This summer I have been introduced to so many different types of human rights law. While I had decided at a young age that I wanted to be a lawyer (by decided I mean that’s what I’ve been telling everyone want to be “when I grow up”) I didn’t know what type. All I knew was that I wanted to be in the court room litigating cases (mind you I didn’t know the word “litigate” until about two years ago, so to me, I wanted to “be in the courtroom and win a case like Elle from Legally Blonde) and making the courtroom my stage. I never wanted to do tax law or corporate law or anything where I sit at a desk all day do paper work. I wanted to be up in the courtroom on my feet arguing and helping people, and litigation was where I saw that was. However, when I got involved with the Human Rights Center at Claremont McKenna College, I felt I really connected with the material. I began my work with the center with something close to my heart–the Armenian Genocide– and continued my work there with different projects I put my heart and soul into. So, when I found out there was a type of law called Human Rights Law, of course I wanted to explore it–and that’s exactly what Cardozo has given me the opportunity to do.
While here for six weeks, I’ve seen the projects that the clinicians have been working on. Three of them are working on a international criminal justice case with the Center for Justice and Accountability, another on homosexual rights in the U.S. and another works on asylum cases. I’ve been so fortunate to get the opportunity to help with these projects during my 6 weeks here and I’ve learned so much. I have definitely felt a connection with the asylum law, but not really with different issues such as gender inequality or female reproduction rights, etc. While those are extremely important parts of a human’s rights, I have learned here that it is important to advocate for what you are passionate about. There are a great number of people who love that kind of work, and it is my job to figure out a way I can love what I do and being at this internship has helped me cross things off and add things to my list of possible options. Of course I don’t need to figure anything out now, but it’s great to have ideas. I believe there is nothing you can do too early to get a sense of what you want to do in the future, and for me, this work at CLIHHR (Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights) has guided me onto my path for the future.
While I felt I really connected with the asylum cases, the cause I feel the most connected to and get most excited about when people speak of it, is this international criminal law. I know I don’t have to choose yet what type of human rights law I want to do, but I’d like to write it down here so I can remember my thoughts. I think because of my background with the Armenian Genocide, international criminal law is something very important to me. Perpetrators of crimes against humanity must be held accountable (unlike what happened to the Turkish officials after the Armenian Genocide in 1915–then again, there was no Universal Declaration of Human Rights at that point(came out in 1948) and Rafael Lemkin had not yet coined the term genocide (also 1948) ). So hopefully I can do some work in the international criminal courts, or the European Court of Human Rights prosecuting those guilty of crimes against humanity since that is what I feel most connected to and, at this point, would feel most excited about doing each day.
This internship has helped me think about how I’d like to shape my future. One thing that came out of this was that I have solidified a recurring desire of mine to work on the psychology of violence. I have always been very interested in why the perpetrators do what they do, and how they garner followers, and I even wrote a paper about it about Hitler freshman year for my human rights and genocide class. I think it is very important to understand the psychology of the criminals. And I had been thinking it’s an important piece if you want to be an international criminal defense litigator, but one of my supervisors made a great point today when I was remarking on how ironic and upsetting that would be to be a criminal defense lawyer for people who have committed atrocious crimes. She said–yes but if you can understand the psychology as a prosecutor, then you can better attack the defendant because you can understand why they did what they did and then find the loopholes in that argument–or something like that. I found that very important, to realize that a field can help you in both ways, and it made me very happy that all my passions are coming together. Psychology and Spanish with a human rights sequence is a perfect combination of what I love and what will help me in my future, and I am so excited to pursue my studies with these future goals in mind.