PILPG Releases Report from Syria Geneva II Negotiation Simulation

PILPG Releases Report from Syria Geneva II Negotiation Simulation
November 2013

The Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) recently conducted a negotiation simulation entitled, Negotiating Challenges at Geneva II.  Baker & McKenzie hosted the event in their Washington, D.C. offices.  The simulation brought together Syria and regional experts, government officials, former diplomats, international lawyers, policy experts, activists, and peace and conflict resolution practitioners. Participants grappled with many of the practical operational issues that will be on the table at Geneva, using role-playing to generate challenges that reflect problems the negotiators will confront.
The negotiation simulation as well as consultations with experts on Syria have generated a number of lessons learned that the international community and pro-democracy opposition may consider in anticipation of Geneva II negotiations.  The report, which can be seen here, sets forth the major lessons learned from the simulation and consultations.   

Milbank Attorney Thomas Santoro Joins PILPG as Law Fellow, July 22, 2013

July 22, 2013

Thomas Santoro has joined PILPG as a Law Fellow for a four month secondment from Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy’s New York office. Mr. Santoro is a member of the firm’s Litigation & Arbitration Group, and his primary practice areas include securities litigation, white collar defense, and commercial litigation. Mr. Santoro has an active pro-bono practice, and will be joining PILPG’s staff attorneys in providing assistance to clients in Kosovo and Syria.
Information about PILPG’s Law Fellows Program can be found here.

Information about Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy can be found here.


PILPG Highlighted in “Pro Bono 2013: Out of the Rubble”, The American Lawyer, July 3, 2013

July 3, 2013

PILPG has been highlighted in “Pro Bono 2013: Out of the Rubble,” an article in The American Lawyer that discusses Arab Spring related pro bono work. PILPG President Paul Williams, Pro Bono Counsel Brett Ashley Edwards, and Advisory Council member and Orrick Associate Betsy Popken, were interviewed for the article, which discusses PILPG’s “briefcases on the ground” approach to working with clients in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria, as well as the significant involvement of attorneys from pro bono partner firms in PILPG’s work for clients in the region.

Brett Ashley Edwards, PILPG’s Pro Bono Counsel, manages PILPG’s pro bono partnerships and fellowship program. Information on those programs is available on PILPG’s website, www.pilpg.org.

The full article is included below and is available here.

Pro Bono 2013: Out of the Rubble
Richard Lloyd
The American Lawyer
June 27, 2013

The Washington, D.C., office of the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) sits discreetly on Pennsylvania Avenue. Across the street from the hub of government buildings in the Federal Triangle and a few blocks from the White House, the location speaks to just how closely the coalition would like the United States to align itself with the forces seeking to overthrow Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
The modest digs are home to a small band of SOC officials who act as a liaison to the U.S. government to help the anti-Assad forces circumvent sanctions against Syria, lobby for aid, and strategize over their next steps on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations. Among them is Bassel Korkor, who has served as the SOC’s U.S. legal adviser since it was formally established in November 2012.

Korkor, however, is not one of the half-dozen full-time employees who work for the SOC in D.C. and New York. Instead he donates his time pro bono, juggling his commitments to the opposition with his career as a midlevel litigation associate at Jones Day. He is one of a growing number of Am Law 200 lawyers who are using their legal skills to support the Arab Spring revolutions that spread in early 2011 from Tunisia to Libya, to Egypt, and now to Syria, the bloodiest standoff to date between an entrenched dictator and pro-democracy forces.

Drawn from firms including Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Covington & Bur­ling, Jones Day, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, these lawyers have advised on such varied matters as new constitutional and legal frameworks, International Criminal Court proceedings, tracking of overseas assets of previous regimes, and transitioning to new democratic governments. They may not always achieve the results they envision—events on the ground can move more quickly even than a team of lawyers working around the clock—but they believe they can have an effect.

“My wife likes to say that I need to do something here, with the skill set that I have, [that] will mean that all the death and destruction in Syria will result in change [so] the fighting won’t be for nothing,” Korkor says. “I hope that doesn’t sound too cheesy,” he adds, voice trailing off.

Born to Syrian Christian parents in Cleveland, Korkor has been closely involved in the SOC’s attempts to win recognition and support in the U.S. When the revolution broke out in Syria in March 2011, Korkor started doing pro bono work for several Syrian American humanitarian groups that formed an umbrella organization called the Coalition for a Democratic Syria.

“It was clear that these groups needed more advice on government affairs, and I had experience advising on sanctions, national security matters, and compliance work,” says Korkor, who was an associate at Arnold & Porter before moving to Jones Day in the fall of 2012. He began working for the SOC following its formation in November 2012, initially focusing on relatively basic matters, such as how the SOC’s U.S. arm should be organized. Over the last six months, his work has evolved to include helping draft a U.N. resolution, meeting with congressional staffers on legislation to express support for the opposition, and working on circumventing the U.S.’s tough sanctions against Syria to get resources to the opposition forces on the ground.

