Fr. Ted Hesburgh and Martin Luther King, Jr.

History and Mission


The Center for Civil and Human Rights was founded in 1973 by the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., then-president of Notre Dame and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from its inception during the Eisenhower Administration until 1973. Father Ted was able to launch the Center with a grant from the Ford Foundation, as an institute for advanced research and teaching.

While never losing sight of its initial civil rights focus, the Center was inspired by Father Ted’s global vision to expand its work to include international human rights. In addition to providing committed lawyers with opportunities to study and to gain practical experience in international human rights law, the Center engages in research and advocacy aimed at strengthening international mechanisms of accountability. Our efforts include supporting interns who work at the two ad hoc international criminal tribunals, preparing friend-of-the-court briefs to promote the development of international criminal law jurisprudence, organizing conferences, and fostering research and scholarship on issues of accountability and transitional justice. Ours is the only institution at an American law school with observer status at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. As recently as November 2007, we sent representatives to sessions of the African Commission. Additionally, the Center initiated a clerkship program for African lawyers at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, as well as research and internship opportunities with the prominent Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.



We are founded on the belief that the worth and dignity of every human being mirrors the image of God. Education is essential to building a human rights culture in which dignity, peace and democracy are cherished and protected. Lawyers, serving as champions of the rule of law, have a unique responsibility to ensure that the civil and political institutions of each society are imbued with these fundamental values. To this end, the Center is dedicated to becoming a leader in the education of law students, lawyers and the community at large concerning human rights issues throughout the world, through the development of outstanding teaching programs, publications and research projects.

The Center creates a unique opportunity for lawyers from around the world to spend a year together studying international human rights law. In turn, they may become teachers and advocates for the cause. The Center also reaches out to the University community and legal community at large through its conferences and publications.

As part of a Catholic university, we are committed to the universal relevance of a gospel that teaches that human beings are made in the image of their creator. The freedom and dignity of all persons is manifest in the rich diversity of human cultures and religious beliefs of the human family. However, this freedom and dignity can be protected adequately only where human rights are honored and the rule of law prevails. The Center for Civil and Human Rights strives to build a culture of rights through legal education as part of the University’s commitment to living the gospel in a diverse world.

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Apply Now for the LL.M. in International Human Rights Law

cchrrecruit2 The University of Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights (CCHR) invites applications for its LL.M. degree program in international human rights law. The application deadline is January 15 for classes that begin in August 2014. Application information is available here.

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Jody Klontz
Center for Civil and Human Rights
Notre Dame Law School
P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556
P: 574.631.8555 F: 574.631.8702

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