PHILLIP RAPOZA OF THE MASSACHUSETTS APPEALS COURT
APPOINTED BY UNITED NATIONS TO INTERNATIONAL WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL
Boston — Appeals
Court Justice Phillip Rapoza has been appointed by the United
Nations to serve as a judge on the Special Panel for Serious
Crimes in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor.
Special Panel is a war crimes tribunal established by the
United Nations to deal with war crimes, genocide, crimes
against humanity, murder, rape and torture committed during
a campaign of terror waged in 1999 by elements opposed to
East Timor's independence. The Special Panel is similar to
international tribunals established to conduct trials of
war criminals from Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
serving on the Special Panel for Serious Crimes, Justice
Rapoza will live in Dili, the capital of East Timor, where
the court is located. He is the first American appointed
to the court and will join judges from Germany, Italy, Cape
Verde and Burundi on the Special Panel. Two judges from East
Timor will also participate.† Justice
Rapoza will join the court on December 1, 2003.
order to serve on the Special Panel, Justice Rapoza requested
a one-year unpaid leave of absence from his state court duties,
as permitted under state law.† His request was approved by Chief Justice
Margaret H. Marshall of the Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals
Court Chief Justice Christopher J. Armstrong.† At
the end of the year Justice Rapoza will resume his duties
on the Appeals Court.
of genocide or war crimes are among the greatest challenges
to systems of justice anywhere in the world.† It
is a tribute to the Massachusetts judiciary, that Justice
Rapoza is not only qualified, but willing, to devote a year
to this enormously important international effort to redress
whatever injustice accompanied East Timorís struggle for
independence in the late 1990ís, Ē said Chief Justice Marshall.
Justice Armstrong said, "Justice Rapoza's longstanding
commitment to the cause of international justice and harmony
brings honor to his court and to the entire Massachusetts
judiciary.† I speak
for all of his colleagues on the Appeals Court in wishing
him a fruitful and fulfilling year in this challenging assignment."
selection of Justice Rapoza was also praised by the American
Ambassador to East Timor, Grover Joseph Rees, who stated: "I
am very pleased at the appointment of Judge Rapoza to serve
in East Timor as a Judge of the Special Panel for Serious
Crimes. He is extraordinarily well qualified to serve in
the position for which he has been selected."
Justice Rapoza's twenty-seven years as a trial and appellate
judge, prosecutor, private attorney and scholar, the Ambassador
also commended his "history of active involvement with
other legal systems and cultures, particularly the legal
systems of Portuguese-speaking nations around the world."
Rees emphasized the significance of the work of the Special
Panel, stating that it is "important not only to promote
justice and accountability for the unspeakable atrocities
that were committed in East Timor, but also to warn those
who may be contemplating similar atrocities in other countries
around the world that they can no longer count on impunity."
to Justice Rapoza as "not only a distinguished jurist
but also a prominent member of the Portuguese-American community," Ambassador
Rees stated, "I will be happy to have the opportunity
to consult informally from time to time with Judge Rapoza
on how the United States can best assist in the development
of the legal system in East Timor."
on his appointment, Justice Rapoza stated: "I am honored
by this appointment and I look forward to serving as a
judge on the Special Panel for Serious Crimes. I trust
that my experience and skills, developed as a member of
the Massachusetts judiciary, will assist in the important
work that the tribunal has to perform. It is hard to imagine
a more significant undertaking."
Special Panel for Serious Crimes was established in 2000
by the United Nations Transitional Administration, which
administered East Timor following the withdrawal of Indonesian
occupation forces in 1999 and prior to East Timor's independence
in 2002. Before the UN became involved, systematic violence
perpetrated by contending factions produced thousands of
deaths. Approximately 300,000 people, out of a population
of 800,000, were killed, wounded, or became permanent refugees.† After
peace was restored, the UN administration in the territory
established the Special Panel for Serious Crimes.
Rapoza, a Dartmouth resident, was first appointed to the
Massachusetts bench in 1992 as a judge of the Fall River
District Court. He was appointed to the Superior Court in
1996 and to the Appeals Court in 1998.† Fluent
in Portuguese, Justice Rapoza has extensive experience in
international legal programming in the Portuguese-speaking
world, including Portugal, Mozambique and Cape Verde. In
2002, President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal bestowed Portugal's
highest civilian award on Justice Rapoza, naming him a Commander
in the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator. At the time,
President Sampaio cited Justice Rapoza's work "in promoting
closer relations between the judicial institutions of our
Rapoza is a graduate of Yale College and Cornell University
School of Law.