Elie Tassel

Elie Tassel received a Doctoral Mobility grant from Alliance Program for Call 2019. He is a doctoral student at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne with the Comparative Law Department. He is also part of the International and European Law Institute of La Sorbonne. He has taught constitutional law and fundamental rights at the University of Paris.

His Doctoral Mobility research stay at Columbia Law School came to a conclusion in December 2021.

Alliance Program
December 17, 2021

What are your specific motivations for seeking a doctoral mobility opportunity through Alliance?

For over the past three years, I have been working toward my doctoral dissertation on a topic that has been largely left unexplored by French scholars: forgiveness and reconciliation in post-conflict situations. Very few scholarships deal with it. I then faced a practical problem: the accessibility of sources. There are of course many books, articles that are accessible online but it remains insufficient when one embarks on a project such as a doctoral dissertation.

The situation is widely different abroad where much scholarship exists, predominantly in English. It is the gap in French academic literature on this topic that has motivated me to seek doctoral mobility through Alliance. A research stay at Columbia was also a great opportunity for me to audit some classes.

What research did you conduct at your host institution?

I have spent a lot of time working on the fight against impunity within international human rights law. I focused on the positive procedural obligations in the European and Inter-American Courts’ case-law. States are required to investigate, prosecute, and punish perpetrators of egregious crimes.

I also took advantage of Professor Lori F. Damrosch’s colloquium on international criminal law to work on a draft treaty: the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity. One of the drafters of the text – Professor Leila N. Sadat – contributed to one of the colloquium’s sessions. 

Finally, I wrote a paper on the reconciliation issue between France and Algeria regarding the decolonization war. It should soon be published in Analyse, Opinion, Critique – the online media of the French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS).

How did your research stay align with your academic and/or professional interests?

My research stay at Columbia allowed me to do two major things. First, it gave me access to books, texts, and articles that I cannot find in Paris. Second, it allowed me to learn from renowned and experienced Professors whose areas of research are closely related to mine. 

This program has been very beneficial for my work. That is why I asked to stay at the Law School for the Fall term. The Law School graciously accepted to extend my research stay, and I am very grateful for that. I might also add that the working conditions at Columbia have no comparison.

What are some takeaways from your stay that are not related to your research and academic pursuits?

I probably will not be original but living in New York City is a fantastic experience. I always dreamt of it! This research stay did not merely change me as a PhD student or as a young researcher. It changed me as a man. I am now thinking of future professional opportunities in New York City or the United States.

More broadly, everyone should be able to live abroad for a while. It is so important to step back, question oneself, take another look at the world or at his or her own country. I must say that I have been very lucky.