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Tuesday, September 12, 2023
Professor Koh Named 2023 Lemkin Rule of Law Guardian by Duke Law School
Professor Harold Hongju Koh
Sterling Professor of International Law Harold Hongju Koh, who has dedicated his career to defending human rights and promoting international law, will be honored as a champion of the rule of law by Duke Law School. Koh is the 2023 recipient of the Raphael Lemkin Rule of Law Guardian Medal awarded by the school’s Bolch Judicial Institute. He will be presented the medal on Oct. 9 in Durham, North Carolina.
“Professor Koh is an outstanding exemplar of the core ideals embodied by the Lemkin Medal,” Paul W. Grimm, the David F. Levi Professor of the Practice of Law and Director of the Bolch Judicial Institute at Duke Law School, said in a statement. “He has long used the law as a means to peacefully hold human rights abusers accountable, and his scholarship, writings, and advocacy have meaningfully advanced the rule of law.”
Koh is internationally recognized as a leading expert in public and private international law, national security law, and human rights. He is a prolific writer and scholar whose career has spanned numerous positions in academia and public service. He served as the 15th Dean of Yale Law School from 2004 until 2009, when he took a leave of absence to serve as legal adviser of the Department of State in the Obama administration. In 2013, he returned to Yale Law School, where he continues to teach and represent individuals who have suffered human rights abuses, with a leave at the beginning of 2021 to serve as Senior Advisor in the Biden administration’s State Department. He is currently among the lawyers representing Ukraine at the International Court of Justice in The Hague asking the court to declare Russia in violation of three international treaties.
“Harold Hongju Koh is one of the great figures in human rights and international law...Whether in Haiti or Ukraine or elsewhere, when he sees injustice, he must act to end it using his formidable skills and passion, using the law.”
— David F. Levi
American Law Institute
“Harold Hongju Koh is one of the great figures in human rights and international law,” said David F. Levi, president of the American Law Institute and director emeritus of the Bolch Judicial Institute at Duke Law. “He has made huge contributions as a scholar, a teacher, the leader of a great law school, in distinguished public service, and as an advocate. Whether in Haiti or Ukraine or elsewhere, when he sees injustice, he must act to end it using his formidable skills and passion, using the law. It is hard to imagine how he has accomplished so much in one lifetime. The Lemkin Medal is a fitting tribute to his devotion to the rule of law and the tremendous value and impact of his life’s work.”
The Lemkin Rule of Law Guardian Medal honors individuals who seek to advance and protect the rule of law in their everyday work. It is named for Raphael Lemkin, a one-time Duke Law faculty member and one of the leading 20th-century scholars of human rights who coined the phrase “genocide.” The medal is awarded by the director of the Bolch Judicial Institute in consultation with the Institute’s leadership boards. Koh is the medal’s third recipient. Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg Trial prosecutor, received the inaugural Lemkin Medal in 2020. Duke Law Professor Jim Coleman received the Lemkin Medal in 2022.
Lemkin also spent time as a lecturer in law at Yale Law School and the Rafael Lemkin prize for the best student paper in international human rights is awarded annually by the Law School faculty in his honor.
The Lemkin Rule of Law Guardian Medal honors individuals who work to protect the rule of law every day, taking steps both large and small to ensure liberty and justice for all. Honorees stand up for due process and for legal systems that treat all people with fairness and dignity. By telling the stories of these individuals through events and personal interviews, the Lemkin Rule of Law Guardian Medal program aims to remind all of the power of an individual to make a difference, according to the Bolch Judicial Institute.