Centers

International Human Rights Clinic

The International Human Rights Clinic enables students to represent clients in a variety of cases and projects that incorporate international human rights law, such as customary international law or treaty law, or are before international human rights bodies. 

Clinic students have worked on a variety of cases under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act, which allow non-citizens to bring tort claims for violation of the law of nations in U.S. federal courts.  The Clinic has filed two cases on behalf of Adel Hamad and Mammar Ameur, both former Guantanamo Bay detainees, bringing suits for prolonged arbitrary detention, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and targeting of a civilian during time of war, all in violation of the law of nations and the U.S. Constitution.  Click here to see the amended complaint for the case, Hamad v. Gates, et al.  Click here to see the complaint in Ameur v. Gates, et al.  The Clinic is awaiting court rulings in both cases.

Nearly all students enrolled in the International Human Rights Clinic represent clients seeking asylum for persecution they suffered abroad. The work includes conducting several interviews with the client, assisting the client with filing an asylum application, preparing an in-depth brief and declaration, and representing the client at his or her asylum interview.  In some cases, the Clinic represents clients seeking asylum/withholding of removal before immigration court.  In those cases, students also prepare the client for trial.   In asylum/withholding cases, students must establish that their clients meet the definition of “refugee” as established by the U.N. Refugee Convention which is incorporated into U.S. asylum law.  The Clinic often takes complex cases or cases that offer an opportunity to change or clarify the law.  The Clinic has also represented clients before the the Board of Immigration Appeals, and is representing a client in a cutting-edge case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In addition, students working in the Clinic have filed cases before the European Court of Human Rights for clients who came to the United States as refugees after suffering severe human rights abuses while living abroad.  All four are of Armenian descent who were living in Baku, Azerbaijan during the pogroms and ethnic cleansing that occurred there in late 1989 and early 1990. They were subjugated to severe forms of violence, and forced to flee Azerbaijan, leaving their property, and in some cases family members behind. Their cases are still pending. Click here to see the claims filed on their behalf: Kochorov | Aslanyants.

Clinic students also engage in human rights fact-finding and reporting.  Most recently, the Clinic prepared "Human Trafficking and Native Peoples in Oregon," a human rights report that summarizes the vulnerability of Native Peoples to human trafficking and makes recommedations to help government officials better fulfill their legal obligations.  The report was in follow-up to a year-long fact-finding and analysis for a 2010 report measuring Oregon's response to human trafficking against its obligations under federal and international law. The 2010 report, "Modern Slavery in Our Midst: A Human Rights Report on Ending Human Trafficking in Oregon" is not publicly available due to security concerns, but the report’s summary, table of contents, and recommendations, can be found here.  To order a full copy of the electronic version of report, please email gskinner@willamette.edu. Please identify who you are and your interest in receiving a copy of the report.  The clinic also has prepared a shadow report for the United Nation's Universal Periodic Review Process.

Clinic Students work on a variety of other human rights projects as well.  Most recently, students prepared a memorandum on the problem of hunger, the international law on the right to food that already exists, and why the time for a treaty is NOW.  In this work, the Clinic represents filmmaker and activist John Teton, who has been crusading for over a decade for an international treaty on food security (the right to food).  We believe that Mr. Teton is right when he says the time for an international treaty on the right to food is NOW.  Click here for the website for the International Food Security Campaign.

The International Human Rights Clinic strives to ensure each student will have opportunities to interview and represent clients, engage in factual and legal research in the area of international law, engage in in-depth legal analysis and writing, and learn to work collaboratively in a team setting.  Students also are coached to be "reflective" in their choices and in their practice, a habit all successful lawyers engage in throughout their careers and one the Clinic hopes to instill in future lawyers.

For more information on all of our Clinical Law Programs, view our main page and program overview.

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“We strive to ensure each student enrolled in the International Clinic will have opportunities to interview and represent clients, engage in factual and legal research in the area of international law, engage in in-depth legal analysis and writing, and learn to work collaboratively in a team setting."

— Professor Gwynne L. Skinner