Human Rights Research Guide

Fall, 1999 (Updated May 2000)

Hyla Bondareff, Research Services Librarian and Lecturer in Law, Washington University School of Law Library
Room 455H, 935-6434, e-mail:

Table of Contents

Getting Started
Human Rights Organizations (and their documents and cases)

Human Rights Documents and Cases in Print
Collections of (Additional) Human Rights Documents and Cases on the Web
Additional Treaty Research
Other Materials (Books)
Other Groups with Human Rights Interests
Additional Research Guides and Helpful Sources


This guide is written to assist students of Professor Legomsky's Immigration, Citizenship & International Human Rights Seminar who are researching human rights topics. For help with immigration topics, please refer to Wei Luo's guide, A Research Guide to Aliens and the Law.

The Research guide will focus on international human rights resources available in English. Also, sources listed are by no means exhaustive of the subject and are limited to those available on or through the Washington university campus. In researching your human rights issue, you will likely need to use many different types of sources including, but not limited to the following:

  • primary materials
    • reports and decisions from human rights tribunals and national courts
    • official documents (treaties, conventions, reports, laws, etc.)
  • secondary sources
    • articles in journals and magazines
    • books and chapters in books

This guide will discuss sources to use and ways of finding primary and secondary source human rights materials. It will include both print and electronic sources. It is, however, by no means exhaustive of all available materials -- it is rather a starting point and a resource if you get stuck.

Technical Note: Some of the links in this research guide will only be active when launched from a computer within the Washington University School of Law.

Getting Started

The following are general sources which will provide you with an overview of the human rights field. It will be important that you understand the big picture before digging into your research of a smaller area.

  • International human rights in a nutshell / by Thomas Buergenthal 2nd ed [Reserve K3240.4 .B84 1995].
  • Case books
    • Human rights / by Louis Henkin, Gerald L. Neuman, Diane F. Orentlicher and David W. Leebron. Foundation Press, 1999. [K3240.4 .H45 1999]
    • European human rights law : text and materials / by Mark W. Janis, Richard S. Kay, Anthony W. Bradley Oxford : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1995 [KJC5132 .J36 1995]
    • International human rights law and practice : cases, treaties, and materials / by Francisco Forrest Martin ... [et al.]. The Hague ; Boston : Kluwer Law International, c1997.  Includes documentary Supplement "Published under the auspices of Rights International, The Center for International Human Rights Law, Inc." Includes bibliographical references and indexes.  [K3240.3 .I567 1997]
    • International protection of human rights : cases and materials / edited by Louis B. Sohn and Thomas Buergenthal Preliminary ed [Cambridge, Mass.], 1972 3 v. ; v. 1. Cases and materials. v.2. Pt. I. The United Nations as protector of human rights; Pt. II. The European and the Inter- American systems for protecting human rights.-v. 3. Basic documents.  [K3240.3 .S65]

Human Rights Organizations

United Nations

Major Human Rights Documents  

The United Nations also has a Treaty Database with the texts of over 30,000 bilateral and multilateral treaties in their authentic language(s), along with a translation into English and French, as appropriate. To access this database, go to, register and then log in. 

High Commissioner for Human Rights

Case Law, Jurisprudence. Decisions and Reports

The International Court of Justice (

Cases, the docket and other materials from the International Court of Justice are also available via Cornell's web site at

Judgments, advisory opinions and orders from 1947 are also available on Westlaw (INT-ICJ). 

Pleadings, oral arguments, documents / International Court of Justice  [ JX1971.6 .A2 ]

Reports of judgments, advisory opinions, and orders / International Court of Justice [JX1971.6 A22] 

Council of Europe (

Human Rights Web (

Major Human Rights Documents  

Case Law, Jurisprudence. Decisions and Reports

European Court of Human Rights (  Contains pending cases, basic tests, the full text of judgments and an index to all judgments.

