September 24, 2007

Experts gather in Cleveland to debate success of genocide convention on eve of its 60th anniversary

Major international symposium at Case Western Reserve University School of Law features high-level government officials, leading experts in international law

What are the challenges of prosecuting and defending persons accused of genocide? Is the Genocide Convention working? Are amendments warranted? These questions and issues will be addressed in a day-long conference on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Genocide Convention. "To Prevent and to Punish: An International Conference in Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Negotiation of the Genocide Convention," will be held at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law on Friday, Sept. 28, at 8:30 a.m. in the Moot Courtroom (A59), 11075 East Boulevard.

After years of being in relative obscurity, the Genocide Convention has been in the news frequently in the last few months. According to Michael Scharf, professor of law at Case Western Reserve and director of the conference's co-sponsor, the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center, the new Cambodia Genocide Tribunal took its second defendant into custody the week of September 17. In addition, he said, the Iraqi High Tribunal affirmed the conviction of the notorious "Chemical Ali" for genocide two weeks ago. And a few months ago, the International Court of Justice ruled that Serbia "did not in fact commit genocide in Bosnia." Meanwhile, Scharf said, China has blocked Security Council action while genocide continues to engulf Darfur in the Sudan.

The conference features debates and discussions instead of the traditional academic format. Speakers include Ra'ad Juhi, chief investigative judge of the Iraqi High Tribunal making his first public appearance in the United States; Robert Petit, chief prosecutor of the new United Nations Cambodia Tribunal, speaking at his first academic conference; Mischa Wladimiroff, the attorney who represented Slobodan Milosevic, also making his first visit to the U.S.; Roy Gutman, foreign editor of McClatchy Newspapers who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on genocide in Bosnia; and two dozen other leading experts.

Sixty years ago, on June 11, 1947, Raphael Lemkin, working with the U.N. Secretariat legal staff, completed the first draft of the Genocide Convention, launching the intense negotiations that would conclude in the U.N.'s adoption of the Convention in December 1948.

"Today, the Genocide Convention has 137 parties, and after years of dormancy, it has become an important legal tool in the international effort to end impunity for the worst crime known to humankind," said Scharf. "The past year alone as witnessed important cases based on the Genocide Convention before the International Court of Justice, the ad hoc international criminal tribunals, and the domestic courts of several countries."

Following a welcome address by Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder, the conference begins with a keynote speech by Juan E. Mendez, former U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. The first panel features two of the surviving prosecutors who tried the Nazis at Nuremberg, discussing the roots of the Genocide Convention.

In light of continuing atrocities in Darfur, Scharf said, a panel of journalists and former diplomats will debate the need for and legality of humanitarian intervention. Petit delivers the luncheon speech, describing the challenges of trying the Khmer Rouge leaders responsible for the killing fields of Cambodia 30 years ago. Former and current prosecutors from five international criminal tribunals follow with a discussion of the challenges in prosecuting genocide in Iraq, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

This is followed by a panel of four attorneys who have defended former leaders accused of genocide. The final panel, which critiques the International Court of Justice's recent judgment in the Bosnian Genocide case, includes one of the attorneys who argued the case before the World Court.

In 2004-05, Scharf served as a member of the elite international team of experts that provided training to the judges and prosecutors of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, and in 2006 he led the first training session for the prosecutors and judges of the newly established U.N. Cambodia Genocide Tribunal. In February 2005, Scharf and the Public International Law and Policy Group, a non-governmental organization he co-founded, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by six governments and the prosecutor of an International Criminal Tribunal for the work they have done to help in the prosecution of major war criminals, such as Slobodan Milosevic, former Liberian president Charles Taylor and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Conference speakers are available in the margins of the conference to speak to media. For more information, contact Cox International Law Center communications office at (216) 368-3304, or see:

For more information, contact Laura M. Massie, 216.368.4442

Posted by: Paula Baughn, September 24, 2007 09:26 AM | News Topics: Events, Events, Faculty, School of Law

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