William and Mary Law School

A trip to DOJ International Affairs

So today, Tim, Amanda, and I were lucky enough to be granted a meeting with the an attorney in the Office of International Affairs for the Department of Justice. The attorney had worked as a prosecutor  at the DOJ for many years with NCSC’s Director of Program Development, who retired from prosecution and now works in her capacity for NCSC. The two were gracious enough to set up this meeting so that Amanda and I could learn about another aspect of international law, and so I was excited for the opportunity.

Much of our discussion focused on the attorney's experiences in international law. Specifically working in the area of Multilateral Affairs, the attorney shared his wealth of knowledge and stories on treaty negotiation, extradition, and mutual legal assistance. While extradition is obviously a hot button topic right now given current events, our discussion on this area, along with mutual legal assistance, focused on his role in these processes and how his department and other countries cooperated in order to best prosecute crimes. Similarly, we spent a lot of time discussing his experiences with treaty negotiations and the ins-and-outs of how these agreements came to fruition, both in terms of creating these treaties with other countries, and then ratifying them domestically. I found particularly interesting how different countries approached these negotiations and their priorities in them. For example, on the topic of extradition, I found it interesting the clauses that we and other countries required in bilateral agreements. Thus I was reminded of my Caribbean research as he told us about Europe’s emphasis that any person extradited cannot be given the death sentence. This was particularly intriguing given the inherent difficulties arising from the federalist nature of our system, and the complexities that arise for state prosecutions of an individual when the federal government has assured a foreign government that the defendant will not be put to death. 

It was also enlightening to hear about how effective he believed these agreements to be. When I’ve thought about the laws that most effectively aid prosecuting criminals, I hadn’t really considered the effect of international treaties and conventions. But after speaking with the attorney, I’ve come to realize how important these agreements are to successful prosecutions. While I understood their importance for certain transnational crimes, for instance human trafficking, I hadn’t thought about more localized crimes. But given the extensive technology of our modern time, and how interconnected everything is through the internet, nearly all crimes have some sort of multi-jurisdictional, and often international, component. As such he highlighted, for instance, the effectiveness of the Convention on Organized Crime in prosecuting various major crimes, which I found thought-provoking. 

As our meeting ran over, the attorney gave us some advice regarding international criminal law, and I left feeling significantly more knowledgeable than when I arrived.