and a priority at American University Washington College of Law (WCL), is to promote the values of human dignity through legal education in Washington DC.”


Interested in sudying abroad? Explore law school study abroad programs from around the world here.


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