Holocaust and Crimes against Humanity Studies Emphasis

The Holocaust was the pivotal cause of the transformation of international law from a law of states that excluded individuals as subjects, to a system that henceforth included individuals as subjects.  Among the post-war documents it spawned are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.  Drenched not just in blood but also in law, or the mimicry of law, the Holocaust also was the epitome of the interdisciplinary event that cannot be studied effectively from a single field.  Conversely, modern international law cannot be understood without an understanding of the Holocaust.

From the Nuremberg trials to the trials of accused concentration camp guards currently taking place, to civil restitution lawsuits, to narratives of memory and the emerging scholarship on collective and cultural memory, the Holocaust poses a critical backdrop for comparison and contrast with subsequent mass crimes throughout the world, and the social, legal and political resolutions that follow in their wake.  Issues meriting study include the appropriate role of law; the limits of both law and justice in the aftermath of crimes against humanity; law’s intersection with history; historical justice; individual, collective and cultural memory; and narrative.

This emphasis will allow law students to examine these issues in any appropriate discipline, including but not limited to Law, Political Science, History, Jewish Studies and Literature.  Courses dealing with subjects such as international human rights; slavery; the Rwandan genocide and the history of the Holocaust are examples of those which would qualify.

Students must complete eight credits, two of which can be in satisfaction of the upper-level writing requirement. Up to four credits can be taken outside of the Law School.  (Any non-Law School credits will be part of the total of six non-Law School credits students may apply to their J.D. degrees).  A list of courses is available for download.

Completion of the emphasis requirements will be acknowledged in an official Law School letter to the student, a copy of which will be kept in the student’s file.  The Studies Emphasis is not at present an official university program, and as such will not be reflected on the student’s university transcript.  However, it is expected that students will want to include reference to their successful completion of this course of studies on their résumés.  The Law School will confirm the student’s completion of the course of studies to potential employers and others.



This course will teach law students how to identify, research, evaluate, explain and advocate public policy options in the context of current issues raising questions of national and international law. The actual issues providing the backdrop for the course in any particular semester will necessarily vary (if the course had been offered in Spring 2009, for example, the class might have explored law-related policy issues relating to the closing of Guantanamo Bay prison, restructuring the regulatory environment in the context of the US economic downturn, the use of force in Gaza, genocide and the pursuit of justice in Darfur, etc.). The focus of the course is more process- than topic-based, however, with the issues simply providing the menu of “problems” to be assessed. In any given policy setting, students will learn how to identify relevant legal issues, how to research them as they develop in real time, how to formulate specific recommendations and how to explain and/or advocate policy positions orally and in writing. The course should be especially useful for law students contemplating careers in government or other public service, public interest law and journalism, or who might expect, as traditional lawyers, to represent clients in these areas. Evaluation will be based on a combination of written memos and oral briefings, culminating in mock testimony before a Congressional committee. Maximum enrollment: 12.

5649 HUMAN RIGHTS LITIGATION - 3 Credits Lobel


This course will investigate the theoretical and practical problems involved in prosecuting human rights violations in national courts. This course will discuss contemporary human rights issues generally, but will focus primarily on issues arising out of current human rights litigation and litigation involving allegations of human rights abuses in the government’s war against terrorism. The students will be required to draft a brief, or one major point in a brief, in an ongoing or potential human rights case, and participate in a moot court on the case. Students will also do a shorter piece of writing on a human rights issue for class discussion. Grade will be based on brief, moot court participation, shorter writing, and class discussion. Enrollment is limited to 30 students.

*This class qualifies depending on the student’s choice of paper topic. Topic must be approved by Professor Curran for this course to qualify.*


This seminar is an introductory survey of the substantive and procedural aspects of international criminal law, a new and evolving area of law that has gained in prominence in the past decade. The course starts with an overview of fundamentals, focusing on the notion of international crimes and their historical evolution, as well as the general features and sources of international criminal law. The second part of the seminar analyzes the substantive law, especially the definitions and subjective and objective elements of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The discussion will take place within the context of a comparative evaluation of the main international judicial mechanisms developed after World War II to prosecute these crimes. Particular attention is paid to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, the ad hoc United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the permanent International Criminal Court. In the final part, we examine the fair trial rights and the limited defenses and immunities available to alleged perpetrators of international crimes. A key question students will be expected to engage throughout is whether, and if so to what extent, individual criminal prosecution is a legitimate and effective tool to address mass human rights violations during or after conflict. A background in international law is helpful, but not required. The course grade will be based on a major paper that fulfills the uppper level writing requirement.

