Lexington, Virginia is for International Law Lovers?

I know what you’re thinking. That title can’t be right. Small town, small school, rural location. How is that even possible? Well, it is. With the recent addition of Transnational Law to our first-year curriculum, students traveling to Cambodia, Liberia, Tanzania and Serbia for “on-the-ground” components of third-year practicum courses, not to mention the many elective offerings in legal topics ranging from human rights and international trade, to arbitration and cross-border acquisitions (just to name a few), W&L Law is increasingly a great place for students interested in international law.

This evening, Unity Dow, the first woman appointed as Justice in the High Court of Botswana, will deliver a public lecture entitled “No Person Shall Be Subjected to Torture or to Inhumane or Degrading Treatment – Period! Or?”. Justice Dow is also currently leading a seminar on gender and human rights in Africa, using fiction and other literature to introduce students to African legal systems. This lecture and class are further example of the many ways students interested in global legal issues can pursue this interest at W&L Law. In fact, the past few months have been a very busy (and productive time) for our faculty engaged in international legal study.

This past May saw the unveiling of the “Lexington Principles”, a set of 45 legal recommendations on the rights of each Guantanamo detainee. These principles were the result of nearly a year’s worth of work by a group of Washington and Lee alumni and professors (with assistance from current students). Their report seeks to reshape America’s policy towards detainee treatment in the hope of preventing torture and clarifying how America should gather information from prisoners.

Furthermore, in July, Washington and Lee law professor Mark Drumbl’s research on the Rwandan genocide trials influenced a United Kingdom High Court of Justice decision involving the extradition to Rwanda of four high-profile genocide suspects. In the case, Bajinya et al v. Government of Rwanda/UK Secretary of State, Government officials from the United Kingdom and Rwanda supported extradition so the suspects could stand trial in Rwanda.

The defendants appealed to the UK High Court after earlier proceedings ordered their extradition, and the High Court ultimately sided with the defendants. The High Court’s assessment of genocide trials in Rwanda led the Lord Justices to deny extradition owing to concerns over due process and fair trial. Both UK domestic legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights preclude extradition in the event a flagrant denial of justice might result. Professor Drumbl’s research was specifically excerpted in support of the conclusions that the Rwandan government is loathe to accept acquittals and that, despite improvements over time in the quality of justice in Rwanda, political pressures to convict persist with regard to high level suspects.

Law professor Russell Miller was named one of 1,100 U.S. faculty and professionals to receive a Fulbright Scholar senior research grant. Over the next year, Professor Miller will conduct research in Heidelberg, Germany at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and Public International Law. During his time abroad, Professor Miller will complete work on two books during his year-long stay in Heidelberg.  Miller also will research and author his contributions to a forthcoming law school casebook titled Global Legal Traditions: Comparative Law for the 21st Century.

Professor Miller was also profiled along with German Law Journal co-founder Peer Zumbansen in one of Germany’s leading newspapers concerning the Journal’s 10th anniversary celebration and its promotion of German law abroad. The German Law Journal is one of four journals in which W&L students can participate, and, through this journal, W&L students have the opportunity to write book reviews, case comments, short articles, and, following instructional learning, assist in discussing and assessing submissions for the Journal.

In addition, James Moliterno, one of the newest members of our permanent faculty, is one of the world’s foremost consultants in legal ethics and skills development, traveling the globe to help foreign legal systems develop ethics codes and training programs that guide lawyers, judges and law students through the conundrums they face in their professional careers. In the last few years, he has traveled to Kosovo, Thailand, former Soviet Georgia, Spain and most recently China in an effort to assist foreign legal professionals in this formulation. To read more about Professor Moliterno’s work, see our recent news item discussing his legal efforts abroad.

Lexington, Virginia may be an unlikely place to find so many compelling curricular and extracurricular international law offerings, but with an upcoming presentation by Lucy Reed, President of the American Society for International Lawyers (ASIL), sponsored by our Transnational Law Institute, not to mention a UN Symposium, it only promises to get better.

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