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Past Event

Crimes against humanity, genocide, and ecocide: Of rights, responsibilities, and international order

The eighth annual Justice Stephen Breyer Lecture on International Law

Past Event

On April 8, 2022, as part of the eighth annual Justice Stephen Breyer Lecture on International Law, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted Philippe Sands, professor of law at University College London and Samuel and Judith Pisar visiting professor of law at Harvard Law School, for a keynote address on rights, responsibilities, and international order.

Sands explored the evolution of the rights of individuals and groups under international law, from the introduction of the ideas of aggression, crimes against humanity, and genocide — introduced at the Nuremberg Trial, in the autumn of 1945 — to the treatment of these issues in current times, including ISIS and the Yazidis; the Rohingya in Myanmar; the Uighurs in China; and the Chagosians and the Chagos Archipelago. He also addressed the current situation in Ukraine and touched on new ideas to extend the reach of international law to criminalize severe harm to the environment.

After the keynote address, Nonresident Senior Fellow Ted Piccone joined Sands for a conversation on the role of international law in prosecuting crimes against humanity, genocide, and ecocide. A panel discussion of distinguished experts on these issues followed their conversation.

Viewers submitted questions by email to or on Twitter using #InternationalLaw.


Welcome remarks

Keynote address and conversation

Panel discussion


Sean D. Murphy

Manatt/Ahn Professor of International Law - The George Washington University Law School


Jane Stromseth

Francis Cabell Brown Professor of International Law - Georgetown School of Law

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