Each year, the Schell Center hosts speakers whose engagement with human rights spans a diverse range of fields, methods, and subject areas. Upcoming events are featured on our website. Read about a few of the many events the Schell Center has hosted in the past year and beyond:


March 6, 2021

Jorge Contesse, "Human Rights Workshop: Chile's Constitutional Awakening"Jorge Contesse speaks at Human Rights Workshop

Jorge Contesse ’05 LLM, ’14 JSD provided context on the protests challenging Chile’s constitutional structure and the state’s shockingly violent response. He highlighted the rallying cry uniting many Chileans during the October 2019 protests: “It's not about 30 pesos, it’s about 30 years,” referring to the years since Augusto Pinochet stepped down up to the time of Chilean students’ and workers’ campaigns for lower public transit fares and higher wages. Decades after Pinochet left power, Contesse said, the country has seen an “organic challenge of the constitutional structure that Pinochet left very smartly in the Constitution.” Contesse is a scholar of international human rights law and comparative constitutional law, an Associate Professor of Law and founding Director of the Center for Transnational Law at Rutgers Law School, and a Permanent Visiting Professor at Diego Portales Law School, in Santiago.


February 18, 2021

Panel Discussion, "Challenging Criminalization in Feminist Advocacy: Perspectives from the Americas"Panelists Aya Gruber, Mirta Moragas, and Estefanía Vela Barba on Zoom

Panelists Aya Gruber, Mirta Moragas, and Estefanía Vela Barba discussed their efforts to contest the role of criminal law in feminist advocacy in the U.S., Paraguay, and Mexico, respectively. Moderated by Professor Alice Miller, an Associate Professor (adjunct) of Law at Yale Law School and the Co-Director of the Global Health Justice Partnership, the panelists reflected on the harms of criminalization that they have observed in their work and the potential for transnational solidarity among feminists skeptical of criminalization.


February 6, 2021

Kenneth Roth, "Human Rights Workshop: Human Rights and the Biden Administration"Kenneth Roth speaks at Human Rights Workshop via Zoom

At the Human Rights Workshop, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth addressed the future of human rights in American foreign policy under President Joe Biden. He believes that President Biden’s foreign policy challenges lie beyond simply “making amends” with allies; instead, he said, Biden must reinspire trust among the country’s “natural partners” and confront China and Russia's efforts “to undermine the global system of human rights.” The “most fundamental” challenge facing Biden, he concluded, is obstructing future U.S. leaders’ ability to abandon human rights the way former President Trump did.


February 6, 2020

Marbre Stahly-Butts, "Radical Lawyering for Liberation"Marbre Stahly-Butts

Marbre Stahly-Butts ’13 discussed her work with Law For Black Lives, an organization focused on building a “responsive legal infrastructure” for movements including Black Lives Matter to “advance and actualize radical policy.” As the Executive Director of Law for Black Lives, Stahly-Butts also spoke about movement lawyering and its politics, theories of social change, and radical reform and reparations. According to Stahly-Butts, a movement lawyer is one who “supports and advances social movements,” helps legitimize “collective power,” and aids in the “transformation of the systems that created these [oppressive] conditions.” Movement lawyers, Stahly-Butts said, recognize that the “law is one of many tools [to drive change], but not always the best one” and they “relinquish their privilege in order to stand up for justice.”


November 15, 2019

Nathan Law, “Hong Kong on the Brink: A Struggle for Survival”

Nathan Law

Activist Nathan Law GRD ’20 spoke at the Schell Center in November about his involvement in the escalating protests in Hong Kong and the future of the region’s pro-democracy movement. Law, then a Yale graduate student in East Asian Studies, was a leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, which advocated for democracy and self-determination in Hong Kong. Law emphasized that “Hong Kong is in a difficult battle” where “there are huge power imbalances” between the Hong Kong government, the Beijing government, and the people of Hong Kong. However, Law observed that the people of Hong Kong are “not alone in such a global fight” against the “revival of tyranny and the recession of democracy.”


February 7, 2019

Masih Alinejad, “Women as Agents of Change in Iran”

Masih Alinejad visited the Schell Center in February to talk about her activism for women’s rights in Iran. Alinejad’s fight against compulsory hijab laws, which she began in 2014, is now the largest civil disobedience campaign in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Alinejad dismissed the assumption that opposing compulsory hijab laws legitimizes Islamophobic sentiment in the West. She called in particular on feminists in the West to support their Iranian counterparts' efforts to dismantle the discriminatory regime.

April 4, 2018

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, “Human Rights Today” from Commissioner for Human Rights

With the Fox International Fellowship and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, the Schell Center hosted U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. Al-Hussein spoke about rising hostility to human rights causes and advocates around the world and declining trust in international human rights institutions such as the International Criminal Court. Al-Hussein urged his audience to fight for human rights with not just law, but also with political advocacy. “You can do anything else,” he told the audience, “but be a human rights defender. It won’t be easy, but I guarantee it will be the most meaningful part of your life.”

April 3, 2018

Sirine Shebaya, “Fighting the Many Faces of the Muslim Ban”

Sirine Shebaya ‘12, a senior staff attorney at Muslim Advocates, discussed her work defending the civil rights of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities in the United States. She focused her talk on the practices and policies that have threatened Muslims since President Trump took office, beginning with but extending far beyond the travel ban barring migration from certain Muslim-majority countries. Shebaya emphasized how the travel ban, other Trump-administration policies, and increased scrutiny by immigration and law enforcement have chilled Muslim civil society and slowed down Muslim immigration to the United States. She concluded by stressing the need to fight against the normalization of these discriminatory policies.


March 28, 2018

Scott Long, “Gender and Sex in the Arab Winter: Body Politics and the Limits of Human Rights”

Scott Long, the founder and former director of Human Rights Watch’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program, spoke at the Schell Center about LGBT rights movements in the Middle East. Like many speakers this semester, Long argued that theories traditionally held by many human rights activists – namely, that violators of human rights can be swayed by moral arguments – are no longer reliable, because criticism by other countries or human rights advocates is not causing autocratic leaders to budge. To Long, one potential alternative strategy to naming and shaming is to deploy the “body as a resource in material struggles.” As Long explained, many gender and LGBT activists have been doing this for a long time, because LGBT rights implicate the relationship between the public and private, between the state and the human body, etc. Long described Egyptian activists who are using tactics such as physically shielding women from sexual harassment during protests. He said that such activists inspire him because they remind us that victories can still happen, even in situations where there are serious human rights violations.


October 16, 2017

Binger Inaugural Lecture with Professor Jim Silk '89, “From Nuremberg to the Netherlands to Nineveh? The Book of Jonah, International Criminal Justice and the Promise of Human Rights”

In October, Schell Center Co-Director Jim Silk delivered the Inaugural Lecture for the Binger Clinical Chair in Human Rights. The Robina Foundation endowed this professorship as part of its January 2017 $13-million gift to the Law School. In his talk, Silk described his youthful veneration of the Nuremberg Trials, which began to waver as he studied the trial of Ivan Demjanjuk in Israel and worked for Justice Aharon Barak during Demjanjuk’s appeal. His misgivings about international criminal justice grew as tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court were established and the discourse of human rights increasingly invested its support and hopes in international criminal justice rather than on addressing systemic human rights violations — in other words, holding individuals retrospectively accountable rather than holding states contemporaneously accountable. Silk concluded his lecture by interpreting the biblical Book of Jonah, a morality tale that has long fascinated him, to address his concern that the enthusiasm for retributive justice endangers the most fundamental principles of human rights.