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Architect of War Crimes Tribunals Speaks at TJSL

February 13, 2012

David Scheffer
David Scheffer
David Scheffer
David Scheffer

David Scheffer says he used to be referred to as the “Ambassador to Hell,” because he visited the scene of so many atrocities when he was with the U.S. State Department.

Ambassador Scheffer, who spoke at Thomas Jefferson School of Law on February 13, says he would rather be known as the “Carpenter of War Crimes Tribunals.”

His official title was America’s first Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues when he served for eight years under U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and later Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Indeed, he was a leading architect of the modern war crimes tribunals rendering justice for atrocities in the Balkans, Rwanda, Cambodia, and across Africa.  Ambassador Scheffer witnessed the carnage and spearheaded the American and global counterattack to defeat the evil of war crimes.

Ambassador Scheffer was at TJSL to give a presentation, to answer questions and to sign copies of his book, All The Missing Souls: A Personal History Of The War Crimes Tribunals. The event was presented by TJSL’s Center for Global Legal Studies and organized by its director, Professor Susan Tiefenbrun.

At the time the Clinton Administration took office in 1993, Ambassador Scheffer says there were no international criminal courts to prosecute crimes such as the genocide that was taking place in the Balkans. 

Inspired by Nuremburg Trials of Nazi war criminals, he led the push to create such courts, using the U.N. Charter as the blueprint for the legal formula that made courts like the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the other war crimes tribunals in the The Hague possible.

“We’ve been here before and we know how to do this,” Ambassador Scheffer said then. Now, years later, he says “this field of jurisprudence is exploding and thousands of law students have interned at The Hague since the courts were created.” 

TJSL has sent many students to the ICC to intern in recent years, and Professor Linda Keller is currently a Visiting Professional at The Hague.
For those who attended Ambassador Scheffer’s presentation, it was a fascinating behind-the-scenes, eight-year journey of his time with

Madeleine Albright, whom he called the most powerful women in the U.S.” during her time as Secretary of State and U.N. Ambassador.

After the presentation, students, faculty and others from the audience lined up to meet Ambassador Scheffer and get him to sign copies of his book.