Winter 2013 newsletter
Beth Van Schaack is currently serving as Deputy to U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp, in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice.
1) Can you please give us a brief overview of some of the issues you have been working on as Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for War Crimes Issues?
Our office has been quite busy on several areas since I joined. On Syria, we have worked to strengthen and lend credibility to our accountability messaging, especially given that political dynamics in the Security Council foreclose an ICC referral. We also helped to conceptualize and set up the Syria Justice & Accountability Center, which is documenting international crimes being committed in Syria. We continue to work in all the ICC situation countries, including the DRC, Uganda, Kenya, and Cote d’Ivoire. In Kenya, our office is working with a number of other offices (including USAID and the White House) to ensure that next year’s elections do not trigger a reprise of the post-election violence witnessed in 2007-8, which is the subject of the ICC cases. Most recently, we helped to secure passage of amendments to the Rewards for Justice program, which enables the USG to pay rewards for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of foreign nationals indicted for war crimes, CAH or genocide. Our office administers the program, which can now pay rewards for information on individuals incited by any international or hybrid tribunal, including the ICC or domestic specialized chambers with international personnel.
2) What are some of the biggest challenges you've confronted in your new position and what aspect of your position do you enjoy the most?
The biggest challenges definitely involve trying to overcome bureaucratic lethargy and intransigence. One needs a ton of patience and a willingness to just keep pushing in the hopes of finding an open door. In addition, our office is a policy office, so it has also been a bit difficult to stop trying to be the lawyer and learn to rely on my lawyers to give me the guidance I need to advance my office’s policy goals. My favorite aspect of the job is working within the interagency process to advance accountability for atrocity crimes. This involves working with my counterparts in the White House, the DoD, DHS, DOJ, even Treasury (when dealing with sanctions). In 2012, President Obama created the Atrocity Prevention Board, an interagency initiative to enhance the USG’s ability to prevent atrocities. I’ve been involved on the ground floor of this process and have enjoyed the opportunity to think creatively about policy initiatives toward this end. These initiatives range from designing better sanctions regimes to improving the ability of the U.S. to prosecute atrocity crimes to retooling intelligence collection around atrocity risk factors.
3) How does the laid-back atmosphere of Santa Clara compare to the high-paced environment of Washington D.C.?
Washington is definitely fast-paced. There are times when I realize it is 4:00 and I have yet to sit down at my desk, no less eat lunch. I have frozen PB&Js in the fridge so I don’t starve. But, I love the opportunity to design policy to advance principles I am passionate about – providing justice for victims of atrocity crimes and ensuring that the United States plays a leading role in the global system of international justice – even if it means I miss out on some sleep.
4) How do you think your work with the State Department will shape your teaching and scholarship in the future?
I have a much more accurate view of how policy is made and how academics can be influential in this process by providing government lawyers and policy makers with the tools they need to make good decisions. Being a manager, I also have a much better idea about how young professionals can break into government work, such as with the amazing Presidential Management Fellowship program (which students apply for at the start of their 3L year and which is really the only way to get a position in the State Department right out of law school). In terms of teaching, seeing the inter-agency process in motion from the inside has given me a much better sense about how to understand the various forces and equities behind the governmental decisions we read about in the newspaper.
Location: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Organization: United Nations, International Labour Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia Programme
Interning as a Legal Analyst at the International Labour Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia Programme gave me the opportunity to experience firsthand the state of labour law compliance in Cambodia. I worked with factory monitors reporting on the human rights and labour law violations of garment and shoe factories, and wrote comprehensive reports on investment and non-profit online fundraising opportunities for the organization. I was given the opportunity to utilize my past work experiences with other United Nations agencies to contribute to this great ILO program. Being able to see how international law applies on the ground has greatly enhanced my interest in pursuing fieldwork.
Update from Marc Borg, ‘12
During my time at Santa Clara I enjoyed the opportunity to gain experience through work with several organizations overseas. I spent three months in Cambodia working with the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, three months in Kenya with the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and three months in Ghana with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
Currently, I find myself back in Cambodia on a six-month contract assessing labor conditions in the garment factories with the International Labour Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia. Thus far, I have really enjoyed my work here with BFC. The office generally feels like a small NGO and yet operates with significantly more authority. Having just finished law school, the situation can be frustrating at times as the rule of law here in Cambodia still needs to develop. However, the ILO is large enough to have the ear of the government and my experience is often as much about politics as it is about legal analysis.
The possibility to work with public institutions internationally was one of my main reasons for selecting Santa Clara Law School and I feel I have been rewarded for that decision. Each one of my placements, including my current position, arose from contacts established by the Center for Global Law and Policy. Now, as I start my professional legal career, I hope to take advantage of this incredible foundation and one day give back to CGLP by providing contacts of my own.
In September 2012, CGLP screened the film, “Long Night’s Journey Into Day.” This documentary tells four stories of Apartheid in South Africa, as seen through the eyes of the Truth and Reconciliation commission.
CGLP hosted a Public International Law Career Panel in October 2012. Panelists included: Professor David Sloss; International Human Rights Clinic Director, Francisco Rivera Juaristi; and Clinical Fellow, Britton Schwartz.
Jean-Marie Henckaerts visited campus in October of 2012 to give a lecture on “International Humanitarian Law and the Challenges of Contemporary Armed Conflict.” Jean-Marie Henckaerts is a legal adviser in the Legal Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the co-author of a leading treatise on customary international humanitarian law.
CGLP hosted speaker Katie Zoglin in October of 2012. Katie Zoglin has worked internationally to promote the rule of law and democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. Ms. Zoglin presented on “Democracy in the Middle East after the Arab Spring."
Past International Law E-news issues