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Blog: Fellowships

February 3, 2023

Application to 2023-24 Postgraduate Human Rights Fellowships Now Open

The Human Rights Program (HRP) is pleased to announce that the 2023-24 application for the Henigson Human Rights Fellowship and the Satter Human Rights Fellowship is now open.

You can apply to either or both the Henigson and Satter fellowships via our Qualtrics application form.

Complete applications are due March 27, 2023. Prospective applicants must email Abadir Ibrahim ([email protected]) before March 6, 2023, to discuss their plans and have their host organization vetted.

More information on the fellowships, eligibility and the application process is available on our post-graduate fellowship webpage.

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December 14, 2022

Visiting Fellow Spotlight: María Cecilia Ercole

At only 34 years, María Cecilia Ercole has already established herself as a seasoned human rights practitioner with over eight years of experience at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) under her belt. With postings in Geneva, Beirut and La Paz, Ercole’s time at OHCHR has led her to a wide range of human rights work – from monitoring and reporting of presidential elections in Bolivia, to advocacy for victims of torture and modern slavery, to investigations of human rights violations in Yemen and Sri Lanka. Her outlook on human rights was formed by the history of her home country, Argentina, where civilian opposition against the military dictatorship morphed in time to include a push for social, cultural, environmental, and economic rights.

Maria Cecilia Ercole wearing a pink coat and smiling into the camera while standing in front of Harvard Law Langdell Library.

From a young age, and before becoming a lawyer, Ercole was actively involved in community and volunteer work in Argentina. She tutored inmates who were studying law at the Devoto Prison in Buenos Aires and helped in a center for addicted adolescents fighting “paco”, a by-product of cocaine. Following law school, Ercole initially worked in the private sector in Buenos Aires on investment and commercial arbitration cases. But she quickly realized her passions lay elsewhere and left her position in order to work in human rights.

On leaving the private sector, Ercole said, “I felt relief that day while leaving the law firm building. But I was also feeling insecure. Not only was I a fresh graduate at the time, but my father’s conviction was that pursuing a human rights career was snobbish and unrealistic. I would often catch myself questioning this early career turn, swapping a lucrative career in arbitration for a human rights one.”

Her next career stop marked a major shift away from arbitration law. Ercole briefly worked with the Center for Justice and International Law in Washington, D.C., representing victims before the Inter-American Human Rights System. Following this, she accepted a coordinator position at a grassroot NGO providing legal aid to victims of domestic violence and asylum seekers living in slums on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. “The NGO office was in the small attic of an insurance company”, Ercole noted. “Despite that, we were making a difference through the legal profession. And, as a young lawyer, I also had my first experience managing a small team of lawyers and volunteers.”

From Buenos Aires, Ercole moved to Geneva, the heart of the international human rights system. Throughout the many countries she has worked in, a particular commitment has stayed with her: defending and expanding the rights of women, children, migrants and LGBTIQ+ individuals. On this, a notable victory stands out. As OHCHR gender focal point in La Paz, Ercole’s unrelenting advocacy vis-à-vis the government authorities and OHCHR’s strong alliance with a vibrant national civil society contributed greatly to the state’s recognition of the country’s first civil union of a same-sex couple in December 2020, thereby setting a precedent for the advancement of LGBTIQ+ rights in Bolivia.

As the Wasserstein Fellow in Residence at the Harvard Law Human Rights Program (HRP) and the Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA), Ercole juggles different tasks. At HRP, she aims to bring answers to challenges Ercole encountered when investigating violations during armed conflict and beyond. A product of this scholarly interest has been a recent article about the rights of LGBTQ+ persons in armed conflict published on the blog of the European Journal of International Law. As an adviser at OPIA, Ercole assists HLS students interested in human rights careers in navigating the intricacies of the international legal arena. “Empowerment should always be the starting point with young people”, said Ercole. “All in all, advising has been my chance to give back.”

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October 26, 2022

Benyam Dawit Mezmur in Harvard Law Today

Benyam Dawit Mezmur wearing a blue suit and standing in front of trees with his arms crossed.

On October 24, 2022, Harvard Law Today published a portrait of Benyam Dawit Mezmur, who is one of the world’s foremost experts on children’s rights and has been an HRP Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow since February of this year. In the article, Mezmur talks about his career dedicated to children’s rights, which has led him to memberships in the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights of the Child, and the Catholic Church’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

You can read the full article on the HLS website.

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June 7, 2022

HRP Awards 2022-23 Post-Graduate Fellowships

From left to right: Henigson fellow Seher Aftab and Satter fellow Rosalinn Zahau


The Human Rights Program (HRP) is pleased to present its 2022-2023 Post-Graduate Fellows. This year, we have awarded Satter and Henigson Fellowships to two remarkable 2022 Harvard Law School (HLS) graduates: Henigson Fellow Seher Aftab LLM ’22 (on the left of photo above) and Satter Fellow Rosalinn Zahau LLM ’22 (on the right).

