Courses 2020-present | Law School

Two recent graduates of the Notre Dame Law School LL.M. Program in International Human Rights Law are clerks in influential international tribunals in Africa and Latin America.

Angella Ngwalo ’22 LL.M. is Registrar for the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the United Republic of Tanzania. Angélica Suárez Torres ’22 LL.M. is a Registrar at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica.

Both graduates decided to become lawyers after watching unrest and human rights abuses grow in their own country. They were later called to work in the legal field of human rights after being part of Notre Dame LL.M. Program in International Human Rights Law.

“Notre Dame Human Rights LL.M. students are already outstanding human rights lawyers, judges, jurists and scholars in their respective countries, gaining additional expertise, experience and immersion in global human rights work in our program. Both Angelica and Angella are examples of this excellence and commitment to human rights law work in leading regional human rights courts in Latin America and Africa,” said Diane Desierto, Faculty Director, LL.M. Program in International Human Rights Law. “They both carry on the deep tradition of many years of Notre Dame Human Rights LL.M. graduates who have served as valued jurists in international human rights tribunals and/or worked with the United Nations High Commissioner to human rights.

Ngwalo started his externship for tAfrican Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights – the tribunal established by African countries to ensure the protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa in September and has been busy since its first day.

Angella Ngwalo
Angella Ngwalo

She is helping manage the court’s backlog and has already prepared judgments for two cases. She will research applicable case law and prepare all required documents for judges to use in hearings and deliberations. Another part of her internship is to check whether member states are complying with court rulings and provide updates on the status of cases.

“I chose to study at Notre Dame because of the inspiration I received from some human rights lawyers in Malawi who also studied at Notre Dame,” Ngwalo said. “Law school helped me become a ‘different kind of lawyer’. I was exposed to critical reflection on human rights and learned to recognize and affirm human dignity even in adverse circumstances. I am convinced that my contributions to human rights work will make a difference in my country, my continent and in the world.

Before coming to Notre Dame, Ngwalo worked as a legal, human rights and election expert for election monitoring groups, including the African Union Commission, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa. She worked with women and marginalized communities, and her fieldwork has taken her to several African countries.

“We observe and monitor the situation before, actual and after the elections and produce reports if the countries have complied with the principles of democratic elections,” said Ngwalo.

Ngwalo decided to become a lawyer because of her passion for the oppressed, especially women and children. She said that coming from an underdeveloped country, her abilities were often questioned and she faced injustices because she was a woman. She wanted to inspire and bring faith to other women who think they can’t make it because of their gender and socio-economic background.

“I wanted to help bring justice to women and children who are marginalized and whose rights and dignity are denied in so many ways. I believe that if each of us chooses to take a step in promoting human rights work, we will have a better world. While others chose medicine and teaching, I chose the noble field of law,” Ngwalo said.

Ngwalo also holds an LL.B. degree and is admitted to practice law in all courts in Malawi.

Angélica Suárez Torres is working on a one-year fellowship at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica. She works with two lawyers in the merits section of the Inter-American Court, one of three regional human rights tribunals. Together with the European Court of Human Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Inter-American Court is an autonomous legal institution that applies the American Convention on Human Rights.

Angel Lica Sua Rez Torres
Angelica Suarez Torres

Its main responsibility is to contribute to the drafting of the judgments of the Court. So far, she has participated in the drafting of four judgments. She also participates in hearings and prepares legal documents used to process cases, including documents regarding the admissibility of evidence and for any conservatory measures in court.

“From the start, the LL.M. program at ND Law has been instrumental in my career. Not only did it give me the great opportunity to be a clerk at the Inter-American Court, but it also gave me a comprehensive education in the field of human rights and the development of critical skills in legal writing and analysis” , Suarez said. “Plus, being at Notre Dame has reinforced my commitment to human rights causes.”

While at Notre Dame, she served as a research assistant at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. She was a semi-finalist in ND Law’s inaugural International and Comparative Law Essay Competition.

The atrocities Suarez saw growing up in her home country of Colombia, including the horrific stages of an internal armed conflict, is what led her to a career in law.

“I wanted to acquire the knowledge to be able to contribute to the prevention of more human suffering due to war and to be able to help the victims to obtain justice for the atrocities committed against them,” said Suarez. “When I was a law student, I realized that international human rights law was a career path where I could achieve these goals.

Previously, she worked for two non-governmental human rights organizations, People in Need and Dejusticia (also known as the Center for Law, Justice and Society). She has also interned at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Center for Justice and International Law. She obtained her law degree from the Universidad del Rosario in Colombia.

“The Notre Dame Human Rights LL.M. Program is proud to contribute to the work of our top students with courts and international human rights law organizations, especially in these times when human rights are constantly under siege around the world,” Desierto said.

Jon J. Epps