Launching an International Human Rights Career: A Lawyer Story From Geraldine Afiuni, LLM ‘2016

Having experienced human rights violations in Venezuela first hand, Geraldine Afiuni fought back in her first job after graduation working for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights NGO in Washington, DC. In that role, Geraldine advanced the cause of LGBT rights in Latin America and the Caribbean in her dream job. After The Robert F. Kennedy Center, Geraldine left to work for Freedom House in DC, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. In June 2019, Geraldine joined the Inter-American Development Bank, the main source of multilateral financing in Latin America, as a Consultant.

How did she get where she is?

Geraldine was born in Caracas, Venezuela and graduated with her law degree from Universidad Católica Andres Bello in Caracas. She worked to advance human rights in Venezuela before earning her LLM from Notre Dame in 2016. While at Notre Dame, Geraldine took as many human rights focused classes as she possibly could.

Geraldine’s personal story is even more captivating than her education. Geraldine’s mother, Judge María Lourdes Afiuni Mora, served a sentence in Venezuelan prison, having been sentenced on national television by President Hugo Chavez. Her crime? Following a UN recommendation and releasing a prisoner who had been detained longer than the time allowed under Venezuelan law. Judge Afiuni Mora is currently out of prison on house arrest where she is forbidden from using her bank accounts, practicing law, leaving the country, or accessing her social networks. In Geraldine’s words “Every day since, we have been fighting for her freedom and justice.”

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Geraldine with Samantha Power, U.S Ambassador to the United Nations. Power is advocating for the charges against Geraldine’s mother to be dropped.

Geraldine, who is also being harrassed by the Venezuelan government, would like to seek asylum in the United States but if she does, she would be unable to return to Venezuela and would likely never see her mother again. Meanwhile, in Venezuela, her family and fellow countrymen are suffering. Hospitals lack medicine and Geraldine’s 76 year-old grandma had to wait in line for 8 hours to buy one bag of rice.

Geraldine’s response is not to cower. Instead, she is fighting back and advocating for LGBT rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. Geraldine is committed to continuing to work for an NGO, learning from incredible human rights lawyers, and using her experience to make a change in her country and in Latin America in general.

As far as her path to Notre Dame goes, Geraldine said ” During my last year in law school in Venezuela I was exploring my options for my LLM Degree and I found Notre Dame University, the University of my dreams. I thought I would never get in, but I was granted a scholarship and started in August 2015.

Geraldine had tremendous support for her human rights career while studying at Notre Dame. Geraldine talked about her career dreams with international human rights Professor Douglas Cassel and he told her about the Robert F. Kennedy Center. Geraldine applied to a job posting on their website and started her internship in the fall of 2016.

If you are interested in working for the Robert F. Kennedy Center, they have summer internships for 2Ls.

Apply here.

If you want to learn more about international human rights careers and careers for LLMs, schedule an appointment with a CDO counselor. 

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