“At times I’m doing things that you don’t always send a lawyer to do, such as negotiating a U.N. resolution or bouncing off ideas for peace negotiations,” says Korkor, who says he’s logged more than 1,000 hours on Syria work in the past two years.

Korkor says that one of the reasons he joined Jones Day was its commitment to international pro bono work and its spread of offices (he divides his time between the firm’s Cleveland and D.C. offices). “From a career perspective, this is a great experience,” he says. “I’ve been charged with a significant amount of responsibility, and I appreciate that I’m able to help.” Among other things, his work includes helping plan for a possible vote at the United Nations General Assembly in September to formally recognize the Syrian opposition as Syria’s representative to the U.N.

Not every lawyer working on Arab Spring matters enjoys Korkor’s level of involvement in his client’s decision-making process, but even junior lawyers have a chance to make a significant contribution. Consider Colleen “Betsy” Popken, a litigation associate in Orrick’s San Francisco office.

When Popken’s job offer at Orrick was deferred in the wake of the recession, she took a pro bono fellowship after finishing her studies for an LL.M. in international law at the London School of Economics. Popken wanted to pursue a fellowship in public international law and, if possible, live overseas.

Orrick pro bono counsel Rene Kathawala suggested that she work for the Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG), which brands itself as a global pro bono law firm. Since its creation in 1995, PILPG has advised on international law in such places as the Balkans, Somalia, Tanzania, and South Sudan. The group offered Popken an opportunity to work on international law, although not the chance to live overseas again—she would be based at PILPG’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The start of Popken’s fellowship coincided with the first events of the Arab Spring in early 2011, so she quickly found herself providing legal and policy advice on Egypt’s revolution and advice to the Libyan Transitional Council, the group allied against Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi. In August 2011 she started advising the Syrian opposition, first on protecting minority rights in a new constitution, and then on a range of topics including conflict resolution and possible proceedings at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Although Popken has a background in international law, she admits that “the learning curve is steep. But you’re working around the clock on these issues, so you’re totally engrossed, and you learn very quickly.”

Popken’s Arab Spring work for PILPG did not end when she started as a litigation asso­ciate in Orrick’s San Francisco office in January 2012. Since she joined the firm, she has participated in workshops in Copenhagen and The Hague on transition planning for a post-Assad Syria. In the process, she has racked up more than 500 pro bono hours.

“I treat this work as I would any other client work,” Popken says. “Certainly at times it’s been tricky to balance my pro bono work with the rest of my caseload, as it is for any young associate, but Orrick has been very supportive.”

For most firms looking to become involved in Arab Spring–related work, organizations like PILPG or Human Rights Watch provide an ideal conduit. Formed by a group of former U.S. State Department employees, PILPG maintains close ties to several Am Law 200 firms, including Baker & McKenzie, Cleary, Covington, DLA Piper, Jones Day, Orrick, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.

PILPG says it annually provides more than $15 million worth of international pro bono work advising transitional governments, helping new democratic regimes, and advising on international criminal cases. For some firms it has become a major source of international pro bono work. Covington, for example, has had almost 150 attorneys log around 7,700 hours over a nearly 10-year relationship with PILPG.
Such is PILPG’s reputation that it has worked in all four countries—Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria—that have seen revolutions in the Arab Spring. Although PILPG declined to identify the specific groups it works with in each country, it prides itself on offering a unique perspective by getting its own staff on the ground as soon as a situation is considered safe enough.

“One of the keys to our success is that we’re lawyers, and we rely on lawyers at firms, so we like to analyze a matter and then give our clients options,” says PILPG president and cofounder Paul Williams. “That goes a long way, because so many people like to tell our clients exactly what they should do.”

Although advising on new constitutional frameworks or prosecuting former warlords is not typically part of a law firm’s day-to-day workload, lawyers who work on PILPG matters say that the leap from their typical private-practice cases isn’t too daunting. “PILPG is very good at providing background and highlighting the sensitivities in a matter,” says Mipe Okunseinde, an associate in Covington’s Washington, D.C., office who has worked on a range of issues for PILPG, including, most recently, a project related to transitional justice in Syria. “It’s not that different from coming out of law school, joining your new firm, and being put straight on a new matter,” he says. Except it may be more likely to be featured on the next day’s front page.


PILPG Drafts “Key Considerations When Supporting Peace Processes” for USAID, May 30, 2013

May 30, 2013

PILPG has drafted a technical brief on “Key Considerations When Supporting Peace Processes” for USAID. While each conflict has a unique regional, historical and cultural context, the characteristics of peace negotiations and the points of impasse between parties are often strikingly similar. Development professionals can play an important role in peace processes by providing technical knowledge and practical, on-the-ground insights. Based on PILPG’s work advising clients in over two dozen international peace negotiations, the brief outlines a number of lessons learned that are important for development practitioners to keep in mind when supporting peace processes.

