For The Record

In 2019, Richmond Law professor Julie McConnell found herself at the epicenter of a serious human rights issue. As director of the Children’s Defense Clinic, McConnell and her students have long worked with children and families around Virginia advocating for indigent youth charged with acts of delinquency. Thanks to her new role with the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ), McConnell is taking her expertise further afield.

Founded in 2014 to strengthen counterterrorism efforts worldwide, the IIJ launched a series of five trainings to extend its work to include best practices for handling juvenile cases in a counterterrorism context. The IIJ conducted the first such training in Malta in July 2019 — and McConnell was tapped as a juvenile justice expert and speaker for the series of conferences.

“Many countries around the world are grappling with the challenges of children being recruited into terrorist activities,” McConnell said. “It is an emerging issue that these groups see children as easy targets,” she added, and many countries find themselves ill-equipped to respond.

The IIJ trainings were designed to equip prosecutors and investigating magistrates, judges, defense attorneys, corrections officials, and investigators with the tools and knowledge needed to better support their countries’ counterterrorism efforts in a juvenile justice context. “We want to empower the changemakers, and we want to see real change in these countries, as well as our own country, in the way that we respond to juvenile crime.”