An FCIL Opportunity in My Own Backyard
Amy Burchfield, John Wolff International & Comparative Law Library, Georgetown Law Library
It's always gratifying when a terrific FCIL learning opportunity presents itself locally. This is exactly what happened for me the last Friday of September here in Washington D.C. The War Crimes Research Office of American University's Washington College of Law celebrated its tenth anniversary by hosting a one-day mini conference on International Criminal Tribunals in the 21st Century. Talk about one-stop shopping for all of the big names in international criminal tribunals.
After arriving slightly late due to poor commuter decisions on my part, I was still able to catch the first session on the next era of war crimes tribunals. Aryeh Neier, the president of the Open Society Institute, and professor Diane Orentlicher of American University Washington College of Law discussed ideas for the next generation of tribunals. The second morning session addressed the intersection of humanitarian law and international human rights law. One of the speakers, Judge Patricia Wald--a former judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)--is probably familiar to many FCIL members. She also spoke at the IALL 21st Annual Course in 2002 at Yale.
The morning concluded with a fascinating discussion of the Rwandan media case (Nahimana, ICTR-96-11), led by Judge Navanethem Pillay who wrote the opinion in the case at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). This is the case involving the infamous RTLM radio station that was later convicted by the ICTR for incitement to genocide.
Lunch was definitely the main event (and I'm not referring to the meal). The keynote speaker was Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The charming Argentinean easily convinced his audience of the unique difficulties he faces as chief prosecutor in the three situations currently under investigation by the ICC (in Darfur, Sudan, the Republic of Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo). I was also impressed by the fact that instead of rushing off to more important engagements, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo stayed for the entire conference and contributed his insights in several of the discussions.
We all know that the just-after-lunch time slot is a hard one to schedule at any conference. The coordinators of this conference had that problem solved. The after lunch session on the effective apprehension of indictees was as exciting and fast paced as waching any cop show. Speakers included David Crane, former chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone and Siri Frigaard, former deputy general prosecutor for the ad-hoc tribunal in East Timor. I especially enjoyed the accounts from the deputy prosecutor with the ICTY about some of the more colorful incidents that happened while apprehending suspected war criminals indicted by the court. After that, I wrapped up the day with a session on the impact of criminal justice mechanisms on peace initiatives, with a special focus on the conflict in Uganda.
So did attending this conference help me be a better FCIL librarian? It sure did, and in a very concrete way. The week following the conference I had a research consultation with an international student at Georgetown who is writing a seminar paper on the possibility of the establishment of a war crimes tribunal for Afghanistan. We spent the better part of our meeting discussing some of the ideas that I had heard at the conference. I'm looking forward to more such local learning opportunities in the future.