Innovation in Technology and Human Rights Institutions

Program Quick Facts

Location: Bogotá, Colombia

Beth Van Schaack, Center for Human Rights and International Justice
Jessie Brunner, Center for Human Rights and International Justice

BOSP Special Programs Coordinator: Yosefa Gilon

Arrival date in Bogotá, Colombia: June 17, 2019

Departure date from Bogotá, Colombia: June 28, 2019


Academic Prerequisites
HUMRTS 107: Innovation in Technology and Human Rights Institutions (Spring Quarter) - Students must be on-campus Spring Quarter to enroll in the required course.

Additional Program Requirements
1) 1x1 Appointment with Vaden Travel Clinic
Ground Rules - In order to optimize safety during the program, students will be required to agree to and sign Ground Rules that may restrict behavior throughout the program. These Ground Rules are in addition to the BOSP Participation and Assumption of Risk, Release of Claims, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement that all students sign and agree to at the time of program application. Students’ parents/families will also need to sign these Ground Rules to confirm that they acknowledge the specific dangers of travel to the program location.

Activity Level
Light/Moderate: Activities may include city walking tours, easy/short hikes, museum and other site visits as well as an occasional physical activity such as snorkeling, hiking, or kayaking. For a full list of program activity levels refer to the Overview page.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Health Information for Travellers to Colombia

US State Department Country Information

Visa Information
Consulate General of Colombia

General Information: Visit the Overseas Seminars/Faculty-Initiated Programs Overview page

Application Deadline: October 28, 2018

General Description

The concept of transitional justice refers to the range of measures—judicial and non-judicial, formal and informal, retributive and reconciliatory—that may be employed as a response to legacies of authoritarianism or mass violence by societies undergoing political transition. After decades of war, Colombia has undertaken a comprehensive peace process that has resulted in the creation of a number of bespoke transitional justice institutions, including a Special Jurisdiction for Peace with authority to impose criminal sanctions for charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and gross violations of the laws of war; a truth commission; a disappearances commission; and administrative units devoted to reparations for victims. These innovative and comprehensive mechanisms incorporate elements of previous institutions established in other transitioning states (such as South Africa, East Timor, and El Salvador), while developing new approaches to investigations, punishment, truth-telling, amnesty, and reconciliation. During the field study, students will meet academics, advocates, government officials, journalists, and other stakeholders with an eye towards understanding the challenges and opportunities presented by the field of transitional justice to the unique context of Colombia. Students will come away with a solid understanding of Colombia’s history of conflict and evolving efforts at peace and reconciliation with reference to the international community’s transitional justice toolkit. Students will prepare for the Colombian field study with targeted reading (drawing from academic research, journalistic accounts, and fiction) and films about the country and its history.


We will spend the bulk of our time in the lovely city of Bogotá, Colombia’s capital. Bogotá is home to most government agencies and is the epicenter of the country’s transitional justice process. We will visit a number of institutions established as part of the 2016 peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), including the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (an ad hoc court adjudicating crimes committed during the war), a Truth Commission, Reparation Units, a Center for Memory, and dozens of non-governmental organizations that make up a vibrant civil society ecosystem. As the country’s cultural hub, Bogotá also boasts dozens of libraries and museums and encompasses a mix of colonial and more contemporary architecture. It is famous for its sophisticated street art culture, of which we will get a taste. Bogotá is the country’s largest city, made more populous by a “floating population” of migrant workers and those still displaced from the five-decade civil war, which left more than 200,000 people dead and 7 million internally displaced. In addition to visiting the transitional justice institutions, we will explore the city’s art and architecture offerings.

Living and Travel Conditions

At present, we plan to stay in a boutique hotel downtown with easy access to the government agencies and key interlocutors we plan to visit. Colombian food--being influenced by indigenous, Spanish, African, and Caribbean cuisines--is as varied as it is delicious. It’s known for its hearty soups and La Bandaja Paisa (“the worker’s platter”), a mixture of beans, rice, meats, a fried egg, plantains, and other vegetables. Because of its mild climate (average temperatures will be 65-80⁰ F), fresh fruits and vegetables can be grown all year. We will do a lot of walking around the city, but nothing particularly strenuous. Business casual attire with comfortable shoes is recommended. Although Bogotá was once known for its high crime rate, it is now generally as safe as other urban areas (ordinary caution is advised as when travelling to any large city).


Beth Van Schaack is the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights at the Stanford Law School, where she writes and teaches in the areas of human rights, international criminal law, transitional justice, and the laws of armed conflict. In this capacity, she has led a field study in International Criminal Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands, and will launch a new program in Bangkok, Thailand, focused on the phenomenon of human trafficking in Winter Quarter. Prior to coming to Stanford, Van Schaack was Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice in the U.S. State Department, serving under Secretaries Clinton and Kerry. She also taught at Santa Clara University School of Law where she led overseas studies programs focused on human rights at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica, and elsewhere. She has also been a practicing human rights lawyer with, and acting Executive Director of, the Center for Justice & Accountability, a human rights law firm in San Francisco where she litigated human rights cases emerging from the Latin American “dirty wars”. Right out of law school, she joined the Office of the Prosecution of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which was charged with prosecuting war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the dissolution of that country. Van Schaack is a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School. She is a Faculty Fellow with the Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice.

