Former UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) President, Pat de Brún, is set to participate in a six month internship with the United Nations (UN) on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia. The Law with Politics graduate will be interning with the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials in Phnom Penh. His experience will centre around the prosecution of top Khmer Rouge officials for war crimes and genocide.
During the four years that the Khmer Rouge reigned over Cambodia, it was responsible for several of the biggest instances of mass killings of the 20th Century. The actions of the Khmer Rouge claimed the lives of 25% of the Cambodian population, either directly through murder, or indirectly through famine and drought. However, the government was only ousted in 1979, with many survivors still alive today. The Cambodian government, with UN assistance, set up a special court to try the surviving leaders of the regime.
De Brún will be assisting the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges, including taking part in victim interviews, processing victim statements, and reviewing evidence. Where the evidence meets the threshold for prosecution, it will be handed over to the Office of the Prosecutor, who will bring cases against individuals. De Brún says that it will be “emotionally tough work, but I’m really looking forward to it nonetheless.”
De Brún’s interest in Human Rights is rooted in his exposure to this field of law while completing his Erasmus through German at Humboldt University, Berlin. However it wasn’t until his final year in UCD when he specialised in human rights law that he realised his true passion for this particular area. Upon graduation in 2014, De Brún decided to pursue a gap year before committing to a Masters, having known individuals who had completed an internship with the UN. De Brún attributes securing the internship due to the extra-curricular activities he involved himself with while attending UCD stressing “it is the single most important thing you can offer when you are looking for career opportunities upon graduation.” During his undergraduate degree, he took two years Sabbatical leave to fulfil roles in UCDSU.
Claiming that too many graduates feel an intense pressure to go straight into a graduate programme, or further their education through a Masters when they finish their degrees, De Brún offered this advice to students. He said they should not underestimate “taking a year out and exploring what you really want to spend the rest of your life doing. Travel, if you can. Once you start along your career path, you might never have the same opportunity again.” Additionally, he emphasised that the court affiliated with the Khmer Rouge trial takes on significant numbers of law graduates as interns every year, recommending anyone with an interest to apply. More information is available via the court’s website www.unakrt-online.org.