In the past three years, Crystal Lopez ’09 has traveled to some of the most exotic, tropical locales on the planet. Her journeys were not your typical spring-break jaunts. In each case, their purpose was to promote human rights.
This past August, Lopez headed to Equatorial Guinea with Professor Peter Rosenblum and two other students from the Human Rights Clinic to gather information about human rights issues in the country. “The absence of fiscal and political transparency and the fact that the government does not allow an independent society to flourish are major obstacles to human rights advocacy in Equatorial Guinea,” she explains. Following her two-week trip, Lopez and her colleagues met with U.S. State Department officials in Washington, D.C., to report on the human rights situation in the country.
A month before flying to Equatorial Guinea, Lopez accompanied Human Rights Institute Deputy Director Caroline Bettinger-López to the Dominican Republic, where they worked on legal issues related to equality for Dominicans of Haitian descent. While there, Lopez also met with NGOs and government officials, as well as petitioners in a discrimination case.
Lopez’s international travels during Law School began in earnest with a trip to Peru the summer after her first year. She worked with APRODEH, one of Peru’s leading human rights organizations, to help the country recover from the dictatorship of former President Alberto Fujimori. In Peru, Lopez realized that human rights work is often dangerous and difficult, requiring a great deal of commitment. But she notes that those very challenges drove her to an important epiphany: “This is the kind of meaningful work I want to pursue.”
After graduation, Lopez will defer from work at a law firm and will do a public interest fellowship for a year. As for the future, she is thinking of eventually going into clinical teaching. Of course, that’s just the plan, and, as the globe-trotting Lopez points out, “you never know what interesting projects I might run into around the world.”