David M. Crane is an alumnus of Syracuse University, and also a military veteran. You should know his story, because it’s a Syracuse University story—one that speaks to our past, our present, and our future.
Born in Santa Monica, California, it’s unlikely David Crane immediately envisioned becoming a paratrooper, world-renowned jurist, international prosecutor, or honorary Paramount Chief among the civil society organizations of Sierra Leone.
David Crane launched his reputable career at Ohio University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in history, summa cum laude, and master’s degree in African Studies. While studying at Ohio University, Crane met his wife, Judi, his college sweetheart to whom he proposed six months later.
Following college, David Crane built quite an impressive resume serving as a U.S. Army officer and later Department of Defense (DoD) civil servant. His Army career spanned more than two decades, in which he starting out as a paratrooper and special operations officer. While serving, Crane later returned to school to earn a law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law and continued his military service in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. Following his military retirement, he worked another decade a senior DoD intelligence officer and held positions including Director of the Office of Intelligence Review, Assistant General Counsel of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Waldemar A. Solf Professor of International Law at the U.S. Army Judge Advocate Generals School.
While in federal service, Crane received an unexpected phone call leading to his nomination, and then appointment, by Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan to became the founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court of Sierra Leone, an international war crimes tribunal, from 2002 to 2005. He is accredited for indicting, among others, the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, the first African head of state in history to be held accountable for war crimes. David Crane was the first American since Justice Robert H. Jackson at Nuremberg in ‘45 to become Chief Prosecutor at an international war crimes tribunal. It is said that his greatest achievement with this trial was his assistance in securing the arrest of Charles Taylor. David Crane witnessed justice after a grueling 10 year case, when former president Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison for crimes of terror, murder, and rape committed during the civil war in Sierra Leone during the 1990s, a testament that, in his words, the “rule of the law trumps the power of the gun.”
In 2006, David Crane became a Professor of Practice at Syracuse University College of Law, teaching international criminal law, international law, national security law, and the law of armed conflict. David Crane is on the Board of Advisors for the American Bar Association’s International Criminal Court Project (ABA-ICC Project), which implements American Bar Association’s policies on international criminal justice. In addition to his role on the College of Law faculty, Crane is a faculty member of SU’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and currently serves as a co-chair on the sections International Criminal Court Task Force. With the support of more than 50 Syracuse law students to date, Crane also launched Impunity Watch, an online publication that informs the world of human rights violations in real-time, as well as the Syria Accountability Project (SAP), which provides impartial analysis of open source materials for future, open and fair prosecution of Syrian war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute, and Syrian Penal Law. He also founded the “I am Syria” campaign in 2012 to help raise awareness of the atrocities perpetrated in the Syrian civil war.
For his service and distinguished accomplishments, David Crane has received multiple honors for his accomplishments, including the SU College of Law Distinguished Service Award (2005) and the university’s highest alumni honor, the George Arents Pioneer Medal (2006). David Crane is also an honorary Doctor of Laws recipient from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
“Life is a challenge, and you have to deal with it as it comes,” said Crane. His life has certainly followed this axiom. A span of more than 30 years in service to his nation, his continual support and involvement in projects within SU’s College of Law, and work in international law, exemplify his boundless commitment to justice—not only for his nation, but also for humanity.
David M. Crane is an alumnus of Syracuse University and a veteran of the U.S. military. You should know his story.