2020 applicants
Human Rights Centre

Human Rights Centre Clinic

Protecting human rights around the world

The Human Rights Centre Clinic is part of one of the oldest academic human rights centres in the world, and continues to conduct key research to protect human rights globally.

Founded in 2009, the Human Rights Centre Clinic runs projects that enable students to apply their human rights knowledge to practical situations and further develop their professional skills, working in partnership with civil society organisations, international organisations, governments and national human rights institutions.

There are two pathways open to students – the Human Rights Clinic Module (HU902), which combines projects with partners and classroom study, and stand-alone projects, which are opportunities which may be open to undergraduate or postgraduate human rights students, and are not linked to the Human Rights Centre Clinic Module.


What sort of projects does the Clinic undertake?

Projects address various types of human rights and humanitarian law-related issues. They generally involve research that partners need in order to further human rights advocacy and/or implementation of human rights or humanitarian law norms.

Our projects are grounded in international human rights or humanitarian law. Some projects are interdisciplinary in their approach, and projects employ a variety of research methods. In selecting projects and partners, we ensure that in any academic year, there are projects focusing on a range of regions and human rights issues.

The projects may support litigation, advocacy, policy and programme development or technical guidance on human rights for civil society organisations, national human rights institutions, governments, UN human rights bodies and international organisations.

Current and recent international partners include the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, Global Initiative on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Reprieve, OHCHR, WHO, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to freedom of religion and the right to health and the International Centre on Human Rights and Drugs Policy. Current and recent national partners include the Philippines Human Rights Commission, the Observatory of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Government of Colombia, and national NGOs in countries including the UK, Morocco, Uganda and the Philippines.

Partners choose to work with the Clinic because at Essex we have gifted human rights students as well as specialised faculty support with the expertise that partners need.

Stand-alone Human Rights Clinic projects

The Human Rights Centre Clinic also runs stand-alone Units. In 2019/2020, the Clinic is running a Death Penalty Sentencing Mitigation Unit, in partnership with Reprieve, providing opportunities to undergraduate students in the School of Law, Department of Sociology and Postgraduate human rights students (LLM/MA). It is also running a Digital Verification Unit, providing opportunities to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and a Rule of Law in Armed Conflict project. providing opportunity to postgraduate students

Applications for the 2019/2020 projects are now open.

Module-based Human Rights Clinic projects

The Human Rights Centre Clinic also runs projects as part of the Human Rights Centre Clinic Module (HU902), which is open to postgraduate human rights students.

Short term projects

Strategic Litigation and Amicus Briefs

The Human Rights Centre Clinic wrote a report for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on the potential and practice of UN agencies and human rights special procedures to intervene as amicus curiae.

Particularly focused on human rights relating to health, the project looked into the different procedural arrangements surrounding amicus curiae before international and regional courts and quasi-judicial bodies, as well as domestic courts; how different UN agencies and special procedures interpret their mandate in relation to third party interventions; and examples of different interventions by these bodies, including their impact.

The project provided a valuable opportunity for postgraduate human rights students to learn directly from UN entities about how they can support human rights in this way, including obstacles and opportunities; to learn about the right to health including the context of HIV, and about amicus curiae; and to develop their qualitative research skills, including interviewing skills. The project ran between June 2019 and concluded in November 2019.

This project is supervised by Judith Bueno De Mesquita.

Human Rights Clinic Students Work on United Nations Submission in Favour of Dual and Foreign Nationals Detained in Iran

For the past three years Dr Carla Ferstman has been working with several families of dual and foreign nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran. These individuals face an array of human rights abuses connected to their ongoing detention, and continuous advocacy is necessary to maintain the pressure to improve their conditions and secure their release.

Together with a group of Human Rights Centre Clinic students, Dr Ferstman worked with a number of families of detainees to prepare a submission for the upcoming review of Iran as part of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review process. The document detailed the human rights violations suffered by the detainees, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and called for Iran to investigate these abuses and to release all those dual and foreign nationals who have been arbitrarily detained.

The submission, which focuses on the particular concerns of dual and foreign national detainees, was submitted with the support of the Centre for Supporters of Human Rights and Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

Criminalisation of NGO activities in Member States of the Council of Europe, particularly in the context of humanitarian efforts targeting refugees and other migrants

Supervised by Dr Carla Ferstman, the aim of this project was to research the challenges to safeguard civic space in the area of humanitarian support to migrants and refugees in Europe. We worked to understand the legal restrictions for NGOs working in the Council of Europe with migrants and refugees, and in particular whether they faced any criminal sanctions for the work they are doing. Our research is going to help with a new report in preparation by the Council of Europe Expert Committee on NGO Law, which is putting together a comparative study and recommendations for states.

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Human Rights Centre Clinic