Impacting International Criminal Legal Systems
Ben Crawford’s Journey of Expanding His Scope in Criminal Legal Systems
Law school was an intuitive path for Ben Crawford. The 3L, received his bachelor’s degree from Villanova University where, as an undergraduate, he had the opportunity to work at the Philadelphia Justice Project for Women & Girls on wrongful conviction cases. This experience cemented his pursuit of a legal education where he used the law as a tool for justice.
“While the work I was doing was impactful, it became apparent to me that, this whole criminal legal system, you can be impactful with a law degree,” he said. “It cemented my passion for criminal legal systems reform, advocacy, and making a difference.”
The Oklahoma native entered law school with the goal of addressing the discrepancies in the domestic criminal legal system. In his first year, he applied for the summer Hague program through the War Crimes Research Office at AUWCL, to expand his knowledge of criminal law to include international legal systems.
“I think I have always been interested in legal systems and justice,” Crawford said. “When you dive deeper into domestic criminal law, you see the victims of the criminal legal system. When you dive deeper into international criminal law, you realize not only are there war criminals, and people who have been war criminals throughout but also that there are many more victims of crimes against humanity and genocide. The humanitarian principle of mitigating human suffering resonated with me.”
Crawford took a chance and only applied to three law schools. He was drawn to AUWCL’s strong sentiment of community.
“What drew me into AUWCL, outside of my own interests in international criminal legal systems was its history,” he said. “Its history of being a progressive welcoming institution is what attracted me. During COVID, community was hard to find. Having people attest to the community at WCL held a lot of weight. I still hold that to be true. Everyone is kind and friendly. I feel supported and connected in a way that makes me excited to come to campus."
Crawford has taken advantage of many of the opportunities available at AUWCL. He currently serves as the president of the Criminal Law Society, Equity and Inclusions, editor at the Criminal Law Practitioner, and a student attorney in the prosecution section of the Criminal Law Clinic. He has served as a research assistant for the United Nations International Law Commission under Professor Claudio Grossman and will also take part in The Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law's Kovler Project Against Torture in Geneva in November to provide on-site legal support to the U.N. Committee against Torture chairperson and country rapporteurs.
“I came in thinking I would pursue criminal law all the way but now I look back and see how I have pivoted into something else,” Crawford added. “I love the things I am doing so much now; I wish I did them sooner, but I know that the process that got me there was so beneficial, I don’t know if I would trade that in either. I feel like I have had the opportunity to learn, grow and change at AUWCL.”
As he reflects on his goals and aspirations, Crawford notes that he would like to advocate for stakeholders around the humanitarian field to implement and observe humanitarian principles and policies.
“My dream is to get into international practicing spaces,” he said.
Crawford is working as an Atrocity Prevention VSFS Intern for the Bureau of Conflict & Stabilization Operations at the US Department of State as well as a legal intern in the International Humanitarian Law Department at the American Red Cross.
~Story by Hasini Jayawardena.