Independence Monument at dusk in Phnom Penh

Independence Monument at dusk in Phnom Penh

Stanford's Center for Human Rights and International Justice promotes human rights across the globe

Mission and History


Stanford's Center for Human Rights and International Justice equips a new generation of leaders with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect and promote human rights and dignity for all.

Reflecting a deep commitment to international justice and the rule of law, the Center collaborates with partners across Stanford University and beyond on innovative programs that foster critical inquiry in the classroom and in the world. 

The Center pursues its mission through a range of international programs including justice sector capacity-building initiatives, civil society outreach efforts, trial monitoring, expert consultancies, and archival resource development, with a focus on transitional justice initiatives and new technologies.


The Center was originally founded in 1999 as the War Crimes Studies Center at UC Berkeley. In 2014, our founding Director David Cohen moved the Center to Stanford University with transitional support from Dr. Haruhisa Handa and his foundation, Worldwide Support for Development (WSD). The move, which placed the center within the Global Studies Division of the School of Humanities and Sciences, enabled the newly re-named center to sustain its established international programs, while expanding the scope of opportunities for meaningful student engagement by integrating classroom curricula with faculty research, student internships, and community-engaged learning opportunities. For five years, the Center operated under the name WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice. In 2019, following the conclusion of WSD transitional funding, the Center became known simply as the Center for Human Rights and International Justice. In 2022, Professor Kiyoteru Tsutsui joined the Center's leadership team as Faculty Co-Director alongside David Cohen.

In a world that is facing ever-greater human rights, social justice, and development challenges, Stanford students aspire to become leaders for change. Our aim is to help prepare them for that role by enabling students from across the campus to pursue their interests in human rights and global justice while completing their degree in other disciplines. The Center enhances Stanford’s academic offerings and student opportunities by integrating classroom curricula with faculty research, funding student internships, facilitating innovative interdisciplinary collaboration, offering invaluable professional mentorship, and providing unique opportunities for fieldwork.

Though the Center is small, we operate globally, with international partnerships reaching particularly deep into Southeast Asia. Our overseas programs and partnerships focus on major global issues such as migration and human traffickingaccountability and peacebuilding in post-conflict societies, gender-based violence, freedom of religion and expression, corruption and the rule of law, and atrocity prevention. The Center also partners with the Stanford University Libraries to implement cutting edge justice sector and human rights archival resource projects in developing countries and elsewhere, with a focus on new technologies. We invite student participation in the full range of our research and overseas programs, as an integral part of their academic experience. The Center further offers a human rights minor degree program, career and academic advisingcampus events, and student fellowship funding.