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Rachel DeCapita '17 presents findings of lax enforcement to the country’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs

February 4, 2017: When Rachel DeCapita boarded a plane for her law school internship in Jakarta, Indonesia, she had an idea she’d play a role in tackling issues of human rights and international law. She had no idea how high-profile her role would become.

DeCapita started her internship at the Association For International Human Rights Reporting Standards (FIHRRST), which monitors businesses and governments for human rights compliance, by researching news reports of enslaved men working on fishing boats off Indonesia. She then looked into local Indonesian regulations, international human rights law, and recent lawsuits that alleged human trafficking tied to goods sold in US stores.

Soon her research was ready to be presented. And an influential audience awaited her.

Indonesia is a country of 17,000 islands and the fishing industry is significant to its economy. DeCapita found herself presenting her findings directly to Dr. Yunus Husein, the official at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries who oversees all fishing activities in Indonesia. Flanked by her internship supervisors at a United Nations-style table complete with microphones, DeCapita laid out her findings, including evidence of human rights enforcement lapses in the country’s fishing industry.

“I was very nervous. It wasn’t just presenting research, it was presenting to them that they lacked enforcement,” DeCapita said. “I have my MBA, and all we ever did was presentations, but this one was unique.” 

The presentation went well, and the members of the ministry staff were receptive. They asked questions afterward and discussed recommendations for partnering with international entities to help them tighten their enforcement of existing laws. 

“More and more businesses and governments need assistance with how to comply with human rights norms,” said New England Law | Boston Professor Lisa Laplante, who directs the school’s Center for International Law and Policy. “New England Law is one of the only law schools helping students to make this connection in this new, innovative area of legal work.” 

DeCapita’s internship gave her plenty of firsthand experience working on current issues in international law. Besides the international fishing case, she worked with other interns trying to get stays of execution for two foreigners who had brought drugs into Indonesia. On another project, she worked to reduce the perception of an association between Islam, the dominant religion in Indonesia, and ISIS.

The internship helped her make strong professional connections. DeCapita worked directly with James Kallman, the cofounder of the Association For International Human Rights Reporting Standards, and Marzuki Darusman, a former Attorney General of Indonesia and UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Students interested in international summer internships and semester for credit externship opportunities through New England Law’s Center for International Law and Policy may contact Professor Laplante at

The Center for International Law and Policy