by Meaghan Thurston, originally published in the McGill Reporter

If there’s something that keeps McGill Law Professor René Provost up at night, it’s that many prisoners in conflict zones around the world are held in unofficial prisons and sentenced by unofficial courts that neither apply international law, nor protect victims of war from further abuses.

On September 18, it was announced that Prof. Provost, a scholar with expertise in human rights, international criminal law, the law of armed conflict, and the intersection of law and culture, is one of five Canadian scholars honoured with a Trudeau Fellowship from the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation this year.

Trudeau Fellowships are awarded to individuals who set themselves apart through their research, creativity and their commitment to public issues of importance to Canada. Each Fellow receives $225,000, payable over three years. In addition, Fellows enjoy unique access to the rich intellectual network of researchers and practitioners who have joined the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation community before them – 58 fellows, 106 mentors, and 187 doctoral scholars over the past 13 years.

With the support the Fellowship provides, Prof. Provost will seek to promote a public, intellectual dialogue regarding insurgent justice. Specifically, he will be exploring the difficult question of whether courts established by armed, non-state groups, such as ISIS, can meaningfully administer justice in conflict zones. Watch a video of Prof. Provost discussing his research.

“We are very grateful to the Trudeau Foundation for its promotion of outstanding research in the humanities and social sciences and its recognition of Fellows, like Professor Provost, who have distinguished themselves through their research achievements,” said Professor Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor.  “McGill is proud to count Professor Provost, a distinguished scholar, as a member of the McGill community, and to see him honoured in this fashion.”

A graduate of Université de Montréal (LL.B.), the University of California at Berkeley (LL.M.), and the University of Oxford (DPhil), Prof. Provost served as law clerk to the Honourable Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé at the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988-1989 and taught international law at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania in 1991. He joined the Faculty of Law of McGill University in 1994, serving as Associate Dean (Academic) from 2001 to 2003.

From 2005 to 2010, he was the founding Director of the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. The author and editor of numerous publications on human rights and humanitarian law, multiculturalism, and legal pluralism, Prof. Provost is currently completing work on The Centaur Jurisprudence Project, an interdisciplinary team project he directs on the interaction of law and culture before legal institutions.

Photos: Lysanne Larose.