USC Gould students intern with international criminal tribunals

-By Christina Schweighofer

Playing a meaningful role: Siobhan Coley-Amin ’15 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Graduation and the bar exam still months ahead, Siobhan Coley-Amin ’15 and Jillian Chou ’15 were already immersed in real cases of international criminal law. As judicial interns at international courts in The Hague, Netherlands, and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the students were involved firsthand in the tribunals’ efforts to prosecute people responsible for mass atrocities. 

Coley-Amin and Chou both participated in the International Human Rights Clinic at USC Gould. Prof. Hannah Garry, director of the clinic, is a keen proponent of internships at international criminal tribunals because they teach students the law and skills necessary for practice in a globalized world.  

“Even better,” Garry said, “they give students the chance, early in their legal career, to play a meaningful role in the global movement to end impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.” 

Coley-Amin chose to intern at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia  (ECCC), which is commonly known as the Cambodia or Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The Cambodian Genocide, with at least 1.7 million victims, dates 40 years back.  

Since starting her work in January with the Supreme Court Chamber, the appellate chamber of the tribunal, Coley-Amin has been impressed by how much time and effort the court spends to achieve “the ultimate goal of any judicial system, fairness,” and how it seeks to work as efficiently as possible, in part because of the advanced age of the defendants. 

Jillian Chou ’15 at the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands

Chou was, at least in part, drawn to law school because she wanted to learn how an international legal framework can bring truth and justice to victims of mass atrocities. Now a judicial intern for Ghanain Judge Akua Kuenyehia in the Appeals Chamber at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, she has been able to meet highly respected judges and attorneys from all over the world. She views her internship as “a huge opportunity to learn how to pursue a career in international criminal law.” 

Chou is overseas as the first recipient of the A. Peter Kezirian Jr. ’89 Fellowship in Public Service and International Law. Established in 2012, it enables students at USC Gould to take part in international law projects around the world. Kezirian’s passion for using international law as a change agent manifested itself in a variety of engagements, including his service on task forces evaluating NATO’s military role in Bosnia and Kosovo. 

Considering their future careers, Coley-Amin and Chou are taking it one step at a time. In the fall, Chou will clerk for Judge Ronald S. W. Lew in the Central District of California, while Coley-Amin will depart for another internship, this time in the Appeals Chamber for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague.