Featured Alumna: Monika Kalra Varma
Monika Kalra Varma, Director of Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Washington, D.C., has devoted her career to international law since her graduation from King Hall in 2000.
She worked first in The Hague, Netherlands. As a Legal Officer with the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Monika was part of a trial team in the case against Bosnian Serb General Stanislav Galić. The team secured the tribunal’s first indictment and eventual conviction for the unlawful infliction of terror on civilians.
In 2002 Monika joined the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights, founded in 1968 as a living memorial to Robert F. Kennedy. As the Center for Human Rights’ Director since 2007, Monika develops and oversees programs administered by a staff that includes King Hall graduate Salvador G. Sarmiento, who graduated in 2007. Monika has spearheaded extensive and innovative economic and social rights advocacy, including efforts to hold international actors accountable for extraterritorial economic rights violations. Advocacy campaigns have addressed officials of the United States and other governments, the United Nations, the Organization of American States and other regional bodies, international financial institutions, and corporations.
Each year the RFK Center selects a courageous human rights defender to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, which includes a monetary prize and a longterm partnership with the Center for Human Rights to carry out joint advocacy and programming. The Center is actively working in Haiti, Chad, Zimbabwe, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Darfur, Western Sahara, and the Gulf Coast. The California International Law Center at King Hall is honored to have partnered with the Center for Human Rights on a Darfur Project, which provide research assistances to the 2007 Human Rights Laureate, Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Abdallah.
Monika serves on the Steering Committee of the Lawyers Emergency Response Network for Haiti, a group with which CILC and the King Hall Immigration Law Clinic have partnered on a Haiti Project. She also serves on the Editorial Board of Health and Human Rights, the international journal of the Harvard-based Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, and on the Board of Governors for the Woman’s National Democratic Club. Monika speaks and writes frequently on issues related to human rights at home and abroad. Her commentaries have appeared, for example, in the Boston Globe, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, and Jurist.
While a student at King Hall, Monika was active in the Immigration Law Clinic, which she cites as one of her most valued experiences at King Hall. She also interned at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, studied at the International Institute for Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, and wrote “Forced Marriage: Rwanda’s Secret Revealed,” 11 U.C. Davis Journal of Law & Policy 197-221 (2001). Monika received her B.A. from UC San Diego, where she wrote her honors thesis on domestic violence in the Indian American community and interned with the San Diego City Attorney’s office. She writes:
“King Hall is a very unique community where the professors invest time, resources and support into their students. Although few students were pursuing careers in human rights when I attended King Hall, I was fortunate to have the support of professors like Diane Marie Amann, who not only helped to introduce me to this area of law, but her network of colleagues. She has provided encouragement throughout my career and through CILC, is guiding a new generation of international lawyers. Her approach is similar to so many professors at the law school who have impacted the lives of King Hall students long after they graduate. ”