ASU Law holds 1st International Rule of Law and Security Awards Gala

More than 120 guests flocked to the historic National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April 28 to celebrate the inaugural Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s International Rule of Law and Security (IRLS) Awards Gala. 

The event was hosted by the IRLS program at ASU Law, an academic and experiential learning program designed to prepare law students for U.S. and overseas jobs promoting justice and good governance, human rights, public service, and national and international security. The IRLS program at ASU Law is the first comprehensive program at a law school focused on training students in these important fields. Based in the ASU Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center in D.C., the program also works with law students in Phoenix. 

“The program in D.C. allows students to focus on classes in IRLS and antitrust,” said Andrea Cayley, director of ASU Law’s D.C. programs. “While they are here, they have externships on Capitol Hill with government agencies, law firms and NGOs. We have close to 30 ASU Law students who have come here for a semester, sometimes staying up to two years.”

In addition to IRLS and antitrust classes, ASU Law students in D.C. can participate in Indian Legal Program and Government Service Program courses. 

Intended to be an annual event, the gala honored 10 IRLS Juris Doctor Fellows and two Master of Legal Studies students from ASU Law interested in public service. Retired Col. Brenda J. Hollis became the first-ever recipient of the IRLS Award for her outstanding commitment to protecting the rule of law and security globally. 

Hollis currently serves as the principal trial lawyer at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, where she is leading the investigation into possible international crimes committed in war-torn Ukraine. 

She was previously the international co-prosecutor of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia from 2019 to 2022, after she joined the Courts of Cambodia in 2015. Prior, she was the prosecutor of both the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) from 2010 to 2019. After serving as a legal consultant to the SCSL prosecutor for several years, she became the lead prosecutor in the case against former Liberian President Charles Taylor, and continued to lead the prosecution of that case until the appeal was concluded in 2013. From 1994 to 2001, Hollis held various positions in the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, including time as co-counsel in the Duško Tadić case, the first litigated case in an international criminal tribunal since the Nuremberg trials, the lead prosecutor in the reopening of the Furundžija case, in which rape was charged as torture, and the preparatory stage of the case against former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević.

She also served in the U.S. Air Force, ultimately retiring as a decorated officer with the rank of colonel. 

Hollis was introduced at the gala with remarks from U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaak and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp. 

“We know that wherever people are seeking justice, wherever people are seeking protection from the powerful and selfish and brutal individuals that can destroy lives and properties and futures for the benefit of their own power and their own profit, they will find Brenda Hollis as long as she draws breath,” Rapp said. 

In her acceptance speech, Hollis urged those in attendance to remember the victims of the atrocities she has had a hand in prosecuting. 

“I do accept this award, but I dedicate this award to the victims — living and dead — of these mass atrocity crimes,” she said. “They have suffered things that we could not imagine in our wildest imagination. You can't believe that the ones who survived are able to go on, but they do go on. And I think it is really a motivation for us to realize what they have gone through, what they continue to go through, so that we move forward with our job.”

The gala was attended by three U.S. ambassadors, staff from several European embassies, officials with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Justice, and staff from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Hollis was escorted by second-year ASU Law student Justyn Zeider, an IRLS Fellow. Fellows interested in the IRLS program apply in their first year of law school. Zeider also made some remarks at the event. 

“When I applied to law schools, I only applied to one law school — the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law,” he said. “I knew that the place I wanted to be was where it all happens. It was this nation's capital where I could see why we are making the laws we do. Why are we treating people the way that we do? I feel that this experience has been able to show me an entirely different culture that I was never exposed to.”

According to Cayley, ASU Law in D.C. is eyeing several new programs and has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

“Our law school has a strong and growing presence in D.C., and we're entering into a growth mode, whether that's the number of our students who take advantage of the opportunities that we have in D.C. or the breadth of the programming that we are able to offer,” said Stacy Leeds, Willard H. Pedrick Dean and Regents Professor of law. “It certainly is the case that the International Rule of Law and Security program has been central to our successes.”

Lindsay Walker