Access the technical brief on “Key Considerations When Supporting Peace Processes” here


Brendan Doherty and Andrés Pérez Join PILPG, May 31, 2013

May 31, 2013

Brendan Doherty has joined PILPG as Senior Legal and Policy Advisor and Project Director for PILPG’s work with Syrian clients in Turkey. Brendan previously served as Chief of Party for PILPG’s Nepal office, where he worked extensively with the Nepalese constituent assembly on constitutional reform. Following his position at PILPG, Brendan was most recently Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights at the U.S. State Department.

Andrés Pérez has joined PILPG’s office in Tripoli, Libya, as Deputy Chief of Party. Andrés has 10 years of experience in transitional justice and international criminal law, and worked for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for five years. Andrés has also worked in South Sudan on gender and constitutional reform issues.


Five Law Students Join PILPG’s Summer Program, May 21, 2013

May 21, 2013

Five law students from around the United States will be joining PILPG’s 2013 Summer Associate Program. Through this program summer associates work in PILPG’s Washington, D.C. office for 10 weeks with senior PILPG attorneys to provide pro bono assistance to PILPG clients in Burma, Kosovo, Libya, Turkey, and Yemen.

Participants in PILPG’s Summer Associate program are:

Catherine Cooper, from Harvard Law School. She is a Chayes Scholarship recipient. Catherine is splitting her summer with the Department of Justice. Catherine worked as a Policy Analyst and Coordinator for the Christian Reformed Church, traveling extensively to Israel and the West Bank.

Morgan Davis, from Harvard Law School. She was a research associate for the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School. Morgan is fluent in French and worked as a translator for a Fulbright Research project on young Jewish refugees who fled to Switzerland to escape Nazi persecution.

Richard Freeman, from Stanford Law School.  Richard is also simultaneously pursuing a Masters Degree in Public Policy at Harvard. He has worked with the Clinton Foundation for over two years in Ethiopia as well as at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Megan O’Neill, from University of Chicago Law School. Megan has worked with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Department of Justice. She has an MA in international relations from the University of Chicago. Megan is also splitting her summer with Covington & Burling.

William Roth, from University of Michigan Law School. William previously worked with Reza Aslan and NOOZZ reporting on issues relating to the Egyptian revolution and economy.  He also worked as a paralegal in the Manhattan DA’s office.


“Preventing Mass Atrocity Crimes: The Responsibility to Protect and the Syria Crisis,” Published in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law by Paul Williams, J. Trevor Ulbrick, and Jonathan Worboys, May 7, 2013

May 7, 2013

PILPG President Paul R. Williams, Advisory Council member J. Trevor Ulbrick and Legal Adviser Jonathan Worboys, publish Preventing Mass Atrocity Crimes: The Responsibility to Protect and the Syria Crisis, in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law. The article is available for download here.

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a complicated and “emerging norm” of international law that seeks to provide a means for the international community to prevent mass atrocity crimes occurring within the boundaries of a sovereign state.  Since its emergence in 2001, in the wake of humanitarian tragedies in Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, and Darfur, R2P has been hailed as a way of resolving what one commentator called the “problem from hell.” Under R2P, however, the use of force is reserved for actions within the UN Charter’s Chapter VII framework.

As the Syria crisis has demonstrated, this position continues to hinder efforts by the international community to protect populations from mass atrocity crimes. At the time of writing, attacks by Syrian government forces and militias have killed upward of 75,000 civilians, and approximately 1,000,000 refugees have fled into neighboring states. Diplomacy and sanctions have not worked. Although the UN Human Rights Council has concluded that Syria’s humanitarian crisis is being driven by a “state policy” of deliberate attacks against civilians, the Security Council remains deadlocked and ineffective in the crisis. Reports from a number of Western governments that the Syrian government has deliberately used chemical weapons against civilians underscore the gravity of the crisis.

This article argues that when peaceful measures have been exhausted and the Security Council is deadlocked, R2P’s third pillar should allow the use of only those low-intensity military options, such as no-fly zones and humanitarian safe havens, that are focused on protecting populations. This approach would advance R2P’s development by establishing specific criteria that allow for the limited use of force when the Security Council fails to act. In doing so, R2P will be able to fulfill its primary purpose of preventing mass atrocities within a sovereign state, thus preventing humanitarian tragedies similar to those witnessed in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, and now Syria.


Celebrate the New York Office Launch of the Public International Law & Policy Group

July 27, 2011

Celebrate the New York Office Launch 
of the Public International Law & Policy Group
Wednesday, the 27th day of July 2011 

6:30 to 8:00 pm at the Chelsea Art Museum
556 West 22nd Street at 11th Avenue, New York 10011

The Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) cordially invites you to celebrate the opening of its New York office with PILPG’s pro bono lawyers, clients, partners, and sponsors.

The first half of 2011 has witnessed a dramatic shift in international affairs with the Arab Spring leading to democratic reform across the region from Tunisia to Libya and beyond, the independence of Southern Sudan, and the increased engagement of the International Criminal Court.

