MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: What our Students Say

Portrait of Sonali Wanigabaduge Portrait of Sonali Wanigabaduge

6 January 2020

In this interview, Sonali Wanigabaduge, currently enrolled in our MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law (MTJ) tells us about the programme and life in Geneva.

About Me

My name is Sonali Wanigabaduge and I am from Sri Lanka. I began my career as a human rights lawyer and then worked, over the past 10 years, at one of Sri Lanka’s most influential media organizations (The Capital Maharaja Organisation Limited) in varying capacities, including as Head of Corporate/ Legal Affairs for its firebrand news division, and as a television talk show host. My work also enabled me to conceptualise new projects that brought together multiple stakeholders, in areas such as reconciliation, rights awareness and the arts.

I’m also passionate about cinema, theatre, and writing. I fervently believe in the power of human compassion to transcend differences in political ideology.

Why did you choose the MTJ at the Geneva Academy?

I’d always been drawn towards the field of transitional justice, even before I knew the coinage of the term!

A conversation with a friend who had pursued this programme, followed by intense researching, was all the convincing it took for me to uproot myself from 32 years in Sri Lanka, which, I believe, has been one of my bravest and most emotionally fulfilling decisions so far.

What are you particularly enjoying about this programme?

One of the highlights of the programme is the phenomenal insights provided by the stellar panel of professors and human rights experts who encourage innovative thinking around this developing field of transitional justice, coupled with the diversity of opinion from within the class itself. The student body consists of authentic and passionate viewpoints from multiple jurisdictions, which I find particularly intriguing.

Looking outside the window during lectures to the surreal sight of the Geneva Lake is another definite highlight of the course!

Why Would you Recommend this Programme?

This programme encompasses a multidimensional, yet specialised, immersion into transitional justice. Its idyllic and strategic situation in Geneva, where a significant quantum of global human rights work takes place, makes its desirability unparalleled, as interactions are enabled with key players in the field of human rights.

The programme is not for the faint-hearted, but for those who truly wish to serve, whether in the capacity of a policy-maker, activist, or change-maker.

What are you planning to do next?

My heart will forever be with Sri Lanka, no matter where in the world I’d travel to. Whilst appreciating the value of the almost-Utopian results expected of transitional justice, I would like to look at it through a realist’s lens. I am confident that I’d be able to consult with other amazing Sri Lankans from different sectors, who are tirelessly working on the country’s reconciliation process, to catalyse result-oriented transitional justice mechanisms in Sri Lanka, to ensure a truly inclusive reconciliation process geared at non-recurrence of conflict.

Why did you choose to be photographed in front of the Pinta Cura?

The psychedelic Pinta Cura by artist Frédéric Post, to me, represents everything that Geneva doesn’t advertise to be: bold, non-conformist and iridescent.

This resonates with me because I often find myself wanting to look beyond the superficial perfection in situations. Whilst appreciating Geneva’s near-synonymity with human rights, if you look a bit further, you discover its underbelly which comes with its own unique challenges and complexities, which often go under the radar.

Marking the entrance to Geneva’s district of the Grottes, the lit-up images of the serpent and jaguar, rooted in non-Western visual tradition, symbolise therapeutic power and clairvoyance, meant to ward off evil spirits and watch over passers-by in this cosmopolitan city which sees a multiplicity of wanderers with so many emotions, hopes, fears and dreams. This, to me, is the embodiment of the Geneva experience.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Emilie Max at her desk at the Geneva Academy News

Meet our Researchers: Émilie Max

20 January 2020

Émilie Max is one of our researchers. She tells us about her background, the research projects she works on and why she decided to work in this field.

Read more

Portrait of Christophe Golay News

Dr Christophe Golay is Shortlisted for the Position of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

17 February 2020

Our Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dr Christophe Golay, is a candidate for the position of United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

Read more

Event

Supporting Environmental Defenders: How can we Mobilize the International Community?

26 February 2020, 17:30-19:00

This event combines testimonies from environmental defenders with recent academic analysis and responses from high-level representatives from International Geneva and the Mayor of Geneva.

Read more

Woman holding a candlenut. Event

Droit aux semences et politiques internationales

26 March 2020, 19:00-20:30

Les intervenant-e-s aborderont comment le droit aux semences est traité dans la Déclaration des Nations Unies sur les droits des paysans.

Read more

Short Course

The Law of Non-International Armed Conflicts

2 April - 8 May 2020

This short course discusses the protection offered by international humanitarian law (IHL) in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) and addresses some problems and controversies specific to IHL of NIACs, including the difficulty to ensure the respect of IHL by armed non-state actors.

Read more

Afghanistan, Parwan detention facility. Inside a room where detainees of the prison, separated by an acrylic glass, are allowed to meet with their families a couple of times per year with the help of the ICRC employees who facilitate the programme. Short Course

Preventing and Combating Terrorism

27 February - 19 March 2020

This short course discusses the extent to which states may  limit and/or derogate from their international human rights obligations in order to prevent and counter terrorism and thus protect persons under their jurisdiction.

Read more

Central African Republic, Ouham province, village of Ouogo. International Humanitarian Law dissemination session to members of the Peoples' Army for the Restoration of Democracy. Project

From Words to Deeds: A Study of Armed Non-State Actors’ Practice and Interpretation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Norms

Started in January 2017

This project aims at compiling and analysing the practice and interpretation of selected international humanitarian law and human rights norms by armed non-state actors (ANSAs). It has a pragmatic double objective: first, to offer a comparative analysis of IHL and human rights norms from the perspective of ANSAs, and second, to inform strategies of humanitarian engagement with ANSAs, in particular the content of a possible ‘Model Code of Conduct’.

Read more

Session of a UN Treaty Body Project

Treaty Bodies Individual Communications Procedures

Started in January 2019

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

The Role Of Human Rights Mechanisms In Monitoring The United Nations Declaration On The Rights Of Peasants

published on February 2020

Christophe Golay

Read more