During Reunion 2015, the William Smith College Alumnae Association will grant the Alumna Achievement Award to the Honorable Shireen Avis Fisher ’70, currently a Justice of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone to which she was appointed by U.N. Secretary General Ban Kimoon in October 2013. The Award is the Alumnae Association’s highest honor.
“The Alumna Achievement Award recognizes alumnae who have achieved distinction and excellence in their fields of endeavor, have encouraged other women to achieve to their highest potential and demonstrated that they have woven into the fabric of their lives the values and mission of William Smith College and its Alumnae Association,” says Assistant Vice President for Advancement, Alumnae Relations and National Regional Network Kathy Regan ’82, P’13. “Justice Fisher fits the description of this award in every respect with her long and distinguished career in international law.”
Justice Fisher served as an Appeals Judge at the Special Court for Sierra Leone from 2009 through 2013, and as its president in 2012 and 2013. While President, she presided over the Appeal of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, the first sitting Head of State to be charged in an International Court with violation of international criminal law. She oversaw the judgment affirming his conviction and 50 year sentence for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity committed by rebels during Sierra Leone’s civil war, and wrote a concurring opinion which has been credited with clarifying the essential elements of aiding and abetting liability in international criminal law.
Justice Fisher served previously as an International Judge of the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where from 2005 through 2008 she adjudicated cases involving allegations of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide arising out of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
Between 2008 and 2009 she served as a Commissioner on the Kosovo Independent Judicial and Prosecutorial Commission. Called to the State and Federal Bar in 1976, Justice Fisher was appointed to the Bench of the U.S. State of Vermont in 1986. She represented the International Association of Women Judges from 2002 through 2012 as an independent expert to the Hague Conference on Private International Law, participating in Special Sessions for the drafting and review of Hague Treaties on international family law.
Justice Fisher received her B.A. from HWS, her J.D. from the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America, and her LLM in International Human Rights Law from University College London. In December 2014 she was awarded a Ph.D. in International Law from University College London. She has lectured on international law, and has been involved in international judicial education and judicial institution building since 1993. She was one of eight experts who prepared and presented the Expert Initiative on Promoting Effectiveness at the International Criminal Court, the Report from which was publically released in December 2014. She is the 2014 recipient of the Global Justice of the Year Award, presented by Northwestern University School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights.
Justice Fisher’s husband, Gregg ’70, is head of the sound design department and Senior Lecturer in sound design at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (part of the University of London), and has recently finished scoring and designing sound for a production of “Angels in America” performed in London. Currently, he is writing and composing a new musical, with the working title “Stop It.”