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Student Wins Fulbright Fellowship to Study the Prosecution of Enforced Starvation Under International Law

June 18, 2009 – 
Randle DeFalco, a 2009 graduate of Rutgers School of Law–Newark, has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship to pursue potentially ground-breaking research in international human rights law. As a Fulbright Fellow, DeFalco will study the possible prosecution of former Khmer Rouge leaders for the widespread starvation that occurred in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. Beginning in September, he will be based for approximately 10 months at the Phnom Penh headquarters of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam).

As a 2008 recipient of a summer grant from the Rutgers Public Interest Law Foundation, DeFalco worked at DC-Cam where, among other activities, he participated in the non-profit’s fieldwork aimed at involving the larger Cambodian population in the ongoing legal process and providing a historical record for future generations. Hearing the stories of survivors, DeFalco recalls, “For many, memories of starvation are the most haunting and persistent. A common question from survivors was whether the Khmer Rouge Tribunal will prosecute anyone for the widespread starvation that the Khmer Rouge regime caused.”

At DC-Cam, DeFalco also conducted legal research for the Tribunal, formally known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). The ECCC was created by the Cambodian government and the United Nations to put Khmer Rouge leaders on trial for crimes against humanity. His work for ECCC culminated with his co-authoring an extensive legal research paper on two critical issues of law that will be contentious at the Tribunal.

DeFalco, a native of Ontario, Canada, with a long-time interest in international issues and human rights, received a B.A. in global history from a New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers–Newark joint degree program. At Rutgers Law School’s May 2009 commencement, his demonstrated leadership in public service activities was recognized when he was awarded the Eli Jarmel Memorial Prize as the student with the greatest interest and proficiency in public interest law.

In learning of the Fulbright Fellowship, Dr. Barry R. Komisaruk, Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor, said: “As the Rutgers–Newark Fulbright Advisor and Associate Dean of the Graduate School, I recognize how competitive this award is. The Graduate School takes great pride in Mr. DeFalco’s award and wishes him success in his significant initiative for human rights.”

Winning the Fulbright Fellowship is gratifying to DeFalco for a number of reasons. “Personally,” he explains, “the research will give me a way to use my legal education to provide an important service to the Cambodian people, who are still addressing the difficulties that face post-conflict nations and yet welcomed me so warmly during my short time there.” In addition, his research into the possible prosecution of enforced starvation will represent a significant addition to the body of international law criminalizing the abuse of civilians. “To be able to make such a contribution is extremely gratifying,” he adds, “and will help me to realize my professional goal of working for the betterment of humanity through the pursuit of international justice.”