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Christodoulos Kaoutzanis

Change Agent

By Mary Johnson

Summer 2011

For 10 hot, humid weeks after his first year at Columbia Law School, Christodoulos Kaoutzanis ’11 immersed himself in the confidential investigation of Case 002 in Cambodia. His research—which Kaoutzanis has since been authorized to discuss—focused on a criminal suit brought by the U.N.–sanctioned Extraordinary Chambers at the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) against former Khmer Rouge leaders.

As an ECCC intern, Kaoutzanis read through stacks of victim petitions that accused the country’s onetime rulers of committing horrific crimes. The work was heart-wrenching, but Kaoutzanis believed that the process of seeking justice, even decades after the alleged atrocities occurred, was vitally important. Ultimately, the team he worked for determined that roughly 2,000 victims could join Case 002. “I saw how international institutions can affect the lives of victims who just want some sort of closure,” he recalls.

Since completing his internship, Kaoutzanis has continued to study the work of organizations like the United Nations. A native of Lefkosia, Cyprus, and a former Cypriot Navy Seal, he served as a staff editor for the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law and the Columbia Journal of European Law. He is also pursuing a joint LL.M. degree from the University of Amsterdam Law School through the J.D./LL.M. Program in International Criminal Law.

Kaoutzanis, who begins a Ph.D. program in political theory at Columbia University’s Department of Political Science next year, hopes to one day work for the institutions he has studied. “I know it sounds trite,” he says, “but I want to effect change.”

Photographed by David Yellen