October 16 Monday

Binger Inaugural Lecture with Professor Jim Silk '89, “From Nuremberg to the Netherlands to Nineveh? The Book of Jonah, International Criminal Justice and the Promise of Human Rights”

  • Monday, October 16, 2017 at 4:30PM - 6:00PM
  • Yale Law School, Room 127
  • Open To The Public
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The trials at Nuremberg after the Second World War have formed part of the creation story of modern human rights law and have been a source of inspiration for many who have devoted their work to advocating for human rights. Half a century later, human rights advocates celebrated the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court as a monumental victory that would institutionalize international criminal justice and transform human rights protection. Along the way, Professor Silk's youthful veneration for the justice that Nuremberg achieved began to falter in the face of a set of misgivings, first, about potential unintended consequences of the enthusiasm for international criminal justice and the way they could work against human rights protection and, later, about how that enthusiasm might more fundamentally undermine the promise of human rights. To understand this worry, Professor Silk turned to the biblical Book of Jonah, which long struck him as an interesting moral tale about justice for serious public crimes, with the struggle between Jonah and God over the fate of Nineveh a paradigm for doubts – largely silenced within contemporary human rights discourse – over whether we should be reinforcing our retributive tendencies in the name of human rights. Does the Book of Jonah carry any useful lessons for the modern struggle for human rights?

James J. Silk is the Binger Clinical Professor of Human Rights at Yale Law School, where he teaches the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic. He is director of the Law School’s Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights. He founded and directs the Multidisciplinary Academic Program in Human Rights in Yale College. In the 2016-2017 academic year, he initiated and directed JUNCTURE: Explorations in Art and Human Rights, a year-long program of collaborations with artists; a multidisciplinary graduate seminar; fellowships for Yale School of Art MFA students; a public lecture series; and a symposium. He was formerly the director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights in Washington, D.C. After completing law school, he was an attorney at the Washington law firm of Arnold & Porter, where his pro bono work included representing a Virginia death-row inmate in his appeals. Before attending law school, Professor Silk taught English in Shanghai, China, for a year and then was editor, policy analyst, and senior writer for the U.S. Committee for Refugees. Professor Silk has a B.A. in Economics from the University of Michigan, an M.A. in the Humanities from the University of Chicago, and a J.D. from Yale.

Contact Information

Sara Machowski