Dr. Paul R. Williams, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Executive Director and Co-Founder of PILPG, will comment on these sea changes in international politics, the shifting legal landscape, and PILPG’s vision for facilitating democratic governance and stability through the provision of legal and technical assistance.  Dr. Williams will draw on his experience in the last year advising the Government of Southern Sudan on legal issues related to secession from Sudan, the Libyan Transitional National Council on devising long-term strategies for peace, the Darfur delegation on negotiating the Doha peace talks, and the members of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly on drafting Nepal’s post-conflict constitution.

Tickets – $35
Space is limited
Click here for tickets and more information or contact Rachel Gottfried at rgottfried@pilpg.org or 202.355.1353. 

This reception is generously sponsored by


PILPG Update: “Planning for Syria’s ‘Day After’ – A Framework for Transitional Justice in Post-Assad Syria” a strategic planning paper

May 2, 2012

PILPG recently co-sponsored a workshop with Hivos and the Tharwa Foundation in The Hague on planning for transitional justice in post-Assad Syria. PILPG attendees included President Paul Williams, Senior Counsel Anna Triponel and Brianne McGonigle Leyh, Senior Peace Fellow Nina Bang-Jensen, and Advisory Council member Betsy Popken.

The workshop was a forum for roundtable discussions between members of the exiled Syrian opposition and transitional justice experts.  Syrian participants represented varying religions, ethnicities, political ideologies, and included members of the Syrian National Council, the Antalya Group, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, the Kurdish National Council, the Assyrian Democratic Organization, as well as independents.

Based upon these discussions, “Planning for Syria’s ‘Day After’ – A Framework for TransitionalJustice in Post-Assad Syria,” provides options for a transitional justice framework that an interim Syrian government may choose to adopt in the days immediately following President Bashar al-Assad’s departure.  This paper is meant to generate serious planning for transitionaljustice measures that will enable an interim government to effectively prosecute individuals responsible for committing atrocities, compensate victims, and facilitate truth and reconciliation in Syria after the conflict ends.

A copy of Planning for Syria’s ‘Day After’ – A Framework for Transitional Justice in Post-Assad Syria” is available here.


PILPG Update: Six Law Students Join PILPG’s Summer Associate Program

May 25, 2012

Six law students from around the United States will be joining PILPG’s 2012 Summer Associate Program. Through this program, summer associates work in PILPG’s Washington, D.C. office for 10 weeks with senior PILPG attorneys to provide pro bono assistance to PILPG clients in Burma, Kosovo, Libya, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Yemen.

PILPG’s summer class is comprised of:

Priya Bhanu, from the University of Michigan Law School.  Priya worked previously as a paralegal specialist for Clifford Chance, and as a strategy associate for the Council on Emerging National Security Affairs.  Priya is fluent in French.

John Butler, from Stanford Law School. John has a Masters degree in Comparative Politics and Conflict Studies from the London School of Economics. John is also the founder of IdealPolitik, a pro-bono strategic communications firm.

Aman George, from Harvard Law School.  Aman previously worked as an Analyst for McKinsey & Company, and was a recipient of their Development Aid Agency Fellowship.

Stevie Kelly, from Berkeley Law School.  Stevie worked for the US Department of State as a Program Officer, and has a Masters degree in Central Eurasian Studies from Indiana University. Stevie is fluent in French.

Alisa Shekhtman, from Yale Law School.  Alisa is a member of the Yale Journal of International Law.  Alisa has published on constitutions and rights-based jurisprudence. Alisa is fluent in French and Russian.

Jessica Wirth, from Columbia Law School.  Jessica has previously worked as an Associate with The Council on Foreign Relations.


PILPG Update: PILPG Releases Roundtable Report on “Yemen’s Political Transition: Changing the Status Quo?”

May 25, 2012

Together with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, PILPG hosted aroundtable discussion, “Yemen’s Political Transition:  Changing the Status Quo?” on May 14th.  Based on the roundtable discussion, PILPG drafted the report “Yemen’s PoliticalTransition: Changing the Status Quo?”.

The roundtable featured participation from Mr. Munir Daair–a founding member of TAWQ, the Democratic Awareness Movement, and a leading member of Yemen’s business community. Mr. Daair discussed recent political and security developments in Yemen, the upcoming National Dialogue, and the critical importance of civil society participation in Yemen’stransition process.  The roundtable also brought together over forty policymakers, diplomats, academics, journalists, and civil society members to discuss the challenges facing Yemen in achieving a successful transition to a democratic, transparent state in the post-Saleh era.

Access the roundtable report on “Yemen’s Political Transition: Changing the Status Quo?” here.


PILPG Update: PILPG Establishes Francophone Practice Group

June 18, 2012

PILPG has established a Francophone Practice Group to provide pro bono clients in French-speaking countries legal and policy-planning assistance directly in French.

