LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights: What our Students Say

10 January 2022

In this interview, Edward Millett, currently enrolled in our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights tells us about the programme and life in Geneva.

About Me

My name is Ed – I’m from the UK. I’ve been working as a lawyer for coming up to four years, primarily in dispute resolution across a diverse range of areas – strategic human rights litigation, environmental law and commercial litigation and mediation, along with some international criminal advisory work.

I’ve also found time to work in the field with asylum seekers as a humanitarian legal advisor in Greece on two occasions, and most recently have been working with the AIRE Centre on rule of law development projects in the Western Balkans, and with Airwars on monitoring and assessing civilian harm from airpower-dominated international military actions in the Middle East.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, I worked on countering violent extremism projects focused on the Middle East, relating to content moderation, digital rights, and social media.

I am fascinated by the role of non-state actors – from multinationals to armed groups and NGOs – in the global arena and in conflict situations, and by approaches to ensuring their accountability and respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law. I am also a patient student of Russian and enjoy rock climbing and mountaineering in my spare time.

Why did you choose the LLM at the Geneva Academy?

I wanted to undertake further legal studies at the post-graduate level to help me pivot my career into the humanitarian and human rights world full-time.

Studying the LLM at the Geneva Academy allows for a holistic and highly practitioner-oriented approach that is equipping me with the practical skills and current knowledge to progress in the field. It presents an opportunity to think critically about how contemporary challenges in armed conflict, counter-terrorism and law-enforcement intersect, to learn from world-leading faculty members, and to gain exposure to the workings of Geneva’s international sphere.

What are you particularly enjoying about this programme?

Studying alongside a diverse group of fellow students has been an incredibly enriching experience, giving me invaluable exposure to their lived experiences of contemporary human rights challenges in Belarus, Bangladesh and everywhere in between!

The quality of the teaching is second to none, and I am greatly valuing the immensely practical, practitioner-led approach: from Professor Marco Sassòli’s insights about detention work while with the ICRC, to UN Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer’s incisive, cross-cutting analyses of the use of force by law enforcement, in contexts from the Mexico-US border to the English Channel.

The courses have also thrown up countless opportunities to hear from and engage with external experts in the field. In the past few weeks, I have heard from Jelena Pejic, a senior lawyer at the ICRC, and from Fight For Humanity, an NGO currently engaging with the Kurdish administration on human rights issues in Northeast Syria. I have also undertaken training with the International Institute for Criminal Investigations, and I am on the Geneva Academy’s team for the Nelson Mandela Moot Court that will take place in Summer 2022, where we will have the chance to present oral submissions before members of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Would you Recommend it?

I cannot recommend coming to the Geneva Academy for your LLM enough. Professor Andrea Bianchi, who is teaching a course on public international law, has spoken excitedly of his intent to equip us with the multi-disciplinary, future-facing legal toolkit to thrive as the next generation of international lawyers. I certainly hope we can live up to his exhortations.

Otherwise, the level of support – including weekly tutorials with teaching assistants to hone writing and analysis skills – has been fantastic. The programme is intense, but even in the three months I have been in Geneva I have felt a significant growth in my knowledge and experience in the field.

What are you planning to do next?

The academic and practical skills I am developing at the Geneva Academy will lay the groundwork for my career as a practitioner and expert in the humanitarian field. I am exploring a range of legal roles with humanitarian, inter-governmental organisations focused on conflict, peacebuilding and international criminal justice.

Why did you choose to be photographed at Uni Mail?

This is Uni Mail, one of the main buildings of the University of Geneva. My classes are usually split between Uni Mail, the ultra-modern Graduate Institute building and the historic, beautiful Villa Moynier – nestled in Perle du Lac with views of Lac Leman and Mont Blanc. I love the contrast between the three in architecture and atmosphere.

The beautiful, light-filled atrium of Uni Mail is always buzzing with energy and life – from VR expos on climate change, to social enterprises presenting their work, to student groups engaged in direct action campaigning for more affordable meals. I always look forward to sharing lunchtime with my classmates here – and Professor Sassòli’s office is always upstairs if you have a burning IHL question to resolve!

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