Professor Lennox Hinds
Articles by Angela Pidduck
In 1954, Lennox Hinds was just fourteen years old, and a student of Nelson Street Boys, when he emigrated to New York with his parents.
His education continued at Boys High School in Brooklyn, and then at City College of New York in Manhattan where he obtained a first degree in chemistry. Post graduate work, again in chemistry, was done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Minnesota, after which Lennox started a career in pharmaceutical research.
To-day, Professor Hinds, an expert in international humanitarian law, is Rutgers University Professor of Criminal Justice; and is senior partner of Stevens, Hinds & White P.C., with offices in New Jersey, New York, the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Professor Hinds cleared all decks to come home for the millennium Carnival, played sailor with All Stars, something he has done since age six or seven, and was last week relaxing at his Bacolet Gardens home in Tobago when I caught up with him.
Lennox worked first for Charles Pfizer & Company in the area of pharmaceutical research in steroids and anitbiotics; and then in the area of petrochemical research for Cities Service Research & Development Company, an arm of Cities Service Oil Company, where in 1965 he was awarded a United States patent in the area of applied physics, after developing a technique to diagnose the parts of an engine that were wearing out, whether the gears, engine block, or transmission. "Each of those parts is made with different alloys so by analysing the lubricating oil, we could tell which part was wearing out and could then predict the life of the car" he explained.
As an employee of Cities, Hinds had signed an agreement that any discovery during his period of employment, the title to the product would be in the name of the company: "The scientist may get credit for the discovery but all of the profits belonged to the company."
It was in 1967 that Hinds decided to switch careers. "I left Cities in the very heart of the civil rights movement. At that point in time I was doing civil rights work, challenging segregation in the United States for the Congress of Racial Equality, in areas, such as, housing, education and employment . This was the time of apartheid in America with sit-ins, bus-ins, and many other types of these activities. Martin Luther King was assassinated, and I realised that I could no longer serve the interest of corporate America and decided to change careers from science to law."
Hinds went to Rutgers University Law School in New Jersey and became a civil rights lawyer. He then worked for the American Civil Liberties Union heading up their project for defending the civil and human rights of prisoners around the United States. Then took the job as Director of the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCOBL) of the U.S.A. and Canada. "And we, as an organisation, began to defend those individuals who were considered to be too radical for many of the traditional civil rights organisations to defend. We had clients like Angela Davis, the Black Panther Party, and most of the individuals/organisations within that period of the civil rights movement, across the U.S.A., who were targeted by the FBI's Counter Intelligence Programme (Cointelpro) and considered very dangerous by J Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI. In that context, we also began defending and representing liberation movements, such as, the African National Congress, Palestine Liberation Organisation, South West African People's Organisation (the liberation movement for Namibia), and the Liberation Movement For Angola."
On retiring from the NCOBL in 1978, Hinds began teaching international and criminal law at Rutgers University full time, and at the same time formed the law firm of Stevens, Hinds and White, from which he proceeded to represent many newly liberated countries. "Of course, we represented the African National Congress in opposition. Nelson Mandela was released in 1990, and upon his subsequent election in 1994 we became lawyers not only for the ANC but for the new government in South Africa."
As a full-time professor of International Law to this day at Rutgers University; managing his law firm; trying cases not only in the United States but in Africa ; the permanent representative of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) at the United Nations for the past 25 years; vice president of the IADL which has jurist members throughout the world; and lead defence counsel before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; Professor Hinds is left with precious little time for sleep, not to mention his wife, three adult children and seven grandchildren with whom he must spend quality time.
How does he keep going: "I run four miles every day. I videotape all of my lectures for when I am away. We have specially designed classrooms with video capabilities and facilities for tele-conferences so I could conference with my students from Africa, and answer questions while I am away. But I do try to minimise my trips so that I am not away for longer than three class periods at a time."
Professor Hinds returned to New Jersey from Tobago, last Monday, March 13. On March 24, two days before his 60th birthday, he must travel to Arusha, Tanzania, where as one of the very few US attorneys appointed to the panel of defense lawyers by the Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), he will represent the interests of defendants accused by the ICTR of genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law including murder, torture and extermination, committed in the territory of Rwanda and by Rwandan citizens in the territory of neighbouring states between January 1 through December 31, 1994.
Professor Hinds, who must travel to Arusha as many as four to six times a year, confides "I wanted to do this because I teach a course entitled crimes against humanity and the only other trial dealing with this issue was the Nuremberg trial of Nazis after World War II. This is a unique experience for me."