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Ambassador Scheffer on international justice

Prof. David Scheffer, Director of Northwestern’s Center on International Human Rights, speaks here on the challenges of international justice:

A Q&A with US War Crimes Ambassador David Scheffer
By: Jennifer Gutman

David Scheffer, the first-ever war crimes ambassador for the US, will speak about “The Challenges of International Justice” on Monday, April 8, at Vassar College’s Sanders Classroom Building, Spitzer Auditorium. Currently serving as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Expert on United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, Scheffer’s past work in the Balkans and Rwanda contributed to the creation of the International Criminal Court in 2002. In anticipation of the talk, which will explore his recent war crimes work in Cambodia and his 2012 memoir All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals,Chronogram presents a Q&A with Scheffer on the topic of international justice.

Chronogram: What is the biggest challenge to international justice currently?

David Scheffer: The biggest challenge to international justice currently is political will, particularly the will of governments to enforce international arrest warrants against indicted fugitives roaming free on their territory and to provide the necessary financing to ensure the full operations of the international and hybrid war crimes tribunals. These are sometimes very tough decisions for governments to make because it can mean putting international justice goals ahead of national priorities, but if justice is the objective then political will is essential to meet it.

CM: There seems to be a problem with ending conflicts effectively and expeditiously and bringing justice afterwards. What can be done to improve this process?

DS: Ending conflicts is a highly complex diplomatic and often military endeavor. It is not the task of international justice literally to end conflicts and we should not burden war crimes tribunals with that responsibility. Achieving justice in the aftermath of conflict is a necessary goal in the modern era and that is why we have witnessed the creation of so many war crimes tribunals, some of them created in the middle of the conflicts and continuing long thereafter. The creation of the permanent International Criminal Court, which began to operate in 2002, was a major step to improving the process by ensuring the existence of a highly professional war crimes tribunal even at the beginning of conflicts so that all are on notice of their potential liability for commission of atrocity crimes. But again, it is folly to thrust the burden of ending conflicts or even deterring them on the backs of the tribunals. Their job is to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of atrocity crimes and bring them to justice, and that is an enormous challenge in and of itself.

CM: What has been learned through the war crimes trials in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and Cambodia? What can be done better by the international community moving forward?

DS: This is a huge question that thousands of books and law review articles seek to address, so I won’t even try to begin here. All I can say is that the end of leadership impunity for atrocity crimes draws nearer thanks to the work of the war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia and the permanent International Criminal Court. We have learned that the cooperation of governments remains essential for the successful work of the tribunals, that sufficient funding must be available to cover the cost of international justice, that the public must exercise patience in waiting for the investigation, prosecution, and judgment phases of each defendant’s case because it does take much longer under international criminal law to achieve ultimate justice, and that the outreach of each tribunal with the public (including victims and perpetrators) is essential for the educational and healing process to begin. The international community needs to do better at funding the tribunals, supporting their investigative work and arrest strategies with full cooperation, and using diplomatic pressure to press reluctant governments to act in the interests of justice rather than their narrow national interests alone.

CM: Which aspect do you think has proven more important after conficts: peace and reconciliation commissions that offer immunity in return for full disclosure of past crimes, or trials of officials previously involved in atrocities?

DS: This is not necessarily a choice anymore. It was 20 years ago when the a peace and reconciliation commission approach was employed in South Africa. But during the last two decades the creation of the permanent International Criminal Court, with 121 states parties (including South Africa), and the long usage of other war crimes tribunals have changed the landscape. The international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and serious war crimes cannot be bargained way anymore; political, military, and even business leaders stand accountable for their actions under international law now, and nations have accepted that reality in their ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Nonetheless, there remains the opportunity to explore peace and reconciliation commissions for mid-level and low-level perpetrators of atrocity crimes, namely those individuals who would not be subject to investigation and prosecution anyway by the war crimes tribunals. Even there, though, nations are increasingly building into their criminal codes the enforcement of criminal law for the commission of atrocity crimes. It may remain the possibility that full disclosure of past crimes might enable mid-level and low-life perpetrators to avoid enforcement of such domestic criminal law, but that depends on the particular country at stake and its criminal code.



ABA Task Force on Legal Education Reform

The handwriting on the wall is revealed nicely in the first sentence of this article:  30 different law profs, 30 different answers about how best to reform legal education.  The ideas range from narrow and specific to broad and radical.

What is interesting from a pure process perspective is that this task force is created under the aegis of the “big” ABA, not the Section on Legal Education.  In other words, this group has a broad mandate from the larger association of American lawyers to delve into the current situation and to come forward with ideas and initiatives for consideration by the ABA.  My prediction, and it is only that:  If significant proposals emerge, they will gain traction at least in the public eye.  And if the organization that has traditionally dealt with law school regulation — The Section, not the larger group — does not pursue these proposals in earnest, there will be serious tensions within the ABA.

All that said, the core matter is how best to gather input and evaluate ideas about our flawed system.  There should be candid, strategic thinking from a variety of quarters.  I welcome the good work and thinking of the Task Force (although I confess to a bit of anxiety about exactly what they will come up with!).


Clinicians meeting

San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the locale for the annual gathering, under the auspices of the Association of American Law Schools, of the clinical law teachers.  Northwestern Law has a large contingent of participants in this conference, including our great director, Tom Geraghty.

This conference gives us an opportunity to showcase the remarkable work of our Bluhm Legal Clinic, a clinical program whose breadth and depth is as impressive as any clinical program in the nation.

