College of Law > Academics > Centers, Institutes & Initiatives > International Human Rights Law Institute > Projects > Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean

​IHRLIs activities in Latin America and the Caribbean are coordinated through the Jeanne and Joseph Sullivan Program for Human Rights in the Americas (Sullivan Program). The Sullivan Program was established in 1992 with the first of a series of generous annual grants from the Jeanne M. and Joseph P. Sullivan Foundation. Over the years, the Sullivan Program has worked on a number of human rights issues with a special focus on indigenous rights, human trafficking, post-conflict justice and advocacy using the Inter-American Human Rights System. The Sullivan Program is designed to improve human rights protections throughout the region, develop legal capacity and provide victims with opportunities to engage in direct advocacy. Daniel Rothenberg is the current Director of the Jeanne and Joseph Sullivan Program for Human Rights in the Americas.

Learning from Atrocity: Secondary School Education and Historical Memory in Post Conflict Latin America (2006 - present)

Learning from Atrocity presents a comparative investigation of how five Latin American nations Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Uruguay represent past political violence in public high school textbooks. These countries all experienced periods of authoritarian rule characterized by severe human rights violations as well as transitional justice processes such as domestic prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations for victims and memorialization. The project is managed by Daniel Rothenberg and contributes to an improved understanding of how public education can be used as a means of engaging with past political violence. The research will be presented in a monograph documenting how past atrocities are represented in each countrys high school textbooks along with a comparison of approaches within the region. Ideally, the project will influence public policy and broaden discussion and debate regarding the central role of public education in defending human rights and supporting transitional justice.
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Memory of Silence (2007 - present)

The Memory of Silence Project presents an accessible version of the final report of the Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH), commonly known as the Guatemalan Truth Commission, coupled with a series of critical essays. The final report was released in 1999 and presents the definitive account of human rights violations committed during the nations thirty-six year internal armed conflict in which over 200,000 people were killed, 50,000 of whom were disappeared. State repression was so severe during this conflict that the CEH determined genocide had occurred. However, the CEHs report is 12 volumes long and largely inaccessible for ordinary readers. This project addresses this situation by presenting edited selections of the report alongside essays that contextualize the work of the CEH and review the status of its recommendations over the past decade. The material will be presented as a book in English and Spanish. The project is run by Daniel Rothenberg and includes the assistance of a number of DePaul University students, fellows and consultants.
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Indigenous Peoples Legal Clinics (2001 2005)

IHRLI designed and managed a series of clinics for representatives of indigenous peoples in Mexico on how to use the Inter-American Human Rights System to defend and protect fundamental rights. The clinics provided intensive 5-8 day trainings held in indigenous communities in different areas of Mexico. Participants developed cases from their communities and learned how to present local problems as violations of international human rights. To date, IHRLI has trained over 120 NGO representatives and leaders of Mixtec, Purhepecha, Tojolabal, Triqui, and Zapotec communities. Many clinic participants have filed petitions with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and several have been invited to present public audiences at the Commission on issues such as discriminatory due process violations, womens rights and political repression. In a number of cases, clinic participants have won important remedies, including liberating hundreds of falsely imprisoned indigenous detainees in Oaxaca. The clinics have been managed by IHRLI staff and consultants including Soledad Garcia and Victor Rodriguez. DePaul University College of Law students have assisted in preparing materials for the clinics and providing support for the advocacy activities of different indigenous communities.

Indigenous Womens Legal Clinics (2004 2006)

IHRLI adapted the methodology of the Indigenous Peoples Clinics to assist indigenous womens organizations use the Inter-American Human Rights System as an advocacy tool. IHRLI designed and managed two clinics focusing on the specific challenges faced by indigenous women, including training on economic rights, gender discrimination, structural inequality and rape and other forms of sexual violence. Clinic participants helped draft a review of human rights violations suffered by indigenous women in southern Mexico that was presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The clinics were managed by IHRLI consultants Soledad Garcia and Victor Rodriguez.

