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October 23, 2003

Press Contact: Kirston Fortune, UT Law Communications, (512) 471.7330
Event Contact: Suzanne Hassler, UT Law, 512-232-1100

Former War Crimes Court President To Open Conference on International Tribunals, Nov. 6-7

Panelists will explore how global war crimes trials impact the affected societies

Watch the Videos
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Keynote Address: Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald

Panel 1: International tribunals and their impact on victims

Panel 2: International tribunals and their impact on national reconciliation

Lecture: Post-Holocaust Trials and the Lessons for the Future

Panel 3: Looking Forward: Prospects for Future International Criminal Courts

WHAT: Major conference on the impact of international war crimes tribunals
WHEN: Nov. 6-7, 2003; Nov. 6, Reception at 3 p.m. and Keynote Address at 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: The University of Texas School of Law, Eidman Courtroom
WHO: The conference is free and open to the public.

AUSTIN, Texas—A major conference will be held at The University of Texas School of Law on Nov. 6-7 to discuss the impact of international war crimes tribunals and how to make them more effective. The conference—“International War Crimes Trials: Making a Difference?”—will feature numerous participants in the international criminal justice process and is free and open to the public.

Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, former president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, will kick off the conference with a keynote address at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6, in the Eidman Courtroom of the Law School. A reception will precede her talk. McDonald currently serves as a judge with the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Her legal career also includes service as a federal district judge in Houston, a civil rights attorney in Texas, and a staff attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York City. She has also taught at law schools across the country and written many articles and edited a book on international criminal law.

“This is the first major conference to deal with the impact of these war crimes trials on real people,” said Steven Ratner, organizer of the conference and professor of international law at UT Law. “How do we bring war criminals like Saddam Hussein to justice and do international trials actually make a difference to the victims, the bystanders and the societies? This is one of the great moral issues of our time,” said Ratner, whose research focuses on new challenges facing emerging democracies, including ethnic conflict, borders, accountability for past human rights violations, and the role of international institutions in these issues. His work for the UN Secretary-General investigating atrocities of the Khmer Rouge has attracted international attention. Other conferences on international justice have focused on the narrow issues of the case law of the United Nations tribunals, the rules of procedure of the courts and the role of the United States, Ratner added.

The principal focus will be the UN's criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, with attention to the implications for the International Criminal Court as well as mixed national-international courts. Panelists include former officials of UN tribunals, individuals directly affected by atrocities, political scientists, a psychologist working with sexual violence victims, and historian of such trials. Along with Ratner, UT Law professors Sarah Cleveland, Karen Engle, and William Forbath will participate on the panels. The conference will bring together scholars and practitioners who would not normally talk to each other even though they work on the same issue for frank, serious, and stimulating dialogue, Ratner noted.

The conference is sponsored by UT Law with a grant from the Jeht Foundation ( and support from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.