By Mila Owen, J.D. ’18
Mila Owen spent the 2017 winter term at Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. At ZLHR, she was able to engage in a wide range of challenging and meaningful work and looks forward to continuing her working relationship with the organization, and furthering as much as possible the relationship between HLS and ZLHR.
“My goals for my winter term independent clinical were fairly straightforward – to do legal work in Zimbabwe, to get a sense of what being a lawyer is like in my home country, and to contribute to meaningful public interest work. I am grateful that the lawyers at ZLHR enabled me to accomplish much more. Even though the frenetic pace of work and high caseload of ZLHR staff meant that there was a significant amount of casework I am passing on to other interns, my last week fortuitously brought a number of satisfying project conclusions. A case challenging the criminal code provision that penalizes insulting the President was heard before the Constitutional Court – the very first case heard this term. It was a thrilling and educational experience to listen to oral arguments with a full understanding of the case, and in particular for a case I had contributed to briefing. I also finished scoping for potential work pursuing conjugal visitation rights for Zimbabwean prisoners, an extremely ambitious and progressive project that entailed fascinating research about the rights to marry and form a family, sex in prisons and programs to reduce prison violence and recidivism. Finally, an article I co-wrote on State obligations in the face of the current typhoid epidemic in Zimbabwe was published in a national newspaper on Tuesday.
I have also been able while I was there to discuss opportunities for ongoing collaboration between ZLHR and HLS. There is enormous scope for collaborative projects, ranging from future student placements to advocacy campaigns, and even contributing to writing new constitutional law and international human rights casebooks for the University of Zimbabwe. I hope to play a role in the collaborative work and also encouraging and facilitating other student involvement. It is very rewarding to feel that HLS gives me the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to such important work in my home country.”