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S.J. Quinney College of Law

  Oct 2, 2014   |   Last update: August 4, 2014 @ 8:21 am

International Law Colloquium Series: Karen Engle

About the event:

The International Law Colloquium Presents:

Anti-Anti Impunity: On the Criminalization of Human Rights

12:15-2:15 pm, Borchard
S.J. Quinney College of Law


Karen Engle – University of Texas at Austin; Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair in Law, Founder and Co-Director, Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice

Karen Engle is Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair in Law and Founder and Co-director of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas School of Law. She is also an affiliated faculty member of Latin American Studies and of Women's and Gender Studies. She teaches courses and specialized seminars in public international law, international human rights law and employment discrimination.

Professor Engle received her J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and her undergraduate degree from Baylor University. Following law school, she clerked for Judge Jerre S. Williams on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and then served as a a post-doctoral Ford Fellow in Public International Law at Harvard Law School. She was Professor of Law at the University of Utah prior to joining the University of Texas.

Professor Engle writes and lectures extensively on international human rights law. She is author of The Elusive Promise of Indigenous Development: Rights, Culture, Strategy (Duke University Press, 2010), which received the Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association Section on Human Rights. Other recent publications include “Self-critique, (Anti)politics and Criminalization:  Reflections on the History and Trajectory of the Human Rights Movement” (in New Approaches to International Law: The European and American Experiences)(TMC Asser Press/Springer,  2012), "On Fragile Architecture: The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Context of Human Rights" (European Journal of International Law, 2011), and "The Force of Shame" (in Rethinking Rape Law)(Routledge, 2010)(with Annelies Lottmann).  Professor Engle received a Bellagio Residency Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation in 2009 and an assignment as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Bogota in 2010.


Anti-Anti Impunity: On the Criminalization of Human Rights
Over the past decade, the human rights movement has become almost synonymous with the fight against impunity.  Increasingly, to be for human rights means to favor criminal accountability for those individuals who have violated international human rights or humanitarian law.  It also means to be against amnesty for those who have violated such law.  The anti-impunity focus of the human rights movement has affected not only the direction of human rights discourse and jurisprudence, but that of international law more generally and of NGO funding and activity. 

In this paper, I resist the relatively contemporary equation of human rights with anti-impunity and its attendant drive to increase at least the credible threat of criminal prosecutions at both the international and domestic levels.  I contend that such a focus provides a way for all sides to avoid overt discussion of political questions regarding issues of both recognition and redistribution, while at the same time deploying in its political struggles a potentially potent weapon of which the human rights movement has long been critical—the criminal justice system.


Read more about the Colloquium on Today >>

Click here to download the paper (available a week before, participants should read the paper in advance), and to see the entire International Law Colloquium Series Calendar >>


Limited meter parking available in the College of Law parking lot. Pay parking available at Rice-Eccles Stadium or take TRAX University Line to the Stadium stop and walk a half block to the north.