Karen Naimer

Interview conducted 18 December 2014 in Waltham, Massachusetts, by David P. Briand and Leigh Swigart.

portrait of karen naimerBackground

Interview Content

In this interview, Karen Naimer reminisces about her interest in international relations during her undergraduate studies; experiences in Israel with South African activists and Palestinian administrative detainees; her early life in the Jewish community of Montreal; public-interest work with the law firm Paul, Weiss; influential experiences in law school; her work under Theodor Meron in the Office of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) President, including on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) case Ntakirutimana.

She discusses the ICTR Akayesu judgment as a landmark case in international criminal law; the challenges of establishing witness credibility in remote tribunals; the legacy of Nuremberg; the challenges of the International Criminal Court compared to the ICTY; and the contributions of Jewish legal thinkers to international law.

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Biographical Information

Karen Naimer is currently director of the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones at Physicians for Human Rights. She has diverse experience in the fields of international criminal law, international humanitarian law, human rights, national security and anticorruption.

Naimer served as deputy counsel at the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-For-Food Programme ("the Volcker Commission"), where she investigated widespread corruption among the most senior U.N. personnel and Security Council member states. She clerked for Theodor Meron, president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, where she worked on cases of mass atrocities in both the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She has consulted for the Brandeis Institute for International Judges and served as an associate professor at New York University's Center for Global Affairs, where she taught international law.

Naimer was also the Edmond J. Safra Faculty Fellow at Harvard University's Center for Ethics. She was an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in New York, and has worked on domestic-violence issues at the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic in Toronto and at the New York Asian Women's Center. She is a Truman National Security Fellow.

Naimer holds a law degree and a master's degree in international relations from the University of Toronto, as well as a Master of Laws in international legal studies from New York University.