Volume 4, Issue 3, (Originally Published on Monday 12th August 2013)
Associate Professor Peter Rush was the MLS faculty representative at CTLS in the January 2013 semester, and taught two subjects, Transitional Law, and International Criminal Law (the latter co-taught with Professor David Luban of Georgetown University).
DM: How did you become interested in international Law?
PR: Legal theory and jurisprudence is intrinsically, from its inception, a transnational understanding of law, which is alive to the differences within legal systems historically, and between legal systems in the contemporary world.
So although I specialised for a long time in criminal law, about 10 – 15 years ago, I started thinking I could build and expand that area of criminal law and comparative criminal law, to take account of the development in the 1990s of international criminal justice, which has always struggled with the different legal systems which it draws upon, not just international law and regional systems such as the European Union and Southern Cone, but also the plurality of civil law and common law traditions.
How did you become involved with CTLS?
In 2012, I was invited to give a colloquium at CTLS, and my experience of that was outstanding.
Students were engaged, and my colleagues were enthusiastic in talking about their own interests and in creating a dialogue across jurisdictions.
I was talking on ways in which Argentina, law and film have contributed to our contemporary understanding of international criminal justice, and people were really willing to talk across both disciplines and legal areas. So I became very enthusiastic at that point, and [then co-director] Naomi Mezey invited me to put my name forward as the Melbourne representative for the 2012 – 2013 academic year.
What do you think CTLS contributes to a law student’s learning?
The primary benefit of CTLS is that it is designed and practices its teaching and study in such a way as to open law students to the variety and distinctiveness of the many jurisdictions, which contemporary lawyers on the global stage encounter on a daily basis.
It brings together some of the best students from more than 15 legal jurisdictions, and brings them into a hothouse environment where there is a focus on engaging across jurisdictions, across subject areas, and thinking about the challenges and possibilities of transnational study.
What is unique about this is [it’s] not the same as simply going on exchange, where you are only exposed to one jurisdiction and the issues that are most pressing for that jurisdiction in a trans-national context.
I think it is striking that I encountered students from Jerusalem, both Hebrew and Palestinian, from Switzerland, Italy, Korea, China, Portugal, Colombia, Singapore, Russia, Germany, Canada, the USA, amongst others. In this sense, CTLS is like doing all the exchanges in one place.
The differences between the jurisdictions make it imperative that you encounter and deal with the different ways in which legal problems are both framed, given shape, and also solved, using the tools that are sometimes domestic, sometimes regional, sometimes international, and sometimes jurisprudential. It thus prepares students for the interesting and challenging rewards of working in the contemporary legal world.
What do you think are the most critical challenges facing the legal profession in international criminal law?
The key challenge always in international criminal law, and international criminal justice more broadly, has been to work out what the role of the law is in the aftermath of extensive cross-border conflict and mass atrocity.
Whether law should be the way in which we respond to these conflicts and atrocities? How does law respond to these sorts of situations? What are the variety of legal mechanisms which are appropriate to the local context?
Because one of the defining tensions within international criminal law is the relationship between the international community and the plurality of local interests, communities and institutions.
For the profession, I think the key challenge is how to manage the diversity, and often fragmentation of legal regimes in plural jurisdictions.
Advice for students?
First, be open-minded when coming to CTLS, and you will get more out of your interactions and social relationships and study when you are here.
Second, plan your trip as early as possible.
Third, speak with academics who have taught at CTLS and other students who have been. It is always useful to get details of what to expect, and what not to expect.