Realizing Rights: Strategic Human Rights Litigation and Advocacy

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Helen Duffy and Jayne Huckerby

This course provides a framework for understanding strategic human rights litigation and advocacy, assessing its limitations and challenges, as well as positive impacts. As advocates around the globe increasingly resort to litigation and advocacy—in national, regional, and international courts and/or forums—to protect and promote human rights, this course will explore what difference this litigation and advocacy makes in the real world, when and why.  It will grapple with the legal, strategic, and other choices that are made around issues such as which rights’ violations to focus on in a given context; how to frame rights’ claims; where to lodge claims and choice of forum; building the evidence-base for claims (e.g., through fact-finding); remedies sought; and the ways in which strategic litigation and advocacy feature a range of human rights methodologies (e.g., documentation and messaging). The course will examine the multiple actors against whom strategic human rights litigation and advocacy is directed, from governments to non-State actors (e.g., corporations), to inter-governmental actors (e.g., the United Nations), considering how these different targets affect the legal claims and forums available to advocates.  Issues ranging from the role of social movements, victims, and their representatives, in human rights litigation and advocacy to the challenges in the enforceability of judgments, will also be addressed.  This course will draw heavily on case studies to illustrate these issues and to provide insight into the broader question of how to assess and enhance the effectiveness of strategic human rights litigation and advocacy in the future.