Jay Bischoff, Class of 2004
Photo by Marsha Miller
AUSTIN, Texas — In the summer of 2002, law student Jay Bischoff worked on the highest profile genocide prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania. He investigated claims against Hutu military leaders who led the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis during three months in 1994 - an experience that inspired him to pursue a career in international criminal law as a human rights advocate.
"It solidified my desire to work as a prosecutor of war criminals," said Bischoff, 27, a May graduate of the joint-degree program between Law and Latin American Studies. Bischoff spent two weeks in Rwanda visiting massacre sites permeated with blood stains and bones and interviewing witnesses and victims, many with machete scars on their faces and arms from being assaulted or suffering with the AIDS virus as a result of being raped. "The scars are still very visible in the infrastructure and in the people who had lived through it," he said.
Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, Bischoff has also interned on a judicial reform project in Guatemala and an anti-forced-labor initiative in the Amazon. He helped organize a war crimes conference at the law school last year and is co-authoring a book on its proceedings with UT Law professor Steven Ratner. Bischoff, who has also published notes on international and criminal law, credits Ratner for introducing the law student to public international law and encouraging him to participate in human rights activities abroad.
Recently, Bischoff received a Fulbright scholarship to attend Leiden University in the Netherlands, near The Hague, for a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in international criminal law. His goal is to combine his interest in Latin American issues with international criminal law and become a prosecutor of Latin American war criminals. Bischoff plans to leave for the Netherlands soon after he takes the bar in July.
"Over the past ten years, the world has witnessed remarkable growth in the body of law dealing with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, and in the willingness and enthusiasm of the international community to enforce that law," said Bischoff, who grew up on a family farm in Central Kentucky, distant physically and mentally from any foreign country but learning a work ethic from his father that became key to Bischoff's academic success and intellectual development.
"It's been exciting to be involved in a trail-blazing process of making law where none previously existed," Bischoff added. "Beyond wanting to make things better in the world, participating in this new process is very interesting from a legal perspective because you are involved in creating a whole new body of law that is rapidly expanding," he said.
Read about Bischoff and other selected UT graduates who will receive degrees May 22 in the University's On Campus publication at www.utexas.edu/opa/. Their stories can also be found as this week's feature, "A Radiant Beacon: Class of 2004 graduates overcome obstacles and challenge themselves to make the grade" on the University's home page at www.utexas.edu or at www.utexas.edu/features/.