Brett Edwards, Pro Bono Director, manages the Francophone Practice Group with the assistance of Sârra-Tilila Bounfour, Côte d’Ivoire Program Coordinator and Law Fellow.  Over a dozen bilingual PILPG staff members trained in both civil and common law systems support the Francophone Practice Group.  In addition, the Francophone Practice Group benefits from the guidance of PILPG’s Advisory Council, whose members include French educated and trained attorneys.

PILPG’s law firm partners are also providing assistance to PILPG’s Francophone Practice Groupthrough pro bono work in their respective Paris offices or from attorneys with fluency inFrench.

For additional information on the Francophone Practice Group, please contact Brett Edwards (bedwards@pilpg.org) and Sârra-Tilila Bounfour (stbounfour@pilpg.org).  For additional information on law firm partners providing French language assistance, please contact Brett Edwards (bedwards@pilpg.org).



PILPG Update: Five Pro Bono Fellows Join PILPG

March 22, 2012

Five fellows have joined PILPG’s Fellowship program in the Washington, D.C. and overseas offices.  Through this program, law fellows provide pro bono assistance to PILPG clients around the globe on peace negotiations, the development of post-conflict constitutions, transitional justice, and combating maritime piracy.

PILPG’s 2012 Law Fellows are:

Jasper Kaikai, PILPG Kosovo Fellow. Mr. Kaikai is a graduate of the Tillburg University in the Netherlands. He previously worked with the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights. Mr. Kaikai works in PILPG’s Kosovo office on increasing citizens’ access to justice and supporting reform in the justice sector.

Max Margulies, PILPG Policy Fellow. Mr. Margulies is a graduate of Columbia University, with a Master of Arts in Political Science. He previously worked for the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. Mr. Margulies works in PILPG’s Washington, DC office providing assistance on PILPG’s various strategic policy planning projects.

Lauren Rogal, PILPG Law Fellow. Ms. Rogal is a graduate of University of Michigan Law School and the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.  She has worked with the Rule of Law, Justice and Security Team at the United Nations Development Program. Ms. Rogal works with PILPG’s Bosnia project, to provide assistance on constitutional development.

Trevor Ulbrick, PILPG Law Fellow. Mr. Ulbrick is a graduate of Northwestern University Law School. His previous experience includes working as a Foreign Law Clerk for the Supreme Court of Israel and as an associate with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Mr. Ulbrick works on peace negotiations and transitional justice matters in PILPG’s Washington, DC office.

Jonathan Worboys, PILPG Law Fellow. Mr. Worboys is a graduate of University of Oxford. He previously worked atThe AIRE Centre. Mr. Worboys works in PILPG’s Washington, DC office on issues of maritime piracy.

Information about PILPG’s Fellowship Program can be found here.


PILPG Update: PILPG Opens New York Office with Anna Triponel

September 13, 2011

This month PILPG opened a New York office, directed by Anna Triponel.

Anna Triponel is Senior Counsel and Director of the New York office.  Ms. Triponel’s portfolio includes providing legal assistance to Kenyan government officials and policymakers on constitutional reform, transitional justice, and international criminal law, and truth and reconciliation processes.

Ms. Triponel comes to PILPG from Jones Day where she was a Senior Associate responsible for structuring international mergers and acquisitions between American and European companies.  At Jones Day, she also created the International Law Pro Bono Group which provides counsel on international law to a wide range of clients.

PILPG’s New York office will deepen PILPG’s relationship with UN agencies and other organizations working in post-conflict states and international law and also work closely with PILPG’s law firm partners contributing pro bono assistance.

Ms. Triponel also serves as a consultant to the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations.  Previously, Ms. Triponel served as legal advisor to the Education for All – Fast Track Initiative at the World Bank where she worked on implementing the Millennium Development Goals.  Prior experience includes positions at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the War Crimes Research Office, and the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

Ms. Triponel is a New York attorney, a solicitor of England and Wales, and a French jurist.  She holds an LL.M. in International Legal Studies (summa cum laude) from American University Washington College of Law, a masters in International and European law (magistère with high honors) and a Juris Doctor equivalent (maîtrise with high honors) from the University of Paris-X Nanterre.  Ms. Triponel regularly publishes in the areas of international law and development aid and is a member of the Carnegie New Leaders Program, a New York State Bar Association honoree, and a recipient of the Seymour J. Rubin Award in International Studies. .


About the Public International Law & Policy Group

The Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) is a global, pro bono law firm providing legal assistance to governments involved in conflicts.  To facilitate use of this legal assistance, PILPG also provides policy formation advice and training on matters related to conflict resolution.  PILPG was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

PILPG’s primary practice areas are Peace Negotiations, Post-Conflict Constitutions, and War Crimes Prosecution.  To provide pro bono legal advice and policy formulation expertise, PILPG relies almost exclusively on volunteer legal assistance from more than sixty former international lawyers, diplomats, and foreign relations experts, as well as pro bono assistance from major international law firms.  Annually, PILPG is able to provide over $15 million worth of pro bono international legal services.

