Montenegro, LL.M. 2004
With my LL.B. degree from the University of Montenegro, School of Law, I entered St. Thomas University’s LL.M. Program in Intercultural Human Rights in 2003. Coming from the Balkans, from ex-Yugoslavia, where the violation of human rights was common behavior in the 1990s, I had a strong motivation and a huge interest in developing my knowledge in this field. Particularly interested in understanding the reasons for the human rights violations in the first place, I tried to learn how to prevent them and to protect against them in my own country, which became independent in 2006.
St. Thomas’ LL.M. Program helped me to realize the value of human life and the beauty of difference. The students from different parts of the world and their experiences changed me for life. My year at the St. Thomas University was my greatest experience and helped me to continue to build my life and my career in the most qualitative way.
Thanks to the knowledge I received at St. Thomas University, today, I work in the Council of Europe and I am a member of the team that provides assistance in developing the Montenegrin legal framework and as well helps paving the way of Montenegro to membership in the European Union.
The intellectual framework I received in the LL.M. Program was key to excelling in this work. Being privileged to be present at the creation of an entirely new legal system, I most appreciate the unique guidance provided by the intercultural program’s focus on analyzing societal problems in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary way and to developing solutions in line with the ideal of a global public order of human dignity.
Madhurima Boyapati Paturi
India, LL.M. 2006
Coming from India, I was watching and listening to the stories about child labor, bride burnings and dowry deaths that beset my country. I cared especially for those who are unaware about their legal rights and who don’t have support. Moved by my passion for women and children rights, I knew I had to study Human Rights. I think Human Rights have to be always protected; that is the basic foundation of law. The world renowned members of the faculty who are dedicated experts in the field of human rights are the main reason I chose St. Thomas University’s LL.M. Program in Intercultural Human Rights to receive that education.
I have been practicing Immigration Law since graduating from the LL.M. Program. I represent immigrants before immigration courts and other officials, as well as in centers of detention. I am working constantly with refugees and aliens who are trying to reunite with their families. A client’s success is a source of immense happiness. The LL.M. program taught me how important it is to make people aware of Human Rights and the issues that necessitate them. I constantly work on researching how Human Rights are applicable to the local circumstances and cultural traditions of countries such as India. I am involved in bringing awareness to these issues and their potential solutions by writing articles, speaking at conferences and volunteering with nonprofit organizations. At St. Thomas, I had great opportunities and found enormous encouragement. I was a staff editor of the Intercultural Human Rights Law Review, I served as a Vice President of Women United for Human Rights and presented papers in international conferences.
When you walk into the LL.M. office, you see a world map, which points out where all the students are from. It was filled with colorful pins denoting the students coming from almost all the countries to study in the St. Thomas LL.M. in Intercultural Human Rights Program. Foreign students are highly encouraged in this program, which is so unique and is definitely a great platform to know about other countries cultures and Human Rights issues. The program is the intellectual hub for the human rights activities at the Law School, as it coordinates speakers, the Intercultural Human Rights Law Review, the Ferrell Human Rights Moot Court Competition, and cooperates with student groups, faculty and human rights organizations. The directors, Professor Wiessner and Professor Pati, are role models for all of us, as they are constantly involved in the theory and practice of cutting-edge human rights issues. They excel in mentoring students, help them find jobs and internships, and connect them with alumni and others who have similar interests. I could not conceive of a better program to form the mind of an enlightened warrior for human dignity.
Kosovo, LL.M. 2005
I come from Kosovo, the youngest state on the globe, and I came to the LL.M. Program in Intercultural Human Rights for many reasons, very good reasons. The predominant reason would be the quality and richness of the program, as judged by the content of the program and faculty.
The diversity of the student body, the unique intercultural feature of the program and the enlightening method of transmitting knowledge, guided by the policy-oriented spirit and underlying philosophy of respect for, and service to, human dignity, are additional ingredients that made the program extraordinary.
There also seem to be an undeniable correlation between beauty and science, and so the place the program is based -- Miami -- would certainly fulfill any required inspirational and other criteria conducive for conducting research or study.
