November 15, 2012
As a 1L, Alexandra Gliga knew she was interested in the impact of the war on terror on individual rights. In her second semester, she had an incredible time in Professor Feldman’s 1L class on Constitutional Law and the International Order, which discussed Supreme Court cases related to Guantanamo and habeas corpus issues. She decided to pursue her passion this past summer by working at Reprieve, a non-profit headquartered in London that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners. Reprieve provides legal services to prisoners facing the death penalty and those detained due to the war on terror, whether in Guantanamo Bay or secret prisons such as Bagram. Reprieve is one of the few organizations that conducts litigation surrounding drone strikes and represents drone victims in Pakistan. The organization also investigates corporate complicity in extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture. Although their largest office is in London, Reprieve also has fellows working in the U.S.
Alexandra worked with Reprieve’s Secret Prisons and Renditions project and tackled issues arising from the war on terror. Alexandra worked on various aspects of the litigation process for ongoing cases, researched the stories and backgrounds of Reprieve’s clients, and conducted legal research on UK and European Union laws. She worked with the lawyers to come up with effective litigation strategies to best represent their clients. Alexandra also worked on corporate social responsibility issues, researching private companies and their involvement in manufacturing drones and other human rights abuses.
She appreciated the work done by Reprieve and the fact the organization was deeply client-focused. Reprieve focuses not only on litigation, but also on helping former detainees reintegrate into civilian life and move on with their lives in a positive manner. Reprieve has a small team that helps to connect ex-detainees with the services they need to heal, such as mental health services and housing.
Alexandra had a wonderful learning experience at Reprieve and loved the informal atmosphere of the office. Because Reprieve was a small organization, she was able to immediately begin contributing ideas, asking questions, and taking on responsibility. She enjoyed meeting a diverse team of US and UK lawyers and interns. Alexandra admits that reading about the torture, death and other terrifying things facing their clients was at times challenging and could take a toll on her. Still, she loved working on such enormously important issues. One of her most memorable experiences of the summer was meeting a past client of Reprieve who now works with them on reintegration of ex-detainees; hearing his story confirmed to her why she decided to do this work.
She highly recommends the internship to 1Ls, but emphasizes that interns should also be prepared to be proactive, come up with their own ideas, and express their interests. Alexandra also notes that students should be interested in doing a variety of things during their internship. Interns don’t just write briefs and do legal work, but also assist with other areas of Reprieve’s work, such as research into corporate social responsibility or advocacy work. Overall, Alexandra felt that though the help might be incremental, she realized Reprieve’s work does make a huge positive impact in individual lives.
Written by OPIA 1L Section Representative Akhila Kolisetty