February 5, 2021


From January 4-22, 2020, Professor Trahan taught a course entitled Case Studies in Justice & Transitional Justice: Bosnia, Rwanda, and the International Criminal Court that incorporated elements of her Global Field Intensives (GFIs) to The Hague, Bosnia, and Serbia (co-led with Professor Belinda Cooper), and one to Rwanda.  While certain class days were traditionally taught, each week also incorporated six “field” interviews with persons from the countries or courts involved, for a total of 18 “field interviews.”  Students served as “discussants” for each of the “field interviews.”


Former Yugoslavia

The first week focused on justice for the crimes committed during the wars of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia.  It featured “field interviews” with several former officials of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), most joining from The Hague, Netherlands:

  • Lada Soljan, formerly Legal Officer, Office of the Prosecutor of the ICTY (SGBV unit)

  • Matthew Gillett, formerly Legal Officer, Office of the Prosecutor of the ICTY/IRMCT

  • Gregory Townsend, formerly Chief of the Registry’s Court Services Section at ICTY/IRMCT, overseeing witness protection 

Gregory Townsend memorably discussed working with protected witnesses and the traumatic choices faced by victims, particularly rape victims, in coming to The Hague to testify.

That week ended by focusing on accountability in Bosnia and Serbia, including frank discussions of the disappointingly nationalistic views still predominantly held by many and the difficulties of working on “reconciliation.”  Speakers included Velma Saric, Founder & President, Post Conflict Research Center, Sarajevo, Bosnia; Marijana Toma, formerly Deputy Director of the Humanitarian Law Center, Belgrade, Serbia; and Professor Iva Vukusic from the University of Utrecht.



The second week focused on Rwanda and justice for the 1994 genocide.  It featured “field interviews” with NGOs working in Rwanda, government officials, as well as a defense attorney, Gacaca scholar, and survivor.  Speakers included: Jean Paul Ntwali from Prison Fellowship Rwanda (working to reintegrate genocide perpetrators back into their communities), Marc Gwamaka and Bonheur Pacifique from the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Dr. Diogene Bideri from the Commission for the Fights Against Genocide, Professor Alphonse Muleefu from the University of Rwanda, and Francoise Uzamukunda from Global Engagement—all joining remotely from Rwanda.  Beth Lyons, formerly Defense Council at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, also joined.


International Criminal Court

The final week focused on the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC).  It primarily featured “field interviews” with court officials from The Hague, Netherlands:

  • Mathias Hellman, External Relations Advisor, Presidency, ICC

  • Philipp Ambach, Chief, Victims Participation and Reparations Section, ICC

  • Matthew Cross, Appeals Division OTP, ICC 

  • Marie O’Leary, Counsel, Office of Public Counsel for the Defence

Particularly memorable was Philipp Ambach’s discussion of working with victims in locations such as eastern DRC.  The week was rounded out by a discussion of US/ICC relations by Ambassador Clint Williamson, formerly US War Crimes Ambassador, and a discussion of the role of civil society vis-à-vis the ICC, by Liz Evenson, Associate Director, International Justice Program, Human Rights Watch.  


Rave student reviews

CGA students Jennifer Rauch, in the Global Gender Studies Concentration, shared why she found two interviews particularly moving:

One speaker from Rwanda- Francoise Uzamukunda- shared her personal experience as a survivor of the genocide. That was a particularly moving session, that really opened our eyes to the personal traumas that Rwandan people faced. It's one thing to read about the atrocities- it's another to speak to someone who personally lived through it.  

Another speaker from the ICC week - Philipp Ambach- was an incredibly engaging and frank speaker. He did not sugarcoat his opinions or his challenges working with victims. His candor was incredibly appreciated, as it illuminated some of the most important challenges that the ICC face when impacting the lives of those affected. 

CGA student Merlyn Recinos, in the International Law & Human Rights Concentration, shared her glowing assessment of the course:

I really enjoyed the virtual GFI course held by Professor Trahan. . . . 

The format of this course is a great alternative for GFIs during COVID-19. I really gained insight from the field interviews we had in class. The interviews brought a richness to the course that I previously did not have during my regular fall classes.

The guest speakers truly added so much insight to the material that we learned - it was a very intriguing course overall!

While a remote class cannot simulate traveling to The Hague, Bosnia, Serbia, or Rwanda, the course did provide a taste of what both GFIs offer and connected students to those directly working on prosecutions and with victims.  CGA hopes to run at least one of the GFIs in person next year, and this course provided excellent background for students who might want to join.  It also represented an innovative approach to adapting some of the features of a GFI to remote teaching.


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