The Center for Human Rights at Diego Portales University

Based at Diego Portales School of Law, the Center for Human Rights conducts research on human rights and social justice and hosts the Public Interest Law Clinic. The Center was initially established in 1997 as the Public Interest Law Program and expanded into a full-scale Center in 2007.

The Center for Human Rights seeks to promote the respect and protection of human rights in the country and all over the region by studying the normative and practical obstacles that inhibit the due protection of fundamental rights. The Center gives particular weight to the role of the legal community, especially –though not exclusively—in relation to the judiciary’s performance. The Center conducts strict control over public policies, promoting their transparency and efficiency in the protection of individual and social rights.

The Annual Report on Human Rights

Since 2003, the Center releases an Annual Report on Human Rights in Chile. The report aims at providing a comprehensive picture of the promotion, protection and violations of human rights in Chile. The report is the only in its kind in the country. It is prepared by law professors affiliated with Diego Portales School of Law with the contribution of a team of research assistants. The Annual Reports’ findings are presented before both national and regional bodies, seeking to influence state policy and hold government authorities accountable.

Click here to see past Annual Reports.

The Public Interest Law Clinic

The Center has developed a pioneering system of clinical work in conjunction with other Latin American law schools. The Clinic’s students learn to litigate public interest issues before both national and international jurisdictions, and prepare reports on the violations of human rights.  With advice from the Clinic’s professors, students are encouraged to research on their own and to step up to the protection of human rights in Chile and the rest of the region.

Click here to read a full description of the Clinic’s work (in Spanish). The Clinic is led by professor Grace Schmidt.

The Migrant and Refugee Clinic

The Center also hosts a clinic on migrant and refugee law, which is conceived as a specialized public interest clinic. The only clinic working also outside Santiago (in Iquique), it involves students in taking cases, providing legal counsel and participating in amicus briefs before national and international courts. Several projects are associated with the clinic’s work. For more information (in Spanish), click here. The clinic is run by professor Helena Olea.

Areas of interest

The Center for Human Rights structures its work around four areas of permanent work: gender and human rights, social inclusion and non-discrimination of vulnerable groups, business and human rights, and the relation between constitutional law and international human rights law. The prohibition of discrimination is the transversal focus that runs through all areas of work.

Gender and human rights

The Center conducts investigation on human rights and gender issues through several activities such as research projects and courses directed to law students and public servants. The Gender area aims at promoting debate on some of the most relevant gender issues in the country, such as discrimination and violence against women, justice and gender, the protection of economic, social and cultural rights of women, and sexual and reproductive rights. The Gender and Human Rights area is coordinated by professor Lidia Casas.

Social inclusion and non-discrimination

One of the most distinctive aspects of Latin American countries is the lack of social inclusion of vulnerable groups. The Center is focusing especially on research around the new Law that Establishes Measures against Discrimination, and LGTBI persons’ rights. The area is coordinated by Dr. Tomás Vial.

Business and Human Rights

The Center is carrying out research and training on business and human rights issues, building awareness of the linkages between private and public economic activities and human rights risks and impacts. It is critically revising and testing the applicability of the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The area is coordinated by the Center’s director, professor Judith Schönsteiner.

Prisoners’ rights

The Center has also conducted substantive work on the rights of inmates and prison conditions in Chile. The Center sponsors frequent debates, lectures and conferences, as well as a permanent oversight of these issues trough the Annual Report. The area has published a handbook on international standards on deprivation of liberty which shall become an important referent for future academic research on the subject. The publication is available in Spanish (download here).

Constitutional law and human rights

The constitutional law and human rights area conducts research on the interplay between domestic and regional (and international) legal systems, such as the inter-American human rights system. Among other topics, this area of interest develops work on the enforcement of international rulings –such as decisions by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights–, justiciability of human rights provisions, and the performance by domestic agencies when using (or failing to use) international human rights standards. The constitutional law and human rights area is coordinated by professor Alberto Coddou.

The Center for Human Rights welcomes applications of individuals with an interest in human rights issues in Chile and Latin America, particularly in the areas mentioned above, to work as interns or research associates.

For further information, please contact us at

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