Origin of the Project
Efforts to generate an impact through litigation in the Inter-American system have proven particularly effective. Several landmark cases have enhanced and strengthened the Inter-American legal framework as well as the domestic approaches to it within the hemisphere. Important examples include Velásquez Rodriguez v. Honduras (1988) and Awas Tingni v. Nicaragua (2001), in which several members of the Advisory Board have been actively involved.
The Velásquez Rodriguez case marked the first time ever that an international tribunal recognized that forced disappearances constitute a violation of human rights, holding the government of Honduras liable on that basis. It was also the impetus for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' adoption of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearances of Persons (1994).
The Awas Tingni case was the first case brought to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding the rights of indigenous populations, specifically property rights which are essential to indigenous groups' culture and existence. The Court's favorable decision has had widespread ramifications. "The decision establishes an international legal precedent that countries have an affirmative obligation under international law to recognize and protect the rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional lands."
WCL has a longstanding experience in litigating human rights cases. Law school faculty, staff and students have participated in cases involving a broad range of issues, including the protection of children's rights, communal property of indigenous populations, freedom of expression and due process of law.