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.
Current activities include:
- Client-Based Research: Providing specialized legal research assistance to justice mechanisms on novel issues of international criminal and humanitarian law remains the core task of the WCRO. Since its inception, the WCRO has provided in-depth research support to the ICTY, the ICTR, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the Special Panels for East Timor, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Argentina’s Assistance Unit for Cases of Human Rights Violations Committed Under State Terrorism, and the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the U.S. Department of State.
- ICC Legal Analysis and Education Reports: In 2007, the WCRO launched a new initiative aimed at producing and distributing public, impartial, legal analyses of critical issues raised by the ICC’s early decisions. The Project benefits from the insights of an Advisory Committee comprised of experts in international law, including former Norwegian Serious Crimes Chief Public Prosecutor Siri Frigaard, former Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY/ICTR Justice Richard Goldstone, former Botswana High Court Judge Unity Dow, former Massachusetts Appeals Court Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza, and Juan Mendez, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment and former Special Advisor on Prevention to the Prosecutor of the ICC.
- Public Education and Advocacy: As a byproduct of its work for the tribunals and other clients, the WCRO and its staff have served as key resources for government officials,UN bodies, NGOs, the media, and others engaged in various international criminal and humanitarian law initiatives. The WCRO also hosts the War Crimes Speaker Series, which brings experts in these areas of the law to the WCL campus for discussions with students and invited guests.
- Gender and International Criminal Law Project: In late 2009, the WCRO and the Women & International Law Program initiated the Gender and International Criminal law Project. The Collections,available at www.genderjurisprudence.org, allow judges, practitioners, academics, and other researchers to search the jurisprudence from twelve justice mechanisms for documents containing gender-specific issues and keywords.