A Chayes Fellow checks in: Kit Lea Cheang ‘23

Kit Lea Chang '23

Kit Lea Cheang ’23 is working remotely this summer from her home in Singapore

I am spending this summer as a 2021 Chayes International Public Service Fellow, working at the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) office of TRIAL International, an NGO headquartered in Geneva that fights impunity for international crimes and supports victims in their quest for justice. TRIAL International’s office in BiH promotes transitional justice in BiH by improving access to justice and redress for survivors of grave crimes, including sexual violence survivors, families of missing persons, and former camp detainees.

So far, I have been working on a comparative legal research project on how states have issued public apologies to victims of war crimes, systemic discrimination, violence, and other acts of wrongdoing. This will contribute to TRIAL International’s overall advocacy and strategic litigation efforts to implement the UN Committee Against Torture’s landmark 2019 decision condemning Bosnian authorities for their failure to fulfil obligations towards a sexual violence survivor.

Learning from the TRIAL International BiH team’s work with survivors of sexual violence has brought the knowledge I gained from taking Public International Law in my 1L spring semester to life. I have gotten a glimpse into how complex the work of transitional justice can be. Although the Bosnian War ended more than 25 years ago, the work of seeking reparations and redress for sexual violence survivors from the war is far from complete (according to United Nations estimates, there are between 20,000 and 50,000 survivors of rape, which was used as a tool of genocide, from the war). I have also seen how a combination of resilience, heartfelt dedication, sensitivity to survivors’ needs and perspectives, and willingness to work empathetically with all relevant parties including prosecutors’ offices, courts, and the government has allowed the TRIAL team to achieve incremental steps of progress for survivors. For instance, for the first time, a survivor of wartime rape received compensation from her perpetrator in March 2020. TRIAL International continues to work on improving the practice of awarding compensation and other reparations to survivors.

It has also been refreshing to work with an NGO in the field of human rights for the first time, and to learn from how an NGO mobilizes for a cause they believe deeply in. Before law school, I worked with Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on issues of international security and nuclear weapons. It has been fascinating to examine and reflect on international law and international relations from the human rights angle, and to grapple with how international and domestic institutions both enable and obstruct the pursuit of justice for survivors of human rights violations.

Meet the 2021 Chayes Fellows

Nine Harvard Law School students have been awarded 2021 Chayes International Public Service Fellowships for work with organizations based in nine countries.

Anoush Baghdassarian
Center for Truth and Justice

Kit Lea Cheang
TRIAL International

Adil Habib
Digital Freedom Fund

Andrew Hong
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization

Reem Hussein
Reprieve

Apsara Iyer
TRANSFORM

Joan Josiah
Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa

Jonathan Lu
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

Rebecca Murphy
International IDEA

Visit our Chayes Fellowship web pages to read biographies submitted by the students.

 

The Chayes International Public Service Fellowship celebrates its first 20 years

Every summer since 2001, Chayes International Public Service Fellows have worked with international organizations, governments, and NGOs around the world on issues of an international scope or relevant to countries in transition. Over these first two decades, Chayes Fellows have engaged in projects that explore an impressive range of subjects and encompass many different facets of legal work.

Read more about the Fellowship, view a photo gallery, and read reflections from Chayes Fellows at “The Chayes International Public Service Fellowship celebrates its first 20 years” on Harvard Law Today.

Reflections from 2020 Chayes Fellows

Panelists at the November 2020 presentation

Clockwise, from top left: Sarah Deibler, Kim Everett,
Maria Smith, and Gina Starfield

In November, Chayes International Public Service Fellows Kimberly Everett ’22, Maria Smith ’22 and Gina Starfield ’22 spoke about their summer work at a panel discussion, “International Public Service against the Background of a Global Pandemic.”  Sarah Deibler, an S.J.D. candidate and 2017 Chayes Fellow, served as moderator.

View the presentation here. 

Explore the Chayes International Public Service Fellowship

“I was struck by the diversity of my work assignments, which were as varied as the stories of refugees themselves. The asylum applicants whose cases I worked on came from Iran, Pakistan and Palestine, and are fleeing distinct forms of hardship: gender-based violence, political intimidation, and terrorist recruitment. Each case allowed me a window into a new part of the world, a new problem, and a very difficult story.”

­– Noopur Sen ‘22, joint degree student,
HLS and Harvard Kennedy School

Noopur spent her 1L summer as a Chayes International Public Service Fellow, working with the Asylum Protection Centre, an NGO based in Serbia. This year, she was one of 24 Chayes Fellows who worked with organizations based in 12 countries, on issues ranging from biosurveillance and other aspects of AI, to sustainable international trade after the pandemic to protecting the rights of asylum seekers, whistleblowers, and indigenous peoples in countries around the world.

Want to learn more? Join us on Tuesday, November 17 at 12 p.m. for International Public Service against the Backdrop of a Global Pandemic, a discussion with 2020 Chayes Fellows Maria Smith ’22 (Digital Freedom Fund), Gina Starfield ’22 (Al Otro Lado), and Kimberly Everett ’22 (Clooney Foundation for Justice: TrialWatch), moderated by Sarah Deibler, S.J.D candidate (and 2017 Chayes Fellow). Please register with your Harvard email address to access the Zoom link.

Whether you have a firm idea of the career you plan to pursue, or you’re just beginning to explore new possibilities, the Chayes Fellowship can allow you to spend next summer working with a governmental or non-governmental organization concerned with issues of an international scope or relevant to countries in transition. It’s an excellent opportunity for 1Ls interested in international public service.

Chayes Fellows conduct substantive legal work- which can include research, drafting reports and memos, providing direct services to clients, and collaborating closely with supervising attorneys in their placement organizations. They also receive advice and support from the Chayes Program staff, HLS reference librarians, and others, prior to and during their summer placements.

How does it work? Visit the Chayes Fellowship web pages for more information about seeking a placement and applying for the Fellowship, as well as evaluations from past Chayes Fellows and more.