Along with her work partner, David Matas, Sarah Teich (30) assists victims’ groups in their fight for justice and accountability for atrocity crimes and human rights violations, using national and international mechanisms. When asked why she became an international human rights lawyer, Teich said she always wanted to help people. “Throughout my life I have tried to help and be conscious of those less fortunate than myself,” she said. This goal has led her to acquire several degrees during her journey to help those who have been victims of human rights violations.
After completing her BA&Sc at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, Teich went on to complete a Masters in Counterterrorism at Reichman University, where she graduated magna cum laude. She then completed a Juris Doctor degree in law from the University of Toronto. According to Sarah, her law degree and master’s degree in counterterrorism provide the knowledge and expertise needed for her current practice. “Now I practice international law and work extensively at the intersection of counter-terrorism and human rights, particularly representing victims of terrorism and advocating for changes to Canadian law and policy to better support them. I literally use my counterterrorism knowledge on a daily basis.”
According to Teich, her work includes advocating for changes to Canadian laws and policies to better support the groups she represents. “In addition to the Canadian Coalition Against Terrorism, which advocates for victims of terrorism, my clients include Uyghur non-profit groups, Iranians (I am one of the legal advisors to the Association of Families of Robbery Victims PS752), Tamils, Tigrayans, and others. What I do specifically for each group varies.” For example, for the International Tamil Refugee Assistance Network and the Tamil Rights Group, Teich recently sent a communication to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, asking him to open a preliminary examination into the crimes against humanity of deportation and persecution For Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, a non-profit Uyghur organization based in Canada , she represented them before the Federal Court of Canada and asked the Court to rule that the Canada Border Services Agency has the power to presumptively prohibit imports from that of Xinjiang (East Turkestan) on the basis that these goods are made using Uyghur forced labor. It was the first time that a Uighur group had appeared in a Canadian court. For C-CAT, she and Matas recently proposed several legal and policy changes to address the impunity enjoyed by many returning foreign fighters from Islamic State, in a report that was later co-published by C-CAT and the Macdonald Laurier Institute (MLI), where Teich is a Senior Fellow.
Now Teich and Matas are co-founding a charity called Human Rights Action Group, under which they will continue to do this work. Teich is also about to be called to the bar in New York (she is currently only licensed in Canada). “And then I want to get the UK license,” she says. “Having multiple rights licenses will only broaden what we can do for the different groups we work with.”
Teich also loves to travel and has worked remotely for much of the pandemic. “I travel a lot for work – to meet clients and attend conferences all over the world,” she said. “But I also travel for pleasure. Everything has become remote during Covid-19; even the court is on Zoom. I can travel and work remotely. I spent the month of February in Guatemala. Last year, I spent several months in Mexico, scuba diving and working remotely from a small apartment in the jungle.
According to Teich, the master’s degree in counterterrorism from Reichman University gave her the opportunity to meet a professional network that helped her achieve her professional goals. “I am still in contact with many of my teachers and with some of my classmates. C-CAT was the first client I had as a lawyer, and they were referred to me by an old classmate of mine.”
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