From Cambridge to Kurdistan

From Harvard Law Today:

A typical Harvard Law School student has limited free time. It might be filled with journal work, or student practice organizations, or intramural sports. For a year, Crispin Smith ’18, Nick Gersh ’18, and Ahsan Sayed ’18 spent their free moments exploring the successes and challenges facing religious and ethnic minorities in Iraqi Kurdistan on behalf of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

They worked with a team of nearly a dozen researchers, including incoming HLS 1L Vartan Shadarevian ’20, to craft a groundbreaking 75-page qualitative and quantitative analysis of a region that is regarded as a refuge for religious minorities in the Middle East. The report was published in June and primarily co-authored by Smith and Shadarevian.

Continue reading the story on Harvard Law Today…

Meet the 2017 Chayes Fellows

Nineteen Harvard Law School students have been awarded the 2017 Chayes International Public Service Fellowship, dedicated to the memory of Professor Abram Chayes, who taught at Harvard Law School for more than 40 years. These summer fellowships provide HLS students with the opportunity to spend eight weeks engaged in international public service within the governments of developing nations and those making transitions to peace, stability, and democracy, as well as the inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations that support them.

This year’s Fellows will spend this summer in Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Myanmar, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Uganda, and the United Kingdom, as well as in New York City. Read brief biographies and descriptions of their summer placements; we’ll bring you updates on their experiences later this summer!

Chayes Fellow Malik Ladhani ’18 on working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Jordan

Malik Ladhani '18 at the UNHCR offices in Amman.

Malik Ladhani ’18 at the UNHCR offices in Amman. All photos courtesy of Malik Ladhani.

I spent most of my time with the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) unit, specifically on the Iraq sub-team. On this team, I drafted various case re-assessments for Iraqi asylum-seekers, applying international refugee law to determine whether these applicants should be considered refugees under international conventions. Due to the severity of the crisis in Iraq, almost all applicants had a “well-founded fear of persecution.” What was difficult (and the most interesting from a learning perspective), was the analysis needed to determine whether they were involved in any acts that would then exclude them from international protection (ex. crimes against humanity, war crimes). This meant I had the opportunity to engage in a little bit of international criminal law, which I didn’t realize I was interested in prior to the summer.Amman, Jordan.

Working with the RSD team was a fantastic opportunity to really dig deep and work directly with applicant files. I would read interview transcripts, look at identification documentation, research the situation in specific areas of Iraq, understand different profiles and claims, and assess credibility. This was a very individual, case-level view of refugee law.

In contrast, I was also able to view refugee law from an overhead, structural/policy perspective. I worked with the operations coordinator (OC) for approximately two weeks. The OC’s role was primarily to coordinate the inter-agency response to a crisis at the Syria-Jordan border, where there are approximately 100,000 Syrian refugees stranded in the desert.Malik Ladhani in Amman


I had the opportunity to sit in on high-level meetings with representatives from UN agencies and NGOs who were operational at the border, and read policy documents from the heads of these agencies. I got to see diplomacy in action, as UNHCR, along with donor countries, would advocate the Jordanian government to allow food, medical, and water delivery across the border while recognizing and balancing delicate security concerns.

I also went to the Zaatari refugee camp, which is the largest refugee camp in Jordan. In a briefing with the camp manager, I learned about the complexities involved with running a refugee camp, and some of the differences between the issues that urban and camp refugees face.

Overall, I’ve had a great experience here in Amman. I feel this summer was a necessary glimpse into the field of refugee law as a potential career path, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

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.

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.