I first heard about CEJIL in the summer of 2018 when I was interning at a non-profit in San José, Costa Rica that educates people on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. While reading through Inter-American Court cases and Commission documents at this organization, I continually saw CEJIL’s name appear. This trend continued at a conference for the Inter-American Court; everything I saw highlighted the importance of CEJIL as a major representative of victims before the Inter-American System of Human Rights. Because I was interested in CEJIL's direct role in litigation in the Inter-American Court in cases like Gelman v Uruguay, I applied for their Winter 2019 internship program at their D.C. office.
Despite having limited knowledge about the Inter-American System, from January to April 2019, I gained hands-on experience on a variety of human rights cases under excellent supervision.
For example, while preparing a legal brief for a forced disappearance case, I read through decades of state investigation to pull details from witness testimonies and state reports in order to show the government’s lack of investigation into the crime. By piecing together evidence to create a compelling narrative for the facts section in the brief, I learned how to be a better legal advocate. In addition, I gained a better understanding of the very real and personal effects of subpar initial investigations by the state when I saw the victims’ families’ loss of hope in justice reflected in their decreasing requests for investigations in the case file and the degradation of potential evidence.
In this internship, I also had the opportunity to work on my area of interest within human rights, immigration and nationality issues. I worked on projects relating to the RED ANA, the Americas Network on Nationality and Statelessness. By preparing materials for the RED ANA, I myself learned more about the little-known issue of statelessness, while also educating others about exciting new advocacy developments, like the creation of the U.S.’s first advocacy organization on the issue, United Statelessness.
This led to additional casework regarding the issue of statelessness. In researching answers for a Court response, I learned about the historical origins of stateless persons in the Dominican Republic and the perpetuation of discrimination against Dominicans of Haitian descent. Unfortunately, by watching past hearings and reading state publications for my research, I also saw how the state of the Dominican Republic continues to take deliberate action to confuse and bury the issue. By watching a government knowingly act against human rights, I grew to understand how crucial the work of CEJIL, the Inter-American System, and civil society is.
Interning at CEJIL showed me what the concept “international human rights” means in practice. While there, I had the opportunity to work with extremely dedicated and kind individuals who gave me a sense of what an important role their jobs play in their life commitment to advocacy. Through my experience at CEJIL, it became clear to me that I too wish to join the work of organizations like CEJIL at the Inter-American System of Human Rights to provide victims with a platform for justice when governments abuse and fail them. I will be forever grateful to those at CEJIL for making my internship such an engaging opportunity to learn, and I recommend this internship to all who find themselves interested in human rights work in the Americas.
Anna Saggio is a second year law student at the University of Alabama. Interested in gaining more practical experience in the field of human rights at our D.C. office? Apply here today!: https://cejil.org/en/cejils-internship-program