Legal Fellow: Human Rights, Counterterrorism and Armed Conflict

About the author(s):

Katharine Fortin is an Associate Professor at Utrecht University where she teaches IHL and IHRL. Before joining Utrecht University, she worked at the ICTY, ICC and Norton Rose Fulbright. She is the author of The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2017) which won the 2018 Lieber Prize. She has written widely about the framework of law that applies to armed groups in non-international armed conflicts and is one of the editors of the Armed Groups and International Law blog.

The Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute and Human Rights Clinic are currently inviting applications for the position of Legal Fellow for the Project on Human Rights, Counterterrorism, and Armed Conflict. We are reposting the job description below:-

The Legal Fellow will work on an innovative legal and advocacy program to advance respect for international human rights and humanitarian law in counterterrorism and armed conflict operations, particularly those undertaken by the United States and its partners.

With the Human Rights Institute’s Faculty Co-Directors and Project Director, the Legal Fellow will be responsible for developing the project’s strategies and programmatic work, and providing vision, research, writing, and public engagement for the projects. The Legal Fellow will provide legal expertise on questions of international law, and produce reports, white papers, blog posts, and other publications, and solicit relevant research from outside experts. The Fellow will organize and actively participate in expert meetings of government and non-government representatives from the U.S. and abroad to explore key legal issues and best practices, and organize legal trainings for journalists, judges, or other groups, often in conjunction with other civil society organizations. The Fellow will design and implement advocacy strategies to promote human rights. The work includes pursuing cutting edge factual, policy, and legal research and engaging with U.S. and foreign governments and civil society advocates on a variety of issues, including on: promoting rights-protecting legal and policy standards for the use of lethal force; improving government investigations of civilian harm; the law of self-defence; ensuring compensation to victims; and investigating governments’ “support” activities (military training, weapons provision, intelligence) to non-state armed actors and other states.

The Legal Fellow will work closely with the Human Rights Clinic’s counterterrorism projects, will co-supervise students in the Human Rights Clinic, and will also manage teams of research assistants. The Fellow will also generally contribute to the work of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School, including through event planning, mentoring of law students, and strategic programming advice.


  • Two or more years of experience is preferred. The Legal Fellow must have experience in the law and practice of human rights and/or international humanitarian law, including in legal research and analysis, fact-finding, advocacy, report-writing, and coalition building, particularly in the context of counter-terrorism;
  • Demonstrated genuine commitment to advancing human rights and social justice, including a commitment to empowering victims and civil society and redressing global power imbalances;
  • Prior experience engaging with representatives of governments, the UN, civil society, victims, and impacted communities, particularly in countries where the U.S. is engaged militarily, in the U.S., and/or in Europe;
  • Demonstrated ability to manage, work in teams, provide creative and strategic vision, and develop and run new projects;
  • Excellent research and analytic skills, as well as excellent oral and written communication skills, including the ability to persuasively communicate to multiple different audiences;
  • Experience engaging with the general public and the media, writing press releases and conducting interviews, writing blog posts, managing meetings and designing workshops; and
  • Experience in grant writing and engaging with donor organizations.

Individuals who are from or who have worked in countries in which the U.S. is engaged militarily are particularly encouraged to apply.

To apply, applicants must apply online through Columbia University’s Recruitment of Academic Personnel System (RAPS) at:

On RAPS you will also be instructed to email Ms. Randi Aho, (a) a cover letter, of no more than one page, explaining your interest in and qualifications for the position; (b) a summary, of no more than one page, of your views about the most important human rights and international law issues in U.S. counter-terrorism and armed conflict practice, and the advocacy approach you would advise be employed to promote human rights-respecting policies and practice; (c) your resume; and (d) a list of up to five references.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. The ideal start date is by August 15, 2016.

Columbia University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer without regard to race, gender, disability and veteran status.

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