Barbara A Frey

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Institute for Global Studies
214 SocSci

267 19th Ave S

Barbara Frey is Director of the Human Rights Program in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota. Frey has headed the Program since it was established in 2001, for the purpose of providing academic, research and outreach opportunities for students in the field of international human rights. Frey teaches undergraduates, graduate students and law students at the University and is the Director of Graduate Studies for the Graduate Minor in Human Rights. Frey speaks and publishes regularly on human rights topics including forms of international human rights advocacy, migration and human rights, and firearms and human rights. She is the recipient of a 2012-13 Fulbright-García Robles grant to teach and research in Mexico. Frey is the Co-Principal Investigator of a Human Rights Law School Partnership Program with four law schools in the region of Antioquia, Colombia, funded by the Higher Education Development Program of USAID, 2012-15.

Frey has served in a various positions related to human rights, in non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations as well as academic institutions. From 2000-2003, she was the alternate U.S. member of the U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, a body of independent experts who advise the United Nations on human rights policy. From 2002-06, Frey served as Special Rapporteur to the Sub-Commission on the issue of preventing human rights abuses committed with small arms and light weapons.

From 1985 through 1996 Frey was Executive Director of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights. Under her tenure as Director, Minnesota Advocates grew from a small volunteer group to become one of the largest U.S.-based international human rights organizations.

Frey has been teaching international human rights at the University of Minnesota in both the Law School and the Institute for Global Studies since 1989. She is the co-convener of the Midwest Coalition for Human rights and serves on the advisory boards of many human rights organizations. She is the immediate past Chair of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Committee on Foreign Relations.

Frey has received widespread recognition for her work in international human rights and foreign policy, including the Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award from the Advocates for Human Rights, 2008; the University of Minnesota, Outstanding Faculty Community Service Award, 2008; and the first Iustitia et Lex award from the University of St. Thomas Law School in 2003. She was named the 2001 Myra Bradwell Award winner by Minnesota Women Lawyers for promoting the interests of women in the legal profession and in the community. In 1996 she was recognized by President Clinton for her leadership in women’s human rights. Frey has also received the Woman of Achievement award by the University of Notre Dame (1996), the Twin Cities International Citizen Award (1996), the McKnight Fellowship to the Salzburg Seminar (1996), and the Advocacy Award of the Litigation Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association (1993). Frey was selected as a 1991 Fellow to the British-American Project, and was a member of the 1990 inaugural class of Mondale Fellows at the Humphrey Institute.

Frey is a 1982 graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School. She received a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame in 1978. She worked as an associate lawyer at Dorsey & Whitney in Minneapolis from 1983-85. Frey is married to Howard Orenstein; they have three children.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Juris Doctorate: Law, University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison, WI, 1982.
  • BA: American Studies, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, 1978.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Human Rights Advocacy
  • Gun violence and human rights
  • Refugee and immigrant law and policy
  • Human Rights in Mexico
  • International norms on death investigations
Courses Taught
  • International Human Rights Law
  • Human Rights Internship
  • Human Rights Advocacy
  • Transitional Justice
  • Scholarship and Public Responsibility
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Director: Human Rights Program, Institute for Global Studies
  • Member, Legal Working Group: Revise the UN Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Execution , 2015 - 2016
  • International Working Group Member: International Working Group on Leprosy and Human Rights , 2012 - 2016
  • Board Member: Juvenile Justice Advocates International , 2014 - present
  • Alternate Member: UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights , 2000 - 2004
  • Board Member: The Advocates for Human Rights , 2000 - 2006
  • Convenor: Midwest Coalition for Human Rights , 1996 - 2014
  • Executive Committee, Past Chair: Committee on Foreign Relations - Minnesota , 1992 - present


  • Co-Editor, with Alejandro Anaya Munoz: Edited Volume, Human Rights in Mexico: Crisis and Opportunity, under review
  • Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico: Co-Principal Investigator, 2015 - present
  • Member of Academic Network, Local Actions in Response to Migration: with Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, and Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas, Mexico, 2013 - present
  • Preventing human rights violations committed with small arms and light weapons: United Nations Special Rapporteur , August 2002 - August 2006


  • Principal Investigator: UMN-Medellín Human Rights Law School Partnership,funded by the Higher Education Development Program of USAID , 2012 - 2015
  • Organizer: Human Rights in Mexico: Crisis and Opportunity, October 2015
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Reframing Mass Violence: Human Rights and Social Memory, IAS Collaborative, 2014 - 2015
  • Organizer: International Women's Day Forum, annual conference and celebration, 2003 - 2010
  • Organizer: United Nations Expert Consultation on the Desecration of Hmong Graves in Thailand, December 2008
  • Testimony invited: Human Security Network, United Nations: "Statement regarding Security Council debate on small arms and light weapons", Jan. 15, 2004
  • Invited speaker: Trinity College Human Rights Program, Hartford CN: "Small Arms: the Tools of Human Rights Violations", Feb. 18, 2004
  • Invited Speaker: Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, Human Rights and National Security Speakers Series: "US Exceptionalism regarding Human Rights and Humanitarian Norms", Feb. 26, 2004
  • Invited speaker: Amnesty International, Annual General Meeting, Brooklyn, NY: "Control Arms! No more weapons for torturers and murderers", April 17, 2004
  • Invited participant: Lauterpacht Centre on International Law, University of Cambridge: Legal seminar on the draft Arms Trade Treaty, Nov. 21, 2004 - Nov. 22, 2004
  • Filling the Migrant Rights Gap: Localized Protections of International Economic and Social Rights: Frey, Barbara, Ana Melisa Pardo, Taylor & Francis, Public Integrity, 19 136-50, 2017. Link
  • Uneven Ground: Asymmetries of Power in Human Rights Advocacy in Mexico: Frey, Barbara, Palgrave-MacMillan, The Social Practice of Human Rights, 2015.
  • The Criminalization of Immigration and the International Norm of Non-Discrimination: Deportation and Detention in U.S. Immigration Law: Frey, Barbara, X. Kevin Zhao, University of Minnesota, Law and Inquality, XXIX 279-312, 2011.
  • Obligations to Protect the Right to Life: Constructing a Rule of Transfer Regarding Small Arms and Light Weapons: Frey, Barbara, Pennsylvania Press, Universal Human Rights and Extraterritorial Obligations, 2010.
  • Los Desaparecidos: The Latin American Experience as a Narrative Framework for the International Norm against Enforced Disappearances. Frey, Barbara, University of Minnesota, Author, 2009. Link
  • A Fair Representation: Advocating for Women’s Rights in the International Criminal Court. Frey, Barbara, Center on Women and Public Policy Case Study Program, 2004.
  • Small Arms and Light Weapons: The Tools Used to Violate Human Rights. Frey, Barbara, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, Disarmament Forum, 2004.
  • Documenting a Well-Founded Fear: How Medical Care Givers Can Assist Torture Survivors in the Asylum Process. Frey, Barbara, 2002.
  • Legal and Ethical Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations in the Protection of International Human Rights: Frey, Barbara, Hamline University Law School, Hamline Journal of Law and Public Policy, 8 , 1996.
  • Eclipse Award, Center for Victims of Torture, 2015
  • Fulbright-Garcia Robles Teaching and Research Award, 2013
  • Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award, The Advocates for Human Rights, 2008
  • Outstanding Community Service Award, University of Minnesota, 2008
  • Myra Bradwell Award, for promoting the interests of women in the legal profession and in the community, Minnesota Women Lawyers, 2001
  • Iustitia et Lex medal, exemplifying law and justice, University of St. Thomas Law School, October 2003