October 29, 2018
Yasser Gonazalez '18 worked in Colombia last summer as part of an internship sponsored by the Transnational Legal Initiative.

How would you like to spend the summer in South America or Washington D.C. working for LGBTI rights while receiving a stipend to cover housing and living expenses?

That opportunity is available for Rutgers Law students from both Camden and Newark, through an internship program created by Professor Jorge Contesse, sponsored by the Transnational Legal Initiative, in partnership with Rutgers’ Center for Gender, Sexuality, Law and Policy.

Contesse, a human rights expert who oversees the internships, notes that students work with leading attorneys and advocates and work on policy and advocacy issues on behalf of LGBTI communities in Chile and Colombia, and starting in 2019, at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in Washington DC. “The goal is that Rutgers students can see how international law and human rights law can work in practice, and in different legal and social contexts,” he explains. 

Applications for the summer program, where students spend at least four weeks at a leading non-governmental organization in Chile or Colombia and the Inter-American Commission (an inter-governmental organization with jurisdiction over 35 countries), are currently being accepted. To apply, students must submit a resume; statement of interest detailing the relevance of the internship to past experience and professional goals; a letter of recommendation from a faculty member; and a transcript.

Through this program, Yasser Gonzalez ’18, spent part of last summer working at Colombia Diversa, one of Latin America’s leading NGOs dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTI persons. Gonzalez explained that after five decades of conflict, the Colombian government reached a peace agreement with the insurgent group FARC. When he arrived in Bogota, Colombia Diversa’s legal department was in the initial stages of drafting a petition intended to offer redress to members of the LGBTI community that were victimized by such groups.

What kind of work did you do on your internship?

They’re going to create these transitional tribunals like for Rwandan genocide for the former Yugoslavia, to address war crimes that happened from FARC and the government. They’re pulling together the petitions. There were way more abuses specifically targeting LGBTI people, especially from paramilitary groups. I was reading sentences from Yugoslavia and Rwanda. As part of Colombia Diversa’s strategy, they intend to support their arguments with jurisprudence created by other similar tribunals in other countries that have tried to move forward from conflict. I did a lot of research to support possible arguments.

What could a law student gain from this internship?

They will get a sense of how the law is practiced in other countries, and get an insight into international institutions, such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. It was also good in terms of networking—I met people who went on to work at the United Nations.

Did you spend all of your time working?

A couple of weekends I went to different cities, and when the internship was over I went to a couple of other cities. You take tours, working in the peace process, I took tours relating to peace. It was a very enriching cultural experience. The office itself is a great environment, people were nice and welcoming. I had a great time.

Did this experience help you in your career goals?

I have a law degree from Cuba and have been working with victims of domestic violence for the last five years and had some familiarity working with victims of gender-based hatred and violence.  Right now I’m working for Partners for Women and Justice. In the future, I might apply for work in international organizations.

The Initiative is supported by a seed grant from Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor, Nancy Cantor. Applications must be submitted to cgslp@law.rutgers.edu by January 31, 2019. Students must use “TLI Summer Internship” in the subject line of the emailed application. All Rutgers Law students are eligible.

Questions? Contact Professor Jorge Contesse at jorge.contesse@rutgers.edu.

Rutgers Law Media Contacts:
Mike Sepanic (Camden); Elizabeth Moore (Newark)

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