Sustainable Development Goals


Law students put research into practice to support international human rights protection

UCL Laws students are supporting non-governmental organisations through a pro bono project that is applying cutting-edge research to address global challenges involving complex legal issues.

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26 February 2021

Protecting human rights is a fundamental aspect of the rule-of-law and an important theme in legal education. Postgraduate students at UCL Laws are addressing real-world human rights protection issues by providing cutting-edge legal research to organisations such as Redress and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Each year, the Public International Law Pro Bono Project brings together a competitively selected group of students, who collaborate and offer their expertise on a pro bono (for free) basis to organisations working to protect human rights around the world.

“The award-winning project began its life as a PhD and LLM student initiative, a reflection of the public spiritedness of the graduate Laws community,” explains Professor Kimberley Trapp, one of the project’s co-directors. “With the addition of faculty support, the project has expanded and been given a firmer footing and a unique educational dimension, while remaining absolutely committed to its collaborative group work ethos and human rights protection focus.”

Students collaborate and offer their expertise on a pro bono basis to organisations working to protect human rights around the world.

For example, the project has submitted several legal briefs to assist the Inter-American Court of Human Rights address complicated issues raised by requests to the Court to clarify the applicable law (Advisory Opinion requests), including in respect of political asylum, the withdrawal of states from the American Convention of Human Rights, and the treatment of vulnerable persons in detention.

The project has also assisted Redress, a charity seeking justice for survivors of torture, in its preparation of reports submitted to the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and to the UN Committee Against Torture on the UK’s compliance with its obligations. It is also working on a casebook on strategic litigation that will be used in training human rights lawyers around the world.

In addition, the Project has prepared a case study on compliance with international humanitarian law for the International Committee of the Red Cross, posted on its ‘IHL in Action’ webpage.

Since 2017, more than 60 UCL students have participated in the project, with support and supervision provided by faculty members and UCL Laws doctoral students. In 2018, the innovative project won the UCL Provost’s Education Award. 

The project enables the faculty’s graduate students and staff to work together and use their collective international law expertise to make a positive contribution to addressing some of the most pressing human rights and security challenges facing the international community,” Professor Trapp adds.