Keina Yoshida


Keina practices in the areas of Media Law, Court of Protection, Inquests, and Actions against the Police.

You’ve demonstrated an interest in law, gender, security, and film, and you found a way to bring these interests together in the Human Rights Film Diary. How and why did you start this blog?

I’ve always had an interest in law, documentaries, and fictional film. I had a particular interest in cinematic jurisprudence and the idea that the general public learns as much (if not more) from cinema or TV shows than they do reading a judgment. It’s important because, while many hearings are public and we’ve seen this greater push towards transparency projects in the Family Courts and the Courts of Protection and the Coroner’s Court as well, the reality is that most people do not take a day off work to go into court and watch these proceedings. They are more likely to come home from work and turn on a TV show or a movie and watch that instead. At the same time, we’ve also seen this massive interest in human rights and the proliferation of human rights film festivals. There are now a lot of directors making movies about human rights violations and accountability mechanisms for human rights. 

Broadly speaking, that’s what brought me to create the Human Rights Film diary. I started it during my PhD when I worked at the International Criminal Court for four months. The Court has a really fantastic library of documentaries and films about human rights. The blog was a way to collate that information, document it, and share my journey.

Could you describe your internship experience at The International Criminal Court?

I worked in The Office of the Prosecutor during my second year of the PhD. I couldn’t go for the whole six months, so I did a four-month internship instead. I was in the legal advisory section, which provides legal research and assistance to the Prosecutor. It was really interesting because it was my first time working for a large tribunal or large international organisation – I’d always worked in small NGOs before. You get to meet a lot of interesting people, it’s an incredibly diverse place. The circumstances surrounding my internship makes it difficult for me to talk about the ICC in any real depth because I arrived the week after Luis Moreno Ocampo left, and just as Fatou Bensouda was settling into her office over the summer. It was a period of real transition, and so I can’t really speak to what it is like now or what is was like before my internship.

Did you always know that you wanted to become a Barrister?

I’m not sure that I did. I went to university to study Law and French, and I didn’t enjoy it that much at first. That is important to point out because I know there are people in the junior stages of their career who might be experiencing this uncertainty well. It wasn’t until I started choosing my courses, for example, Human Rights Law, that I started to connect with the law. I also discovered this book called ‘Eve Was Framed’ by Helena Kennedy, which really influenced my perspective of the law. The decision to go to the Bar actually came quite late for me. I did an LLM in Public International Law at LSE, and Professor Conor Gearty called me in to see him and suggested that I think about going to the Bar. 

However, I went to work for an NGO abroad called Women’s Link Worldwide instead. It litigates regionally and internationally, and all my other colleagues were qualified to litigate, and it soon dawned on me that it was what I wanted to do as well. I didn’t just want to be a human rights campaigner, I also wanted to be an advocate. So I returned to London and started the qualification process to join the Bar.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working for Doughty Street Chambers?

There are two aspects to my answer. The first is that Doughty Street is somewhere that you can be yourself. The work environment is a part of its magic. The second part is that we work in areas of the law where one can use the law as a tool for empowerment and justice. We use the skills and legal language that we have for the benefit of those who are vulnerable. This involves standing up to the excesses of state power and obtaining accountability for human rights violations. Every day at Doughty Street has a new challenge, and so my work is always rewarding. 

How many languages do you speak?

I speak Japanese, Spanish, and French. I studied abroad at Science Po in Paris for a year during university. I worked at Women’s Link Worldwide in Madrid for a year and a half. It’s a bilingual organisation, but the day to day working language is Spanish. My Japanese is conversational.

While completing your PhD at the LSE, you also worked for The Centre for Women, Peace, and Security. When did you first get involved?

I got involved with the Centre before it actually launched. There’s a lot of groundwork to be done before the launch of a Centre. I was in the fourth and final year of my PhD and I was under the supervision of Professor Linda Mulcahy and Professor Christine Chinkin (Director of the Centre). I began working with Christine on the process side of things. Today, The extent of my involvement is that I sit on the Advisory Board on the Centre. The Board meets three times a year and I have been invited to speak two or three times this year.

What advice would you give a young woman who wishes to pursue a career in international human rights?

I think that it is really important to follow your passion. Human rights is everywhere, and you can work on human rights in many different ways – you can be a filmmaker, or an educator, or a lawyer. When someone says they want to “work with human rights,” they need to clarify how they want to do it.

Regarding human rights law, I think it’s important to be passionate, persistent, and to try hard to get work experience in the area. There’s no one path to this career. Towards the end of my LLM, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do. I was lucky to have supportive teachers at LSE, who suggested ideas. In the end, I was most interested in universal jurisdiction and gender. I typed those words into Google and I found this really small NGO [Women’s Link Worldwide] that only had four people working in the Madrid office at the time. They were preparing a case on universal jurisdiction and gender, so I just wrote them an email. I told them I was really interested in this area and asked if there was any way to get involved. They told me to come for an internship. I interned for three months and then they offered me a job. I do think there is an element of chance to things, as well. Sometimes it is necessary to reach out and send those emails to companies you’d like to work for. I ended up staying there for a year and a half and I still consult for them.

[Women’s Link Worldwide] is much bigger now. It’s a fantastic place to work. They have an office in Madrid and another in Bogotá, Colombia. They have all sorts of internship positions in law, communications, marketing, finance, you name it. They’re much bigger than four people now, and they do strategic litigation for women’s rights. While I was there, I worked on the case of B.S. v Spain in the ECHR. It is one of the only cases in the ECHR to talk about the particular vulnerability of a female migrant sex worker who had been assaulted by the police. Those intersectional factors make the case stand out. I also worked on the case of A, B, and C v Ireland, which was an abortion case.

The NGO has recently worked on the Angela González case to the CEDAW committee. Christine Chinkin and I intervened and submitted an amicus curae brief. They are great!

You recently published an essay on The Justice Gap applying the Bechdel Test to a Supreme Court case. Do you often apply the Test to cases in England and Wales?

I was writing a blog post for the Oxford Human Rights Hub about the case [(A) (A Child, by her Litigation Friend, B) v Secretary of State for Health [2015]]. I had read all the previous judgments and I’d gone to the hearing as well. As I read through the previous judgments, especially the decision at first instance, I was struck by the fact that everyone who spoke was a man: the judge, the advocates, the people referenced. I just thought: here is a case about fundamental reproductive rights, and only men are mentioned. This is exactly what Alison Bechdel and Virginia Woolf had in mind when they called out the lack of representation of women. I wanted to do something fun, because sometimes we’re more receptive to talking about the lack of representation in pop culture than we are in the law.

Do you have any recommendations of films you’ve enjoyed recently?

I really like the movies of Jasmila Zbanic. There’s also a great movie called 678, directed by Mohamed Diab.

If you want to learn more about international criminal justice, you can check out the ICTY Outreach Programme. They have an ongoing documentary series. The first was called ‘Sexual Violence and the Triumph of Justice,’ and it was about the prosecution of sexual violence crimes. They have three more films to release. 

Exclusive Skype Interview with Aisha Babalakin on November 24, 2016