16 July 2015

A University of Queensland arts/law graduate with a passion for human rights has won Cambridge University’s coveted Whewell Scholarship in International Law.

Carindale resident Catherine Drummond, 27, capped off her First-Class Masters degree with the scholarship, considered one of the world’s most prestigious awards for postgraduate law students.

Ms Drummond said she was proud to have been awarded the scholarship.

“A long list of very eminent international legal scholars have won the Whewell Scholarship, so it’s an honour to have been recognised in this way,” Ms Drummond said.

Winning the Whewell Scholarship places Ms Drummond among an elite group of international lawyers, including senior United Nations advisers and several judges of the International Court of Justice.

She said she hoped the award would help her pursue a career in international humanitarian and criminal law.

“I’m really interested in working in this area, because it aims to protect people who are most vulnerable,” she said.

“It’s also a fairly new area of international law, so there is much scope for development.”

A former competitive high jumper, Ms Drummond gave up the chance to compete at the London Olympics in 2012 to take up an internship with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

There she worked on the landmark Karemera and Ngirumpatse Judgment, which saw two high-ranking Rwandan politicians sentenced to life imprisonment for the mass rape, mutilation and sexual assault of thousands of women and girls during the Rwandan genocide.

“The Karemera and Ngirumpatse Judgment was the first time that senior leaders were held directly responsible for sexual crimes they did not physically take part in,” Ms Drummond said.

“Although, in the past, senior leaders could have been held responsible for ordering, aiding or failing to prevent the crimes, in this case they were treated as perpetrators, as if they had physically committed the crime themselves.

“The judgment was instrumental in establishing a legal regime to ensure high-ranking leaders cannot escape punishment for these sorts of crimes.”

As an undergraduate, Ms Drummond led a team that developed a high school education program highlighting the principles of international humanitarian law supported by the Australian Red Cross.

She also convened an Amnesty International group that aimed to identify Queensland legislation that had potential human rights impacts.

A former Moreton Bay College student, Ms Drummond has a long list of accomplishments to her name. She was Australian High Jump Champion in 2008; won the UQ Law Society Medal for Most Outstanding Graduate of the Year in 2012, the International Law Association (Australia) Prize in Public International Law in 2013, and a General Sir John Monash Scholarship in 2014; and was nominated for Australian of the Year in 2012. She also won the William Charnley Prize for the highest First Class Masters at her Cambridge College.

In late July, Ms Drummond will begin teaching Public International Law at The University of Queensland’s TC Beirne School of Law.

Media: Danielle Koopman (Faculty of Business, Economics and Law), +61 7 3346 0700, 0402 968 131.