The Human Rights Center engages with leading scholars and practitioners to produce cutting-edge research on today’s most pressing human rights challenges.

Recent Studies

PDF iconThe Impact of “Soft Law” and Informal Standard-Setting in the Area of Counter-Terrorism on Civil Society and Civic Space

The University of Minnesota Law School’s Human Rights Center is pleased to announce the publication of its new briefing paper: “The Impact of “Soft Law” and Informal Standard-Setting in the Area of Counter-Terrorism on Civil Society and Civic Space.” The briefing paper has been prepared under the aegis of the Mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and is authored by Dr. Krisztina Huszti-Orban and Prof. Fionnuala Ni Aolain. The work was made possible through support from the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law.

Building on the Special Rapporteur’s report to the 74th  session of the General Assembly, this briefing paper addresses the proliferation of new institutions, many with selective membership, whose regulatory scope is increasing and expanding, and the use and application of soft law standards these entities produce, with particular emphasis on the implications of these developments on the functioning of civil society organizations and civic space.

PDF iconThe Role of Measures to Address Terrorism and Violent Extremism on Closing Civil Society Space

The University of Minnesota Law School’s Human Rights Center is pleased to announce the publication of its new report: “The Role of Measures to Address Terrorism and Violent Extremism on Closing Civic Space.” The report is authored by Dr. Anne Charbord and Prof. Fionnuala Ni Aolain, HRC Faculty Director and UN Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism and Human Rights. This important study was made possible through support from the Government of Denmark and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law.

The report focuses on the cumulative effect of expanding counter-terrorism and security frameworks on the restriction of civic space and civil society. The report make recommendations for the United Nations Security Council and individual countries on how to address the threats from terrorism and violent extremism without infringing on the important role for a robust civil society.

Children in Pretrial Detention: Promoting Stronger International Time Limits

On the length of pretrial detention of minors around the world and how practitioners, civil society, and the international community can better protect children waiting in prison.

With Juvenile Justice Advocates International and American University’s Washington College of Law Clinical Program



The Human Rights Center directs and supports applied research projects to advance human rights law, policy, and practice.

  • The Minnesota Human Rights Lab is a joint endeavor of faculty across several colleges and degree programs, designed as part of the University’s Grand Challenges strategic initiative. The aim of the Lab is to investigate and model ways that cutting-edge research can be used more effectively with NGOs, communities, institutions and policymakers to reduce inequalities in the enjoyment of human rights. Faculty members and graduate students from different disciplines partner with actors on the frontlines of working for a more just and equitable society. For the first two years (2016–2018), a total of 12 human rights research projects will be run through the Lab.
  • The International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) was organized in 1985 at the Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya, to promote recognition of women’s human rights under the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). IWRAW carries out international advocacy and produces timely reports, training manuals, and scholarship, including The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – A Commentary (eds. Marsha Freeman, Christine Chinkin, Beate Rudolf) Oxford University, 2012.
  • The online University of Minnesota Human Rights Library is one of the world’s largest collections of core human rights materials. Housing more than 60,000 documents, the Human Rights Library provides unprecedented access to these resources for human rights advocates throughout the world. In addition to its main English collection, the Library features eight language alcoves to provide greater accessibility in Arabic, Chinese, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.

Select Past Projects

The Guantanamo Defense Project

The Guantanamo Defense Project provided legal assistance to military lawyers defending detainees held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay. With a large amount of law student research support, the project generated a wealth of research, motions, memoranda, and briefs to support the under-staffed and under-financed military defense.

The project made important contributions to the Khadr case, the Hamdan case and the defense of five other “high-value” detainees. The Project created a set of case materials for Defense Counsel, collecting international jurisprudence to develop an extensive brief bank on the subjects of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; child soldiers; equal protection and equality; international fair trial rights; right to presence at trial; and suppression of evidence adduced through torture or other ill-treatment.

Human Rights Library Special Collections

Complementing the Guantanamo Defense Project, the Human Rights Library Special Collections include a library of government documents pertaining to the roles of Armed Forces Medical Personnel who worked in U.S. Armed Forces prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay from 2001-06.

This collection is entitled United States Military Medicine in War on Terror Prisons, Eds. Steven Miles, Leah Marks, and is available free of charge through the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library.

Minnesota-Antioquia Human Rights Partnership

The Minnesota-Antioquia Human Rights Partnership was a collaborative effort to strengthen the capacity of universities in Antioquia, Colombia, to teach, research, and provide clinical legal representation toward the promotion of international human rights and the rule of law.

The project focused on strengthening the institutional capacity of the Colombian partners, serving vulnerable populations, and developing human rights leaders. The Human Rights Program (CLA) and the Human Rights Center (Law School) were the University of Minnesota partnering entities and the Colombian partner institutions were Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad Católica de Oriente, Universidad de Medellín, and Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana.

Human Rights Education Topic Book Series

Training Manual on Human Rights Monitoring

The HRC produced the Training Manual on Human Rights Monitoring for the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, detailing the methodology and best practices of monitoring a country’s human rights conditions.

Contact Information

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P: 612-625-5000

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