Nicolette Boehland, ’13, came to law school with an interest in human rights and experience working in conflict zones. During her 1L year, she pursued this interest by working with the Human Rights Clinic as a research assistant and taking public international law during her spring term. It all came together when she landed her 1L summer internship with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Not sure what the summer would be like, Nicolette assumed she would do a lot of research and writing. When she arrived, Nicolette was assigned to the special investigations team and plunged into documentation of human rights violations right away. She was given wide latitude to work independently. She took advantage of it by working with two local colleagues to create a work plan that would allow them to investigate incidents of torture and mistreatment at facilities run by the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s domestic intelligence agency.
Nicolette and her colleagues flew to different detention sites throughout the country. Nicolette interviewed prisoners, guards, relatives, and other community stakeholders about conditions in the prisons. In Kabul, she also worked to build relationships between her office and offices at the UN and the ICRC, holding workshops on monitoring and interviewing techniques.
The summer was a fantastic opportunity to put all she’d learned in school to use in the field. She stayed in communication with faculty at the Human Rights Clinic, who helped her work through interviewing problems as she came across them, and she even remembers pulling out her 1L public international law outline from time to time. She developed her human rights interviewing and documentation skills and built on her community engagement, program planning and networking skills.
This summer experience helped to cement Nicolette’s interest in international humanitarian law, which she continues to pursue through her work with the Human Rights Clinic back on campus. She plans on a career in human rights field work, and this summer experience was an amazing chance to get a taste of that and strengthen the skills she’ll need.
Written by OPIA 1L Section Representative Sarah Wheaton