Intlawgrrls 10th Birthday Conference: A Transformative Experience

Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in the 10th Birthday Conference of Intlawgrrls (our direct predecessor) at the University of Georgia.   The conference was organized by Intlawgrrls founder, Professor Diane Marie Amann, without whom this blog (www.ilg2.org) would not be in existence today.  Today is March 8th, International Women’s Day, and in honor of this international holiday, Professor Amann, Intlawgrrls, and all of my female colleagues I wanted to share the following thoughts regarding my experience at the conference. 

 First, the conference was academic in nature.  Although it was a celebration of the blog, its mission and its legacy, every participant was an academic or an aspiring academic, and all presentations focused on scholarship in the field of international law.  I presented a paper on the Karadzic conviction entitled “The Karadzic Genocide Conviction: Inferences, Knowledge and Intent.”  I had previously written about this paper, which will be published in the Emory International Law Review, but in a nutshell, this paper focuses on the judicial reasoning behind the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) Trial Chamber’s decision to convict Karadzic of genocide.  Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader during the 1990s civil war, was accused, under a joint criminal enterprise theory of liability, of having participated in a plan to murder thousands of Bosnian Muslim males at Srebrenica in July 1995.  Karadzic had also been accused of and convicted of other crimes but my article focuses solely on the genocide conviction.  In order to achieve a conviction on the genocide count, prosecutors needed to establish that Karadzic not only participated, through a JCE, in the common plan to kill Bosnian Muslims, but that he also possessed the special intent or mens rea to do so.  The Trial Chamber concluded that Karadzic had the special intent to commit genocide at Srebrenica by first inferring that Karadzic must have known about what had been going on at Srebrenica, based on a conversation that Karadzic had with another civilian administrator of the region of which there is no direct evidence or testimony, and by then inferring intent from the inference of knowledge.  According the ICTY Trial Chamber, Karadzic must have known that Bosnian Males were about to be killed and he must have intended for this to happen because this was the “only reasonable inference” based on all the evidence.  My article argues that the Trial Chamber performed judicial gymnastics in order to arrive at this conclusion, because other inferences were clearly available based on the evidence on record, such as that Karadzic could have known and agreed to forcibly transfer Bosnian Muslims out of the Srebrenica area (this would amount to ethnic cleansing), but not to actually kill.  My article then argues that the current definition of genocide under the Genocide Convention, and the statutes of the ad hoc tribunals some of which have adopted this definition verbatim, is too narrow, and that, in order to meaningfully use genocide as a crime of international criminal law, we should think about closing the gap between the intent requirements behind ethnic cleansing and genocide.  The intent to ethnically cleanse an area, by forcibly removing a protected group, is in some instances synonymous with the intent to destroy a protected group.  Reconceptualizing genocide would allow tribunals to more easily convict of genocide – in a world where attaching the genocide label to a specific defendant, crime or region has deeper political and historical meaning.

In addition to presenting my paper, I also had the pleasure of moderating another panel, which focused on the Laws of War and included the following excellent panelists: Cymie Payne, on the topic of  War, Peace, the Environment and International Law; Leah Carmichael, on the topic of The Bombing of Bakeries: The Role of Intentional Starvation in Armed Conflict and the Lack of Accountability under International Law; Ashika Singh, on the topic of Identifying and Evolving Genuine Conflicts of International Law: A Case Study on Human Rights in Armed Conflict, and Chanel Chauvet, a J.D. Candidate at the University of Georgia School of Law, on the topic of Syria’s Responsibility under International Law to Protect Children from Warfare Attacks on Hospitals and Healthcare. 

In addition, many excellent panels featuring exceptional speakers took place, including a Plenary Panel on Strategies to Promote Women’s Participation in Shaping International Law and Policy amid the Global Emergence of Antiglobalism, which featured Professor Beth Van Schaack as moderator and Professors Mary Dudziak, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, and Catherine Powell, Lucinda Low (President of the American Society of International Law), and Patricia Wald, former Judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Judge Wald was the first ever female judge on the D.C. Circuit Court). 

 Second, and more importantly for the purposes of this post, participating in this conference was truly transformative (at the risk of sounding cliche). During the plenary panel, Professor Mary Dudziak differentiated Intlawgrrls from other blogs by describing the latter as “just blogs.”  Intlawgrrls is first and foremost a blog but it has become much more than that.  It has provided a forum for female academics and aspiring academics who are often under-represented at other blogs and academic venues.  It has created both horizontal and vertical relationships among equally situated academics and between academics and students/other aspiring academics.  It has sent a message that female voices should be equally important in academic debates about international law and policy and that “pink” is a strength, not an impediment.  Intlawgrrls has been an influential academic blog but it has also been an active participant in other international law organizations, by sponsoring panels and events and by thereby disseminating our voices.  While I, as an active contributor to the blog and as one of current ilg2.org editors, understood the blog’s mission and purpose, its importance did not become clear to me until this conference.  Sitting in a board room full of women – a space where traditionally male voices dominate the discussion and where until a few decades ago women did not have meaningful access – was transformative on a personal level.  Men are for the most part used to participating in important events which may be all-male or where they are in the clear majority.  For women, this is not the case and for most of us, last time that we were surrounded by so many women was at a Girl Scout outing or a PTO meeting. Looking around the room, I was amazed by the presence of so many talented and accomplished women but also saddened to realize that in the near future, it is unlikely that I will be in a similar situation – at a prominent professional event surrounded by mostly women.  I understood that we have a long way to go and that women, while equally intelligent and competent, continue to be under-represented in management and leadership positions everywhere, including in international law.  World leaders conducting foreign affairs, United Nations officials, our own government leaders, presidents of other international organizations, judges of international tribunals, etc. are predominantly male, despite the fact that entering law school students tend to be close to fifty per cent female.  Our voices can be loudly heard only if we are able to create our space within those leadership positions, and Inlawgrrls has been an important facilitator in this process, by creating opportunities for female scholars to expose their work and push their way forward toward such leadership positions. 

I would like to thank Professor Diane Marie Amann for this and to encourage all of us to think about how we can continue her work and enhance the mission of Intlawgrrls in the near future.  Happy International Women’s Day. 

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One thought on “Intlawgrrls 10th Birthday Conference: A Transformative Experience

  1. Pingback: Intlawgrrls 10th Birthday Conference: A Transformative Experience – Chanel Chauvet

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