Judge talks international law at Pitt

By Amy Friedenberger

Pitt law students learned quickly that international law has plenty of gray areas — enough… Pitt law students learned quickly that international law has plenty of gray areas — enough that many of them left last night’s lecture on international tribunals satisfied, but with unanswerable questions.

Erik Mose, a supreme court justice in Norway and a former judge on the United Nations Criminal Court, explained that the field of international law is often confusing and complicated. He lectured last night in the Teplitz Memorial Moot Courtroom in the Barco Law Building.

He structured the lecture around a number of issues prevalent in today’s international community, asking such fundamental questions as: Who exactly can be tried as a “war criminal”?

For that question, Mose had a solid answer based on his first-hand experience with tribunals in the Republic of Rwanda. Tribunals are international institutions meant to prosecute individuals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Anyone, Mose said, can be tried as a war criminal.

As evidence, he told a story about a woman put on trial in Rwanda, who said that she had never done anything wrong in her life. But one day she went to a mosque and killed a woman because she said, “I felt it was my day to kill.”

Mose used that story and others to emphasize his point that many questions in international law have no easy answers.

“They were normal people, perfectly likable people in normal situations, but it comes down to how people react in different situations,” Mose said.

Among these gray areas, Mose thought at least one thing was clear: By putting war criminals into a courtroom, tribunals can “[send] the signal that impunity is not tolerated,” he said.

For example, tribunals in Rwanda sought justice for the estimated 800,000 victims of the genocide in the central African country.

Charles Jalloh, an assistant professor at the law school, said that Mose played a critical role in the tribunal in Rwanda.

“I’m sure we all remembered how a small and landlocked country experienced one of the largest human tragedies of the 20th century,” Jalloh said.

The tribunals in Rwanda established during the 1990s were part of a growing movement in international law to try war criminals and involved the formation the International Criminal Court, Mose said. The court was the first treaty-based international organization designed to prosecute people for violent crimes that caught the international community’s attention, according to its website.

This first ad hoc tribunal was established in 1993 to address war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

Of the seven tribunals that were later established in other countries, only three currently remain.

Mose said that the future of charging war criminals remains with the ICC.

He said that the ICC must manage the decision to have the trial in the country where the conflict occurred or in The Hague — the ICC’s main court stationed in the Netherlands..

Felix Yerace, president of the Global Solutions Education Fund Pittsburgh, presented Mose with a commemorative clock containing a piece of the Berlin Wall.

The lecture concluded with the presentation of the M.W. McLean International Law Writing Award, given to law student Samuel Derrick. The Global Solutions Education Fund Pittsburgh, who sponsored the award, helps educate high school students. The competition required law school students to write a case for high school students to use.

Mary Crossley, dean of the law school, said it is beneficial to “hear from a leader who has been so deeply engaged in this process.”