HRP’s post-graduate fellowships are designed to help launch the careers of students who have demonstrated great promise as advocates while at HLS. Fellows are placed with human rights organizations working under highly challenging circumstances. In light of the ravages accelerated by the pandemic, wars, growing authoritarianism and worldwide inequality, HRP is more committed than ever to supporting the careers of young professionals devoted to international human rights and social justice. Learn more about the new fellows and their projects below.

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May 13, 2022

2021 HRP Summer Fellow Reflection: Amre Metwally JD’22

Metwally spent summer 2021 at Social Media Exchange in Beirut, Lebanon

Photo of 2021 HRP summer fellow Amre Metwally

In a time of dim prospects for democracy in the Arab world and elsewhere, defending and advancing digital rights has long become a crucial frontier for human rights advocates. The Beirut-based Social Media Exchange (SMEX) is one of the few locally rooted NGOs to have made it their mission to advocate for digital rights in the Arab world. From July to August 2021, SMEX was supported by HRP summer fellow Amre Metwally JD’22 in pursuing that mission.

For Amre, SMEX had “long been a dream organization” of his to work with. He joined the NGO’s legal unit, which had only been established shortly before his fellowship. As an Egyptian-American, Amre was able to employ his language skills to seamlessly join forces with his colleagues on projects in Arabic. He says the following on his two main projects:

“The first was a project called “Muhal” which is a database that tracks freedom of expression infringements and arrests across the Arab world. I tracked incidents in Jordan and Tunisia. Additionally, my colleague and I drafted a report that analyzed how provisions in Tunisian, Jordanian, and Lebanese civil and criminal code can be used as pretexts or justifications behind freedom of speech violations. In particular, I was interested in looking at blasphemy, defamation, and cybercrime provisions in Jordanian law that served as the basis for violations.

The second project was a multi-person project that is actually funded by Privacy International. We wanted to better understand biometric and digital identification programs in the Gulf region in the Middle East. I was responsible for first researching the technical, legal, and economic underpinnings of national ID programs for Bahrain and Qatar. From there, I worked with my colleagues to find common trends, identify important differences, and flesh out a template for country-specific analyses. I then finished by writing my country analyses for Bahrain and Qatar.”

Amre brought extensive knowledge and a refined understanding of the tension between free speech and the regulation of online hate speech thanks to years of working for the content policy team at YouTube. Personal connections from his professional past also proved beneficial when Amre was able to liaise between the SMEX team and former YouTube colleagues now employed at TikTok to resolve a burgeoning crisis.

On the idea of “international human rights work”, Amre’s views evolved regarding the feasibility of cross-border coordination between human rights organizations:

“One project for SMEX was to create an Arab Alliance for Digital Rights. At first I assumed that, despite geographic diversity, it should be somewhat easy to get alignment. I was woefully unprepared for how difficult it was! Even when everyone was aligned for the need for strong “human rights” protections and advocacy work when it comes to the digital space, there was so much that changed based on, for example, a specific country’s reality compared to a different country. It made me realize just how much “international” human rights work is still ultimately shaped by, and influenced by, domestic or national human rights ideas and priorities.”

The internship at SMEX has only cemented the path Amre was on already. Advocating for digital rights was the reason he joined Harvard Law School, and his writing on the issue has been published on Slate.

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May 11, 2022

HRP Awards 2022 Summer Fellows

Group photo of 2022 HRP summer fellows including from left to right: Madeleine Rogers, Andrew Santana, Ishita Petkar, Zoe Shamis, Julia Lee.

HRP is pleased to announce its 2022 summer fellowship cohort: Madeleine Rogers JD’22, Andrew Santana JD’23, Ishita Petkar JD’24, Zoe Shamis JD’24 and Julia Lee JD’24.

Summer fellowships for human rights internships are a central part of the Harvard Law School human rights experience and provide rich professional, personal, and intellectual opportunities. Many students and alumni/ae who are committed to human rights were introduced to the field through an internship. Interns work for at least eight weeks with nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations advancing human rights with an international focus.

You can find the student bios below.

Photo of Andrew Santana
Andrew Santana; credit: Lorin Granger

Andrew Santana will intern with International Rights Advocates, working on class action litigation on behalf of the survivors of human rights abuses in Latin America. He graduated from Cornell in 2013 with a B.A. in government and received a M.P.P. from the University of Oxford in 2020, where his research focused on application of international human rights law to freedom of expression online. Professionally, Andrew has worked in various communications and political roles for Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, and Robert Reich. Last summer, he worked with International Rights Advocates on a wide range of human rights matters before federal courts. 

Photo of Ishita Petkar
Ishita Petkar; credit: Lorin Granger

Ishita Petkar will intern at EarthRights International in Washington D.C. She will work with their litigation and legal advocacy team to further corporate accountability for environmental and human rights violations. Prior to law school, Ishita directed policy advocacy at the International Accountability Project, an NGO dedicated to furthering community-led development and holding development banks accountable for the human rights impacts of their investments. Her masters thesis interrogated the varying definitions of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) held by Indigenous and corporate stakeholders in the international development process. Ishita holds a B.A. from the University of Toronto in English Literature and Indigenous Studies, and an M.A. in Human Rights from Columbia University. 

