Diane Marie Amann is the Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law. A dual Irish-US citizen, she has served since 2012 as International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict, and helped research and draft the ICC OTP Policy on Children. Having founded the IntLawGrrls blog in 2007, Amann served for the next five years as its Editor-in-Chief, and has contributed posts to many other US and international law blogs.
Her academic publications–in English, French, and Italian–examine issues related to transnational and international criminal justice, human and child rights, constitutional law, and collective/national/human security governance. Keenly interested in women as creators and shapers of international law, she is writing a book on the roles that a multinational cohort of women played–as lawyers and legal aides, journalists and artists, interpreters and translators–during the post-World War II trials at Nuremberg. To that end, in the first half of 2018 Amann was a Research Visitor/Visiting Fellow at Oxford University Faculty of Law’s Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at Mansfield College, at the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for International, European & Regulatory Procedural Law, and at the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research. Her professional affiliations include service as a Counsellor and past Vice President of the American Society of International Law, as well as membership in the European Society of International Law.
Follow her @DianeMarieAmann.
What drew you to working in international law? And what were your first steps?
Two things have always been true about me. First, I am fierce when confronted with what appear to be abuses of power. This extends well beyond my sympathy with victims (with whom I do sympathize, of course), and encompasses a broader core motivation, which is triggered by and focuses on structures of power that work to marginalize and mistreat specific individuals and communities. (This, in large part, was why I was a criminal defence attorney early in my career.) The question I asked myself was, “If I want to work to combat injustice, what profession would best allow me to do so?” My first choice was in journalism. I was a newspaper reporter, covering people engaged in civil rights work and environmental rights advocacy. I liked the work but felt like too much of a bystander. When I thought about shifting my career, I realised that the people whom I found most interesting all had law degrees. Law, I felt, would put me on the frontlines of fighting injustice. I would have a different and potentially stronger set of tools at my disposal. It was that realisation that propelled me into law school.
Second, I like solving problems. If there’s something I don’t know or something that confuses or intrigues me, I like to follow the rabbit down the hole and see where it takes me. I didn’t study international law in law school. There was only one course and I considered taking it. I already had some German and French by that point, and had studied abroad in Austria, so I was drawn towards the international sphere. However my course advisor scoffed that international law wasn’t ‘real’ law, and I wouldn’t use it in practice. He seemed very authoritative. So I accepted his advice and didn’t take the course. But he was incredibly wrong, because I found myself needing to know international law immediately after law school. I clerked for three years, two years at the US District Court and one at the US Supreme Court. Some of our cases challenged the juvenile death penalty, as well as use of the death penalty on developmentally challenged defendants. The briefs cited international law, including treaties to which the United States was a party. I had to learn very quickly, and largely autonomously. Early on, therefore, I saw the utility of international law as a tool to confront abuses of power.
I became an assistant federal public defender in San Francisco, a US border city. Between 30% and 40% of my cases had a transnational element: my client was not from the United States, or the conduct alleged involved crossing of borders, or the federal government was investigating part of case overseas or producing evidence that it had gathered abroad. To litigate those cases properly, I had to increase my understanding of international law on the fly.
When I made the pivot from practice to academia, it was transnational questions–for example, “Does the US Constitution’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure follow a defendant when the search is done outside the US?”–that most interested me. I started teaching in the same year as the first decision in ICTY’s Tadić came down. Soon after that, Pinochet came to the fore. Those two cases became a springboard for my thinking, for my teaching and scholarship. It seemed to me that international law was developing, finding its way in a new era–and in so doing, providing grist for academic thought and writing.
What have been the high points of your career thus far?
If there’s such a thing as a continuing high point: I love teaching. It is my longest career, after having been a journalist, political campaign worker, and practising lawyer. Initially, I was surprised by how much joy and purpose I get out of working with people at the beginning of their careers, helping them realize their potential and aspirations. The US law school system is a great incubator, as it’s a three-year curriculum, with a relatively small group of students entering each year. I meet people as they begin their time at law school, often with only a vague notion of what they might want to do and what it means to be a lawyer. I watch them leave three years later, having witnessed this incredible learning curve, and proud to have contributed to it.Continue reading