Lilly Ching-Soto

Student spotlight details

After finishing law school in Costa Rica, Lilly became interested in human rights law and in 2005 attended the International Human Rights Law Summer School before enrolling on the part-time Master's programme.

'I am a Costa Rican of Chinese descent, who obtained a J.D. in January 2000 at the Law School of the Universidad de Costa Rica. At the end of law school, I became strongly interested in international law and, more specifically, human rights law. Even though Costa Rica is the seat of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the topic was not part of the Law core curriculum at that time! So, I started studying international relations and looked for opportunities in the international field.   

'In 1998 I got an internship with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. That was the beginning of it all! I then became a legal assistant, left for a Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), went back as a staff attorney, and in 2003 I left the Court and moved to the Organization of American States’ (OAS) headquarters in Washington. In DC I started with a Human Rights Specialist position at the IACHR, and helped build the litigation team of the Commission before the Court. Those were exciting years in which our work was focused on justice for victims of human rights violations and in the best implementation and development of International Law of Human Rights in the inter-American System.

'Some years later I was very much aware of the importance and need of continuing my education. However, I loved my job and was very hesitant to leave and enroll full-time in a master’s degree. Then, I realized that the University of Oxford had a cohort in International Human Rights Law that was perfect for me to pursue further studies and keep my job. In 2005 I attended the International Human Rights Law Summer School to get a feel and better idea of the University and in 2006 I applied and was admitted to the Master's. 

'The part-time distance learning of the Mst in International Human Rights Law was the greatest benefit, as well as the most challenging aspect of the programme. Juggling a full time job and a master’s degree was not easy. However, every residential period, when we got to live and feel Oxford in a richer way, was absolutely enjoyable and gave me the luxury to feel like a student again. The programme was amazing due to the diversity of students, academics and perspectives. It was necessary for me to broaden my understanding of human rights and advance professionally.  

'After I finished the Mst, I continued working with the IACHR as a litigation officer before the Inter-American Court. I then became the Coordinator for Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela; then the Coordinator of the Registry and finally, I coordinated the section in charge of the Admissibility of petitions. Twenty one years after starting my career in human rights, I decided to make a change from Principal Human Rights Specialist at the IACHR and was recently appointed OAS Permanent Representative to Saint Lucia, an Eastern Caribbean island nation, and the only sovereign nation to be named after a woman! I happened to visit Oxford (this time with a husband and two kids) and share the news with our beloved former Director, Andrew Shacknove. He approved!

'After working from very different capacities within the structure of the Organization of American States, I undoubtedly recognize that my Mst is and will always be, an important asset in my life and professional career. The format and content of the programme are two aspects of fundamental importance for those of us who need to keep on working in order to finance our studies, or any other reasons that don't allow for a full-time dedication to studying. I would love to undertake the challenge again!'

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