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About the Center

As early as 1989, USF School of Law faculty were working at the Thai-Cambodian border with Cambodian refugees who had been displaced by the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent Vietnamese occupation.

The law school later invited Cambodians to USF to continue legal studies that had been interrupted during the Pol Pot regime. These initial efforts led to the decade-long Cambodia Law and Democracy project, which was dedicated to building institutions to support the rule of law with justice. In the mid-1990s, the law school began similar work in Vietnam, focusing primarily on training judges. By 1999, USF was also active in Indonesia. That year the Center for Law and Global Justice was founded to serve as the umbrella organization for university pursuits relating to global justice. It was dedicated by Nobel Laureate Jody Williams.

Marie Montesano | Class of 2009
"The more I learned about Cambodian history, the more I realized the resolve of Cambodia's people to heal the scars of their country."

Testimonials

Listen to the 2009 Justice Forum in which students that participated in the Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic discuss their experiences at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, and the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in New York City.

http://rock.usfca.edu/law/audio/justiceforum1.mp3

Listen to the 2008 Justice Forum in which students that participated in Center for Law and Global Justice internships, courses, and volunteer initiatives around the world discuss their experiences in India, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

http://rock.usfca.edu/law/audio/justiceforum2.mp3

Listen to Professor Steven Shatz, director of the Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project, and students Ashley Connell, Class of 2010, and Natalie Davis, Class of 2010, discuss their experiences working on death penalty cases in the American South at a USF School of Law Justice Forum. The event introduced students to internship opportunities.

http://rock.usfca.edu/law/audio/justiceforum-ktc.mp3

Student Experiences

Marie Montesano, Class of 2009

Cambodian Genocide: Prosecution of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia

USF's Center for Global Justice Cambodia Program presented my first opportunity to travel to a country impacted by crimes against humanity and genocide. I spent seven weeks in Cambodia. For the first three weeks, I took a course on the Cambodian Genocide with six other USF students. I then interned with the Cambodia Human Rights Action Committee, monitoring the progress of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, the hybrid Cambodia-international tribunal currently conducting the Khmer Rouge trials. In 2007, the first indictments had not yet been issued, but we were able to attend a briefing of provincial leaders at the new court house and a press conference held when the Investigating Judges were publicly announced.

The day which had the greatest impact on everyone in the group, regardless of each person's reasons for participating in the program, involved our visit to the Killing Fields and Toul Sleng, the prison where thousands were tortured by the Khmer Rouge. Merely reading about the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge does not compare to seeing physical evidence in person. It is a day I will not soon forget.

My first moments in Phnom Penh were difficult, as I had never travelled to a developing country, but new experiences and weekend excursions have made for endless stories and lasting friendships. I quickly grew to deeply respect Cambodia. The more I learned about Cambodian history, the more I realized the resolve of Cambodia's people to heal the scars of their country. Inspired and yearning to know more, upon returning to USF in the fall, I used my writing requirement to examine how human rights violations affected the development of Cambodian criminal law.

Elena Gil, Class of 2008

Human Rights Institute at the Central American University, El Salvador

Coming from a family of immigrants, I thought I was familiar with the issues facing people coming into this country. Thinking I could contribute my cultural fluency, language skills, and my barely honed first year law school skills, I worked during the summer in El Salvador. I learned, however, that whatever contribution I could possibly make is small compared to the wealth of experiences I received.

IDHUCA (Human Rights Institute at the Central American University) introduced me to a whole new set of issues facing immigrants and their families. Immigration law is wonderfully complex, calling for creative solutions and substantial knowledge of other areas of the law. Familiarity with U.S. immigration law is sorely needed in a country where approximately 20 percent of its citizens are living abroad (mostly in the United States).

What most solidified the experience for me was the cultural immersion and opportunity to learn the historical and social forces propelling the significant migration from this small country. My co-intern and I got to meet people intimately affected by and actively involved in El Salvador's civil war. The diverse viewpoints we heard during our meetings with lawyers, judges, guerrillas, professors, and laypeople really gave us a sense of the country's many crises. The people we met left an indelible imprint on my psyche.

One of the most significant moments was when I began to understand the practical effects of U.S. immigration law and its resonating sanctions. I will never forget 59-year-old Alberto, a legal permanent resident card holder, who lived and worked for over 30 years in the U.S., but was ultimately deported for having reentered the U.S. during a previous five-year bar. Now back in a country with whom he no longer has ties, he cannot find employment and is struggling to make ends meet. Aggravating Alberto's situation is that, because he was deported, U.S. law bars him from receiving Social Security benefits until his 20¬year ban is over. He direly needs this income, given El Salvador's 20 percent unemployment rate.

As a result of this program, I feel I will be better equipped to make more humane and just choices as a lawyer. I feel fortunate to have been given this opportunity to inform my decisions.

