Fellow: Jonathan Eoloff
Fellowship Site: The Center for Justice & International Law (CEJIL) in San Jose, Costa Rica
Brief History of Organization (founding and salient steps):
CEJIL is a non-governmental organization (NGO), founded in 1991 by a group of prominent human rights defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean. CEJIL's principle objective is to achieve the full implementation of international human rights norms in the member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) through the use of the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights and other international protection mechanisms. CEJIL is the first organization to offer an integrated program of defense, free legal consulting, education and oversight of the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights. CEJIL’s docket, consisting of more than 200 hundred cases, is the largest and most diverse in the hemisphere. In addition, CEJIL acts as representatives of the victims and as legal advisers to the Commission in practically all the cases pending before the Court.
Departments/Programs in the Organization:
CEJIL’s mandate is fulfilled through work in three program areas: the Legal Defense Program, the Training and Dissemination Program, and the Campaign to Strengthen the Inter-American System. A central component of CEJIL’s work is the defense of human rights before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Responsibilities/Duties/Tasks undertaken by the Fellow:
As a legal intern, I drafted a brief for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights involving a death penalty case against Guatemala. I also researched and drafted legal memoranda for a case against Nicaragua involving denial of political participation of indigenous communities. In addition, I drafted communications for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights involving extra-judicial executions in Guatemala. Finally, I conducted legal research for a case CEJIL argued against Guatemala before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and attended the Court’s hearings on this case.
In addition to fine-tuning my legal Spanish, I was able to draft in Spanish legal briefs and memoranda. Institutionally during my internship, CEJIL was granted provisional measures by the Court in a death penalty case against Guatemala as well won on the merits in an extra-judicial executions case against Guatemala before the Court.
Personally, writing in legal Spanish was quite challenging for me, but I did learn a fair amount. Also, sometimes the hearings before the Court were a bit difficult to understand, again due to the use of sophisticated legal Spanish.
In addition to attending hearings before the Court, I also attended a workshop/training that CEJIL conducted on the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights with local Costa Rican public defenders. I also attended and assisted in the preparation of witnesses who testified at the Court hearings.
Other projects/works started or completed:
CEJIL is continually working on submitting petitions before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C. as well as litigating cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica. Furthermore, CEJIL meets with victims, local NGOs and government officials in countries where the human rights violations took place.
How has this fellowship changed the ideas and expectations you had before leaving?
I think, more than anything, my internship with CEJIL confirmed by desire to work in the area of international human rights law. Specifically, my experience confirmed by desire to conduct more fieldwork and learn more about the Inter-American System.
How has your motivation for human rights work changed/altered or remained the
If anything, my motivation and desire to work in international human rights law have been enhanced by my legal internship with CEJIL this summer.
Who had the greatest effect on you during your fellowship experience and why?
I think witnessing the State of Guatemala accept legal responsibility before the Inter-American Court for its military’s participation in the execution of a journalist and presidential candidate was remarkable. Guatemala has been notorious for human rights violations since the 1970s and government after government has not only refused to accept responsibility but also has been complicit in covering-up its participation in state-sponsored atrocities. To hear Guatemala say “We accept responsibility” and ask for pardon from the victims was truly extraordinary.
As a whole, CEJIL attorneys are incredibly professional and dedicated to bringing justice to the victims they represent. Perhaps just as significant, CEJIL selects representative cases that exemplify a systemic pattern of abuse and whose resolution could impact the implementation of international human rights norms through its effect on the areas of law, domestic practices, individuals cases or state policies.
How did your perspectives on the world change from interning at a local/national/
international human rights organization?
I’m not sure it changed, but my perspective of the inter-connectedness of human beings across boundaries was definitely inspired by the work that CEJIL does.
What quote would captivate “a moment” that you had during your
Again, I would have to say that hearing Guatemalan State officials “accept responsibility” in an extra-judicial executions case, in addition to “asking for pardon and forgiveness” from the victims, for me was momentous and rewarding.
After completion of your fellowship, how do you anticipate bringing your fellowship experience back home to your local community?
Discuss the importance of CEJIL’s work with fellow law students in addition to local human rights NGOs in the Twin Cities. I also brought home legal documentation on the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights for the Human Rights Library.
Full Name of Organization: The Center for Justice and International Law
Abbreviation and initials commonly used: CEJIL
125 metros al sur del Spoon de los Yoses
Casa blanca, a mano derecha
San Jose, Costa Rica
Telephone number: (506) 280-7473
Fax number: (506) 280-5280
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Names of Executive Director and Senior Staff: Executive Director is Viviana Krsticevic in the Washington, D.C. office. Director of the Mesoamerica office in San Jose Costa Rica is Soraya Long.
Number of Employed Staff (full-time; part-time):
In the Costa Rica office there are currently five full-time attorneys, an office manager, a journalist and a secretary.
Number of Volunteers: Depends on the time of year. CEJIL accepts legal interns as well as administrative interns from all over the world. As far as legal interns from the States (i.e., U.S. law students), CEJIL generally accepts around five students each summer.
Objectives of the Organization:
CEJIL's principle objective is to achieve the full implementation of international human rights norms in the member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) through the use of the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights and other international protection mechanisms.
Domestic/International Programs: The Washington, D.C. office generally focuses on South America and the Caribbean, while the Mesoamerica office in Costa Rica focuses on Central America and Mexico. CEJIL also maintains offices in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay.
Date of Information: September 25, 2004
Information Supplied by: Jonathan Eoloff
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