Friday, 1 April 2011

Plagiarism Charges at Rwanda Tribunal

First it was the German minister, then Gadaffi’s son at LSE. Now, it seems, the plagiarism bug has spread to judgment writers at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
It appears that in a recent judgment, several paragraphs were lifted from well-known international criminal law textbooks and reproduced without attribution, including a paragraph from my own book on the Genocide Convention. The judges who signed the decision have blamed the legal officer responsible for drafting; in turn, the legal officer has blamed an intern to whom drafting of certain paragraphs was assigned.
The plagiarism was actually detected at the Irish Centre for Human Rights as part of our normal process of verification of student submissions. We systematically run our student essays through the famous Turn-it-in software. One of our LLM students quite innocently cited portions of the judgment in question at length, and the software detected the problem.
Faced with the embarrassing evidence of plagiarism, the judges have issued a revised judgment, which is an unprecedented event, together with a statement of explanation and apology. This is available on the Tribunal's website.
Consideration is being given to charging the intern with contempt of court. Apparently the judges are also examining the possibility of an amendment to the Rules of Procedure and Evidence so as to give them explicit jurisdiction to prosecute the crime of plagiarism. Members of the Security Council have expressed concern that if the Tribunal engages in plagiarism prosecutions, this will only further extend the long-delayed completion of its work.


Stephanie said...

Totally got me! (Until the prosecution of the intern!) Thanks for the laugh:)

Dov Jacobs said...

Nice April Fool's day story! I actually bought into it until the contempt issue came up...

Unfortunately, as any good story, it touches upon a real drafting problem of international judgments and its reference system, which is sometimes more than shaky.

Unknown said...

And the real thing in Canada:

Judge's plagiarism sinks $5M malpractice award