EIJI Project Bio: We Value Teamwork!

This semester EIJI has a new research team headed by Dorcas Baah, the team leader and research team coordinator. The project currently underway is for a motion on behalf of an incarcerated person charged at an international tribunal. Along with Dorcas Baah, the team consists of senior legal researcher Ipek Attalay, as well as researchers Shy Zvouloun, David Zuther, and Ayah Annab. 

EIJI values collaboration, democracy, and shared responsibility when working together to form an efficient and professional research team. Since the project launch in January, the team has found that their research has not only allowed them to become directly involved in the international justice system but has also has allowed them to individually improve upon their legal skills. Our initiative has already provided resources and valuable work experience to students of various majors and has fulfilled our members through a supportive sense of community and teamwork.

The members of the team are driven, motivated and committed to providing our clients with thoughtful and detailed researched reports. Dorcas Baah, a third-year Law student is a stellar example of the dedication EIJI values. She has a background in International Law and Private International law and currently also studies International law and Criminology of Atrocity at Honours level. She has sophisticated organizational skills, handling the day-to-day running of the research team as well as delegating jobs and conducting deadlines to deliver reports. Dorcas is a team player, fully trusting her fellow research members and effectively delegating responsibilities. She states that the EIJI experience has equipped her with invaluable research skills and leadership abilities. 

Ipek Attalay is a fourth-year Law and International Relations LLB Honours student. Ipek has previous experience working for various Non-Governmental Organisations in the US. She too is an essential part of the research team, coordinating the research reports and combining her legal experience and degree knowledge to engage with the projects. Another Legal researcher Shy Zvouloun, a second-year LLB Law student (Hons) has previously concentrated on International Criminal Law with a focus on genocide, asylum, migration law, and indigenous human rights law. Shy is an integral part of the team regularly collaborating and sharing her ideas with her fellow project members again, exemplifying the importance of teamwork to the EIJI community.

David Zuther is also a second-year LLB student with a special interest in issues relating to public, international or human rights law. He is a new and committed member of the EIJI research team. Lastly, researcher Ayah Annab, a second-year Law and International Relations Student has added tremendously to the structural teamwork of this project. Her degree has led her to find a particular interest in international human rights law which sparked her curiosity to seek and advocate the truth for those unable to access it themselves. 

Overall, our research team’s goal coincides with the overarching ambition of the Edinburgh International Justice Initiative; to aid institutions and clients with credible legal research, to strengthen the international justice system, and provide pro-bono legal research assistance to make a long-lasting difference!

*These posts reflect personal experiences and thoughts. While we value the freedom of speech and expression, we do not tolerate personal attacks and/or hate speech. Inappropriate comments will not be tolerated and as such, will be reported and removed from the page.*

Introducing: Susan Kemp!

Every research team in EIJI is supervised by an experienced professional to ensure that the research we deliver to our clients is of the highest quality, and that our researchers develop and learn as much as possible during their time at EIJI. Today, we are excited to introduce one of our supervisors this year, Susan Kemp! 

Susan is currently a commissioner on the Scottish Commission of Human Rights. Susan has previously worked with the Prosecution’s office at the International Criminal Court, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and was picked to be part of the United Nations (UN) team on, “The Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Armed Conflicts” which was established by the United Nations Security Council. She has also consulted the UN, NGOs and prosecutors on international law on a regular basis throughout her career. She has worked on prosecuting individuals ranging from war criminals and violators of crimes against humanity to presidents. 

She will be guiding and supervising one of our two research teams in January, and we are looking forward to working closely with someone of her amazing experience and expertise. 

If you want to have the opportunity to work with clients on international human rights, humanitarian law and international criminal law while interacting with seasoned professionals like Susan, apply for our legal research positions! They close at midnight tonight (16 November).

A Note From the Co-Founders of EIJI

Linn and Mathias are both fourth year students studying International Relations and International Law at the University of Edinburgh. Here they co-author a post about their experience and the inspiration to found EIJI.

The idea of founding the Edinburgh International Justice Initiative was born last summer, sometime between the typical rainy days in Edinburgh and the slightly sunnier ones in Scandinavia. Just like almost every other university student between third and fourth year, the both of us were frantically looking for internships, work experience, or really anything remotely related to our degrees (we were both rejected from everything we applied to…). Mathias had some old contacts that he reached out to, and by coincidence, they needed some legal researchers for a project on international criminal law. Both of us were very eager to gain more knowledge and experience within this sector, and so we dove straight into our first research-to-report journey.

