LL.M. in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law

  • Master of laws (LL.M.)
  • Starting date: August
  • Tuition Fee: $51,876.00 USD
  • Language: English; Spanish
  • Program type: Full-time
  • Duration: 1 year
  • Specialization: Human Rights


The Washington College of Law (WCL) is uniquely positioned in the field of international human rights law. WCL’s recognized human rights faculty and state-of-the-art human rights programs allow this institution to decisively move to develop new programmatic offerings that take advantage of our unique location and new on-line technologies. 


The LL.M. in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law program welcomed its first entering class in January 2015. The American Bar Association approved the program at its Accreditation Committee’s June 26-28, 2014 meeting. Claudia Martin and Diego Rodríguez-Pinzón who serve as Co-directors of the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law created the program. Robert K. Goldman, Professor of Law and expert in human rights and humanitarian law implemented the program.


The Academy has been an incubator of creative program design in the last decade at WCL. Claudia Martin and Diego Rodríguez-Pinzón have been instrumental in developing the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition, the Summer program of the Academy (Program of Advanced Studies in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law), among several other initiatives. Building on this experience, the Academy implemented an LL.M. program that takes advantage of currently existing summer programs.


Practitioners who are interested in international human rights and humanitarian law can receive formal training from this focused LL.M. in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. Since many of these practitioners are currently full time employees in prestigious public and private institutions in the US and abroad, with requirements to further qualify themselves through formal degrees, our program is designed in a way that affords them the opportunity to acquire specialized training without disturbing their current work responsibilities.


The program takes advantage of the courses given by the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law which cover topics such as regional human rights protection, women and human rights law, and European human rights law among others.


Admissions & Application

Eligibility & Requirements


Applications are accepted in the fall semester with participants to begin the following spring term. Under certain circumstances, the admissions committee may authorize students to apply in the spring semester.


In order to begin the application process, candidates must submit the following:


  • Online Application and application fee
  • Official Copies of Academic Records from an ABA accredited U.S. Law school or foreign law school with equivalent standards
  • Statement of purpose  
  • Resume
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Official Proof of Competency in English (TOEFL, PTE, IELTS or ILEC).


Language requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English must take one of four tests for English competency, either the TOEFL, PTE, IELTS, or ILEC exam. It is not necessary to take all four. Applications will not be considered complete until we receive exam scores.This requirement is waived only for applicants who have completed a higher degree program from an accredited U.S. institution. Photocopies of test reports will not be accepted.


Test Scores

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language(TOEFL).
    A minimum TOEFL score of 563 paper based test or 84 internet based test.
  • Pearson Test of English(PTE).
    A minimum PTE score of 63.
  • International English Language Testing System(IELTS).
    A minimum IELTS score of 6.5.


How to Apply

1. Application Deadlines


Spring Admission - December 1 (program starting in early January 2017) 


Extension: All applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Late applications may be accepted if space is available. Please contact the Office of Graduate Admissions at llm@wcl.american.edu before submitting an application after the deadline.


International Applicants: We strongly encourage you to apply early as it can take up to three months (or more) processing time to receive a student (F-1) visa.


2. Application Process


- Applying to the LL.M. in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law can be done via our PDF fillable application that can be emalied or mailed in directly to the Office of Graduate Admissions at llm@wcl.american.edu.


- Fillable PDF Application - Download Application

- Online using the LSAC application system and services


  • LSAC Applications
  • Please note that LSAC charges a $75 registration fee to use the online application system plus additional fees for processing international transcripts. These fees apply only to LSAC services – applicants will still need to submit the LL.M. Program application fee of $55.


- All applicants must submit the following information in order to have a completed application. Please note that applications will not be reviewed until all materials are received. Admission decisions are made on the basis of all information provided in a completed application.



