Pakistan project: LLM Human Rights Law in Practice (clinic) students

ikhyber001p4Postgraduate students on the LLM programme in International Human Rights and Public Policy at UCC recently completed a clinical project addressing issues of access to justice and reform of the criminal justice system in Pakistan. Key issues addressed included long periods of detention without trial, limited access to legal representation, the absence of effective civilian control or democratic oversight of counter terrorism policy, and the independence of the judiciary. The project was carried out in cooperation with leading human rights lawyers and advocates in Pakistan, and led by Professor Siobhán Mullally, as part of the Human Rights Law in Practice core module.

Reform of the criminal justice system in Pakistan is a key concern for human rights advocates, and is an issue that activists and lawyers have struggled to address for several decades. More recently, in the context of expansive counter-terrorism initiatives by the State and army, increasing militant activity in Pakistan’s tribal areas and civil unrest, reform has proven difficult to progress. Students explored the complex and plural legal systems in Pakistan, the ‘black hole’ that constitutes the tribal areas on Pakistan’s troubled Afghan borders, where the fundamental rights and constitutional protections do not apply.

The Pakistan project formed part of the innovative human rights law clinic, in which students develop lawyering and advocacy skills through collaborative project work that includes opportunities to make submissions to UN bodies, write legal briefs and submissions, engage with UN bodies, and examine the pros and cons of strategic litigation as an instrument to secure law and policy reform.  Over the last year, in addition to the Pakistan project, students benefitted from guest presentations and discussions with speakers from Justice for Magdalenes, the Department of Justice and Law Reform Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda, the Irish Penal Reform Trust, and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Further information on the LLM programme in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy is available at: or contact Programme Director, Professor Siobhán Mullally,