Over the past year, Western Law’s Valerie Oosterveld has been at the forefront of many efforts related to international justice including as an expert voice for media coverage of war crimes in Ukraine.
However, Oosterveld’s work in international crimes and justice extends beyond Russia’s war in Ukraine.
In February, she presented at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague Netherlands on the case of Dominic Ongwen, a former Ugandan child soldier turned warlord who was appealing his conviction and sentence of 25 years in prison for crimes against humanity.
“I was part of an international group of nine feminist scholars and practitioners with expertise in the topic of forced marriage. “We submitted a written brief, and then we were invited to appear in person,” said Oosterveld.
In November, a pan-Canadian partnership, which includes Oosterveld and several Western students was honoured with the 2022 Partnership Award by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for helping victims of international human rights violations.
Oosterveld knew from a young age that international law was her passion, and now that career path is leading her into new and exciting areas, including space.
How did you first get involved in international justice?
I have been interested in international law since my teenage years and entered law school with the purpose of working in that field.
In graduate school, I had the life-changing opportunity to serve as a gender expert on the Canadian delegation to the final set of diplomatic negotiations to adopt the treaty for the ICC.
How did you become involved in the Ongwen case?
About a year ago, the Appeals Chamber of the ICC decided to invite applications for experts to serve as amici curiae (“friends of the court”) in the Ongwen case. The Appeals Chamber was considering several novel issues, including the definition of forced marriage as a type of crime against humanity called “other inhumane acts.”
The Appeals Judgement was released Dec. 15 with his conviction being upheld, and we were quoted within the judgement on important points with respect to forced marriage, so, in my view, this effort was helpful.
And now you’re getting into space law.
I have taught space law regularly as a component of my overarching international law course. I find the field fascinating. With significant developments in the field of space science and increased activity by many spacefaring states and private companies in, for example, space tourism and space mining, I decided to offer a full course focused on space law. There seems to be both interest and demand in this burgeoning field.
This story is part of our Endnotes 2022 series which showcases the people behind some of the year’s most compelling Western stories.