Reports of judgments and decisions / European Court of Human Rights 1996 forward.  [KJC5132.A52 E88]

International human rights reports Nottingham, U.K. : Human Rights Law Centre, Dept. of University of Nottingham, c1994-  Three times a year Vol. 1, no. 1 (Jan. 1994)-  [K3239.23 .I58]

The web site contains information about the organization, press releases and the full text of its Permanent Council's Journal.

Major Human Rights Documents  

  • Charter (
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (
Case reports, press releases and sections from the Commission's Annual Report are also available on Westlaw (IACHR-OAS)

Case Law, Jurisprudence, Decisions and Reports

Inter-American Court of Human Rights (

International human rights reports Nottingham, U.K. : Human Rights Law Centre, Dept. of University of Nottingham, c1994-  Three times a year Vol. 1, no. 1 (Jan. 1994)-  [K3239.23 .I58]

Organization of African Unity ( - currently down)
The web site has human rights reports for a African countries.

Major Human Rights Documents  

African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (
Also see African Human Rights Instruments generally.  (

International Humanitarian Law

Major Human Rights Documents

International Committee of the Red Cross ( 

This web site has a database containing 91 treaties and texts, commentaries on the four Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, an up-to-date list of signatures, ratifications relating to IHL treaties and full text of reservations.  The site also has all of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols, essays and additional information on international humanitarian law. 

Case Law, Jurisprudence, Decisions and Reports  

International Criminal Court (Proposed) (

The Rome Statute (http://

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. (

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. (

Human Rights Documents and Cases in Print


International human rights instruments : a compilation of treaties, agreements and declarations of especial interest to the United States / [edited] by Richard B. Lillich 2nd ed Buffalo, N.Y. : W.S. Hein Co., 1990  [K3238.A1 I536 1990]

Human rights : a compilation of international instruments / Centre for Human Rights, Geneva New York : United Nations, 1994- v. 1. Universal instruments (2 v.) -- v. 2. Regional instruments.  [K3239.A1 H8 1994]

Human rights : international instruments : chart of ratifications as at 31 December 1997. New York ; Geneva : United Nations, 1998.  [K3238.A1 H81 1998]

You will also find important documents reprinted in International Legal Materials and Human Rights Law Journal, two law journals discussed below.  Both are indexed in LegalTrac.


International human rights reports Nottingham, U.K. : Human Rights Law Centre, Dept. of University of Nottingham, c1994-  Three times a year Vol. 1, no. 1 (Jan. 1994)-  [K3239.23 .I58]

International law reports  London : Butterworth & Co., Annual. [JX5401.I54]

Important cases are often reprinted in in International Legal Materials and Human Rights Law Journal, two law journals discussed below.  Both are indexed in LegalTrac.

Collections of Human Rights Documents and Cases on the Web

Project Diana - Online Human Rights Archive at Yale Law School (

Original texts have been scanned into electronic form, creating accurate online versions which can be transmitted worldwide instantly. The cost of access is low compared to traditional distribution methods or traveling to visit document repositories, and will continue to decrease as technology improves. Currently, Project Diana's archive includes legal briefs, organization charters, treaty text, and bibliographies relating to a variety of human rights issues and ongoing cases. In particular, much of the information here derives from the work of the Schell Center and the Allard Lowenstein Clinic, which are active participants in legal efforts to guard and improve human rights.

University of Minnesota Human Rights Library (

The Multilaterals Project (, begun in 1992, is an ongoing project designed to make available the texts of international multilateral conventions and other instruments from Tufts.

Additional Treaty Research

See /library/pages.aspx?id=1372


Law Sources
Several options exist for locating law review articles. You may search LegalTrac or Index to Legal Periodicals (both available from the Law Library's homepage). Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals also includes articles dealing with human rights. Many, however, are not in English. Articles contained in journals not available on the WU Hilltop campus may be available via Interlibrary Loan

Current (unbound) journals owned by the Law Library are kept on Reserve. Bound periodicals are shelved alphabetically on the 5th floor.  If you are looking for articles published prior to 1980, you will need to use the paper edition of Index to Legal Periodicals (Reading Room KF9 .N32).