Manual for Litigating Indigenous Peoples' Cases within the Inter-American Human Rights System (2005 2009)

IHRLI created and printed a litigation manual to assist indigenous organizations in using the Inter-American Human Rights System to protect and defend their rights. The manual provides an overview of the system alongside a discussion of how to develop appropriate litigation strategies. The manual was drafted by Soledad Garcia, Victor Rodriguez and Fabian Salvioli with the intellectual and institutional support of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights. The manual has been tested in the field in IHRLIs Indigenous Peoples Legal Clinics and distributed widely among key organizations and advocates.
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Haiti/Dominican Republic Project (2003 present)

The Haiti/Dominican Republic Project links documentation of the continued suffering of Haitian migrants to the Dominican Republic with an analysis of the historical context of the two countries political relations. The research focuses on how contemporary migratory patterns are connected to structural inequality and questions of regional security. The work is based on a series of field visits by Daniel Rothenberg and Etelle Higonnet as well as contributions by students who spent time in the region as Sullivan Human Rights Interns in the Americas.

Ongoing Regional Advocacy

IHRLI has strong connections with human rights NGOs around the region and works closely with regional bodies such as the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, based in San Jose, Costa Rica. IHRLI staff work with DePaul University students and outside partners to assist with a variety of advocacy activities to defend and protect human rights in the region. These efforts include assistance in drafting documents, aiding with local advocacy, preparing petitions before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and related activities. For example, IHRLI recently presented an Amicus Curiae brief before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights arguing that the court should apply the principle of superior responsibility to require the government of Guatemala to investigate high-level state actors regarding their responsibility for the Dos Erres massacre.
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The IHRLI amicus brief was drafted by Daniel Rothenberg, Managing Director of International Programs, Daniel Thomann, a local human rights lawyer and a group of DePaul students including: Alex Konetzki (Summer Intern) and Ben Sandahl (PILI Fellow).

Past Projects:

Inter-American Legal Clinic (1999)

In 1999, IHRLI held a legal clinic to train Latin American activists on how to use the Inter-American Human Rights System to bring cases against their governments as part of a broad strategy to protect and defend fundamental human rights. The group included twenty-one lawyers and human rights advocates from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. The clinic linked general background information on the Inter-American System with participatory exercises and role-playing sessions. Each participant developed a case based on an actual set of violations from their community and then followed the process from a petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights through the submission of the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Cases covered violations of due process, extra-judicial execution, forced disappearance, torture, arbitrary arrest, and illegal detention.

Rule of Law Training Program for Guatemalan Judges, Prosecutors, and Public Defenders (1994 1995)

In 1994, Guatemala adopted a new criminal code as part of its judicial reform program that adopted a more adversarial model. This process transformed the professional roles of judges, prosecutors, and other legal professionals. To help support the transition, IHRLI designed the Rule of Law Training Program for Guatemalan Judges, Prosecutors, and Public Defenders which ran from 1994 to 1995. Over one hundred judges participated in six training sessions held at DePaul University College of Law and two leading Guatemalan universities. The training was managed by Professor Leonard Cavise and included lectures, participatory exercises and simulated trials.

Human Rights Lawyer Training Program for El Salvador (1994 1995)

IHRLI worked with the University of El Salvador and the University of Central America to create a three-month training program for Salvadoran human rights lawyers. The trainings were held at DePaul University College of Law and included courses on the role of human rights in criminal justice processes, the structure and function of the Inter-American Human Rights System, United Nations mechanisms, and an overview of international law. Salvadoran and Guatemalan participants were drawn from the countries major human rights organizations. Many have gone on to play significant roles in various advocacy and governmental organizations including the Salvadoran Human Rights Ombudsmans office, the Archbishops Human Rights Office in Guatemala and the Guatemalan National Confederation of Trade Unions.

Support for the United Nations Truth Commission in El Salvador (1992 1993)

In 1992, the United Nations created the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador to investigate serious and systematic atrocities committed during the eleven year conflict that devastated the country and killed an estimated 75,000 people. IHRLI supported Douglass Cassel, Executive Director, in his work as one of four top advisors to the Commissioners. The Commissions final report, From Madness to Hope: The 12-Year war in El Salvador: Report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador, was released in 1993. The report documented and analyzed thousands of cases of human rights violations and presented a series of recommendation to assist the nation in facing past atrocities and developing policies to support the democratic transition, aid victims and ensure improved protections for human rights. The Truth Commission in El Salvador became an important guide for post-conflict justice initiatives in Guatemala, South Africa and around the world.