Harris Institute Celebrates 15 Years of Making a Global Impact

Ribbon Cutting in 2000
Ribbon cutting ceremony as the Institute officially opened its doors in November 2000.

"Human rights law raises fundamental questions about the respective roles of the individual, the state, and the international community in shaping a rule-ordered world that protects and advances the dignity of the human spirit,"
 – Founding Director, Professor Stephen Legomsky

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute, which opened its doors with an Inaugural Colloquium on The United Nations and the Protection of Human Rights on November 17-18, 2000.  The Colloquium set the stage for the decades of important work the Institute would contribute to advance justice and promote the rule of law.  World renowned scholars and practitioners—many of whom continue to influence the field of international and comparative law, and the work of the Institute—gathered in St. Louis to discuss fundamental international law issues that are still relevant today.   The papers were subsequently published in the Washington University Journal of Law & Policy.  

“We are proud of the work and the global impact the Harris Institute has made over the last 15 years,” says Professor Leila Nadya Sadat, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and current Institute Director. Professor Sadat was appointed Director of the Institute in 2007 and, among other programs, launched the Institute’s auspicious Crimes Against Humanity Initiative in 2008. The Initiative analyzed the need for a comprehensive convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity and drafted a proposed treaty that has been translated in multiple languages.  The project is currently in its final phase of promoting the adoption of a global treaty.

"The Harris Institute continues to serve as an invaluable resource and platform for faculty scholarship and cutting-edge research. It is also an essential focal point for international-related student activities, externships, and academic programs that enhance the intellectual life of the law school, Washington University, and the larger St. Louis community," notes Professor Sadat.  

Ribbon Cutting in 2000 
The rededication of the Institute in 2008 with Anna and Whitney
Harris, former Executive Director Michael Peil, and Harris Institute
Directors Leila Sadat, Stephen Legomsky (ex-officio), and
John Haley (ex-officio).

The Institute is now named after former Nuremberg Prosecutor Whitney R. Harris who kept the Nuremberg Principles alive through his writings, advocacy, and philanthropic generosity. His legacy and commitment to the advancement of rule of law continues today through the work of the Institute.  Appropriately, Professor Sadat is currently traveling to Nuremberg, Germany to deliver a keynote address on the importance of the Nuremberg Trials 70 Years Later at the Nuremberg Principles Academy.   

Indeed, true to its mission of fostering collaboration, continuous dialogue and exchange among scholars and practitioners engaged in international or comparative law work, the Institute has hosted and co-sponsored more than 100 speakers and 30 major international conferences since it opened.  Conferences on important global issues have included the Illegal Use of Force: Reconceptualizing the Laws of War; Global Perspectives on Colorism; conferences in St. Louis, The Hague, Washington D.C., and Geneva on Forging a Convention on Crimes Against Humanity; The International Criminal Court at Ten; ILW-Midwest on The Legal Challenges of Globalization: A View from the Heartland; International Climate Change: Post-Kyoto Challenges and Rethinking the Kyoto Protocol; Paradigms of International Justice; Constitutional Courts; Imperialism, Art & Restitution; faculty colloquiums on International Law and Theory and many more. The Institute has been a proud co-sponsor of the annual International Humanitarian Law Dialogs which bring together academics, human rights activists, and international law practitioners to discuss key issues in the field of international humanitarian law. 

The Institute and the law school community as a whole are grateful to founding director Professor Stephen Legomsky, the John S. Lehmann University Professor and former Chief Counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who brought together the world’s most distinguished minds to launch the Institute, including Judge Patricia Wald, Justice Richard Goldstone, Dr. Francis Deng, Professors M. Cherif Bassiouni, Ruth Wedgwood, and Thomas Franck, and many more.

The Institute’s important work would also not be possible without the generous support of our financial and strategic partners; especially, alumnus Steven Cash Nickerson who has supported the Institute since its inception at the Inaugural Colloquium and generously funded the multi-year Crimes Against Humanity Initiative; Whitney and Anna Harris who endowed the Institute and its World Peace Through Law Award; and the late Margaret W. Dagen who endowed the Dagen-Legomsky Fellowship Program, which supports students working in international or comparative law.  

Our utmost gratitude also goes out to the Harris Institute Faculty Advisory Board and the International Council comprised of respected statesmen, diplomats, international judges, distinguished international law scholars, international industrialists, and others who continue to council the Director and influence the on-going work of the Institute.

By Bethel M. Mandefro, November 17, 2015