International business law expert Marco Ventoruzzo will organize and teach courses to the Rwanda Supreme Court and Commercial Court on International Business Law on a pro bono basis.
“I had the desire to put my expertise to work in order to help the judiciary and the legal community to develop legal skills in a context in which access to modern legal education is limited. I think it is a good way to give back using what I know,” said Ventoruzzo, who is the Arthur L. and Sandra S. Piccone Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at Penn State and the author of more than fifty articles, book chapters, and books in English, Italian, and French. “Developing and improving the rule of law in Rwanda is a crucial step for the development and well-being of the people.”
Developing and improving the rule of law in Rwanda is a crucial step for the development and well-being of the people. —Marco Ventoruzzo, Arthur L. and Sandra S. Piccone Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at Penn State
The course is organized by the International Law Institute - African Centre for Legal Excellence (ILI-ACLE) and includes participation of law professors from different countries. The project is sponsored by the Rwanda Supreme Court.
An Opportunity for Growth
Rwanda is of particular interest to Ventoruzzo because the country is engaged in a broad program of legal reforms and has a strong growth rate and significant foreign investment. Commercial relationships with foreign countries continue to grow as Rwanda recovers from a period of civil war and genocide that ended about twenty years ago.
Its legal system includes both civil law and common law elements, and Ventoruzzo is familiar with both. Neighboring countries such as Kenya and Uganda are common law systems; and U.S. and British law are so important in international business practice.
“In some ways, it can be seen as an interesting example of a jurisdiction in which both civil and common law are relevant, and in this light my own comparative background in both common law and civil law seems particularly useful,” he said. While the distinction between common law and civil is blurring in our globalized economy, he explains, one rough difference often mentioned is that in a common law system judicial precedents are binding, and judges are sometimes more "creative" in shaping the law through decisions. “In civil law systems, precedents are also important, but technically not binding, and courts tend to emphasize a more literal application of statutory provisions.”
The current constitution of Rwanda was adopted in 2003. About 30 justices, judges, and registrars are expected to take part in the course.
As team leader, Ventoruzzo will work with the Institute and the Rwanda Supreme Court to define the structure of the course, coordinate the instructors, and will teach a few classes. Participants who successfully complete the course will be given an "Advanced Certificate on International Commercial Law."
Elements of international business transactions, business and company law, and intellectual property will be included. The goal of the course is to prepare judges to be effective in dealing with issues concerning foreign investments, import/exports, licensing agreements, transfer of technology, company law, dispute resolution and international contracts.