Living in a place where human rights abuses were a daily occurrence, I witnessed how human dignity was crushed and human beings were brutally oppressed. Eventually I had to leave the country along with half of all my country’s population. It would be highly unrealistic to deny the impact this personal experience had in my decision to enter into the field of Human Rights.
On another personal level, I was born on the 10th of December, the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed, the day which later came to be known as Human Rights Day. This said, I always felt a personal affinity, a natural draw, towards the cause of human rights.
I serve as Political Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo on issues pertaining to international law, as well as broader international relations. I am presently involved in such processes as building up the country’s diplomatic service and negotiating bilateral agreements with foreign governments. Additionally, I specifically assist the Foreign Minister in coordinating the activities relating to the International Court of Justice’s advisory proceedings in the case of Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo. I am also teaching at the University of Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo. The main subjects I teach are: Public International Law and International Law of Human Rights.
The problem-solving methodology of policy-oriented jurisprudence I learned at St. Thomas Law School is probably the best source of empowerment someone in my job can ever have. I would have not been able to carry the burden of my exclusive job without the excellent education I received through the LL.M. program, and continue to receive as a doctoral student in the J.S.D. program in Intercultural Human Rights.
Italy, LL.M. 2003
Sara Pedersini, a law graduate of the University of Bologna, had been a Member of the Italian Diplomatic Mission to the various UN conferences, including the ECOSOC Sub-Commission on Human Rights, Prep-Com on the World Conference against Racism, and the Conferences on Desertification and on Disarmament. Upon graduation from the LL.M. Program in Intercultural Human Rights magna cum laude in 2003, she joined the Community Volunteers for the World (CVM), an Italian NGO with many projects in Africa.
“I have work on the HIV/AIDS project with special attention to orphans, street children and other vulnerable groups. The projects are located in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zanzibar. In March, I got the opportunity to work in the field in Ethiopia for a month. The plight of HIV/AIDS implicates a lot of different factors that violate human rights. I believe that the best part of the LL.M. program was to open our mind and try to see everything in a holistic and not in a purely academic way. The multi-cultural approach characterizing the program was also really helpful, especially for a European like me.”
Stationed in Northern Uganda, a place of horrendous atrocities attributed to a group which calls itself the “Lord’s Resistance Army,” Ms. Pedersini serves as the Project Coordinator for the UNHCR-funded project “Camp Management and Population Movement Monitoring in Gulu, Kitgum and Pader Districts." This project was implemented by AVSI, an Italian non-governmental organization which holds general consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York, the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Vienna and the UN Fund for Children (UNICEF) in New York, and is recognized on the NGOs Special List of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva. Ms. Pedersini is presently working on a protection strategy for Northern Uganda, where the peace process is still in a fledgling state. Within AVSI, she also served in a monitoring mission in Ethiopia as the Program Manager of the project "Together against AIDS- HIV Prevention and Control Program" financed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It paid specific attention to vulnerable groups such as orphans, street children, women, and people living with AIDS.
Ana Vallejo, Esq.
Puerto Rico, LL.M. 2002
Ms. Vallejo graduated cum laude from the LL.M. Program in Intercultural Human Rights in 2002. She is now a J.S.D. Candidate researching and writing on the topic of new paradigms in international protection for victims of violent crimes.
Ms. Vallejo is currently a Supervising Attorney for LUCHA: A Women’s Legal Project at Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center in Miami, Florida. She represents low-income immigrant women and children victims of violent crimes including domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking in persons before the various agencies in charge of implementing and enforcing the immigration and anti-trafficking laws of the United States, including the Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Department of Justice and the local police departments.
Aside from providing direct legal services to victims of violent crimes, Ms. Vallejo provides national technical assistance to lawyers and other service providers on immigration law and remedies available for immigrant victims of violent crimes; has collaborated with other national organizations in the drafting of recent legislation affecting the rights of immigrant victims of violent crimes and trafficking in persons. Ms. Vallejo has traveled throughout the United States providing training on trafficking in persons and working with immigrant victims of violent crimes for law enforcement, service providers, victim advocates and members of the community. She has also traveled internationally to countries--most recently to Panama, El Salvador, Thailand and Mexico-- to conduct training and to participate in global consultations on the rights of trafficked persons in the United States.
