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Congratulations to the 2022
John Peters Humphrey Fellowship Recipients

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Yuri Alexander Romaña-Rivas 

Doctoral Student (Doctor of Civil Law - Comparative Law), McGill University’s Faculty of Law

Proposed Program of Study:


Title of the research project:  “In Pursuit of the Mountaintop: When Transitional Justice Is Not Enough. The Case for a Racially Transformative Justice System for Racialized Black Communities.”

Racialized communities that have been subjected to systems of oppression such as enslavement, colonialism, and structural racism tend to be disproportionately impacted by armed conflicts. However, Transitional Justice (TJ) processes established to overcome the causes and effects of armed conflicts do not necessarily focus on addressing the underlying causes of oppression that have made racialized communities more susceptible to a disproportionate impact from armed conflicts. In the case of these communities, attempting to take them back to the status quo ante of an armed conflict may not be enough to overcome the situation of structural violence that has historically affected them. This is the case of Black communities in Colombia, where Black people were enslaved, were and still are subjected to structural racism, and nearly 1.2 million or 26% of Afro-Colombians have been victims of the armed conflict (by opposition to 16% of non-Afro-Colombian victims). In 2016, the Colombian Government and the former guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (“FARC-EP” for its Spanish acronym) signed a Peace Agreement to end the more than 50-year-old armed conflict, the longest in the history of the Western Hemisphere. This triggered a new and ambitious TJ process in Colombia.

By using Colombia as a case study, I seek to articulate why the TJ framework is not sufficiently well-equipped to address the multifaceted needs of Black communities to move them from protracted cycles of violence and systemic racism to a state of positive peace and racial justice. Further, I will analyze how other frameworks, such as Transformative Justice, International Human Rights Law, and Racial Justice, can contribute to addressing the particular needs of justice and equity for Black communities within a TJ process. Likewise, as a comparative law exercise, I will examine foreign experiences with TJ frameworks involving racialized communities. In short, my research proposal seeks to propose an analytical framework that can adequately examine and address the particular circumstances of historically marginalized and racialized communities in the context of TJ processes.


Among other work experiences, Yuri Alexander worked, between 2018 and 2021, as a lawyer for the Chamber of Amnesty and Pardon of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a tribunal established as a result of the 2016 Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the former guerrilla of the FARC-EP to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes committed during the Colombian armed conflict. Yuri Alexander also worked, between 2013 and 2018, as a lawyer for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C. Yuri Alexander is a Vanier Scholar. 

Certificate, Afro-Latin American Studies, Harvard University, Afro-Latin American Research Institute at the Hutchins Center 
LL.M. American University, Washington College of Law
LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws); Universidad Tecnológica del Chocó (Colombia), Faculty of Law

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Mehdi J. Hakimi

LL.M. Candidate

Harvard Law School 

Proposed Program of Study

International Law and Human Rights 


Mehdi will conduct research at the intersection of international law, human rights, and development.  A core issue in this area is the gap between the theory and practice of international human rights law in the context of transitional states.  One of the (somewhat understudied) causes of this gap concerns the role of external actors—including international organizations, foreign governments, donors, and legal transplants generally—in shaping legal reforms in conflict-affected states.  Using the case of Afghanistan, he will examine the role of international actors in shaping this country’s legal regime governing human rights during the past two decades.  A second, and related, strand of his research focuses on the role of international bodies, such as the International Criminal Court, in addressing the longstanding atrocities and rampant human rights abuses in Afghanistan.   

Mehdi previously served as the Executive Director of the Rule of Law Program and Lecturer at Stanford Law School.  He was also the former Chair of the Law Department at the American University of Afghanistan.


J.D., University of Ottawa
M.B.A., University of Ottawa
B.A., Carleton University

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