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Rakower ’99 Directs West Point Center

Sali Rakower ’99 and Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan at West Point before the Queen’s address on the importance of the rule of law in securing international peace.

Sali Rakower ’99 and Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan at West Point.

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by Rebecca Barns

A few years ago, Sali A. Rakower ’99 co-judged a moot court competition at the Law School with Brig. Gen. Patrick Finnegan ’79, the dean of the academic board at West Point. For Rakower, this first connection to West Point was an auspicious one. While practicing at White & Case and lecturing at West Point, Rakower was asked to become the director of the school’s new Center for the Rule of Law. She did not hesitate. “I jumped at the chance to be part of this historic Center whose mission is so much in line with my own passions,” she says.

The West Point Center for the Rule of Law, the first of its kind in U.S. history, was established in 2008 to promote international justice, human rights, and respect for the rule of law in times of war and peace. Its location at an institution renowned for academics and military leadership sends a signal that the United States takes a major role in establishing respect for the rule of law everywhere. 

Issues involving the rule of law — U.S. policy on torture, debate about what exactly defines torture, and the decision to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, to name just a few — are among the most hotly debated topics of our time. A significant component of the Center’s mission is to educate military and non-military leaders in principles of the rule of law as they apply to the military justice system and civil-military relations.

In April Rakower facilitated a conference to celebrate the Center’s grand opening. Military and judicial experts, economists, and world leaders addressed a range of issues, including national security, international relations, and criminal justice. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, President Mary Robinson of Ireland, former U.S. Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora, and Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan were among the keynote speakers.

Queen Noor described the importance of the rule of law in securing international peace, and told how her own life has been a journey that bridges two worlds. Her story has personal meaning for Rakower, who was born in the Middle East then raised and educated in the United States. She says she knows what it means to “traverse sometimes conflicting cultures and worldviews and learn to harmonize the best from both worlds.”

“It’s a profound honor for me to be the Center’s first director,” says Rakower, whose background as an Iraqi-American and opportunities for world travel have given her an invaluable perspective on how the rule of law can impact domestic and international affairs. In 2002 she served in the prosecutor’s office of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania, where she assisted in prosecuting Rwandan military leaders for acts of genocide committed in 1994.

As director, Rakower would like to see the Center have a strong influence in shaping U.S. domestic and foreign policy and continue to provide a wealth of learning opportunities for West Point cadets. As her first year comes to a close, she has been asked to continue in her role as Director—an extension she would be happy to accept if the funding for her position is secured.

While at the Center, Rakower is on sabbatical from White & Case, where her practice focuses on complex litigation involving international law.