January 23, 2020

2019 HRP Summer Fellow Reflection: Matthew Farrell JD’21


Farrell spent summer 2019 at Amnesty International in London, UK


Summer fellowships
for human rights internships are a central part of the Harvard Law School human rights experience. During the summer of 2019, HRP funded five HLS students to intern abroad at nongovernmental organizations for up to eight weeks. At the conclusion of their internships, students returned to HRP with a deeper appreciation for the type of work required of human rights practitioners. Over the course of January while our summer fellowship application is open, we’ll be excerpting portions from their fellowship reports to provide a glimpse into the kinds of experiences open to human rights students at Harvard Law. 


Matthew Farrell had a strong foundation in international relations and human rights when he left for his summer at Amnesty International in London. After completing a human rights-focused Master’s and beginning law school, he wanted to use his 1L summer internship to dive into international criminal law. At Amnesty International, Farrell joined the Strategic Litigation Unit, which combats human rights violations through litigation that will have implications for actors – including individuals, communities, governments, and corporations – beyond the parties to the case. Much of the work he conducted in that unit focused on civil matters; however, the internship experience helped him understand how such core litigation skills could easily transfer into other arenas. In his role as an intern, Farrell contributed research, editing, drafting, and advising on a range of cases.

In his own words, he:

– researched and drafted sections of a third-party intervention submitted to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of Piskin v. Turkey. The brief addressed procedural rights in employment proceedings leading to the dismissal of an employee working with or for a State agency on grounds related to national security, including under a State of Emergency, as well as the application of the principles of legality and legal certainty and non-retroactivity as applied to national security, including in counter-terrorism;

– researched ECtHR precedent for a third-party intervention before the ECtHR in the case of Muhammed and Muhammed v. Romania regarding the use of classified material in ‘closed’ judicial proceedings – i.e. proceedings in which one party and their representative of choice are excluded for reasons of national security. 

– familiarized himself with case documents (e.g. complaints, facts, appeals, motions, amicus briefs, and opinions), edited third-party interventions, participated in strategy sessions for civil and criminal cases, and communicated with courts for cases in which Amnesty intervened before the ECtHR and the International Criminal Court.

Farrell also had a unique opportunity to develop a cutting-edge strategy for human rights-based climate change litigation and advise on proposed litigation in this emerging field.

He elaborated, “Climate change is a new area for Amnesty International and in preparing the climate change litigation strategy, I also began developing connections between the unit and other actors within Amnesty International, as well as with other organizations that work on human rights and climate change.”

Farrell hopes to use this experience to continue to work on human rights litigation in the Clinic and elsewhere. In addition, because the placement largely revolved around appellate work, he is more heavily invested in that field. 

For the 2019-2020 academic year, Farrell is enrolled as  a student in the International Human Rights Clinic and an active member of HLS Advocates for Human Rights. Currently, he is undertaking an HRP Winter Fellowship at the International Criminal Court in the Hague this January.
Interested in learning more about HRP Summer Fellowships? Schedule an advising appointment with Anna Crowe, Assistant Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, and apply to join our 2020 cohort today! Please note that you do not need to have a confirmed placement organization before you apply for the 2020 HRP summer fellowship pool. Applications are due February 1, 2020!

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