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 2014, the center's annual conference, the Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Symposium, was “Human Rights in the Streets.”

During 2013-2014, speakers at the center’s biweekly Human Rights Workshop: Current Issues and Events included Luis Moreno Ocampo, the first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative; Samuel Rascoff, Associate Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law; and Param-Preet Singh, Senior Counsel in the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. Advocates from human rights organizations, scholars, and journalists, spoke on such topics as “Global Order Through Law: Learning from Darfur, Libya, Kenya, Colombia, Korea and Palestine,” “Short-Circuiting Democracy?: ‘Third Country’ Workers and Prisoners on U.S. Military Bases,” “The Right to Gender Identity in Argentina: Its Context and Originality and the Need for Its Global Diffusion.” and “Solitary Confinement in U.S Prisons, Jails, and other Places of Detention.”

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 “‘Against a Tide of Evil’: What We Can Learn from Darfur to Prevent Genocide,” “The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Humanitarian and Human Rights Perspectives,” “Human Rights Abuses During the Ukraine Protests,” “Human Rights in Singapore,” and “The Globalization of High Seas Interdiction: Sale’s Legacy and Beyond.”

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 2013-2014 Bernstein Fellows worked with the Center for Justice and Accountability in San Francisco, engaging in fact-gathering efforts to secure evidence for potential civil litigation in the United States and for international accountability efforts; with Human Rights Law Network in New Delhi, India, on projects related to coercive sterilization, maternal mortality, child marriage, sexual education, the right to food, and access to family planning and contraception; and with the Crimes Against Humanity Program of Human Rights First, focusing, first, on identifying the networks of states, corporations, and individuals that provide material support to groups that perpetrate mass atrocities and, second, on domestic and international actions that can be taken to disrupt those networks.

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 human rights agencies. The 2013-2014 Robina Fellows worked as a judicial clerk at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France; in the Legal and Enforcement Unit of the Presidency of the International Criminal Court in The Hague; in the chambers of the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague; and as a clerk in the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY.

Each summer, the Schell Center provides students with funding for international human rights work. In 2013, 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 22 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 Fellow in 2013-2014 was Wan Yanhai, a doctor and activist from China working on health rights, particularly the rights of people with HIV. Robina Visiting Fellows were Alisha Bjerregaard, Tom Dannenbaum, Lucas Guttentag and Yair Lorberbaum. Schell Visiting Fellows were Kiel Brennan-Marquez, Hassan Jabareen, Zachary D. Kaufman, Fernando Muñoz and Faezeh Vaezfakhri.

The Robert M. Cover-Allard K. Lowenstein Fellow in International Human Rights Law spends two to three 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 2014-2015 is Soo-Ryun Kwon.

The directors of the Schell Center are Professor Paul W. Kahn and Professor James J. Silk. Hope R. Metcalf is the Executive Director. The Schell Center’s e-mail address is