Current Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Fellows

Laura Baron-Mendoza - O'Brien Fellow


A Colombian lawyer trained at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana; Laura Baron-Mendoza specializes in conflict resolution. She holds an LLM in International Humanitarian Law from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. 

She has been involved with international and national entities throughout her professional career. Previously, she was the legal coordinator at Avocats Sans Frontières Canada (ASFC) and served as a consultant for the High Commissioner for Peace in Colombia during the peace talks between the government and the FARC-EP. In December 2021, she joined MADRE as a human rights advocacy officer.

She has published for the Colombian journal El Espectador - Colombia2020, commenting on the non-international armed conflict and the concomitant Transitional Justice system created by the Habana Peace Agreement of 2016. 

As a DCL candidate and O’Brien Fellow, her research is focused on the socio-legal challenges posed by the coexistence of normative orders in contexts of ongoing armed violence. This subject derives from her work with former members of non-State armed groups in Colombia, mainly in the Urabá antioqueño Region (North-west of Colombia). 

Luisa Castaneda Quintana - DCL student

Luisa Castaneda Quintana
Luisa Castaneda Quintana is a DCL candidate at McGill University's Faculty of Law. She is conducting her research under the supervision of Prof. Victor Muniz-Fraticelli, focusing on legal pluralism, extractive industries, resistance, and Indigenous Peoples' identity. Specifically, she analyzes how the Wiwa people's interactions with different normative orders in the context of extractivism have transformed their identity and forged various forms of resistance. In 2021, she received the National Scholarship Vanier awarded by the Social Sciences, Humanities, and Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Her main research areas are legal pluralism, legal anthropology, Indigenous Peoples, conservation, extractivism, and judicial activism.

Luisa is a Colombian lawyer specialized in human rights with an emphasis on Indigenous Peoples' rights. She holds a master's degree in Law from the Libre University in Colombia and an LLM in Comparative Law and Economics from the University of Turin and IUC in Italy.

Before her doctoral studies, she gained extensive experience working for international cooperation organizations and civil society. She has been an international consultant at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations in the Indigenous Peoples Unit, headquarters. She also worked in Colombia with Indigenous Peoples in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Amazon on environmental, territorial management, and governance issues, orienting her work on strategic litigation.

Pranoto Iskandar – O’Brien Fellow

Pranoto Iskandar
Pranoto Iskandar is the Founding Director of the Institute for Migrant Rights. Iskandar had lectured at several universities, including the Peking University's School of Transnational Law, Monash University Malaysia, and some Indonesian law schools.

Previously, he worked at some Jakarta-based law firms. He is the Inaugural Fellow for The Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies, Malaysia of the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and has been a visiting scholar at University of Oslo's Norwegian Centre for Human Rights.

He has written, edited and translated a number of books and articles on international law, constitutionalism, human rights, and migration. His most recent publishing initiative through the Institute is The Indonesian Journal of International and Comparative Law. He serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, and is Advising Editor for Borders and Migrations Studies Online, a multimedia database on human migration.

Some of his most recent scholarly publications can be found in Social & Legal Studies, Oxford University Comparative Law Forum, and the Journal of Contemporary Asia.

Yuri Alexander Romaña-Rivas - O'Brien Fellow

Yuri Romana-Rivas

Yuri Alexander Romaña-Rivas  (yuri.romana-rivas [at] (email), LinkedIn), an Afro-Colombian lawyer, is a current doctoral (Ph.D.) student in the Comparative Law concentration of the Doctor of Civil Law (DCL-Comparative Law) program at McGill's Faculty of Law and an O’Brien Fellow at the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. He is a recipient of the 2022 National Scholarship Vanier awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Yuri also received the 2022 John Peters Humphrey Fellowship in International Human Rights or International Organization awarded by the Canadian Council on International Law (CCIL). 

Yuri holds a Master of Laws (LLM) in International Law and Legal Studies from American University, Washington College of Law in Washington DC, where he studied with a Fulbright Scholarship. He obtained his Law degree (LLB) at the “Diego Luis Córdoba” Technological University of Chocó (U.T.CH) in Colombia. Yuri has significant legal experience in International Human Rights Law and transitional justice mechanisms. Between 2018 and 2021, he worked as a specialized lawyer at the Chamber for Amnesty and Pardon of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) in Colombia, a transitional justice tribunal established in 2018 as a result of the 2016-Peace Agreements between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia- People's Army (Las FARC-EP) to investigate, prosecute and try the most serious crimes committed in the context of the more than 50-year armed conflict in Colombia. Previously, Yuri worked for more than five years as a Human Rights Specialist at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous international human rights body of the Organization of American States (OAS) based in Washington, D.C, where he worked within the Precautionary Measures Mechanism and the Individual Petitions and Cases System. Additionally, Yuri has researched and published on different human rights-related topics such as transitional justice, structural racism, and standards of due process guarantees under International Human Rights Law.        