Enrollment is limited to 15 students.

Optional Component – Independent Study/Field Trip to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (An additional credit will be awarded if this option is selected)

International criminal law, like other areas of law, tends to come alive when one translates theory into practice. Through an informal arrangement with the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (“ICTR” or “Rwanda Tribunal”), students taking the seminar with this optional “field trip” component will get a rare opportunity to see international criminal law in action. You will be accompanied on a visit to the seat of the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania during the Spring Recess (week of March 8, 2010). As part of your activities, you will receive a full tour of the Rwanda Tribunal, observe ongoing trials first hand, and interact with lawyers prosecuting and defending high profile genocide cases. You will sign up for an independent study and will be awarded an additional credit to prepare a more extensive research paper for this seminar. The independent study will be graded pass/fail. Ideally, your topic, which must be approved in advance, would address an issue relating to the work of the ICTR. A draft of the paper would be due before the recess so that you can present it to student colleagues, and possibly tribunal legal staff, during the visit. Upon completion of the course, the student with the highest mark in the course will be offered a self-funded summer internship with the Office of the Prosecutor of the Rwanda Tribunal for the summer of 2010. For those wishing to pursue a career in this field, this gives you a chance to gain valuable work experience and to network with people in this growing but extremely competitive field. While students will be responsible for the costs associated with their travel, accommodation, and insurance, the Center for International Legal Education (CILE) is exploring the possibility of offering a small stipend in the form of a fellowship to help defray the costs of travel and out-of-pocket expenses related to this optional field trip.

5803 LAW AND MEMORY SEMINAR – 3 Credits Curran

Recent years have seen a growing importance to the debate over the role of law in matters of historical significance and in dealing with what is referred to as “collective memory.” The experience of the Second World War is illustrative of the capacities and incapacities of law as a remedy for crimes against humanity. In more recent years, other models have been preferred, such as Truth and Reconciliation Hearings.

The seminar will address various models of resolution when grave crimes against humanity have been perpetrated against members of a society under a previous regime, whether against a majority or a minority of the population. The objective will be to analyze the situation for transitional periods of society and for their aftermath.

Grades will be based on students’ class participation, including a presentation of their paper topic, and on their seminar paper.  Enrollment is limited to 12 students.



Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been increasingly involved in interventionary state building operations, including Kosovo. These political-military interventions have often been termed “nation-building”, as the United States has been grappling with the challenges of stabilizing and reconstructing post-conflict states. Is it possible to establish the conditions for legitimate and sustainable national governance through a period of international administration? This course will explore the theory of ‘state-building’ and the emergence of the independent and sovereign state of Kosovo, by analyzing this sui generis case from a legal perspective, including the historical context (from autonomy to ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity), the interim period of international governance, the final status process and the declaration of independence. It will further explore state-building steps undertaken by the youngest nation in the world to draft, adopt and implement its Constitution, adopt its state symbols, establish the necessary agencies for its functioning as a state, and other steps undertaken to further establish and strengthen its statehood through its international relations and internal developments.

In addition, it will look at the specific role of the international community in Kosovo, and in particular the role of the United States. Grades will be based on a take-home exam.


This course will examine the history of the development of international human rights laws, the concepts behind the current status of those laws, and the mechanics present for enforcing those laws in international, regional, and domestic legal systems. The course will include a discussion of the theories behind international human rights law, the different hierarchies of human rights and the differing approaches to applying those hierarchies, and the ability (or lack thereof) to enforce international human rights standards. Students are required to either have already taken International Law or to take it in conjunction with International Human Rights Law.




A detailed examination of the nature and scope of slavery in the Caribbean Region, its relation to the Atlantic slave trade, and consequences for the development of Caribbean societies and economy.


Examines historical roots of modern Caribbean. Examines major historical developments from period of subjugation of indigenous population through era of slavery to rise of modern nationalism and impact of American intervention. Also analyzes related socioeconomic systems and institutions. Selected country case studies included.



Focuses on the factors in German life that made Hitler’s success possible and on the Nazi episode in German history. Also covers Hitler’s Germany.


Explores the most significant and dramatic episodes of contemporary history, both political and intellectual, including World Wars I and II, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, inflation, depression, and the explosion of cultural modernism.

