Vera Shikhelman

Vera Shikhelman is an Emile Noël Research Fellow at NYU School of Law, The Jean Monnet Center for International and Regional Economic Law and Justice. Vera is also in the final stages of completing her JSD degree at the University of Chicago Law School. Her research interests include international law, international institutions, decision making, judicial behavior, human rights, courts and procedure. The topic of her JSD dissertation is Decision Making and Access to Justice in the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Vera applies empirical methodology in her research, and uses both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Vera has earned her LL.B. degree (magna cum laude) from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and her LL.M. (Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar) from Columbia University in the City of New York. During her JSD studies at the University of Chicago she was awarded the JSD fellowship and a research grant from the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights.

Research Project

Access to Justice in the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The right of individuals to access international courts is widely regarded as one of the most important developments of international human rights law since World War II. However, how widely used is this right? Who are the main beneficiaries of it? What are the main difficulties to access international courts? How can we make international justice more accessible to people from all over the world? Regardless of the endless praise to this right, there is a serious gap in legal literature in answering these questions. My research uses the individual communications mechanism under the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) as a case study in order to shed some light on the actual practice of the right to access international justice. The current research has two main purposes. The first purpose is to describe and evaluate empirically the practice of the right of individuals to access the United Nations Human Right Committee (“HRC”) under the First Optional Protocol. The second purpose is to make recommendations on ways to improve the access to the HRC. I use a mixed methods approach - for the quantitative part of the research I construct an original dataset of the number of the communications brought against different countries in a given year, and the different political characteristics of those states. For the qualitative part of the research I conduct interviews with applicants, lawyers and NGOs that brought (or helped to bring) communications to the HRC. The interviewees are asked questions about their experiences with the process, their difficulties with it and how they think that the process can be made more accessible. Based on those findings, the research discusses what can be done in order to make the individual communications system more accessible and widely used.