His doctoral research, under the supervision of Professor René Provost, focuses on the need for transitional justice to address the underlying causes of the disproportionate impacts of armed conflicts on racialized communities by incorporating transformative measures with a racially-sensitive approach. 

    Isabella Spano - DCL student

    Isabella is a DCL candidate at McGill University’s Faculty of Law. She obtained her combined Bachelor and Master of Laws degree (cum laude) at the Faculty of Law of the University of Bologna, where she graduated with a thesis on the criminalization of Holocaust denial and hate speech in Europe and North America.

    Isabella has collaborated with the EU-sponsored MELA (Memory Laws in European and Comparative Perspective) project, under the supervision of Prof. Emanuela Fronza, and she is Cultrice della Materia in International and European Criminal Law at the University of Bologna.

    Her research interests include international criminal law, human rights, and the interactions of the law with new technologies.

    Edward van Daalen – Postdoctoral Fellow

    Edward van Daalen
    Edward van Daalen is a critical socio-legal researcher specialised in international human/children’s rights law and social movements. He holds a PhD (summa cum laude) in international public law from the University of Geneva, for which he studied the role of organised working children in the development of international child labour law. As certified university lecturer he has designed and thought courses on international law, human rights, children’s rights and social movements at the University of Geneva and at the Sciences Po Law School where he resided as visiting fellow (2018-2020). He published various innovative chapters and articles published in leading human rights journals, including the International Journal of Human Rights and the International Journal of Children’s Rights. He is a core member of the Children and Work Network and founder of the Law and Cinema Club at the Sciences Po Law School. His current postdoctoral research project (2021-2022) at the McGill University Faculty of Law is entitled “Targeting ‘Target 8.7’: A Socio-Legal Study on the Interrelations between the SDGs, the Global Legal Child Labour Regime, and Domestic Law and Policy”, for which he was awarded a Postdoc Mobility Grant by the Suisse National Science Foundation.

    Emmanuel Charles Moshi - O’Brien Fellow

    A Black man wearing a grey blazer with a blue tieEmmanuel Charles Moshi is a DCL candidate at McGill University's Faculty of Law. Prior to McGill, he obtained his LLB from Mzumbe University (2014), an LLM from the Center of Disability Law and Policy at the National University of Ireland (2018) and a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (PGDLP) from the Law School of Tanzania (2019). 

    Emmanuel is a 2018 alumni of the prestigious Open Societies Disability Rights Scholarships Program under which he pursued his LLM. In Tanzania, he has been working as an Assistant Lecturer at the School of Law, the University of Dodoma since 2016 where he has taught Property Law, Human Rights Law, Disability Rights Law, Legal and Professional Ethics, Civil Procedure Law and Health Law to undergraduate students. He is also a Practicing Advocate of the High Court of Tanzania and the Courts Subordinate thereto, Notary Public and Commissioner for Oaths, a registered member of the Tanzanian Bar Association, also referred to as the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), since 2019. 

    Emmanuel’s research interests include the right to legal capacity, access to justice, independent living, individual autonomy and freedoms for persons with disabilities. His doctoral research focuses on how Tanzania realizes the right to Legal Capacity to persons with Mental, Intellectual and Psychosocial Disabilities as provided under Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). His LLM's work focused on how East African Community (EAC) adopts and implements the standards and measures set out in the UN-CRPD. 

    Leanna Katz - O’Brien Fellow

    Leanna KatzLeanna Katz is the Director of the Transnational Justice Clinic and the first Adams-Burke Global Justice Fellow. She is a doctoral candidate at McGill's Faculty of Law working primarily in the area of labour law and the political economy.  Her broader interests include labour and employment law, social welfare law, contract law, competition law, administrative law, and critical and feminist legal theory. 

    Leanna also holds an O'Brien Graduate Fellowship at the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. Previously, Leanna earned her LL.M. from Harvard Law School, J.D. from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law, and a B.A.Sc. from McMaster University's Arts and Science Program. She clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada and the Court of Appeal for British Columbia and practiced for three years as a litigator at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. 


    Soorya Balendra - O'Brien Fellow

    A south Asian man standing with his arms crossed. He has short black hair and is wearing a black and grey blazer Soorya Balendra is an LLM Thesis candidate and O’Brien Fellow at the Faculty of Law, McGill University. He obtained his Bachelor of Laws Degree (summa cum laude) from the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, where he graduated with a thesis on ‘The necessity of introducing cyber defamation law to Sri Lankan Legal System’. Prior to McGill, Soorya was a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, where he taught courses on Information Technology Law, Private International Law, and International Investment Law.

