The lab will offer students the opportunity to engage in non-litigation strategies and collaborate with state, national, and international human rights organizations on legislative and rule-making proposals, policy matters, research papers, and amicus briefs. Topics may include immigrant rights, trafficking, domestic workers, gender violence, police and prison reform, U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with regard to specific local issues, and various other human rights treaty obligations and compliance. Students work with organizations currently seeking to reframe domestic issues as human rights issues, and engage in various law-related campaigns aimed at addressing economic, social, and cultural human rights violations.
Recent Research & Reports
Understanding Accountability for Torture: The Domestic Enforcement of International Human Rights Treaties
This Policy Report examines various international human rights treaties relevant to the U.S. program of Extraordinary Rendition and Torture. During the “War on Terror,” the CIA transported individuals to black sites across the globe and subjected them to unspeakable torture. North Carolina has a tragic and undeniable link to this practice of abducting foreign nationals, without process, and transferring them either to foreign or CIA custody overseas, typically to be subject to extended interrogation and torture. The CIA transported individuals to these black sites on planes operated by Aero Contractors headquartered in Johnston County, North Carolina.
The report demonstrates the applicability of human rights treaties to the United States, North Carolina, its political subdivisions, and Aero Contractors. Chapter One explains international human rights treaties and their significance with emphasis on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture. Chapter Two analyzes the use of Reservations, Understandings and Declarations attached to treaties to limit treaty enforceability in the context of the Supremacy Clause and the Vienna Convention on Treaties. Chapter Three considers treaty enforceability in the context of the U.S. system of federalism. Chapter Four revisits the egregious human rights atrocities committed under the extraordinary rendition program and highlights the international, federal, and state statutes that prohibit torture and extraordinary rendition which can be used to hold participants liable for their role in the extraordinary rendition program.
Full Report ()
The Human Rights of Mexican Migrants - A Case Study on the United States, Canada, & Spain
In 2015, there were 244 million international migrants, of which 12 million come from Mexico. The United States alone hosts the vast majority of these Mexican-born migrants, while Canada and Spain follow as the second and third largest receiving countries respectively. The Mexican diaspora raises an important question: what human rights obligations do countries, sending and receiving, owe to this immigrant population and to what degree are these obligations being met? The Policy Report will attempt to answer this question by examining the human rights of Mexican migrants in the United States, Canada and Spain. It summarizes the specific international and regional human rights treaties that apply to migrants with a focus on family, labor and human rights concerns and discusses migrant access to civil legal services to evaluate each country’s fulfillment of the human rights obligation to provide the right to a remedy. The Policy Report concludes by offering opportunities for further research.
Full Report ()
Assessing Recent Developments: Achieving Accountability for Torture
Following September 2001, the United States government declared a ‘war on terror’ and embarked upon a program of extraordinary rendition and unlawful prisoner transfers, interrogation by torture, and a global system of detention outside the law. Since that time, there has been a concerted and global effort to bring about accountability for the U.S. rendition and torture program.
This policy report, Assessing Recent Developments: Achieving Accountability for Torture, reviews new developments to obtain compliance with U.S. human rights obligations and relief for victims of torture, including U.S. commitments made to the UN Committee Against Torture and the UN Human Rights Council, the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on Torture, decisions by international and foreign courts, reports by journalists who continue to expose and educate the public about the U.S. Rendition and Interrogation Program, as well as the ongoing advocacy of committed human rights organizations.
These efforts have served to encourage accountability. While the U.S. government continues to refuse to “look back” and prevents torture victims from advancing their claims, it is nonetheless crucial to take stock of changed circumstances and determine how they may best serve ongoing advocacy efforts on behalf of torture victims. We believe that the task of advocates is to press into service the recent U.S. commitments, disclosures, judicial theories, advocacy strategies, and the global concerns that point to accountability and remedy for torture.
