White paper by International Practice Lab students addresses genocide prevention

Michael A. Newton

When Michael A. Newton, professor of the practice of law, was asked to serve as a member of a working group on genocide prevention, several students in his International Law Practice Lab gained an opportunity to support his work with their own substantive research on what makes international networks work effectively.

Professor Newton was among the international human rights experts asked to support the formation of specific recommendations by the Genocide Prevention Task Force, a group formed by the U.S. Institute for Peace and the Holocaust Memorial Museum and co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen. "The Genocide Prevention Task Force made a series of thoughtful and ambitious recommendations, many of which have already been operationalized," Professor Newton said. "Genocide and mass atrocities undermine basic human rights and threaten regional stability, and the Task Force recommended the creation of an integrated international network designed to prevent or preempt genocide and mass atrocities rather than relying on existing response mechanisms. The 114 countries that have become States Parties to the International Criminal Court have already agreed to work together to aid member countries in holding their political and military leaders responsible for atrocities responsible for their crimes. Members of the Genocide Prevention Task Force hoped to establish an equally effective international network aimed at preventing the commission of such crimes and human rights abuses."

Professor Newton presented his paper, "Prospects and Process for Developing an Integrated Atrocity Prevention Network," at an International Symposium on Genocide Prevention in Paris on November 15 and 16 held by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the France's Mémorial de la Shoah. "The symposium was convened as a concrete step towards implementing the Genocide Prevention Task Force's recommendations," Professor Newton said.

Symposium organizers also distributed to conference participants a supporting white paper, "The Six Pillars of an Effective Network," written by four students in his International Law Practice Lab: Noah Coakley, Steven Haymore, Amber Johns and Vijnata Trivedi. Johns, a second-year student who majored in French at the University of California, Berkeley, and spent a year studying in France, accompanied him to the conference and served as a rapporteur.

Johns learned that Professor Newton was preparing a paper to present at the International Symposium on Genocide Prevention while participating in Vanderbilt in Venice, the law school's summer study abroad program, which Professor Newton directs. As soon as she discovered that Newton was planning to assign students in his International Practice Lab the task of writing a white paper for the conference, "I asked Professor Newton to let me work on this paper and attend the symposium," Johns said. "I knew it would be an incredible learning experience." In addition to Newton, speakers included Stephen Rapp, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes; human rights diplomats from France, Germany, Hungary and Switzerland, and representatives of many major international organizations and U.N. agencies. "Watching Ambassador Rapp sit down with other diplomats and human rights advocates and talk about how they can work together to prevent future genocide and what they can learn from things that have happened in the past was really rewarding," Johns said.

Read the students' white paper, "The Six Pillars of an Effective Network," at law.vanderbilt.edu/

The students' white paper reflected months of research, during which the four studied more than 70 international organizations and networks to identify common traits that enabled the networks to work effectively. "Our task was to identify the best practices that make international networks effective," 2L Noah Coakley said. "I had spent last summer in Belgium and Uganda working for No Peace Without Justice, which is a non-profit advocacy organization that helps countries deal with the aftermath of atrocities, and I really appreciated the opportunity to do research on genocide prevention in Professor Newton's Practice Lab."

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