History of the Human Rights Center

Professor David Weissbrodt when he first started working at the University
Professor David Weissbrodt

The Human Rights Center at the University of Minnesota Law School was founded by Professor David Weissbrodt in 1988 to support the quickly emerging human rights community in Minnesota and to serve as an academic setting for the study and dissemination of human rights law, policy, and procedures. One of the first of its kind, the Center quickly garnered an international reputation for its rigorous research, dedicated teaching mission and meaningful support to the human rights community locally, nationally and globally.

Many around the world know the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center through Prof. Weissbrodt’s groundbreaking online Human Rights Library, housing tens of thousands of primary and secondary resources available in nine languages. Prof. Weissbrodt launched the library in the early 1990s when very few human rights resources were available electronically and the UN and other human rights bodies did not have accessible websites or databases. Although the landscape has dramatically changed and the Center no longer updates the Library, it continues to serve as an important resource for human rights advocates and scholars worldwide. We invite you to read this moving account of the history of the Minnesota Online Human Rights Library by Patrick Finnegan. 

For many years, the Human Rights Center was home to the International Women’s Rights Action Watch, founded by Arvonne Fraser and then led by Marsha Freeman. The Center also has a long trajectory of human rights education work, under the leadership of Kristi Rudelius-Palmer. The impactful and visionary human rights curricula series continues to be used around the world.

Today, the Human Rights Center is led by Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin and Amanda Lyons ’09 in close collaboration with the Law School’s human rights and international law faculty. Priority areas of research and work include national security and conflict, business and development, gender and women’s human rights, rights of non-citizens, and the history and theory of human rights.