Conference to Mark the 70th Anniversary of the Creation of the United Nations War Crimes Commission in 1943

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Date(s) - 10/09/2013 - 11/09/2013
All Day


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Reinforcing International Human Rights Standards:

Lessons from the United Nations War Crimes Commission

On its 70th Anniversary

This two day conference, chaired by Justice Richard Goldstone, will mark the 70th anniversary of a forgotten initiative in operation from 1943 to 1948 and evaluate the potential contribution of the Commission’s work to contemporary efforts for international criminal justice and human rights advocacy.

With a focus on the key issues discussed by the Commission and addressed by member nations through their national trials, the conference will examine themes including the prosecution of sexual violence, torture, crimes against humanity and collective responsibility. Justice Richard Goldstone will open the conference with a keynote address and confirmed speakers include internationally-respected human rights law expert William Schabas, and Mark Ellis, Director of the International Bar Association.

The conference is hosted by CISD and the International Bar Association, with the generous support of the Oak Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and in cooperation with the Wiener Library, American University War Crimes Research Office, and the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights.


Please Click Here to Register for the Conference.

Note: CISD students do not need to register or pay the registration fee.

Conference fee:

Students – £10

Academics/NGOs – £40

All others – £60

Draft Conference Programme

Day One: Tuesday, September 10

8:30 – 9:30 Registration

9:30 – 10:00 Welcome from SOAS: Richard Black, Pro-Director (Research and Enterprise)
Opening Keynote Address from the Conference Chair:
Justice Richard Goldstone
10:00 – 10:30 Overview of the UNWCC: Dan Plesch, CISD, SOAS

10:30 – 11:00 Break
11:00 – 13:00 Plenary 1: Historical Perspective – Focus on select UNWCC Member States and their Representatives

  • Kerstin von Lingen, Heidelberg: The Representation of the Exile Governments on the UNWCC
  • Wen-Wei Lai, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP: China’s role in the UNWCC
  • Graham Cox, University of North Texas: Herbert Pell and the UNWCC
  • Chris Simpson, American University: The United States and the UNWCC
  • Dan Plesch, SOAS: British involvement with the UNWCC

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch
14:30 – 16:30 Plenary 2: Comparing specific areas of practice in international criminal law then and now I

  • Philip Spencer, Helen Bamber Centre, Kingston University: Reconsidering United Nations responses to the extermination of the Jews
  • William Schabas, Middlesex University: Legal contrast between the discussions on the development of an international criminal court by the UNWCC and the International Criminal Court
  • Wolfgang Form, University of Marburg: Policy on the prosecution of torture 1940s – 2000s

17:00 –19:00 Reception

Day Two: Wednesday, September 11

9:30 – 12:30 Plenary 3: Comparing specific areas of practice in international criminal law then and now II –
Continued discussing on contemporary relevance of the application of legal and political best practice from the UNWCC and associated tribunals.

  • Chante Lasco, American University: The Prosecution of Sexual Violence
  • Kip Hale, American Bar Association: Collective Responsibility
  • Carsten Stahn, Leiden University: Fact Finding
  • Mark Ellis, International Bar Association: The Principle of Complementarity – Past and Present

12:30 – 13:45 Lunch
13:45 – 15:45 Workshops

  • Sexual Violence: Louise Arimatus, Chatham House and Chante Lasco, AU
  • Collective Responsibility: Phil Clark, SOAS and Kip Hale, ABA
  • Torture: Lutz Oette, SOAS
  • Crimes Against Humanity: William Schabas, Middlesex University
  • Fact Finding: Carsten Stahn, Leiden University

15:45 – 16:00 Break
16:00 – 17:00 Final plenary workshop feedback and discussion: Shanti Sattler

17:00 – 17:30 Closing Remarks: Justice Richard Goldstone

Check out an article about the work of the UNWCC Project to learn more!

1 Comment
  1. Dear Professor, Thank you for this excellent alrcite, which I enjoyed very much reading. We can now see that genocide, as you suggest, has become “unimportant”, as a matter of judicial practice. But this is not really a new observation. 60 years ago some experts already assessed that genocide was “unnecessary” as a new type of crime, once crimes against humanity had been already established in Nuremberg, to address essentially the same kind of reality (i.e. the holocaust). I understand this was the view of Hartley Shawcross (Chief UK prosecutor at Nuremberg and then Attorney General), who was already very critical with Lemkin by 1947. Note the recent book by J. Cooper , Raphael Lemkin and the Struggle for the Genocide Convention. Thank you and best regards, Xabier

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