Actually, painting the image as if it is a ‘journey’ might be a bit too straight-forward – it really was not a linear travel from point A to B. Think of it more as someone who has never been on a hike, and is suddenly thrown into the task of climbing a mountain without a clear trail, while the rain is pouring down, and they’re running on about four hours of sleep. (Yes, Linn’s introduction to hiking was rough.) A lot of steps had to be retraced, and a lot of breaks had to be taken too. Along the way we learned a lot about the International Criminal Court and its procedures, as well as other international criminal tribunals and treaty bodies. We learned about how to structure legal research and how to compile a professional report. And a lot of it is thanks to the amazing people that we reached out to for help along the way!

A few reoccurring themes stood out to us during this process. One of these was how underfunded the international human rights and international criminal law sectors are. Literally anything was helpful for a smaller NGO working with these issues, even a report written by two inexperienced non-law students. Personally, we found the research really interesting and rewarding, and while talking to our friends, we realized we were not the only ones. The final tipping point was when we talked to professors and professionals, who not only thought it was a good idea to start a clinic like the EIJI, but also wanted to be involved.

It was a simple idea to get more students involved and make an actual difference. The world of international law seems so distant in the classroom, but somehow, we were handed an opportunity to open a way in. We were both surprised that it was possible, which is probably why nobody really tried this before. We, like many others, underestimate how much students can do, and also overestimate what is needed to make a difference for the actors of international law.

From there, things happened quite quickly. We were lucky to have friends around us that are really good at what they do, and that we were able to put people in the right places. We had some friends, Ipek and Kate, who we knew were passionate about international criminal law and human rights law, and that were hard-working and skilled legal researchers. Suddenly we had our first research team. Then we realized it might be possible to expand, so we started talking to a friend who had experience in business development and management, which is how Meghan became the first member of our organizational development team. Together, we figured out what else we needed to realize our goals. This is where it was very convenient to have a friend who is really good at marketing and branding, which is the story of how Kayla joined.  From there, Kayla recruited Zora, and Linn recruited Dorcas, who have been exceptional additions to the team, and we could not have expanded this quickly without them. Lastly, we met Henriette in the hallway on the way out of a lecture, and we happened to have just opened a spot in the organizational team one hour before that. All of these people made amazing contributions behind the scenes, and their passionate and dedicated work is the reason we were able to expand to a second research team in January 2020, and officially launch the Initiative.

So, while the idea of EIJI was born because we were lucky enough to stumble upon an opportunity, and ambitious enough to make the most out of it, the reason EIJI was founded is because we are blessed with an amazingly talented circle of people that have been putting in the work to make sure that EIJI became a reality. What we are trying to say is that anyone could have done what we did, as long as they are able to see the opportunities in front of them, and ask for help along the way.

*These posts reflect personal experiences and thoughts. While we value the freedom of speech and expression, we do not tolerate personal attacks and/or hate speech. Inappropriate comments will not be tolerated and as such, will be reported and removed from the page.*

What EIJI Means to Me: Kate

Meet Kate, another Senior Legal Researcher at EIJI! She is a fourth year in the LLB Law programme from the United States. Read about her inspiration for joining EIJI here.

I can pinpoint the exact date (3 July 2014) and place (the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague) where my interest in human rights became more than just a passing academic curiosity. (I’ve had many of those, ranging from Egyptology to the epidemiology of the Black Plague.)

I had travelled with a group of students to Netherlands to watch Ratko Mladić, a Bosnian Serb General, on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). One of the students I had travelled with to the Netherlands was ethnically Croatian, and she switched her feed from English to BCMS, Mladić’s native language, with tears streaming down her cheeks. Mladić was eventually found guilty of genocide and other charges for his actions in Srebrenica.

My father is a lawyer in the US and growing up, I had some impression that legal proceedings were dry and uninteresting. The proceedings at the ICTY were far from that. Imagine: a group of American students, who had been so boisterous even walking one by one through the metal detectors at the entrance, were suddenly solemn and serious. The observation room demanded both attention and reverence. As we were listening to victims’ testimonies, my classmate listened to them testifying in their common native language (BCMS) and cried quietly across the room, and behind the glass, the only partition between us and the general whose genocide we had learned about only a week before. He looked so ordinary – he could have been one of our grandfathers.

It is a moment I will truly never forget. When I came home to the US from the Netherlands, I saw my home country in another light. I had been told, with eye rolls from my instructors, about how the US refused to play by the rules set by the international community, that the US had refused to join the ICC, that our presidents had been war criminals and evaded justice, with Obama’s term being no different, and that we refused even to join the Convention on the Rights of the Child. An ICJ official remarked to us, in the halls of the Peace Palace, that our country never paid when we lost.

I came home ashamed to be an American, a feeling that persisted as my education continued: only a few weeks after my return to the US, a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which triggered protests across the US and was one of the (white) police officer-related shootings that brought the Black Lives Matter movement into American public consciousness.

