Seventeen School of Law students in the International Human Rights Program under the umbrella of the Herb and Elinor Nootbaar Institute for Law, Religion, and Ethics recently returned to the Malibu campus after spending eight weeks abroad as global justice interns.
While serving in countries such as Rwanda, Uganda, and India, they received hands-on experience in rule of law and human rights work and had the opportunity to see and impact global injustice firsthand. Six of these students shared their exciting, heart wrenching, and inspiring stories at the “How I Served This Summer" panel held in Mendenhall Appellate Courtroom at the School of Law, Malibu, on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
Second-year student Liz Adams recalled her experience in San Juan de Lurigancho, Peru, at Paz y Esperanza, a Christian human rights organization dedicated to defending and promoting justice for individuals and communities in poverty or affected by different forms of injustice. While in Peru, Adams worked independently and with a lead lawyer on cases involving child sexual abuse.
"The burden of going through the legal process is difficult for them, and they repeatedly thank us for helping them when they would otherwise never have enough money to hire a lawyer,” writes Adams on her Waves of Justice blog. "They say they consider us friends and one of their only encouragements in a place where most people are against their cause."
Karissa Hurst and Becky Getman, two second-year students, served the Dalit Freedom Network/Operation Mobilisation in Hyderabad, India, where they worked to eliminate the ritualized prostitution practiced in the Hindu religion. "It was an incredible experience just to witness the injustices going on over there," Hurst says. "It was a really great experience for someone who wants to be exposed to raw poverty and injustice."
Operation Mobilisation provides shelters for the children of prostitutes, or "joginis," where they can receive an education, healthcare, and a safe place to live to eliminate their need to turn to prostitution. Hurst and Getman wrote to the courts and worked hands-on with the children to tutor and mentor them throughout their time in Hyderabad. "All the laws are in place, but they are not enforced and there is no sense of justice," explains Getman. "It increased my optimism coming back to America and thinking about getting justice for the poor and oppressed here. If they can get representation, and get in the courts, there's a lot more hope that something will be done."
As a legal intern for the Honorable Justice Rose C. Owusu of the Supreme Court of Ghana, second-year student Elliott Dionisio completed case briefs, wrote one advisory opinion on a constitutional case, and had daily discussions with Owusu about his research of Ghanaian law. Though working in the court was a welcome experience, Dionisio recognizes the impact that living in a different country, experiencing that culture, and interacting with its people had on his time in Ghana.
Taylor Friedlander, a second-year student, completed a clerkship for Justice Rugege of the Supreme Court of Rwanda and the Rwandan Ministry of Justice to bring justice to people involved in genocide,while exploring different areas of the law. One of her first assignments was to research why the genocide cases (11bis) transferred to Rwanda by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), put in place to prosecute those involved in the genocide, were denied.
"The country had made great strides in providing an adequate program, and for many, it seemed that Rwanda was ready to handle the type of high profile case typically reserved for the ICTR," she wrote on her Waves of Justice blog. While overseas, Friedlander had the opportunity to witness the ICTR grant the first 11bis motion for Rwanda.
In Kampala, Uganda, 2L Kyle Smith worked in the anti-corruption division of the High Court, where he and his colleagues dealt with white-collar crimes such as embezzlement and bribery. "Uganda suffers from a lot of corruption," explains Smith, who worked under Judge Mgamba writing memos, briefs, and doing comparative legal research for the court that was established in 2009 under the Anti-corruption Act.
Smith also worked to bring justice to children placed in juvenile detention facilities at the Naguru remand home, where they have been charged for their crimes by the police, but haven’t been heard or formally sentenced by the court. Smith interviewed the children, went through their police records, and used that information for the court briefing. "We went through the process and delivered justice to all these kids sitting there waiting for someone to help them,” remembers Smith.“It was the most fulfilling aspect of my trip."
Learn more: law.pepperdine.edu/nootbaar/global-justice