Together with her work partner, David Matas, Sarah Teich (30) aids victim groups in their fight for justice and accountability for atrocity crimes and human rights abuses, using both domestic and international mechanisms.
When asked why she became an international human rights lawyer, Teich expressed that she always wanted to help people. “Throughout my life I have tried to help and be aware of those less fortunate than me”, she said.
This goal led her on a path of acquiring several degrees on her journey to helping those that have fallen victim to human rights violations.
After completing her B.A.& Sc at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, Teich then went on to finish an M.A in Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University, where she graduated magna cum laude. Then, she completed a Juris Doctor law degree from the University of Toronto.
According to Sarah, her law degree and her M.A. in Counter-Terrorism provide the knowledge and expertise for her current practice. “Now, I practice international law, and I work a lot at the intersection of counter-terrorism and human rights, particularly in representing victims of terrorism and advocating for Canadian law and policy changes to better support them. I quite literally use my counter-terrorism knowledge on a daily basis”.
Teich says her work includes advocating for Canadian law and policy changes to better support the groups she represents. “In addition to Canadian Coalition Against Terror, 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 the Families of Flight PS752 Victims), Tamils, Tigrayans, and others. What I do specifically for each group varies”.
For example, for the International Tamil Refugee Assistance Network and Tamil Rights Group, Teich recently sent a communication to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, asking him to open a preliminary examination into crimes against humanity of deportation and persecution.
For Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, a Uyghur non-profit organization based in Canada, she represented them in the Federal Court of Canada and asked the Court to rule that the Canada Border Services Agency has the authority to presumptively ban imports from Xinjiang (East Turkestan) on the basis that these goods are made using Uyghur forced labor. It was the first time that a Uyghur group went before a Canadian court of law.
For C-CAT, she and Matas recently proposed several legal and policy changes to combat the impunity enjoyed by many returning foreign fighters from the Islamic State, in a report that was then 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 charitable organization called Human Rights Action Group, under whose umbrella they will continue doing this work. Teich is also about to be called to the bar in New York (she is currently only licensed in Canada). “And next, I want to get the United Kingdom license”, she says. “Having multiple law licenses will only expand what we can do for the various groups we work with.”
Teich also loves to travel and has been working remotely for much of the pandemic. “I travel quite a lot for work – to meet clients and attend conferences all over the world,” she said. “But I also travel for fun. Everything became remote during Covid-19; even 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 little apartment in the jungle.”
According to Teich, the M.A in Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University gave her the opportunity to meet a professional network that has helped her in achieving professional goals. “I am still in contact with many of my professors and with some of my classmates. C-CAT was the first client I ever had as a lawyer, and they were referred to me by one of my former classmates.”
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