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Report from the 2023 Nicolas Bratza Scholar, Kyran Kanda

Kyran Kanda, recipient of the 2023 Nicolas Bratza scholarship, looks back on his internship at the Office of the European Court of Human Rights.

Kyran Kanda wearing a black jumper and blue lanyard smiling at the camera. Behind him is a blue banner with the name 'European Court of Human Rights'.


In 2023, I was fortunate to be awarded the Nicolas Bratza Scholarship by Lincoln’s Inn, enabling me to undertake a three month internship at the European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”). An incredible opportunity to develop my early career in human rights law, I said goodbye to friends and family and boarded a train to Strasbourg, France.

In the week before my internship, I contended with the fast-moving Strasbourg housing market and was pleased to find a modern and comfortable apartment in the Robertsau neighbourhood within walking distance of my future workplace. I spent the week enjoying the city’s warmest weather of the year and visited Strasbourg’s three major European institutions: the Court, the Parliament and the Council.

I arrived at a propitious time as the Grand Chamber of the Court was hearing a high-profile climate change case, Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and Others. Observing the hearing from inside the Grand Chamber itself, it was hard not to feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility, grandeur and occasion. The hearing reignited my ardour and eagerness to begin the internship and, soon enough, my first day arrived.

Life at the Court

I worked as a trainee in the Office of the President under the supervision of Rachael Kondak, Deputy Head of the President’s Private Office. The Office supports the work of the incumbent President, presently Síofra O’Leary.

The President’s role, in addition to her responsibilities as a judge, is multilayered and demanding. At any one time, the President may be delivering a speech at an invited conference, hosting visits by judicial delegations, or travelling overseas to discuss key human rights issues with parliamentarians and interested parties.

By virtue of the President’s work, my role as a trainee was varied, dynamic and challenging. My highlights include:

(i)      drafting a speech on gender-based violence and the effect of AI on gender equality for the Gender Equality Commission of the Council of Europe (available here);

(ii)    meeting the President, and accompanying her to a conference on the role of NGOs in international human rights litigation and a second conference on Protocol No. 16 to the Convention. I live-drafted the President’s closing remarks with a fellow trainee which tested our ability to work well under pressure but proved rewarding;

(iii)  attending closed judicial deliberations in two Chamber cases. I learnt that deliberations involve a forensic sentence-by-sentence examination of the draft judgment, with judges paying assiduous attention to the meaning and possible interpretations of every word used. It was encouraging to observe that the deliberations were a genuine exercise in collaboration and discourse with each judge bringing to bear their own professional experiences and culture background to determine the issues;

(iv)  drafting a briefing note for an official visit by the Lord Chancellor, Alex Chalk KC MP, which involved assessing the human rights implications of the Illegal Migration Act 2023 and the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023. The latter Act is now the subject of an inter-state case;

(v)    drafting the Foreward to the Court’s 2023 Annual Report, and contributing in meetings about the Report’s themes, content and design;

(vi)  evaluating the admissibility of a newly filed, contentious case about the international financing of terrorism and state immunity; and

(vii)        producing an article for the Press Unit summarising the Court’s judgment in Internationale Humanitäre Hilfsorganisation e. V. v. Germany, which held that the decision by the German authorities to dissolve and seize the assets of a charity due to its indirect support of Hamas did not violate Article 11.

The latter two tasks took on increased poignancy as they both occurred mere days before the 7 October attacks. That day was a powerful reminder that the Court’s work is not remote nor academic; it is real, immediate and vital. The Court is a bulwark for human rights protection and, without it, freedoms in Europe would be outdated and regressive.

Those sentiments were reinforced a few weeks later as my traineeship coincided with the Grand Chamber case of Ukraine v. Russia (re Crimea) and, closer to home, the most divisive UK government immigration plan in recent memory: the Rwanda policy. Over three days, the UK Supreme Court heard argument over whether this policy violated the asylum seekers’ rights under Article 3. The Strasbourg Court had previously ordered interim measures in this long-running case and it was anticipated that, if the asylum seekers lost in the UK, they would bring an appeal to Strasbourg. Consequently, I was tasked with watching the UK proceedings and drafting a briefing note for senior Court staff and judges, together with an opinion on the merits of the case.

Later in my internship, I was kindly introduced to lawyers in the UK Division and Judge Tim Eicke, the judge elected in respect of the United Kingdom. It was a pleasure to learn about his work and journey to the Court, as well as obtain some great recommendations of “hidden gems” in Strasbourg. I undertook research work for Judge Eicke examining the question of judicial recruitment to the Court and assisted with writing a journal article on an unusual and niche question involving the interplay between human rights norms and banking resolutions.

Finally, perhaps most importantly, what made my traineeship particularly memorable were the other trainees: a group of highly talented, dedicated and affable people. In forming strong friendships with interns from Europe, and as far afield as Africa, North America and Sri Lanka, nowhere else could I have had lunch time conversations that debated the legal and political hot topics of the day, learnt about the history of international festivals, and defended the culinary curiosities of us Brits (most notably, beans on toast) with equal rigour and good humour. There was an authentic atmosphere of support and camaraderie between us all, and I look forward to maintaining these international connections in the future.

Life in Strasbourg

Small but vibrant and beautiful, Strasbourg is an idyllic city with a lively and friendly population. A unique hybrid of French and German influences, the city has much to offer from its cuisine (tarte flambée is a compulsory eat if you ever visit the region) to its busy nightlife and its proximity to charming and quaint villages, such as Ribeauvillé and Colmar.

Christmas comes early in Strasbourg as scores of Christmas markets are erected in the city centre and the surrounding villages as early as November. The special sense of festivity and cheer that accompanies Christmas made for a wonderful end to my three months in “La Capitale de Noël”.


I am immensely grateful to Lincoln’s Inn for this opportunity. My traineeship not only offered a front-row seat into the work of human rights protection at the international level but also amplified my desire to practise human rights law and work in the international courts. I wish to extend my gratitude to all of the judges, lawyers and staff whom I met whilst at the Court and, particularly, my supervisor. I thoroughly encourage anyone with an interest in human rights and/or public international law to apply for this Scholarship.


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Inspired by Kyran’s experience? Applications for this year’s European Scholarships are open until 12:00 on 18 March 2024 –  find out more.