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Jeanne Aouda Zbeidy
(Palestine)

LLM in International Criminal Law, NUI Galway

Jeanne Aouda Zbeidy is an attorney who works with political detainees and prisoners in Palestine. She received a 2015-16 fellowship from Irish Aid to study for a Master of Laws degree in International Criminal law at the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway.

Before coming to NUI Galway and for the last three years I’ve worked as an attorney in Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization in Ramallah, Palestine. We provide free legal services to Palestinian political prisoners and their families. In my field of work the main issue is the systematic and widespread perpetration of arbitrary detention of Palestinians, mainly children and human rights defenders. I chose to study International Criminal Law at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway, to seek ways to improve the situation of human rights in Palestine.

So far the course has provided extensive material and information on the relevant basic legal frameworks of human rights and international law. Instruction is given by very knowledgeable lecturers with their own experience in human rights, peacekeeping and conflict resolution. The programme also provides for a variety of courses relating to contemporary issues in the field of human rights and international law, such as providing accountability for international crimes (i.e. war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity), courses on refugee protection, and business and human rights.

The Irish Center for Human Rights also organizes weekly lunch-time seminars on various topics related to human rights in Ireland and elsewhere. Seminars relating to LGBTQI rights in Uganda, the OHCHR investigation in Sri Lanka, the work of Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in Ireland (otherwise known as the Ryan Commission), and so forth. These seminars are so important to broaden our knowledge about the work that is being done in the human rights field and I know it has inspired many students to focus on and pursue a career path. The knowledge that I’ve gained so far is invaluable. I cannot wait until I see what next semester has in store.

I’ve surprised myself with how easily I adjusted to living in Ireland. I’m sure the helpful nature of the people here has helped a lot in this matter. Galway, though a relatively small city, does have various cultural and musical events; the most interesting of which was the Student Race Day. As for extra-curricular activities in the university, I have joined the GAA club (whose members are mainly international students). I enjoy playing Gaelic football quite a bit.

But when it comes to studying, I’ve realized how different a Master’s degree is from a Bachelor’s, especially when it comes to time management. It is expected that we do independent studying for around 40 hours a week. Let me tell you, it took quite a while and it wasn’t easy, but I managed eventually to find a routine that works for me. I can proudly say that I’ve managed my work (presentations and essays) quite efficiently.

When I go home I believe my role at my organization will be quite different. The organization works on an international level mainly with advocacy, lobbying and report writing. My goal is to extend our work internationally on a legal basis, shifting the focus of our work to eventually lead to a genuine and efficient investigation on human rights violations and international crimes committed in Palestine, especially seeing that Palestine has recently become a signatory in the International Criminal Court.

When it comes to the work I originally did at the organization, I believe that I will go back with a new found motivation and sense of importance for the work, seeing the practical potential for future improvement of human rights in Palestine. I’m also confident that with my improved skillset and knowledge I can provide for better and more efficient legal services for the detainees and their families, who motivated me in the first place to start my career in human rights.

When I go home I believe my role at the organization will be quite different... I believe that I will go back with a new found motivation and sense of importance for the work, seeing the practical potential for future improvement of human rights in Palestine.

Aouda was interviewed in December 2015