For Immediate Release — Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

SUNY Geneseo Alumnus to Talk About His Work Prosecuting War Crimes in Sierra Leone Oct. 25

GENESEO, N.Y. — David Cohen, chief of legal operations for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, will talk about his work prosecuting war crimes during a lecture on Oct. 25 at the State University of New York at Geneseo.

Cohen, who received his bachelor's degree in political science from Geneseo in 1977, will talk at 12:45 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Newton Hall, Room 201. The talk is free and open to the public.

The Special Court, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa, was established jointly by the U.N. and Sierra Leone government as an independent tribunal charged with bringing to justice those responsible for the worst atrocities committed during the civil war that took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Cohen took the position of chief of legal operations, overseeing the office of the prosecutor, in 2004. To date, the prosecutor has indicted 11 people on various charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Nine inductees are currently in the custody of the court.

As chief of legal operations, Cohen essentially serves as the chief of staff, overseeing the daily operations of the prosecutor's office. He is responsible for all administration of the prosecutor's office, including development of a completion strategy. In addition, he serves as a member of the court's management board; as a legal and political advisor to the prosecutor on a variety of issues; and as a liaison between the court, the Sierra Leonian government, and diplomatic and international organizations on personnel issues affecting the performance of the duties of the prosecutor.

After Geneseo, Cohen went on to study political theory at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He interrupted his studies to join the Peace Corps, serving in Sierra Leone, from 1979 to 1981. He taught improved methods of rice farming to villagers, improving yields from three bushels per acre harvested once per year to 20 bushels per acre harvested three times per year. He also trained a representative from the World Bank Development Project on these methods so they could be introduced in other parts of the country.

Cohen served as a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State from 1984 to 1996 in a variety of management and diplomatic capacities in the U.S. and abroad. His assignments included: general services officer with the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from 1984-86; consular officer with the U.S. Mission to Berlin in West Germany from 1987-89; political/economic officer with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City from 1991-94; and operations officer/civilian observer with the Multinational Force & Observers in Sinai, Egypt, from 1989-91 and 1994-96.

Cohen received his juris doctorate in 1998 from Southwestern University, Los Angeles, Calif., and ran a private law practice from 1999-2004 in New York City.

Cohen's visit is sponsored by the political science and international relations department, International Relations Club and Legal Studies Club. For more information about Cohen's visit, call (585) 245-5371. For more information about the Special Court for Sierra Leone or the Sierra Leone Civil War, go to: