Visiting Fellow Alum Spotlight: Jimena Reyes

As we advertise our 2020-2021 Visiting Fellowship (VF) application, we are looking back and celebrating alums of the program. Jimena Reyes, Americas Director at the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), joined HRP during the Spring 2018 semester as the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow. The profile below ran in our 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Through its Visiting Fellows Program, the Human Rights Program (HRP) has sought to give individuals with a demonstrated commitment to human rights an opportunity to engage with the human rights community at Harvard Law School (HLS).

Scholars and practitioners interested in applying should submit their materials by January 31, 2020. For the upcoming cycle, HRP will be considering applications for resident Visiting Fellows on semester-long or academic-year-long stays, as well as applications for short visits of several days or more.

Find out more about how Jimena spent her semester at HRP below, and learn about this year’s cohort and past Visiting Fellows to explore the range of research VFs have engaged on while in residence at HLS.

Headshot of Jimena Reyes
Jimena Reyes spent Spring 2018 at Harvard Law School as the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow at the Human Rights Program.

For the 2017-2018 year, HRP awarded Jimena Reyes the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellowship, which provides funding to outstanding human rights scholars and practitioners who are nationals of low or middle income countries.

For the past 15 years, Jimena Reyes has been Director for the Americas at the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), a France-based NGO, where she’s led investigations on human rights in Northern and Latin American countries, litigated before the Inter-American system of human rights, and presented communications to the International Criminal Court on Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico. At FIDH, Reyes also partnered with the International Human Rights Clinic on efforts to hold executives from Chiquita Brands International accountable in the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Colombia.

While her work is deeply meaningful, it is also demanding and all-consuming, making the opportunity to spend a year doing research at HLS as HRP’s Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow irresistible.

“The possibility to step back from my practice—to stop running from one battle to another and have time to think about how to do things better—is exactly what I wanted to do,” said Reyes, a native of Colombia. “To have the chance to think! And read! It’s been invaluable to me.”

Reyes’s research at HLS focused on the issue of state capture through corruption: how organized crime, corporations, elites, and other actors divert the state toward their private interests and away from the public good. She is particularly interested in how international and Inter-American human rights law can help fight that type of corruption. “The tension between private and public interests is as old as the existence of democracy,” she said.

She believes that the problem of state capture through corruption is growing, adding, “Much more research should be done.”

From meeting with human rights practitioners, scholars, and students from around the world to attending conferences and workshops on human rights, making presentations on her research, and availing herself of the wealth of university resources, the experience at HLS will have a direct impact on her work as she returns to FIDH, Reyes said. She audited an HLS course on international criminal law and a class on climate change at the Kennedy School, both of which were “extremely interesting and will be very useful for me,” she said. “I have it in my mind very concretely how to translate this knowledge into action.”

“I met so many not only very smart but very caring people, professors and students and practitioners,” she said. “It gave me a lot of hope to see how much they care about the world.”

This profile was written by Elaine McArdle.