Full Report ()
A Basic Human Right: Meaningful Access to Legal Representation
In this report, the UNC School of Law’s Human Rights Policy Lab addresses the concept of meaningful access to legal representation as a basic human rights. The report, A Basic Human Right: Meaningful Access to Legal Representation, provides an overview of the current state of access to counsel in the United States with a focus on civil proceedings, immigration removal proceedings, and the criminal defense system. It demonstrates that the United States has failed to meet its international and regional human rights obligations despite findings by international and regional bodies that have repeatedly noted its deficiencies in protecting the legal rights of poor and vulnerable people. Without meaningful access to legal representation, substantive affirmative rights and legal protections guaranteed by domestic and international law are meaningless to those who cannot afford legal representation. The Report is intended to aid advocates looking to international and regional human rights bodies, specifically the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, for assistance in reforming the system in the United States and in pressuring the U.S. government to provide a universal right to meaningful access to legal representation.
Full Report ()
Briefing Book, Building Integrated Communities Through Language Rights
In collaboration with the Institute for the Study of the
America’s Latino Migration project known as Building Integrated
Communities (BIC), this policy report provides a resource for statewide
entities and initiatives working to assist communities in meeting their legal
and other obligations to assure language
access and support the language rights of minority populations. It is intended
to assist and augment the efforts of the BIC whose purpose is to support local
governments and diverse community stakeholders so that they might have the
tools to generate locally-relevant strategies to strengthen immigrant civic
engagement, linguistic achievement, and economic/educational advancement.
Section One outlines relevant international law and human
rights norms concerning language rights within the international and regional
human rights system. It further describes the European Union’s
approach to language rights and language access based on the EU concept that language access is tied to human dignity and
cultural identity, and thus, may serve as a model of what can be
accomplished in terms of integrated social communities in the United States.
Section Two provides an overview of the approach that U.S.
domestic law has employed in addressing issues related to language rights: a
civil rights approach. This Section includes an in-depth review of Title VI of
the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis
of national origin. This section explains
the obligations of both grantors of federal funds as well as recipients of
Section Three provides an assessment of language access in select
areas: public safety, transportation, workforce and employment, and health
care. The state and local agencies that
operate in these areas provide services that are essential to the day-to-day
well-being of persons with a limited English proficiency. These are also some of the agencies that will
be in the most frequent contact with persons that have limited English
proficiency. The Section also provides
example protocols to assist agencies
and municipalities to comply with their legal obligations as efficiently and
effectively as possible. Finally this Section explains the work of the BIC efforts to foster immigrant integration
with an emphasis on improving language accessibility by highlighting exemplary
efforts of two BIC municipality partnerships: High Point and Winston-Salem.
Section Four focuses on a particularly vulnerable population:
unaccompanied minors. Given the
vulnerability of these children and their imprecise and changing or evolving
legal status, communities should have the benefit of the facts of their
arrival, as well as information about their rights, including language rights,
as they take up residence in our communities.
It is hoped that the information in this report will
create stronger, more vibrant, and more humane communities.
Full Report ()
Brief on behalf of Abou Elkassim Britel
Brief on behalf of Abou Elkassim Britel submitted to: Mr. Juan Méndez, Special Rapportuer on the Convention Against Torture, Mr. Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Mr. Ariel Dulitzky, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Mr. Mads Andenas, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mr. Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.
Solitary Confinement as Torture
part of its commitment to exposing violations of the basic human rights, the
Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic (I/HRP) (now the Human Rights Policy
Lab) at the University of North Carolina School of Law in collaboration
with the ACLU of North Carolina, North Carolina Stop Torture Now, and the law
firm of Edelstein and Payne, announces the release of its report, Solitary Confinement as Torture. The report seeks to contribute to a growing
national advocacy movement that has identified solitary confinement as a cruel,
inhuman, and degrading form of punishment that is—or at the very least
approximates—torture and a severe form of human rights violation. The report seeks to bring about the end of
is one of the basest violations of human rights and shared democratic
ideals. Under North Carolina’s state
constitution, the federal constitution, as well as international law, the
nation and the state of North Carolina must not be complicit in any act that falls
within this category of atrocity. The duty to take responsibility for human
rights violations encompasses the obligation to enlarge an understanding of that
which constitutes torture and how it is manifested in various institutions and
implemented by various actors. In this interest, we have endeavored to
investigate and shine a light on the realities of the use of solitary
confinement within the prison system with a focus on the state of North
incorporates a wide range of sources to parse out not only the practice and the
outcomes of isolation, but also the evolution of the substantive response to these
conditions of confinement. It examines the
U.S. Constitution and its protections, the international standards that the
United States as a nation has endorsed, as well as North Carolina state legal
protections. The conclusion reached is stark and straightforward: solitary
confinement is ineffective at decreasing violence within prisons; it is
ineffective at preserving public safety; it is ineffective at managing scarce
monetary resources; and it violates the boundaries of human dignity and
Visa Denied: The Political Geography of the U Visa: Eligibility as a Matter of Locale
This policy brief undertaken with ASISTA Immigration Assistance examines problems related to the U visa program and law enforcement
certification practices. Despite the salutary purposes of the U visa
statute, immigrant advocates have observed that there is no uniformity among U
visa certification polices. Certification practices vary among different
law enforcement agencies and in different jurisdictions. As a result, some immigrant
victims who meet the statutory elements are successful in obtaining the signed
I-918B certification form and, ultimately, the U visa. Other immigrant
victims with virtually identical fact patterns are often denied certification
by agencies whose policies run contrary to the Congressional intent in
establishing the U visa program. These applicants, thus, have no chance
to obtain consideration of their U visa application by USCIS as they are unable
to meet the requirement of submitting an I-918B certification.
