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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jason Mayerfeld
LSJ 490
Seattle Campus

Special Topics in Comparative Legal Institutions

Focused, comparative examination of legal institutions.

Class description

GUANTANAMO AND ITS LEGACY. *** The U.S. Prison at Guantanamo Bay has generated both controversy and confusion. On the one hand, it is a potent symbol that captures diametrically opposed views on the “global war on terror.” On the other hand, the general public remains uncertain or misinformed about such fundamental questions as who the Guantanamo detainees are; how they have been treated; what policies have governed their detention and treatment; how those policies originated; and how they should be evaluated on legal, political, and moral grounds. The confusion has resulted partly from a polarized political discourse, partly from governmental restriction or distortion of information, and partly because the issues involved are themselves complex. *** One goal of the course is to gain a clearer understanding of what happened at Guantanamo and why. Our main goal, however, is to grapple with larger questions that will long outlast the projected shut-down of the Guantanamo facility. Among the questions to be asked are whether terrorism is properly regarded as an act of war or a crime or both; how U.S. law compares with international law when it comes to the protection of human rights; why international human rights law plays little role in the decisions of US courts; whether standard norms of due process and habeas corpus should be relaxed or even suspended in the detention of terrorist suspects; whether the abuses in Guantanamo may be related to abuses in the US criminal justice system; whether and how we should seek accountability for torture and other crimes; and what underlying factors have facilitated human rights abuses in the “global war on terror.”

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

We will read a broad range of materials including court cases, journalistic accounts, personal memoirs, policy debates, and theoretical reflections. The course will be run as a mixture of lecture and discussion.

Recommended preparation

Previous coursework in human rights is recommended.

Class assignments and grading

Two 7-10 page essays will be assigned. Regular contribution to class discussion is required.

First essay: 40% Second essay: 40% Participation: 20%


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Jason Mayerfeld
Date: 12/13/2009