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School of Law

International Human Rights Clinic

The SOAS School of Law’s International Human Rights Clinic was launched as a full credit postgraduate course in September 2007, as far as we know the first of this kind of law clinic to be established in a UK university.

The Clinic aims to provide a dynamic and critical environment where students engage with advocacy strategies and the tensions of the theory and practice of human rights, and simultaneously contribute to the research and advocacy of the international human rights movement through practical work on research briefs, policy analysis, and cases.  Requiring intensive research and writing work from student teams, the Clinic also aims at a learning process that includes the fostering of effective team-work and partnership skills and reflection on the challenges of cooperative endeavour in human rights related work.

The Clinic is structured around weekly seminars and ongoing project work. Students work in small teams on research and advocacy briefs agreed with Project Partners. The precise nature of the work depends on the briefs and requests coming from UK-based and overseas-based institutional partners engaged in international human rights work or domestic human rights work with an international and/or comparative dimension. These may include not only human rights organisations but also law firms with human rights specialisation and other institutional partners with particular pro bono research needs to which Clinic teams are able to respond.

Since the Clinic was first established, student teams have worked on briefs from, inter alia,  Amnesty International, ASK (Dhaka), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Child Soldiers International (London), DC-Cam (Cambodia), al-Haq (Ramallah), Hickman and Rose (London), Institute of Human Rights and Business (London), Lawyers for Justice in Libya, Legal Action Worldwide, Norwegian Refugee Council, REDRESS (London), and the Welfare Association (Jerusalem). Areas addressed in project work have included domestic violence legislation, the protection of cultural property, the right to water, violence against women, corporal punishment, universal jurisdiction and its implementation in national legislation, corporate social responsibility, security legislation, disability rights, litigation remedies for the protection of housing rights in occupied territory, land grabs, corruption and human rights, and the compliance of particular domestic legislation with applicable international obligations.

In their project work, Clinic teams are briefed by partners who maintain regular contact and review as the project work develops; students are supervised by SOAS academic staff, and conduct their work at SOAS, unless exceptionally they are required to work in situ by partner institutions. Over the years, Clinic teams have made significant contributions to the research and advocacy work of partner organisations. Clinic teams are frequently invited to present their research and findings at the partner organisation; some of the work has been separately published, while the input of other projects has been acknowledged in documents subsequently published by the partner organisations.

The International Human Rights Clinic is itself an ongoing project, and its students are critical to its development, its approaches to project work and the strengthening of its contribution to the human rights efforts of its partners . Some Clinic students from previous years are now working with us as Project Partners in their institutional capacities. We welcome approaches from prospective partner organisations interested in working with Clinic teams on projects that might fit within our brief (please contact the Clinic convenor, Professor Lynn Welchman).

Finally, the Clinic could not have been established, nor could it be sustained, without the huge contributions made on a voluntary basis by friends and colleagues over the years.