Human Rights Institute Announces the 2017 Awardees of the ‘Commendation for Leadership and Commitment in Human Rights’
June 15, 2017, NEW YORK – The Human Rights Institute is pleased to announce this year’s recipients of the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute ‘Commendation for Leadership and Commitment in Human Rights.’ In recognition of their outstanding leadership in human rights, the Institute honors seven remarkable law students: Suraj Kandath Girijashanker ’17 LL.M., Maria Emilia Mamberti ’17 LL.M., Anjli Parrin ’17 J.D., Ria Singh Sawhney ’17 LL.M., Julia Sherman ’17 J.D., Netsanet Tesfay, LL.M ’17, and Martin Willner ’17 J.D.
Awardees are selected based on their commitment to advancing human rights opportunities at Columbia, engagement in mentorship of new students into human rights, activities undertaken in and out of the law school to advance human rights, and commitment to a career in human rights and to advancing the human rights field.
Awardees are selected by Human Rights Institute directors and staff: faculty co-directors Sarah Cleveland and Sarah Knuckey, director JoAnn Ward, director Tony Wilson, director Alex Moorehead, deputy director Tom Longley, senior clinical teaching fellow Benjamin Hoffman, legal fellow Rahma Hussein, program manager Randi Aho, and project associate Michel Manzur.
The Human Rights Institute faculty and staff congratulate Suraj, Maria, Anjli, Ria, Julia, Netsanet, and Martin for their extraordinary achievements.
Suraj Kandath Girijashanker
Suraj Kandath Girijashanker ’17 LL.M. put incredible effort into promoting diversity and ensuring more complete representation of voice in the human rights field while at Columbia Law School. As a LL.M. Human Rights Fellow, his studies focused on international human rights law, international refugee law, and gender and sexuality law. As a member of the Human Rights Clinic, Suraj worked on the targeted killings and mental health in Yemen projects. As part of the targeted killings project, he worked on designing a media series for advocates from countries most affected by U.S. counterterrorism policies with the aim of contributing to future partnerships between advocates in the south and policymakers in the U.S. Suraj was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and a recipient of the David W. Leebron Fellowship. Through his Leebron Fellowship, Suraj will be based with Outright Action International in New York and with the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality in Beirut. As a fellow, he will document best practices for promoting the rights of LGBT people in the Middle East and North Africa by conducting interviews with regional human rights defenders, lawyers, government officials, lawmakers, and advocates.
Maria Emilia Mamberti ’17 LL.M.
Maria Emilia Mamberti ’17 LL.M. has demonstrated an exceptional dedication to human rights and social justice during her time at the law school. She was a LL.M. Human Rights Fellow, a 2016-2017 Fulbright Scholar, a member of the Human Rights Institute Student Advisory Committee (SAC), and a member of the Human Rights Clinic. In her role on the SAC, Maria surveyed LL.M. students’ interests in human rights to better inform programming at the law school. Through the Clinic, she worked on the human rights in the U.S. team, advancing arguments to incorporate international human rights law in advocacy actions taking place in different states in the U.S., with a focus on anti-discrimination protections. Her studies at Columbia Law School focused on international human rights, constitutional law, social and economic rights, and freedom of information. Maria was a recipient of the Philanthropic Educational Organization scholarship, which seeks to advance women’s leadership and higher education worldwide, and was a James Kent Scholar. She interned with the Knight First Amendment Institute and served as a research assistant for Human Rights Institute faculty co-director Sarah Cleveland. Maria will continue to intern with the Knight First Amendment institute over the summer before returning to Argentina to co-found a human rights NGO in her hometown of La Plata.
Anjli Parrin ’17 J.D. and Martin Willner ’17 J.D.
