Plaque presented to the WCRO from the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

About the War Crimes Research Office

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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). The Office provided the ICTY and ICTR with legal research assistance in the areas of international criminal and humanitarian law.  Before long, and as reported in the Washington Diplomat, the WCRO had “won sweeping praise for its international humanitarian and comparative criminal law projects.”

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.



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 the areas of international criminal and humanitarian law to international and internationalized criminal courts and tribunals. 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 U.N. and U.N.-backed tribunals, and other select clients, 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.