This fall, Associate Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter ’86, P’15 and four student leaders of the HWS Human Rights and Genocide Symposium attended the 10th International Humanitarian Law Dialogs in Nuremberg, Germany, joining international criminal prosecutors, judges, diplomats and scholars in a series of panels and dialogues.
Thanks to the support of Dr. Edward P. Franks ’72, whose generosity created and makes possible the Human Rights and Genocide Symposium, Soren Anders-Macleod ’18, Ryan Montbleau ’19, Elleanor Smith ’18 and Sarah Walters ’19 traveled with Salter to the German city, where they met experts like Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou B. Bensouda and David Crane, professor of practice at Syracuse University School of Law, who spoke at HWS in 2015.
Organized by the Robert H. Jackson Center, the dialogs commemorated the 70th anniversary of the conclusion of the Nuremberg war crimes trials and explored the contemporary ramifications on international law through the theme “A Lasting Legacy for the Future.”
During the panel discussions, keynotes and question-and-answer sessions, the HWS students — the only undergraduates in attendance — confronted “the difficulties and contradictions of international law,” says Salter. “If Nuremberg marks the start, we’re only 70 years in and it’s a slow process. But it’s clear that the prosecutors and others involved have a stake in the idea that in the long run, we’ll be better to have a system of international criminal justice, that someday all nations and individuals who lead nations will be held accountable.”
For Walters, what stood out most “was the passion that these speakers had for their work and the issues tackled by that work. As interested and passionate about human rights and peace action as I am, I was so blown away by the impact that prosecutors like David Crane and Fatou Bensouda (who I was able to talk with in depth over the course of the dialogues) have not only had in special courts and cases for genocides like Rwanda and Sierra Leone, but also in the field of genocide prevention and peace activism itself.”
In November, Anders-Macleod, Montbleau, Smith and Walters will participate in a panel discussion on campus to share their experiences in Nuremberg.
“We are excited to talk about our experience, share our pictures, and discuss the topics we learned about during the Dialogues, as well as the work we plan to do with that knowledge back on campus and in the community,” says Walters. “We also hope that this event will allow for our peers, professors, and community members to engage in that discussion and get involved with the work that the Symposium does.”
Initiated and sustained by generous grants from Franks, the Human Rights and Genocide Symposium seeks to improve understanding of all life-annihilation processes present in our world and to help participants learn more about the circumstances in which genocide is perpetrated. After returning to campus, the group also gathered for dinner at the President’s House to reflect on the experience.
The exploration of the Symposium’s theme this semester, “The Aftermath of Genocide: How we Discover, Prevent, and Heal from Human Tragedy,” continued. On Nov. 1. Verdiane Nyiramana, executive director of the Benimpuhwe Organization in Rwanda, discussed the work her organization does to mend the nation and empower women, children and orphans in the wake of the Rwandan genocide.