Santa Clara Law Professor Jiri Toman was honored in May for his lifelong dedication to the Red Cross. He has worked tirelessly with the International Humanitarian Law program (IHL), a free educational resource offered by the American Red Cross to help raise awareness about the rights guaranteed to all peoples of the world during armed conflict, as outlined by the Geneva Conventions.
Professor Toman received the Jiri Toman Award for International Humanitarian Service – an award named in recognition of the professor and his unwavering devotion. The honor was awarded at the IHL conference held at the UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.
“It was an enormous surprise,” said Toman, adding that he feels the service he has given to the Red Cross over the past 45 years is simply a path his life was fated to take. “It’s like it was my life destiny.”
Born in Czechoslovakia, Professor Toman relocated to Geneva, Switzerland in 1965 to finish work on his PhD, only to become a political refugee in 1968, when the brief period of reform seen during the historic Prague Spring ended in the Soviet regime clamping down. He soon found opportunity as a researcher and librarian for the International Committee of the Red Cross at the Henri Dunant Institute in Geneva, where his initial task was to index the Geneva Conventions in French and English.
He remained at the Institute for the following 29 years, eventually as director, serving the Red Cross by educating others in International Humanitarian Law. He taught classes and organized curricula for other instructors of the subject, both in Switzerland and abroad in Africa and Latin America. He wrote a teaching manual on Humanitarian Law and has published numerous articles on the subject in law and academic journals.
“He, as a person, is an embodiment of the values of the Red Cross,” said Naomi Pease, the Prepare Silicon Valley Specialist for the Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter. Naomi was also formerly a student of Professor Toman at Santa Clara University, and has known him personally and professionally for a number of years. In addition to his work with the Red Cross, Professor Toman fulfills the organization’s mission and spirit as a professor and an educator. “He mentors students and continues to support them even after law school. He does what he can to bring people together to support the community.”
Professor Toman was one of the chief architects of the IHL program for the Red Cross. The program, which began in 1999, offers free hands-on classes to the public about the basic rules of international humanitarian law and the role of the Red Cross during wartime. The dedicated staff of Red Cross IHL instructors provides an enriched classroom experience as they share an appreciation for the respect and dignity of human life.
“Professor Toman has developed, inspired, and continues to motivate and support students at the university level, as well as some of the great legal minds and experts in IHL globally,” said Joan Kelley-Williams, director of the Service to the Armed Forces & International Services for the Bay Area Chapter. Joan has worked closely alongside Professor Toman for nearly 20 years, and she was one of the key organizers of the event honoring him.
Joan believes that Professor Toman's work is essential, not only to fulfill the mission of the Red Cross, but to serve the good of the world at large. “The survival of our species demands it and depends on it.”
Professor Toman said he was honored and humbled by the ceremony. He believes that most people dedicate themselves to serving the Red Cross, without a thought to potential accolades or recognition. He does, however, appreciate knowing that he has made a difference.
“It was very kind of Joan Kelley-Williams to help organize the event,” he said.
To learn more about the International Humanitarian Law program, go to: http://www.redcross.org/what-we-do/international-services/educating-future-humanitarians
To learn about local International Humanitarian Law courses and seminars go to: http://www.redcross.org/ca/san-jose/local-programs-services/international-services