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In Her Own Words…Erin Rosenberg Shares Why She Works in International Criminal Law

From my experiences as a fellow at the Urban Morgan Institute, I knew that I wanted to work in international law, but I didn’t know in which field. In 2010, the summer before my third year, I did a summer externship at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, the Netherlands. At the end of those three months, I knew that I wanted to work in international criminal law.

After graduating from UC and passing the Indiana Bar in August 2011, I returned to the ICTY for a one year fellowship in Chambers. During my fellowship, I worked primarily in the pre-trial stage of proceedings in the case of Prosecutor v. Ratko Mladić, who is currently on trial for two counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. As a fellow, my job responsibilities were similar to that of a law clerk.

After the end of my ICTY fellowship, I spent six months in the Appeals Division of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a Visiting Professional, which is similar to the ICTY fellowship program. In February 2013, after completing the Visiting Professionalship, I was hired by the ICC- Appeals Division as an assistant legal officer, the position I currently hold. In the Appeals Chamber, I work on interlocutory and final appeals, including on the appeal of the ICC’s first trial conviction in the case of Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga, in which Mr. Lubanga was convicted for committing the war crime of enlisting, conscripting, and using child soldiers to participate actively in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I conduct legal research, help in the preparation of drafting decisions and judgments, and assist the Appeals Chamber judges on various legal issues.

Besides my regular duties, I have also been lucky to have had the opportunity to represent the ICC at events. For example, I served as a lecturer on the history of the ICC and the doctrine of command responsibility for the International Institute of Humanitarian Law's 148th International Military Course on the Laws of Armed Conflict.

Why the Interest in International Criminal Law

One of the most interesting parts of my job is that I get to work in a field that is still fairly new and for which the law itself is still being developed. To be a small part of that, both at the ICTY and now the ICC, has been challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. There are also many practical issues that are somewhat unique to international criminal proceedings. For one, the scope and size of the trials in international law are very different from the types of trials most people would recognize in domestic systems. This is due not only to the types of crimes that we deal with (genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes), but also the sheer number of witnesses, victims, and crime bases that are a part of a single case. To give one example, in the Mladic case, the prosecution called over 140 witnesses. Additionally, while the trials at the ICC are conducted in English or French, many of the accused and witnesses speak any number of other languages and may not understand English or French at all. So, unlike what one might see in a US court, at the ICC (and the ICTY), there are teams of interpreters in booths surrounding the courtrooms who translate the proceedings live as they happen for the trial participants. There are also separate teams that translate court documents. While all of these things may seem merely interesting, they pose very real challenges to case management, particularly in terms of ensuring that the fair trial rights of all accused persons are fully respected.

Many people are often surprised at where I work, and the field of law that I work in, because I am American. The United States is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and I think that it is fair to say that American law schools focus less on international law generally than those in many other countries. However, I have never felt at a disadvantage vis-à-vis my colleagues because of the overall legal training I received at UC Law and the exposure to international law that I received through my fellowship with the Urban Morgan Institute, particularly from the summer externships and working on the Human Rights Quarterly.

I would tell any UC law student who is interested in international law or specifically international criminal law to take advantage of the amazing opportunities that they have with the Urban Morgan Institute and to follow their passion. International criminal law is a difficult field to get into, but, with hard work and commitment, it is definitely possible.

Get to know Erin Rosenberg ‘11

Rosenberg received her B.A. from Indiana University- Bloomington, majoring in Linguistics, French, and African-American and African Diasporic Studies. Prior to enrolling at UC, she worked in politics on numerous local, state, and federal campaigns, including for the Indiana State Senate Democratic Caucus, serving as the Indiana State Director for the 2004 John Kerry for President campaign and for Congressman André Carson in the 2008 Special Election. Upon the election of Congressman Carson, Rosenberg joined his DC office, serving as Director of Inter-governmental Affairs and later as Legislative Director before returning to UC to finish her law degree. She received her J.D. from the University of Cincinnati School of Law, where she was also an Arthur Russell Morgan Fellow at the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.