Allegheny Students Take Law and Policy Trip to International Humanitarian Law Dialogs

Allegheny students at International Humanitarian Law Dialogs
Allegheny students with Stephen Rapp, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, at the International Humanitarian Law Dialogs. From left: Kathryn Phillippe, Stephen Rapp, Mia Cota-Robles Rossi, Jared Szklenski, and Hannah Firestone

Departing for Chautauqua, New York, on the morning of August 28, a group of 22 Allegheny students attended the 12th International Humanitarian Law Dialogs on a trip sponsored by the college’s Law and Policy Program.

Held at the esteemed Chautauqua Institution, this event focused on cultural approaches to international justice by posing the question, “Is the Justice We Seek the Justice They Want?” This question was heavily debated at the dialogs, as international lawyers face many challenges in their careers.

During presentations at the event, renowned international war crimes tribunal prosecutors and legal experts spoke of their careers and experiences. They later joined to form a panel, during which Allegheny students and other audience members could share their questions and insights.

The law dialogs also featured author Ishmael Beah, and a copy of his national bestselling memoir, “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier,” was given to each of the students and autographed upon request.

The trip was “memorable, insightful, and 100 percent worth attending,” said first-year student Kathryn Phillippe.

Students at the Chautauqua amphitheatre
Allegheny students Mia Cota-Robles Rossi , Xavier Weintraub, and Kiara Perry at the Chautauqua Amphitheatre

“I was awestruck and inspired by the many people I had met at this event,” Phillippe added, “but one in particular stood out for me: Mohamedou Ould Salahi, an engineer from Mauritania who was detained by the United States without criminal charges and subjected to interrogation and torture before ending up in Guantanamo Bay.”

Salahi wrote “Guantanamo Diary,” a detailed narrative of his years in detention before his 2016 release. The audience had the opportunity to Skype and speak with Salahi from Mauritania, and he told the audience that he kept his spirit through all his years in detention by being positive.

Salahi’s next published work, “Portable Happiness,” addresses why it is important to have this positive outlook on life, despite what the situation may be, Phillippe said. “This message really resonated with me,” she added, “and I often think of how I can contain my own ‘portable happiness’ as Ould Salahi did.”

The Law and Policy Program offered by Allegheny provides students with opportunities and experience in law and policy in both domestic and international contexts. This is the first year of a new Global Affairs focus within the Law and Policy Program. This trip to the Law Dialogues, with faculty and students from political science and international studies, reflects that new focus within the Law and Policy Program.

Allegheny students have attended the International Humanitarian Law Dialogs for the past six years through the Law and Policy Program and the college’s Center for Political Participation. Both programs plan to continue to provide students with the opportunity to attend this annual event.