School of Law

Ilaria Zavoli

PhD | 2014 - 17

Photo of Ilaria Zavoli

Please tell us about yourself and your background.

I am a PhD student at the School of Law, University of Leeds (UK) and I am also a qualified lawyer in Italy. My research is in International Criminal Law and my topic is 'In Absentia Proceedings and International Criminal Justice: Foundations, Operation and Future Perspectives'.

I previously studied in Italy and in The Netherlands. I hold a Law Degree with honours, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Law with honours from the University of Bologna (Italy). I also hold an Advanced Master in Public International Law, specialisation in International Criminal Law from Leiden University (The Netherlands).

I have worked as an intern at Criminal and Civil Courts in Bologna and as an academic intern at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies in The Hague under the supervision of Prof. Carsten Stahn. I also successfully completed the Talent Programme of the Graduate School of Legal Studies at Leiden University.

What motivated you to undertake your PhD study and why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I started thinking about doing a PhD when I was in The Netherlands for my Advanced Masters. At the time I was preparing my dissertation on trials in absentia, and while I was resesearching and writing about that topic I completely fell in love with it and with the field of International Criminal Law and Procedure. Then, I started thinking to do a PhD and to continue researching. I chose the University of Leeds for two main reasons: its very good reputation all over the UK and Europe, in terms of research done and professors involved in the School of Law; and for the fact that I got a full scholarship that permitted me to do the PhD with no financial stress.

Please tell us about your research topic and why you are passionate about this area of study?

My PhD project focuses on in absentia proceedings in International Criminal Justice, considering their foundations, operation and future perspectives. The project seeks to analyse and clarify the phenomenon of in absentia proceedings in International Criminal Law, focusing on their different types (i.e. pre-trial, trial and post-trial in absentia proceedings) and their consequences for the parties of criminal cases. Through the conduct of several interviews with selected actors of three legal cases before international criminal tribunals, I seek to gather an innovative point of view on in absentia proceedings, considering both the theoretical and practical aspects of these procedures. Moreover, I intend to create a set of policy recommendations and rules of procedure for a possible use of in absentia proceedings in future international criminal cases.

I am really passionate about this research area and topic because I think that it is of extreme importance in the context of International Criminal Justice. Researching International Criminal Law can promote the rule of law at international level and it can help the international community to fight the wrongdoings that are committed worldwide. Prosecuting international crimes, end impunity and bring to justice those responsible for heinous crimes is not just a question of theoretical principles. I am convinced that to pursue the goals of International Criminal Justice it is also extremely important to have specific procedural rules that can help international criminal tribunals in their work. In this sense, when the accused is absent from trial, because for instance he is a fugitive, the international criminal courts need to have a procedural solution to this situation, allowing for in absentia proceedings generally, and trials in absentia specifically.

What would you say about the learning and research facilities in the School and at the University in general?
In the School the learning and research facilities are good and they permit the students and PhD researchers to pursue their studies in a relaxing and quiet environment. There is quite a good number of computers and studying positions available and each student has the possibility to study, research and work in peace.

The University provides any student a great environment in terms of studying places, working spaces and facilities available. The new Laidlaw Library is a sign of the commitment the University has put in order to guarantee a high quality level of its facilities.

How would you describe the research environment in the School? What would you say about the support you receive?
The research environment in the School is dynamic and innovative. It improves and stimulates my research skills with different events (e.g. seminars, presentations, conferences etc.) and through the various research groups available. I can share my ideas and my research and I get useful feedback.

I am extremely happy with my PhD supervisors. They are really supportive and they always provide me with insightful and useful feedback and comments. They always support my research and my other activities (e.g. presentations at conferences, publications etc.) and they are always available to meet me to discuss my progress.

Do you take part in any activities outside of your study? (Clubs & Societies/activities in the School etc).
Yes, I teach seminars in three Modules in the School. I am also one of the PGR Reps for 2015/2016 and I am actively involved in organising social events for the PhD students at the School of Law.

What would you say to someone considering a research degree in the School?
This is a great opportunity if you want to work in a vibrant and stimulating environment. You will have both the possibility to have a great expertise from your supervisors and also to meet and share your experience with other PhD Students like you that might become great friends.

Doing a PhD at the School of Law gives you also the possibility to present your work in several occasions, to receive feedback and to participate in research groups that can advance your knowledge, your research skills and can let you meet other researchers in your field/area.

What are your plans once you have completed your PhD?
I would like to pursue a career in Academia and become a Professor in International Criminal Law, International Law, or International Human Rights Law.

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