With the help of our clinical faculty and key administrators, we have been hard at work in developing a compelling narrative of financial support for our clinic while also crafting a strategy for the future of the clinic.  In these times of serious scrutiny of the shape of legal education, focused attention on how to best develop and nurture live-client skills training is a high priority.  Our clinical programs provide valuable platforms for the improvement of lawyer training.  We welcome input from our alumni and other friends about how best to accomplish our ambitious goals.


Northwestern entrepreneurs bring home the gold!

To:       Northwestern Law Community

From:  Thomas F. Geraghty, Associate Dean and Director, Bluhm Legal Clinic


Northwestern teams, coached by Esther Barron, Director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Entrepreneurship Law Center, stole the show at the 2013 Rice Business Plan Competition, which is self-described as the world’s richest and largest business plan competition.  SiNode and BriteSeed won 1st and 2nd place and also each received several other awards and cash prizes.  SiNode won $811,000 and BriteSeed won $238,000 in investments and awards. Two of BriteSeed’s four co-founders have ties to the Law School.

BriteSeed has developed a technology that detects blood vessels during surgeries which helps surgeons avoid making dangerous cuts.   The BriteSeed team exemplifies Northwestern’s interdisciplinary approach to entrepreneurship education.  Jonathan Gunn (class of ’13) studied patent and entrepreneurship law and also holds a doctorate in biomaterials and nanotechnology. Jonathan has published over 15 peer-reviewed articles and performed research in nanopartible-based imaging and wound-healing applications. Muneeb Bokhari (class of ’12) is an associate at Foley & Lardner. Before joining Northwestern Law, Muneeb worked in the technology industry for ten years, where he gained experience with several early stage startups as well as large multi-national firms. Fellow co-founder, Paul Fehrenbacher is a fourth-year medical student at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Before helping to establish BriteSeed, Paul served as Director of Pre-clinical Evaluation and Guidance at Wildcat Venture Management, a Chicago-based biotech company. Lastly, Mayank Vijayvergia is a masters student in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern, where he has performed research in magnetic resonance elastography for non-invasive diagnoses of varying diseases.   Esther Barron, Director of the Northwestern Entrepreneurship Law Center, proudly served as the team’s faculty advisor.


Guggenheim Fellowship to NU faculty member

Professor Kristen Stilt Named Guggenheim Fellow

Northwestern University Law School faculty member Kristen Stilt was named a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for her work on the role of Islamic law in modern constitutions.

This year’s Fellowships were awarded to a diverse group of 175 scholars and artists from a pool of almost 3,000 applicants from the United States and Canada.

“Kristen is an exceptional scholar and colleague,” said Dean Dan Rodriguez. “Her work on Constitutional Islam is innovative and timely, with a number of countries around the world in the process of revising and rewriting their constitutions to incorporate Islam and Islamic Law. The research this Fellowship supports will illuminate how these constitutional choices are made.”

Stilt, who is also an affiliated faculty member in the history department in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, studies the historical development and contemporary practices of Islamic law. Using historical and comparative approaches, her Guggenheim project seeks to understand the growing phenomenon of enshrining references to Islam and Islamic law in national constitutions. A social history of constitution-making, the project will span a wide range of countries in the Muslim world. She is the author of Islamic Law in Action: Authority, Discretion, and Everyday Experiences in Mamluk Egypt (Oxford University Press, 2011) and coeditor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Islamic Law.

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

“Since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has always bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue the tradition with this wonderfully talented and diverse group,” said Edward Hirsh, president of the Guggenheim Foundation. “It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”


Concerned Colleagues letter

Letter regarding The Economics of Legal Education

This is a letter that I, and a large number of distinguished legal educators, signed and sent to the ABA’s Task Force on legal education reform.  The letter speaks for itself.  It is a call for renewed attention and energy to be devoted to addressing systemic problems in legal education.  These problems involve the economic model of legal education and also the structure of training we provide.

Although the particular audience for this letter is the Task Force, it is really intended to spur debate among folks inside and outside the legal academy.  We welcome this debate as it can only help advance the ball.


Judge Guido Calabresi at Northwestern Law

Judge Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, will be our Trienens Distinguished Judicial Visitor this week.  The good judge will be speaking in a moderate discussion tomorrow afternoon at 4 pm in Lincoln Hall.

His is a remarkable career, beginning at the Yale Law School in the early 1960’s.  Guido was a founder of the law and economics movement and, in many famous writings, he brought economic analysis skillfully to the study of torts.  His contributions to private law and to the intersection of law and regulation were masterful and remain highly influential in the legal academy and in policy debates.  His teaching is legendary and it is hard to attend a professional conference of any size and distinction without hearing stories about the great classes with Guido.  He continues to teach at Yale to this day.

A second important phase of Guido Calabresi’s career was his tenure as Yale Law School’s dean.  Guido’s love for Yale and his service to the law school at which he has spent his entire professional life is an exemplar of what it means to be a devoted institutional citizen.

President Bill Clinton, Guido’s former student, appointed Calabresi to the federal bench.  He has since served as one of the shining stars of the federal judiciary.  His law clerks, including our own, Prof. Erin Delaney, have gone on to their own distinction.

Guido Calabresi’s life has been, as the saying goes, truly well lived in the law.  We are delighted to welcome here to Northwestern Law School and we are looking forward to his visit with faculty, students, alumni, and all interested members of the Northwestern community.


Blog is back!

After a two month hiatus.

Looking forward to posting on a variety of topics, including pressing issues in legal education, the state of the legal economy, the role Northwestern Law is playing in this new normal, and, as always, the myriad issues percolating here at the law school.  Going forward, I will (usually) enable the comments function so that you should certainly contribute your own thoughts and perspectives to this blog.  Please:  non-anonymous and constructive comments only.