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Monday, August 6, 2012

The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University School of Law Essay Competition

The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University School of Law seeks submissions of essays for the Benjamin B. Ferencz Essay Competition, held on the occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the International Criminal Court.


  • Contestants must be 20 years of age or older.
  • Contestants must have completed their high school studies.  Law students, PhD students and young scholars are especially invited to apply. 
  • The essay must be written solely by the candidate. 
  • The essay should take the form of a law review style article. 
  • Submissions must be original and unpublished works of under 6,000 words, including footnotes. 
  • Footnotes must conform to authoritative standard rules of legal citation and must include a description of each authority adequate to allow a reasonable reader to identify and locate the authority in a publication of general circulation.
  • The essay must be typed and double-spaced.


  • Contestants are strongly encouraged to register for the competition as soon as possible at the following link: [Registration].  
  • Submissions must be made electronically at the following link: [Submit your essay]
  • A complete submission includes a cover page with the author’s relevant information (name, contact information, highest level of education completed and area of study, and the registration ID number) and the essay in a Microsoft Word or PDF document. Please ensure that the essay pages do not contain any information about the author. 
  • Contestants may submit only one entry. Multiple or incomplete submissions will not be considered.


The first-place winner of the Essay Contest will receive an award of US$10,000.  Second- and third-place runners-up will each receive an honorable mention and a plaque as well as runner-up awards in the amount of US$2,500 each.  The first-place winner of the Contest will be invited to St. Louis, Missouri, for an award ceremony that will take place during the International Criminal Court at Ten conference in November 2012. The essay will be included in the symposium issue published by the Washington University Global Studies Law Review resulting from the conference.  The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute will cover the winner’s travel expenses to St. Louis, including airfare, accommodations and meals. 
 Please note that there will not be a participation certification given for competing in this essay contest.


  • Entries will be reviewed by a distinguished panel of impartial judges. 
  • Entries will be judged on the basis of originality, style and organization, quality of analysis and quality of research. 
  • Essays will be judged anonymously.


The essay must address the following question:  Under what conditions may acts that constitute illegal use of armed force and that result in the widespread or systematic attack upon a civilian population be prosecuted as crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, pursuant to the Rome Statute.
Contestants are encouraged to consider the following and develop the arguments set forth in the description below:
In June 2010, a conference took place in Kampala, Uganda, to review the Statute that had been adopted in Rome to govern the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was agreed that the new Court would exercise jurisdiction over “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.” Four categories of crimes were identified in article 5 of the Statute as falling within this jurisdiction: the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. However, the Court could only exercise its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression after a number of conditions had been fulfilled. One of the primary goals of the Review Conference in Kampala was to consider amending the Statute to add a definition of the crime of aggression and thereby close the gap in the ICC's jurisdiction. When the Kampala conference ended, a definition of aggression was adopted by consensus, now found in article 8 bis of the Rome Statute, but implementation of that definition was postponed until, at the earliest, 2017, meaning that the Court could not exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression until after that time.  Thus, what the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1945 had condemned as “the supreme international crime” cannot currently be prosecuted at the ICC.
Article 7 of the Rome Statute sets forth a definition of crimes against humanity, and lists as predicate acts, among others, “murder,” “torture,” “enslavement,” “rape” and “other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health” (Article 7(1)(k)). No prior Security Council approval is required for prosecution of crimes against humanity assuming jurisdiction exists under article 13(a) or (c) of the Statute. Intent and knowledge are essential elements that must be proved, and pursuant to article 30(2), a person is deemed to have intent in relation to a consequence where either that person “means to cause that consequence or is aware that it will occur in the ordinary course of events.”
Thus, the question arises whether individuals responsible for the illegal use of armed force, knowing that their actions will result in the killing of large numbers of civilians, may be held accountable for crimes against humanity under the spirit and letter of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

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