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Karen Engle

CWGS Affiliate FacultyJD, Harvard University

Professor in the School of Law
Karen Engle



international human rights law


KAREN ENGLE is Cecil D. Redford Professor in Law at The University of Texas School of Law, and founding director of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice. 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. Her recent works include The Elusive Promise of Indigenous Development: Rights, Culture, Strategy (Duke University Press, 2010), "On Fragile Architecture: The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Context of Human Rights" (European Journal of International Law), "The Force of Shame" (in Rethinking Rape Law)(Routledge, 2010)(with Annelies Lottmann), "Indigenous Rights Claims in International Law: Self-Determination, Culture and Development" (in Handbook of International Law)(Routledge, 2009), "Judging Sex in War" (Michigan Law Review, 2008), "Calling in the Troops: The Uneasy Relationship Among Human Rights, Women's Rights and Humanitarian Intervention" (Harvard Human Rights Journal, 2007), and "Feminism and Its (Dis)contents: Criminalizing War-Time Rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina" (American Journal of International Law, 2005). 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.

Recent Publications

  • La Esquiva Promesa de Desarrollo Para las Comunidades Afrodescendientes: El Futuro de la Ley 70, in Revista de Derecho Público, No. 26, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia, 2011. View Article
  • Comparative Constitutional Law and Property: Responses to Alviar and Azuela, 89 Texas Law Review 1957 (2011). View Article
  • On Fragile Architecture: The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Context of Human Rights [Symposium: The Human Dimension of International Cultural Heritage Law], 22 European Journal of International Law 141 (2011).



LAS 381 • International Human Rights Law

39772 • Spring 2015
Meets MT 10:30AM-11:45AM TNH 3.125
(also listed as LAW 348E)

The course will consider some of the most pressing global issues of our time through an overview of the theory and practice of international human rights law, as well as the related fields of international humanitarian and criminal law.  It will examine the evolution and content of human rights and humanitarian norms since the 1940s, their sources and legal status, and domestic, regional, and international mechanisms for implementing the norms.  Topics include civil and political rights, economic and social rights, gender equality, development, indigenous peoples, children, corporations, individual criminal responsibility, and human rights in times of conflict and post-conflict.  Students will become familiar with the United Nations human rights system, as well as with regional regimes, especially that of the Organization of American States and the Council of Europe.  Themes throughout the course will include tensions between universal rights and state and regional particularities, evolving notions of statehood and sovereignty, the responsibilities of states and non-state actors, the relevance of the private-public distinction, and the relationship between domestic and international legal orders.

LAS 381 • International Human Rights Law

40395 • Spring 2012
Meets TW 12:30PM-1:45PM JON 5.206
(also listed as LAW 348E)

The course provides an overview of modern international human rights law, including its history and development since the 1940s. It considers domestic, regional and international legal systems -including international criminal law- and the extent to which they incorporate and implement economic, social and cultural as well as civil and political rights. It also studies contemporary political and theoretical debates over the scope and interpretation of human rights law, such those involving the rights of indigenous peoples, women's rights and the right to economic development. 

WGS 393 • Intl Hum Rts & Justice Wrkshp

47167 • Fall 2011
Meets M 3:30PM-5:30PM JON 5.206
(also listed as LAS 381, LAW 397S)

Interdisciplinary speaker-based workshop on internati onal human rights law. We will read works in progress by academics and w ill hear them presented by their authors. Roughly half of the class week s will involve these outside speaker presentations. The other classes wi ll involve discussions of background readings on international human rig hts and class discussions of the papers to be presented by outside speak ers.

LAS 381 • Intl Human Rts/Justice Wrkshp

40315 • Fall 2010
Meets M 3:30PM-5:30PM CCJ 3.310
(also listed as LAW 397S)

This seminar is an interdisciplinary speaker-based workshop on international human rights law. We will read academic papers and hear them presented by their authors. Roughly half of the class weeks will involve outside speaker presentations. The other classes will involve discussions of background readings on international human rights and class discussions of the papers to be presented by outside speakers. Students will be expected to write short, critical reaction papers for several of the papers presented, and to submit a final writing project. Past speakers include Professor Betsy Bartholet (Harvard Law School), Judge Cecelia Medina (President, Inter-American Court of Human Rights) and Professor Eduardo Restrepo (Pontifica Universidad Javeriana, Colombia). Topics range from human rights and international adoption to Afro-descendant rights in Latin America.
The seminar is open to application for all rising 2Ls and 3Ls and non-law grad students. It is limited to students who have taken courses at the undergraduate, graduate or professional level in international human rights, public international law or international relations. Appropriate experience might also substitute for the background course requirements. Students must receive the professor's approval to enroll in the class. To apply to enroll, please send a short (300 words, one-page) statement explaining your background and interest in human rights, including any international law courses you have taken, and a one-page resume, to Sarah Cline at

WGS 393 • Feminisms/Socl Movmnts/Hum Rts

48624 • Spring 2010
Meets W 3:30PM-5:30PM CCJ 3.336

Interdisciplinary topics relating to Women's and Gender Studies.  Seats restricted to WGS MA and Portfolio students during early registration.  Check cross-listings for home departments and originating field of study.

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