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Northwestern Law Expands International Human Rights Program

The School of Law is expanding its program in international human rights and criminal law.

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March 4, 2008 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel
CHICAGO --- Darfur. Abu Ghraib. Myanmar. Occupied territories. Those words hint at the myriad controversies that have led to increased attention to international human rights.

In response to the heightened interest and many inquiries from American lawyers, Northwestern University School of Law is expanding its program in international human rights and criminal law.

For the first time, beginning in fall 2008, American lawyers will be able to enroll in the one-year graduate degree program that leads to an LLM in International Human Rights (HR LLM). Traditionally, only foreign lawyers were admitted to the Northwestern program.

Northwestern also is launching a new joint degree program that will allow traditional law students to receive the HR LLM as well as the JD. The exceptional joint degree program requires an externship abroad with one of a number of designated international and hybrid criminal tribunals, foreign supreme courts and international human rights organizations.

"The practice of law is necessarily global, and studying international law has become more far more important regardless of the direction in which students want to take their legal careers," said David Scheffer, director of the Center for International Human Rights.

Scheffer, the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law at Northwestern, is a former U.S. Ambassador at-Large for War Crimes Issues.

Northwestern's LLM in International Human Rights is designed for lawyers (American or foreign) who wish to undertake an in-depth study of the norms and methods of international human rights law and its implementation in domestic legal systems.

The HR LLM curriculum provides a comprehensive grounding in human rights law.
The core courses for the curriculum include international human rights law, international criminal law and a human rights colloquium. Beyond these courses, HR LLM students select from a wide array of elective courses relating to various facets of international human rights and international criminal law.

"The HR LLM degree is a valuable credential for attorneys interested in careers in international human rights," said Bridget Arimond, director of the LLM program in international human rights.

"As human rights issues assume increasing prominence on both the national and international planes, the time has come to extend to American lawyers the same opportunity to obtain an advanced degree in international human rights law that has been available to lawyers from other countries."

The new four-year JD/HR LLM program will provide students with an intense study of human rights laws that could not be achieved in the normal three-year period of law school, with an opportunity to participate in a semester-long externship abroad.

Currently only a few of Northwestern's JD students are able to allot an entire semester to an externship.

Arimond cited examples of current externships that Northwestern JD students are participating in to give an idea of the types of opportunities that the JD/HR LLM program will provide.

"One student is in The Hague with the Trial Chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, where her first assignment was to research one of the most hotly contested issues in an ongoing trial," Arimond said. "And another is in Phnom Penh with the newly established Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, assisting the prosecution in preparing the first cases against those alleged to be among the most responsible for the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge period."

"At a time when human rights issues are of paramount importance, the law school is taking a leadership role in training a new generation of lawyers schooled in the norms, institutions and methodologies of international human rights and international criminal law," said David Van Zandt, dean, Northwestern University School of Law.