One of my favorite blogs and an excellent one to consider subscribing to if you are interested in the field of International Law, IntLawGrrls, covered the passing of former Fletcher School professor, Ellen Lutz, today.

I have never met Ellen Lutz but I found her life’s work and the sense of her character that came through in this article to be very inspiring. As a Fletcher student interested in human rights law, a follower of Cultural Survival‘s work and campaigns, and as someone who hopes to find a life of balance while working in this field I feel so passionate about, her story is one I will hold close as a role model.

Ellen Lutz, photo credit: Intlawgrrls

In passing: Ellen L. Lutz

Ellen L. Lutz, an international human rights lawyer, teacher, and activist, died this past Thursday, November 4, at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The cause was metastatic breast cancer. She was 55.

During her final two years battling the disease, Ellen directed the Cambridge-based human rights organization Cultural Survival, co-edited two pioneering books (Prosecuting Heads of State, (Cambridge U. Press) and Human Rights and Conflict Management in Context (Syracuse U. Press), submitted formal reviews on state behavior to the UN Human Rights Council, led international litigation on behalf of Panama’s threatened Nobe Indians, and sang alto with the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus. She did each with equal enthusiasm and skill.

Her concern for human rights began when, as a 15-year-old exchange student to Uruguay, she witnessed the onset of Uruguay’s state sponsored “Dirty War,” and supported the international human rights movements such actions spawned across Latin American during the 1970s. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Temple University (1976) and obtaining a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr (1978), Ellen took a Law Degree in International Law and Human Rights from Boalt Hall Law School (University of California at Berkeley) in 1985.

Ellen’s persistent interest in Latin America continued as professional work with Amnesty International (1979-81), in Washington, D.C., and in San Francisco.

She later headed the California office of Human Rights Watch (1989-94), where she conducted research and published on little-known but extensive human rights abuses in Mexico, and she was co-counsel in two groundbreaking human rights cases in U.S. courts, against the infamous Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Argentine General Suarez-Mason.

Moving with her family to Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1994, she helped to set up and then served as Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, taught international law. human rights, and mediation at Tufts, Harvard and the University of Massachusetts, and wrote widely. One of her students, now a professor at Occidental College, recalled how
warm and desirous she was of connecting to students amid the formal Fletcher iciness, a marvelous force of nature.

Ellen was asked to become Executive Director of Cultural Survival in 2004, where she increased the participation of indigenous people on the Board of Directors and Program Council, while steering the organization away from local development projects to broad human rights initiatives. Ellen said:

Development work like building schools, digging wells, and providing services is what governments should be doing. Our work is to make sure governments live up to their obligations.

One of her colleagues wrote,

It would be difficult to quantify Ellen’s ferocious passion for justice. Her zeal and natural warm-heartedness combined with a legal rigor that made her a truly formidable advocate.
There was much of such personal and professional praise. But, perhaps the most encompassing and, for Ellen, meaningful compliment came from Stella Tamang, a Nepalese tribal leader and friend:

To Ellen, my Kalyana Mitra,
In Buddhism Kalyana means Wellbeing and Mitra means friend. Kalyana Mitra therefore means friends who always think about their wellbeing. You have been such wonderful friend, a constant support during the problems I was facing about the political problem back in Nepal. We also talked about family, our children, and life. I am blessed to have a friend like you. We believe that if a person has done good Karma, he or she gets to meet with wonderful people, and you are the one for me…

And Ellen was not a Buddhist. Ellen is survived by her husband, Theodore Macdonald, an anthropologist previously with Cultural Survival and now with Harvard University, and her two children from a previous marriage, David and Julia Randall, now studying at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard, respectively. Her cat, Misty, and dog, Churi, are well taken care of. Her friends, among them many women human rights lawyers, are grateful to her for her wise counsel and unflagging dignity. All are thankful to their Kalyana Mitra.

