Empowering and Protecting Human Rights Defenders from Arbitrary Detention

3 credits / 9 weeks weeks
10 Jun 2024 - 11 Aug 2024

Professor Miriam Estrada-Castillo

This course introduces students to the methods for empowerment and protection of Human Rights Defenders facing human rights violations around the world, including arbitrary arrest and detention, police brutality, judicial harassment, smear campaigns, threats, harassment, torture, death threats, and defamation. As well as restrictions on their freedom of expression, movement, association, and assembly, unfair trials, discrimination, false accusations, and administrative detentions.

The Human Rights Council established that respect and support for the activities of human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, is essential to the overall enjoyment of human rights. When states fail to effectively investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights violations and attacks against defenders for their work, impunity results as a critical driver of further breaches and attacks. Violations primarily aim at human rights defenders or derive against the organisations and channels they operate.


One of the most common violations against human rights defenders is arbitrary detention and arrest. Therefore, acknowledging the need for the empowerment and protection of human rights defenders from these abuses were crucial factors driving the creation and offering of this course. It is indispensable that both human rights defenders and civil society become aware of the mechanisms the international human rights law and standards offer them to be protected from the abuses they often suffer. In this course, students will explore the role of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions in promoting and protecting human rights defenders’ rights while examining its impact on global efforts to combat arbitrary detention.

Miriam Estrada-Castillo

Dr. Miriam Estrada-Castillo (Ecuador) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of International Law. Prior to joining UPEACE, Dr. Estrada-Castillo worked as the Senior legal and political officer in the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED). Prior to that position, she has worked with the UN system in various capacities, including as the International Prosecutor General, UN Peacekeeping Mission for East-Timor (DPKO), Expert and Vice-Chairperson of the Monitoring Committee of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Chief of Field of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Latin America Regional Adviser on Gender, Human Rights and Culture of Peace for UNESCO. She has also worked as the President of the Ecuadorian Supreme Court of Juvenile Justice and as the Minister of Social Affairs in Ecuador. In her academic life, she worked recently as the Director of Master Degree Courses on Gender and the Law and Children in Armed Conflict, Lund University, Sweden. She is a Visiting Professor of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI) and has also taught courses as a Visiting Professor at the Australian National University. She is the author of the Ecuadorian Law on Violence against Women and of the first Legislation for Minors and Family in the country.

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