Student Spotlight: Nicholas Vanarthos

Nicholas Vanarthos Headshot

As an associate editor of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch newsletter, 3L Nicholas Vanarthos spent much of his second year learning about the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as issues related to the Ivory Coast, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Lake Chad Region in central Africa. His experience collecting evidence and keeping track of these issues ties back into a lifelong interest in human rights advocacy - and led him to a summer internship with Human Rights Watch (HRW). 

“My legal studies have largely been centered around international law, so spending the summer focused on international human rights seemed like a natural fit,” he said. “HRW is a premier human rights organization, and I was excited about the chance to work with some of the best advocates and researchers in this field. I wanted to learn not only the substantive elements of what such an organization does, but also how they operate internally and what it might be like to work for such an organization in the future.”

As a Klatsky Fellow, Vanarthos works in the Economic Justice and Rights Division with the Poverty and Inequality team. The work of the team focuses on researching and advocating for social protection programs, shaping the narrative around public services and social programs and making recommendations for loan distributions by organizations like the World Bank and IMF. 

“A more ambitious and long-term aim of the team is to reshape the global understanding of the “eco-social contract” to include more robust rights-based protections of all people around the world.”

While this internship is remote, Vanarthos was given the opportunity to travel to New York to meet with his team and other members of the Human Rights Watch organization. He also attended a HRW retreat in which guest speakers, including economists from the UN and leaders of NGOs, organized panels and group meetings. 

“This was a really special opportunity for me to meet experts in fascinating fields based all around the globe and learn about the wide range of subjects covered by this organization,” Vanarthos said. 

This summer, Vanarthos has built a database for HRW reports relating to the provision of public services. This work allows the HRW team to more quickly identify research and make recommendations in the future, and guides researchers’ future work. He also researches legal frameworks for public services and funding in an effort to understand how to assess adequate living conditions. He has also written an article for the HRW website which discusses a recent investigation carried out by the US Government Accountability Office and its findings concerning failures of the government to protect laborers in the meatpacking industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Back at Case Western Reserve, Vanarthos blows off steam in a seemingly unconventional way as a member of the CWRU Salsa Club. 

“It may seem on the face of it to be totally unrelated to my studies, but salsa dancing has provided a healthy counterbalance to the stresses of law school,” he mentions. “It refreshes me and gives me more energy and focus when it is time to study. It has also helped me become a more confident person even in other contexts.”

In the fall, Vanarthos will begin an externship with the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the Cleveland Immigration Court, which he calls an “exciting opportunity to experience immigration law in person.” He plans to spend the spring semester participating in the immigration clinic for his Capstone project.