LLM in IHL and Human Rights: What our Alumni Say

29 May 2024

Priyal Sepaha graduated from our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in 2021. As an Engagement Officer at the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees, she works with the refugee communities and refugee-led organisations in Asia-Pacific to support them in amplifying their voices through consistent engagement and strategic advocacy. Her role focuses on studying the needs of refugee communities and organisations, building relationships with them and relevant stakeholders, and facilitating dialogues for meaningful participation, strategic empowerment and collaboration through tailored national and regional projects.

In this interview, she tells about the programme, fond memories and what it brought to her career.

In your opinion, what are the strengths of the programme?

The LLM programme is carefully designed to give students the best academic and professional exposure to subjects of international humanitarian law and human rights. The faculty members are experts in their fields, bringing a plethora of knowledge to the classrooms. The students come from diverse backgrounds which leads to highly engaging and intellectually stimulating discussions. I believe the teaching assistants are a major strength of the programme as they act as a bridge between the professors and the students, helping students to understand the subjects, match the expectations of the programme, and adapt to life in Geneva.

As students, we also get the chance to apply for an internship with leading organizations. This is an exceptional feature of the programme as it helps us to gain professional exposure and gain mentors. I had the opportunity to intern with the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development under the UN Advocacy Program. The internship focused on attending sessions at the UN Human Rights Council and assisting the organization’s strategic advocacy for human rights defenders in the region. It was an excellent opportunity as I witnessed the academic knowledge gained at the Geneva Academy being applied at the international level.

Overall, the programme has a holistic approach to the student’s development and prepares them to couple their academic and professional knowledge with their future roles.

Tell us about your current job: what are your main responsibilities?

I currently work with the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees, a regional network of refugee-led organisations in the Asia Pacific region. My role focuses on community engagement and strategic advocacy for refugee-led organizations through a needs-based approach. I consult with refugee-led organizations in the region on the obstacles they face in participation in policy and decision-making. Before this, I was the Asia Pacific Fellow at Front Line Defenders in Dublin. The fellowship focused on the protection of human rights defenders in the region, supporting them through different avenues such as legal protection and advocacy after carefully understanding the needs of the human rights defender.

How do you apply what you learned in class in your work?

The knowledge I gained during my time at the Geneva Academy has been very beneficial to my career. The subjects of international humanitarian law, human rights, international criminal law, and refugee law cannot be studied in isolation and the LLM precisely addresses the intersectionality of these branches of law .

Similarly, these areas of law are highly intertwined in practice. The LLM programme delves into the nuances of these subjects through its brilliant faculty and exercises such as moot courts, research papers, and field visits. The professors are leading experts in their respective fields and come with rich practical experience that adds value to the class discussions, providing students exposure to both the theoretical and practical aspects of the law .

This comprehensive understanding of the law has been very useful to me in my professional life.

Could you share some highlights or fond memories from your time in the programme?

My year at the Geneva Academy was the most exciting and fruitful experience. The programme proved to be challenging in the best way possible and pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and absorb the abundance of knowledge and exposure the Geneva Academy had to offer.

The fondest memories are undoubtedly of the brilliant people I shared a classroom with. Coming from diverse personal and professional backgrounds, they shared a common interest for international humanitarian law and human rights which helped us to mutually learn and help each other throughout the course of the programme. With most of us being new to Geneva, it was a beautiful bonding experience to support each other in excelling academically and simultaneously figure out life in Geneva.

Would you recommend this programme to others considering similar career paths?

I believe that this LLM programme is the best opportunity for individuals interested in international humanitarian law and human rights. It provides a faculty of experts in their respective fields who offer exceptional support and mentorship for academic and professional development.

Moreover, living in Geneva, which is the hub for the largest organizations and platforms in this field, offers numerous opportunities to interact with major stakeholders, organizations, and mechanisms, as well as network with professionals working in this sphere.


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