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.
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.
The clinic has played a pivotal role in projects including:
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:
Since joining the clinic in September 2021, Pithia has led students as they engage in human rights work around accountability for mass atrocities in Cameroon, trial monitoring in collaboration with the Clooney Foundation for Justice's TrialWatch initiative in Morocco and Kyrgyzstan, and individual client representation work for asylum seekers, trafficking survivors, and others fleeing harm or persecution. In February 2023, Pithia was the primary author of Best Practices and Resources for Representing Operation Allies Welcome Parolees and Afghan Nationals, a guide aimed at increasing legal representation for the many Afghan refugees and asylum seekers that are currently in the United States or seeking entry to the United States. Pithia has also led IHRC students on other projects including a fact-finding and data gathering project in Malawi focused on incarcerated women who have experienced gender-based violence, as well as assisting Afghan refugees and asylum seekers in Fremont, California, home to one of the largest Afghan communities in the United States.
Prior to serving as Interim Director and Co-Director of the IHRC, Pithia served as an Asylum Officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, conducting hundreds of in-depth interviews in California and near the U.S.-Mexico border, and making complex decisions that changed people's lives forever. Pithia also served as the IHRC's first Legal Fellow after she graduated from USC Gould. As a Legal Fellow, she helped teach the IHRC's weekly seminar and focused much of her time on refugee rights, anti-human trafficking work, and advocacy efforts around accountability for human rights violations. Pithia has also spent time in Canada and the U.S. working with law firms focused on business immigration and global mobility.
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.
"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
""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