Sandra Bucha’s Inspiring Path to the Judicial Fellows Program

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In the realm of law and justice, few opportunities are as esteemed and transformative as being selected for the Court’s Judicial Fellows program at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This honor is not merely a recognition of academic achievement; it symbolises a profound commitment to advancing the principles of international law and justice on a global stage.

Meet Sandra Bucha, a distinguished graduate of Strathmore University whose journey exemplifies perseverance, dedication, and a resolute pursuit of international law. After completing her legal studies at Strathmore, she embarked on a remarkable trajectory that led her to this prestigious fellowship, carving her path through private legal practice, international criminal law, and advanced studies in Geneva.

Sandra’s decision to apply for the Court’s Judicial Fellows program was fueled by a quest for deeper understanding and a desire to contribute meaningfully to the field of international law. The selection process, rigorous and competitive, culminated in her being chosen as a Fellow, a testament to her academic prowess and dedication. I will now let her talk to you verbatim.

Tell us about yourself and your journey from Strathmore University to being accepted into the Court’s Judicial Fellows program?

I graduated in 2018 and went on to the Kenya School of Law and worked in private legal practice as part of the Advocates Training Program. I already knew that I wanted to practice International Law as opposed to domestic law so soon after completing the requirements of my program, I pivoted to consulting in International Criminal Law. I had a stint at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals then moved on to study a Masters in International Law degree at the Geneva Graduate Institute. While here, I explored a budding interest in international trade law by undertaking an internship at the World Trade Organization.

How did your experience at Strathmore Law School prepare you for this prestigious opportunity?

Ultimately, Strathmore Law School  provided me with the knowledge and appreciation of international law. The classes on international law, from public international law to international criminal law and international human rights and humanitarian law were my favourite classes. These classes were not just about passing on theoretical knowledge of the law. We were also encouraged to think through contemporary issues that the law was grappling with. The international trip also served to ground everything we had learnt – the institutions we discussed in class shifted from residing in our imagination to real institutions with global impact that affects us in one way or another. Additionally, I undertook an internship with the ICRC Nairobi Regional Delegation as part of the industrial attachment required at the end of third year, and that was a wonderful opportunity to experience first-hand practice of international humanitarian and human rights law.

What inspired you to apply for the Court’s Judicial Fellows program?

As someone who had worked in human rights and international criminal law, my sense of justice was limited to the individual – or groups. Doing research on the state at graduate level piqued my interest on what justice for a state would look like. That, coupled with the prospect of broadening my knowledge of international law, inspired me to apply for the program.

Could you describe the selection process and what it means to be selected as a Fellow?

The selection process starts with a nomination from a university. There are age and language requirements that one must fulfil. The program is quite competitive so it’s important to put in a strong application. Being selected for it is an immense honour, particularly because it’s the first time a nominee from Strathmore has been selected and the only other time a Kenyan participated in the program was in 2015.

How do you think this experience will impact your understanding of public international law?

I think this experience will help my research on the state. I also think, perhaps more than anything, it will greatly help me understand the intricacies of the practice of international law, from both the bar and bench angles.

What key lessons or insights do you believe you will gain from working closely with a Member of the Court?

This experience presents the chance to delve deeper into certain issues of international law. I am also keen to work on a real-time case and to benefit from the mentorship of practitioners in the field.

How important is public international law in today’s legal landscape, especially in developing countries?

Public international law remains a crucial tool through which developing countries can champion their interests and upend the existing world order so as to achieve a more just and equitable international community. Plus, more practitioners from the Global South are needed.

How do you envision applying your experience from the fellowship to your future career goals?

I hope to become exposed to various career options within the international law field. I also hope to use knowledge and insights obtained from this experience to further my research on the state, possibly through a PhD.

What impact do you hope to make in the field of international law or public international law moving forward?

I hope to champion the interests of Kenya and other Global South countries at large, and to chip away at global systems of oppression.

What recommendations would you give to current students at Strathmore Law School who are considering similar career paths?

To expose themselves to as many avenues as they can so as to learn more, gain more insight into the field and to understand what will be required of them.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience, particularly those interested in public interest litigation or international law?

Keep at it. Keep pursuing your interest and growing yourself within the areas that pique your interest, whether that be through publishing, attending conferences or research. I would also recommend having a mentor who is engaged in the field you would like to get into.

Article written by: Stephen Wakhu

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