CHAUTAUQUA - A blast from the Chautauqua Belle's whistle invaded the Chautauqua Institution's amphitheater parlor at the moment its occupants were settled and waiting.
It could not have been better timed even with intent, because immediately following the welcoming signal, the International Humanitarian Dialogss issued its fourth annual Chautauqua Declaration.
Ten international prosecutors, from landmark cases past and present, signed the document after it was read aloud before an enthusiastic crowd of scholars.
On Tuesday, the Chautauqua Declaration was issued at the fourth annual International Humanitarian Law Dialogs. Diane Marie Amann, vice president of ASIL, read the document and the signatories included a panel of international prosecutors.
P-J photo by Jason Rodriguez
"It's more than symbolism," host Diane Marie Amann said about the declaration. "What's important about these dialogues is bringing together prosecutors who are working on every continent in the world doing very difficult work, and give them an opportunity to share ideas and experience.
Amann's professional background is multifaceted, but she said her role as vice president of the American Society of International Law is what brought her to the platform on Tuesday. She said the ASIL is very active in providing assistant to special prosecutors around the event.
One of the unique things about this event, she added, is the historic participation that allows prosecutors from the watershed Nuremberg tribunals to strengthen the work of those in the field right now.
The Chautauqua Declaration bookends a busy summer that began with the International Criminal Court's Kampala Declaration at the beginning of June.
At the review conference held in Uganda's capital, the ICC settled on a definition of aggressive war, which follows genocide and other acts that the ICC can prosecute. After a "pause period" of seven years, independent prosecutors will be able to indict war criminals from across a jurisdictional map of nations that have signed on to the international treaty. Currently only the United Nations Security Council can refer international crimes to the ICC.
Said Amann: "The most important addition was the adoption of aggression as a crime that may one day be punishable before the ICC."
During the summer, she said the ICC and its supporting international community heralded the first successful prosecution of Cambodian war criminals within an extraordinary court setup within the home government.
"Kampala began the summer season for international criminal justice, said Amann. "Some of the events chronicled in the (Chautauqua) Declaration like the Cambodian judgment have occurred since then, and this conference is a way to bring that to a close and move forward to the next year."
Adam Bratton, executive director at the Jackson Center, said the conference is a magnet for those interested in humanitarian law, and all roads ultimately lead back to Jackson, who was the chief U.S. prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.
"It's a nod to the Jackson Center that they are here in our backyard," said Bratton. "But it's also a reality that Jackson is who (prosecutors) look to today, and probably will for quite some time."
He added it is great to see the local interest in the conference, because it represents a unique opportunity not just for the gathering of world prosecutors, but for the community that can attend the dialogues at no expense.
"It's something that should be enjoyed by folks in this community," said Bratton. "We had a great situation this morning, where the prosecutors broke out and had one-on-one conversations with small groups of 10 or 12 people, and the people were just blown away by that."