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Professor Laurence R. Helfer

U.S. Candidate to the Human Rights Committee, 2023-2026

Laurence Helfer portrait

Professor Helfer is a distinguished professor of international law at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He is an expert in international human rights law and institutions, including UN human rights treaty bodies and the design and effectiveness of international and regional human rights courts. He is co-director of Duke’s Center for International and Comparative Law and recently served as co-Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of International Law. His dedication to and advocacy for international human rights law make him a highly-qualified candidate.

Why the Human Rights Committee is Important to the United States

The United States values the critical work of the Human Rights Committee and believes civil and political rights are an integral part of the international human rights framework. The Human Rights Committee monitors and advises States Parties on their implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the United States is a party. The ICCPR is the preeminent international agreement protecting universally recognized civil and political liberties.  It also contributes to the broader goals of the UN and regional human rights systems: enhancing compliance with the rights and freedoms enshrined in treaties and customary international law and providing redress to those whose rights have been violated. Supporting Professor Helfer, like other endorsements of highly-qualified U.S. candidates for independent expert bodies, signals strong U.S. support for human rights and engagement with multilateral institutions. The nomination of independent experts like Professor Helfer reflects U.S. commitment to the rule of law and the importance the United States places in addressing the multitude of challenges facing our world today.

“The UN Human Rights Committee plays an essential role in protecting the civil and political rights of individuals in all States parties to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  The Committee’s engagement with governments has led to changes in national laws and helped to improve lives all over the world.  Through its three principal activities—reviewing State Party reports, evaluating communications from individuals, and analyzing both longstanding and contemporary human rights challenges—the Committee ensures that the rights and freedoms in the ICCPR are interpreted and applied in ways that are practical and effective.  It would be my honor and privilege to contribute to the important work of the Committee.”

professor laurence R. helfer

Professor Helfer’s Priorities

If elected to the Human Rights Committee for the 2023-2026 term, Professor Helfer intends to prioritize:

  • Promoting a dialogue with States parties to identify issues of concern, improve compliance and guard against backsliding.
  • Reinforcing civil and political rights by situating the interpretation of the ICCPR in relation to other human rights treaties.
  • Encouraging institutional reforms to enhance the effectiveness of the Committee’s work, including streamlining procedures and enhancing synergies among the Committee’s primary activities.
In this short video, Professor Helfer discusses his priorities.

Professor Helfer’s Professional Experience

Professor Helfer currently teaches several international law and human rights courses at Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina, where he co-directs Duke’s Center for International and Comparative Law. He is also a permanent visiting professor at iCourts: Centre of Excellence for International Courts at the University of Copenhagen. Professor Helfer is the author, coauthor or editor of six books more than 100 journal articles and other publications on international law, international human rights, international courts, international organizations, and international law in U.S. courts.

Academic Experience

  • Duke University School of Law
    Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor of Law (2009-Present)
    Co-director, Center for International and Comparative Law (2009-Present)
  • Permanent Visiting Professor iCourts: Danish National Research Foundation Center of Excellence for International Courts, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law (2015-Present)

Other Relevant Professional Experience

  • Member, Advisory Committee on International Law, U.S. Department of State (2021-Present)
  • Co-Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of International Law (2018-2022)
  • Honorary Doctorate in Law, University of Copenhagen (2014)
  • Panelist, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity, UN Human Rights Council (March 2012)
  • Haiti Violence Against Women Legislative Drafting Project, Clifford Chance Foundation (2010)

Learn More about Professor Helfer

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future