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Panel to Consider the Progress of Justice in Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

"The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY): Imperfect Justice or Perfect Injustice?" will be the subject of a panel discussion at Yale Law School on Wednesday, April 10, at 12:30 p.m., in Room 127. It is free and open to the public. The talk will be moderated by W. Michael Reisman, Myres S. McDougal Professor of International Law. The speakers will be Patricia Wald '51, M. Cherif Bassiouni, and Paul Williams.

The concurrence of two recent events has elevated the issue of international criminal justice to paramount importance in the international law community. And in response, the YLS Forum on the Practice of International Law decided to sponsor a discussion of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

The trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic opened in February of this year. Many observers consider this high-profile prosecution a test case for the ICTY and international criminal justice more generally. At the same time, the Rome Statute, authorizing a permanent International Criminal Court--to be located in The Hague, Netherlands, like the ICTY--is nearing full activation. The treaty was adopted in Rome in 1998, and required the ratification of 60 signatory nations to enter into force. The United Nations has scheduled a ceremony marking that 60th ratification for April 11, just one day after the panel discussion at YLS.

So, the event is a timely one. The idea of an International Criminal Court is "one of the biggest issues in international law," according to Claudio Aragon '04, an organizer of the discussion. "A lot of people are excited about this; a lot of people have mixed feelings about international criminal justice." Some of the challenges the ICTY has faced, and that will face any international court, include the clash of common law and civil law traditions--particularly in the handling of evidence. The tribunal has also struggled to exert authority over uncooperative regimes. The ICTY serves as "a good vehicle for exploring the . . . institutionalization of solutions to international problems," says Aragon.

Each of the speakers on the panel can contribute a unique perspective from involvement in international criminal justice. Patricia Wald is a former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and also served as a judge on the ICTY for two years. She has recently written an article about her experience at the ICTY, which is available online through the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal. M. Cherif Bassiouni, a professor of law at DePaul College of Law, was elected vice-chairman of the U.N. General Assembly's Committee for the Establishment of an International Criminal Court and, in 1998, was elected chairman of the Drafting Committee. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in support of an international criminal court. Paul R. Williams, the Rebecca Grazier Professor of Law and International Relations at the American University, acted as a legal adviser to the government of Kosovo and was a member of the Bosnian delegation during the Dayton peace negotiations.

Aragon says he expects a "balanced discussion. I think that much of the literature by international lawyers on the international criminal justice enterprise is hagiographic. I think there is room for more skepticism and consideration."