Sarah Dorman ’18 on working at Dejusticia in Colombia

Sarah Dorman in ColombiaI feel so fortunate to be here at this time, as the peace accords between the FARC and the government are being finalized. It was incredible to be here a couple of weeks ago when an agreement was reached on one of the remaining points for the overall peace agreement, including terms for a bilateral ceasefire and for disarmament of the FARC.  And although no one knows for sure whether a final accord will be signed this summer, it definitely makes for a lot of fascinating conversations, and I have really loved reading and learning about such things as the historical roots of the conflict, previous negotiations with the FARC and other armed groups, and ongoing challenges facing the country.dpp_0013

In addition, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know more about the work of Dejusticia. Their model of “action-research” is particularly interesting to me. I appreciate how they strive to couple rigorous academic work with hands-on initiatives, such as bringing rights-related litigation and proposing public policy reforms.

I myself have been tackling three research projects throughout the summer, all related to the Special Peace Tribunal that is expected to be set up as part of the final peace accord.  First, I was asked to conduct comparative research on models for judicial administration (including those of the international criminal tribunals, hybrid tribunals, and certain criminal justice systems in Latin America) and to draw out lessons-learned that might be applicable to the Colombian Peace Tribunal.  I am currently working on similar research around guarantees for defendants’ rights. In the coming weeks I will also be looking at how previous tribunals dealing with mass crimes have created space for victims to participate in their criminal justice processes.

Sarah Dorman photo of Bogota

One aspect of life here that I have been grappling with on a day-to-day basis is the fact that Bogota is deeply divided along economic lines: The northern half is known as being very wealthy, with expensive cafes and restaurants, while the southern half is known for being much poorer overall. I understand that crime rates are significantly higher in the southern part of the city, and it is in the southern outskirts of Bogota and up into the surrounding mountains that many internally displaced Colombians have established informal settlements. Living and working in the north myself, I do feel like I’m living in a bubble of wealth and privilege, which I wasn’t particularly expecting before coming here.  In fact, most of the Colombians I know have rarely if ever set foot in the southern half of Bogota, which I find somewhat troubling but perhaps not surprising.

One thing I have particularly appreciated is being able to connect with the network of Harvard alumni living here in Bogota.  I’ve had the pleasure of getting together with two Colombian LL.M.s that I was friends with this last year, as well as another current JD student and a recent Harvard graduate. I am grateful for the experience and knowledge of Colombia that they all are so willing to share with me!

Chayes Fellow Katie Braun ’18 on working at Migrants’ Rights Clinic/Community Advocacy Clinic in Israel

Katie Braun '17 at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem.

Katie Braun ’18 at the Supreme Court of Israel in Jerusalem. All photos courtesy of Katie Braun.

I’m finishing up the report about different international models of social assistance schemes, together with the other legal intern for the Community Advocacy Clinic. For the Migrants’ Rights Clinic, I’m working on a project about possible legal responses to a “mass influx” of asylum seekers, and different states’ and courts’ opinions on this.

interviews at Holot

Katie at Holot.

I also went to Holot, the detention/residence facility for asylum seekers, and conducted interviews about the food they are provided (in connection with ongoing litigation about the quality of the food) and about facility officials fining residents in a seemingly arbitrary manner.

Following up on that, I also prepared a memo with some comparative legal standards on disciplinary measures against detainees and associated due process protections. It’s all been very interesting!

Katie and fellow intern at an international migration conference

Katie and fellow intern at an international migration conference.

The supervisors have also been very good at facilitating outside trips and meetings for us. Over the past several weeks I’ve visited the government’s Refugee Status Determination office and talked to officials there, visited Physicians for Human Rights’ branch office in Tel Aviv, met with a prominent scholar at the National Insurance Institute (who did work on a study about minimum resources required to actualize the right to life with dignity), toured the Israeli Supreme Court, and attended an international migration conference.

Katie Braun '17 w Aharon Barak

Katie with Justice Barak and fellow intern.

We also had the incredibly opportunity to meet Aharon Barak, a former president of the Israeli Supreme Court. Justice Barak is probably the single most influential person in a national legal system I’ve ever met. He spearheaded the notion of an Israeli constitution arising from human rights basic laws passed in 1992. Israel’s constitutional system is completely new to me in that way: there is genuine ongoing debate about whether the country even has a constitution and whether the courts have the power to review primary legislation, as opposed to just administrative actions. I’m finding it totally fascinating.

Chayes Fellow Amy Volz ’18 on working at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Poland

Old town, Warsaw. Photo courtesy of Amy Volz.

Old town, Warsaw. All photos courtesy of Amy Volz.

I have just two weeks left at the Helsinki Foundation — it’s hard to believe how time has flown!

I’ve been busy with plenty of interesting research for the Strategic Litigation department’s cases which are currently pending before the Polish Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. So far I have researched issues related to procedural rights, conditions of detention, and freedom of expression in the U.S. and other European countries.

I’m especially enjoying it because my first degree was in modern languages and I very rarely get to put my language skills to use in an actual workplace context. The research topics are also just generally interesting and allow me to get a sense of how differently certain issues are adjudicated in the U.S. and Europe. I’m especially enjoying research related to the European Court of Human Rights.

Supreme Court of Poland, Polish Constitutional Grand Chamber, Helskinki Foundation offices

Supreme Court of Poland, Polish Constitutional Grand Chamber, Helskinki Foundation offices

Aside from my research tasks, the Foundation has been great about letting me go on various outings around Warsaw — I observed a sentence at the Constitutional Court and a full hearing at the Supreme Court, and most recently I spent a morning touring a jail in the south of Warsaw with the Polish summer interns. Those trips were really interesting, especially the hearing at the Supreme Court.

Warsaw "off the beaten path" tour

Warsaw “off the beaten path” tour

Outside of work, my time in Warsaw has been wonderful. I take Polish lessons twice a week in the mornings in an attempt to understand Polish legal language — it’s going a bit slowly but my teacher is excellent! And I’ve tried to make the most of the weekends by exploring different neighborhoods of Warsaw and taking advantage of the quick and easy flights to nearby countries. I visited Lara Townzen in Kiev in early June and she came to Warsaw for a weekend as well. I also spent a weekend in Budapest with the other intern from my office, who just finished 1L at the University of Chicago. Overall Warsaw is an amazing place and I will definitely miss living here! However, I’m also excited to get back to campus and hear what everyone has been up to this summer.

In Kiev with Chayes fellow Lara Townzen '18

In Kiev with Chayes Fellow Lara Townzen ’18

Meet the 2016 Chayes Fellows

Nineteen Harvard Law School students have been awarded 2016 Chayes International Public Service Fellowships. This summer the fellows will be working in Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Guam, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Ukraine, as well as San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Read the 2016 Chayes Fellows biographies.