Information Hub:

Fall semester details, AUP's Covid-19 response, AUP Digital Campus and more...


Professor Whiting

International Humanitarian Law

What first brought you to France? And how did you get involved with AUP?

I have a long history of engagement with France because I am a dual US-French citizen and I have both lived and travelled in France. I first became engaged with AUP through the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Right and Conflict Prevention. I was invited to the Center’s inaugural conference in October, 2016, and then I was a fellow with the Center in the summer of 2017. I look forward to continued engagement with AUP which I have found to be a fascinating and engaging institution.

What originally piqued your interest in international law?

Because of my international background, I’ve always been interested in the idea of working internationally. I got an opportunity when, after working for ten years as a federal prosecutor in the US, I applied to be a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where I worked from 2002-2007.

Before AUP, you worked in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, as a trial attorney with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and as a US Federal Prosecutor in Washington and Boston. How does this broad professional background inform your teaching?

My professional experiences are integral to my teaching. I try very hard to teach students the law, but also how the law is applied in practice and the kinds of decisions lawyers face in their various roles. Lawyering is a very dynamic experience and I hope to give students a feel for the complexity of being a lawyer, whether you are representing the government or an individual.

In a period where there seems to be a resurgent discussion about sovereignty and nationalism and a sense of frustration with multinational bodies like the European Union, how does this impact on the still evolving project of international law? And has there been a change in public attitudes towards the work of tribunals and courts pursuing it?

Indeed, there has been an important retreat by states from their international commitments and a decreased faith in the ability of international institutions to address global challenges. The modern international tribunals were created in a golden diplomatic era between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the so-called War on Terror. The current nationalist trend and turning inward by states pose challenges for international tribunals, like the ICC, that depend on state funding and political backing. My view on this, however, is that the moment we are currently experiencing is temporary: the world will in time return to international cooperation and governance because ultimately it is the only path forward. The ICC and other international justice institutions just need to survive these difficult days. 

In your writings, you talk about the International Criminal Court as a controversial and important body that is growing in importance. What challenges does the ICC face in the coming years? And what reforms are needed for it to meet with them?

The biggest challenge the ICC faces is continuing to be relevant. To be successful, the court requires sustained political commitment from states, and that can be difficult to maintain because states may not always recognize the benefits of accountability (and may even wish to avoid it). The ICC will always exist, but the question will be whether it is a robust institution or a symbolic entity. I suspect that there will not be one answer going forward. Sometimes, and in some places, the court will play an important role, and will receive the strong backing of states, and at other times its work will be marginalized. Over time, I hope that the court’s work will contribute to developing a norm of accountability and that it will become harder and harder to ignore the court’s mandate.

What advice would you offer those interested in pursuing a career in international law?

I have two pieces of advice. First, develop a skill or subject-matter expertise that you can bring to the international sphere. You will be much more valuable if you do. Second, jump at opportunities to gain international experience. Look for chances to work internationally. Getting the first international job can be challenging so it is important to seize chances to work in any international environment when you can.

What do you believe sets the MA in Diplomacy and International Law apart from other similar graduate programs?

I think the MA in Diplomacy and International Law at AUP offers two principal advantages. First, the combination of subjects allows students to take a multi-disciplinary approach to international subjects and to understand the legal and policy dimensions of the problems that they study. Second, studying these subjects in Paris provides the opportunity to expose the students not just to the diverse and accomplished faculty that AUP attracts, but also to an impressive array of guests and speakers who pass through.

What is your teaching philosophy? And what do you hope students will take away from the International Humanitarian Law course?

In my teaching, I try to excite the students about the subject I am teaching in order to inspire them to learn more. I also encourage them to understand the complexity of the legal and international problems that they study, and to see that there are no easy solutions. In my International Humanitarian Law course, I hope to equip the students with an understanding of the laws of armed conflict, in particular with respect to targeting, so that they can assess the legality of conflicts and particular uses of force going forward.