By Taylor Ackerman
NYU’s Center for Global Affairs (CGA) co-sponsored the 11th Annual International Humanitarian Law Dialogs, which took place on the 27th – 29th of August. The theme of this year was “Changing Times: New Opportunities of International Justice and Accountability.” The Dialogs, held in Chautauqua, New York, hosted current and former prosecutors of the international tribunals, foremost academics and experts, an International Criminal Court judge and NGO officials to speak on the current state of international justice. Professor Jennifer Trahan of the New York University Center for Global Affairs delivered a breakfast presentation at the Dialogs, on August 29th, entitled “The Future of International Justice.” She also participated in a porch session on August 29th, on “Victim-Driven Approaches to International Criminal Justice.”
The Dialogs commenced with a screening of “Never Again: Forging a Convention for Crimes Against Humanity.” Following the screening, a panel on the film included Leila Sadat (the chair of the Steering Committee of the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative), Kevin Hughes (the Legal and Political Advisors to Prosecutor Serge Brammertz of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals), Robert Petit (former International Co-Prosecutor of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and Counsel and Team Leader at the War Crimes Section of Canada’s Federal Department of Justice), and International Criminal Court Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert. They spoke of the necessity and viability of establishing a treaty that would establish a legal obligation for states to prosecute crimes against humanity. The first day of the Dialogs also featured a panel of both former chief international co-prosecutors—Robert Petit and Andrew Caley—and current chief international co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to discuss the work of that court. It was the first time that all three international co-prosecutors were on a panel together.
On August 28th, Dialogs attendees had the exciting opportunity to hear from current prosecutors from each of the courts. The prosecutors presented their updates and reflections on their respective institutions during a morning panel. During lunch, Andrew Cayley presented on his current role in “Domestic Investigation of Allegations against UK Forces of War Crimes in Iraq.” A roundtable discussion on “changing times: new opportunities for international justice and accountability” followed. It brought new issues and ideas to light. For example, Professor Valerie Oosterveld from the University of Western Ontario discussed how law schools were handling the truth commission in Canada on the genocide of indigenous peoples. Also, speaking on the panel was Brigadier General and US Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor Mark Martins, Judge Duncan Gaswaga from Uganda’s war crimes court, Professor David M. Crane (former prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone from 2002-2005) and Robert Petit. This was followed by a prosecutors’ panel for a student-only audience, which gave students the opportunity to ask questions directly to the prosecutors.
The last day of the dialogs included the breakfast talk on the key finding of CGA Professor Jennifer Trahan’s research, and a talk on some of the main issues in international justice from this year, including prospects of justice in Syria, by Professor Milena Sterio from Cleveland State University’s Marshall College of Law. Following these talks, four different sessions took place on the Athenaeum porch, in which experts in the field presented on various topics in the field of international justice. They included a session by Professor David Crane and Professor William Schabas on the idea of an accountability center that would systematically document atrocities and the panel discussion on victims with Professor Trahan. Following the porch sessions, there was a lunch panel on the forthcoming book “The Founders” with the prosecutors who started the various tribunals. They discussed how they first began their work as tribunal prosecutors. The dialogs culminated with the Prosecutors’ issuance of their 11th Chautauqua Declaration on the importance of international justice.
As a CGA student, I was appreciative of the opportunity to attend the Dialogs, and to hear from the prosecutors and experts on the international courts. Doing so helped me solidify my career goals, in the area of international criminal justice.
Taylor Ackerman is a MSGA student in the International Law & Human Rights concentration.