Section One examines
data and survey responses obtained from a survey conducted by the UNC
Immigration/Human Rights Policy clinic in cooperation with ASISTA Immigration
Assistance as well as other information gathered about the problem. The data demonstrates that law enforcement agency
certification policies are often inconsistent with the purpose of the statute
and contribute to the problematic phenomenon of “geographical roulette” for U
visa applicants, allowing agency and crime location to determine the remedy's
availability rather than the actual merits of an applicant's petition. (Section One)
Section Two: This section identifies the legal policy
considerations, and demonstrates the need for corrective action and reform at
the federal level and state level. (Section Two)
Section Three: This section sets forth legal recommendations
and advocacy strategies to respond to the problems identified in the
report. (Section Three)
This policy brief illuminates the practices that best serve the important
federal statutory objectives, as well as those that thwart Congressional
intentions. The brief’s legal analysis and legal policy recommendations
serve to demonstrate the ways in which the U visa can and must be improved so
that immigrants who are victims of crimes may avail themselves of a program
designed for their benefit, and so that communities everywhere may enjoy
greater safety and security.
Obligations and Obstacles: Holding North Carolina Accountable for Extraordinary Rendition and Torture
the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States dramatically expanded the
use of extraordinary rendition, an intelligence-gathering program through which
individuals suspected of terrorism were abducted and transported beyond the
reach of the law, held incommunicado and interrogated by torture. Detained for years, many victims of the
extraordinary rendition program were never formally charged with any crime,
never given the opportunity to contact their families or an attorney, and were
eventually just discarded once the CIA realized that these individuals had
nothing to do with the actual terrorist threat against the United States. These acts of kidnapping and torture occurred
despite international treaties, federal statutes, and judicial precedents that
prohibit such acts under any and all circumstances. Although the victims have sought redress in
the federal courts of the United States for the harms they have suffered, they
have been denied their day in court.
North Carolina is a hub for
extraordinary rendition. In a report
released in January 2012 and endorsed by international human rights experts,
the ways in which North Carolina, its political subdivisions, and Aero, a
corporation based in Johnston County, NC were directly and indirectly
responsible for carrying out the kidnapping and torture have been
Policy Report builds on the January 2012 report. Part One of this report establishes the legal
basis for North Carolina’s obligation to investigate Aero Contractors and for
its own accountability for facilitating extraordinary rendition. Part Two demonstrates that although
international, federal, and state laws require a mechanism of accountability
for extraordinary rendition and torture, the federal government’s invocation of
the State Secrets Doctrine has effectively barred victims of torture and the
extraordinary rendition program from obtaining any form of judicial redress
through the U.S. court system. In light of these obstacles, this Report offers
recommendations toward achieving accountability.
Full Report ()
Picking Empty Pockets
Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic announces the release of its report, Picking Empty Pockets. This policy paper
documents the phenomenon of wage theft through the stories of North Carolina
workers, while also offering an overview of federal, state, and local
remedies. The report finds that some of
the worst wage theft occurs with immigrant and undocumented workers, who are
often threatened with or fear being reported to U.S. officials, and thus
refrain from filing complaints against their employers. The policy report uses
a human rights framework by which to encourage legislators and policy makers to
implement new protections and offer improved avenues of recourse to those who
have suffered wage theft.
