I spent my summer working as an intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, a Dutch city on the North Sea known as the “international city of peace and justice.” With more than 150 international organizations, a number of international courts and tribunals, as well as the interesting group of international employees and interns that staff the organizations, The Hague was a fascinating place to spend my first summer of law school.
The Hague is home to the International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice, Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the Appeals Chamber for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and more. The United Nations specifically established the ICTY in 1993 as its first war crimes court and the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials to respond to the mass atrocities taking place in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The tribunal aims to bring to justice individuals responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia since 1991. During my internship, I worked in Trial Chamber I with an impressive international team of staff members, interns and three distinguished judges. Our team is handling the trial of Ratko Mladić, a high-ranking officer in the Yugoslav People’s Army and later the chief of staff of the Army of Republika Srpska.
Having previously observed trial proceedings at the extraordinary chambers in the courts of Cambodia while working with a nongovernmental organization in Phnom Penh, I was excited to learn more about international criminal law through a different regional context. At the ICTY, I gained a better understanding about the former Yugoslavia and international criminal law under the guidance of Judge Alphons Orie, Judge Christoph Fluegge and Judge Bakone Justice Moloto, as well as a team of impressive staff and interns from every part of the world. I developed a stronger understanding of not only war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, but also of legal writing and analysis from a team that was willing and eager to teach and discuss major issues.
In the course of my summer, I sat in on a few days of trial proceedings for Mladić’s case and even visited the U.N. Detention Unit, which has housed more than 100 individuals accused of war crimes during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. Even aside from these incredible opportunities, my day-to-day experiences as an intern at the ICTY were wonderful. Simply being surrounded by friends and colleagues from different corners of the world at the ICTY gave me a much broader perspective of international issues. With the Brexit referendum, the attacks in France and Germany, as well as the coup in Turkey, it was certainly an interesting time to be in Europe, and I learned a lot through discussions of these events with my European and international colleagues. Despite the frequent intern turnover, the ICTY chambers interns developed close bonds, and I now look forward to visiting my friends in their respective home countries.
Though we had a busy schedule, I managed to visit friends in Paris and Geneva, and with the efficiency of the Dutch rail system, I took quite a few day trips to Amsterdam, Delft, Leiden and Utrecht. The windmills and canals were even more beautiful than I had imagined, and my favorite part of living in the Netherlands was cycling around and enjoying the Dutch summer. My summer in The Hague and at the ICTY was incredible, and especially with the ICTY coming to a close soon, it was the kind of experience that I know I will never find anywhere else.
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