You may also search the same indexes on Westlaw ( Legal Resource Index (LRI) or Index to Legal Periodicals (ILP); or Lexis ( databases, Legal Resource Index and Index to Legal Periodicals.

Specific journals which may be of interest follow: 

  • American Journal of International Law published by the American Society of International Law. Contains scholarly article on international law including human rights articles. Also have a section with in depth discussion on recent international decisions, a current development section and book reviews. Is indexed by LegalTrac, Index to Legal Periodicals, Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals.
  • International Legal Materials reprints significant documents in international law. Very timely for a print source.  Also available on Westlaw and Lexis.
  • Human Rights Quarterly: A Comparative and International Journal of the Social Sciences, Humanities and Law. Contains scholarly articles and book reviews. Indexed by Index to Legal Periodicals, LegalTrac
  • Human Rights Law Journal Contains articles and reprints full text and extracts of decisions from human rights tribunals and national courts. Also reprints documents and has a section on pending proceedings.
  • Columbia Human Rights Law Review
  • Harvard Human Rights Journal
  • Israeli Yearbook on Human Rights (Olin - JC571 .I86)

    Non-Law Sources
    Human rights articles will also be found in non-law sources. For example:
  • Web of Science - Science Citation Index, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index

World News Connection. Database containing full text translations of foreign radio and television broadcasts, news agency transmissions, newspapers, books and periodicals.

There are also several indexes of possible interest available from World Window. Once connected to World Window, click on Journal Indexes. The indexes are listed in alphabetic order. You might want to try:

  • Ethnic Watch A full text collection of the newspapers, magazines and journals of the ethnic, minority and native press. Mostly domestic issues.
  • PAIS International
  • Expanded Academic Index (will have overlap with LegalTrac)
  • Humanities Abstracts

You might also try searching news databases on Westlaw or Lexis/Nexis (or the New York Times index and Newspaper Abstracts are available via World Window) for stories on human rights.

Articles contained in journals or newspapers not available on the WU Hilltop campus may be available via Interlibrary Loan.

Other Materials

You will also want to see if there are any books which cover your topic. To find books and journals in the Law Library's collection, search the on-line catalog (available from the library's homepage).
You will also want to search Mobius which includes the all Washington University Libraries, St. Louis University and the University of Missouri Libraries. You may request books that we do not own directly from the system.

To find materials not owned by the a Mobius library, you should search OCLC's WorldCat. It is a catalog of the holdings of thousands of libraries throughout the world. WorldCat is available through Olin Library's WorldWindow.

Items not available from a Mobius library may be available through Interlibrary Loan. To make a request, fill out the on-line Interlibrary loan form or go to the Circulation Desk. Some requests take as little time as a week, some take longer.

Other Groups with Human Rights Interests

Amnesty International. ( Contains articles, reports, links to human rights stories and issues.

Human Rights Watch (  Website contains news articles and abstracts of their publications, as well as links to additional human rights resources.

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights ( Site contains news alerts and links to related documents and sites.

Derechos Human Rights (  Web site has over 6000 documents, indexed and searchable, human rights listservs (including one for students), the Derechos Café (with online bulletin board), and Ko'aga Koñe'ta, a journal of human rights and humanitarian affairs.

Human Rights Internet

Additional Research Guides and Helpful Sources

The following are additional research guides on human rights research.  When using them, please bear in mind that books and journals mentioned refer to materials in that library's holdings.  You will need to check our catalog for our holdings and call numbers.

  • Guide to human rights research / Jack Tobin ; with the assistance of Jennifer Green; Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, c1994  [K3236 .T63]
  • ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for Human Rights ( by Marci Hoffman, International and Foreign Law Librarian at Georgetown University Law Library.
  • Another excellent on-line guide prepared by Peggy Jarrett and Mary Whisner, Librarians at University of Washington is at
  • Human & Constitutional Rights ( from Columbia Law School.  Site has Country Reports, documents, regional and national links, and hot topics.