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College Preparation Program: IN FOCUS Seminar

Crime, Crisis and Genocide: Global Justice in the 21st Century

As we have seen in recent years, international courts of justice have risen to the forefront of global response to genocides, civil wars and other crises which involve mass killings.  From trying Nazis to the fomenters of the genocide in Rwanda, we watch government officials and ordinary people stand on trial charged with crimes against humanity.  Students in this seminar will tackle recurring questions which arise before and during these trials.  Where was the rest of the world while these killings occurred? What laws were broken? What are the standards of criminality and when does global justice take precedence over national sovereignty? We begin with the origins of the law against genocide as well as the historical and philosophical roots of the principle of sovereignty.  We will examine the cases of Rwanda and either Darfur or Syria; how these crises began and how they were fueled (both internally and through international action and neglect).  Our findings will address whether the decision to try killers is easier than the decision to intervene in an effort to stop the killing.  We will consider the advantages and disadvantages of the overall policy that the United Nations seeks to enact called “The Responsibility to Protect” or R2P.  

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  • Dates: June 25-July 6, 2018
  • Instructor: Jeff Rice, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Weinberg College Adviser
  • Enrollment capacity: 22


Through reading background material, survivor narratives and watching documentary film footage, students will be introduced to the origins and the unfolding of genocides. Lectures, group discussions, invited speakers, and journal writing assignments will be mixed together to develop a deeper understanding of humanitarian crises.


  • Provide an historical understanding to the genocide in Rwanda and the humanitarian crises in Darfur (one question will be whether Darfur is, in fact, genocide).
  • Assist students in understanding the relationship between civil wars and genocides asking the question of whether genocide is the intended result or a by-product of war.
  • Investigate the complexity of international intervention: can it work, what are the long term problems, does it violate norms of sovereignty, when is it necessary?
  • Look at the effectiveness of post-genocide tribunals, the role of the International Criminal Court, the United Nations, and court proceedings in Rwanda.


This seminar is appropriate for high school students who are interested in humanitarian issues, comparative history, Africa, or trans-national justice. No previous knowledge of any of these issues is required — just passion.

A Typical Classroom Session

Each day there will be a mix of lectures, films, discussions, and quiet time for writing. While this session would be a half day held on the Evanston campus, some days will be full days with field trips offsite or on-campus activities. On full days, there will be field trips or other seminar activities that will require attendance beyond the typical classroom schedule.

9:30–10:15 a.m.:

Lecture and discussion on the topic for the day

10:15–11 a.m.:

View documentary or discuss film/activities from previous afternoon

11–11:15 a.m.:


11:15–11:45 a.m.:

Small group discussion based on talking points offered by the instructor

11:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m.:

Class-wide presentations based on small group discussions

12:15–12:45 p.m.:

Introduction of next day’s themes/topic

Field trips/afternoon activities

Films to be shown during the classroom sessions will be Frontline Documentaries and videos of trials for war crimes.