Chicago Journal of International Law


Every student of a foreign language learns about "false friends"-words in a new language that look like words in your own but mean something different. In French, "experience" means "experiment," not "experience." In German "Konkurrenz' means "competition," while the English "concurrence" means "agreement"-in antitrust terms, the opposite of competition. Legal language, too, contains false friends-technical legal terms that closely resemble words in ordinary language but mean something different. Twenty-five years ago, as a young philosophy teacher with no legal training, I taught my first case ever in a law school classroom. It contained the word "consideration," and I proceeded on the natural assumption that a "good consideration" means "an important thing to think about" rather than "a thing of value given to form a contract." The results were predictably comic. But the result can be tragic as well. On January 25, 2005, the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur ("UN Commission" or "Commission") presented its report ("UN Darfur Report" or "Report") to UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan. The Commission, chaired by the eminent international jurist Antonio Cassese, did a meticulous job of investigating possible international crimes in Darfur. Newspaper headlines summarized the Cassese Commission's findings a few days later: U.N. Finds Crimes, Not Genocide in Dafur, U.N. Panel Finds No Genocide in Dafur but Urges Tribunals, Murder-But No Genocide, Dafur 'Criminal But Not Genocide,' and Sudan's Dafur Crimes Not Genocide, Says U.N. Report.6 Nearly identical headlines appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Queensland Courier Mail, the St. Petersburg Times, the Irish Times, and the Financial Times. [CONT]