Anjli Parrin ’17 J.D. has worked to advance human rights and promote diversity and inclusion efforts while at Columbia Law School. As President of the Law in Africa Student Society she founded a pro-bono program with Amnesty International monitoring extra-judicial killings in Kenya, and created a reading group about contemporary legal issues on the continent. Anjli served as Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law and published her legal note on mapping a legal framework for terrorism defectors and detainees in Somalia. She has focused her studies on international, comparative, and human rights law, and was a member of the Human Rights Clinic for two years, working on a project to investigate war crimes in the Central African Republic (CAR), and advocate against discrimination in higher education in CAR. Together with colleagues and faculty, Anjli created the Trump Human Rights Tracker, to monitor potential and ongoing rights violations by the new administration. She participated in both the European Law Moot Court Competition and the Jean-Pictet Competition in International Humanitarian Law, which she also coached, and was a student representative on the Faculty Curriculum Committee, and Leadership Development Taskforce. Anjli was awarded the David M. Berger Memorial Prize, the Clinical Legal Education Association Outstanding Student Prize, the Salzburg-Cutler Fellowship, the SIPA International Fellowship, and was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. In the fall, she will begin as a legal fellow with the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, working on a project on using forensic sciences and human rights to advance accountability for mass atrocities in CAR.
Ria Singh Sawhney
While at Columbia Law School, Ria Singh Sawhney ’17 LL.M., was dedicated to social justice and committed to strengthening human rights opportunities. Ria was on the research board of Rightslink and a board member of the ACLU and Queer Trans People of Color student groups. She was a LL.M. Human Rights Fellow, a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar, and recipient of the Parker School Recognition of Achievement in International Law. Her studies focused on economic and social rights, accountability for counter-terrorism practices, mental health and human rights, social movements lawyering, and the intersection of technology and human rights. As a member of the Human Rights Clinic, Ria worked on a project focused on increasing accountability for drone strikes and targeted killings, and on the right to mental health in Yemen. Ria will join the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU as a research fellow. She will also continue her work with the right to food movement in India.
Julia Sherman ’17 J.D.
Julia Sherman ’17 J.D. has been a leader in strengthening the human rights community at Columbia Law School. She served as Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and President of the National Security Law Society. She was also an Events Chair for Rightslink and was on the Native American Law Student Association Moot Court team. Her studies focused on international law, international criminal law and national security, and international humanitarian law. She interned at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Permanent Mission of the Federated States of Micronesia, HIAS Uganda, and Human Rights Watch, and also served as a research assistant for Human Rights Institute senior fellow Amal Clooney and Dr. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Julia received the Parker Fellowship at the International Court of Justice for 2017-2018, the David M. Berger Memorial Prize at graduation, and was a Harlan Fiske Stone and James Kent Scholar. Through the Parker Fellowship, she will undertake a traineeship at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
While a LL.M. Human Rights Fellow at Columbia Law School, Netsanet Tesfay ’17 LL.M., focused on transitional justice, labor, and migration issues. She was part of the human rights clinic and worked with forensic anthropologists and judicial actors to address human rights violations and war crimes in CAR. Netsanet was also a teaching assistant for Professor Ssekandi’s class “African Legal Theory, Law and Development,” as well as an LL.M. representative for the Law in African Student Society. She co-authored an article with Professor Ssekandi on the International Criminal Court’s role in Africa, which is forthcoming in Georgetown’s Journal of International Affairs. In addition to her studies, she also continued to support the work of the Black Women’s Blueprint, focusing on legal advocacy with the United Nations and other international forums to address sexual and other forms of gender-based violence against black women and girls in the U.S. Next, as a fellow at Columbia’s Center for Sustainable Investment, she will conduct research on solutions for overcoming specific obstacles related to legal support gaps and transparency in the context of land-based investments.
Martin Willner ’17 J.D. worked to expand student opportunities in the field of international humanitarian law, particularly through his commitment to the Jean-Pictet Competition. As a first-year student, he reached the semi-final round of competition as part of Columbia's first team to participate. He coached two subsequent teams and worked to institutionalize support at Columbia Law School for the study and training of international humanitarian law through the competition. Throughout his third year, Martin assisted Human Rights Institute faculty co-director Sarah Cleveland with her work on the Human Rights Committee in Geneva. He also served as Head Notes Editor of the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, where he was awarded the Neil McDonell Memorial Prize for outstanding service to the journal. Martin has received the Holthusen-Schindler Fellowship, a PepsiCo Research Fellowship, and the Salzburg-Cutler Fellowship in International Law, which he was awarded for his note on the application of the International Court of Justice’s Specially Affected States Doctrine to international humanitarian law. He was a James Kent and Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and was awarded the David M. Berger Memorial Prize for his commitment to international law and world peace. In September, he will begin clerking at the Constitutional Court of South Africa for Justice Edwin Cameron.
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