In July 1999, the United Nations granted official Non-Governmental Organization status to PILPG.

The Managing Board of PILPG includes:

 Paul Williams – Executive Director

Michael Scharf – Managing Director

James Hooper – Managing Director


PILPG Update: Ambassador Morton Abramowitz’s” Advantages to a Syrian War” Published in The National Interest

March 21, 2012

PILPG Advisory Board Member Ambassador Morton Abramowitz’s commentary regarding Syria appeared in The National Interest.  The article provides an analysis of the strategic considerations of the Syrian civil war.  Ambassador Abramowitz is a Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation.

The full article is included below and is available here.

Advantages of a Syrian War

By Morton Abramowitz
March 16, 2012

The Syrian civil war is not just a humanitarian crisis. There are also important strategic considerations—including Iran and other regional players like Turkey—that must be considered.

The past year has seen the slow-motion slaughter of many Syrians. Assad has carefully avoided the destruction of large populations. The world’s response has been countless international gatherings asserting sympathy for the Syrian opposition, feeble efforts toprovide humanitarian assistance and the thunder of imprecations, mostly American, that skewer the Russians but pass little ammunition or other help to the besieged opposition. Once again, another UN resolution is under consideration to bring the Chinese and Russians around to a cease fire, while a tireless Kofi Annan is asked to produce his quiet magic as if Syria were Kenya.

The deepening humanitarian crisis is generating more militant proposals: significant supportto the opposition, including the establishment of humanitarian zones and the direct provision of more arms and training. While welcome to the opposition, these zones would require theprotection of outside military forces and do little to change the situation except by loweringthe intensity of some fighting. And these measures have little support. Policy makers are concerned that such efforts will generate mayhem and civil war in Syria—as if what they are witnessing were not a civil war, or perhaps just a minor one. We seem to console ourselves with the notion that Assad’s fall is inevitable, that his Russian and Chinese friends will grow tired of isolation and embarrassment, and we can stand back knowing that right will ultimately triumph. The Syrian people will just have to suffer a little more.

Perhaps Washington believes Assad’s end is indeed close, and therefore a serious American military effort is unnecessary. That does not look likely from the latest fighting—nor from theincreasing Congressional pressures to take aggressive military measures and theadministration’s request for military options from the Pentagon.

The Post-Assad Region

The notion of a more serious and concerted U.S.-led military option to end Assad’s rule understandably has received little attention so far. Many fear it would deepen the existing civil war and spread disorder to other countries. There would, of course, be significant costs tosuch an operation—probably more than Washington bargains for. This is not another Kosovowar with no casualties, which gave Americans misleading notions about American power. Syria has air defenses whose destruction would be costly at a time when the United States is trying to reduce defense expenditures. And it would involve U.S. forces in a war of uncertain duration that they do not want.

A Syrian intervention would not be Iraq redux. But it would require something Americans are not very good at—bringing the various Syrian parties together (no mean problem with their strong sectarian differences) to help create a post-Assad world. Nor is a new Syria likely to bea short-term burden; the law of unintended consequences inevitably prevails in war. It would also be a terrible political problem for the Obama administration.

A military attack on Syria would need the whole-hearted political and material support of Turkey and Arab states. That is by no means assured. Until a year ago, the Turkish government romanced Assad. Now, it is at the forefront of trying to get rid of him, but it has done little to make that happen other than promoting international support, accepting refugees and providing a haven for Syrian opposition leaders. In a potential toppling of Assad, Turkey would need to establish a protected zone in Syria for the opposition and those fleeing any fighting. The Turkish government, however, is not enthusiastic about a military effort inSyria; it would not have a UN imprimatur or support of the Turkish public. The politically besieged Turkish military is averse to invading an Arab country and concerned that a SyrianKurdish entity might emerge from Syria’s internal disorder.

Arab support, particularly the Saudis, who talk much about supplying arms to the opposition but apparently do little, is also politically indispensable. It is not clear that support would be available, and the Arabs could well split.

Containing Iran

Nevertheless, there are ample reasons for considering a dramatically different approach, and not only for humanitarian reasons. A Syrian intervention might help with a larger and pressing Iranian problem by removing its chief client and regional ally from the scene. Strategically, Washington would send a far tougher message to the Iranian leadership to halt their nuclear-weapon aspirations than any it has delivered to date.

To have this effect on Iran, President Obama must first send an unmistakable message toAssad: unless he is prepared to give up power, his government will be destroyed. Such amilitary effort cannot win UN approval and requires a coalition of the willing. Once again theU.S. military would be indispensable in doing the fighting—the destruction by air of many of Assad’s key facilities and his ability to manage a continuing war, rather than simply enabling and equipping the opposition to Assad.

Iran likely believes this kind of an American-led attack on Syria will not happen. An attack on Syria, however, could constitute a truly defining moment for the much bigger Iranian nuclear issue. Tehran would find it highly difficult to intervene directly in Syria and would face ahumiliating loss and greater isolation in the region. It would be a huge political shock with possibly vast internal repercussions.

