Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict: What Participants Say

7 March 2024

Cielo Linares follows our online Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict while working as a Researcher at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in Colombia. In this position, she supports ICTJ’s work with Colombia’s Truth Commission and Special Jurisdiction for Peace, focusing on restorative justice, memory, prevention and reparation.

Before that, she worked for the Colombia Constitutional Court Victims’ Unit which manages a comprehensive reparation system for more than nine million victims of the armed conflict, the Colombian General Prosecutor's Office, and the Comisión Colombiana de Juristas. She also worked in the Golan Heights, at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

A member of the European Forum for Restorative Justice, Cielo Linares holds post-graduate degrees in international criminal law and constitutional law and has given postgraduate lectures, published, and acted as judge and peer reviewer on restorative justice, transitional justice, human rights and international humanitarian law.

Can you describe your current job and primary responsibilities?

I joined ICTJ in 2019 as a researcher on prevention, restorative justice, truth, memory, and reparations. In this capacity, I worked on Colombia’s transitional justice process, providing technical assistance and helping strengthen the capacities of Colombia’s Truth Commission and Special Jurisdiction for Peace, as well as other public authorities, civil society, and ex-combatants.

I have also technically assisted on non-recurrence, memory, truth and responsibility recognition Colombia’s Roundtable for Truth, a civil society network that brings together 30 national, local and exile organizations – as well as the Ex-Combatants Roundtable – another civil society network that includes 30 ex-combatants of the armed forces, the paramilitary groups and seven guerrillas’ groups.

A book chapter on prevention edited by Roger Duthie and a research study on good restorative practices of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace detail this experience and lessons learned in this important transitional justice process.

What motivated you to enroll in this programme?

I was following the programme for a few years, seeing the subjects and the profile of the professors and participants. I liked that the subjects were kept relevant, and the profiles of both professors and participants were always interesting.

In what ways do you anticipate applying the specialized knowledge gained from this programme to your professional work?

One of the most complicated aspects of transitional justice has to do with investigations and reparation questions. The Executive Master is allowing me to reflect on how far international humanitarian law (IHL) and criminal justice can go in those tasks and where it is necessary to take a more holistic approach, linked to social studies, that responds to the needs of victims without affecting the basic principles and rules of international law.

Which specific courses or topics within the programme do you find most relevant to your professional development?

Each of them is like a piece of a puzzle, so to choose one would be impossible. I really enjoy the courses of Professor Distefano in which we see the foundations of all branches of public international law, allowing us to know where and what to look for even on topics we do not know yet. The courses of Professor Kolb and Professor Schabas help us to challenge our preconceptions regarding IHL and international criminal law (ICL), and to have a less idealist approach to the scope of the law. Thankfully, we also had courses with Professor De Frouville that gave us some hope and strategies to take advantage of international human rights mechanisms to guarantee rights. I'm eager to finish putting together the puzzle with the courses we have left!

How has the diverse background of professionals in the programme enriched your learning experience?

The profiles of my colleagues are impressive and allow me to discover new approaches, problems, and opportunities for the topics we address. There are people from all professions with several years of experience in diplomacy, law, social studies, military issues, humanitarian emergencies, community reconstruction, and human rights, to name a few. I also like that we all come from different cultural backgrounds and all over the world, which always enriches the discussions.

How do you manage to balance your professional responsibilities with the demands of online classes?

I live in the Americas. At first, I was worried about having courses so early in the morning (5 or 6 am), but I think it helped me balance my professional responsibilities better. I always finish classes before working hours, and I don't usually have issues with my schedule. The biggest challenge is keeping up with the reading, but with a little discipline (and a lot of patience from my family), I manage to do it.

How do you foresee the Executive Master contributing to your career advancement, especially in acquiring additional responsibilities or moving your career forward?

The programme is allowing me to have a more comprehensive understanding of international law, which was, beforehand, too focused on guaranteeing the rights of victims and the reconstruction of societies that have gone through massive violations of human rights or IHL. The Executive Master has given me confidence, knowledge, and tools to analyse other topics, such as social, economic, and environmental law, IHL and the new ICL dilemmas. This will allow me not only to cross it with my previous knowledge, making the analysis more complex, but also to approach them individually, making new connections.

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