PUBLISHED:August 28, 2009

Duke Law students receive training in International Criminal Court prosecutions, Sept. 11

On Sept. 11, two staff members from the International Criminal Court (ICC) will offer a training session at Duke Law School on the court’s procedures for investigating and litigating war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Presented by the Duke Law chapter of the International Criminal Court Student Network (ICCSN), the daylong program will also include roundtable discussions with law faculty and guests on the court’s record in its first six years of operation and its future. The event is sponsored by Duke’s Center for International and Comparative Law.

The event will be held from 9:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. in room 4045. To register for all or selected sessions, visit

In the morning training, ICC staff members Horejah Bala-Gaye and Antonia Pereira de Sousa will provide an in-depth look at how the Office of the Prosecutor opens, investigates, and prosecutes cases received by state or United Nations Security Council referral. Bala-Gaye is currently an assistant trial lawyer in the prosecution of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003. Periera de Sousa, who attended a Duke Law conference on Darfur in the spring 2009 semester, is an associate cooperation officer within the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division of the Office of the Prosecutor, , where she handles cooperation and external communication, and is working to build an international student network.

Duke Law students start first ICCSN chapter in U.S.
Duke Law’s ICCSN chapter, the first in the United States, is the latest addition to the student network, which currently has affiliate chapters at the London School of Economics and Cambridge University, among others in the United Kingdom. The goal of the ICCSN is to facilitate informed discussion about the International Criminal Court and the future of international criminal justice, explains Matthew Smith JD/LLM ’11, president of the Duke chapter and a primary organizer of the Sept. 11 training.

“Because the ICC is an international institution with jurisdiction over crimes committed by the nationals of its member states, it is perceived by some to threaten national sovereignty,” says Smith, who spent his 1L summer working in Geneva for a nonprofit organization focused on ending the practice of torture as a tool of investigation in developing countries. “That perception has led to some false impressions about how the court actually works, what its mission and structure is, what the relationship is between states that are party to the statute and the court, among others. So our goal really is to provide a public educational role. But we do so by engaging critically with the work of the court.

“We want to stimulate debate and discussion about everything the court is doing,” he adds. “We want to have debate and discussion about the criticisms that have been voiced about the court as well as the praise it’s been given.”

Visiting Assistant Professor Noah Weisbord, a former law clerk to ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo who will take part in the Sept. 11 roundtable, commends Duke Law students for starting the ICCSN chapter and their interest and initiative in matters pertaining to international criminal law more generally. President Barack Obama has indicated his strong interest in bringing U.S. policy in line with international humanitarian law, Weisbord points out, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently expressed regret that the United States is not a party to the ICC.

“The U.S. and the International Criminal Court are having a rapprochement, and so Duke students are on to something,” says Weisbord, who is part of a group investigating the addition of the crime of aggression to those prosecuted by the court. Their engagement with the court can also help to give Duke Law students an edge in pursuing highly competitive ICC clerkships, he observes. “If students are already attuned to what’s going on through their student organization, it is much more interesting to have them working there. There would be a shorter learning curve when they arrive.”

For more information on the Sept. 11 training and related activities, contact Matthew Smith.