Lenape grad makes history at the world court

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    STANHOPE-Lenape Valley Regional High School graduates have a history of distinguished themselves in various fields including business, education, medicine, and the arts. Eric Gernant is no exception. On a recent return trip to his Byram home, visited his old alma mater and recounted his experiences as an intern with the International Criminal Tribunal for Crimes Against Humanity for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague in the Netherlands. During his time in the world court, Gernant served on the defense counsel in cases involving Slobodan Milosevic and Vidoje Blagojevic, who are charged with genocide and other war crimes against humanity. "We're not surprised at his success," said Tom Claeys, Supervisor of the History Department at Lenape. A member of the Lenape Valley class of 1998, Gernant received his bachelor of science degree from Niagara University and is a May 2005 graduate of the New England School of Law in Boston. "As a law student, being part of the forefront of international law and to be involved in issues that have never been decided before was very exciting, he said. "International criminal law is a very young field. Other than the trials after World War II, this and Rwanda are the only other instances of international criminal law." Gernant said his interest in things international began as an undergraduate during his first study abroad program in Malta, which motivated him to attend the New England School of Law and focus on international law. Gernant is the first student at the law school to participate in the world court internship program. His efforts resulted in the expansion of the pilot program to offer the same opportunity to as many as six interns at a time. Gernant explained that although acting on behalf of the defense was not his choice, as a lawyer he understands the need and important role it plays in the process. "The trials would not be in existence if it was not for the fact that they (defendants) had defense counsel representation," he said. "Law is very personal, especially criminal defense; not so much as the relationship with the client but working with the other attorneys every day." The International Criminal Tribunal was established by Security Council resolution May 1993 in the face of the serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. There are currently 58 people in custody accused of crimes against humanity. Since the court inception there have been 162 indictments. Gernant is the youngest of three sons of long-time Byram residents, Eric and Carol Gernant of West Brookwood. His brothers, Lawrence and Evan, are also Lenape Valley grads. Gernant will be returning abroad to take a position with the tribunal that is expected to last another two years. "I've learned through my experience that as a defense lawyer, it isn't our job to judge the guilt or innocence of anyone. Rather that is to insure that the rights granted to everyone are upheld. This would be the same in American law with rights granted by our Constitution," he said.