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A Hands-On Experience with International Law

News Type Students
News Topic
Editor Emma Kapp

Brooke Chambers and Zach Clark describe their recent trip to Tunisia in two words: life changing.  

The 3L students accompanied Professor Mohamed Helal to a meeting of the African Union (AU), the continental union of 55 member states in Africa. Helal is currently serving a five-year term as a member of the African Union Commission of International Law, where he is the African Union Special Rapporteur on International Law and Cyberspace. For the past two years, he has been working with the Commission to develop a common position on the application of international law in cyberspace.  

The first step in establishing this position was building capacity and understanding among African policy makers and lawyers. With the support of the Canadian government, Helal and the Commission trained over 200 individuals. The second step was to develop a governing document – a task where Chambers and Clark could lend their knowledge and skills. 

Over the three-day convening, Chambers and Clark became unofficial staff members of the expert-level working group drafting the document. The hands-on learning and conversations with international legal scholars made for the experience of a lifetime. 

“We directly supported the Office of the Legal Counsel, helping to prepare their formal meeting report through minute keeping and collaborative drafting,” explained Chambers. “Listening to the robust discussion between delegates and experts across the continent was amazing.” 

“Our role was really to capture the debate around each section of the document and show where the consensus was,” added Clark. “It was an incredible honor to be able to jump in and do substantive work for such an esteemed group.”  

Helal also connected Chambers and Clark with exemplary legal scholars and advocates. This included Judge Dire Tladi, who was recently selected to serve on the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Chambers and Clark spent substantial time with him and learned more about his path to the highest court of international law.  

The document was first formally adopted on January 29, then endorsed by the heads of state on February 18. Helal then went with two other students, Ryan Cleary and Sydney Bradley, to the United Nations to present the Common African Position to the UN member states. They attended several events at the UN General Assembly and, in collaboration with the African Union and the governments of Canada and the Netherlands, organized a large event during which they launched the Common Position. 

The impact of this governing document is seismic, in the words of Chambers. Finding common ground between 55 countries and getting them all to agree to the provisions is an unprecedented and hopeful statement.   

“Cyberspace is everywhere, and it is increasingly becoming a battlefield,” Helal said. “The magnitude of having 55 countries agree to this statement can’t be understated. It shows a commitment from these countries to keeping cyberspace open, stable, peaceful, and secure.” 

While their contributions made an impact on a global scale, Chambers and Clark also learned lessons that will make a profound impact on the way they see the law.  

students w/ Professor Helal

“International law is reliant on personal relationships and collaboration,” said Clark. “This work could never have happened if the representatives from the 55 countries wouldn’t work together.”  

“Seeing collaboration across different technical expertise at such a large scale was amazing,” Chambers said. “The way Professor Helal and other staff facilitated meaningful dialogue with individuals representing different opinions made a resolution possible.” 

Because of their previous legal education experiences in and outside of the classroom, Chambers and Clark felt prepared to jump right into the work the of the AU. 

“I have done multiple externships throughout my time at Moritz, which was really beneficial,” Clark said. “It felt like I had the skills necessary to contribute in a meaningful way. I showed up comfortable in the situation because I was used to being in professional settings.”  

After graduation in the spring, both Chambers and Clark will begin their legal careers in firms. They may not start out directly working in international law, but they will carry the experience and skills they developed with them. 

“The high caliber and spirit of cooperation I witnessed is something I hope to demonstrate as a lawyer,” said Chambers.  

Learning about international law in such a unique way is possible because of the guidance and expertise of faculty like Professor Helal. By finding and offering opportunities like this, Ohio State Law is developing the next generation of globally-minded lawyers and leaders.   


News Type Students
News Topic
Editor Emma Kapp

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