Chayes Fellows circle the globe

In 2018, 13 Harvard Law School students were selected as Chayes International Public Service Fellows. This program, established in 2001 and dedicated to the memory of HLS Professor Abram Chayes ’49, provides students with the opportunity to spend eight weeks during the summer working with governmental or non-governmental organizations concerned with issues of an international scope or relevant to countries in transition. Their projects can take many forms; this year, the summer work undertaken by Chayes Fellows focused on issues ranging from refugee assistance in Lebanon to employment and administrative matters, international anti-corruption law, and environmental governance in China, among others (see a related gallery). The profiles below describe the experiences of three of the 2018 Chayes Fellows.

Samantha Lint ’20

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Credit: Lorin Granger

As an undergraduate at the University of Richmond, Samantha Lint spent a summer in Rwanda, where she started to learn about mass atrocities, genocide, and how societies recover from conflict. After graduation, she focused on international development and policy, working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on projects in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. At HLS, she knew early on that she wanted to spend her 1L summer abroad, to build on these experiences but, at the same time, “to do something new and more firmly grounded in the law.”

As a Chayes Fellow, Lint spent 13 weeks in Phnom Penh, working in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, a hybrid court which has jurisdiction over senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those responsible for the most grave violations of national and international law committed during the Khmer Rouge regime. Her placement was in the Office of the Co-Prosecutors.

Lint spent her first few weeks immersed in the final stages of a submission by the prosecutors to the Court’s Co-Investigating Judges. Following that, she worked on cases at later stages of prosecution. The Court currently has four active cases, including cases charging prominent figures with genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and violations of the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code. “Most of my work was related to evidence. I think I probably read 250 witness statements over the summer, maybe more,” she recalls, as she searched for additional information and summarized the statements for the prosecutors. “Sometimes, you’re reading a witness statement from a decade ago of someone’s memories from 30 years ago. It’s like piecing together a puzzle.”

“I like individual stories, so I really liked getting into the evidence, as sad as it often was,” she notes. Before starting her placement, Lint did a lot of reading about Cambodia, especially personal narratives and memoirs from the Khmer Rouge era, so she “felt driven by the scale and horror of what had happened.” In Phnom Penh, she was able to talk with Cambodians who had survived the Khmer Rouge regime, and to visit important sites, including the Choeung Ek killing field, where an estimated 20,000 people were killed and buried, and S-21, the regime’s notorious central security center. “It’s a dark place, but so much of what I read was related to S-21 that it was powerful to go there myself,” she adds.

In addition to learning about evidence analysis, Lint gained valuable experience in how massive multi-year litigation is organized. During her placement, she also wrote a legal memo on an International Criminal Court Appeals Chamber decision and participated in a simulation on how to interrogate witnesses.

In her 2L year, she is working on a project with HLS Advocates for Human Rights, a student practice organization, analyzing elements of International Criminal Court jurisdiction, and in the International Human Rights Clinic she will contribute to a report on discrimination against women that will be presented at the UN. In both, Lint sees immediate opportunities to apply what she has learned from working during the summer in a hybrid tribunal, on complex issues, in a setting with people from all over the world.

With a longer view, Lint was curious about what it might be like to work as a prosecutor. “I learned that I do like working on active cases, and to be connected to specific instances of crimes and their victims,” she reports.

“Working at the ECCC was a great introduction to international criminal law, war crimes, crimes against humanity, hybrid tribunals, the UN, and of course, the Cambodian context,” Lint concludes. “I hope that tribunals, when they’re appropriate, continue to be put in place. There are lots of critiques about the cost, and the time, but I’m a big believer in them now. They do a lot of good.”

Laya Maheshwari ’20

Médecins Sans Frontières, France and Switzerland

Credit: Lorin Granger

Laya Maheshwari spent the summer in Paris and Geneva, working on a research project for Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), an international NGO that provides medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare. “It’s an organization whose work I’ve admired for a long time, but what makes the headlines is the work of their doctors and their humanitarian missions. I was wondering what legal principles helped them or obstructed them in their day-to-day work,” he recalls.

His project centered on the growing trend, worldwide, of the criminalization of healthcare. “One of the fundamental tenets of international humanitarian law —and, in fact, human society — is that doctors should be allowed and obligated to treat everyone who comes their way,” he explains. “Discriminating among patients on the basis of religious ideology, political affiliation, criminal status, and the like goes against the Hippocratic Oath. Yet, increasingly, doctors and medical personnel are being targeted by governments and insurgent groups for providing aid to the ‘other side’.” Medical personnel and facilities have been attacked, or denied permits to operate; doctors have been detained, prosecuted and convicted; and counterterrorism and national security laws are including broader definitions of aiding and abetting insurgent activities or of providing “material support” to terrorists.

“Médecins sans Frontières wanted to know how legislatures are crafting their counterterrorism statutes, whether they are respecting and being cognizant of international humanitarian law, and how codes are dealing with a conflict between the Hippocratic Oath and protecting national security,” Maheshwari adds. To conduct his research, he read treatises on international humanitarian law, searched for relevant legislation in various jurisdictions, investigated historical practices documented by courts and international institutions, and identified pertinent case law. Ironically, his 1L course on Legislation and Regulation — “which I think is the most American law-heavy course that we have” — was especially relevant.

