WCRO 2019 Annual Update

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WCRO Director Susana SáCouto and Academy Co-Director Claudia Martin with the Abuelas of Sepur Zarco

2019 has been an especially active year for the WCRO. In a major development, we launched a new partnership with UN Women on Documenting Good Practice on Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Guatemala. This initiative, part of our Gender and International Criminal Law Project with the Women and the Law Program and the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, will memorialize the legal and political strategies employed by victims’ advocates and other civil society and justice sector actors in Guatemala’s Sepur Zarco case, a groundbreaking prosecution that provided redress for indigenous victims of rape and sexual slavery that occurred during that country’s civil war. In August, WCRO Director Susana SáCouto and Academy Co-Director Claudia Martin traveled to Guatemala to interview victims, judges, expert witnesses, civil society advocates, and other key actors in the case. The report is expected to be published in 2020, and disseminated within Guatemala and throughout Latin America so that other practitioners may learn from the successful strategies in Sepur Zarco and adapt them in their own litigation and advocacy efforts.

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WLP Associate Director Daniela Kraiem, Academy Co-Director Claudia Martin, and WCRO Director Susana ?SáCouto ?

In addition, the WCRO this year:

  • Provided specialized legal and technical assistance to justice system actors in the Central African Republic, Peru, and Syria working toward accountability for sexual violence in conflict.

  • Updated and expanded our Gender Jurisprudence Collections, adding 1,000 new case documents and making each searchable by gender-specific issues, including domestic case law involving international crimes.

  • Relaunched our Afghanistan Documentation Project database, which makes publicly available reports and documents relating to atrocities committed in Afghanistan since 1978 searchable in one central repository. The new database includes information about more than 8,000 incidents of human rights and humanitarian law violations.
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    Students on the Summer Law Program in The Hague at the T.M.C. Asser Institute
  • Organized and held the 13th Annual Summer Law Program in The Hague, providing students from WCL and other U.S. law schools an opportunity to live and learn among the practitioners, courts, and tribunals that are making history today. Students this year were fortunate to hear from Ben Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials!

  • Hosted our annual War Crimes Speaker Series and participating in a number of other events on current issues in ICL, including:

    • A panel on Myanmar and Accountability for Grave Crimes, cosponsored with the Global Justice Center and Human Rights Watch.

    • A film screening and discussion of the documentary The Prosecutors, cosponsored with the Ferencz International Justice Initiative of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum;

    • A panel with the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Due Process of Law Foundation, and Cristosal on Wartime Sexual Violence in El Salvador: The El Mozote Case;

    • A discussion on Evidence at the Khmer Rouge Trials with Andrew Boyle, a former prosecutor at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia; and

    • A panel with the Women & the Law Program on Gender and the Practice of International Criminal Law.
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      Myanmar and Accountability for Grave Crimes panel
  • Produced new scholarship on accountability for sexual violence in conflict, including:

    • Collective Criminality and Sexual Violence: Fixing a Failed Approach, by Susana SáCouto, Leila Sadat, and Patricia Sellers, published in the Leiden Journal of International Law;

    • The Bemba Appeals Chamber Judgment: Impunity for Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes?, by Susana SáCouto and Patricia Sellers, published in the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal; and

    • A chapter titled “Staying the Course: A Call for Sustained International Support of Domestic Prosecution of Conflict-Related Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” by Susana SáCouto and Chante Lasco, in the book Gender and War: International and Transitional Justice Perspectives, edited by Solange Mouthaan and Olga Jurasz (Intersentia, 2019).

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WCL's winning Clara Barton IHL Competition team of Lindsey Miller (JD '19), Rachel Bruce (JD '20), and Kate Tomaszewski (JD '20)

As ever, the WCRO continues to provide substantive, experiential learning opportunities to WCL students, who are instrumental in our work. This year:

  • Nineteen students supported the WCRO’s confidential and public research projects and programming through the International Criminal Law Practicum, Dean’s Fellowships, or independent studies.

  • Three students selected and coached by the WCRO represented WCL in ICL and international humanitarian law competitions. Lindsey Miller (3L), Kate Tomaszewski (2L), and Rachel A. Bruce (2L) took first place at the Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition in Washington, DC in March! The team also made it to the semifinal round of the Jean-Pictet International Humanitarian Law Competition in Obernai, France later that month.

  • Over thirty students volunteered on WCRO projects, including writing posts on news and jurisprudential developments coming out of international and other tribunals tasked with trying grave crimes for the International Criminal Law Updates blog.

As we close out 2019, please consider joining us in our efforts by making a tax-deductible contribution. Your gift will ensure we can continue in our commitment to ensuring that practitioners on the front line of this fight have the tools, training, and resources they need to advocate for victims. We thank you for your support and wish you a warm and pleasant holiday season.