Peter Rosenblum is the holder of the newly created Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein Clinical Professorship of Human Rights Law. A dedicated human rights activist, his appointment marks his return not only to his undergraduate and LL.M. alma mater, but to a city he considers the epicenter of international human rights work.
"What's great about Columbia is that there is a real enthusiasm among law faculty that has been nurtured over decades by Professor Louis Henkin and others, as well as a willingness to look creatively at the intersection of human rights and other areas of the law," he says. "Here, human rights does not live in a ghetto."
Indeed, for Prof. Rosenblum, one of the attractions of Columbia is the combined strength of its international public law and human rights law curricula. For many years, his work focused largely on the intersection of trade and investment regimes with human rights - also an area of focus for colleague, Professor José Alvarez.
"The combination is not something you'll find automatically with people teaching international trade," Prof. Rosenblum adds.
Prof. Rosenblum has had a wide range of experience outside academia. He was a human rights officer with the Geneva-based precursor to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a program director of the International Human Rights Law Group, and a researcher for both Human Rights Watch and the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights. Through these postings, he has served in more than a dozen countries, though he continues to maintain a strong interest in Africa, particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo. His work in that nation has given him a unique perspective on a country that is often held up as a failure of diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. For example, in the summer of 2003, while the United Nations was negotiating entry to the war-ravaged town of Bunia, Prof. Rosenblum visited a nearby town where, he says, "self-reliance and local initiatives are thriving. Sometimes I feel like a ‘harvester of hope,' collecting tales of resistance amid the chronicles of devastation in the Congo.
"Much has happened over the past 30 years in the field of human rights law," says Prof. Rosenblum. "Yet because of the protean nature of the field, you have to master its dynamism, not just the doctrine. That is the goal of our clinic."