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Student Volunteering: working for the Human Rights Law Clinic

HRLC Team leaders 2017/2018

HRLC team 6 Photo (Smaller)

Press release issued: 5 March 2018

The Human Rights Implementation Centre (HRIC) offers through its Human Rights Law Clinic the unique opportunity for students to work with international, regional and national organisations engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights law. Through their work with the clinic, students gain practical experience and acquire knowledge in international human rights law and practice.

In October 2017, the HRIC recruited seventy-four human rights and/or international law students to the clinic, following a competitive application process.

The partners

The students are split into six teams, working with partners which include Human Rights and Sea, Lawyers for Justice in Libya and the African Commission’s Committee on Prevention of Torture . Each team is tasked with conducting comprehensive, high-quality research that meets the requirements set out by the partners in their initial project brief. It is the role of the team leader (who is also a student) to liaise directly with the partner organisations throughout the research and to ensure that all final outputs are of the highest quality.

The projects

The projects the students are working on this year include: Legal Gender Recognition Reform in the United Kingdom; Assisting Litigation on Libya; torture prevention; and Flag State Research. All projects are international in scope, yet also have an impact at the regional and local levels.

By the end of this academic year the students will have produced a series of high-quality reports, each of which will provide partners with crucial, up-to-date research that will feed directly into ongoing litigation and policy drafting, as well as informing future projects.

Why work for the Human Rights Law Clinic?

Being involved with the Clinic is of tremendous benefit to both students and partners. Christopher Gray (MSc Socio-legal Studies student) is leading the team working with Lawyers for Justice in Libya. The work of his team has been met with excellent feedback from the partner organisation, who intend to use the material for litigation before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to seek justice for the victims.  Christopher comments:

‘Interacting directly with a partner organisation has given me a confidence and understanding of the professional world of human rights law, in a way I can’t get simply through my academic studies.’

This year is the second year the clinic has worked with Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) an independent maritime human rights charity, to further develop the scope of human rights at sea throughout the martitime environment. This project, led by Anthony Morelli (LLM International Law and Relations student) explores how 3 key flag states meet their international human rights obligation aboard vessels registered under their flag. Anthony comments:

‘The opportunity to lead a talented group of students in partnership with Human Right at Sea represents a unique way to promote human rights and gain practical experience in pursuit of a career in international diplomacy’.

Find out more this project and the collaboration between HRAS and the HRIC here.

How to apply

The call for applications is now closed, there will be another opportunity to apply in October 2021. Please note that students must have undertaken or be currently undertaking a module in human rights or international law.

For further details on the work of the clinic or to find out more about how to apply for a place please see the HRIC website or contact the Centre's Executive Assistant

Further information

Meet our Team Leaders and hear their thoughts on working for the clinic 

Amna Bokhari

Amna Bokhari is a Second Year Law with Study in Continental Europe Student (LLB).  She has always had an avid interest in Human Rights and being a part of the clinic, let alone leading a group, has been an honour and an indispensable experience. Amna explains ‘Working on the reform of transgender laws in both the UK and Scotland alongside my dedicated group has been a challenging, yet equally rewarding process: our propositions will be submitted to the UK Government, which puts into perspective just how important work and research like this can be. Promoting human rights in relation to an issue so very topical and relevant in today’s world has been an experience I wish to carry forward in my (hopeful!) career in human rights’.

Ellen Brennen

Ellen is a third-year law student on the Undergraduate LLB course. Having worked within the family department of a solicitor's firm prior to coming to University and in youth development charities over the summers, she has always been interested in utilising the law to assist individuals; to challenge difficult or unjust circumstances. The ability to lead a team of students in projects on the prevention of torture has offered the opportunity to gain a practical insight into human rights work in practice, beyond her studies and assist on large-scale international projects which aim to make a real difference.

Ellen comments ‘Leading a team of students in research to formulate a database for the prevention of torture in Africa, has taught me so much about how lacking the protection is for prevention of torture in practice and the support which states require to effectively implement protections for individuals. The project has been an incredible experience, enabling me to assist in large-scale international projects which aim to make a real difference, even as a student. I’ve been privileged to work alongside professionals in the field and my team’s work is being used by international bodies to help combat the use of torture in certain States.  The experience has increased my interest within human rights matters and impelled me to pursue a career within this sector. It is a must for any student considering a career in human rights!’

Carolina Colli

Carolina is a Public Law LLM student, who joined the University of Bristol Law School following the completion of her undergraduate Law LLB at the University of Greenwich. She has previously volunteered at the Innocence Project London and joined the Human Rights Law Clinic with the aim to keep working on projects that fulfil her interests in human rights and public law issues. Her team is currently working on a project that concerns the Prevention of Torture and this work has given a unique insight into the work of both international and domestic organisations. Overall, it has meant that the team has been able to work on legal and political issues that span across a number of jurisdictions, and this has enriched and added to the team's understanding of human rights issues and obligations surrounding the prevention of torture.

Anamaria Fonseca

Anamaria is a Brazilian in the LLM Human Rights Law programme at the University of Bristol. Following completion of a Bachelor of Laws in 2014, she was successfully admitted as a member to the Organization of Brazilian Lawyers and practiced law for three years as a Specialist in Public Law. To be part of the Clinic brought her a new perspective of the impact a professional of Human Rights Law can have in the world. The Clinic experience of legal research and practical engagement is one of the decisive events which reinforced her desire to pursue a career in academia and human rights law with international organisations.   

Christopher Gray

Christopher is studying on the MSc Socio-legal Studies programme in the Law School and starting a PhD in international human rights law this year. Having previously lead a team in the Human Rights Law Clinic in 2015/16, this year Christopher’s team have been working on a project with Libyan Lawyers for Justice, reporting on the human rights situation of various minority groups in Libya. The opportunity for Christopher’s team to work on research with immediate real-world application has allowed them to see how their research skills learned on their degrees is used in the world of human rights, giving them a unique insight and fantastic experience for seeking a career in this field.

Anthony Morelli

Anthony is a Canadian in the LLM International Law and International Relations programme at the University of Bristol. Following studies in Economics he lived in Japan and went on to work for the Canadian federal public service in Major Crown Projects and at Global Affairs Canada. The opportunity to lead a talented group of students in partnership Human Right at Sea represents a unique way to promote human rights and gain practical experience in pursuit of a career in international diplomacy.


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