How Iran would respond is obviously uncertain. But the United States should consider theopportunity to change the regional dynamics in a way that might end or put off the nuclear issue and create domestic upheaval in Iran. One cannot preclude that an U.S. attack on Syria would harden Iran’s dedication to developing nuclear weapons. But though it would be hardto propose and defend, the United States would be starting a war in Syria in part to prevent afar bigger war with uncertain but immense consequences. There seems little doubt that it would result in two desirable outcomes for U.S. strategy: hastening the end of the Syrianconflict and creating a new climate for negotiating the stalemate with Iran.

Realistically, all these considerations may need to be put on the back burner for now. It’s likely that it will take a lot more violence in Syria to generate a military effort. No matter that an intervention would sever Iran’s Syria connection—and end a growing humanitarian nightmare.


PILPG Update: “Planning for Syria’s ‘Day After’ – Security, Rule of Law & Democracy,” a strategic planning paper

March 16, 2012

PILPG Managing Director Jim Hooper, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe Associate and Advisory Council member Betsy Popken, and Law Fellow Tyler Thompson recently participated in a workshop in Copenhagen on the situation in Syria. The workshop was sponsored by the Foreign Ministry of Denmark, and hosted in partnership by the University of Copenhagen, PILPG, and the Tharwa Foundation.

The workshop included participants from the exiled Syrian opposition, transition planning experts, and individuals integral to the Kosovar and Iraqi transition periods.

Together with the participants, PILPG drafted  a strategic planning paper on “Planning for Syria’s ‘Day After’ – Security, Rule of Law & Democracy”.  The purpose of this report is to provide recommendations for measures that an interim Syrian government could take in the days immediately following President Bashar al-Assad’s departure.  This report is intended to generate planning for practical responses and solutions to a range of transitional challenges that an interim government will face during the transition period.

A copy of Planning for Syria’s ‘Day After’ – Security, Rule of Law & Democracy” is available here.


PILPG Update: Eleven New Foreign Legal Specialists Join PILPG

January 19, 2012

Eleven practitioners from around the globe will be joining PILPG’s 2012 Foreign Legal Specialist Program.  PILPG’s Foreign Legal Specialists Program provides an opportunity for early career international lawyers to spend six months to one year working with PILPG’s Washington, DC office, providing in-depth research and analysis on issues of key importance to PILPG clients.

PILPG’s 2012 Foreign Legal Specialists are:

Agnese de Leo, from Latvia. Agnese previously worked for the European Central Bank Representation Office at the International Monetary Fund.

Christian De la Medina Soto, from Mexico. Christian previously clerked at a federal court in Veracruz, Mexico.

Julie Smith, from Argentina. Julie previously worked for the Argentine Ministry of Justice.

Maria Glenna, from Norway. Maria previously worked for the Norwegian Mission to the United Nations.

Maria Noel Leoni, from Uruguay. Maria previously worked for Ferrere Abogados, a law firm in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Mathuri Thamilmaran, from Sri Lanka. Mathuri previously worked for the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions in Sri Lanka.

Phattaraporn Phetphong, from Thailand. Phattaraporn previously worked for the Constitution Drafting Assembly for the Kingdom of Thailand.

Sabina Petersen, from Sweden. Sabrina previously worked for the Innocence Project.

Sofia Amozurrutia Pineda, from Mexico. Sofia previously worked for the International Affairs Office of the Government of the State of Yucatan.

Virab Khachatryan, from Armenia. Virab previously worked in the Defense Policy Department of the Armenian Ministry of Defense.

Zsofia Young, from Hungary. Zsofia previously worked for the International Criminal Court.
Information about PILPG’s Foreign Legal Specialist Program can be found here:



PILPG Update: Ambassador Morton Abramowitz and James Hooper’s “Serbia’s EU Ultimatum” Published in The National Interest

September 21, 2011

PILPG Advisory Board Member Ambassador Morton Abramowitz and PILPG Managing Director James Hooper’s commentary regarding Serbia-Kosovo relations was published in The National Interest.  “Serbia’s EU Ultimatum” discusses Serbian activity in northern Kosovo and potential ramifications for entrance in the EU.  Ambassador Abramowitz is a Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation and James Hooper is a Managing Director of the Public International Law & Policy Group.

The full article is included here and below:

Serbia’s EU Ultimatum 
By Morton Abramowitz and James Hooper
September 20, 2011

Last month the earth in the Balkans moved, but you would not have known about it from reading the mainstream media—not surprising, perhaps, because there was no mass violence nor financial eruption.

The mover was German leader Angela Merkel. She marched into the office of Serbian president Boris Tadic and in unlikely EU talk made clear to him the Serb political game in Kosovo was over. Kosovo would not be partitioned; the area inhabited by Serbs north of the Ibar River was Kosovo territory. Serbia has to stop running that area. The Kosovo issue had to be resolved before Serbia could enter the EU.

