ICLP Blog Connecting the Heartland to the World


In the Building: The Search for Justice — a visit by Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp


Today the law school welcomed Iowa native Stephen J. Rapp, Ambassador-at-Large for the Office of Global Criminal Justice in the U.S. Department of State. The visit to the College of Law was sponsored by the International Law Society.

Ambassador Rapp visited Iowa after attending the Friends of Syria Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, convened by states to support the opposition to the Syrian government. Ambassador Rapp spoke to the students in the Introduction to Public International Law class, where he spoke about experiences and answered questions.

Later he attended a law school lunch before heading to other parts of the university for additional opportunities to speak to the public.

At the lunch Ambassador Rapp commented on the US sponsorship of a program to document the stories of victims of government violence in Syria, with the hope of eventually bringing those responsible to justice. In addition to providing accountability, it is his hope these efforts will deter governmental leaders from future violence.

Speaking on the challenges of working in an international tribunal, he recounted stories that demonstrated how civil law and common law lawyers need to seek common ground in order to be effective in their work.

In response to a question about the stress of working with the victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, Ambassador Rapp reported that working with victims, in particular, fueled his efforts to seek justice. But his voice grew quiet as he referred to working with evidence of unspeakable crimes and meetings with people whose children were killed before them or who were given the choice between "a long sleeve shirt or a short sleeve shirt" when threatened with amputation.

Students were positive about the visit, noting it was great to learn about Ambassador Rapp's journey from a criminal defense attorney to US Attorney to international prosecutor.

Our thanks to the Ambassador for an informative and inspirational visit.

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In the Building: Ambassador Vale de Almeida’s most excellent visit!


It was a great treat to host the European Union's Ambassador to the United States, the Honorable João Vale de Almeida. Look here in the next few days for student reflections on his presentation; his lecture will be posted online next week. In the meantime, here are some visuals:



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Hot Topic: The New U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training


Brian Farrell '98

One of the rights proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, is the right to education.  The Declaration specifies that one of the purposes of education shall be “strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”     This call was reiterated in the International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights, which was adopted in 1966 and entered into force in 1976.

Until now, though, the international human rights system did not specifically define the nature of human rights education or the manner in which this education should be delivered.  This changed on December 19, 2011, when the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training.   The new Declaration explains that human rights education should be based on the principles of the UDHR and encompasses education about human rights (meaning it teaches knowledge of human rights norms), through human rights (meaning it occurs in a manner that respects the rights of educators and students) and for human rights (meaning it empowers individuals to enjoy their rights and respect those of others). 

Hopefully, the Declaration will serve as the basis for thoughtful discussion about the integration of human rights into school curricula around the world.  It also has the potential to establish a more common point of departure for college courses incorporating a human rights component.  The term “human rights” is often said to mean “all things to all people,” and is sometimes invoked without any clear connection to established legal norms.   The Declaration may offer the benefit of further grounding teaching about “human rights” in the defined principles of the UDHR. 

The text of the Declaration is available here.

Interested in learnign abour Human Rights?

Brian Farrell directs the College of Law’s academic support program and is the College’s liaison for the undergraduate Law and Legal Studies Living-Learning Community. Brian is also appointed as an adjunct lecturer in International Studies within the University. He is a co-founder and president of the Innocence Project of Iowa. Brian received his JD with distinction from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1998 and received an LLM in international human rights law with first-class honors from the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway, in 2002.

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Back On Line!

We have been "Radio Silent" as they say, because of staffing changes. But its a new year, and we are back online. Starting later this week, look for weekly posts of things that are happening with the International and Comparative Law Program at the Iowa College of Law.

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