Menu Toggle menu

From Working on the Human Rights Quarterly to Working Inside the International Criminal Court… Erin Rosenberg’s Winding Career


From January 8 through 12, Cincinnati Law had the pleasure of seeing one of its alumni, Erin Rosenberg (Class of ’11) return to teach JD students a specialized week-long course in international criminal law, a relatively new and fascinating field.

When Rosenberg graduated Cincinnati Law, she embarked on a different journey than the one she had intended to undertake when she began her legal studies. She recalls:

“I worked the decade before I came to law school in politics, the legislative side of things. I didn’t have any interest in international criminal law whatsoever. None. I [came] to the University of Cincinnati specifically for the Urban Morgan Institute.”

There, she had been selected as a Fellow, and she saw great opportunity in the exciting, meaningful summer internships offered by the Institute. She wanted to get involved with human rights worldwide, not criminals worldwide.

Rosenberg’s first internship was in the Republic of Botswana, where she worked for Botswana’s first female Judge, Unity Dow at the High Court. All was going according to plan, and she was gaining valuable experience in the sort of international law she intended to pursue professionally.

Her second summer, however, saw her initial internship plans fall through. Rosenberg was exploring potential alternatives when Professor Bert B. Lockwood suggested working for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). She “didn’t have anything else set up,” so she took the suggestion, not yet realizing what a pivotal step this would be (she knew, of course, that it sounded pretty cool for a plan B).

Through this work, Rosenberg “fell in love with international criminal law.” She finished her JD, passed the bar exam, and immediately returned to the ICTY, where she worked for one more year.

She was then recruited to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where she has worked since 2012.

The ICC serves a different purpose than many might expect. Its functions are separate from those within the Human Right’s field, like dealing with shortages of food and water. Its purpose is instead to bring to justice and make reparations for international crimes. States must voluntarily agree to become member states, and at present, 123 from around the world have agreed to do so.

Rosenberg works as an Associate Legal Officer, which she explains is essentially the equivalent of a law clerk for a judge.

Almost immediately after she arrived at the ICC, the first reparations case in the court’s history had come to the Appeals Chamber. It was an entirely new type of case for the ICC, and it became Rosenberg’s responsibility to make sense of it. She recalls that she “developed a unique background and expertise in reparations simply because I was there.”

In 2015, Silvia Fernández became President of the ICC and asked Rosenberg to become her legal officer in the Appeals Division—a great honor and an immense responsibility. Fernández decided that the Trust Fund for Victims (a part of the ICC that serves to implement reparations) needed legal support. For the past two years, Rosenberg “has been on loan,” as she puts it, from the Appeals Division to the Trust Fund.

Rosenberg’s work at the Trust Fund has been to figure out how to take court ordered reparations and figure out how they can be implemented. Sometimes this task calls for creativity and communication.

For instance, in the case of Lubanga Dyilo, a man convicted for crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the trial chamber asked Rosenberg to explore “symbolic, commemorative restorations.” The trial chamber suggested a statue that would commemorate former child soldiers.

Rosenberg spoke with the community that had been plagued by Dyilo’s activities. They were not fond of the statue idea; in their culture, statues are only for heroes, not for victims or painful memories. They stated that they would prefer something interactive to something static. In consulting them, Rosenberg found that the community would prefer a center where former child soldiers could come together and heal through programs in which “art, dance, and painting give them a chance to tell their own stories.”

Rosenberg presented the community’s view to the Trial Chamber, and the center was built.

Rosenberg brings wisdom to UC Law students who are looking for opportunities abroad. Her course provided an introduction to international criminal law and also explored reparations, examining what they are in a criminal context and how they are implemented in that context.

She advises UC Law students not to assume that members of the European legal community will be familiar with UC or even the Urban Morgan Institute. Rather, she says, “If you say, ‘I worked on the Human Rights Quarterly,’ everyone knows what that is. When I was hired at the ICC and went to the interview, on the bookshelf of the person who was interviewing me was the most recent copy of HRQ.” Rosenberg insists that if you take advantage of the opportunity to work for the journal, read the

articles, and attend the dinners, more doors will open up for you. “It is one of the most well-known and well-respected publications in the field.”

By: Pete Mills, communication graduate assistant