Richard Wilson

Professor of Law Emeritus

Office: Room Y304
Phone: 202-274-4246
Email: vCard


Richard J. Wilson is Professor of Law Emeritus and founding director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University’s Washington College of Law, in Washington, D.C, where he has taught since 1989. Professor Wilson was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Panama from 1966-1968, and a 1972 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law. He began his legal career as a public defender in Illinois, and was director of the Defender Division at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association in Washington from 1980-85. He taught at CUNY Law School in New York City from 1985-1989.

Professor Wilson has taught in the law school’s summer Human Rights Academy and in the Oxford International Human Rights Law Program. He was the director of the law school’s summer study program in Chile in 1995 and 1996, and director of the law school’s clinics from 1999-2003. He has been a Visiting Lecturer in law at Daito Bunka University in Tokyo, Japan, and at the Catholic University in Lima, Peru. He was a Fulbright Scholar in the Republic of Colombia in 1987, and served as Legal Advisor to the Consulate of the Republic of Colombia in Washington during 1998.

He has lived or consulted in several Latin American countries and has lectured or consulted in the United States, Eastern and Western Europe, and Asia. Professor Wilson has presented three cases at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica and authored the friend-of-court briefs for the European Union in the United States Supreme Court successfully arguing that international law prohibits capital punishment for juveniles and for persons with mental retardation. Prof. Wilson serves as President of the Board of Directors of the World Organization for Human Rights, U.S.A., and on the Board of Ensaaf, a human rights NGO with focus on impunity in India, particularly in Punjab.

He is a co-editor of textbooks on international human rights law and practice; defense in international criminal law; and international criminal law and procedure. His scholarly interests include the globalization of public interest law, the death penalty and international law, the role of the defense in international war crimes trials, and clinical legal education in developing or transitional countries.

Professor Wilson retired from full-time teaching in September of 2015.



Currently Teaching

Areas of Specialization

  • Clinical Legal Education
  • Immigration Law
  • International Criminal Law
  • International Human Rights

Degrees & Universities

  • J.D., University of Illinois College of Law 1972
  • B.A., DePauw University 1965

  • Selected Publications

    • Richard Wilson, Legal aid and Clinical Legal Education in Europe and the United States: Are They Compatible?, in Outsourcing Legal Aid in the Nordic States (Ole Hammerslev & Olaf Halvorsen Ronning, eds., forthcoming 2017).
    • Richard Wilson, The Death Penalty and Mental Illness in International Human Rights Law: Toward Abolition, 73 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 1469 (2016).
    • Richard Wilson, The Transformative Influence of International Law and Practice on the Death Penalty in the United States, in America's Experiment With Capital Punishment: Reflections on the Past, Present, and Future of the Ultimate Penal Sanction, 157 (James R. Acker, et al., eds., 3d ed., Carolina Acad. Press 2014).
    • Richard Wilson with Emily Singer Hurvitz, Human Rights Violations by Peacekeepers in Somalia, 21 Hum. Rights Br. 2 (2014).
    • Richard Wilson with Pat Patterson, The Most Important Cases of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 15 Sec. & Def. Studies Rev. 139 (2014).
    • + More Publications...

    • Books

    • Richard Wilson & Jennifer Rasmussen, Promoting Justice: A Practical Guide To Strategic Human Rights Lawyering (Intl. Hum. Rights L. Group 2001).
    • Richard Wilson, The Rights International Companion To Criminal Law & Procedure (Richard Wilson & Francisco Forrest Martin, eds., Kluwer Law Intl. 1999).
    • Other Publications

    • Richard Wilson, Restoration of Historic Memory and Dignity for Victims of the Armenian Genocide: A Human Rights Approach to Effective Reparations, 14 Intl. Crim. L. Rev. 332 (2014).
    • Richard Wilson, Remarks on the Arab Spring Symposium, Fall 2012, 1 U. Balt. J. Intl. L. 284 (2013).
    • Richard Wilson, The Role of Practice in Legal Education, in General Report of the XVIIIth Congress of the International Academy on Comparative Law, 57 (K.B. Brown & D.V. Snyder, eds., Springer 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, War Stories: A Reflection on Defending an Alleged Enemy Combatant Detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in Omar Khadr: Oh Canada (Janice Williamson, ed., McGill-Queens U. Press. 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Practical Training in Law in the Netherlands: Big Law Model or Clinical Model, and the Call of Public Interest, 8 Utretcht L. Rev. 170 (2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Omar Khadr: Domestic and International Litigation Strategies for a Child in Armed Conflict, 11 Santa Clara J. Intl. L. 29 (2012) (Winner of the Pauline Ruyle Moore Scholar Award for 2014, Am. U. Wash. College of L.).
    • Richard Wilson, An Essay on the Stages of the Clinical Year in Law School: Group Process with Existential Roots, 16 Intl. J. of Clinical Leg. Ed. 130 (2011).
    • Richard Wilson, Teaching International Law: Lessons from Clinical Education, in American Society of International Law, Proceedings of the 104th Annual Meeting, March 24-27, 2010 (Cambridge U. Press 2011).
    • Richard Wilson, Beyond Legal Imperialism: U.S. Clinical Legal Education and the New Law and Development, in The Global Clinical Movement: Educating Lawyers for Social Justice (Frank Bloch, ed., Oxford U. Press 2010).
  • + Selected Works in Progress

