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CEELI Institute’s Summer Law School for Ukrainian Students


22 Sep 2022

Since the Russian aggression in Ukraine began, CEELI Institute staff have worked hard to welcome and accommodate refugees displaced by the war—with the very generous support of so many of you. This effort relied on the villa’s available rooms and our staff members’ language skills and willingness to work long hours to help people in dire need, but not on the core expertise of the CEELI Institute. We decided to put that to use too, in order to aid Ukrainian law students whose studies had been interrupted by the war—and who will be at the forefront of protecting the rule of law for years after the war ends. As discussions about Ukraine quickly started including the term “genocide,” we saw the need to help these students to better understand the possibilities and difficulties that international criminal law offers for those seeking justice, and to improve their skills for holding those responsible to account. The villa is usually fairly empty in July, as many potential participants enjoy vacation, and we have both in-house expertise and connections to extraordinary experts on these and related topics. We were therefore pleased to welcome 32 Ukrainian law students and junior lawyers to the Villa Grébovka in Prague for a two-week summer school on “Legal Skills in a Time of War.”

Two Weeks to Prepare Young Lawyers to Deliver Justice

The first week of the summer school aimed to build the students’ trial advocacy skills, with particular attention to working with clients and witnesses who have suffered trauma. No matter the field of law that these students eventually choose, the ability to develop and deliver persuasive arguments and to assess evidence will serve them well. In addition, recognizing trauma and addressing it with clients or witnesses will be necessary in Ukraine, and the skills the students learned can facilitate preparations for legal proceedings, helping clients fully engage by minimizing perceived threats and avoiding re-traumatization to the extent possible.

The second week of the school focused on international criminal law, covering, among other topics, the distinctions between war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. The week also included lectures on the use of force and international humanitarian law, as well as a refresher on applicable domestic Ukrainian criminal law. Examples were drawn from past cases but classroom discussions also touched on current news from Ukraine.

Both weeks consisted of lectures and workshops in which participants practiced new skills by playing various roles including client, lawyer, and judge. And each week ended with a mock trial, in which students, standing before the panels of our experts, questioned witnesses and presented their oral arguments.

An International Faculty to Train Students on International Law and Prosecuting War Crimes

The two weeks were intense but the outstanding, dedicated faculty ensured that they were also enjoyable. Marcia Levy, associate clinical professor and director of Legal Residency of University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law (USA), led the first week and was able to join us thanks to the Fulbright Specialist Program. Teaching alongside Professor Levy were Sidney Brooks, who retired after serving as a judge on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Colorado (USA) for almost 30 years; Olivia Bushell, senior pro bono coordinator in the London office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Judith Ritter, professor and director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Widener University Delaware Law School (USA); and Mariia Tsypiashchuk, lecturer and head of the Legal Clinic of the National University of Ostroh Academy (Ukraine).

The second week was led by Keith Raynor, circuit judge at the Leicester Crown Court in South-East London (UK) and former prosecutor at Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. He was joined by Professor Levy and Judge Brooks, as well as two more exceptional faculty members: Tamás Lattmann, professor at the University of New York in Prague; Andres Parmas, prosecutor general of Estonia and former judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (2017–2020); and Kateryna Shyroka, judge on Ukraine’s High Anticorruption Court. CEELI Institute staff members, including Julia Fromholz, executive director, also joined in the teaching.

The summer school was made possible by the combined effort of brilliant international faculty, all of whom generously donated their time, and multiple donors, led by Devon Energy and including Judge Sidney Brooks; the Fulbright Specialist Program; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and Widener University Delaware Law School. The CEELI Institute also wishes to thank the exceptional law students and junior lawyers who poured time, heart, and humor into their two weeks at Villa Grébovka during an extraordinarily difficult time.

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