Full Report ()
A Call to Uphold The Core Principles of Responsibility and Protection of Human Rights: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture, and North Carolina
The Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic presents its
Briefing Book, A Call to Uphold the Core Universal Principles of Responsibility and
Protection of Human Rights Extraordinary Rendition, Torture, And North Carolina. This
Briefing Book provides an analysis of international human rights law, federal
law and other accountability mechanisms in support of two main goals:
provide support for the creation of a North Carolina Commission of Inquiry to
bring human rights home and make meaningful international laws and norms by
encouraging and facilitating institutional change to end abusive practices that
occur in our own backyard
to document research and reports that
bear on the issue and compile legal and policy analyses for use by the Commission.
Part One summarizes the factual background of North Carolina’s involvement in
extraordinary rendition and torture. Part Two describes the applicability of
relevant provisions applicable extraordinary rendition and torture found in
international law. Part Three explores domestic legal avenues for achieving
accountability including federal statutes, civil suits, and proposed
legislation. Part Four draws on the principles explored in the Parts II and III
and demonstrates the theories that establish liability for the state of North
Carolina and its political subdivisions including Johnston County and the
Johnston County Airport Authority, Aero Contractors, and private citizens as
bystanders. Part Five summarizes international accountability measures, compares
those measures with domestic calls for accountability, and provides
recommendations for the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture. Full Report()
Wage Theft and U Visas: A Guide to Analyzing Federal and State Crimes Relevant for Undocumented Workers
The Immigration/Human Rights
Clinic is pleased to release its Wage
Theft and U Visas: A Guide to Analyzing Federal and State Crimes Relevant for
Undocumented Workers.This document identifies the relevant
federal crimes listed in the U visa statute that are most likely related to
wage theft. Following the federal
statutes, the document lists the relevant state statutes and elements that most
closely track federal crimes (using North Carolina as an example). The document also suggests preliminary
interview questions that would be likely to solicit relevant and helpful
information to demonstrate that a victim of wage theft might be eligible for a
This document should be helpful to lawyers and advocates who work with immigrant workers who suffer the crime of wage theft.
A Legal Advocacy Guide to Building Integrated Communities in North Carolina
Rights Policy (IHRP) Clinic has released its briefing book on Community Integration as
part of the Building Integrated Communities Project, a collaborative endeavor
designed to create and implement a comprehensive community integration plan
with municipalities and immigrant communities. In light of the increasing immigrant population, integration of
immigrants into North Carolina communities is a critical issue.
The briefing book consists of both legal analyses and
applied legal policy proposals which are intended to serve as resources for
community integration efforts. Part One
of this report, entitled "Making the Legal Argument for Integrated Communities:
Immigrants in North Carolina," provides a legal foundation for mounting local
integrated community efforts which is tailored to North Carolina municipalities,
and seeks to explore what municipalities in North Carolina must,
can, and should do to facilitate community integration. (Part One)
Parts Two and Three of this report apply the
legal concepts explored in Part One in the context of two discrete community
integration efforts in which IHRP Clinic took part. Part Two, "Community Integration and Day Laborers in North Carolina,"
chronicles the challenges faced by day laborers in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro
communities, and provides comprehensive policy and legal analysis of potential
solutions to these problems. (Part Two) Part Three, "Local Law
Enforcement: A Vital Part of Community Integration," analyzes the complex
relationship between immigrants and local law enforcement, including an examination of
how local law enforcement should assist immigrant victims of domestic violence
and how local police departments may be approached by the IHRP Clinic to discuss
community policing policies. (Part Three)
It is the intent of IHRP Clinic to engage in the
policy projects described in Parts II and III in order to help further the
abstract goals of the Building Integrated Communities Project, and also so that
these discrete projects can serve as models in their own right, demonstrating
proactive efforts which may be taken on behalf of immigrants and inspiring
future efforts by the IHRP Clinic and other groups.
