Faculty focus

Professor Michale Bryan: Retired in name only

Professor Michael Bryan reflects on teaching and research as he retires after 20 years at the Law School. But that doesn't mean he's less likely to be seen.

After taking a break to travel to catch up with family and friends, Professor Bryan will return to  the Law School in 2010 as a part- time lecturer in the LLB program and also to pursue research in equity, trusts and restitution.

Professor Bryan first arrived at the Law School from London in 1989 as a visiting lecturer. He enjoyed his time so much that he returned to lecture here full-time in 1991. Well known for his enjoyment of teaching, he explains that it also helps him  in his research. "I often get useful ideas from student questions," he says. "Many undergraduate students are original conceptual thinkers."

Since joining the Law School, Professor Bryan has seen a rise in his research output. "The Law School encourages talents, and since I've been here, I've realised my capacity for research." Professor Bryan's research is focused on restitution from banks, and constructive trusts. Aside from part-time teaching and research, Professor Bryan will also continue to edit Principles of the Law of Trusts.

In recognition of Professor Bryan's contribution to the Law School, Law Librarian Carole Hinchcliff, together with Associate Dean (Research) Professor Carolyn Evans (LLB(Hons)1993), initiated a collection from alumni to purchase the Selden Society Publications History of Early English Law database. The database adds to the library's base collection and represents Professor Bryan's keen interest in legal history. "It wasn't difficult to take up a collection, Professor Bryan is so well loved and admired by his former students," said Ms Hinchcliff.

Professor Gerry Simpson: War Crimes Law

In the first of a series highlighting the calibre of our academics, Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law (APCML) Director Professor Gerry Simpson, discusses his work on war crimes law and the projects ahead for the Centre this year.

Following a lecture I gave recently, a member of the audience approached me and said, "This must be a great time to be researching war crimes law". This was an unusual way to put things but it captured the sense of the energy that exists in this field at the moment – and, of course, more soberly, the continuing prevalence of mass atrocity and war in the world.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, something remarkable happened to international legal culture – wars. For  the first time, wars – and acts of brutality during wars – became subject to legal regulation. No single person was tried for war crimes or crimes against humanity before an international criminal court until 1945 and the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. Even after the major war crimes trials at Nuremberg and Tokyo, there was a long gap where international war crimes law was largely abandoned.

Then, in an extraordinary burst of institutional vigour, the international community established an International Criminal Tribunal to try war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia (my colleague here at the Law School, Kevin Heller, is involved in the defence of Radovan Karadzic before this tribunal) and then later tribunals for the Rwandan genocide as well as in Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Cambodia.

In June 1998, a treaty led to the establishment of the permanent International Criminal Court in The Hague. Its chief prosecutor, Mr Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is now investigating alleged crimes committed in Darfur, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (another colleague, Professor Tim McCormack, has recently been appointed as an adviser to this Court).

All of this makes my recent appointment as the Director of the APCML a matter of good timing. Centre members Dr Narrelle Morris and Dr Georgina Fitzpatrick are working in partnership with Defence Legal and the Australian War Memorial, to produce a series of case reports on Australia's post war trials. Later this year the Centre will host an international conference on war crimes trials (e.g. in Bangladesh and Ethiopia) that have received relatively little exposure. Publisher Martinus Nijhoff will also release a book on war crimes trials.

Meanwhile, I am embarking on a major project over three years, that includes writing a book, on rethinking the history of war crimes trials. The idea is to tell the story of war crimes trials both as a diplomatic-legal story and as a narrative about how these trials look and feel on the ground.

Image 1: Professor Michael Bryan
Image 2: Professor Gerry Simpson

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 3, May 2010.