Learn how to research international law for human rights advocacy

International human rights recommendations, commitments and precedents can be powerful tools, but are hard to find. This free course from HURIDOCS and Advocacy Assembly can help activists get started.

A general view of participants at the 31st regular session of the Human Rights Council. 10 March 2016. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When Ecuador’s government wanted to drill for oil in the Amazon rainforest, the Waorani indigenous community took them on — and won protection for their lands.

Uzbekistan’s authorities finally closed a dark chapter in the country’s record by shuttering Jaslyk prison, where critics, religious activists and others were systematically tortured and ill-treated.

And after more than 150 years since it was first introduced, the colonial-era statue banning same-sex relationships in India was struck down by the country’s Supreme Court

These are just a few of the human rights victories that the world has seen in the last 15 months. What do they all have in common? One of the ways that advocates presented the case for change was to point to international human rights law.

Recommendations, commitments and precedents made at the international level can be powerful tools for local changemakers who seek to hold their government to account or advance protections for basic dignity and fundamental freedoms. 

But finding the actual documents that contain these international human rights standards can be a challenge. Currently, there isn’t any centralized database that compiles them all in one place.

That’s why HURIDOCS put together a free 30-minute course on “Researching Human Rights Law for Advocacy” with Advocacy Assembly. Led by HURIDOCS Executive Director Friedhelm Weinberg, it offers a framework for researching international human rights law.

The course also includes tutorials for using the databases UPR-INFO, RightDocs and Summa, which cover information originating from the Universal Periodic Review, the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Inter-American Commission and Inter-American Court of Human Rights, respectively. All three databases have received support and guidance from HURIDOCS.

UPR-INFO, RightDocs and Summa aren’t the only databases out there, of course. For example, both the African Case Law Analyser (from the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, a HURIDOCS partner) and the Universal Human Rights Index (from the United Nations) are also valuable resources for those investigating international law.

Nevertheless, at the end of the course learners will come away with a solid approach to this sort of research, no matter the database in question.

Check it out! Is there another human rights advocacy topic that you’d like to learn about? Let us know at lauren@huridocs.org.

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