611.32 Readings: Mobilizing for Justice: Using International Human Rights Courts to Achieve Legal and Social Change

Description:  This .5 credit credit/no credit readings course will discuss three recently-published books that analyze why, when, and how civil society groups choose to litigate cases before international human rights courts as a way to promote legal and social change.  The focus will be on advocacy strategies before two regional human rights tribunals—the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights—and the extent to which the judgments of these courts have led governments in each region to improve their human rights practices. 

Prerequisites:  Completion of one or more courses relating to international law, international human rights, and/or international adjudication, or by permission of instructor.


  • Read and be prepared to discuss excerpts of the following three books, all of which are available for download from the Duke library catalogue:
    • Heidi Nichols Haddad, The Hidden Hands of Justice: NGOs, Human Rights, and International Courts (2018)
    • Lisa Sundstrom and Valerie Sperling, Courting Gender Justice: Russia, Turkey, and the European Court of Human Rights (2019)
    • Jillienne Haglund, Regional Courts, Domestic Politics, and the Struggle for Human Rights
  • Attend six class meetings on Thursdays from 7PM to 8 PM on dates to be determined.  We will read approximately half of the except assigned for each book for each class.  Whether the class will meet in person or on Zoom is to be determined.
  • For one class meeting, prepare at least three (3) questions based on the assigned readings to be circulated to all participants at least one day in advance.  These questions should critically engage with the author’s arguments, identify strengths and weaknesses, and suggest alternative explanations for the phenomena the described in the book.

Fall 2020

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Reflective Writing
Class participation
Laurence R. Helfer
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/LAW.611.32.F20
Email list: LAW.611.32.F20@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - LLM
Course Requirements - LLM-ICL
Course Requirements - Public Interest
Course Areas of Practice
Course Areas of Practice