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Executive Director
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Alexander Papachristou joined the Vance Center as Executive Director in January 2012. He directs the organization's overall operations and focuses on its programmatic and institutional initiatives, as well as fundraising.

Mr. Papachristou previously was president of the Near East Foundation, a participatory, community-based economic and social development organization working in Arab and African countries. For the preceding 18 years, Mr. Papachristou engaged in cross-border corporate finance in advisory and proprietary roles: he served as managing director and general counsel at NCH Capital, Inc, which invests in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; he lived in Russia from 1989 to 1993, where he opened and ran the Moscow office of White & Case. Mr. Papachristou also worked in the law firm of Clifford & Warnke in Washington, DC and was policy assistant to New York Governor Mario C. Cuomo. He served as law clerk to US District Judge Myron H. Thompson in the Middle District of Alabama. Mr. Papachristou is a member of the board of the Media Development Investment Fund, as well as the advisory councils of Princeton University's Near East Studies Program and Bard College's Center for Civic Engagement. In late 2011, The New Press published Blind Goddess: A Race and Justice Reader, which Mr. Papachristou edited.

Mr. Papachristou received an LLM and JD from Harvard Law School and an AB from Princeton University, as well as Arabic language training at the American University in Cairo.


Linda Wayner

Associate Executive Director
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Linda Maria Wayner joined the Vance Center as associate executive director in November 2017.  She oversees the Lawyers Council for Civil and Economic Rights and advises the Women in the Profession program. Ms. Wayner previously practiced international litigation and arbitration at the law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.  While at Skadden, she represented the organized students of color at the University of Michigan Law School in the U.S. Supreme Court affirmative action case, Grutter v. Bollinger.  She then joined the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs in New York City, first as a Deputy Counsel and later as General Counsel, and is now a recognized expert in the area of sovereign and diplomatic immunity.  She later became the executive director of the Latino Institute for Human Rights at New York University School of Law, where she oversaw programming and scholarship development. Throughout her career, she has represented pro bono asylum and refugee clients from Colombia, China, Nepal, Mexico, Tanzania, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Ms. Wayner teaches international arbitration at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, in addition to overseeing Pace’s Willem Vis Moot International Commercial Arbitration program.  She frequently speaks on diversity within the legal profession and Latinx affairs, and is a former deputy president of the Hispanic National Bar Association in New York.  Ms. Wayner is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School,  and obtained both a B.A. in Foreign Service and an M.A. in International Politics from Baylor University.  She has also completed coursework at the American University of Paris and the University of Palermo in Buenos Aires.  She is fluent in Spanish and has basic proficiency in French. 





Programs Director
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Marie-Claude Jean-Baptiste joined the Vance Center in October 2012. She leads the Human Rights and Access to Justice Program at the Vance Center. In this role, Ms. Jean-Baptiste advises clients on projects related to transitional justice, prevention of mass atrocities, accountability for grave human rights violations, and business and human rights. Ms. Jean-Baptiste works with local and international NGOs and international organizations such as the United Nations, The International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Prior to joining the Vance Center, Ms. Jean-Baptiste worked for four years with the International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP) in New York where, as the Human Rights Program Officer, she developed and managed ISLP's program in Latin America and the Caribbean. At ISLP, Ms. Jean-Baptiste worked with governments, international organizations, and NGOs worldwide providing legal support on human rights and equitable economic development projects. These projects included, among others, capacity building of local lawyers and government officials, international human rights litigation, human rights monitoring, and legislative reform and advocacy.
Ms. Jean-Baptiste is Co-Chair of the Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Interest Group of the American Society of International Law. Her publications include: The Bashir Debacle: How South Africa Betrayed Itself and the World, Vance Center Bulletin (June 13, 2015) co-authored with Justice Richard Goldstone; and The Unfinished Business of Transitional Justice in Brazil: The Hopes and Promises of the Brazilian National Truth Commission, RE-VISTA Verdade, Justiça e Memória (December 2014).
Ms. Jean-Baptiste earned a law degree from the George Washington University and degrees in International Studies and Political Science from the City College of New York. While in Law School, Ms. Jean-Baptiste worked with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).
Born and raised in Haiti, Ms. Jean-Baptiste is fluent in Haitian Creole, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.