    • Richard Wilson, More Than a Method: The Origins and Global Reach of Clinical Legal Education (Cambridge U. Press forthcoming).
  • + Selected Presentations

    • Richard Wilson, Invited Panelist, The Death Penalty and Mental Illness (Symposium: From Conviction to Clemency: Commonwealth v. Giarratano, A Case Study of the Modern Death Penalty, Washington & Lee Law Review, Lexington, Va., Feb. 6, 2016).
    • Richard Wilson, Invited Speaker, Toward the Closure of Guantanamo (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, D.C., Dec. 2015).
    • Richard Wilson, Lecture, The Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Right: Intersections of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (Lecture for Latin American Civilian-Military Personnel, Seminar on Strategic Implications of Human Rights and Rule of Law (in Spanish), National Defense University, Fort McNair, D.C., May 12, 2015).
    • Richard Wilson, Invited Speaker, Designing a Human Rights Clinic: The Issues (Stanford Law School and the University of Vienna, Austria, Stanford, Cal., Apr. 10, 2015).
    • Richard Wilson, Speaker, The Lure of Peace Corps Service (Panel of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, American University, D.C., Mar. 19, 2015).
    • Richard Wilson, Lecture, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (Books that Shaped America Series, Bender Library, American University, D.C., Jan. 25, 2015).
    • Richard Wilson, Panel Moderator, Challenging and Overcoming Prejudice by Extending the Human Rights Culture (Conference on Advancing Universal Human Rights Culture (5th International), American University Washington College of Law, D.C., Dec. 5, 2014).
    • Richard Wilson, Lecture, Jurisprudencia del Sistema Interamericano: Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas y Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (Jurisprudence of the Interamerican System: Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) (Curso sobre el Sistema Interamericano de Protección de los Derechos Humanos para Agentes del Estado (Course on the Inter-American System for Protection of Human Rights for State Agents), American University Washington College of Law, D.C., July 17, 2014).
    • Richard Wilson, Lecture, Exploring Intersections of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Human Rights on the Hill, Rayburn Office Building, Capitol Hill, D.C., July 8, 2014).
    • Richard Wilson, Lecture Commentator, The Work of the UN Committee Against Torture (International Law Lecture Series Speaker - Claudio Grossman, Dean, American University Washington College of Law, D.C., Mar. 25, 2014).
    • Richard Wilson, Lecture Commentator, Transferring Wealth, Developing Poverty (Faculty Lecture Series Speaker - Christiana Ochoa, American University Washington Colleges of Law, D.C., Mar. 7, 2014).
    • Richard Wilson, Lecturer & Facilitator, Seminar on Human Rights in the Curriculum: Classroom and Clinics (HED Colombia Grant (in Spanish), Cali, Colom., Dec. 8-12, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Co-Convener, Focus Group on Creation of a New N.G.O. on International Access to Justice (Norwegian Refugee Council, American University Washington College of Law, Dec. 3, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Presentation, On Collaboration (Commons Lunch for First-year Students, American University Washington College of Law, D.C., Oct. 29, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Lecture, The Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Right: Intersections of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (Lecture for Latin American Civilian-Military Personnel, Seminar on Strategic Implications of Human Rights and Rule of Law (in Spanish), National Defense University, Fort McNair, D.C., Oct. 22, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Lecture, Economic, Social and Cultural Human Rights (Munching on Human Rights Lunch Series, American University Washington College of Law, D.C., Oct. 15, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Participant, Litigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Strategies for Litigation (LAW Litigation Roundtable, London, Eng., Sept. 19-22, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Workshop, How to Design a Legal Clinic: Clinics as an Element in the Transformation of Learning (Fifth National Congress on Teaching Legal Sciences (in Spanish), Valencia, Spain, Sept. 10-14, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Workshop, Teaching Seminar and Negotiation Topics in Clinic (Summer Clinic Sessions, American University Washington College of Law, D.C., July 19, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Speaker, Human Rights and Humanitarian Law: Intersections (Human Rights on the Hill, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, D.C., July 2, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Speaker, Advocacy at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Workshop at Maryland Legal Aid, Balt., Md., Apr. 25, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Panel Moderator, Stories from the Ground Floor: Fighting for Human Rights Protections in the U.S. (Conference on Human Rights Lawyering at the State and Local Level, Apr. 22, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Panel Moderator, Universal Rights, East and West? The Local, Regional and Global Work of Human Rights Clinics in Kyrgyzstan and the United States (AALS Clinical Conference, San Juan, P.R., Apr. 