Students travel to the Hague to present at International Criminal Court conference

A small group of Central Michigan University students will travel to the Hague over spring break to attend and present at a conference about the International Criminal Court.

The International Criminal Court Student Network is organizing the conference to stop and reflect on the lessons learned from the trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who is the first person to have been tried by the ICC, said Caroline Wojtylak, a London lawyer and co-organizer of the conference, in an email.

Wojtylak said there will be 22 presenters.

According to the ICCSN website, Lubanga was tried for conscripting children under the age of 15 into his army and forcing them to fight. Proceedings for the trial ended on Aug. 26, 2011; a verdict has not yet been rendered.

Hope May, a philosophy professor at CMU, is another organizer of the conference. In an email, she listed some of the other schools sending students to the conference, which included universities in the UK, Australia and Lebanon.

The third organizer of the conference is Victoria Phan, a Ph.D student at Cambridge.

About the goals of the conference, May wrote:

"First, we seek to educate a global group of students and young professionals about the many challenges posed by the Lubanga Trial. Our second aim is to inspire and encourage a global network of students to go back to their communities and engage in activities aimed at educating others about the ICC and international justice."

There will be several influential keynote speakers at the conference, May wrote, including the U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice, Stephen J. Rapp.

"His presence at this event, and the presence of the U.S. in The Hague at in ICC student network event  is a profound statement.  Poetic, even," May wrote.

Caitlin Cheevers, a Grand Rapids senior and Central Michigan Life staff reporter, will be presenting at the conference. She is one of four CMU students attending the conference. She will be presenting a co-authored paper on how the ICC proves child soldiering is wrong by indicting people who are involved in it. The other author is Randi Shaffer, a former CM Life employee.

Cheevers said she is involved in an organization called Invisible Children, a nonprofit that works to bring public awareness to the problem of child soldiering.

She said although she was only accepted to present about three weeks ago, she has been involved in Invisible Children since 2009.

"I talked to Dr. Hope May about it right before Christmas break and she told me about the conference and how she was helping organize it, and I was originally going to be doing a spring break trip with the Honors Program, and I ended up canceling that because I figured this would be better," she said.

Cheevers said she hopes the conference and her presentation will educate all of the attendees and work to set up a network of other people interested in working to end child soldiering and other human rights violations.

"Hope May had mentioned that there’s only going to be 60 to 75 people in attendance. Normally that might kind of dishearten people that we’re only getting 75 people, but it’s not necessarily about how many people are there now, it’s about that we’re collaborating to get more people involved," Cheevers said. "If you think about other movements, like the women’s rights movement or the Geneva convention, they all started with small conferences and gained momentum. Even if it seems like it’ll be small, it still can have a huge impact"


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