It was a shock to Tadic, a favorite of the West, who had been led by the EU commission and a few EU states to believe he could politically straddle the issue of Kosovo indefinitely: maintaining a tough line on the north and a rejectionist position on the existence of an independent state of Kosovo, while starting access negotiations and gaining ultimate accession even without settling the problem. Merkel’s voice is a major one, and her straightforward approach shook political circles in Belgrade and led to dismay and pessimism. She was impervious to the view that requiring Serbia to deliver on Kosovo would help elect more dyed-in-the wool nationalists. Her remarks have already changed Belgrade’s tone in dealing with the issue of northern Kosovo.

Politically significant progress on the issue was also recently made in Kosovo itself, causing Serbia to retreat a little on dealing with northern Kosovo and enhancing the Kosovo government’s position in the area. In July the government of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci unilaterally sent small police units into northern Kosovo to take over customs posts at two border-crossing stations with Serbia. Acting in accord with U.S. and EU principles regarding the inclusion of the north within Pristina’s sovereignty but moving mostly on its own, the Kosovo government began enforcing—however feebly—the existing border rather than accepting Serbia’s de facto changes. It was a small demonstration of sovereignty that was grudgingly but firmly accepted by the internationals in Kosovo. Moreover, despite Kosovo’s action the two parties finally reached an agreement that permits the wording of customs stamps to be accepted by Serbian customs officials facilitating trade between the two countries.

Efforts in Kosovo to change the situation in the north and to take over the administration of customs stations, not surprisingly, led to some altercations—Kosovo Serbs blocked roads, NATO intervened to keep some roads clear—but so far very little violence. Tensions are far from over. On September 16 the European mission in Kosovo airlifted small Kosovo police and customs teams to the two crossing points to avoid confrontations at the roadblocks set up by Kosovo Serbs to protest the new border arrangements and the symbolic presence of Kosovar officials there. The violence that many predicted has yet to materialize, and demonstrators have yet to appear on Serbian streets. Belgrade apparently doesn’t want violence in north Kosovo for fear it would be counterproductive to the EU candidacy decision on Serbia later this year.

Kosovo has again altered the international agenda by aligning its actions with European and U.S. principles. The problem in the north, of course, is still dangerous and far from resolved; violence can indeed break out at any moment. The Serbs in the north are strongly opposed to rule from Pristina, and in the end arrangements must be made for the security and management of their affairs by the Serb community.

The message Merkel delivered in Serbia also has implications for Bosnia with its continuing sharp ethnic divisions. Bosnian Serb separatists in Serb-dominated Republika Srspka have flouted the Dayton peace agreement, tied the central government in knots and laid the foundation for eventual secession. Its leader Milorad Dodik has alternated in his rhetoric between complete autonomy and independence for his ethnic entity. There are nationalists in Serbia who see the Bosnian Serb entity as a real part of Serbia. Playing it politically careful in Serbia, President Tadic always reaffirms his dedication to the Dayton accords but does nothing to constrain Dodik. Merkel shrewdly sidestepped this messy situation by remaining silent on any Bosnian partition, conveying Berlin’s view that Bosnian borders are settled by the Dayton accords and require no public restatement of principle.

Recent Kosovo developments have helped make clear that most of the West has exhausted its patience with talk of ever more border changes in the Balkans and that further partitions are unwelcome. As the price for joining modern Europe, Serbia is expected to ultimately renounce territorial claims and ambitions on its neighbors, as other European states have done since 1945. That has not politically sunk in with Belgrade, but there has been an important step forward. The German chancellor has led the West out of the weeds.


PILPG Update: PILPG Announces Launch of @PILPG Twitter

September 12, 2011

The Public International Law & Policy Group has launched @PILPG on Twitter as part of a larger initiative to communicate with the international law community through social media.Follow @PILPG to receive information from PILPG including policy planning reports, news updates, information relating to client developments, job announcements, and breaking news in client regional areas.


PILPG Update: PILPG Releases Report on “Libya: The Day After – Immediate Steps for a Post-Qadhafi Libya”

August 24, 2011

PILPG releases a roundtable report, “Libya: The Day After – Immediate Steps for a Post-Qadhafi Libya,” with seven recommended actions the Transitional National Council may take in the hours and days immediately following the fall of Qadhafi.  This report is based upon a roundtable that was hosted by PILPG on July 29 at the offices of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.  The roundtable brought together thirty experts in the areas of post-conflict reconstruction, constitutional law, economic development, human rights, and transitional justice.


The roundtable participants debated the steps that would need to be taken immediately by the leadership of a post-Qadhafi Libya.  The attached report sets forth the major issues identified by the roundtable participants for the Transitional National Council to prioritize once the Qadhafi regime falls.


Access the “Libya: The Day After – Immediate Steps for a Post-Qadhafi Libya” report here.


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