ICLP Blog Connecting the Heartland to the World


In the Building: The Search for Justice — a visit by Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp


Today the law school welcomed Iowa native Stephen J. Rapp, Ambassador-at-Large for the Office of Global Criminal Justice in the U.S. Department of State. The visit to the College of Law was sponsored by the International Law Society.

Ambassador Rapp visited Iowa after attending the Friends of Syria Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, convened by states to support the opposition to the Syrian government. Ambassador Rapp spoke to the students in the Introduction to Public International Law class, where he spoke about experiences and answered questions.

Later he attended a law school lunch before heading to other parts of the university for additional opportunities to speak to the public.

At the lunch Ambassador Rapp commented on the US sponsorship of a program to document the stories of victims of government violence in Syria, with the hope of eventually bringing those responsible to justice. In addition to providing accountability, it is his hope these efforts will deter governmental leaders from future violence.

Speaking on the challenges of working in an international tribunal, he recounted stories that demonstrated how civil law and common law lawyers need to seek common ground in order to be effective in their work.

In response to a question about the stress of working with the victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, Ambassador Rapp reported that working with victims, in particular, fueled his efforts to seek justice. But his voice grew quiet as he referred to working with evidence of unspeakable crimes and meetings with people whose children were killed before them or who were given the choice between "a long sleeve shirt or a short sleeve shirt" when threatened with amputation.

Students were positive about the visit, noting it was great to learn about Ambassador Rapp's journey from a criminal defense attorney to US Attorney to international prosecutor.

Our thanks to the Ambassador for an informative and inspirational visit.

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