Harris Institute Names Winners of Inaugural Benjamin B. Ferencz Essay Competition

The law school’s Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute is pleased to announce the results of the inaugural Benjamin B. Ferencz Essay Competition.

The competition honors former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin B. Frerencz. At the age of 27, Ferencz was chief prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen case. Ultimately in that case, 22 defendants were convicted of brutally murdering more than a million men, women, and children.

“The competition challenged participants to submit essays that address the relationship between crimes against humanity and the crimes of aggression,” says Leila Sadat, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute.

Specifically, contestants were asked to answer this question: “Under what conditions may acts that constitute illegal use of armed force and that result in the widespread or systematic attack upon a civilian population be prosecuted as crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, pursuant to the Rome Statute?”

Sadat reports that more than 400 people from around the world registered for the contest, resulting in nearly 40 qualifying papers. A panel of judges considered the papers in a blind review. The winners are:

  • 1st place: “The Fog of War: Prosecuting Illegal Uses of Force as Crimes Against Humanity,” by Manuel J. Ventura, former Trial Support Clerk in the Office of the Prosecutor, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and Matthew Gillett, Legal Officer in the Office of the Prosecutor, ICTY
  • 2nd place: “The Crime of Aggression: A Foundational Crime Against Humanity?” by Christopher James Beshara, BA, LLB, University of Sydney, Australia
  • 3rd place: “Punishing Aggression as a Crime Against Humanity: A Noble But Inadequate Measure to Safeguard International Peace and Security,” by Chet J. Tan, LLM, The George Washington University Law School, currently based in Makati City, Philippines

First-place winner Ventura is also an AVINA Scholar and an LLM candidate at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Co-winner Gillett currently works as a trial lawyer on the case of Prosecutor v. Hadžić, and he has previously worked as an appeals counsel on cases, including on Prosecutor v. Lukić and Lukić and Prosecutor v. Popović et al.

Ventura and Gillett will share the first-place award of $10,000. Second- and third-place awards were $2,500 each. Ventura and Gillett will also travel to St. Louis for an award ceremony during The International Court at 10 conference, commemorating the ICC’s first 10 years. The winning essay will appear in a symposium issue of the Washington University Global Studies Law Review that publishes all of the papers presented at The International Court at 10.

Nine finalists were also named in the contest. For more information and the list of finalists, visit the competition website.