#CGAat15 Faculty Interview Series: Jennifer Trahan

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This year, The Center for Global Affairs (CGA) celebrates its 15th Anniversary. To mark this occasion, the Global Affairs Review (GAR) sat down with Professor Trahan, to discuss her CGA journey and experience. Professor Trahan is a Clinical Professor teaching International Law; Human Rights in Theory & Practice; International Justice; Transnational Justice; and U.S. Use of Force and the “Global War on Terror.” Professor Trahan also leads a global field intensive to The Hague, Bosnia, and Serbia, and one to Rwanda. She serves on numerous professional associations, including the Executive Board of the American Branch of the International Law Association and as its Co-Director of Studies, the Use of Force Committee of the International Law Association, and the Council of Advisers on the Application of the Rome Statute to Cyberwarfare. She has authored numerous publications, including “Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity: A Digest of the Case Law of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda” (HRW 2010), and “Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity: A Topical Digest of the Case Law of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia” (HRW 2006). Her latest book “Legal Limits to the Veto Power in the Face of Atrocity Crimes,” will be released in 2020 by Cambridge University Press.

Global Affairs Review: Can you share with us how your journey at CGA began?

Professor Trahan: Years ago, I saw that the Center for Global Affairs was seeking to hire a full-time faculty member. At that point, the core faculty who are still with CGA included only Vera Jelinek, Carolyn Kissane, and Michael Oppenheimer. I was invited to CGA and delivered a presentation on the work of the Iraqi High Tribunal and the problem of lack of fair trials and political interference in the trials. The enthusiastic response to my presentation and interest in my field of work more generally set me off on my CGA journey. I joined CGA shortly after, around 12 years ago, as a full-time faculty member.

What have the last 12 years at the CGA meant to you?

CGA has provided me a home institution where I can share with students my academic knowledge in the hope of helping shape a new generation of activists and leaders. CGA has additionally permitted me to pursue my academic interests—such as writing about the questionable legality of the permanent members of the UN Security Council utilizing their veto power while there are ongoing atrocity crimes, and writing about the International Criminal Court’s crime of aggression. CGA has also allowed me to lead the Global Field Intensives (GFIs) that take students to The Hague, Bosnia, and Serbia (co-led with Professor Belinda Cooper), and to Rwanda. This has given us the opportunity to learn together through meetings with government officials, academics, and activists, as well as through site visits, about the experiences in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda in attempting to ensure accountability for the crimes perpetrated in the former Yugoslavia during the wars of the 1990s and in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

What do you think is distinctive about the CGA community?

The CGA community stands out for its blend of academic knowledge and practical engagement. The faculty all work on projects that have an impact in the real world. We are able to share this knowledge and involvement with the students in the hope they too can create similar impact.

What three words would you use to describe the CGA?

Practical, idealistic, and engaged.

What do you envision for CGA in the next 15 years?

Over the next 15 years, I see the CGA growing in capacity and strengthening all that it does. This includes strengthening its connections with its alumni, offering additional courses, as well as strengthening its GFI offerings. CGA will hopefully continue to do all that it does, but more of all of it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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