Environment Program
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Susan M. Kath became Director of the Environment Program in February 2013. She directs the program in its work with international and regional environmental NGOs to develop cross-jurisdictional pro bono projects in the areas of human rights and the environment, climate change, biodiversity conservation, international humanitarian law, toxic waste and protecting enironmental defenders.

Ms. Kath served as the Chief of the New York City Law Department Environmental Law Division from 1997 to 2010 and as Deputy Chief from 1994 to 1997. Ms. Kath managed and directed the division in its representation of the Mayor of the City of New York and its agencies with respect to all federal, state and local environmental laws and served as a senior advisor to the Corporation Counsel, Deputy Mayors and City Agency Commissioners. Ms. Kath managed complex environmental policy and litigation matters in the areas of climate change and climate resilience, environmental sustainability and public health, transportation, energy and wastewater infrastructure projects, and major New York City economic development initiatives. Ms. Kath participated in the creation of the City’s first sustainability plan, PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York and in the design and creation of the City’s long term solid waste management plan. Ms. Kath co-taught a seminar class at Harvard Law School on PlaNYC and the legal issues related to sustainability planning.

Ms. Kath is a member of the Executive Committee of the New York Committee for Human Rights Watch, a member of the Advisory Committee for Health and Human Rights at Human Rights Watch, and a member of the Board of Directors of Prospect Park Alliance. She is a graduate of Fordham Law School and Northwestern University.



Brenda Kombo Black and white

Africa Program Manager
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Brenda Kombo joined the Vance Center in the newly-created position of Africa Program Manager in August 2016. She is responsible for expanding current programs and building new ones to strengthen the Vance Center’s engagement in certain countries and key issues in Africa. In this role, she manages the African Legal Fellows Program, liaises with the directors of the pro bono representation program and the pro bono partnerships program in identifying pro bono clients and lawyers in respective African countries, and supports the Africa Program Sub-Committee of the Vance Center Committee as well as pursuing funding opportunities and managing grants for the program. 

Prior to joining the Vance Center, Brenda received her J.D. with a concentration in International Law and Human Rights from Northeastern University School of Law where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar. Before law school, she worked as a research assistant and consultant on the Due Diligence Project and a research project on the International Criminal Court. As senior program officer and later a consultant for Equality Now’s Africa office in Nairobi, Kenya, Brenda managed the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights coalition campaign and supported Equality Now’s Discrimination in Law program. Brenda has also worked as a research fellow for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Brenda received her doctorate in anthropology from Yale University. Her research focused on intimate partnership violence in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and involved fieldwork in Yaoundé as well as archival research while based at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris as a Fox International Fellow. She received her B.A. from Hampshire College. 



Communications and Development Associate
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Karina Benzaquen Joined the Vance Center in November 2015 as the Communications and Development Assistant.

Ms. Benzaquen holds a Master degree in International Business from Hult International Business School in Boston. She also holds a BA in International Relations, with a concentration in Global Business from Roanoke College in Virginia.

Ms. Benzaquen was born in Peru and has lived in Germany, Greece, and the United States. She is bi-lingual in English and Spanish and also speaks Russian.




Director of Pro Bono Partnerships
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Ms. Larracoechea, a Spanish lawyer, joined the Vance Center in June 2015. She is responsible for the Pro Bono Partnerships Program, building and maintaining relationships with law firms, pro bono clearinghouses, and other legal institutions worldwide that collaborate with the Vance Center to give pro bono legal advice and support to nonprofit organizations. This includes placing projects with law firms and monitoring their progress. Leire also manages the Vance Center’s leadership role in the Pro Bono Network of the Americas, facilitating collaboration among clearinghouses throughout Latin America to develop and institutionalize pro bono practice in the region. In addition, she is responsible for the project to help develop a pro bono clearinghouse in Spain. She continues to research about pro bono in Spain, and is currently collaborating with the book Global pro bono: Diffusion, contestation, learned lessons.

