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

25 March 2024

María Elizondo is a Mexican lawyer enrolled in our online Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict. For the last seven years, she has focused on missing persons, enforced disappearance, and the human identification processes. Currently, she serves as Legal Advisor for the Missing Persons and Forensic Programme of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Regional Delegation for Mexico and Central America.

Can you describe your current job and primary responsibilities?

I am the Legal Advisor for the Missing Persons and Forensics Programme of the ICRC for Mexico and Central America. My primary responsibilities entail the implementation of international standards in the field of international human rights law (IHRL) and international humanitarian law (IHL) at the national level for the legal protection of missing persons and their families through legislative processes. In this regard, I also provide legal advice to government authorities so that they can promote, create and strengthen mechanisms for search and human identification, and strengthen their forensic medical service. I also closely work with family organizations of missing persons to strengthen their technical capacities and access to their rights.

What motivated you to enroll in this programme?

I decided to enter this programme to strengthen my technical knowledge of IHL for the needs of the organization I work for. In addition, I am taking this programme with a different perspective since I have accumulated professional experience, which allows me to go deeper into the subjects. I also liked the idea of sharing a space with classmates who are not lawyers and receiving feedback from other points of view.

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

My current work is linked to IHL and it is always necessary to have a solid base to continue developing. Although there is no armed conflict in the region where I work, it is a reality that there is a need to always work with states to ensure compliance, even in times of peace or violence that do not reach the threshold of armed conflict. This programme contributes to my professional growth and enhances my technical knowledge, a crucial element for my interactions with the authorities.

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

The four modules (IHL, IHRL, internatonal criminal law and public international law) are essential since they are appropriately connected, which is something is realize a bit kore every day via the various courses. However, I am particularly interested in the courses dealing with non-international armed conflicts, international criminal law and the interplay between IHRL and IHL as I want to deepen my expertise on these issues.

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

It is a great benefit for me to listen and learn from my classmates who come from various cultural, academic and professional backgrounds. All the people who participate in the programme also have a fundamental level of knowledge and experience, which is essential for me. Also, studying with other academic and professional profiles is very enriching because the discussions can go beyond a purely ’ legal focus, which helps a lot to understand the interpretation of the law itself.

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

Balancing my professional and academic life has been the most significant challenge because I am based in Mexico, so I usually have an eight-hour difference from Geneva. So I have regularly taken my classes in the early morning! In spite of that, and what it has implied to be able to follow the rhythm, I think it has been an excellent opportunity to be able to share a virtual space with people and professors from all regions of the world, and this experience is totally enriching. In addition, the programme provides all the facilities so that students can follow the classes, materials, and other activities correctly.

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

One of the reasons I decided to take this programme is because it gave me the opportunity for professional and academic credentialing and allowed me to do my master paper, where I would like to record the last few years of my career.

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