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International criminal court leader sees signs of hope

University of Denver Sturm College of Law Professor Ved Nanda, left, and his wife, Katharine Nanda, present the Cox-Price Human Rights Award to William Pace, a University of Denver alumnus and the convener of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

More than a dozen years after the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established, one of its leaders sees signs of hope in a world that continues to need an international body to review atrocities and crimes against humanity.

William Pace (BA history ’68) accepted the Ved Nanda Center for International Law  Cox Price Human Rights Award at DU’s Sturm College of Law on March 30 and spoke of the ICC’s progress and of its ongoing efforts to review a growing number of crimes in Tunisia, the Ivory Coast and other countries in a time of upheaval and unrest.

Pace is the director of the Institute for Global Policy and serves as convener of the ICC — a global network of nongovernmental organizations. Though the United States is not one of the more than 100 countries to ratify the Rome Statute, which created the court, Pace said continued involvement and inclusion may bring the U.S. into the fold.

Pace recalled his involvement in the protest movements at DU in the 1960s and described how he continued his involvement in the struggle for global human rights after leaving the campus. His career has taken him around the globe as the ICC has fought to hold those who commit atrocities accountable in countries such as Congo, Uganda, the Darfur region and now in Libya and Tunisia.

The ICC, he said, continues to fight resistance from countries who say the program is too expensive or expansive, but Pace said he is buoyed by ongoing support from the United Nations and from the involvement of even those countries that didn’t sign the treaty. The work, he said, is too important to give up.

“If we’re going to survive, the human race must make peace with itself,” he said. “Then we must make peace with the rest of life on the planet, and then we must make peace with the planet.”

Nanda applauded Pace’s work and said he’s been emblematic of a DU community of students who fight for change. Even now, Nanda said, the Center for International Law stands alone as a center that depends on the support of passionate students and alumni, rather than on funds directly from the school.

Pace said he is grateful for the mentorship and support he has received from the Center and from Nanda.

“History will record his fingerprints on almost every important advance in international law in the past four decades,” Pace said of Nanda.

Also at the event, the DU Journal of International Law & Policy recognized Denver attorney Ralph Lake (JD and MBA, ’73) with the publication’s Alumni Award.

Lake, an attorney with the Memphis, Tenn., firm Burch, Porter & Johnson, formerly served as general counsel to the Promus Hotel Corporation and Harrah’s Entertainment. He was the editor-in-chief of the International Law Journal at DU when he was a student. He recalled his days working on the journal in a dank basement at the old law school, hearing rodents scurrying around him. And he said he doesn’t regret a moment.

“This is a great law school, a wonderful law school,” he said. “If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t even think about going to any other place that I had applied to.”

More than 75 students, faculty and alumni attended the ceremonies and heard Pace speak.

The mission of the Ved Nanda Center for International Law is to inspire excellence in international law teaching, scholarship and practice among faculty, students and friends. The center’s focus includes both public and private international law and emphasizes the intersection of the two in the real-life world of legal practice.

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