Law School Headlines
Judge Patricia A. Riley,’74, Court of Appeals of Indiana: Observations on International Criminal Law and Courts
Much of the world paused recently when the U.N. Special Court for Sierra Leone convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Not since World War II had an international war crimes court convicted a head of state, and human rights activists around the globe hailed the milestone verdict.
It did not go unremarked here in Indiana, either. Judge Patricia A. Riley, ’74, a member of the Court of Appeals of Indiana, had met with judges and prosecutors handling Taylor’s case when she traveled last fall to The Hague, Netherlands, with the Washington, D.C.-based International Judicial Academy.
The tour included direct observations of the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Judge Riley also visited the International Peace Palace, where international legal disputes have been heard since 1913.
“So that nugget of international law has been developed for many years,” she said, “but it’s just now coming to fruition where leaders can be held responsible for atrocities and (other) violations of human rights.”
Judge Riley did not observe Taylor’s trial directly, but she attended related proceedings in a high, windowless courtroom where banks of lawyers, interpreters and other functionaries labored throughout the years-long trial.
She described an intricate prosecution that spanned five years and two continents and involved harrowing testimony from child soldiers and other victims of unspeakable atrocities during Sierra Leone’s long civil war. “Some of the witnesses who testified had never worn shoes,” she said, recalling prosecutors’ descriptions.
Judge Riley also observed preliminary proceedings against Uhuru Kenyatta, who was accused of organizing election-related violence in Kenya in 2007-2008. Much of that violence occurred near Eldoret, where Judge Riley co-founded the Legal Aid Centre of Eldoret (LACE) in 2008. She was in Eldoret in January of this year when the International Criminal Court announced that Kenyatta and others would stand trial.
“The whole town stopped,” she said. “Everyone just stopped and listened to the computer (audio stream)” at the IU house where she stayed.
War-crimes prosecutions remain controversial, as witnessed by the United States’ continued opposition to the International Criminal Court. Yet Judge Riley said the court and related tribunals have demonstrated that due process and the rule of law can be fairly applied to defendants and victims alike.
“Who’s going to speak for (victims) if we don’t have these special courts,” she said.