Previously, Ms. Larracoechea worked at Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira, a leading Spanish law firm in its Pro-International Advocacy Program, reserved for highly promising associate attorneys based on their academic records and commitment to international study. During this rotation program, she participated in major Spanish and cross-border transactions and litigation within the areas of corporate-M&A, international arbitration, taxation and labor law. She also was active in the firm’s Pro Bono Program, working with NGOs and foundations dealing with labor, corporate, and tax issues.

Ms. Larracoechea received an LL.M. from Harvard Law School. She was awarded a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship to study the ingredients for developing pro bono service in Spain both at Harvard and at the Vance Center. She received bachelor’s degrees in law and journalism from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

Ms. Larracoechea speaks Spanish, French, and English.



Maria Tigre

Senior Attorney, Environment Program
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Ms. Tigre, an environmental lawyer from Brazil, joined the Vance Center in March 2015. She is an attorney in the Environment Program, working with international and regional environmental NGOs to develop cross-jurisdictional pro bono projects in the areas of human rights and the environment, climate change, biodiversity conservation, international humanitarian law, toxic waste and protecting environmental defenders.

Ms. Tigre began her career working in boutique environmental law firms in Rio de Janeiro, advising clients in the infrastructure sector on environmental impact assessments, permitting procedures and due diligence. In addition to working for law firms, she was seconded to an infrastructure holding company, where she assisted the sustainability board, and an energy subsidiary with projects in Brazil and Chile. She oversaw the permitting procedures of several projects throughout Brazil. After relocating to the United States, she interned at the United Nations Mission of Saint Kitts and Nevis, working on climate change issues, especially the effects of sea level rise on small island nations. Ms. Tigre was a fellow at the World Resources Institute. At WRI, she developed a toolkit for urban governance in cities through a comparative analysis of best practices.

Ms. Tigre holds a double LL.M. from Pace Law School (Environmental Law and Comparative Legal Studies), from where she graduated magna cum laude. She received her LL.B. from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Ms. Tigre was a visiting scholar at Widener Law School and at Maurice A. Dean Law School at Hofstra University. Her current research primarily focuses on comparative environmental law in Latin America. She is writing a book on the cooperation between the countries that share the Amazon rainforest, through an analysis of national, regional, and international forest law and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization. She recently published an article entitled ‘Cooperation for Climate Mitigation in Amazonia: Brazil’s Emerging Role as a Regional Leader’ in the Transnational Environmental Law (TEL) journal published by Cambridge University Press (forthcoming Fall 2016), and a book chapter about the Urgenda Case, entitled ‘Trends in Climate Justice Litigation: The Dutch Case and Global Repercussions’ in Climate Justice (ed. Randall S. Abate, forthcoming December 2016). Ms. Tigre is fluent in Portuguese, English and German, with basic understanding of French and Spanish.


alex zetes B  W

Human Rights Fellow
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Alexandra joined the Vance Center as Human Rights Fellow in October 2017. She will be working with Marie-Claude Jean-Baptiste on the Human Rights and Access to Justice Program. 

Alex is a recent graduate of New York University School of Law, where she received her JD in 2016. Before joining the Vance Center, Alex was the Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellow with the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, where she worked as a staff attorney and research fellow on a variety of human rights issues.

During her time in law school, Alex was the NYU Law Chapter Chair of the International Refugee Assistance Project and the co-chair for the Courtroom Advocate’s Project. She spent her summers working on international human rights issues, first at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ankara, Turkey, and then with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Washington DC. Alex also engaged in international human rights research as a student in the Global Justice Clinic and with the Clinic on Policy Advocacy in Latin America in Buenos Aires. Both before and during law school, Alex’s work has largely focused on transitional justice and refugee issues, and she has been published on both topics.

Alex holds a JD from NYU School of Law, and a dual BA in Political Science and Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2010. She speaks English, German, Spanish and French.