Institute for Global Studies
214 Social Sciences
267 19th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: 612-624-9007
Fax: 612-626-2242

Barbara A Frey

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.


  • humanitarian aid
  • human rights
  • small arms proliferation
  • refugee law
  • humanitarian intervention


  • Documenting a Well-Founded Fear: How Medical Care Givers Can Assist Torture Survivors in the Asylum Process. Frey, Barbara, 2002.
  • 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.

Research Activities

  • Preventing human rights violations committed with small arms and light weapons: appointed UN Special Rapporteur in 2002, August 2002 - August 2004
  • UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: three-year study on the issue of small arms proliferation and human rights

Professional Activities

  • Director: Human Rights Program, Institute for Global Studies
  • Board Member: Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights , 2001
  • Alternate Member: UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights , 2000 - 2004

Outreach Activities

  • 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


  • 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

Courses Taught

  • International Human Rights Law
  • Human Rights Internship
  • Human Rights Advocacy
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