Please mail all application documents to:


LL.M. Admissions
Washington College of Law
4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW, Suite Y 360  
Washington, DC 20016-8181 USA


Please email all materials also to derechoshumanos@wcl.american.edu and admissions at llm@wcl.american.edu


Application Fee

Each application for admission must be accompanied by a $55 application fee. The application fee is nonrefundable. Make checks or U.S. money orders payable to "Washington College of Law." All checks must be drawn on a bank that has a branch in the United States. We also accept American Express, Thomas Cook, and Barclay's traveler's checks. Postal money orders from other countries are not acceptable. Please do not send cash.


Academic Records

Applicants must submit official/attested transcripts of previous law school work, including a record of all your courses, examinations, and marks, and an official certification of the law degree received from a U.S. law school or from a recognized international institution. PLEASE NOTE: Applicants educated in the U.S. should send their official transcripts from both their undergraduate studies and their law school.


"Official/Attested" means a copy of your original document certified by an officer of your school. Faxed copies and photocopies of academic records will not be accepted. Transcripts must be written in the native language of the school. If this language is not English, the documents must be accompanied by a certified translation. Institutions must send the required documents directly to the assistant director of admissions.


International applicants applying online through LSAC have the option of submitting their transcripts through LSAC’s Document Assembly Service. This service is included in LSAC’s $75 registration fee for using their online services. Additionally, international applicants using the LSAC system can choose (not required) to register for LSAC’s International Transcript Authentication and Evaluation Service for an additional fee of $125. By using this system, LSAC will authenticate and evaluate your academic records and forward them to our office directly.


Although not required, IHRHL does also accept transcripts and certified copies of academic documents from EducationUSA and WES. The applicant should contact WES directly to have them send us your documents. Find more information about LSAC and WES.


Statement of Purpose

Applicants must submit a Statement of Purpose stating the reasons for applying to the LL.M. in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Program. The statement should not exceed 500 words and should include a discussion of the following:


a. How do you think the LL.M. will help you achieve your short-term and long-term professional and personal goals, and
b. How does your prior experience in human rights and humanitarian law make you a well-qualified candidate for the LL.M. Program?


This statement might include reference to a specific position that the applicant seeks to attain, or to an area of international human rights and humanitarian law where the applicant plans to make a contribution.


Letters of Recommendation

Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation from law professors, employers, or other persons qualified to recommend them for graduate study in law. Please do NOT send more than two letters of recommendation, as any extra recommendation letters will be disregarded from your application.


Candidates are requested to use the recommendation forms provided in the application. The recommendations may either be enclosed with the applicati on in sealed and signed envelopes, or sent directly to the Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions via mail. The applicant should explain to the references that the committee gives considerable weight to the letters.


Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions
Hilary Lappin
Phone: 202-274-4114
E-mail: hlappin@wcl.american.edu


Mailing Address
Attn: Hilary Lappin
Office of Graduate Admissions 
American University Washington College of Law
4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW, Suite Y360K  
Washington, DC 20016-8181 USA

NOTE: Applicants using the LSAC online system can have their recommenders submit their recommendation letters through LSAC or send them directly to the Assistant Director of Admissions via mail.


NOTE: All materials submitted to Washington College of Law become the property of Washington College of Law and cannot be returned.



The LL.M. in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law is a unique hybrid program with residential courses taught over 3 weeks in the summer in Washington, DC and online courses taught during the academic year. This program is designed for professionals who wish to pursue advanced human rights studies but are not able to attend a yearlong residential program.


*El LL.M. en Derechos Humanos y Derecho Humanitario es el único que tambien ofrece un currículo híbrido en derechos humanos en Estados Unidos en español.


1. Degree Requirements

Academic Year 1


Spring Semester (Starting in early January, deadline to apply is December 1, 2016)

  • Online course on International Human Rights Law (3 credits)


First Three-Week Summer Session in Residence at WCL


  • Seminar (2 credits)*
  • Seminar (2 credits)*
  • Seminar (2 credits)*
  • Legal research and writing seminar (2 credits)

    *Seminars to be selected from the courses offered as part of the Program of Advanced Studies on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law


Fall Semester

  • Online course on Advanced Human Rights Law (3 credits)


Academic Year 2


Spring Semester


  • 2 credit research and writing project (independent study)
  • 2 credit supervised externship


*Students may be allowed to opt instead for a 4 credit thesis or a 4 credit supervised externship.


