Former War Crimes Prosecutor Speaks on Transitional Justice

November 14, 2022

Human rights lawyer David Tolbert delivers the 2022 Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute Drinan Lecture

“From Nuremberg to Ukraine: Accountability for Mass Atrocities” was the title of this year’s Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute (HRI) Drinan Lecture, delivered by an international human rights lawyer who has devoted his career to pursuing justice on behalf of victims of crimes against humanity.

David Tolbert, the Law Center’s current Robert F. Drinan, S.J. Chair in Human Rights, shared his perspective on the achievements and shortfalls of various international justice efforts of the past century. Some of them he had helped to lead himself, including the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the United Nations-backed special tribunal for leaders of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

“Accountability is so critical to the rule of law and to human rights,” said Tolbert. “Without accountability, impunity will reign, creating more and more cycles of atrocities. Moreover, victims deserve to see justice rendered, which I think is the essence of accountability.”

Elisa Massimino at a podium

HRI Executive Director Elisa Massimino

Said HRI Executive Director Elisa Massimino in introducing Tolbert, “It takes a special kind of lawyer – and a special kind of person – to dedicate their life to helping societies pick up the pieces after the most unspeakable crimes.”



Watch the entire lecture here: