- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Kate Cronin-Furman: Holding Mass Atrocity Offenders Accountable

  • Bret Hauff
| Spring 2017

Whether she was fighting for justice in Cambodia or advocating for victims in Sri Lanka, International Security Program research fellow Kate Cronin-Furman has always sought accountability in tragedy.

“Why sometimes do we see efforts to pursue justice and other times the authors of mass atrocities go unpunished?” Cronin-Furman said.

That question has led this fellow in her research about how offenders of mass atrocities are held accountable for their crimes in the international arena. Cronin-Furman said her passion sprouted during her work as an international lawyer focusing on transitional justice: a field of law rooted in redress for the victims of state-sponsored violence and systemic human rights violations.

Through her fight to find reprise for oppressed and violated people, Cronin-Furman began to question the methods of seeking justice for human rights violators and whether these systems actually cultivate peace and hold offenders of mass atrocities accountable.

“I started looking for research,” she said, “but there was nothing.”

That’s when her career as a researcher began.

In her doctoral work at Columbia University, Cronin-Furman studied the politics of accountability and why—in the post-atrocity societies of Sri Lanka and Democratic Republic of the Congo—do governments establish accountability systems that often fail to deliver justice.

“As much as the Ph.D. seems like a shift [from practicing law], for me it was kind of a natural,” Cronin-Furman said. “I was doing the work I was interested in, and I began to have questions about the value of that work and how we could do that work better.”

Cronin-Furman said she came to the Belfer Center to be a part of a community that instigates change, one she feels is at the forefront of academic work in international relations and national security.

“My academic research is very important. But I was a human rights lawyer and I came to this work out of a concern about the victim, so I do not separate the academic from the activist or the advocate,” Cronin-Furman said. “I don’t think I could if I tried.”

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Hauff, Bret. "Kate Cronin-Furman: Holding Mass Atrocity Offenders Accountable." Belfer Center Newsletter. Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School. (Spring 2017).

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