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Law grad awarded unique opportunity with Lebanon tribunal

Standout work by an alum paves the way for a graduate of USC’s International Human Rights Clinic.

John Flynn in Yugoslavia
John Flynn in front of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (Photo/courtesy of USC Gould)

John Flynn ’12 has accepted a prestigious clerkship at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) in The Hague.

Flynn is the second USC Gould School of Law graduate awarded the unique fellowship, which is available to only a handful of law graduates in the United States. An anonymous USC Gould alum funded the opportunity after the Tribunal invited graduates of USC Gould’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) to clerk with the court.

Flynn, who will begin his fellowship in October, will work on the Ayyash et al. trial against those allegedly responsible for the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

“This is an amazing opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to engaging in work that will have a major impact on people’s lives,” Flynn said. “International law has been a passion of mine since undergrad; I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been given this opportunity to contribute to the forefront of the practice area.”

The Lebanese Tribunal is the second international criminal court in The Hague for which Flynn will work. After graduating from law school in 2012, he externed with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Nakako Onishi-Carcano, a legal officer who supervised Flynn on the Yugoslavia tribunal, called him “hardworking, dedicated and efficient.”

“John was an invaluable asset to our team,” Onishi-Carcano said. “He worked very well in a group, and we always appreciated his contributions.”

Rifkin makes a strong impression

Brian Rifkin ’11 completed his clerkship this year with President Judge David Baragwanath, presiding judge of the Appeals Chamber at the STL. He received high praise for his work and was offered a short-term contract with the Tribunal.

As law students, Flynn and Rifkin worked in the IHRC on cases before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Cambodia Tribunal, respectively.

The clinic gave them the experience and confidence to work as law clerks at the Tribunals, assisting appeals judges with legal work, and analyzing and monitoring developments in international law.

“The clinic work was invaluable preparation for my work with the Yugoslavian Tribunal. The Rwandan and Yugoslavian Tribunals use the same Appeals Chamber and, therefore, share controlling precedents,” Flynn said. “So I came into the ICTY extremely well prepared to contribute to my team immediately. The teamwork experience in the clinic was also fantastic preparation for my time with the Tribunal; I was surprised at how collaborative the work was at the Tribunal, and how well the clinic had prepared me for it.”

Flynn and Rifkin epitomize the clinic’s goals to seek justice on behalf of victims and hold perpetrators of serious human rights abuses accountable, said USC Gould Professor Hannah Garry, director of the IHRC.

“The clinic’s purpose is to prepare students for these kinds of opportunities.”

Rifkin was the first USC Gould graduate to hold the fellowship at the Lebanon Tribunal, which paved the way for others, Garry said.

“The feedback was that Brian did a superior job,” she said.

In a letter to Dean Robert K. Rasmussen, Judge Baragwanath said Rifkin was a valued asset to the Tribunal, and helped secure the fellowship for Flynn.

“Our confidence that Mr. Flynn will be an excellent addition to the Chambers team is attributable not only to his strong academic credentials and references, but also to the outstanding impression that Mr. Flynn’s predecessor, USC alumnus, Mr. Brian Rifkin, has made in the past year. … All the Tribunal judges — myself included — hold Brian in the highest regard and agree that he is intelligent, mature, diligent and collegial.”

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Law grad awarded unique opportunity with Lebanon tribunal

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