Warwick University honours genocide prosecutor Adeogun-Phillips

THE University of Warwick, England has awarded international lawyer and prosecutor Charles Adeogun-Phillips an Honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D).

Warwick will confer the award on the British-born Nigerian at its convocation in July in recognition of his being the world’s youngest ever lead genocide prosecutor at 35, in 2001.

The United Kingdom’s (UK’s) ninth best university last year also noted the achievements of Adeogun-Phillips – a 1989 alumni of the prestigious institution – at his law firm, Charles Anthony LLP.

It noted, in particular, that Adeogun-Phillips, the only son of the late University of Lagos Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Law Professor, Anthony Adeogun, “has been inspiring to both the university and the students.”

Last year, the lawyer gave the graduation speech to the university’s graduating students.

Responding to the award, Adeogun-Phillips told The Nation he was hopeful it would go a long way in inspiring other Africans to excel.

He said: “This came as a huge surprise, 30 years since leaving Warwick. I have since accepted the honour bestowed upon me by my alma mater, on behalf of the raising and aspiring generations, Y, Z and Alpha, but more importantly, to assert Africa’s relevance in this century!!!!!”

Adeogun-Phillips, from Boluwaduro Local Government Area (LGA) of Osun State indigene, was a pioneer lead international prosecutor and head of special investigations at the United Nations (UN) International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia which spanned over 12 years.

He joined the UN in December 1997 from private practice as a criminal defence lawyer in the UK.

For over a decade, between 1998 and 2010, he led teams of international criminal lawyers in 12 precedent setting and complex international trials of those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

His elevation in 2001, at 35, to the rank of Senior Counsel before an international court is unrivalled.

With the 1945 trials of major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg serving as his only precedent, Charles’ work, seeking justice for over 800,000 victims of the worst crimes ever known to mankind, placed him in the forefront of several pioneering developments in the field of international humanitarian and criminal law, cumulating in his citation in the maiden edition of Creswell’s “Who’s Who in Public International Law” in 2007 and in the International Year Book and Statesmen’s Who’s Who in 2011.

Adeogun-Phillips described his experiences on the job in a 2018 interview with University of Warwick’s Lacuna Magazine.

He said: “The most fascinating aspect of this work was that there was no precedent to go by. None whatsoever. So, we literally built the body of law known today as ‘international criminal law’.

“The last war crimes tribunals were the Nuremberg trials and we initially tried to replicate Nuremberg by having 28 accused persons charged in one indictment.

We very quickly realised that it was impracticable. Where do you put 28 people in the courtroom, let alone their own counsel and co-counsel? The elements of the crimes and the participation were not like the Nuremberg cases where the elements were the same and the perpetrators acted in concert.

“We had to build this area of law, both substantive and procedural. The issue of sexual consent, for example, was rendered immaterial where women were seeking refuge because when the circumstances are so coercive you can’t talk about a woman consenting.

“She’s seeking refuge from her captor and she’s being raped every day by the man who provides her with refuge. Things like witness protection measures and the use of pseudonyms were all novel to this area and are still in existence to this day. So, being part of building that whole body of law was very fascinating and a great privilege.”

Since 2017, Adeogun-Phillips has been retained by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), to investigate, trace and recover, over N5 trillion ($14 billion), owed to the Federal Government, following its acquisition in 2011, of non-performing loans from some of the country’s ailing commercial banks.

He practises as Counsel before several International courts and tribunals, including the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Other members of the University of Warwick Nigerian alumni include former Head of State Gen Yakubu Gowon; Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari, and a son of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Fiyinfunoluwa.