HIST 1381 - EUROPE 1914-1945

History of both Western and Eastern Europe from World War I through the end of World War II, with emphasis on national and ethnic tensions, the failure of democracy, depression, the growth of fascism, international conflicts, and war.


We take a long-range view of the holocaust as we examine it within the contexts of both European and Jewish history.



The purpose of this course is to provide students with a framework for understanding and analyzing ethnic conflicts and civil wars, the most pervasive forms of armed conflict in the world. The objectives of the course are to understand a range of causes of violent conflict within states, including psychological, historical, political, ethnic, ideological, religious, and economic factors; to explore some of the responses of governments to political divisions, including accommodation, domination, co-optation, assimilation, secession, and genocide; and to assess various international relations, including economic, diplomatic, and military policies. Part I of the course provides a general overview for understanding ethnic and nationalist conflict. Part II analyzes the causes of ethnic conflict and civil war. Part III examines domestic strategies for dealing with ethnic and political differences. Part IV examines international responses to ethnic and nationalist conflict.


This course offers case studies of multilateral peacekeeping and peacemaking efforts in relation to regional and ethnic conflicts, such as those in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda and Somalia. It looks at the underlying rationale for intervention in such conflicts and the problems and dilemmas that arise.


What effect do relations between men and women have on human security? What is the connection between global gender inequality and security? How does taking gender and sex into account shift national and global policies, priorities, and human security outcomes for both men and women? How well are international institutions doing in addressing the connection between sex and security, and what else remains to be done? In this course we examine the relationship between human security and sex relations using gender as a category of analysis. We thus address the gender gap in traditional notions of security, which have neglected the majority of threats females face and resulted in grave community- and nation-wide impacts. We begin by studying the merits of different analytical approaches to gender as applied to security issues (traditional and human security), and evidence backing a gendered analysis. Through an gender lens we then critically examine the causes and implications of several major security issues, and we learn to develop more effective gender-aware responses: sexual violence (as a strategy in war, in peacekeeping, and in peace), displacement (refugees, IDPS), child soldiering, and modern slavery. Throughout the course we critically assess institutional and policy responses to the intersection between sex and security and attempt to improve upon them.


This course introduces the core concepts of human security, examines the institutions and practices that promote those concepts, and probes the utility of human security as an approach to addressing the challenges of protecting peoples, lives and livelihoods in the 21st century. The course is intended to provide students with the ability to carry out informed, professional analysis of key issues and debates associated with violent threats to individuals, and with non-violent threats such as poverty, disease, and lack of access to resources. Upon completing this course students will be familiar with influential and innovative organizations working on human security issues. Part I of the course defines human security and places it in intellectual and policy context. Part II addresses freedom from fear, with a focus on the physical threats to civilians during armed conflict. Part III identifies challenges societies face during the transition from war to peace, with a focus on transitional justice. Part IV addresses freedom from want, with attention to topics related to economic well being and development. The assignments are designed to sharpen students’ ability to make compelling, analytic, policy-relevant presentations and arguments.


This course examines the causes of, and responses to, several major humanitarian crises in the last 20 years. We review in depth how the international community responded in Somalia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza, Sudan, and East Timor, and explore cross-cutting themes such as evolution of the international system of response, the role of leadership, ethical dilemmas, NGO-military relations, policy advocacy by NGOs, and programmatic ideals such as do no harm and building local capacity in the context of violent military conflict. By the end of the course, participants will have acquired a much deeper understanding of the humanitarian, political, and military responses to several major crises and appreciate the strengths, weaknesses, and roles of NGOs and other actors in pursuit of the humanitarian imperative. This course includes a review of at least one humanitarian emergency every week, highlighting unique features and lessons learned from each crisis. During the last two weeks, students participate in a simulation exercise in the context of a humanitarian emergency in Darfur to acquire a deeper understanding of the range of practical and programmatic issues faced by agencies and governments.


This is a policy-relevant history course that examines the international relations of the 20th century, as well as the lasting legacy of the cold war today. After discussing the causes, conduct, and consequences of World War II, students study the rise of the Soviet Union and Iron Curtain, postwar trusteeships, and the process of decolonization by which large swaths of Africa and Asia obtained their independence. Class lectures cover just war theory, the geopolitics of war, the rise of NATO, and the major cold war conflicts in Cuba, Afghanistan, Iran, and Vietnam. Using historical case studies, students learn important practical skills useful for a career in diplomacy, international negotiation, or statecraft, as seen through the eyes of master practitioners.