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A Practical Guide to Using International Human Rights and Criminal Law Procedures

Connie de la Vega and Alen Mirza

This book is a practical, experience-based guide for advocates seeking remedies for human rights violations through the use of international institutions. Since 1948, when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, mechanisms for addressing human rights violations have multiplied to include UN Charter based bodies, treaty-based organizations including the international criminal court, and regional institutions. Each mechanism has its own admissibility requirements: accreditation, timeliness of claims, and exhaustion of remedies. For practitioners, the maze of rules and institutions can be difficult to navigate. This book offers step-by-step approaches for maximizing the institutions’ intended effect–promotion of human rights at all levels.
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Authors and contributors

Connie de la Vega and Alen Mirza


Connie de la Vega – Marshall P. Madison Chair, Professor of Law and Academic Director of International Programs, University of San Francisco. She received her B.A. from Scripps College and her J.D. from the University of California School of Law. Professor de la Vega has worked with international organizations and participated at United Nations bodies since 1977 when she worked as an Intern at the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva, Switzerland. She was a co-founder of Human Rights Advocates (HRA) in the early 1980s and has been a member of the Board of Directors since then. She applied for ECOSOC accreditation for HRA at the UN which was granted in 1985. In 2005 she established the Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic at the University of San Francisco and has been supervising her students’ participation at United Nations bodies since then. She has participated in various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations and has filed petitions before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She has written extensively on the topic of international human rights law and has filed briefs in United States courts raising those standards. Her brief was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), which held that the death penalty for juvenile offenders is unconstitutional. She was awarded the 2016 Warren M. Christopher International Lawyer of the Year by the International Section of the California State Bar.

Alen Mirza – A human rights lawyer and co-founder of RightsBridge, a global human rights consulting organization. He has extensive experience facilitating international and domestic advocacy with non-governmental organizations in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Alen has authored several submissions before the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the U.N. Human Rights Committee, the Universal Periodic Review, and to various Special Procedures of the U.N. Human Rights Council. His work has focused on issues impacting forced migrants, indigenous peoples and ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities. Alen received a J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law and dual B.S. and B.A. degrees from Santa Clara University. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Human Rights Advocates, an NGO dedicated to promoting and protecting international human rights in the United States.


Luke Fadem – A domestic and international prosecutor. Mr. Fadem received his J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles and his B.A. from Amherst College. As Assistant Appeals Counsel at the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, he fought to uphold convictions for atrocity crimes committed during the Balkan conflict and genocide. He has also served as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of California and a Deputy District Attorney for Napa County, California. Mr. Fadem is the author of the chapter on advocacy at the International Criminal Court.

Jennifer Babaie – Staff Attorney for the International Refugee Assistance Project in New York City representing refugees and asylum seekers. She received a J.D. and M.A. in International Law and Organizations from George Washington University and a B.S. from Santa Clara University magna cum laude. As an Open Society Justice Initiative Litigation Fellow, she gained extensive experience providing litigation support on cases before the European Court of Human Rights, including cases impacting migrant workers and victims of drone warfare. She also served as a judicial clerk and attorney advisor for a U.S. immigration court in Washington State adjudicating asylum claims, claims under the Convention against Torture, and admissibility issues. Ms. Babaie is the author of the section on the European systems in the chapter on regional systems.

JoAnn Ward – Director of the Human Rights in the U.S. Project at the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, where she is a lecturer-in-law and a supervisor in the Human Rights Clinic. Ms. Ward received her J.D., magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, from Fordham University School of Law. Ms. Ward focuses on promoting the use of human rights standards and strategies to foster racial, gender, and socio-economic justice in the United States. Her work aims to strengthen awareness of human rights and to build domestic mechanisms to monitor, promote, and implement human rights. This includes research and writing, as well as international and domestic advocacy to improve access to basic rights, such as housing and sanitation, focusing on communities living in poverty. She engages in strategic litigation in domestic courts as well as advocacy at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to address systemic discrimination and inequality. She also leads the Institute’s efforts to create resources on state and local human rights implementation, and raise awareness of the value added of human rights in local governance. She would like to thank the many colleagues who work daily to hold the US accountable to global human rights norms, especially members of the Bringing Human Rights Home Lawyers’ Network for their continuous innovation, guidance, and support. Ms. Ward contributed to the section on the U.N. Special Procedures and the thematic hearings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.