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 2015, the center's annual conference, the Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Symposium was co-sponsored by the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program and was entitled “Detention on a Global Scale: Punishment and Beyond.”

During 2014-2015, the center’s Human Rights Workshop: Current Issues and Events included these sessions: Samuel Moyn, Professor of Law and History, Harvard University, “Croesus’s World: Human Rights and Neoliberal Economics”; Amy Kapczynski, ’03, Associate Professor of Law and Director, Global Health Justice Partnership, Yale Law School, “The Right to Health and Access to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism”; Darryl Li, ’09, Robina Foundation Visiting Human Rights Fellow, “Rethinking Jihad and International Law”; Daniel Bonilla, JSD ’05, Associate Professor, Universidad de los Andes School of Law, “The Political Economy of Legal Knowledge”; David Kennedy, Manley O. Hudson Professor of Law and Director, Institute for Global Law and Policy, Harvard Law School, “Law, Expertise and Struggle”; Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights, “Litigating U.S. Targeted Killing of U.S. Citizens”; Janie Chuang, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law, “Giving as Governance?” Funding Modern-Day Slavery Abolitionism”; Ron Slye, ’89, Professor of Law, Seattle University School of Law, “An Outsider’s View from the Inside: Reflections on Kenya’s Truth Commission”; Julieta Lemaitre, Robina Foundation Visiting Human Rights Fellow, Yale Law School, and Associate Professor, Universidad de los Andes School of Law, “After the War: Conversations on Injury, Identity and Reparations with Internally Displaced Women in Colombia.”

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. In the fall, these included: David Scheffer, Professor, Northwestern School of Law, and UNSecretary-General's Special Expert on United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, “Role of the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in Forging International Criminal Justice,” (with the Yale Society of International Law); Aharon Barak, Former President, Israel Supreme Court, and Albie Sachs, Former Justice, Constitutional Court of South Africa, “Constitutional Dignity and the Judicial Protection of Human Rights”; Mark Mazzetti, National Security Correspondent, the New York Times, Author of The Way of the Knife: The CIA, A Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth, “America’s Shadow War”; Vivek Maru, ’01, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Namati, “Legal Empowerment and the Land Rush: How Grassroots Resources and Make a More Sustainable Development Path Possible . . . with stories from India, Burma, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone”; “The Colombian Peace Process,” Panel with Michael Reed-Hurtado, Yale Coca-Cola World Fund Faculty Fellow, Adam Isacson, Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and Mary Roldán Dorothy Epstein Professor of Latin American History, Hunter College/CUNY (with Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies); and Graeme Reid, Director, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program, Human Rights Watch, “Traditional Values and LGBT Rights” (with OUTLAWS).

Spring events included: Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, “A Path Appears” (with the Yale Globalist and Yale Journalism Initiative); Erin Evers ’11, Iraq Researcher, Human Rights Watch, and Zehra Hirji, Political Officer, Office of Iraq Affairs, U.S. State Department, “Crisis in International Law: Confronting the Violence of Non-State Armed Groups” (with Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project); Ken Roth, ’80, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch “Can We Still Afford Rights in the Age of ISIS?”; Ian Buruma, author of Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance; Year Zero: A History of 1945, and the Paul R. Williams Professor of Human Rights and Journalism, Bard College, “Free Speech and Blasphemy in a Multi-Cultural World”; Rabia Chaudry, Attorney, Fellow at the New American Foundation, Advocate for Adnan Syed, and Bruce Shapiro, Executive Director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, “Lessons from Serial: Criminal Justice and the Power of Storytelling.”

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 2014-2015 Bernstein Fellows worked with Human Rights First, on a new initiative to advance human rights and humanitarian law in U.S. courts through strategic amicus practice; with the Balkans Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia, researching the Bosnian War Crimes Chamber’s transition from a hybrid international-domestic court to a fully national institution; with the Human Rights Watch Refugee Program, doing research and advocacy on increasingly restrictive asylum practices in the face of a global refugee crisis.

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 2014-2015 Robina Fellows worked: as a law clerk in the Chambers of the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; as Special Advisor for International Human Rights Law at the Ombudsperson Institution of the Republic of Kosovo; as a law clerk at the Court at the European Court of Human Rights; on rule of law and access to justice issues in Myanmar, focusing primarily on informal justice systems in the conflict and post-conflict context, for the United Nations Development Program; and with the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees on developing solutions to the growing problem of refugees in prolonged exile.

Each summer, the Schell Center provides students with funding for international human rights work. In 2015, Kirby Simon Summer Human Rights Fellowships, supported by the Robina Foundation, allowed 34 students to spend all or part of the summer engaged in human rights internships or research in 19 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 2014-2015 was Kajal Bhardwaj, a global leader in the access-to-medicines movement. Robina Visiting Fellows were Alisha Bjerregaard, Julieta Lemaitre, Darryl Li, and Rod Sanjabi. Schell Visiting Fellows were Hassan Jabareen, Philippe-Andre Rodriguez, and Rina Rosenberg.

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 2015-2016 is Alisha Bjerregaard.

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

You can make a difference… The history of the last 40 years happened because people like you entered the fray and chipped away at problems that they were told were politically impossible to fix.”

Michael Posner

Honorary Doctor of Laws, 2014 Commencement Address