Our Mandate

The mandate of the WCRO is to promote the development and enforcement of international criminal and humanitarian law, primarily through the provision of specialized legal research assistance in these areas of law to international and internationally-supported criminal courts and tribunals. In the last several years, as the focus on accountability has shifted from the international to domestic level, the WCRO has also provided similar assistance to a number of institutions and organizations involved in holding perpetrators of serious international crimes accountable at the national level. In doing so, the WCRO provides J.D. and LL.M. students the opportunity to undertake legal research and writing on cutting-edge issues in these areas of the law. 

International criminal and humanitarian law are developing more rapidly today than at any other time in history. By assisting these mechanisms, the WCRO hopes to contribute to the coherent development of these bodies of public international law and, specifically, to the elaboration of norms that protect individuals in the course of hostilities. The need for elaboration is particularly acute in the context of internal (non-international) armed conflicts, which, though representing the vast majority of conflicts in the world today, have historically been governed by only the most minimal standards. By helping to develop and fill gaps in this and other areas of international law, the work of the WCRO assists ongoing efforts to promote peace, stability, and human security throughout the world.

Meet Our Staff

Susana SaCouto

Susana SáCouto


Susana SáCouto is Director of the War Crimes Research Office (WCRO) at the Washington College of Law (AUWCL), which promotes the development and enforcement of international criminal and humanitarian law. She also directs AUWCL’s Summer Law Program in The Hague, which offers JD and LL.M. students the opportunity for intensive study in international criminal law in The Hague. She is also Professorial Lecturer-in-Residence at WCL, where she teaches courses on ICL, advanced topics in international criminal law and procedure, and international legal responses to conflict-based sexual and gender violence, as well as an experiential learning course dealing with these areas of law. Ms. SáCouto’s background includes extensive practical experience with organizations working on ICL, IHL and/or human rights issues at both the domestic and international level, including Women Empowered Against Violence, Inc., the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action in Guatemala, and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. She has published widely on variety of ICL issues, served as co-chair of the Women’s International Law Interest Group of the American Society for International Law (2006-2009 term), and was awarded The Women’s Law Center 22nd Annual Dorothy Beatty Memorial Award for significant contributions to women’s rights.  In December 2017, she was honored as part of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice’s Gender Justice Legacy Wall, which celebrates judges, practitioners, academics, advocates, diplomats, survivors, witnesses, and others who have helped shape the field of international gender justice over the past 125 years.

alysson ford ouoba

alysson ford ouoba
assistant director


Alysson Ford Ouoba is the Assistant Director of the War Crimes Research Office (WCRO). Prior to joining the WCRO, Alysson was an associate in the Human Rights Practice Group at Cohen Milstein, where she assisted survivors of forced labor, human trafficking, arbitrary detentions, torture, and other violations of international law. In that role, Alysson investigated claims of abuses, prepared complaints, and represented human rights victims in proceedings before U.S. courts at both the trial and appellate levels. Alysson also clerked at the District Court for the Eastern District of New York and the D.C. Court of Appeals. Prior to law school, Alysson worked in international development for several years, including on projects to build elementary schools in Burkina Faso, promote girls’ education in Cote d’Ivoire, and improve microfinance services in Ecuador. She holds a B.A. from Harvard College; an M.Sc. from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies; and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Matt bowers

Matt bowers
staff assistant


Matt Bowers joined the WCRO in July of 2014. In his role with the WCRO, Matt coordinates with students, faculty, staff, and external stakeholders to: support fundraising efforts and grants management; bring students into the work of the WCRO through events and volunteering; and manage the implementation of curricular initiatives, including the Summer Law Program in The Hague. Prior to joining the WCRO, Matt interned in the United States House of Representatives and in Brussels with the Atlantic Treaty Association, a NATO-focused organization with 37 chapters across Europe and North America, working on transatlantic and international security issues. He graduated cum laude and with University Honors from American University in May 2014, holding a B.A. in International Studies and Political Science.


Robert K. Goldman

professor robert k. goldman
officer/faculty director


Robert Kogod Goldman is Professor of Law and Louis C. James Scholar at American University's Washington College of Law, where he has taught since 1971. Professor Goldman is also Faculty Director of the War Crimes Research Office and Co-Director of the Law School's Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. He was a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights from 1996 to 2003 and its President from March 1999 to March 2000. In 2004 and 2005 he served as the U.N. Human Rights Commission's Independent Expert on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, and in July 2005 he was appointed as one of eight experts, and the only American, to an International Commission of Jurists’ Eminent Jurists Panel to examine issues of counter-terrorism and human rights. Professor Goldman teaches and publishes on subjects relating to International Law, Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.

Our History

In 1995, in response to a request for assistance from the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR), American University Washington College of Law created the War Crimes Research Office (WCRO) with financial support from the Open Society Institute (OSI). Since that time, several new war crimes tribunals have been established under the auspices or with the support of the United Nations, each raising novel legal issues. This, in turn, has generated growing demands for the expert assistance of the WCRO.  As a result, in addition to the ICTY and ICTR, the WCRO has provided in-depth research support to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in East Timor (Special Panels) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). In 2006, the WCRO began providing similar assistance to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

With the participation of WCL students and faculty, as well as a variety of other international experts and consultants, the WCRO completed more than 80 major research projects for international courts and tribunals around the world in its first ten years.