Prof. Sadat Appointed ICC Special Adviser on Crimes Against Humanity

Professor Leila Nadya Sadat added another international honor to her résumé recently when she was appointed Special Adviser on Crimes Against Humanity by Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC).         

Sadat, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute, is an internationally recognized expert in international criminal law, human rights, and public international law.

“I have been doing pro bono work for the ad hoc international criminal tribunals and the ICC for years, but to have the ICC prosecutor publicly acknowledge me as an expert on crimes against humanity is thrilling,” Sadat says. “This honor is not only a tribute to my work, but also to the important work the law school and Washington University have accomplished over the past decade.”

As a special adviser, Sadat will be asked to help formulate strategic policies and advise on questions about the scope of crimes against humanity. This is a new advisory position with a one-year term, renewable annually.

Sadat began writing about crimes against humanity with the publication of her first article in 1994 on the trial of Vichy collaborator Paul Touvier in France. She has been involved in researching and writing about these crimes ever since. As director of the Crimes Against Humanity (CAH) Initiative, Sadat has been the key mover of the multiyear project to study the problem of crimes against humanity and draft a comprehensive convention addressing their punishment and prevention. The proposed CAH Convention builds on the legacy of Nuremberg.

Following the 1945 Nuremberg trials, the Genocide Convention was adopted in 1948. The next year, the Geneva Conventions were codified to address war crimes. However, a similar convention was not adopted for crimes against humanity—a category that includes murder, extermination, rape, and torture. In the decades that followed Nuremberg, the world community continued to see horrific acts perpetrated against citizens of the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and other countries around the world. The proposed convention, which was prepared under the leadership of Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University College of Law, will fill a critical gap in international law. Bassiouni previously chaired the drafting committee at the Diplomatic Conference that resulted in the adoption of the International Criminal Court Statute.

Sadat says the proposed CAH Convention is currently in a promotional and educational phase as it is circulated to governments, United Nations decision-makers, academics, and nongovernmental organizations. As part of this effort, Sadat, along with Steering Committee members Ambassador Hans Corell, former U.N. Undersecretary General for Legal Affairs, and ICC Judge Christine van den Wyngaert, held an informational side session at the 11th session of ICC Assembly of States Parties at The Hague in November.  In addition, the International Law Commission will be discussing the possibility of elaborating a crimes against humanity convention this spring.

The estimated timeframe for the elaboration of an international convention is six to eight years, and “that is very optimistic,” Sadat said.

Sadat is the director and co-founder of the Summer Institute for International Law & Policy at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. Her award-winning publications include, among others, Outstanding Books of the Year Awards for Forging a Convention for Crimes Against Humanity (2011) and The International Criminal Court and the Transformation of International Law (2002). She is a vice president of the International Law Association, American Branch, and created and chaired its International Criminal Court Committee for many years. She recently held the distinguished Alexis de Tocqueville Fulbright Chair at the Université of Cergy Pontoise, and has been a visiting professor at the Université de Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne) and Université de Paris II (Assas). 

Also named ICC special advisers were Professor Patricia Viseur Sellers, Oxford University, who will serve as Special Adviser on International Criminal Law Prosecution Strategies, and Professor Diane Marie Amann, University of Georgia, who will be the Special Adviser on Children in and Affected by Armed Conflict.