Two Students Awarded Leebron Human Rights Postgraduate Fellowships

Katie Minton ’17 and Suraj Girijashanker ’17 LL.M. have been awarded David W. Leebron Human Rights Fellowships that will jumpstart their postgraduate careers in human rights law and advocacy.

Minton will join the U.S. office of Reprieve, an international human rights organization that primarily focuses on issues related to national security. As a fellow, she will engage in human rights advocacy on counterterrorism issues, including detention, the use of drones, and torture. Her responsibilities will reflect ongoing developments related to national security, and will likely include: identifying potential lawsuits, investigating allegations of the unlawful or illegitimate use of force, and developing advocacy strategies.

As an active member of the Law School’s Human Rights Clinic, Minton has demonstrated a strong commitment to human rights, and she has developed a strong set of advocacy skills that suit this new challenge. “Katie’s combination of sharp analytical skills, exceptional research and writing abilities, excellent professional judgment, and passion for social justice make her a superb candidate for the Leebron Fellowship," said Nikki Reisch, legal director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, who supervised Minton as a summer intern.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Colby College in 2010, and before attending law school, Minton served as a community health education volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps in Madagascar.

Girijashanker, a 2016–2017 Columbia Law School Human Rights Fellow, will divide his time between Outright Action International in New York and the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality in Beirut. Both organizations focus on LGBT-rights advocacy. 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.  

Already an experienced and accomplished human rights attorney and advocate, Girijashanker plans to publish a comparative report and develop an advocacy toolkit that will offer an alternative approach to effecting change in the legal, policy, and social spheres.

Immediately before coming to Columbia, Girijashanker served as a resettlement expert with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey, documenting claims made by Syrian refugees and applying international refugee law to the decision-making process. “Suraj’s interview techniques, knowledge of the law and policy frameworks, as well as ability to adapt to a challenging operational context, made him one of the strongest members of [the] team,” said his UNHCR case reviewer.

Girijashanker earned his first LL.M. degree from SOAS University of London, and he holds an LL.B. from the London School of Economics.

The Leebron Human Rights Fellowships honor former Columbia Law School dean and current Rice University President David W. Leebron for his commitment to providing meaningful experiences in human rights law. The fellowship aims to provide recipients with the skills necessary to start or advance a career in the field of human rights law, whether in academic life; in governmental, intergovernmental, or nongovernmental organizations or agencies; or as legal practitioners.

The fellowships are administered by Social Justice Initiatives. The selection committee is comprised of Law School faculty members, administrators, and human rights practitioners.

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Posted April 25, 2017