Second Three-Week Summer Session in Residence at WCL


  • Seminar (2 credits)*
  • Seminar (2 credits)*
  • Seminar (2 credits)*


*Seminars to be selected from the courses offered as part of the Program of Advanced Studies on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law 


2. Courses

Online Courses

The online curriculum for the LL.M. will consist of video introductions from the professors of the course, reading materials, forum discussions, video interviews with human rights experts on specific topics of the class, and live "wrap-up" sessions at the end of each topic, where students will have the opportunity to ask questions and comment on any of the previous activities covered.


Spring Semester, Human Rights Law (3 credits)


Course Summary 
The purpose of this class is to provide an overview of current international human rights law and the mechanisms for its implementation and enforcement in six segments. The first segment of the course will focus on the general principles of international human rights law. In segments two and three, we will study the functioning of the universal human rights system (United Nations) and the three existing regional human rights systems (Inter-American, European and African). Next, we will concentrate on the normative foundation of international human rights law through the study of a selected group of rights, including the rights to life, not to be tortured or subjected to other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and economic, social and cultural rights. We will also explore issues of limitations and derogations of rights as well as the rights affected in the context of the counterterrorist policies implemented by the US and other countries. In the segment regarding international criminal law we will discuss the jurisdiction of international criminal tribunals, the role of national institutions in dealing with past human rights violations, and the principle of universal jurisdiction. Finally, segment six will examine other current topics in international human rights law such as the role of non-state actors.


Fall Semester, Advanced Human Rights Law (3 credits)


Course Summary 
The goal of the seminar is to study the scope of a selected group of relevant human rights recognized in international conventions and to analyze how the protections afforded by those treaties operate in actual practice. To accomplish that goal, we will analyze the case law developed by international supervisory bodies, such as the Human Rights Committee, under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights, under the American Convention on Human Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights, under the European Convention on Human Rights. Also, we will study selected decisions of domestic courts that apply international human rights law or raise human rights issues relevant for the topics covered in class.

During the first two classes we will explore the relevance of international law and review basic concepts that constitute the foundations for studying international human rights law, such as sources of law and the concept of stateresponsibility. Next, we will proceed to study the scope of the restrictions applicable to human rights obligations as well as the doctrines of deference applied by certain international bodies when supervising state compliance with those obligations. As part of this section, we will study the notion of state of emergency and derogation of human rights obligations. Third, we will analyze the scope of core rights protected by civil and political rights conventions, namely the right to liberty and security of person, the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to a remedy and the right to a fair trial. As part of the existing challenges to the protection of human rights, we will explore the concept of universal jurisdiction. We will also analyze several cases decided and initiatives adopted in the context of the “war against terrorism” in light of international human rights law and humanitarian law.


Residential Courses

Our specialized courses offered by the Summer Program of Advanced Studies in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law include a variety of topics such as:

  • International Human Rights Standards

  • International Protection of Human Rights

  • The Rigths of Vulnerable Groups

  • International and Transnational Criminal Law


Complete list of courses and course descriptions


3. Experiential Learning


LL.M. Graduation Requirement


"Research and Writing project" and "Supervised Externship"

During their second year of study, students will be required to write a 2-4 credit research and writing project and/or complete a 2-4 credit supervised externship in an institution that would provide them with professional experience in the field of International Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law.To qualify for graduation, all LL.M. candidates must complete the Practical Skills Graduation Track (2 credit supervised externship) and Research Graduation Track (2 credit research and writing project).


  • Research Graduation Track: LL.M. candidates must complete the LL.M. writing requirement. The topic for the research and writing project will need to be approved by your academic advisor.
  • Practical Skills Graduation track: LLM candidates in the Practical Skills Track must complete an externship in their discipline for academic credit during their studies in addition to the LL.M. writing requirement. To receive academic credit for an externship, students must officially register for the externship and complete all of the corresponding academic requirements for the externship credits.


Students may be allowed to opt for a 4 credit dissertation or a 4 credit supervised externship.