Gregory Townsend

Interview conducted 1 June 2017 in The Hague, Netherlands, by Leigh Swigart.

portrait of gregory townsendBackground

Interview Content

In his interview, Gregory Townsend reminisces about his early career as a deputy public defender in Los Angeles; how a Fletcher school classmate facilitated his career shift to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR); his perspective on the testimony of famed ICTR rape survivor and witness T.A.; and the low level of performance by defense counsel during the same proceedings.

He discusses the circumstances that led to his work on the ICTR Kayishema/Ruzindana judgment; investigation difficulties in the early life of the ICTR; building trust with witnesses; the interactions between common law and civil law systems in ICTR proceedings; the contrast between ICTR and United Nations Mission in Kosovo proceedings; limitations of monolingual judges and lawyers at the ICTR and the importance of speaking multiple languages in such an environment; the contrast between the nature of evidence at the Ad Hoc Tribunals and big data at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL); the impact of technology on the investigatory phase of the STL Hariri Case; and his reflections on the state of international criminal justice as of 2017.

read full transcript of interview

Biographical Information

Gregory Townsend earned a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Los Angeles, a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, a DES from L'Institut universitaire de hautes études internationales (University of Geneva) and a law degree from Loyola Law School.

Townend started his legal career as a deputy public defender in Los Angeles. In 1998, he joined the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, where he worked for the registrar and clerked for a judge before joining the prosecution, spending more than seven years working on numerous cases against clergymen and high-ranking military and civilian leaders from Rwanda. He later became a prosecutor for both the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and the ICTY. From 2008 to 2010 he served as head of office for the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague on the trial of Charles Taylor. He joined the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in 2010 as chief legal adviser to the prosecutor and helped craft the first-ever, international indictment for the crime of terrorism against five members of Hezbollah for the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Townsend is on the list of counsel to represent victims before the International Criminal Court and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. In 2014, he returned to the the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as chief of the Registry's Court Support Services Section, where he currently oversees witness protection, legal aid, judicial records and court operations for the ICTY and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. As of 2017, he is professor of practice for the Brandeis in The Hague study-abroad program.