Bar Journal - June 1, 2003
By: Attorney Elizabeth L. Hodges
Some nineteen years ago, when I graduated from law school, I had little hope of finding a venue here in New Hampshire for the international human rights and immigration law I had learned. But, even then, there was the feeling that the world was shrinking. The topic of international criminal courts was as hotly debated in class in their absence as they are today after numerous ad hoc tribunals and the international criminal court have been established. Then, as now, central issues were international enforcement and local sovereignty. Currently, these are issues being wrestled with in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), that started operations in 1993, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rawanda (ICTR), begun in 1995, as they laid the groundwork for the International Criminal Court (ICC), that was adopted in 1998 and started operations in 2002.1
In the past few years, the term "globalization" has become commonplace. No one is surprised when such issues as child support cross country as well as state lines. The U.S.S.R. has become the Russian Federation with 49 oblasts, 22 semi-independent republics, ten autonomous regions, six territories, and two federal cities; other governments have toppled and the United States government has invested millions in rule of law projects to assist emerging independent judiciaries. After seven trips to Russia and one to Bulgaria to participate in judicial and justice system projects, after participation on the Brandeis University steering committee to choose ten fellows and develop curriculum for the Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life international fellows program, I am involved with colleagues and in projects that I could have never foreseen. So, when the editorial board of the Bar Journal was brainstorming ideas, it seemed evident to me, and to others, that the time had come for an international issue.
The topics and authors in this issue took very little effort to solicit. In fact, there were several authors who, because of pressing international and other business, could not make the deadline. As such, it seems to me that there isa need for the Bar Journal to offer this forum again. That having been said, the articles in this issue provide rich reading.
The first three articles chronicle the successes of the partnership between judiciaries and lawyers in Vologda, Russia and New Hampshire. Begun in 1998 during the collapse of the Russian economy, the conditions in Russia at that time are paralleled only in the dire conditions of this nation's poor. The difference is that, in Vologda, everyone shared in the lack of commodities. For example, the high ranking chief judge of the oblast court earned only $100.00 per month; when visiting his newly constructed condominium-styled home, he proudly pointed out the plumbing in the bathroom which had been salvaged from debris. In the outdoor markets and soviet style "department store" (a large warehouse with individual stalls), shoes came in only one or two sizes and when I was looking for a black sweater because of unexpected cold, my search was exactly that - a black sweater regardless of size and style because there were no choices. However, even those with the least treated us royally in their homes. The Russian spirit, expecting the worst and moving through it quickly, is a true example of the poor on earth that are spiritually rich. Each time, when I return to the United States, my home seems crammed with unnecessary glut. Every time I go to Vologda, my gift list grows longer.
As seen in these articles, times are changing. My first visit to Moscow, I saw maybe one or two advertising billboards; now, they are everywhere. In Vologda, the old wooden houses indicative of northwest Russia, are being renovated under new regulations for their preservation. The residence of the American embassy led by David Francis, doyen of the diplomatic corps, established in Vologda for five months in 1918, is now a museum. New stores are everywhere as well. I understand there are now bar coded items in a new grocery store that accepts credit cards, not even accepted in Moscow in 1998. Conditions for the individual have improved. Pensions are now being paid. Salaries have doubled and tripled (although still very low by our standards).
In working with judges from other eastern European countries, such as Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia, I am often first asked about corruption in the Russian judiciary. My answer is always a supposition - no more than anywhere else (although, I have seen three articles about Vologda in the New York Times since I have started travelling there - one on the renovation of wooden houses, one on the superlative butter, and one about the lack of corruption in Vologda). My answer is more cynical than naive. Corruption comes in many forms; scratch the surface of any developing nation and there are a certain number of opportunists and a certain amount of deviation from the ideal standard. However, I have not seen this in Vologda, but have been impressed by the general integrity and dedication. Having been there when terrorists were blowing up apartment buildings in Moscow and on September 11, 2001, our compassion for one another illustrated that the world is not so big a place when the approach is by one person at a time. Political obstacles are something we all deal with, whether for personal gain or the general good. It is each person's choice - regardless of their nationality.
The lesson to be learned from these articles is the strength and power of individuals, both in attaining goals or thwarting them. And, in Cathy Frierson and Buzz Scherr's article, there is a lesson in obstacles. Their ability to move the project forward is nothing short of a miracle. With road blocks at every turn, the project participants persevered. Establishing a law clinic at the local Vologda law school was something I thought would never happen, having been the person who persuaded ABACEELI to provide technical assistance only to have it rejected by the local dean. While the article speaks of their frustrations, they should be commended for their progress.
New Hampshire, though a small state in geographic size and population, is world-class in a number of areas. Two are treated in this issue - refugee resettlement and child support enforcement. The article on refugee resettlement provides a plethora of information on immigration law, current refugee resettlement target populations, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, New Hampshire's local refugee office, New Hampshire's NGO services, and the special registration programs instituted in response to September 11, 2001. The article on child support enforcement provides information on enforcing foreign orders in the United States as well as enforcing American orders in other countries. Anecdotally, I have had questions on both pass my desk, which indicates to me that the issue of child support crossing country lines is becoming more commonplace. I am sure this article will be welcomed by those who practice family law.
The article from the ICTY is riveting - and on point. Working with international judges and prosecutors at Brandeis, I heard many stories of the varying legal principles, particularly with respect to which procedural law to apply. For example, prosecutors will prepare motions according to a particular judge's satisfaction one day, only to have them rejected the next day by another judge. The question of preparing witnesses, as pointed out in the article, is another hurdle that has to be vaulted time and time again. And more often than not, the slow progress of the trial, the empowerment of defendants whose crimes were witnessed by the world, leaves witnesses in despair and feeling like the prisoners are running the prison. In Rawanda, the snail's pace at which the ICTR is addressing the atrocities has led the Rawandans to re-establish gacaca courts, or tribal councils, in an effort to restore communities that were shattered.2 I hope we hear more about this in the future from Michael Johnson, former Merrimack County attorney, familiar with both the ICTY and the ICTR.
The last article, while not overtly international, has international ramifications. In conversations I've had abroad, when topics turn to the plight of the world's children, opinions of the United States' treatment of children invariably focuses on our practice of trying certain juveniles as adults. In some instances, those in other countries feel it is a byproduct of a violent country; others see it as barbaric. This thoughtful article gives new insights into the issue.
It has been fun to edit this issue. I want to especially thank Dan Wise and Donna Parker for their help. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
For a synoptic chart on international judiciaries and news about all international courts and tribunals (judgements, press releases, articles, etc.), log onto www.pict-pcti.org.
For an excellent article on Rwanda and the gacaca courts, see Helen Cobban, The Legacies of Collective Violence (February 3, 2003) available at http://bostonreview.mit.edu/BR27.2/cobban.html.
Attorney Elizabeth L. Hodges is Deputy General Counsel, NH Supreme Court, Concord, NH.