Recent Sturm College of Law Grad Credits War Crimes Class for Once-in-a-Lifetime Internship

L. Kate Campbell

My name is Kate Campbell.  I am a recent grad of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and its International Legal Studies Program.  I’d love to take this opportunity to tell you about my current internship and how my participation in Professor David Akerson’s War Crimes Practicum led to this exciting opportunity.   On June 27, 2010, I began a six-month legal internship with the Registry branch of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (“SCSL”) in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  The SCSL was created to bring justice to victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Sierra Leone in the last decade.  In March, the SCSL concluded its trial of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, accused of organizing, planning, and sponsoring the atrocities in the region, and a judgment is expected in the next few months.  The Registry branch of the SCSL is responsible for supporting and coordinating all the various bodies of the court– Chambers, Prosecution and Defense – as well as for internal and external communications and victims’ assistance programs– work which continues to serve a critical role, even, and perhaps especially, during the judgment phase.  Additionally, the Registry is the body responsible for enacting legacy projects that communicate the work of the court to the people of Sierra Leone and preserve its story for posterity.

My current duties at the SCSL are twofold.  First, I assist the Registry in a general capacity.  In collaboration with the Registrar’s Legal Officer, I conduct legal research and analysis of issues relating to the functions of the Registry; review and draft internal policies and procedures; and contribute to the formulation of the Special Court’s completion strategy.  Second, I am introducing and training  members of the various court branches to a Casemap document created by DU SCOL Professor David Akerson and a team of University of Denver law students in the International Criminal Law Practicum, in hopes that various bodies of the court will soon be able to employ this valuable tool in their work.  Professor Akerson’s course – taught in the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011 – allowed students to engage in learning about international criminal law in an active manner via creation of an interactive database using CaseMap software.  Using the transcripts from the trial of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia, accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone, we analyzed and condensed the transcript data into pertinent facts, highlighting all critical information, including names, dates, locations, etc, and then hyperlinked this information to both other relevant facts and the transcript itself.   The goal of this process was to make over two years of testimony easily accessible and searchable, thus potentially assisting staff working on Taylor’s case, in addition to the myriad individuals inside the court and in the general public who would find this information either useful in their work or of interest in telling their own story.  Because the work for the course was based on a current trial, and was intended for delivery to the Special Court, students were challenged to grapple with complexities of international law and the international criminal trial process in a new way.

Following the close of the spring semester, Professor Akerson presented our database to a group of SCSL staff in Freetown.  In response, they offered me a chance to come to Freetown to make further the software
and train them to use it to better facilitate the work of various branches during the judgment phase and for future use in appeals, as a tool for research, and as a part of outreach and legacy projects.  Additionally, as the Registry organizes all outreach, using CaseMap, I will help devise and implement strategies for using this interactive software to provide clear information about the trial to victims, students, and the general public. Such outreach might manifest as a resource at the Peace Museum, a legacy project currently being enacted at the SCSL, or through various civil societyorganizations that are working to better inform and heal the victims of the atrocities in the region.

I am extremely excited about the opportunity to continue this work.  I will be based in Freetown, for approximately six months, with the possibility of some travel about the country, as well as to The Hague.  I came to DU’slaw school in order to make a career of assisting the marginalized and oppressed, and while I was there, I discovered the excellent work that was being done by the ad hoc tribunals to address human rights violations of tremendous magnitude.  I am delighted
that, in exchange for providing me with this opportunity, I will be able to share the Casemap software as a resource for the court to find better and more efficient paths to create justice and to communicate its work to victims and to the global community.  In this capacity, I hope to develop new ways to use Professor David Akerson’s work to enable innovations in both court procedure and practice and in victim outreach and education.

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4 Responses to “Recent Sturm College of Law Grad Credits War Crimes Class for Once-in-a-Lifetime Internship”

  1. Cindy Milanovich says:

    I love hearing how CaseMap can help in so many different ways. What an opportunity for you.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Cindy Milanovich

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  2. Rozanne Langley says:

    It’s great to hear that another generation of dedicated people will be working with the international tribunal and peoples of the regions impacted.

    I am a Lexis Nexis CaseMap instructor and participated in training the first trial team for the Rwandan massacres in Arusha, Tanzania.

    I also have trained investigators and attorneys at The Hague.
    It’s quite an experience!!!

    Keep us posted from time to time —- great work.
    Tell David I said Hi!


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  3. Tessa Mendez says:

    Hi Kate! This is so exciting, I am so proud of you! I love to hear stories of people pursuing their dreams. I hope you have an amazing time. – Tessa

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