The Lowenstein Project co-directors typically begin project development over the summer before each academic year begins. We work with staff members of human rights or public interest NGOs to develop projects that address existing research needs within the organization and that are also tailored to the capabilities and skills of YLS students. Students can be recruited to conduct research on domestic or foreign laws, policies, or advocacy strategies, depending on what information would be of most use to the organization's ongoing work. We are happy to provide you with some examples of previous research projects if this would assist you in formulating a project proposal.
Once a research proposal has been generated, a group of 2–6 students is assigned to work on the research or advocacy project. The students begin working on the project in late September or early October and finish the project by mid-to-late December. Depending on how many students express interest in a project, between 20–120 hours can be devoted to the research. All research and writing is completed at Yale using university resources, so students do not incur any expenses.
Organizations typically begin communicating with their assigned students by either having an on-site meeting or through scheduling a conference call. As part of this initial contact, organizations are expected to provide students with a description of the project they are complete, additional background information, and where possible, a sense of where to locate the resources needed to complete the project. A staff member of the organization works as the students’ supervisor and is expected to maintain regular contact with the group throughout the semester to provide feedback and guidance on the research being generated.
At the end of the semester, students submit their work product to the organization, which can take the form of a memorandum, sections of a brief, a set of recommendations, or simply a summary of the research they have conducted.
While the majority of projects are completed in the fall semester, a small number of students remain interested in working on projects during the spring semester. These projects typically begin in February and end in June.
YLS Students Assisting the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (Khmer Rouge Trials)
The Yale Law School Legal Project Assisting the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), colloquially referred to as the ECCC Project, is a special initiative within the Lowenstein Project started in the spring of 2007. Students in the ECCC Project perform legal research for the Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC, which is working to prosecute Khmer Rouge leaders for atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. Although specific project topics are confidential, projects generally involve cutting-edge issues of international law, such as jurisdiction, criminal procedure, immunity, amnesty, victims’ participation, reparations, and compliance with international human rights standards. The students generally work in teams, and each team’s final product is a bench memorandum to a sitting judge on the court regarding an unresolved question of Cambodian or international law. The ECCC Project also meets frequently during the semester as a reading group to learn about and discuss human rights law, international criminal procedure, and Cambodian politics and history. In addition, the ECCC Project arranges a variety of film screenings and hosts guest speakers such as international judges, regional experts, and professors with expertise related to the project. Students also give presentations to fellow project members on their research.
No previous knowledge or experience with transitional justice, international law, or Cambodia is necessary to participate, although such experience is welcomed.