Human Rights in Humanitarian Crises

International law creates obligations on governments to respect, protect, and promote fundamental human rights and provide humanitarian protections in times of conflict. International human rights and humanitarian protections codified in treaties, customary law, declarations, and other international norms all provide important protections for individuals and groups. These protections are no more important than in times of natural and manufactured disasters, but it is during these crises that these protections are especially threatened. Governments and non-state actors often avoid their obligations or pick and choose where and to what extent they will meet them. The role of the humanitarian actor is thus critical to constantly and consistently remind, reaffirm, encourage, and pressure all parties to ensure respect for international legal standards. To do this, the effective humanitarian actor must understand those standards, and have the skills and tools to negotiate their application in times of crisis.
In this course, students will examine the related but distinct bodies of human rights and humanitarian law, which both provide fundamental protections for individuals and groups. This will include a critical examination of the origins, principles, and applications of these bodies of law. The course will provide participants with a framework for understanding the legal aspects of delivering humanitarian assistance within that framework. The course will provide students with the necessary tools to fulfill their roles by introducing applicable conventions and protocols, explore ways where the law can enhance humanitarian assistance, and give students an opportunity to analyze case studies and develop a thorough understanding of the applicability of human rights and humanitarian law to their daily work.
With a thorough comprehension of these international laws, students will gain confidence and expertise in negotiating with other actors and navigating the various logistics of the humanitarian's reality that sets formal standards and laws against the realities of on-the-ground challenges.
Topics covered include: Human Rights Law (Introduction, history, concepts, (non-) state actors; civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, women's rights and children's rights); Tools for Humanitarian workers (natural disasters and human rights); Humanitarian Law (Introduction, history, Geneva Law, Hague Law, and related standards including rules of engagement, combatant status, determining conflicts); The human rights-based approach (integrating a human rights based approach into programming and projects), human rights monitoring and advocacy; The right to humanitarian assistance (legal concepts and current developments); Humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect; International Criminal Law (History, concepts, tribunals and the ICC, practical implications for humanitarian workers); International Disaster Response Law.
This course is a week-long elective course for the IDOHA and IDMHA modules of the MIHA.

Course Directors

Florian Razesberger, PhD studied law at the Universities of Vienna, Copenhagen and Innsbruck. After having worked as a Law Clerk at the Regional Court of Innsbruck and as an Assistant Legal Officer at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, he worked as a Legal Adviser at Africa Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA) in Cairo. Thereafter he worked for OSCE Missions in Skopje and Sarajevo in the area of rule of law and human rights. In 2011, Florian joined the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan where he worked as a Human Rights Officer in the South-Eastern provinces of the country on issues of protection of civilians and violence against women. Florian currently works for the Human Rights Review Panel in Kosovo, which holds the European Union accountable for alleged violations of human rights in Kosovo.

Elisabeth Wickeri, JD is the Executive Director of Fordham Law School's Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, where she is also Adjunct Professor of Law. At the Leitner Center, Elisabeth directs the Crowley Program in International Human Rights and the Asia Law and Justice Program, teaches classes in public international law, supervises clinical human rights projects for students, and carries out fieldwork, research, and writing in human rights law with a focus on Asia. Prior to joining the Leitner Center, Elisabeth worked at human rights organizations in the United States, Africa, and Asia. She is currently the Chair of the International Human Rights Committee at the New York City Bar Association, where she also sits on the Council on International Affairs, the Task Force on Climate Adaption, and the Task Force on National Security. She received her BA from Smith College, JD from NYU School of Law, and also studied at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing, China.

Representative Syllabus