Patrick Corrigan

Class of 2007

Patrick Corrigan

“The International Criminal Court must avoid the twin extremes of cultural relativism on the one hand, and radical universalism which applies international law independent of particular circumstances on the other,” argues Patrick Corrigan in his senior essay.

Upon graduation, Patrick Corrigan is headed back to Uganda, committed to two years of teaching in a Holy Cross school, with his free time dedicated to pursuing the research begun while an undergraduate in the Program of Liberal Studies.

While in Uganda, he hopes to build a grassroots understanding of peacebuilding and service before continuing his education in international relations and conflict resolution.

Patrick’s senior essay in the Program of Liberal Studies, “The Possibility of Global Justice: The Problem of the International Criminal Court in Northern Uganda,” is the result of more than a year of research and two trips to Uganda.  The essay evaluates conflicting conceptions of justice between local and international actors that have emerged during the International Criminal Court’s first major case in northern Uganda and examines the question of the potential role for the International Criminal Court in its future cases.

Patrick first visited Uganda in June and July of 2006 while participating in an International Summer Service Learning Project sponsored by Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns.  He had the opportunity to conduct interviews in various regions of Uganda with government officials, non-governmental organizations, internally displaced persons, abducted child soldiers who had returned to their communities, and religious and community leaders.  The focus of his investigation at the time centered on the emerging peace negotiations between conflicting groups and the potential challenges the International Criminal Court posed for these negotiations. 

Following this trip, Patrick consulted with colleagues and policy-makers in the United States as well as with non-governmental organizations in Washington D.C. working on issues related to the International Criminal Court and northern Uganda.  After engaging in this further study, Patrick again visited Uganda during March of 2007 to conduct more interviews with the assistance of an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Grant from Notre Dame’s Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts and funding from the Office of the President.  The focus of his second trip was to identify ways in which the Court could apply its principles in a more comprehensively just and effective manner in the future.

Patrick became interested in the conflict in northern Uganda through his research on conflict resolution in Darfur, Sudan and Northern Ireland.  In the summer of 2005, Notre Dame’s Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts sponsored him to study peace building and conflict resolution in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  In February of 2005, Patrick led a team that organized a Symposium exploring solutions to the crisis in Darfur. The team, comprised entirely of students, raised $10,000 to organize the event, which featured experts on Darfur. Among the speakers were an advisor to former President Bill Clinton, John Prendergast; a special advisor to then Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, Francis Deng; and a humanitarian researcher from Tufts University, Larry Minear. 

After seeing the regional connections between Darfur and northern Uganda, Patrick began working with a Washington, D.C. based non-governmental organization called the Uganda Conflict Action Network. He led a coalition of students to Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to put an end to the killings in Darful, and in 2006 was recognized for his research and advocacy efforts as a Truman Scholarship Finalist.  As a senior, he has continued his advocacy work on northern Uganda and other issues as a co-president of the Africa Faith and Justice Network at Notre Dame. 

In his senior essay (directed by Felicitas Munzel), Patrick concludes, “the Court must avoid the twin extremes of cultural relativism on the one hand, and radical universalism which applies international law independent of particular circumstances on the other.” 

He calls for the ICC to broaden its understanding of justice and accountability by adopting a case-sensitive approach which complements and empowers local justice mechanisms designed to address the full range of needs in complex situations following violence and gross human rights abuses.  Patrick encourages the Court to work as one mechanism in a multi-faceted approach which is contextualized to the culture of the local people and which contributes to addressing important needs of victims for healing, reconciliation, and truth-telling.

Corrigan Update 2009