by Ella Johnson
Interning at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights has been one of the most incredible, rewarding experiences of my life. I came to the Centre after my first year of law school out of a desire to learn more about international and human rights law. My time here has opened up that world to me more than I ever expected. That is a credit both to the Centre’s staff, who are dedicated, experienced advocates and mentors, and to the substantive, groundbreaking work that they do on many of the most important human rights violations of our time.
For example, the Centre has in the past two years led the first independent legal analyses of Chinese violence against the Uyghurs and Russian violence against Ukraine, respectively, under the international legal framework of genocide. An independent report such as this provides a very important support to any efforts by the Uyghurs and Ukrainians to advocate for themselves. It is also quite important for all other states, who have obligations to prevent genocide, as it informs them of when those obligations have been triggered.
I did not know any of that before my internship, but was able to learn because I was brought into the process of writing, releasing and publicising the Russia report. The Centre’s staff made the time to explain what was happening to me as the process went along, gave me a chance to contribute meaningfully to the report and provided me with constructive feedback throughout the process. I learned much more than I ever could have in a classroom and feel really proud that I was able to contribute to this important work.
Working at the Centre was also an extremely interesting experience because it exposed me to new strategies for advocacy. I had worked at a couple of different types of advocacy organizations before this, mostly grassroots, and feel that I am beginning to get an understanding of the diversity of strategies that can be successful. I am very excited to come back together with my classmates this fall to learn yet more through hearing about their experiences as well.