Current Projects

Annotated International Humanitarian Law Bibliography

Partner Organization: International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva

Student Leaders: Quinn Keenan (2L), Karlson Leung (2L), Ashley Boggild (2L)

Alumni Advisors: Ryan Liss (JD2010), Rebecca Sutton (JD2013)

The rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) have been adopted by states as an acceptable compromise between the imperative to win wars and the obligation to spare civilian lives, property destruction, and unnecessary suffering.  The rules and norms of IHL are complex and derive from a number of sources; it is generally agreed that these rules are not as widely disseminated as they should be. Strengthening awareness of IHL and making the literature more accessible is thus an essential step to ensuring the IHL delivers on its promise of providing protection to vulnerable civilians and limiting the impacts of war on humanity.

Now in its 3rd year, IHRP students partner with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to improve the accessibility of literature on ICL to students, legal academics, practitioners, those who participate in armed conflict (such as the military), and the general public.  Students work with the ICRC to update and annotate its existing and authoritative IHL bibliography.  The summaries prepared by the IHRP working group are available on the ICRC's catalogue of IHL literature.

The ICRC was founded as a result of the work of Henry Dunant, a Swiss, at the battle of Solferino in 1859, where thousands of wounded French, Austrian and Italian soldiers were left without adequate medical care. Dunant's work led to the adoption of the first Geneva Convention and the humanitarian principles he invoked continue to inform the work of the ICRC today. The ICRC remains the guardian of IHL today, and is highly respected for its diplomacy and action in the field. Given the ICRC’s reputation and heavy involvement in IHL, it is truly an ideal partner through which to have an impact on the field.

Mapping Global Health Rights

Partner Organization: Lawyer's Collective, India

Student Leaders: Tamara Jewett (2L), Emily Campbell (2L)

Achieving the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is a fundamental goal of individuals and governments around the world. In pursuit of this aim, the right to health and other health-related rights have been enshrined in a number of international and regional human rights treaties, as well as national constitutions and laws. This has led to a significant body of cases that interpret the content and State obligations of health-related rights from both common and civil law jurisdictions. This working group aims to improve the accessibility of international jurisprudence on the right to health and other health-related rights.

The Global Health and Human Rights Database is a universally accessible online database of case law, national constitutions, and international and regional instruments relating to health and human rights. The database was developed by Lawyers Collective, a leading public interest legal organization in India, and the O’Neill Institute at Georgetown University. It became publicly available in March 2013 and was formally launched on October 24, 2013.

The database is an important resource for civil society, NGOs, lawyers, and governments engaging in health rights litigation or comparative legal analysis on issues related to global health and human rights. Through this working group, students will summarize relevant cases and expand the resources available on the database. Opportunities are also available for students to provide comprehensive blog posts on a right to health issue, which will be published on the database.


Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Country-Conditions Reports

Student Leaders: Aidan Campbell (2L), Misha Boutilier (2L)

Partner Organization: Refugee Lawyer's Association of Ontario

Now in its 6th year, the SOGI Working Groups continues to expand the IHRP's database on country-conditions memorandum detailing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The database now contains 34 country reports, representing countries on every continent. The resources are invaluable to refugee lawyers around the world who advance claims based on LGBT persecution, and have been downloaded thousands of times.  


Making Women's Human Rights Resources Accessible Globally

Partner Organization: Bora Laskin Law Library

Student Leaders: Shyama Talukdar (2L), Arianne Sawh (2L)

Continuing work commenced in 2012, this working group will expand the scope of the existing catalogue of resources on international women’s rights issues currently housed at the Bora Laskin Law Library website, Created in 1995, the Women’s Human rights Resources (WHRR) database has become a crucial tool for human rights defenders across the globe who use it to access cutting-edge academic research that was previously confined to law libraries which are often inaccessible to women in the Global South. Professor Rebecca Cook, a women’s rights pioneer and founder of the WHRR database, was behind the push to update the WHRR. “This is such an important way for students to advance the field of women’s rights,” says Cook.

The WHRR database provides annotations for key UN documents and leading scholarly articles on a range of topics from economic globalization to reproductive rights to armed conflict. The WHRR database receives more than 15,000 hits per month, with diverse users from over 100 countries. This year’s group will continue to update the existing content while adding new content from the UN.


International Corruption and Human Rights

Partner Organization: Transparency International

Student Leaders: Lewis Fainer (3L/MGA)

Corruption is not a victimless crime, but the difficulty in identifying individuals who have been harmed by acts of international corruption perpetuates the misconception that human rights are not implicated by this category of criminal wrongdoing. Recognizing the need to combat the pervasive narrative that international corruption is a victimless crime, the OECD launched an Initiative to Raise Global Awareness of Foreign Bribery in December of 2009. The organization’s efforts have seen moderate success, with states across the globe implementing legislation aimed at curbing the capacity of corporations to engage in corrupt business practices overseas.

Despite being a laudable effort, government action on international corruption triggers a new set of concerns relating to human rights. Specifically, programs that aim to eradicate foreign bribery and other types of international corruption have the potential to undermine certain rights. For instance, beneficial ownership regulations may implicate privacy rights and deferred prosecution agreements may undermine the rule of law. While these potential tensions between combating corruption and protecting fundamental humans rights are numerous, the purpose of the international corruption and human rights working groupis to select one discrete issue, and prepare a report that outlines how human rights are compromised by government efforts to fight corruption. The report will also make recommendations concerning the optimal design of anti-corruption instruments to safeguard the protection of human rights.