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International Human Rights Clinic
USC Gould School of Law
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Handle pro bono, real-life cases and advocacy projects that confront some of the most pressing human rights concerns through our International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC). Our work is both local and global, and is often undertaken in partnership with international courts and tribunals, nongovernmental organizations, nonprofits, academic institutions, think tanks and law firms, as well as individual advocates.
Why Choose International Human Rights?
From war crimes and genocide to human trafficking and crimes against humanity, human rights violations are some of the most urgent and devastating issues facing our global society. By engaging in this high-impact field and learning to apply international law as a tool for social justice, you can make a real difference in the world.
Since the clinic's launch in 2011, students have achieved a 100 percent success rate in representing human trafficking victims of forced labor and commercial sex. The work is international, with clients from Ethiopia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and the Philippines.
Students have assisted international judges and legal officers by reviewing briefings, conducting research, and drafting extensive bench memoranda and opinions in international trials. Efforts involve 15 former heads-of-state and high-level military leaders allegedly responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and terrorism perpetrated against hundreds of thousands of victims in Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon and Rwanda. The trials have resulted in a number of convictions.
Types of Cases
The clinic has played a pivotal role in projects including:
- Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, assisting judges by researching international criminal law and drafting bench memos/sections related to crimes against humanity
- drafting a petition before the Inter-American Commission on behalf of refugees fleeing gang violence in Latin America
- research for drafting a complaint under the Alien Tort Statute on behalf of war amputees from Sierra Leone
- representing survivors of human trafficking from Asia, Latin America and Africa in obtaining visas, reunification with family members after several years in captivity, work permits, legal residency and benefits, as well as in facilitating their cooperation with law enforcement against their traffickers
- helping affirmative asylum seekers from Africa who are applying for refugee status
Students have assisted with cases being litigated in the U.S. Supreme Court, California Supreme Court, the International Criminal Court, Inter-American Human Rights Commission, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
Each student works on approximately one to three cases or projects per year.
First- and second-year JD students are invited to apply in the spring for the following academic year. Because of the hands-on nature of the clinic, enrollment is limited to eight students per year with a limited number able to enroll in an advanced clinical component the following year. Selection is interview-based.
The clinic is offered as a course within the JD curriculum and, if selected, you will receive academic credit. Students enroll in the clinical course for one year with the potential for a second year in the advanced clinic.
Through the clinic, you will not only learn the substantive law but also gain skills in international lawyering and human rights advocacy.
You will have the opportunity to develop crucial skills through firsthand experience, including:
- knowledge of international law and its application in international and domestic jurisdictions
- international legal research, writing and analysis
- developing case-specific theories
- drafting of legal briefs, factual declarations, bench memoranda and judicial opinions
- in-depth interviewing, with active listening and effective questioning
- cross-cultural lawyering and working with interpreters
- working with survivors of trauma
- effective communication with clients and partner organizations
- educational, legislative and media advocacy
Hannah Garry is founding director of the International Human Rights Clinic. She has devoted herself to international human rights issues since 1994, working with organizations including Oxford University's Refugee Studies Centre, the International Criminal Court, United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the European Court of Human Rights and what is now Global Rights. At the University of Colorado School of Law, she supervised students on cases involving Guantanamo detainee representation and Alien Tort Statute litigation. Prof. Garry holds a JD from the University of California, Berkeley, a master's in International Affairs from Columbia University and a master's certificate in Forced Migration Studies with distinction from Oxford University.
Student & Alumni Testimonials
"Even though I selected USC Gould because of the hope of working for Prof. Garry, I did not predict how much my experience in the International Human Rights Clinic would enhance my growth as an aspiring attorney."
Kelsey McGregor, '15, Associate, Wilmer Hale, Los Angeles
"Working with lawyers and judges from around the world has taught me a great deal about their own systems, their education, and their political and legal outlooks."
Brian Rifkin, JD '11, Associate Legal Officer, The Special Tribunal for Lebanon
"I've learned how to talk to a client who has experienced very traumatic situations about important legal issues and build a relationship of trust. ... Her life is literally in our hands."
Rosemary DiPietrantonio, JD '14, Attorney, Comar Law, San Francisco
"I thank you all so much... I broke down, 'tears of joy.' Now I am able to see my whole family. ... I will always keep you all in my heart forever. USC is the best. Many many thanks again."
Mariebenet, human trafficking victim who gained legal residency, reparations and family reunification
"We... would like to extend our deepest appreciation for this very impressive work. We thought that the research was thorough and comprehensive, and identified the key issues that we were interested in."
Legal Officer, Victims Participation and Reparations Section, International Criminal Court
Clinical Professor Testimonials
""Judges and legal officers at international tribunals know that when USC International Human Rights Clinic students arrive on site, they have the training and experience to hit the ground running, having already spent a year doing international criminal justice work in the clinic."
Professor Hannah Garry, Director, International Human Rights Clinic
International Human Rights Clinic in the News
USC International Human Rights Clinic: Urgent Appeal for Civilian Victims of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh conflict
October 14, 2020
A message from Hannah Garry, director of the USC Gould International Human Rights Clinic...more
International Human Rights Clinic Hires First Legal Fellow
April 18, 2016
USC Gould grad Henna Pithia becomes first IHRC legal fellow...more
Rifkin '11 Offered Coveted Clerkship with Lebanon Tribunal
February 5, 2013
USC and Harvard law grads are only Americans to receive fellowship...more
Video: DECADES AFTER GENOCIDE: IS JUSTICE POSSIBLE? Nicholas Koumjian In Conversation with Hannah Garry
September 4, 2015
The Ottoman government's systematic annihilation of its Armenian population took place 10 decades ago. The Khmer Rouge's Killing Fields allowed for the massacre of nearly 2 million people four decades ago in Cambodia. ...more
Tracking digital competition enforcement in the Americas
June 16, 2021
Center for Transnational Law and Business project monitors antitrust enforcement trends
Gould Library Dean Emerita honored by AALS
June 10, 2021
Pauline Aranas recognized for outstanding achievements