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UCL Public International Law Pro Bono Project

This project brings together LLM and PhD students with a background in international law and provides them with opportunities to get first hand practical experience in public international law

PIL Pro Bono

The UCL Public International Law Pro Bono Project brings together highly motivated LLM and PhD students with a background in relevant subject areas, and provides them with opportunities to engage in cutting edge legal research, analysis and advice to assist leading international organisations in addressing some of the world’s most pressing and difficult challenges. The Project was established with two main objectives in mind. First, we aim to provide our LLM and PhD students with the opportunity to work both individually and collaboratively on issues of major practical and international importance. This helps our international law students to develop the skills necessary for them to thrive in their future careers, whether this takes them into the world of legal practice, academic research, or policy making. Second, by tapping into the expertise, skills and enthusiasm of our student body, the PILPBP is a means through which UCL can make an important and enduring contribution to respect for human rights around the world.

LLM students on the Project work in close collaboration with the PhD Co-ordinators and the Directors of the Project. This collaboration across LLM and PhD students, under the direction of UCL Laws academic staff, is an integral part of achieving the twin objectives of the PILPBP.

The UCL Public International Law Pro Bono Project has been honoured with a Provost's Education Award. The highly regarded award recognises and rewards UCL activities which make outstanding contributions to the learning experience and success of their students.

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PIL Pro Bono Partners

The Project has a co-operation agreement with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), by way of which students are asked to provide the Court with high quality research on legal questions raised in cases as they are being litigated. The Project also participates in the Inter-American human rights system by contributing amicus briefs in respect of requests to the Court for an Advisory Opinion. In 2019-20, the PILPBP submitted an amicus brief on the international law regulating human rights treaty withdrawal, and participated in the first ever online pleadings held at the Court.   

In 2019-20, the Project also conducted research for Redress, assisting with the preparation of a Casebook on strategic litigation that will be used in training human rights lawyers the world over. The 2018-19 cohort assisted Redress with its preparation of a written submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ Inquiry into the Human Rights Act (‘20 years of the Human Rights Act inquiry’), as well as background research for the joint civil society shadow report on the UK to the UN Committee against Torture.  

In 2019-20, the PILPBP worked on a legal / policy paper for Geneva Call in respect of non-international armed conflicts (‘NIACs’) – work which will help shape Geneva Call’s engagement with non-state actors in NIACS with a view to encouraging compliance with international humanitarian law.

The PIL Pro Bono Project has also prepared an IHL in Action case study for the ICRC; has prepared a memo for the Executive of the World Refugee Council (a non-governmental organisation established by leading global policy makers, including a Nobel Peace Prize winner), setting out innovative ways of unlocking the frozen assets of refugee-creating regimes, with a view to responding to the global refugee crisis; and has assisted the Syrian Legal Development Programme with its important work, including through a ‘scoping’ exercise analysing the extent to which various States have a legal and political environment which is receptive to refugee concerns.

The organisations, which the Project collaborates with, may change over time – but the Project will always be engaging in high level research with human rights and humanitarian impact!  

Direction of the Project

The Project is co-directed by Professors Kimberley Trapp and Alex Mills. The Project Co-ordinators are currently Luis Viveros; Ed Robinson; and Priya Urs

Student Roles

Students go through a very competitive application process in order to participate in the PIL Pro Bono Project. While there are no ‘pre-requisites’ for participation as such, having studied Public International Law and / or Human Rights Law at undergraduate level certainly offers a competitive advantage. Successful applicants are assigned to one of the ‘streams’ of work we are currently undertaking (for instance the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Redress, and any opportunities with other organisations which may arise during the course of the year). For each research stream, team members work in close collaboration with each other, as well as with the Co-ordinators and Directors, to produce research reports, memos and briefs tailored to the specific needs of the organisation / Court with which we are collaborating.

Students are requested to submit their written applications by e-mail to the PIL Pro Bono Project by Friday 9 October 2020. 

A written application should consist of a CV (including grades for relevant international law and human rights courses at undergraduate level) and a short (max. 400 word) statement of interest, explaining the contribution the applicant thinks they can make to the work of the Project. The word limit is a strict and absolute maximum.   

Subject to the number of applicants (which has in the past been very high) and the length of the eventual short-list, interviews may also be held for the purposes of finalising the 2020-21 PIL Pro Bono Project research teams.