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International lawyers organization based at Case nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

The Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), which operates in association with Case Western Reserve University School of Law, has been nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.

According to the nomination letter, PILPG was nominated for “significantly contributing to the promotion of peace throughout the globe by providing crucial pro bono legal assistance to states and non-state entities involved in peace negotiations and in bringing war criminals to justice.” PILPG was one of 100 organizations and individuals nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize The winner will be announced December 10, 2005.

PILPG co-founders and directors Michael Scharf and Paul Williams were also nominated. Scharf is professor of law at the Case law school and director of its Frederick K. Cox International Law Center and its War Crimes Research Office. Williams is professor of law at American University Washington College of Law.

Scharf, who is also PILPG managing director, said “I was stunned when I heard the news. It seems surreal. But I guess if Doctors without Borders could win the Nobel Prize in 1999, why not its legal counterpart, PILPG?”

PILPG is a U.N.-designated Non-Governmental Organization (N.G.O.), which operates in association with Case law school and American University, with operations in London, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, The Hague and several other cities across the globe. It has 60 affiliated lawyers most of whom, like Scharf and Williams, are former foreign ministry or State Department attorneys.

“In matters of public international law, most countries depend on experienced foreign

ministry attorneys or high-priced foreign legal consultants, but developing countries and countries emerging from civil war or transition to democracy often can’t afford such specialized public international legal expertise,” says Scharf. “Paul and I founded PILPG in 1995 to fill that gap, essentially transforming the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser alumni association into the world’s premier pro bono public international law firm.”

Since then, adds Williams, PILPG has provided legal assistance to a dozen countries on the legal aspects of peace negotiations and constitution drafting, and to 15 countries and international institutions concerning the protection of human rights, self-determination, and the prosecution of war crimes. PILPG’s nomination came with the support of a half-dozen of its governmental clients.

In response to news of the nomination, Case President Edward M. Hundert said, “We are thrilled that an N.G.O. affiliated with our law school has been nominated for the most prestigious award in the world. The group is performing a truly vital international service that has an impact on all of us.”

Gerald Korngold, Case law school dean and McCurdy Professor of Law added, “Our students have been in involved in many of the Public International Law and Policy Group’s projects over the years, giving them an opportunity to make a substantial contribution to the cause of peace and justice throughout the world.”

PILPG has two main practice areas—the Peace Building Practice Group directed by Williams at American University, and the War Crimes Practice Group, directed by Scharf. Working in conjunction with the War Crimes Research Office, the practice group provides research assistance to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Iraqi Special Tribunal, and the International Criminal Court.

“PILPG is committed to the notion that if you wish for peace, you must work for justice,” Scharf said. “No other institution in the world has provided as much research assistance to as many international criminal tribunals,” he added.

For more information about PILPG, please visit


About Case Western Reserve University

Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work.