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International Human Rights (LAW 6886)

This guide was created for Professor Weissbrodt's International Human Rights course, Fall 2016

Travaux Préparatoires

Travaux Préparatoires, or "preparatory works" are not law, but they are the official documents recording the negotiations, drafting, and discussions that occurred during the process of creating a treaty.  Basically, they are the legislative history of treaties and they may be useful in trying to interpret treaty language and intent.  

Sometimes, you can get lucky and find the travaux préparatoires on the same database as the treaty's text.  Other times, you should look for them assembled in a book.  

  • Search for the keywords "travaux preparatoires" in MNCAT in the title field. 
  • Browse Yale's list of collected travaux préparatoires and then search for a title on MNCAT.  If you cannot find it, ask me!
  • UNHCR: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, through its RefWorld database, provides the legislative histories of refugee conventions.

Documents of Treaty Bodies

There are eight main U.N. human rights treaties. Each treaty has a corresponding "treaty body" which administers the treaty, keeps track of state parties and their reservations and declarations, receives and responds to reports compiled by state parties, and hears complaints lodged pursuant to the treaty.  

Text of Treaty Corresponding Treaty Body
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Committee against Torture (CAT)
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Convention on the Rights of the Child Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Human Rights Committee (HCR)
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW)

To find documents from treaty bodies:

  • MNCAT: The University of Minnesota library system, and the law library, in particular, has a vast current and historical collection of UN documentation in various formats (print, microform, and online).  
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights's UN Treaty Body Database: The OHCHR offers the U.N. Treaty Body Database, which is searchable by country, U.N. document symbol, treaty, and type of document. This can be handy when you want to locate reports or documents from many different treaties, but all related to one country.
  • UN Official Document System (ODS): when treaty bodies issue documents, those documents have a "document number" consisting of letters and numbers. ODS is a source for pdf copies of U.N. documents of all sorts, including treaty body materials. It is best used when you have a U.N. document number and want the full-text of the document.For example, a document number like this: E/RES/2016/24 indicates that it is the 24th resolution (RES) from the Economic and Social Committee (E) from year 2016.

National (Domestic) Legislation

Many countries provide for human rights in their national laws.  You know how to find U.S. Federal and State statutes about human/civil rights (use Westlaw and Lexis, as you've been doing up until this point!).

Finding the national legislation of other countries is not likely as familiar to you.  The hardest part of conducting foreign law research is (1) identifying the source that publishes the legislation and (2) finding an accurate translation of that legislation into English, which is not always possible.  Below are some links to get you started.  If you need more help, consult this research guide on finding foreign law or ask me!

IGO Documents

Books & articles will let you know which intergovernmental organizations work in your topic area.  But, below are a couple directories:

Examples of major IGOs in the area of human rights:

NGO Documents

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) monitor and document human rights violations.  They produce reports and other publications to help you analyze your topic.  Most (all?) NGOs have websites that contain recently-produced documents and those are easily found on the web.  The key is to know which NGO(s) relate to your topic area.  Books and articles will help you identify key organizations, but below are a couple directories:

Examples of major NGOs in the area of human rights:

Country Reports & Country of Origin Information (COI)

Country reports document human rights violations and conditions in a particular country.  Some major sources for country reports are:

For additional sources of country reports, visit the immigration research guide (U.S. attorneys representing clients through the asylum process must research country conditions to support their clients' arguments for remaining in the U.S.).

News & Current Awareness Blogs/Websites

The following websites will help you stay current on world events and academic discussions involving foreign & international legal topics.  Browse these sources to discover and explore topics that interest you:

  • International Law Prof Blog: blog with posts written by law professors who teach international law 
  • Comparative Law Prof Blog: blog with posts written by law professors who teach comparative law
  • Jurist: legal news source led by a law professor from the U. Pittsburg; includes international legal news
  • Foreign Affairs: magazine/forum for discussion of American foreign policy and global affairs.
  • Opinio Juris: blog for academic debate about international law and international relations
  • Just Security: both a blog and a news source about international human rights and U.S. national security
  • IntLawGrrls: blog authored by women who teach and work in international law, policy, and practice
  • Lawfare: blog about the national security, primarily, but many posts discuss the laws of war in an international setting
  • Volkerrechtsblog: blog about various international law topics
  • Rights as Usual: blog about human rights and business
  • Human Rights Now: Amnesty International's blog on human rights news and work
  • Human Rights Watch: NGO website that provides news service re: human rights 
  • Blogs associated with international journals.  For example:

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