Capstone Course in International Law

Capstone Course: "International Law in Action"

Dr. Sharon Weill and Adv. Omer Shatz

 

This capstone course aims to provide innovative legal education and training through practical work related to armed conflicts, transnational migration, counter terrorism and accountability for international crimes.

The main goals are to

  • (1) Provide students with research skills through applied work on concrete case studies, in collaboration with international legal professionals and institutions.
  • (2) Use innovative methodologies based on legal analysis and empirical field research, including trial observations, data collection and interviews.
  • (3) Familiarize students with relevant legal institutions at the national and global level (ICRC, UN treaty bodies and special procedures, ICC…).
  • (4) Produce a final working paper/report/case study that will be submitted and/or presented to relevant professional partners, providing the students with an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution in the domain of human rights.  

The teaching methodology has theoretical and practical aspects. During the first semester the course provides a theoretical overview of the relevant legal frameworks: International Law and the Use of Force, International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights and Refugee Law, and International Criminal Law. The normative discussion of the international legal order is politically contextualied and includes the mapping of the competent institutions and sources.

The second semester provides the students an opportunity to engage in practical legal research, fieldwork, or international strategic litigation. Over the course of this semester, the class is typically divided to two working groups, each pursuing their own legal clinical project.  

 

Clinical Work I (2016-2018)

Professor Sharon Weill

French foreign fighters and judicial guarantees: Report prepared for the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of human rights while countering terrorism 

Field trip to the United Nations and participation in the UPR of France (Geneva, January 2017).

With the aim of providing empirical findings to the UN Special rapporteur in her official visit to France, students prepared a report that included data collection, court observations and interviews with defence lawyers and prosecutors.  

Outcome: Our report (PDF) was submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur, Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin on her official visit to France in May 2018. It was cited in the Report of the Special Rapporteur which was submitted to UN Human Rights Council in March 2019 (see Report of the Special Rapporteur).

Dr. Weill published an article in the ICRC review (Cambridge University Press), in which the work of the students is cited.

Capstone course Dr Weill

Professor Weill and the students who met with the UN Special Rapporteur and presented to her their report.during her official visit to Paris. Photo credits (c)Sharon Weill.

This project was supported by Court Watch (Open Society Foundations)

 

Clinical Work II (2016-2019)

Professor Weill in collaboration with UC Berkeley

The Trial of President Hissene Habré: An Empirical Study of the Extraordinary African Chamber in Dakar, Senegal

Capstone course Dr Weill   Capstone course Dr Weill   Capstone course Dr Weill

Field trip to Dakar, February 2017. Photo credits (c)Sharon Weill.

In a joint project with The Berkeley Centre of Human Rights, University of California, students from the Capstone course and UC Berkeley went on a field trip to Dakar, to the Hybrid Court where the Former Chadian President was prosecuted for torture and crimes against humanity. We conducted interviews with different actors such as the judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, journalists and NGOs members. 

Capstone course Dr Weill

Prior to the trip, Professor Weill and the students co-organized with UC Berkeley a workshop at PSIA with the participation of different actors who were involved in the case. Photo credits (c)Sharon Weill.

Outcome: The editing of a book published by Oxford University Press (May 2020). A number of students served as assistant editors of the book. 

Project supported by the French Berkeley Foundation and the Matrix Foundation.

 

Clinical Work III (2018-2019)

Professors Sharon Weill and Omer Shatz

The Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace

Capstone course Dr Weill   Capstone course Dr Weill

Professors Weill and Shatz and four students did a study trip to the Special jurisdiction for Peace in Bogota in February 2019. Photo credits (c)Sharon Weill.

What is the role of national jurisdictions in providing accountability for international crimes? Focusing on the peace process in Colombia as a case study, we sought to better understand the function of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace tribunal, which had completed its first year of work. Our goal was to identify the main challenges the different legal actors faced and to inquire what contributions it had made in promoting accountability. During a field trip to Bogota we met with the different stakeholders involved in the transitional justice process and conducted interviews with judges, lawyers, NGOs and journalists. 

Capstone course Dr Weill

Meeting with FARC’s leader Timoshenko and his defense lawyer at their office in Bogota. Photo credits (c)Sharon Weill.

Outcome: Report presented and submitted to the FIDH’s American Desk in France in assisting their work in Colombia. 

 

Clinical Work IV (2017-2019)

Adv. Omer Shatz

EU migration policies in the Mediterranean and Libya

Over two academic years, the students conducted factual and legal research concerning EU migration policies in the Mediterranean and Libya, to better understand why international law fails to protect the lives and rights of migrants.  

Based on the evidence the students gathered and the legal analysis they performed, the innovative project resulted in the submission of a ground-breaking case to the International Criminal Court, seeking to hold EU and Member States officials accountable for their acts and omissions.  

The filing of the 245-pages brief sparked a wide academic and political discussion. The EU Commission and European governments responded officially, and public hearings and conferences were held in the German Bundestag, EU Parliament, Spanish Congress, as well as at various academic and policy institutions. 

Read the brief (PDF) submitted by lawyer Omer Shatz and the Capstone course's students.

Read a press report by The Guardian.

 

Clinical Work V (Spring semester 2020)

French Asylum Courts: Proposals for Reforms

Preparation of a report to be submitted to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, France

Students will do trial observations and will interview different actors involved in the asylum proceedings in France (translators, lawyers, judges, NGOs) with the aim of preparing a report for the UN HRC in France, in which they will propose reforms.

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