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International Human Rights (LAW 6886)

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

Key Concepts

Key concept #1: Ask for help when you need it.  Don't be shy. 

Key concept #2: International law has no well-defined hierarchy of legal authorities –can be confusing to research and to understand what the law is.

  • According to Article 38 of the ICJ statute, these are the sources of international law:
  • Judicial decisions (from international tribunals and national courts) and "the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations" (aka scholarly commentary) can be used as persuasive evidence of the law, but they are not "the law".
  • In addition to treaties, custom, general principles, judicial decisions, and scholarly commentary, your topic will likely require research in a variety of other sources, such as: 
    • Travaux Préparatoires: the "legislative history" of treaties
    • Documents of treaty bodies (aka agency that administers the treaty)
    • national (domestic) legislation
    • IGO documents 
    • NGO documents 
    • Country reports
    • news stories/blog posts
    • social media feeds: twitter, facebook, etc. 

Key Concept #3: start your research in scholarly commentary.  The experts will help you identify the appropriate treaties, custom, principles, judicial decisions, etc.  To navigate scholarly commentary, make use of advanced searches, subject headings, and currency.


Communication = Complaint, petition, application 

Concluding observation = treaty body’s written response to State party report, identifying progress and challenges in treaty compliance

Jurisprudence = “case law” of treaty bodies

Shadow reports = reports on human rights prepared by NGOs to supplement State party reports

State party reports = periodic reports, submitted by countries that have become a party to a human rights treaty, detailing the country’s efforts to comply with that treaty

Views = decisions, opinions of treaty body on individual communications


Information Literacy on GOOGLE

  • Google is good for:
    • facts (but watch for bias)
    • NGO documents
    • IGO documents
  • google is bad for 
    • information overload
    • low quality information
    • delusions of completeness

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