“The most interesting thing I learned was how discussions that can seem so academic in the classroom actually echo the discussions that can happen outside,” he recalls. In July, Maheshwari spent time with several doctors who had come back from the field to give their reports. “The U.S. code has an exception for ‘providing medicine’ — those are the exact words. But the MSF doctors don’t just give out medicines in their clinics; sometimes, when people are residing in hard-to-reach areas, or areas under the control of insurgents, a doctor could very well give out his phone number so people could contact him in case someone has a serious injury. By not just ‘providing medicine,’ but providing his phone number, has this doctor exceeded the privilege and jumped into ‘material support’ territory? Having a real fact pattern in front of me, and having real people who were living what that statute covers every day, was eye-opening.”

In choosing to work abroad during his 1L summer, Maheshwari “wanted to get a broader perspective on the black-letter law we study in 1L, and I wanted to be at an international institution or organization for that.”  Before arriving at HLS, he worked as an independent journalist. “I’d had experiences where I was parachuted into a new place, and my task was to investigate a new topic and get myself up to speed with it quickly,” he explains. He tried to draw on these capabilities when MSF assigned him a research project in international humanitarian law, a subject he had not yet studied in law school.

Still, “telling myself beforehand how little I would know, and how much I would have to learn, was helpful,” Maheshwari observes. “It’s very important for people to realize that they have studied law in a certain setting, but now they are going to a completely different country, environment, and workplace culture, and taking on a new role. That’s essential for being of good service to your organization.”

Lilianna Rembar ’20

Legal Resources Centre, Ghana

Credit: Lorin Granger

For her 1L summer, Lilianna Rembar wanted to work in a developing country, and for a local organization. During college, she had worked with a large international NGO, and wanted a different experience, leading to her summer placement at the Legal Resources Centre in Accra. “I appreciated working with individuals who had grown up in the country and so were deeply entrenched in the issues that Ghana is facing,” she notes.

Rembar has had some experience living and traveling abroad: as an undergraduate at Dartmouth, she spent a semester studying in Rome and visited other parts of the world. Talking to HLS students about their experiences helped her decide what kind of organization she wanted to work for and where she might want to go. She also prepared for her summer abroad by connecting with a former LRC intern, learning about the work environment but also gathering advice about the logistics of living in Accra.

The Legal Resources Centre works on issues relating to law, justice and development, through policy and advocacy work as well as direct legal services. “Ghana is a country of about 28 million people, and there are only 30 legal aid lawyers in the entire country,” Rembar observes. “In Ghana, every person charged with a crime is entitled to a lawyer. It’s a right of theirs, but often it is not borne out in practice.”

During the summer, Rembar focused on two projects — one centering on juvenile justice, the other on appeals for 13 men and women facing the death penalty. The first initiative centered on improving access to justice for children in contact and in conflict with the law. In Ghana, “the laws as they are written are very protective of children, and Ghana is also very good at signing onto UN acts and treaties on violence against women and children,” Rembar explains. “But for all that it’s written into the law, it doesn’t mean much if police and prosecutors don’t know what the law is, or aren’t practicing it.” She analyzed current legislation involving children, both in Ghana and from other countries, to see what amendments could be made. “Gaps relating to protecting child victims and witnesses, the expungement of records, and legal aid require the most serious reform,” she adds.

She also considered ways in which the protections intended under the laws could be brought into practice. In addition to training police, prosecutors, and community members, she explains, one possibility is to train women in the community to work as paralegals — a two-pronged approach that could make people more knowledgeable about the law, and also provide opportunities for the women to work outside the home.

The legal system in Ghana is “very similar, in a lot of ways, to how U.S. law is written — and that’s my main basis of comparison — but in practice the Ghanaian system functions quite differently,” she observes. “Many of the reasons have to do with resources. Most of the death penalty cases I was working on had been decided years ago. I would read the court records, looking for grounds for appeal, and then realize that it would be very difficult to gather evidence that could be used to overturn the conviction or at least ameliorate the sentence.”

Even just getting the records was challenging. “Our client’s name might have been entered in his native language, but the records were in English, and sometimes the transliteration was incorrect, or we would not have the case number, and it might take months for the court to find the records,” she adds. In some instances, the clients were minors when the crime was committed, but it proved nearly impossible to find birth certificates to establish their ages. “So even before the legal research and analysis of the case, we would run into roadblocks. I think that’s something that a lot of people are really working to change.”

Working with a woman seeking a divorce from her abusive husband gave Rembar a chance to practice meeting with a client; over the summer, she also strengthened her legal research skills and her ability to write quickly and succinctly. Drawing on her experiences in Ghana, she is looking forward to learning more about how different legal systems deal with gender-based issues and crimes, and to her clinical work this spring.

Related Reading

Gallery: 2018 Chayes Fellows