From Colombia to Columbia: Human Rights Lawyer Named 2016 Baker & McKenzie Scholarship Winner


Sofia Jaramillo Otoya ’17 LL.M., a human rights lawyer from Colombia, has been named the 2016 recipient of the Baker & McKenzie Scholarship at Columbia Law School. Established in June 2015, the Scholarship awards $50,000 to an LL.M. student who demonstrates academic success and financial need.

Most recently, Jaramillo Otoya worked in Bogotá, Colombia at the Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia), a Colombia-based NGO whose mission is to strengthen the rule of law and promote human rights across the Global South. In her role as a research coordinator, she collaborated with the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression on a number of special initiatives, including the creation of a Spanish-language version of a global case law database on freedom of expression and access to information.

"We are delighted that Sofía will receive this year’s Baker & McKenzie Scholarship,” said Claudia Prado, chair of Baker & McKenzie in Latin America and of the firm's Global Diversity & Inclusion Committee. “We’re honored to provide an opportunity for a bright and accomplished candidate like Sofia to advance her career in human rights law, and to promote greater diversity and inclusion in the legal profession."

Before beginning her advanced studies, Jaramillo Otoya worked for various human rights organizations and agencies, including: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, where she served as a human rights specialist; the Foundation for Free Press; and the Colombian Government Unit for Comprehensive Victim Support and Reparation. 

With a specialized background in human rights law, Jaramillo Otoya decided to broaden her knowledge of international and comparative law.  She chose Columbia Law School to be part of its community of advocates from around the world, and to participate in the Human Rights Institute

“Thanks to the Baker & McKenzie Foundation’s award, I will benefit from, and contribute to, meaningful dialogue with the human rights field’s best scholars and professionals, and receive the preparation in comparative and international law on human rights that I need to bolster my efforts as a human rights advocate and attorney,” Jaramillo Otoya said. 

Priority for the Baker & McKenzie scholarship is given to international students from outside of the United States and Western Europe, in line with efforts the Law School has made to welcome students from emerging countries. Last year’s scholarship was awarded to Sofía Minieri ’16 LL.M., now a staff attorney with the Association for Civil Rights, in Buenos Aires.

In addition to the Baker & McKenzie scholarship, Jaramillo Otoya was awarded a Law School Human Rights LL.M. Fellowship in recognition of her strong commitment to the field of international human rights. 

She has also been chosen to work as an international law and human rights research assistant with the Human Rights Institute on a multi-year initiative to advance the practice of, and scholarship about, “critical human rights advocacy”—characterized by deliberate and reflective efforts to reform human rights practice in light of critiques of the field. 

Jaramillo Otoya said this experience, combined with coursework and extracurricular offerings, will provide her with the tools she needs to better grasp present challenges in her country and throughout Latin America, and to devise practical strategies that can lead to solutions. 

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Posted October 13, 2016