Preventing and Responding to Atrocities: The Responsibility to Protect, International Law, and the Case of the Central African Republic

There is no charge for this program; please RSVP at

As the world prepared to usher in a new century, then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan posed a question to the General Assembly that would have profound impact: how do we reconcile the principle of non-intervention in state sovereignty with the need to protect populations from the most horrific crimes known to humankind? During the World Summit in 2005, all heads of state and governments took action to address that question and unanimously endorsed a Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Ten years have passed since that historic commitment. We have achieved many positive developments in promoting this emerging norm. However, challenges remain for the effective implementation of the Responsibility to Protect as a tool for the prevention of and response to atrocities.

On September 10th, 2014, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice and the Council on International Affairs of the New York City Bar Association will hold an event at the New York City Bar Association on the Responsibility to Protect. Featuring experts from civil society and the United Nations, the event will examine the relationship between the Responsibility to Protect and existing international legal doctrine, as well as the practical application of R2P in conflict situations, such as the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic.

Welcoming Remarks: Alexander Papachristou, Vance Center Executive Director

Moderator: Elizabeth DeFeis, Member, New York City Bar Association Council on International Affairs and Professor of Law, Seton Hall University

Keynote Speaker: Adama Dieng, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

Speakers: Megan Schmidt, Senior Program Officer, International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect; Donald Deya, CEO of Pan-African Lawyers Union and Chair of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect; Florent Geel, Director of Africa Bureau, International Federation for Human Rights; Philippe Bolopion, United Nations Director, Human Rights Watch

Seminar – The International Court of Justice: Process, Protagonists and Potential

The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Based in The Hague, it has jurisdiction to hear contentious cases between States, and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by United Nations organs and specialised agencies. The Court’s docket has dramatically increased in the last decade. Cases recently brought before it have included issues of sovereign immunities, racial discrimination, the use of force, genocide, treaty interpretation, maritime delimitation, boundary disputes, and whaling.

This seminar will provide an in-depth view of the internal processes and practices at the Court. It will address the Court’s mechanisms that take a case from submission to judgment. It will discuss the procedures in each stage of contentious cases, from incidental proceedings (preliminary objections and requests for the indication of provisional measures), through the written and oral proceedings, to the deliberations and drafting that lead to judgments on the merits. It will also touch upon the processes that lead to an advisory opinion.

An intimate portrait of its architecture will give seminar participants a flavour of the Court’s inner workings and character, with a focus on the composition of the bench, the role of the registry, and the configuration of each judge’s office. The seminar will then consider current challenges faced by the Court, as well as the Court’s further potential in fulfilling its mandate to settle international disputes in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

Place: Seminar Room 3, Level 3, Block B, NUS Bukit Timah Campus


The UN and the ICC: International Criminal Law after the Closure of the Ad Hoc Tribunals

Brown Bag Lunch Series

Speaker: Tamara Cummings-John, Legal Officer in the Office of Legal Counsel, Office of Legal Affairs at the United Tamara Cummings-John Legal OfficerNations

With many of the ad hoc tribunals set to finish their work in the near future, the landscape of international criminal law is set for dramatic change. Tamara Cummings-John, Legal Officer in the Office of Legal Counsel, Office of Legal Affairs at the UN, will discuss how the UN, following the closure of the ad hoc tribunals, can support the International Criminal Court in ensuring accountability for victims of serious crimes. She will also discuss her experiences working for the Special Court of Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, with a particular focus on the prosecution of crimes of sexual violence.

Kosher pizza will be served.