In fall 2013, this seminar takes up the question of what it means to be at risk of being persecuted "for reasons of political opinion." While perhaps the most well-established ground for recognition of refugee status (the term "political refugee" being part of the vernacular), its scope is increasingly contested. Is the notion really aimed at protecting only classically defined political activists, or should anyone at risk because of their opinion on a matter broadly understood to be "political" be entitled to refugee status? For example, does "political opinion" have any application to women refusing to accept subordination to their husbands?; to whistleblowers who expose corruption, or other illegal behavior?; or to persons who refuse to give in to extortionist demands made by governments or insurgent groups? This seminar provides an overview of the issues related to the meaning of "political opinion" in international refugee law, immerses students in analysis of comparative jurisprudence and practice, and affords each seminar member the opportunity to author an independent analysis of a cutting-edge concern in the field. It is the first of three advanced seminars on this theme, leading to the next Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law, slated for spring 2015.
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