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Panel Moderator, A Look at Current Trends and Cases of Gender-Based Violence in the Americas (Women’s Law Association, American University Washington College of Law, D.C., Mar. 26, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Visiting Lectures (in Spanish), Las clínicas jurídicas y la lucha por los derechos: la recuperación de la memoria histórica (Legal Clinics and the Fight for Rights: Recovery of Historical Memory), and ¿Por qué no cierra Guantánamo? (Why Doesn’t Guantanamo Close?) (Valencia, Spain, Mar. 13-14, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Guest Lecturer, Dynamics of Conflict, Cooperation and Negotiation: Guantanamo and other Diplomatic Issues (Class in Program on International Relations and Diplomacy, at Alfonso X University, Madrid, Spain, Mar. 12-13, 2013).
    • Richard Wilson, Site Visit as International Scholar, Law Faculty of the American University of Central Asia (Open Society Foundation, Higher Education Support Program, Bishkek, Kyrg., Dec. 9-15, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Invited Participant, Roundtable on Legal Empowerment and Justice for the Poor (Council on Foreign Relations, D.C., Nov. 29, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Panelist, Symposium on the Arab Spring: Developments in Clinical Legal Education in the “New” Middle East (University of Baltimore School of Law, Balt., Md., Nov. 7, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Lecture (in Spanish), The Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights (Lecture for Latin American Civilian-Military Personnel, Seminar on Strategic Implications of Human Rights and Rule of Law, National Defense University, Fort McNair, D.C., Oct. 23, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Lecture, Munching on Human Rights: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Center on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law, D.C., Oct. 18, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Presentation, Collaboration (A Presentation on the Skill to First Year Commons Students, American University Washington College of Law, D.C., Oct. 17, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Panelist, Symposium on Building Global Professionalism: Clinical Legal Education in Latin America, History and Trends (Drexel Law Review, Drexel University School of Law, Phila., Pa., Oct. 12, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Presentation, International Challenges to Forced Evictions and Property Losses Through a Law School Clinic: Inter-American and African Regional Systems Examples (Norwegian Refugee Council Workshop, Oslo, Nor., Sept. 24-25, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Guest Lecture, Representing Omar Khadr at Guantanamo (International Law & Organizations, Washington Semester Program, Tenley Campus, American University, D.C., Sept. 11, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Panelist, Ending Torture, Disappearance and Impunity: Holding Bush-Administration Responsible for their Roles in Criminal Acts (Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition, Conference on Justice for Survivors of Torture, June 21, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Presentation, Recognition for the Restoration of Historical Memory and Human Dignity: A Human Rights Approach (Conference on the Armenian Genocide, Armenian Catholicosate, Beirut, Leb., Feb. 24, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Panelist, Human Rights, International Criminal Law, and the Law of Armed Conflict (Open Society Justice Initiative, ICC Trial Competition Colloquium, N.Y.C., N.Y., Feb. 10, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Symposium Paper Presentation, Omar Khadr: Domestic and International Litigation Strategies for a Child in Armed Conflict at Guantanamo (2012 Santa Clara Journal of International Law Symposium: Emerging Issues in International Armed Conflict, Santa Clara, Cal., Feb. 3, 2012).
    • Richard Wilson, Panelist, Indefensible: a Reference for Prosecuting Torture and Other Felonies Committed by U.S. Officials Following September 11 (Panel on Joint Report of Human Rights USA & the International Human Rights Law Clinic, American University Washington College of Law, D.C., Jan. 27, 2012).
  • + Selected Honors & Awards

    • Pauline Ruyle Moore Scholar Award, Omar Khadr: Domestic and International Litigation Strategies for a Child in Armed Conflict, Am. U. Wash. College of L. Comm. on Scholarship (Mar. 2014).
    • Public Interest/Public Service Scholarship Program Faculty Award (Given by Students, Am. U. Wash. College of L. Oct. 2010).
    • “Coalition Partner of the Year” Award (Capital Area. Imm. Rights Coalition Dec. 5, 2007).
    • Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award (Southern Ctr. for Hum. Rights Nov. 1, 2007).
    • Egon Guttman Textbook Award, Defense In Intertnational Criminal Proceedings (co-edited with Michael Bohlander & Roman Boed), Am. U. Wash. College of L. (2006).
    • Honorary Visiting Professor, "Universidad de San Martín de Porres, Lima, Peru" ( Aug. 26, 2005) ().
    • Pauline Ruyle Moore Scholar Award, Assigned Defense Counsel in Domestic and International War Crimes Tribunals: The Need for a Structural Approach, 2 Intl. Crim. L. Rev. 145 (2002), Am. U. Wash. College of L. Comm. on Scholarship (Apr. 2004).