Jesse Macias, Class of 2007

United States Agency for International Development, Philippines

I spent the summer interning for USAID's Rule of Law Effectiveness (ROLE) project in the Philippines. ROLE focuses on the good governance aspects of USAID's work in the Philippines. My work included assisting in workshops to promote inter-agency cooperation in anti-corruption efforts, preparing a retired chief judge to give a speech to the legal community regarding judicial reform, and suggesting policy choices for ROLE's anti-trafficking efforts. The scope of my tasks extended from briefing cases to interviewing influential government officers. More than anything else, I found development work compelling because of the broad policy level at which it interacts with the law. This work is about, among other things, helping to improve legal systems to meet the needs of those who are bound by them.

Development work also provides a unique way to travel. During my stay in the Philippines, I met and made friends with interesting and involved Filipinos with perspectives on their country that have evolved from years of addressing critical issues in politics, human rights, and governance. Exploring the Philippines with these friends taught me things about the country that cannot be found in any travel guide. The limitations on what could be learned were only my own. The ROLE internship gave me inordinate access in a country where I would have otherwise been a stranger.

Ritee Parikh, Class of 2007

Haitian Discrimination Investigation, Dominican Republic

Eight USF law students spent nearly two weeks in the Dominican Republic observing the status of Haitians living in the country. We saw everything from the inner walls of a congested prison and a cockfighting coliseum, to a rich ballet performance by school children in a poor neighborhood. We walked through tight tin-lined alleyways in Haitian bateyes (refugee communities), and then along sparkling Caribbean shores. Our experience closed with a day in the congested marketplace on the border town of Dajabón. Many Haitians made the trip from Haiti to the market and back about 20 times, amounting to countless vendors running full marathons twice a week in relentless heat, while carrying their bodyweight in potato chips, rice, and live chickens. I left the island with the sinking feeling that one person's lack of basic needs, including access to legal services, does not exist in isolation of another's privilege. In contrast, we saw firsthand the success of development projects in bateyes and schools. Thanks in part to the tireless work of several NGOs and human rights attorneys, I believe change is possible for social conditions and societal attitudes. This meaningful experience equipped the eight of us to better serve our global community.

Jeff Kaloustian, Class of 2009

South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring, India

Participating in the Center for Law and Global Justice's Bangalore Internship Program in 2008 was one of the most valuable and memorable experiences I have had during law school. The program enabled me to earn academic units and to gain practical legal experience in India while pursuing an interest in international human rights.

During the first week of the program our group of nine students received a series of outstanding lectures at the National Law School of India on a range of legal topics, including the Indian Constitution, intellectual property, human rights, and alternative dispute resolution. We also visited several sites around Bangalore, including the High Court of Karnataka. The remainder of the five-week program consisted of a full-time, four-week internship; mine was with the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM). I was warmly welcomed at SICHREM and received a steady stream of engaging research and writing projects, most of which were in support of a project for the prevention of torture in India.

My experience in Bangalore was extremely rewarding both personally and professionally. I gained excellent exposure to the operation of a grassroots human rights organization, which is closely aligned with my career goals. The experience has also helped open doors to other international human rights programming at USF, including the Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic in which I traveled to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Elisabeth Hanowsky, Class of 2007

Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic, USF School of Law

Over the summer, I worked with Professor de la Vega on a petition to be submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous arm of the Organization of American States, involving a man on death row. He has been there 14 years waiting for his appeal to be heard. His petition is based on a number of rights, including the prohibition against the imposition of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment; the right to be tried without undue delay; and the right to humane treatment while in custody. I prepared for meeting him with some trepidation, but realized my preconceptions were incorrect, reminding me of the effect that preconceived notions may have on myself and others.

Alex Tuzin, Class of 2009

Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic, Switzerland

Going to the U.N. Human Rights Council ("HRC") in Geneva as part of the Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic was an incredible experience. I wrote a report on the right to vote and focused on this issue at the HRC. The right to vote is asserted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and several regional international human rights instruments. Nevertheless, derogations remain widespread.

Ultimately, I was trying to garner support to urge the HRC to appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate derogations of voting rights, and to better define meaningful commitments and best practices of the right to vote. I highlighted the importance of the right to vote by addressing several issues, including election administration, disenfranchisement based on gender, disenfranchisement based on past criminal conviction, and electronic voting. I was lucky to be able to make an oral intervention on the floor of the council during the general debate concerning the promotion and protection of all civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, including the right to development. As a representative of an NGO, I was able to address certain politically sensitive issues that a delegate may not be able to. Furthermore, as law students, we brought a different but important perspective to these issues, and we focused on international law and the actual text of various treaties more than other NGOs did.

I approached a lot of delegates, including delegates from Ghana, South Africa, India, and Switzerland. I gave them my report and talked with them about various issues that I had investigated. The Swiss delegation, in particular, expressed interest in raising the right to vote as a future agenda item. In addition to country delegates, I also approached NGOs that were working on related issues and had an enlightening discussion with the special expert on discrimination.

Through all of these discussions, I learned that although the right to vote is provided for in numerous international human rights instruments, it is actually quite a controversial right. Many countries oppose an obligation to hold elections, but would be more inclined to support an obligation that elections be free and fair. I learned that concrete progress on some human rights issues can be complicated and difficult. The HRC provides a forum for countries to discuss these human rights issues. It was an amazing experience to be able to watch the entire process unfold, and I am extremely grateful to have been given this remarkable opportunity.