    He also gained extensive research experience since he was assigned as a researcher at Democracy Reporting International (DRI), a think tank based in Berlin actively engages in research and advocacy on ‘Digital Democracy’. Soorya has published in the fields of Information Technology Law, Digitalization, and Digital democracy. As an O’Brien Graduate Fellow at McGill, His research primarily focuses on social media regulations, and their impacts on digital democracy from a Global South perspective giving special attention to the Sri Lankan jurisdiction while exploring a comparative analysis

    Giusto Amedeo Boccheni - DCL student

    A white man with short brown hair wearing a white shirt and black blazerGiusto Amedeo Boccheni (LinkedIn; giusto.boccheni [at] (Email)) is a doctoral student in the Comparative Law Concentration of the Doctor of Civil Law (DCL). He holds an M.S. and an LL.M. “With Distinction” in Comparative Law, Economics and Finance from the International University College of Turin (IUC) and a Law degree (Laurea Magistrale a Ciclo Unico in Giurisprudenza) “Summa cum Laude and Honourable Mention” from Università degli Studi di Torino. Giusto Amedeo’s research engages with complex issues at the intersections of critical jurisprudence, comparative constitutionalism, and ecological governance. He is currently studying sovereignty theory in connection to freshwater law and governance in the Columbia and Mekong river basins, focusing in particular on the claims to and against sovereignty raised by and on behalf of Indigenous Peoples, non-present generations, non-human beings, and property-owners. 

    In collaboration with CHRLP and the Indigenous Law Association / Association du Droit Autochthone (ILADA), Giusto Amedeo has been a co-organizer of the “Dialogues on Indigenous Peoples' Territories: Stories of Resilience.” Giusto Amedeo is the Graduate Students Representative for McGill Law's Sustainability Committee, as well as a graduate fellow of the Research Group on Constitutional Studies (RGCS) and a member of the Canadian Water Resources Association. 


    Catherine Savard 

    Catherine SavardCatherine Savard (LinkedIn; catherine.savard.19 [at] (email)) is a lawyer and graduate student at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Profs. Freya Baetens and Lavanya Rajamani. Her thesis aims at providing the first comprehensive treatise on the concept of ecocide under international human rights law, criminal law and humanitarian law. She previously served as a judicial law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada with Justice Nicholas Kasirer, and at the Québec Court of Appeal with Justice Jean Bouchard. She also worked as a legal advisor for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and notably co-wrote their legal analysis on genocide. From 2017 to 2021, she coordinated the Canadian Partnership for International Justice, a multi-million SSHRC-funded research project designed to fight against impunity for international crimes. She holds a master’s degree (LL.M.) from Laval University under the supervision of Prof. Fannie Lafontaine, and her thesis purports on genocidal intent under international law.  

    Katherine Lofts - Graduate O’Brien Fellows

    Katherine Lofts is a DCL student at McGill's Faculty of Law and an O’Brien Fellow at the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. She is also a Research Associate with the Canada Research Chair in Human Rights, Health and the Environment, and a member of the Disability-Inclusive Climate Action Research Programme at McGill. Her doctoral research will focus on disability justice and climate change adaptation.  

    For more than a decade, Katherine has led and collaborated on projects and authored publications at the intersections of human rights, climate change, and environmental governance. In addition to disability-inclusive climate action, her current research interests include public health and climate change; the use of human rights norms in climate litigation; and the role of human rights in land-based climate mitigation measures.  

    Katherine previously clerked at the Federal Court of Canada and is admitted to practice law in the State of New York. She holds an LLM, in addition to BCL and LLB degrees (McGill), as well as an MA in English literature (McGill) and a BA in English (Honours) (University of Victoria). Originally from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Katherine has lived and worked in the US, the UK, France, India, and Singapore.” 

    Suraya Ferdous - Graduate O’Brien Fellows

    Suraya Ferdous is a lecturer in law of State University of Bangladesh and currently on leave to pursue her second Master of Laws (Thesis) at the McGill University. In 2023, she is awarded the prestigious O’Brien Graduate Fellowship for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. She has completed her Bachelor of Laws and Master of Laws (International Law) from University of Dhaka. Prior to joining as a lecturer she worked as a senior editor (head of English wing) of the Dhaka University Law and Political Review (DULPR). Her research experience includes working as a research assistant (2019) in the book Justice Beyond the Law by Faustina Pereira and also worked with Dr. Marufa Akter, Assistant Professor, Department of Global Studies and Governance in Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) as a research assistant. She also contributed as research assistant in Mapping of existing research on gender and violent extremism and identifying the roles women play in preventing violent extremism in Bangladesh undertaken by UN WOMEN and Ministry of Foreign Affairs led by Mohammad Golam Sarwar, Assistant Professor, Department of Law, University of Dhaka. Beside her teaching and research, she is an apprentice lawyer of District and Sessions Judge Court, Dhaka, Bangladesh.” 

