The Work of the Schell Center

The Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights was established at Yale Law School in 1989 to honor Orville Schell, a distinguished New York City lawyer and partner at Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, who was vice chairman of Helsinki Watch and chairman of Americas Watch from its founding in 1981 until his death in 1987. The Schell Center provides a forum for international human rights practitioners to consider the theoretical issues their work entails and for scholars studying human rights to engage in interdisciplinary dialogue. At the same time, it offers law students and graduates diverse opportunities to apply the lessons they are learning in the classroom to further the cause of human rights and to examine human rights practice critically. In addressing these needs, the Schell Center seeks to increase knowledge and understanding of international human rights issues; to equip lawyers and other professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to advance the cause of international human rights; and to assist human rights organizations.

The Schell Center conducts the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic every term. It provides a number of fellowship opportunities for summer and post-graduate human rights experience and for carrying out scholarship while in residence at the Law School. The Center also supports the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal and student projects related to human rights.

Throughout the academic year, the Schell Center sponsors frequent lectures, panels, symposia, and informal discussions on a wide range of human rights issues. In 2013, the center’s annual conference, the Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Fellowship Symposium, was “Beyond Kiobel: Human Rights and Corporate Liability in the 21st Century.”

During 2012–2013, speakers at the center’s biweekly Human Rights Workshop: Current Issues and Events included advocates from human rights organizations, scholars, and journalists. They spoke on such topics as “Toward an International Law of the Internet,” “Human Rights at the Cash Nexus: New Thinking about the Tactics and Tools to Confront the Resource Curse,” “For Memory, Truth and Justice? Prosecuting Crimes Against Humanity in Argentina,” “Accountability’s New Frontier: Pro Bono Representation of Human Trafficking Victims in the United States,” “Prenatal Personhood – Its Strategic Importance in Abortion Law,” and “Debating Transitional Justice in ‘Post-Conflict’ Nepal.”

Last year, the Schell Center, often in collaboration with other centers and organizations at the University, sponsored many talks by human rights advocates and scholars, including a number of former Yale Law School students. They addressed such topics as “The International Criminal Court and the Future of International Law in Africa,” “Capture 2012: Photography, Nature, and Human Rights,” “Law in the Struggle for Social Justice in South Africa,” “Sexual Orientation in the Inter-American Human Rights System: The Atala Case,” and “Making Peace in Two of the World's Deadliest Wars: Sudan and Congo.”

As it does each year, the Schell Center held a human rights career panel and sponsored several panels of Kirby Simon Summer Human Rights Fellows, who spoke about their experience and the issues raised by their summer work.

The Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights, inaugurated in 1997, funds several recent Yale Law School graduates annually for a year of full-time human rights advocacy work. The 2012-13 Bernstein Fellows worked with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C., focusing on the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of large infrastructure projects affecting their territories; with the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) in New York, pursuing legal and policy initiatives to improve the procedural protections afforded to refugees in overseas refugee proceedings; and with the Center for Reproductive Rights, using international, regional, and domestic law to help expand access to reproductive health care in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Robina Foundation Human Rights Fellowship also funds recent Yale Law School graduates to do full-time human rights work, particularly with appropriate international or foreign courts and tribunals and intergovernmental and governmental human rights agencies. The 2012-2013 Robina Fellows worked as: a judicial clerk at the European Court of Human Rights; in the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague; and as a judicial clerk in the Office of the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Each summer, the Schell Center provides students with funding for international human rights work. In 2012, Kirby Simon Summer Human Rights Fellowships, supported by the Robina Foundation, allowed 37 students to spend all or part of the summer engaged in human rights internships or research in 24 countries, including the United States.

The Center invites scholars and advocates to visit the Law School as fellows to conduct research, teach seminars, and meet with students. The Tom and Andi Bernstein Fellows in 2012-2013 were Fatima Hassan, a human rights lawyer, and social justice activist in South Africa, and Wan Yanhai, a doctor and activist from China working on health rights, particularly the rights of people with HIV.

Robina Visiting Fellows were Tom Dannenbaum, Lucus Guttentag, Hassan Jabareen, Zachary Kaufman and Daniel Wilkinson. Schell Visiting Fellows were Marzia Barbera, Kiel Brennan-Marquez, Jorge Contesse, Troy Elder, Sam Ferguson, Paul Linden-Retek, Allyson McKinney, and Rina Rosenberg.

The Robert M. Cover–Allard K. Lowenstein Fellow in International Human Rights Law spends two years at the Law School, working on all aspects of the Center’s work, including supervision of the Lowenstein Clinic. The Cover-Lowenstein Fellow for 2012-2013 was Soo-Ryun Kwon.

The director of the Schell Center is Professor Paul W. Kahn. The executive director is Professor James J. Silk. The Schell Center’s e-mail address is