Working for Justice, Stability, and Peace in Shanghai

Posted by Anthony Comeau on November 13, 2015

“The movement to end war and mass atrocities spans centuries, peoples, and ideologies”

I became interested in international criminal law and genocide prevention through Facing History and Ourselves’ founder Margot Stern Strom, for whom I interned during my gap year between high school and college. Margot introduced me to the thoughts of Benjamin Ferencz, the only surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials. As I read through Ben’s articles and books, I internalized his call to action. Margot and Ben’s approach to the world resonated with my heart, my deepest sense of human dignity, and my own moral reasoning as to how we must learn to get along with each other as one human community.

After my internship, I asked Ben and his team of family and experts how I could most effectively carry his message forward. Sandra Schulberg, co-creator and producer of the film Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today, recommended I begin a chapter of the International Criminal Court Student Network (ICCSN) while attending New York University’s Shanghai campus.

With eight chapters at campuses worldwide, the International Criminal Court Student Network aims to create a forum in which university students may learn about, discuss, and advocate for the effective application of international criminal law in the world. Though the roots of international law can be traced back centuries, we are just now entering an age strengthened more than ever by international legal institutions. But we are far from finished. As part of the next generation, we must continue to contribute to justice, stability, and peace.

ICCSN group members filling out questionaires 

The network, a student-run organization more than 30 members strong, will officially launch with a showing of Watchers of the Sky November 14 at NYU Shanghai and will participate in Facing History’s December 9 online workshop, “International Justice and the Rule of Law.” We plan to invite lecturers and experts to speak with us, and to direct our own efforts towards making a difference.

One way of making a difference is translation. The ICCSN at NYU Shanghai hopes to translate Ben Ferencz’s most captivating articles and stories into Mandarin. (Many Chinese students speak perfect English, but knowledge of these issues should not be contingent on English fluency.) As NYU Shanghai’s student body is so diverse, we hope to expand to more languages, such as Urdu, Russian, and Japanese. As more young people around the world learn of the efforts to end crimes of aggression, war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, the literature and history behind the movement must be made available. These issues do not belong to experts alone. Anyone, anywhere must have the opportunity to answer Ben's call to action.

Another focus will be letter-writing to support prosecution of the Islamic State (IS/ISIL) for genocide and other heinous crimes against the Yazidis. With the help of the Watchers of the Sky Foundation and the ICC’s first Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, a new campaign called “It’s on U” has begun. It asks citizens of the world to write their countries’ representatives on the United Nations Security Council, urging them to support criminal prosecution of IS/ISIL.

Our work to strengthen support for the international legal regime is the real-world application of the ICCSN’s learning. This is a collective endeavor. I feel so fortunate to have the support of my dedicated friends and fellow students, especially Zhao Xuehan, Chen Ziyu, Mira Yoo, Jin Pin, and Tehreem Nihar. As Ben Ferencz says, together we are “building the temple of the law one brick at a time."

Topics: Benjamin B. Ferencz, International, Facing History and Ourselves, Intern, International Justice

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Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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