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November 6, 2012

Oregon Law 3L to intern with international human rights organization

In Jan. 2013, University of Oregon School of Law student Will Johnson will begin an 11-week externship with the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA). The CJA is an international human rights organization that works to bring perpetrators of mass human rights abuses to justice and litigates on behalf of victims in both U.S. and international courts.

“The work that CJA does sends a powerful message to those who think they can torture and murder people abroad and then live under the protection of U.S. laws,” said Johnson  “In my opinion, that is the worst type of abuse of power.”

Johnson first became interested in working for CJA during 2011 when he worked with a previous CJA client, Professor Carlos Mauricio, who was doing anti-impunity and other human rights work in El Salvador. He became further interested in international human rights law when Dr. Almudena Bernabeu, an attorney for CJA, visited Oregon Law in spring 2012 to give a lecture called "Fighting Impunity in National Courts: Human Rights and Transitional Justice in Latin America." Dr. Bernabeu returned to UO in October of this year to participate alongside Johnson in the ORIL Symposium titled “War and Memory: Bearing Witness to Loss in Everyday Life.”

“There are many reasons I want to work with CJA, but to put it simply, they provide a unique opportunity for me to pursue my international interests while getting serious legal experience with U.S. litigation,” Johnson said. “I think that this externship will benefit me whether I choose to pursue a career in international law or change paths and practice in the U.S.”

During his externship, Johnson will have the opportunity to gain first-hand litigation experience by assisting CJA staff attorneys with cases that fall under the Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act. He will also be responsible for case investigation, litigation and advocacy. All externship efforts will support CJA’s mission to encourage prosecution of human rights abusers.

Johnson cites the international law faculty at Oregon Law as influential in his professional and academic quest for experience.

“They (Oregon Law faculty) have all consistently encouraged me to pursue the unique legal and other opportunities that I've been passionate about, and have offered support for every project I've pursued,” said Johnson. “Specifically, Professor Michelle McKinley has been invaluable to me.”

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