At school in the US, I thought about the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and wondered why I had never heard of the ethnic cleansing there: no one had ever told me they were still finding bodies in Srebrenica almost 20 years later. I had only vague memories of learning about Darfur and Guantanamo years earlier. I knew that the country I lived in, that I had considered my home, had committed and been complicit in things I found horrific. To make matters worse, I wasn’t being taught about them, even at my academically rigorous high school.

Social justice and human rights are concepts that are deeply important to me. I will always strive to further my education on atrocities and impunity that began with a just visit to the ICTY in 2014. I come from the United States, a country with a legacy of human rights abuses it hides under a veil of “liberty and justice for all”.

It’s an honour to be part of the EIJI because I am an American, and my country (and its President) believe the ICC is our enemy. I believe working with NGOs on matters related to international justice as a student allows me to move past mere education and put my ideals into practice, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so!

*These posts reflect personal experiences and thoughts. While we value the freedom of speech and expression, we do not tolerate personal attacks and/or hate speech. Inappropriate comments will not be tolerated and as such, will be reported and removed from the page.*

What EIJI Means to Me: Dorcas

Meet Dorcas, one of our Senior Legal Researchers! Read about her experience in EIJI thus far.

Hi! I’m Dorcas Baah and I am a third year Law student at the University of Edinburgh. I’m originally from Ghana but I have been living in Glasgow with my family since childhood, before eventually moving to Edinburgh to study here. I have studied International Law at Ordinary and (currently) Honours level to date. I am a Senior Legal Researcher at EIJI and I’ve honestly loved being the newest addition to the team. I think that being African (especially in an educational institution where Africans are the minority group) generates an innate appreciation of internationality and global advocacy that propels me to get involved in university projects, initiatives and campaigns that celebrate, advocate for or support internationals (students, organisations and institutions alike). My role at EIJI provides a way that I can directly contribute to a world that better supports those who have been mistreated by the very powers intended to protect them, by holding those culpable to account at the international level, as well as to contribute to the betterment of the international system as a whole. I don’t take my involvement lightly at all, and I really appreciate being able to live out my passion.

One thing that I really value EIJI for is providing me with an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary: to partake in a project that not many third years, or even undergraduates, can say they have achieved during their time at university. For me, working with EIJI isn’t just something to plaster onto a CV; it is a practical expression of my passion to contribute to something much bigger than me. And not only that, it has also opened the door for me to seriously consider going down the advocacy route or alternatively to pursue a path of international criminal law. There aren’t many legal work experience opportunities outside the typical vacation scheme route, which often place a heavy emphasis on commercial law, so EIJI has definitely broadened my perspective and remined me that my future is unlimited, unrestricted and mine for the shaping.

I think something that particularly stuck with me throughout the drafting of my first report alongside the team was the sheer magnitude of what we were doing. The small prospect that the concluded research could be published or even used to aide a real-life case was mind-blowing. I had to keep reminding myself of the impact of the work being conducted. Every preliminary examination and case we read and dissected wasn’t just a statistic or fact-file; these were (or in some cases, had been) real lives, real people, real victims, real survivors. I would like to think that in my own small way I contributed to the amplification of their voices as well as to the destabilisation of regimes that support impunity through the research we have conducted. Further, our team served as a link for an NGO who needed research to explain certain ICC principles to enable them to be better equipped to understand its processes in the future. Thus, from my little pocket of the world, I served as a plaster for one wound of the international legal community and EIJI allowed for this to be possible.

EIJI has also given me access to a network that was previously unavailable to me. From the mentors, to the contacts at the university, to the clients from the NGOS, there is a huge range of people that I have and will encounter just by virtue of my involvement in the initiative. Linked into this idea of an expansive and comprehensive network, is also the fact that EIJI is a community; a community of like-minded and driven individuals. I think that while the community EIJI provides definitely encompasses its network, it goes further and arrives at a more personal and intimate level. EIJI provides and takes steps to establish a friendly and inclusive environment where I feel that my opinion is valued and respected. Everyone is so quick to encourage, commend and help when necessary. I think this respect-based model of working together as a team is engrained into the ethos which we are trying to develop. My team’s readiness to applaud, celebrate and support my successes (either within or outwith EIJI) is a testament to the communitarian and inclusive space I have found here.

I am really grateful to be a part of such a hardworking, passionate and welcoming team!

*These posts reflect personal experiences and thoughts. While we value the freedom of speech and expression, we do not tolerate personal attacks and/or hate speech. Inappropriate comments will not be tolerated and as such, will be reported and removed from the page.*