'Tool for transformation'


Lawyer will work at the International Court of Justice

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Marcos Kotlik’s three years at the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) in Argentina—a non-governmental organization promoting and protecting human rights, and strengthening the democratic system—was much more than just a job for him.

“It made me realize what it meant to become a part of the human rights movement in Argentina,” says Kotlik, a lawyer specializing in international law and a recent LL.M graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.

At CELS he participated in the submission of cases before the Inter-American Human Rights Court and Commission, and he litigated in criminal cases before national courts concerning crimes against humanity during the military junta installed after the 1976 coup d'état that deposed President Isabel Perón.

“Representing victims of human rights violations—such as torture or disappearance during the last military dictatorship in my country, or current police violence during social protest—allows you to grasp how important it is for the law to provide redress, but also how it can help to prevent those violations in the first place,” he says. “You can appreciate international law as a tool for transformation, for the improvement of our lives.”  

Kotlik also has been a consultant for the Institute of Public Policies on Human Rights of the MERCOSUR trade bloc, on issues concerning international judicial cooperation among South American countries, and creating a database of judicial decisions on crimes committed during military dictatorships in the region.

And he remains a member of a research group at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) School of Law, updating information about Argentina that may be relevant for the formation of international humanitarian law, for an ongoing study of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“These jobs helped me understand better how States relate to these international institutions, and what are the advantages and limitations of the latter,” he says.

Kotlik earned his law degree cum laude from the UBA School of Law. He was on the team representing UBA in the Jean Pictet Competition on international humanitarian law, achieving first place in the Spanish-speaking session and reaching the international finals. He was a tutor for the same competition in 2014 and a jury for the national and international rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition in 2012.

Kotlik also holds a masters degree in International Relations and has taught "International Subjects and Jurisdictions" and "International Humanitarian Law" at UBA, as well as guest lecturing at the San Carlos University in Guatemala and at the University of Chile; and in 2011 he was a visiting J.D. at Columbia Law School in New York.

He has published several papers and book chapters on issues related to his research; and in 2012 won the Second Annual Writing Competition organized by American University, Washington College of Law, and the American Society of International Law’s Lieber Society on the Law of Armed Conflict.

Kotlik has been interested in international issues since his teens, when he participated in many Models UN, and always read newspapers' international section. “After high school, studying law seemed like the path that would allow me to become involved and make a difference—and at the time, I thought I would become a diplomat,” he says.

After several years as an attorney in the human rights field, he realized that legal issues in the international realm, and also at the domestic level, could not be understood in isolation. This led him to juggle studies between the LL.M. from MLaw and a PhD from UBA, where his project is the principle of equality of belligerents in non-international armed conflicts in light of the humanization of international humanitarian law. The two degrees complement each other, he notes.

“I always saw the LLM program as something that would contribute to my research at UBA and, indeed, it was,” he says. “The research I did at UM, at least in part, tackled issues I needed to explore for my Ph.D., and the courses I took at UM helped me think better what I want to focus on in the next stages of my research. I sought new experiences, being exposed to different approaches to international law. I also wanted to broaden my career options, and studying in the USA seemed like a good way to do it.”

The temporary “Wolverine” enjoyed the sense of community at MLaw. “From the first day, I felt I belonged there—a feeling that grew stronger throughout the year and as I got to know more people,” he says.

Passionate about his research on international humanitarian law, human rights and international legal theory, his common thread is the role of non-State actors in those contexts including non-governmental organizations such Amnesty International and Doctors without Borders; international organizations such as the United Nations or NATO; rebel groups; multinational corporations; and other entities such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“We live in a world where people are in great need of protection and suffer violations of their fundamental rights in many different situations, such as armed conflicts, dictatorships and other violent scenarios,” he says. “I'm interested in figuring out how all these entities, along with States, shape international law, how they may contribute to increase compliance, and how they may foster dialogue. In the end, I think the interaction between these multiple entities allows us to find opportunities to improve the lives of those who are suffering and eventually to solve conflicts—that's why I'm passionate about it.”

Awarded an MLaw Certificate of Merit in Comparative Human Rights Law, Kotlik also was one of five MLaw Cutler Fellows who earlier this year explored the future of public and private international law at the sixth annual Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program in Washington, D.C.

“Beyond the professional and academic aspects of the program, it was a really nice opportunity to meet wonderful people from around the world, learn about their countries and the universities they belonged to, and make new friends,” he says.

A native of Mendoza, Argentina, Kotlik lived in Buenos Aires for 14 years before heading to Ann Arbor. In September he’ll move to the Netherlands to start a 10-month Judicial Fellowship at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Although Kotlik envisions a future career in front of a classroom, he would like to combine academia with other professional options providing legal advice at the international level. “That's why I want to acquire more experience in international tribunals and organizations, and complete my Ph.D. in international law,” he says.


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