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2013 Fellowship Report: Jaime Canizares, Amman, Jordan

Monday, August 26, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Joe Libertelli
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Jaime Canizares2013 Summer Public Interest Fellowship Report, Jaime Canizares

I enjoy sitting outside on the porch on these balmy and breezy summer evenings with my host family. For me, this might be a normal occurrence, especially during summer evenings, if it were not for the fact that these nightly encounters are taking place in Amman, Jordan's capital. Added to this scenario is the unique situation that the conversations which transpire between me and the members of this family are all in Arabic, since they do not speak English. And, as it is the custom in Middle Eastern countries, these moments of relaxation must be accompanied by abundant servings of sun-ripened watermelons, apricots, grapes and lots of tea, among other delicacies. And of course, good humor is part of these nightly summer rituals.

Thousands of families and other groups of people across Jordan, and the greater Middle East, also gather in public parks and central squares, especially during these summer months, thus exercising their right to freely assemble. As it is the case right now, thousands of people in Egypt gathered demanding the resignation of their democratically-elected president. However, this is not the case in Syria today where thousands of individuals risk their lives in order to exercise their right to freedom of assembly.

As part of my summer legal internship at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, LLC - Middle East / North Africa Regional Office (ICNL LLC-MENA Office), I am researching the laws regulating freedom of peaceful assembly in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Syria, and Tunisia. ICNL is an international not-for-profit organization that facilitates and supports the development of an enabling environment for civil society and civic participation. ICNL supports the development of appropriate laws and regulatory systems for civil society organizations in countries around the world (excerpt taken from ICNL's Mission Statement).

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is an internationally recognized right as expressed in various international declarations and covenants including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as regional covenants such as the Arab Charter on Human Rights and the African Charter on Human Rights.

The focus of this research involves analyzing the laws of the above-mentioned countries and comparing them to the internationally recognized standards ("best practices") as highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. My project entails commenting on whether these laws of peaceful assembly in each country fail to meet the international standards.

Initially, the assignment seemed daunting. However, I remembered that in my Constitutional Law II class we analyzed some cases involving similar situations. The experience I gained in my Constitutional Law II class helped me to know how to best target my research. I then proposed a format to my supervisor who approved it after some further guidance.

In addition to conducting and analyzing the above research, I am assisting the planning of a regional conference on Civil Society Organization (CSO)/Government collaboration in the MENA Region that the office is organizing. I basically had to hit the ground running learning about issues of CSO/Government cooperation in Middle Eastern countries. I will continue assisting with this task until my departure.

I chose to travel to the Middle East for this internship to continue learning Arabic (I studied classical Arabic about 10 years ago for a period of three years when I lived in Damascus, Syria). As my goal is to work in the Middle East, with issues related to human rights and refugees, after law school, the opportunity to learn about this subject and to continue learning Arabic is extremely important to me.

In addition to fulfilling the responsibilities of my internship, I am also volunteering with the Jordanian Women's Union (JWU), a Jordanian non-governmental organization, once a week on Saturdays. I provide assistance with their Children's Guesthouse program. The Jordanian's Women Union, an organization established in 1945, assists women and marginalized groups in all sectors of society to achieve equal rights. The Children's Guesthouse program was established in 1996. The program aims to provide a neutral place for divorced and separated couples to spend time with their children in compliance with court orders. This program attracted me since it is run jointly by in-house lawyers, psychologists and social workers. This program assists mainly low income and marginalized families across Jordan, as well as Syrian refugees.

I choose to volunteer with this organization as part of my commitment to assisting marginalized individuals. This experience constitutes follow-up to the work I did in India last summer with sex workers. As a law student driven by my commitment to working in the public service, my goal is to understand the various facets where law and public service intersect. The Children's Guesthouse program is a good example of this interaction.

I am now a 3L which means that after finishing my summer internship I will have one year of law school left. These summer experiences have reinforced my desire to continue working in the public sector after obtaining my JD. I am also convinced that I want to use the knowledge of the law to assist those marginalized individuals in their struggle for equal rights.

 

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The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law,www.law.udc.edu, is among the nation's most racially, ethnically, class and age-diverse law schools. Its minimum of 740 hours of clinical public interest legal service - a sum exceeded by most of its students - is clear evidence that the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law is America's preeminent public interest law school.



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