    Samuel Alemayehu - Graduate O’Brien Fellows

    Samuel Addis AlemayehuSamuel Addis Alemayehu, is a lawyer, diplomat and DCL candidate at McGill Law. Samuel is a graduate of Bachelor of Laws (2009) from Addis Ababa University. He also holds a Master in International Law from the Graduate Institute of Geneva. He has also taken short term trainings on intellectual property, WTO law, international migration law from well-known training institutes in Italy and Switzerland and Australia.  Samuel has been working as a diplomat for nearly thirteen years holding different positions including his last position as Director for Peace and Security Affairs at the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commissions for Africa (2014-2015). In his stint at the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia at Geneva (2017-2021), Samuel in particular had an extensive engagement over pressing global issues including migration, refugees, climate change and intellectual property laws. He in particular had the opportunity to take part in negotiation of major instruments including the Global Compact on Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees. His engagement in the negotiation of these instruments offered him an opportunity to have a practical understanding of the competing interest of States in controlling their borders and admission of aliens on one hand and the protection of migrant’s right and the challenges of extending the full application of human rights enshrined in major human rights instruments irrespective of their status as migrants on the other hand.  

    Apart from his engagement in migration, he was also closely involved with the work of the UN Human Rights Council and other multilateral forums working on environmental issues and the UN system in General. As an international lawyer, Samuel’s research interest canvasses different areas with a focus on legal fragmentation and its implications in applying international law as a unified system of laws. He is particularly interested in regime interaction of human rights law with inter-state regimes of international law whose normative development and institutional arrangements makes the full application of particularly socio-economic rights difficult.  Accordingly, his doctoral research focuses on the application of the right to water in the context transboundary waters, which aims to analyze the regime interaction between international human rights law and international water law with a view to explore ways for harmonious application of the private right to water of individual’s and State’s public right to equitable and reasonable water in a given transboundary waters.

    Gamze Ovacik - Steinberg Post-Doctoral Fellow

    Gamze OvacikGamze Ovacik is a Postdoctoral Researcher at McGill University Faculty of Law and her areas of interest and expertise are migration and asylum law, international law and human rights law. She has been teaching in these fields at Başkent University Faculty of Law where she holds a position as an assistant professor. In 2022-2023, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Gothenburg Department of Law within the ASILE Project on global asylum governance and the European Union’s role and her research focused on attribution of international responsibility in the context of asylum cooperation. She completed her Ph.D. at Bilkent University Faculty of Law in 2021 during which she conducted a comparative analysis of Turkish and European judicial practices on asylum, removal and immigration detention against the background of Turkey’s position as a safe third country. During her Ph.D. studies she joined Radboud University Centre for Migration Law as a visiting researcher in 2019-2020. Since 2012 she has worked with UNHCR, IOM and ICMPD Turkey offices on full-time and freelance basis on various subjects including human rights considerations regarding assisted voluntary return, forced return and alternatives to immigration detention as well as within legislative processes on migration and asylum. She obtained her L.L.M. degree on Public International Law from University of Amsterdam Faculty of Law in 2007.

    Rhona Goodarzi - DCL student

    Rhona Goodarzi is a DCL student at McGill University’s Faculty of Law. She holds an LL.B. from the University of Edinburgh, an LL.M. from McGill University and she completed an exchange at the University of Paris-Sud’s Faculté Jean-Monnet. In light of her NGO experience in the Global South, Rhona has been conducting research as part of Professor René Provost’s Unreserved Justice Project, a comparative analysis of indigenous justice in different countries around the world, examining the ongoing practices of indigenous legal traditions in Bolivia and the extent to which these are effectively recognised and protected within the state’s constitutional order.   

    Prior to her doctoral studies, Rhona worked with anti-torture organisations in Europe and South America conducting medico-legal evaluations of torture survivors, advocacy campaigns and strategic case interventions. She has delivered capacity-building programmes for women and children deprived of their liberty, judicial personnel and health professionals working in the field of torture prevention. Rhona’s research interests lie generally in the areas of freedom from torture and ill-treatment, police powers, arbitrary detention and freedom of peaceful assembly. Her current research centres around the exercise of the right to protest in the digital sphere and its close interaction with the right to privacy.

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