The Honorable Shireen Avis Fisher ’70, William Smith College alumna and Justice of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, will be the first speaker of the 2015-2016 President’s Forum Series on Monday, Sept. 21. As Justice of the Residual Special Court, Fisher 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 affirmed his conviction for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity committed by rebels during Sierra Leone’s civil war.
Fisher will lead the President’s Forum discussion titled “International Criminal Courts and the Battle Against Impunity: Are We Fighting a Losing War” at 4:30 p.m. in the Geneva Room.
Appointed by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Fisher has served as a Justice of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone since October 2013. She served as an Appeals Judge at the Special Court for Sierra Leone from 2009 through 2013, and was its president in 2012 and 2013. While President, she presided over the Appeal of President Taylor, who was found guilty of aiding “some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.” Fisher affirmed Taylor’s conviction and 50-year sentence, and wrote a concurring opinion that has been credited with clarifying the essential elements of aiding and abetting liability in international criminal law.
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.
In 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, 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.
Fisher received her B.A. from HWS, her J.D. from the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America, and her LL.M. in International Human Rights Law from University College London. In 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. During HWS Reunion 2015, Fisher was awarded the Alumna Achievement Award, the highest and most prestigious honor bestowed by the William Smith Alumnae Association.
The President’s Forum talk is free and open to the public. The President’s Forum Series, established in the winter of 2000 by President Mark D. Gearan, is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty, and staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members. The important politicians, intellectuals, and social activists who visit campus as PFS guest speakers expose the Colleges and the local community to a continual flow and exchange of challenging topical issues. Recent guests include Susan Brison, Mary Matalin and James Carville, Victoria Reggie Kennedy and Michael Kimmel.
The photo above was taken during HWS Reunion 2015 when the Hon. Shireen Fisher was awarded the Alumna Achievement Award. Pictured with her is President of the William Smith Alumnae Association Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk ’98.