Jessie Brunner serves as Senior Program Manager of the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University. Here she manages student programs, including the new Minor in Human Rights, as well as Center collaborations and several research activities. In addition to work on criminal justice reform, Jessie currently researches issues relevant to data in the human trafficking field, with a focus on Southeast Asia. She works on these issues at the local level as a member of the San Francisco Mayor’s Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking and at the global level as a member of Knowledge Platform Reference Group of Alliance 8.7, which helps set the UN agenda on Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 related to human trafficking and forced labour. She is the author of Inaccurate Numbers, Inadequate Policies: Enhancing Data to Evaluate the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in ASEAN (2015) and Getting to Good Human Trafficking Data: Everyday Guidelines for Frontline Practitioners in Southeast Asia (2018) and Getting to Good Data: Assessing the Landscape in Southeast Asia and Promising Practices from ASEAN Governments and Civil Society (2018). Previously, Jessie served as a researcher at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law ’s Program on Human Rights; a Public Affairs Assistant at the State Department in the Bureau on Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; a reporter for Los Angeles Times Community News; and a non-profit public relations/marketing manager. In addition to serving as a trial monitor at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Jessie has worked on human rights and post-conflict reconciliation in Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Cambodia, Indonesia, Rwanda, the Philippines, and Thailand. Brunner earned a MA in International Policy Studies from Stanford University and a BA in Mass Communications and a Spanish minor at UC Berkeley.

Prerequisites and Expectations 

Students in the field study will be drawn from HUMRTS 107: Innovation in Technology and Human Rights Institutions. This course will offer students the philosophical underpinnings of the field of transitional justice coupled with a practical lens through which to study different ways governments and human rights institutions pursue justice—broadly defined—in the wake of mass atrocity. Students will closely examine a number of jurisdictions contemplating or currently undergoing a transitional justice process—including Colombia, South Sudan, Syria, Libya, Burma/Myanmar, and Iraq—with an eye towards understanding the changing nature of human rights investigation, archival, documentation, analysis, and prosecution. During the Spring Quarter course, student teams will undertake projects on behalf of professionals working in these various transitional environments.

Application Process

Decisions will be based on application materials. There are no interviews. The program capacity is 15 students.

Grading Basis

Satisfactory/no credit

Passport and Visa

Students are solely responsible for obtaining their passport and visa (if applicable). Every BOSP participant MUST have a signed passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the scheduled RETURN date from the overseas program. Students who do not have a valid passport must apply for a new or renewed passport immediately. For information on obtaining or renewing a U.S. passport please visit the State Department website.

To determine whether a visa is necessary for your program, visit the Consulate General of Colombia website. You may also consult with the recommended visa service providers listed below.

VisaCentral by CIBT

VisaCentral by CIBT offers online Stanford rates, or contact the local office:

In person: 555 Montgomery St. Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94111
Walk-in hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
By phone: (877) 535-0688

VisaBy Casto for Stanford Travel Program

VisaBy Casto offers special rates for Stanford online, or through the local office:

Address: 2560 North First Street, Suite 150, San Jose, CA 95131
By phone: (408) 553-4735
By email:

Health and Safety

Students on international programs should be aware that attitudes toward medical conditions, disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and psychological conditions vary by culture and under the laws of the host countries. These differences impact the level of treatment and accommodation available abroad. Students should give serious consideration to their health and personal circumstances when accepting a place in a program and should consult with their clinician.

While the benefits of international travel can be enormous, it is often associated with certain health and safety risks. Thankfully, a number of interventions exist to mitigate these risks including vaccines, use of certain medications, and specific behavior changes. Health concerns vary by the particular destination, time of year, the health of the individual, type of accommodations, length of stay and specific activities. Participants should be up to date on all their regular immunizations, check the CDC website for vaccinations and immunizations. In addition, specific travel vaccines such as typhoid, yellow fever, or rabies vaccines may be indicated. Various types of medication may also be needed to prevent life-threatening malaria or altitude illness; or to treat traveler’s diarrhea. Finally, students should learn and utilize insect precautions, food and water precautions, and general safety precautions. These can prevent illnesses such as dengue fever, schistosomiasis, HIV; or accidents such as those involving motor vehicles. In spite of all the precautions, occasionally students do become ill or sustain an injury while traveling. Thankfully, most of these are minor. However, it is critical that students have a clear plan of care in case of an emergency on their trip. The travel clinic at the Vaden Health Center has produced an online travel health module that provides comprehensive strategies to help you stay safe and healthy while traveling.

Students must review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for complete information regarding the health concerns and vaccine recommendations specific to Colombia. Students must also discuss with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic or a travel health specialist about the best ways to protect their health.

Students are required to make an appointment with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic by March 1, 2019 to discuss any health concerns, pre-departure immunizations, and any personal prescriptions before going abroad.

Students must review the U. S. State Department’s Country Information for complete information on safety and security in Colombia.

As with any foreign travel, students are advised to be alert to their surroundings, and be particularly aware of any health and safety advisories for the area in which they will be visiting. Students should consult with their health care provider(s) to be prepared for potential illness. Additional issues of personal health and safety and precautions will be discussed in detail during the mandatory pre-program preparation and upon arriving in the country.

If you are uncomfortable traveling under such conditions, you should not apply to this program.

Program Modification and Cancelation

Stanford reserves the right to cancel or modify the Program before or during its operation for any reason, including natural disasters, emergencies, low enrollment, unavailability of facilities or personnel, or compliance with the University travel policy at