The North Carolina Connection to Extraordinary Rendition and Torture
Immigration/Human Rights Policy clinic released a report on
North Carolina's connection to extraordinary rendition and torture. The report undertaken
on behalf of North Carolina Stop Torture Now, is based on evidence obtained
from a review of hundreds of documents including declassified and other U.S.
government materials; investigative reports from international institutional
sources, journalists' sources, public documents pertaining to airports located
in Smithfield and Kinston, NC and the testimony of individuals who survived
extraordinary rendition. It sets out a factual record about Aero Contractors, a
company based in North Carolina, and its role in the program known as
extraordinary rendition and details the ways in which the state of North
Carolina and its political subdivisions have facilitated Aero's participation
in this program. The report has been endorsed by international human rights
specialists including Prof. Manfred Nowak, past UN Special Rapporteur on
Torture, Prof. Martin Scheinin, past Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism,
and Senator Dick. Marty who served as president of the Committee on Legal
Affairs and Human Rights, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. Full Report()
Analyzing the Problems with Foreign Language Interpretation in the North Carolina Court System and Potential Solutions.
North Carolina has witnessed a dramatic demographic shift. In addition to a growing Hispanic community, North Carolina has also seen an influx of Vietnamese and Burmese populations in recent decades. While it is difficult to identify what percentage of these individuals speak a language other than English, data indicates that a sizeable portion of the state's population cannot communicate fully in English. As the state's Limited English Population (LEP) grows in size, so does the frequency with which these individuals must interact with our court system. Currently, there is no state statutory or administrative guarantee to a foreign language interpreter. North Carolina's policies and practices with regard to interpreters in the court raise a number of legal concerns that range from a denial of interpreters to lack of quality control relating to the use of interpreters.
Read UNC IHRP clinic's report analyzing the problems with foreign language interpretation in the North Carolina court system and potential solutions:
UNC Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic Releases New Study That Finds Dramatic Problems with the 287(g) Immigration Program
A federal law granting local police and sheriffs the power to act as immigration officials when faced with dangerous criminals or terrorists has instead created a climate of racial profiling and community insecurity, according to researchers at UNC School of Law. A team of law students, led by Deborah Weissman, Reef C. Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law and director of Clinical Programs at UNC School of Law, and Katherine Parker and Rebecca Headen, lawyers with the ACLU in North Carolina Legal Foundation, released a report on the 287(g) Program in North Carolina titled, "The Policies and Politics of Local Immigration Enforcement Law." The report found that the agencies most closely reviewed have failed to comply with contracts governing the program, and proposes solutions, including greater transparency and a functional system for complaints or appeals.
Reply to U.S. Response to Specific Recommendations Identified By the CERD: The Rise of Racial Profiling, Discrimination and Abuse in Immigrant Communities as a Result of Local Enforcement of Immigration Laws
The clinic contributed to the written response to the Congressional Oversight Committee for International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on the rise of racial profiling, discrimination and abuse in immigrant communities as a result of local enforcement of immigration law.
Interrogation & Detention Reform Act of 2008: A Critical Analysis
This report demonstrates the critical need for legislation that will fully foreclose the possibility of torture and extraordinary rendition from occurring in the future. One such effort is the Interrogation and Detention Reform Act of 2008 (IDRA), H.R. 591, introduced by Representative David Price of North Carolina. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the gaps in the existing legal framework that this legislation seeks to fill. Additionally, it provides suggestions on issues not addressed by this legislation relating to the treatment and detention of terror suspects that must be addressed, including a more explicitly defined prohibition on torture and a prohibition of extraordinary rendition. Finally, it addresses the issue of accountability for human rights violations that have occurred in recent years.
Read UNC IHRP clinic's report on proposed legislation on Interrogation and Detention:
Dangerous Detention: Human Rights Standards & Enforcement in Immigration Detention
Across North Carolina, increasing numbers of immigrants are being apprehended and locked up in county jails for months or even years pending the final outcome of their immigration cases. In response to increased detention, this report aims to provide advocates with the knowledge and tools to hold government authorities accountable for violations of immigrant detainee rights.
Read the clinic's report on Human Rights Standards and Enforcement in Immigration:
UN Oversight Committee (ICCPR) on Protecting the Rights of Domestic Workers in the United States Interrogation & Detention Reform Act of 2008: A Critical Analysis
The Cost of ICE's Policies and Practices