In her most recent trip to Mexico she participated in a conference on youth, borders and migration and thereafter visited at risk communities—Suchiate, Hidalgo, Motozintla, Union Juarez, Tapachula, Arriaga and San Cristobal de las Casas--in Chiapas, Mexico mostly along the border with Guatemala. She was invited by the Government of Chiapas, International Relations Department, Migrant Attention Unit. In ten days she conducted eight informational workshops with community members and with community leaders about the risks of “irregular migration”, trafficking in persons and the rights of migrant workers in the United States.
Ahmed El Demery
Egypt, LL.M. 2006
Mr. El Demery came to our LL.M. program in Intercultural Human Rights as a Fulbright Scholar, the first such scholar in the history of St. Thomas University. He is currently interning at the United Nations Secretariat in the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), at the Policy Planning Unit (PPU), where he is given the opportunity to attended meetings of the Security Council and the General Assembly. Upon graduation, he was appointed to work in the Office of the Prosecutor General of Egypt, at the International Cooperation and Human Rights Division. This was a great honor for El Demery as only very few prosecutors can join this division. In this job he was responsible for investigating severe human rights violations that may occur in any place in Egypt, and bringing accused criminals before the court. He focused on the human rights of prisoners and on issues related to the rule of law, anti-corruption, human rights, transitional crimes, and human trafficking. As a J.S.D. candidate at St. Thomas University School of Law, he is developing a suggested regional human rights system for the Arab world.
Brazil, LL.M. 2004
A practicing lawyer born in Portugal and living in Brazil, Orlando holds enough university degrees to lead him into a very rich experience in the fields of law, economy, business management, and social science. He graduated magna cum laude in 2004.
“By joining the LL.M. Program in Intercultural Human Rights, I decided to add the most humane element to my career: a commitment to fight for human dignity. During the program I realized that the knowledge I was acquiring was beyond my expectations. My way of thinking was reformulated and broadened. This course gave me the opportunity to dialogue with eminent thinkers who are an important part of our contemporary history. These illustrious professors come from important educational institutes all over the world. They are important writers, judges of international courts, rapporteurs who work directly in the field, people who work at the United Nations, professors of an eminent cultural level who insert you into the real context of the human relations.
Despite it being a course administered by St. Thomas University School of Law, it cannot be restricted just to lawyers. Due to its essence and excellence, it has to be expanded to all professional levels due to the socio-economic political and cultural complexity that the world is going through. We need these problem-solving tools to make the world more humane. I express my gratitude to the coordinators of this program. I have also to let them know that they have great responsibility in the formation and application of the concept of human rights. Equally important is the contribution of those who graduated. There is no world peace if there is no respect for human rights, and we all have to contribute to this struggle.”
Romania, LL.M. 2004
Coming from a former Communist country where my family has suffered oppression from the Totalitarian Party; having a liberal education within the family and being taught the meaning of “human rights” in my childhood, I have decided at an early age to work and fight for the implementation of fundamental rights in the new “democratic” Romania.
During my law studies, I have had the opportunity to start working on human rights issues within international institutions. Over the summer of 2001, I served as an intern with the European Commission; during the first semester of 2002, I was appointed Head of the European Law Students’ Delegation to the Last Preparatory Commission on the World Summit on Sustainable Development in the United Nations and further, intern within the United Nations for the Last Preparatory Commission on the International Criminal Court (ICC).
My experience with human rights issues during law school and, especially, my work within the United Nations, propelled to proceed further on this way and to look for programs able to help me to enrich my knowledge of human rights. Determined, at the date of application, to fight for the ideals of respect for the dignity of others and being able to demonstrate some international experience in the field of human rights, it has not been very difficult for me to get good scholarships from the best U.S. postgraduate programs in the field. Confronted with a very hard decision of choosing the best LL.M. program for me, I have started to compare the traditional very well known universities’ programs with the one developed at St. Thomas. I have been surprised to see that none of the other programs at older and more established schools was able to put together nearly as many decision-makers and scholars from United Nations and regional human rights bodies as St. Thomas University’s. So, I have chosen the LL.M. Program on Human Rights from St. Thomas University, Miami, Florida. I am most happy I made this decision.