Photo of Julia Lee
Julia Lee; credit: Lorin Granger

Julia Lee will intern with Corporate Accountability Lab in Chicago, working on their combating forced labor, transitional justice, and ethical intellectual property projects. Julia is interested in international human rights and criminal law, and she hopes to work in Southeast Asia one day. Prior to law school, she spent a summer researching immigrant access to health care and social services in the Bom Retiro neighborhood of São Paulo, Brazil. She also worked in venture capital, education, and public relations in South Korea. She graduated summa cum laude from Emory University with a B.A. in English and minor in Global Health. 

Photo of Madeleine Rogers
Madeleine Rogers; credit: Lorin Granger

Madeleine Rogers will be interning with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance on their Constitution Building Project. Working with the IDEA, Madeleine will focus in particular on constitutional formation processes in post-conflict zones, and analyzing strategies to ensure institutions capable of safeguarding human rights. She hopes to use this research to build on her interest in the role of governmental institutions and the rule of law on transnational human rights issues such as human trafficking and corporate accountability. Madeleine holds a BFA from the Juilliard School; she hails originally from Portland, Oregon.

Photo of Zoe Shamis
Zoe Shamis; credit: Lorin Granger

Zoe Shamis will intern with the Clooney Foundation for Justice, working in their TrialWatch division, which monitors global criminal trials for human rights violations. At HLS, she has worked on the International Law Journal and been an active member of HLS Advocates for Human Rights. She holds a B.A. from Bowdoin College in Government & Legal Studies and Russian. 

Congratulations to all of our summer fellows and best of luck to all the HLS students interning abroad this summer!

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June 4, 2021

HRP Awards 2021 Post-Graduate and Summer Fellowships

The Human Rights Program is pleased to present recipients of its 2021-2022 post-graduate and 2021 summer fellowships. This year, we have awarded Satter Human Rights Fellowships to three remarkable 2021 Harvard Law School graduates: Brooke Davies JD’21, Emily Ray JD’21, and María Daniela Díaz Villamil LLM’21. Made possible by a generous gift by Muneer A. Satter JD’87, this 12-month post-graduate fellowship is designed to support and promote human rights defense in response to mass atrocity or widespread and severe patterns of rights abuse.

Two current Harvard Law School students — Amre Metwally JD’22 and Kirin Gupta — will also undertake summer internships in human rights with funding from HRP. As guidance from Harvard University evolves and the world continues to reckon with the pandemic, summer fellowships will be undertaken remotely. Learn more about our post-graduate and summer fellowship recipients below.

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March 24, 2021

An Academic Home for a Global Mandate: UN Expert Mentors Harvard Students, Promotes LGBT Rights

Posted by Dana Walters

Internationally, Victor Madrigal-Borloz is known as a determined advocate for the rights of LGBT individuals. As the United Nations Independent Expert on the protection from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), his mandate comes directly from the UN Human Rights Council. Through thematic reports, official country visits, keynote speeches, and behind-the-scenes organizing and advocacy, he diligently works to promote a rights-respecting reality for LGBT individuals.

At Harvard Law School, where Madrigal-Borloz has spent the past two years as the Eleanor Roosevelt Senior Visiting Researcher with the Human Rights Program (HRP) and has hired research assistants from across the University to aid him in his work, he has undertaken another role: mentor.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz stands in front of a podium in Wasserstein Hall. He wears a suit and tie and is speaking. He stands in front of a chalkboard.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz first visited Harvard Law School in February 2019 to give a talk about his mandate.
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February 22, 2021

Satter Human Rights Fellowship Application Now Open


The application for the Satter Fellowship in Human Rights is now OPEN. Made possible by a generous gift by Muneer A. Satter JD’87, the fellowship is designed to support and promote human rights defense in response to mass atrocity or widespread and severe patterns of rights abuse. The Satter Fellowship has helped launch the careers of many human rights practitioners who have gone on to contribute substantially to the field.

Applications are due March 29, 2021. Applicants must email Tyler Giannini for advising by March 1, 2021.

Learn more and apply here: https://hrp.law.harvard.edu/fellowships/post-graduate-fellowships/satter-human-rights-fellowship/

Please note that this fellowship is only open to Harvard Law School recent graduates and alumni.

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December 16, 2020

Fall 2020: Online Advocacy and Learning

Posted by Dana Walters

For the Human Rights Program, fall 2020 was different — but no less busy. After a brief stint with remote schooling last spring, faculty, students, and staff committed to shifting their methods of advocacy and learning fully online this fall. Despite challenges, we all found ways of maintaining community and building connection virtually.

The International Human Rights Clinic held two introductory classes and an advanced seminar for third-year JDs. With almost 40 students this fall, projects examined the right to water in South Africa and the United States; killer robots; accountability for human rights violations by corporations and the United Nations; the arms trade treaty and gender-based violence; climate change and human rights; and more.

Fourteen students and a teacher smile on zoom in a grid format. Some have virtual backgrounds. It's a mix of women and men.
Bonnie Docherty (top, second from left) ran an introductory class in the Clinic on Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection.
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