From California to Charles Taylor

Nicholas Koumjian started out his career as a district attorney in Los Angeles, but moved into the international arena via pro bono work representing Ivory Coast. Soon he changed his focus from California to war scenes around the world.

Since year 2000 Nicholas Koumjian´s involvement with international criminal law has brought him to see and work on some of the most heinous crimes against humanity in modern times. He was one of the prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) where he charged the mayor of Prijedor, Milomir Stakic, with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

He has also headed the serious crimes unit in East Timor and a human rights program in Colombia.

Until May last year he was principal attorney for the office of the prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the trail against Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia.

– It has been an interesting time, Charles Taylor is a charismatic person, says Nicholas Koumjian who has been working on the case from 2007. But the atrocities where horrible, and the case involved all sorts of deeply moving and disturbing evidence. And besides the suffering of thousands of civilians, the case also involved big power politics, diamonds, exploitation and betrayal.

In May 2012 Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Reading the sentencing statement the judge said: “The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in history.”

The students in Lund where interested to hear about Nicholas Koumjian´s experience of ICC as a tool for sentencing was criminals.

– I think ICC needs to develop, says Nicholas Koumjian. The rules need to be more practical and we need to develop ways to do a better job investigating who we charge.


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