June 11, 2001
Law students advocate for human rights
Julie Clements completed a Carter Center internship in the spring.
For well over a decade, worldwide intervention on behalf of people whose
human rights have been violated has been a component of the Carter Centers
Each week, the center receives information about new human rights violations
taking place in various countries around the world. President Jimmy Carter
and his wife Rosalynn often write letters about these cases to foreign
heads of state or discuss their concerns when they travel abroad.
Behind the Carters voices are the Emory law students whose research
on human rights issues enables the Carters and the center to make a difference
in peoples lives.
Each semester, students interning with the Carter Centers human
rights committee are assigned research projects on cutting-edge human
rights developments. The cases usually require communication with the
families of victims, U.S.-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, local human rights
NGOs, and American government agencies such as the State Department and
With guidance from the human rights committee, made up of staff members
from each of the centers peace and health programs, student interns
and a supervising attorney decide which cases merit the Carters
intervention. The interns draft memorandums and letters for the Carters,
then forward these missives to leaders both in the United States and around
International human rights violations constitute the majority of these
cases, though Rosalynn Carter also focuses on capital punishment cases
in America involving juveniles and mentally ill individuals.
Former intern Maria Fadlelmula said the most valuable skill she took
away from the internship was learning to write in another persons
I learned to keep a diplomatic tone to my writing, Fadlelmula
said. She drafted a letter for President Carter to former Peruvian President
Alberto Fujimori, urging him to ensure that a particular trial in Peru
adhere to international due process standards. The defendant in the case
did receive a new trial, which is now under way.
Fadlelmula worked on a number of issues, including research on the Alien
Tort Claims Act, which enables human rights victims from other countries
to sue their abusers in U.S. courts. The most recent example involved
Li Peng, the Chinese official responsible for ordering the Tiananmen Square
massacre in 1989.
Senior program associate and supervising attorney Ashley Barr emphasized
the importance of the interns to the centers human rights efforts.
The students also benefit from the field placement, gaining experience with international human rights issues and often working with other students from foreign law schools, Barr said. We couldnt be as effective or accomplish as much without the dedication of the law school interns.