By Mostafa El-Harazi L’23
During the spring of my 2L year, I had the privilege of externing at the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA). The experience was not only professionally rewarding, but also helpful for solidifying my interest in the intersection of litigation, international law, and human rights.
CJA is an organization that uses both litigation and transitional justice initiatives, as well as policy-oriented tools, as paths to bring human rights abusers to justice, both domestically and abroad. I learned about CJA through a Penn Carey Law alumnus, Meroua Zouai L’20, who had served as a legal fellow at the organization after graduation. CJA is proactive in the measures that it employs to ensure justice for victims of human rights abuses, using the intersection of domestic and international law as a base from which to craft successful legal arguments to receive judgments against perpetrators such as Nikola Vuckovic, a Serb prison guard who subjected numerous Muslims to extreme cases of torture during the Bosnian War.
While at CJA, I was able to delve into a number of research projects that dealt with a range of international legal issues, with an emphasis on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). Furthermore, I advised the staff attorneys, through written memoranda, on human rights issues that occurred beyond U.S. borders, using international legal doctrine and customary law as aid. I also attended team meetings and important conference calls, and I provided CJA attorneys with updates and input on current cases.
My time at CJA was enormously beneficial for me on both a personal and a professional level. Personally, I had an amazing time working with the helpful, caring, and intelligent staff at the organization. My supervising attorneys were always willing to provide me with feedback on my work, while also making sure that I was exposed to a wide variety of cases during my semester at CJA. I am thankful for the chance to work with my colleagues to aid in CJA’s extremely important mission; the work they do has a huge impact on the lives of victims and their families.
On the professional front, I had come to Penn Carey Law with the goal of sharpening my interest in international law, and my CJA externship was tremendously helpful in this regard. Being exposed to a multitude of legal doctrines, while also getting the chance to work directly on cases that touch on various international legal issues, has motivated me to pursue similar opportunities going forward. Specifically, my externship led me to enroll in a variety of internationally focused courses offered at the Law School, including the International Women’s Human Rights class with Senior Adjunct Professor of Global Leadership Rangita de Silva de Alwis. It also inspired me to co-found the International Law Society at Penn (ILSP) and to pursue additional international legal work, such as an internship at the Department of State’s Office of the Legal Adviser.
I am grateful to the Office of International Affairs for its guidance throughout the application process, and for its willingness to help students receive amazing experiences like mine through placements at ad hoc organizations. I also greatly appreciated the time I spent working with the amazing staff at CJA. I highly recommend the organization to any student interested in international law, human rights, or general public interest.