The treatment of prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay and questionable government practices raise several important questions about whether the U.S. must comply with international human rights laws in a time of war. If these questions are raised in international court, Judge Thomas Buergenthal of the International Court of Justice will be one of the justices providing the answers.
Buergenthal will speak at the West Virginia University College of Law on the topic ofInternational Courts: How They Work, Why They Matterat 10:30 a.m. Feb. 16 in the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom. This is a rare opportunity for WVU students, faculty and others to meet one of the worlds leading authorities on international law and human rights, especially one with strong ties to West Virginia.
Buergenthal immigrated to the United States at the age of 17. Having attended Bethany College for four years, he has strong ties to West Virginia. From Bethany, he went on to earn his law degree from New York University and his Master of Law degree from Harvard University. Buergenthal has taught international law and human rights all over the country, including the University of Texas School of Law, American University Washington College of Law and George Washington University Law School.
WVU professor James Friedberg , who organized the appearance of Buergenthal at the College of Law , said,WVU is really fortunate to host a man of international reputation like Thomas Buergenthal, who has served on not one but two international courtsthe Inter-American Court of Human Rights and now the World Court at The Hague. His visit comes at a particularly relevant time, when our national political transition will, hopefully, signify an end to our government making news by challenging international law.
Buergenthal grew up in Czechoslovakia and Poland. In 1939, Buergenthal and his parents boarded a train out of Poland. That same day the Nazis invaded Poland, and the train was bombed. Buergenthal and his parents were forced to live in the Polish ghetto of Kielce before being sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. He was 10 years old.
In January 1945, Buergenthal was one of only three children to survive the three-daydeath marchfrom Auschwitz to another concentration camp, Sachsenhausen. He was freed from the camp only a few months later in April 1945. However, his ordeal did not end there; Buergenthal lived in an orphanage until 1946, when he was finally reunited with his mother.
Before being elected to his current post at the International Court of Justice, the judicial branch of the United Nations, Buergenthal served as judge and president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. He was a member of the U.N. Truth Commission for El Salvador and the U.N. Human Rights Committee. He has also sat on the International Olympics Committee.
Buergenthal has won more than a dozen awards for his commitment to international law and human rights education. He has written numerous books on the subject, including a much-anticipated memoir due in April. Buergenthal has served on the International Court of Justice since 2000, a prestigious position offered only to the most renowned international law scholars in the world.
This event, which is free and open to the public, is made possible by a grant from the Paul D. Schurgot Foundation.