My graduation with honors at St. Thomas helped me to get a place in the invaluable program on international policy and development organized by the U.N. and the J. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Thereafter, I have worked with the Romanian Permanent Mission to the United Nations – a period in which I have had the chance to put into place most of the knowledge accumulated during the LL.M. Program.
I have represented the Romanian Government in meetings of the UN General Assembly, the Security Council, UNICEF, the UN NGO’s Committee, and the UN Commission on Social Development. I have negotiated, in the name of the Romanian Government, more than 70 resolutions on human rights issues in the meetings of the human rights experts of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee and three human rights presidential declarations of the Security Council. I reported directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Romanian Government.
My affection for my home country moved me, in 2005, to go back to Romania and to work on the promotion and protection of human rights from the grass roots. Now, I am a human rights expert involved in many European projects on Romania and part of academia teaching “The European System of Human Rights Protection”. I love what I’m doing.
Looking back, I can say without any doubt that all of my professional achievements are based on the scientific, cultural and social education provided by St. Thomas’ LL.M. Program. Its methodology of problem- and policy-oriented jurisprudence gave me with the necessary intellectual grounding for my work as a government representative, scholar, and activist.
Trinidad / U.S.A., LL.M. 2003
“The LL.M. in Intercultural Human Rights offers a way of engaging the world, acquiring additional knowledge and skills to articulate political and human rights discourses. It has sharpened my own analytical approaches to thinking about a range of intellectual, political and social issues, including many of the demands made by women’s rights and minority rights groups. Learning the strategies to effectuate these rights and combining them with the intellectual activism creates a catalyst for social change. The program features amazing teachers, a range of ideas and lively debates, a friendly and supportive faculty and staff.”
Serbia, LL.M. IHR 2005
Ms. Ćorić works for the Institute of Comparative and European Law and also serves as the Jessup National Administrator for her homeland of Serbia. She has used her skills gained at St. Thomas Law School by working on the reform of legal education and judicial system in Serbia through the USAID-funded "Rule of Law" project, implemented by the National Center for State Courts in her capacity as staff attorney. She also served as legal consultant for the upcoming USAID project concerning judicial reform. In addition she has provided legal consultancy on judicial reform issues for Checchi and Company Consulting, Inc., a company well-known in promoting social and economic development to help better the lives of people in developing and transitional nations. She has just published an article which contained a comparative legal analysis on the status of conscientious objectors.
Rwanda, LL.M. 2004
“The best physician is one who identifies the disease, and diagnoses each patient, case by case. Through the LL.M. in Intercultural Human Rights, I have reached the same approach with respect to social problems. It is essential to knowing the causes of human violations wherever they take place. The violations are no accidents; history bears witness to that. The wounds of genocide in Rwanda and the civil wars in Africa are vividly on my mind. With the wealth of knowledge acquired here, I promise never to give room for further violations of human dignity in my country.”
Aleksandar V. Djurisić
Montenegro, LL.M. IHR 2005
A former member of the Montenegrin Parliament, our LL.M. alum, Mr. Djurisić runs his law firm “Advokatska Kancelarija Aleksandar Djurisić” which is the only representative of EUROJURIS INTERNATIONAL in the newly independent state of Montenegro. EUROJURIS is the leading network of law firms in Europe which provides direct legal advice and local representation to companies, corporations, public authorities and private clients all over Europe. Mr. Djurisic published his LL.M. IHR Thesis related to the principle of the independence of the judiciary in the main national newspaper. His suggestions were used as guidelines by the leaders of the new state of Montenegro when drafting the documents of independence from the remnants of former Yugoslavia.
U.S.A., LL.M. 2004
“The diversity of the candidates ensures a reflection of international thought and opinion necessary to build consensus and promote a world order of human dignity. The jewel in the crown of the program is its impressive and renowned faculty. St. Thomas’ LL.M. IHR draws upon the greatest scholars, judges, diplomats, special rapporteurs and ambassadors of peace who personally instruct every course. The LL.M. candidate has the opportunity to discuss international human rights decisions with the judges who wrote the opinions and to learn about international and regional intervention in human rights atrocities from those who were in charge.”