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Law students seek justice for Colombian victims

The Human Rights Clinic, part of Miami Law's Human Rights Program, promotes social and economic justice globally and in the U.S.
Colombia student travel

Human Rights Clinic students Clara Tomé, left, and Estefanía Hernández traveled to Bogotá, Colombia, to work on Corporate Accountability casework.

For three days in late January, students with the University of Miami School of Law’s Human Rights Clinic traveled to Bogotá, Colombia, to assist with transnational litigation for an upcoming trial in Florida highlighting corporate accountability and human rights abuses. 

The clinic is part of the school’s Human Rights Program, where students gain firsthand experience in cutting-edge human rights litigation and advocacy at the local, national, regional, and international levels. 

Since August 2023, four Human Rights Clinic interns, under the supervision of Denisse Córdova Montes, Human Rights Clinic acting associate director, and alumna Gabriela Valentín Díaz, staff attorney for EarthRights International, have assisted EarthRights in the case of Doe v. Chiquita Brands International. After 16 years of litigation, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida ordered the company to stand trial for illegally financing paramilitary death squads in Colombia. The trial could potentially provide redress to the family members of victims killed by these paramilitaries. 

The Corporate Accountability Team is the Human Rights Clinic's newest project. The clinic learned about this opportunity thanks to Valentín Díaz, a student intern and clinical fellow with the Human Rights Clinic during her time at Miami Law. Interns Nicole Azarian, Lindsey Graham, Estefanía Hernández, and Clara Tomé, all 2Ls, primarily assist EarthRights with legal research and writing, and exhibit document summaries, document translations, and other tasks in preparation for trial. 

“Working on litigation in the United States and learning about corporate accountability generally has been eye-opening,” said Tomé. “Large corporations are not subject to the same checks and balances as government actors. Finding ways to hold corporations accountable and ensure that their services and products are ethically sourced presents a novel challenge.” 

On-the-ground advocacy in Colombia 

Tomé and Hernández were offered the unique opportunity to travel to Bogotá to observe and assist with preparing witnesses for trial depositions alongside EarthRights attorneys, including Valentín Díaz. As native Spanish speakers, they worked on outlining and translating documents and other tasks that require Spanish fluency. 

Tomé and Hernández took advantage of the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture and learn from legal professionals involved in human rights litigation in Colombia. The trip strengthened the interns' cultural competency and emotional intelligence as they connected with witnesses who had experienced trauma and loss. 

For Hernández, who was born in Bogotá and moved to the United States at a young age, this case hit close to home. 

"It was a privilege to travel to my native country as a legal intern and interact with local community partners who welcomed us with great hospitality," said Hernández. "Our supervising attorneys and our Colombian partner organization exemplified resilient advocacy as they sought to advance justice for our Colombian plaintiffs."

The four-week trial is scheduled to begin April 24.

Read more about Miami Law's Clinics.