By: Naomi Roht-Arriaza of Intlawgrrls


Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Cambodia hit the international news circuit this week with the announcement of a verdict in the first case before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of  Cambodia (ECCC or “E triple C”) convicting Kaing Guek Eav (alias “Duch”), head of the infamous S-21 Toul Slang prison, of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentencing him to 35 years in prison.  The sentence received mixed reactions from Cambodians and the international community, ranging from pride for completing the trial to outrage for the leniency and omission of certain victims’ claims.  Still others believe it is too late for “justice”, the accused are old, well-fed in prison, and even if found guilty they will hardly be punished, and argue the money could be better spent invested in the people of Cambodia today.

Interrogation Room at the Toul Sleng Prison, Phnom Penh

What is the ECCC?

The ECCC is one of several international criminal tribunals established for the purpose of trying individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide within the countries where those atrocities took place. Similar courts were established in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, East Timor, and Sierra Leone. These courts have been established in one of three ways: 1) by coercion through the Security Council (ICTY & ICTR) 2) by consent with a host government (ECCC), or 3) as part of a transitional administration (East Timor & Kosovo).

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia is a hybrid court system established in an agreement between the Cambodian government and the United Nations. It is a Cambodian Court, established through the domestic court system (rather than by UN resolution or treaty under the Rome Statute). It follows international legal standards  and is considered “extraordinary”  in that it applies not only the Cambodian Criminal Code (e.g. murder, torture, religious persecution) but also International Laws (e.g. genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes) as well.

The court is comprised of 3 Cambodian lawyers and 2 International (UN-appointed) lawyers,  4 Cambodian and 3 internationally-appointed judges, and business is conducted in Khmer, English, and French.  It is the first international tribunal using a Civil Law legal system.

The hybrid courts of the ECCC took many years of negotiation between the Cambodian government and the United Nations to establish and have received plenty of criticism along the way.  Most notably for their failure to contain (perceived) outside political interference by the ruling party, and inability to address conflicts of opinion and judgment between the Cambodian and International representatives of the court. In the most recent incident, in response to the International Investigating Judge’s pressure to decide,  the Cambodian Investigating Judge signed and then later crossed-out his rugatory signature endorsing the investigations into additional Khmer Rouge Trial cases known as 003 and 004. These cases are believed by some to involve charges against officials connected to members of the current ruling party and thus are politically unpopular. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has been public with his view against further investigations for fear they could lead to political instability or even internal war.

Transitional Justice

Nevertheless there is a lot to be said in favor of the ECCC, not only for their role in holding individuals accountable for the heinous crimes they allegedly committed under the Khmer Rouge regime. The courts, in conjunction with Cambodian NGOs, have worked to incorporate Cambodian people into the process of the courts.  When the trials first began there were over 31,000 people who wanted to be a part of the process by attending the trial. They organized busses from the provinces and they now do even more outreach to villages and schools, offering tours of the Toul Slang Museum and the ECCC premises free of charge.

In addition, many people believe the ECCC court sets an important example for accountability and the rule of law, with hopes that by holding the courts to international legal standards and practices, they may be helping to pave some of the road in Cambodia’s transitional justice process as well.

In fact just days before the announcement of a verdict in Duch’s case, the Cambodian government allowed the first public screening of “Enemies of the People”, a film with incredible footage of intimate interviews with individuals in charge of mass killings in the countryside, and some of the most senior Khmer Rouge officials, including Nua Chau aka “Brother Two” who worked side by side with Pol Pot in leading the regime during the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979.

Filmmaker Thet Sambath

In a post-screening discussion with filmmakers,  Thet Sambath and British documentarian Rob Lemkin, I began to think about other methods of healing and transformation that might be important for Cambodia as a nation, as a people, and for individuals alone to overcome the tragedies that took place during the Khmer Rouge.  It became apparent that the film, in its ability to illuminate truths that have so long been denied by those in the Khmer Rouge regime, and its screening in Cambodian communities around the world, could be one important step in that transformation.

For all of its challenges along the way, it seems at least for some, the ECCC is certainly another one of those steps in that process as well.