Professor John Cencich has spent the past 20 years as a member of the faculty at what is now Pennsylvania Western University, and where he specializes in constitutional policing, organized crime, and international criminal law and justice. Prior to that, he retired after a 20-year career in law enforcement and criminal investigation (including a special attachment to Scotland Yard), which was followed by a 4-year appointment with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Headquartered at The Hague, he was the senior American war crimes investigator for the Office of the Prosecutor and led one of the largest international criminal investigations since the Second World War. Cases involved war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, sexual assault, hostage taking, and torture. The Accused in these cases were high-ranking political, military, police, intelligence, and organized crime officials. Professor Cencich was the co-architect of the prosecution theory of the joint criminal enterprise, which formed the principal legal framework for the indictment and prosecution of the first sitting head-of-state for atrocities carried out pursuant to his official capacity as president. He is the director of the Pennsylvania Center for Investigative and Forensic Sciences where he focuses research, teaching, and consultations in the areas of cold-case homicide strategies and wrongful convictions.
At Pitt Law, Professor Cencich blends his real-world experience investigating, tracking down, and furthering the prosecution of international war criminals—and those who accused of other atrocity crimes—with his scholarship of teaching and learning. The seminar course in International Criminal Law covers a wide span of topics such as torture, terrorism, piracy, and transnational organized crime, and the course on the Law of Armed Conflict covers the crime of Aggression (jus ad bellum) as well as serious crimes in relation to the conduct of belligerents once hostilities commence, whether international or non-international in character (jus in bello).