November 25, 2013
Amb. Clint Williamson (L ’86) addresses Fulbright Scholars at the Louisiana Supreme Court on Nov. 21.
(Photo courtesy of the Louisiana Supreme Court)
Amb. Clint Williamson (L ’86) chats with Tulane Environmental Law Clinical Instructor Machelle Lee Hall, President of the New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council, and Law School Assistant Dean Jim Letten.
The United States has grown less hostile toward the International Criminal Court but isn’t closer to coming under its jurisdiction, Ambassador Clint Williamson, a veteran war crimes investigator told international Fulbright scholars gathered in New Orleans last week for a conference on the Rule of Law.
Williamson, a 1986 Tulane Law School graduate, said in answer to a Canadian Fulbright scholar’s question that U.S. officials worry there aren’t enough safeguards against “politically driven prosecutions against the U.S. because of the role it plays in the world.”
For instance, he said, there were some calls for indictments against Clinton administration officials, including the president, because of civilian deaths during military intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s.
Williamson spoke to the 69 scholars representing 32 countries on Nov. 21 in the Louisiana Supreme Court chamber, where Chief Justice Bernette Johnson and Justice Greg Guidry also welcomed the group. The scholars were co-hosted by Tulane Law School, the New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Williamson has worked as an assistant District Attorney in New Orleans and in the U.S. Justice Department’s Organized Crime Section. As a trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, he investigated and helped produce the first indictment against former Serbian and Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.
Williamson served as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes issues during both the Bush and Obama administrations and currently is lead prosecutor for the Brussels-based European Union Special Investigative Task Force, which is investigating allegations of atrocities in Kosovo that include killing prisoners to sell their organs.
He told the scholars that the ICTY met with great skepticism when it was created 20 years ago as a new mechanism for achieving international justice. But once it was shown that arresting those indicted wouldn’t cause unwanted upheaval, he said, “those who had been most intent on creating instability were neutralized by these arrests.”
He said the success of the ICTY provided impetus for war crimes tribunals seeking justice for atrocities in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Cambodia and led to creation of the International Criminal Court, which went into effect in 2002.
While not all human rights abuses can be policed — for lack of resources and, in some instances, lack of international consensus — the prospect of holding perpetrators of heinous crimes accountable is “no longer beyond the realm of imagination,” Williamson said.
He called that “a huge milestone and one that perhaps will make the world a slightly better place.”
The Fulbright scholars are teaching and conducting research throughout the U.S. Their sessions, which included a day at Tulane Law School, covered various aspects of civil rights, the use of legislative drafting to strengthen the rule of law and methods for dealing with public corruption.
The Fulbright Program, established in 1946 through legislation sponsored by then-Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.