Minnesota Law

Summer 2022
All Rise

Summer Experiences: Rising 3L Anna Bachan, Legal Intern, Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights

Rising 3L Anna Bachan is spending the summer in Geneva, Switzerland as legal intern working for the Office of the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the Special Procedures, Protection, Religion, Accountability, and Human Security Section (PRAHS). She says the experience has been pivotal to her professional goal of becoming an international human rights lawyer within the United Nations or the International Criminal Court.

How did you connect with this summer opportunity?

I initially heard of the summer opportunity through Professor [Fionnuala] Ni Aolain, who recommended I apply as I spent the past year supporting her work as U.N. Special Rapporteur on Counter-terrorism and Human Rights. 

How does your experience connect with what you currently envision doing with your law degree?

I plan to pursue as a career as an international human rights lawyer within the United Nations or the International Criminal Court. This experience was pivotal in my career path, as it provided insight into the complexities and advantages of international law. It also cemented my dedication to defending the rights of victims of human rights atrocities and to holding perpetrators around the world accountable for violations of international law. 

Please describe a “typical” workday on the job.

I split my time working with five different “mandates” including counter-terrorism, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture, and the right to privacy. Most workdays, I read through complaints submitted by legal representatives of victims of human rights violations and drafted urgent appeals, allegation letters, and letters advocating for legislative reform, which we sent to governments responsible for the violations. I also attended various events such as the 50th Human Rights Council Session.

What is something interesting you learned or experienced during this summer position?

While I learned about many positive examples of how OHCHR has brought justice to victims of human rights violations and held perpetrators to account, I also gained a better understanding of the practical limitations that the UN system as a whole faces in enforcing legal decisions within the sovereign territories of other countries. 

"Working at the UN can be incredibly rewarding, as you have the opportunity to address the world’s most pressing human rights situations."
Anna Bachan, 3L

What are a couple of your key takeaways from the experience so far?

Working at the UN can be incredibly rewarding, as you have the opportunity to address the world’s most pressing human rights situations. For example, I responded to complaints we received from parents in Ukraine whose sons had been victims of enforced disappearance by the Russian military. Our letters to the two governments helped cross-check information from other databases and identify the missing persons, which facilitated Ukraine’s prisoner of war exchanges with Russia. 

How has your summer experience compared with your expectations?

The experience has surpassed my expectations. In addition to working with legal experts on various human rights challenges, I attended meetings with governments and civil society members on topics such as weapons governance and counter-terrorism policy in Africa. One highlight was attending a private screening of the film “The Mauritanian” where I had the chance to meet Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a former Guantanamo detainee and main character of the film, and the attorneys who represented him. 

How do you like living and working in Geneva?  

Living and working in Geneva, which hosts the largest number of international organizations in the world, has undoubtedly expanded my horizons and furthered both my personal and professional development. Networking with lawyers from around the world has opened my eyes to various possible career paths within the field of international law.

What advice would you offer another law student thinking about working in a similar position next summer?

I would encourage anyone interested in the position to apply. Definitely keep an eye out on the U.N. job site as positions get posted earlier in the year. I would also recommend taking relevant international law classes and joining the international human rights litigation and advocacy clinic to gain relevant practical skills. 

How are you spending your free time this summer?

While in Geneva, I enjoyed spending my weekends by the crystal clear Lac Léman, attending concerts, going on hikes in the Swiss alps, and exploring nearby villages of Annecy and Montreux. I also had the chance to visit my extended family in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. 

What are you most looking forward to in returning to Minnesota Law this fall?

During my 3L year, I look forward to continuing my clinical engagement as a Student Director of the International Human Rights Litigation and Advocacy Clinic. As the president of the International Law Society, I also look forward to organizing international law related events and film screenings for the student body.