Law professor draws on U.N. experiences while teaching

Liz Kohman

Law professor David Weissbrodt brings more than 26 years of teaching experience to his International Human Rights Law class. He also brings wisdom from the world beyond academia.

Weissbrodt became the first U.S. citizen to chair the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights during meetings in July and August.

“It’s extremely important and reaffirming that he was selected,” said Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, Weissbrodt’s co-director at the University’s Human Rights Center. “It shows his long-time commitment to human rights.”

The subcommission is a body made up of 26 independent experts from different countries. It studies different trends in the field of human rights and reports to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

As chairman, Weissbrodt presided over meetings with the 26 subcommission members and approximately 300 other interested observers.

During this year’s session, the
subcommission discussed globalization, transnational corporations and passed a resolution on slavery reparations, among other issues.

Weissbrodt described the interactions at the United Nations as like a “multi-dimensional chess game,” noting that the culture, history and politics of delegates from different countries are important when debating and working through resolutions.

While the commission members are selected by the governments of their countries, they do not represent the views of their countries.

After nomination from their home countries, possible members must be elected by the Commission on Human Rights. Members serve a four-year term and can be re-elected. Weissbrodt is serving his second term.

Weissbrodt was elected to chair the subcommission by other members. He said the United State’s lost bid for re-election in the Commission on Human Rights had little effect on his position.

“I’m only representing myself, my views and my expertise,” Weissbrodt said, adding that the State Department doesn’t give him any instruction.

Weissbrodt brings the experience he gained in the United Nations to his classes.

Weissbrodt teaches a variety of courses in the Law School, but he told his students the first day of class he likes teaching his human rights class because it allows him to get to know future human rights leaders.

He encourages students to fulfill class requirements by becoming active in community projects, not just by writing research papers.

During the first class, Weissbrodt facilitated a model United Nations to give his students an idea of how U.N. treaties are created.

Students divided into groups with the task of creating a treaty outlining children’s rights. The
students discussed, debated and discovered a little bit about the art of treaty design.

“Now you understand what struggle they have,” said Weissbrodt.

 

Liz Kohman welcomes comments at [email protected]