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International Human Rights Law: Getting Started


International Human Rights is a broad topic that cuts across many academic disciplines, including law, politics, immigration, and environmental science. 

The Law Library and the other LUC libraries offer a wide array of resources in both print and electronic formats that can help with researching international human rights. There are also many useful websites listed in this guide that are specific to the topic. Keep in mind that, when approaching any research problem, it is often advantageous to start with a secondary source. 

The main international instruments pertaining to human rights are the International Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These are collectively known as the International Bill of Human Rights

In the context of children's rights, see the Convention on the Rights of the Child

For a U.S.- and Illinois-specific guide on researching child law, see the associated LUC Law Library guide

International Justice Resource Center

The International Justice Resource Center operates out of San Francisco. Its website provides a plethora of materials on international human rights law, including a section on children's rights. There are also country-specific reports available. 

Video on "International Human Rights Legal Research"

Introductory Materials (Electronic Format)

There are a number of resources on the WWW that provide introductions to various aspects of international human rights law research. 

International/Regional Human Rights Tribunals

For a list of ad hoc criminal tribunals and special courts, see this list on the U.S. Department of Justice's website. There is also a list (with links) of websites that include information on the Nuremberg Trials. Below are listed the main international and regional courts that prosecute human rights crimes.

The OHCHR also offers a database that "provides easy access to jurisprudence emanating from the United Nations Treaty Bodies which receive and consider complaints from individuals: the Human Rights Committee (CCPR), the Committee against Torture (CAT), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)."

The CRIN Database provides a search engine for locating important national cases on children's rights from over one hundred countries. For a search engine for cases on African children's rights. see the African Child Rights Cases database, maintained by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. 

Online Translators

English translations of foreign and international legal materials are often difficult to locate and can be unreliable.  Only in rare instances are authoritative English translations available.  If authoritative versions are not available, look for "official" translations that are created by, or for, a government organization.  Further, look for synoptic translations, which allow for side-by-side comparisons of the vernacular with the English translation.  Some types of legal materials are translated into English more often than others, such as those pertaining to commercial law. 

Many online translators are available on the WWW, but these should be used with caution since web translators do not generally include specialized legal or commercial vocabulary.  Online translators, however, may be of some help in getting the general sense of a document or passage.  Examples of WWW translators are: