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Pathways to the Profession: Natasha Arnpriester L’16

August 17, 2015

Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the United States and abroad. This dispatch from Natasha Arnpriester L’16 is one in a series of firsthand accounts by Law School students about how their summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers. Arnpriester is from Phoenix, Arizona, and plans to work as a human rights lawyer. This summer she worked at the Open Society Justice Initiative in New York City. She spent last summer as an International Summer Human Rights Fellow at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. She will be working at Human Rights Watch this fall.

This summer I have had the honor of working at the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) in New York. OSJI can be described as a legal non-profit housed within a larger grant-making network, Open Society Foundations. OSJI uses law to protect and empower people around the world through litigation, advocacy, research, and technical assistance. Through this, OSJI secures legal remedies for human rights abuses and promotes effective enforcement of the rule of law.

During my time at OSJI, I had the good fortune of working closely with the Equality and Inclusion team whose mandate focuses on multiple issues, including antidiscrimination and statelessness. I have worked on projects that focused on both issues. In law, statelessness is the lack of recognition as a national by any country, whereby an individual is considered a foreigner by every country in the world, and as such does not possess rights, protections, and benefits that are associated with citizenship.

During the height of the mass boat migration taking place in Southeast Asia, I investigated the controversial citizenship laws being used in Burma to withhold rights from the Rohingya, widely considered one of the world’s most persecuted ethnic minorities. From here, I also conducted a widespread analysis of the current situation of statelessness and citizenship laws and policies more broadly in the countries of the Southeast Asia region. I was given opportunities to participate in cases focused on statelessness being brought before the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

I have also been involved in examining the norms and jurisprudence related to antidiscrimination in Latin America, as well as investigating how various countries deal with non-monetary damages available to victims of discrimination as a means to advise countries on better ways to draft their own antidiscrimination legislation in the future. These are just a few of the topics and issues I have been blessed to be a part of this summer.

Prior to joining OSJI, I considered myself purely interested in non-litigation advocacy and was severely adverse to the litigation side of the law. However after working on a couple cases, I witnessed the amazing way that litigation can not only transform the human rights situation for the individual, but also be used as a vehicle to effect change systemically. The lawyers at OSJI are brilliant and creative in their methods. They utilize both strategic litigation and strategic advocacy campaigns to get results and make lasting differences. This experience has taught me much about myself, my legal interests, and human rights law generally. While my time here has come to a close, the lessons and skills learned will last me long after as I continue to find my place in the field of human rights law. I return to Penn Law ready to apply the tools and knowledge I learned this summer to my third year, and to build on this experience in my future work as a human rights lawyer.

- Natasha Arnpriester


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