This course will focus on the international human rights systems of the United Nations and of regional organizations. After tracing the philosophical bases of international human rights law in the context of the positivist legal tradition of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the seminar will examine the shifting structure of the international legal system, as manifested in the creation of the United Nations human rights apparatus. It will then explore the creation of human rights systems at the regional level, including the Inter-American system created under the auspices of the Organization of American States. It will also examine the legal nature and substantive standards of modern human rights law, and will apply those standards in the context of case studies encompassing issues of economic and social rights, globalization, extraterritorial application of human rights law, and discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. The course will culminate in a critical examination of the work of these systems, and their impact in the port countries visited.
Field ClassCountry: Costa Rica
The participants will travel from Port Limon to San Jose, Costa Rica, where they will visit the Inter-American Court, meet with representatives of the Court (including any judge in residence), see the courtroom and other facilities and learn how human rights cases are presented and litigated before the court. They will also be able to discuss the limitations and problems faced by the Court as its caseload rises. Nearby they will visit the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, which supports the work of the Court through teaching, research and training. Either at the Institute or at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they will discuss with Costa Rican government officials the cases brought against Costa Rica, the issues involved, and the challenges faced in complying with the decisions of international human rights bodies. Students should come away from the field trip with a good understanding of the potential and limitations of international litigation to promote and protect human rights in a given country.