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The Hague-February 21-26, 2007

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Wednesday, 21 February 2007

This has been a busy social week already, with an evening event last night with interns and staff from the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, one of the UN’s ad-hoc tribunals in The Hague) at the oldest bar in The Hague, and a party tonight at a friend’s house in Vassenaar, a very nice suburb where many diplomats and ambassadors live (my friend’s father included). I remember having a conversation with Julia (co-fellow) this summer about how much territory we’d cover during the Fellowship this year, and how one of her life goals was to have a friend in as many countries as possible. To me, that’s a beautiful goal, creating your own global community of sorts, and almost five months into the year, I’ve added a lot of new countries and international friends in them, to my life. It’s a wonderful aspect of the experience of the Fellowship— continually expanding my conceptions of friends and communities.

Work right now is busy. I’m still involved in many different projects with a lot of big things happening in the Office of the Prosecutor, as well as pursuing my own research. I have plans to help Patrick, Insight CEO, at a couple different corporate communication programs in the next few weeks, in Zurich and outside London. Staying engaged in many diverse arenas at the Court, in Insight activities, and in building plans with NGOs and individuals in Africa for my final placement is part of what makes this year so full and unique. It’s impossible to define this experience in only a few words when people ask me, but that undefinable aspect is part of what makes it exceptional. Only one month left here to maximize my time…

Saturday, 24 February 2007

This morning I woke up early to begin one of the adventures I had dreamed about for this year: road-tripping solo in Europe. I found my way to the car rental place by the court in Voorburg, and collected my ‘compact’ European car, which ended up being a Mercedes A-class. Not too shabby as their cheapest option!

Having mapped out my two-day plan, I headed south through the Netherlands, through Maastricht and the southern tip, and into Belgium.

I navigated part of the drive through Belgium through a down-pour with very little visibility which got me pretty lost for about an hour as I headed the wrong way on a ring road highway. Once back on the right track, I soon entered Luxembourg. The rain evaporated and revealed the picturesque green pastoral landscapes I had envisioned in my ideal of the open road in Europe.

I was en route to Luxembourg City as a stopping point for the night, and detoured on the way to stop at a castle that I had read was still an undiscovered treasure in the Grand Duchy, the Vianden Castle which is the tiny Vianden village’s only attraction. Winding down narrow two lane roads, I came around a curve and it suddenly appeared.

I explored the castle for awhile. It has been restored many times from its original construction between the 11th and 14th centuries but is still the impressive romantic gothic construction it was so many hundreds of years ago.

Leaving the very quaint Vianden, I continued for about an hour and a half to Luxembourg City. I arrived as it was getting dark, found where I had planned to stay, and relaxed, happy and fulfilled in my adventure after a day in the car. It was great to drive again, to explore new and hidden places, and I couldn’t stop smiling.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

This morning I woke up and explored Luxembourg City, which was a sleepy and silent capital on this Sunday morning. It took me awhile to even find somewhere I could get coffee and a croissant for breakfast with every shop and café closed. The city is built on tiered levels, spanning a river, with beautiful old buildings that open onto squares and plazas.

I went to the city’s history museum, which was very well done and maybe the classiest and most modern architecturally and design-wise I’ve ever seen for a history museum; a result of the Duchy being as rich as it is (highest GDP per capita in the world), I guess. I learned a lot about the historical development of the fortress city, the Luxembourg territory being fought over by all of the surrounding European countries over the centuries, the terror of the Nazi occupation here, and the contemporary development of a Duchy that is culturally diverse with three official languages and was one of the founding members of the EU in the mid-1950s.

After a lovely relaxed morning, I got back in the car to head to Echternach, another small Luxembourg town about an hour away.

I walked around for awhile, had some lunch, and then got back in the car. Adding the fourth country to my roadtrip and the second new country to my life-list, I detoured for about 60 km through Germany. After driving through some small villages, I continued back to The Hague, stopped briefly in Antwerp, Belgium on the way back, and arrived back ‘home’ around 7 pm. It was a great two-day whirlwind.

Monday, 26 February 2007

This morning I had a very interesting opportunity to see historical international justice in the making. I attended the judgment of the case of Bosnia v. Serbia & Montenegro at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. This is a significant judgment because it is the first time that the genocide convention has been tested against a state rather than in a criminal trial (such as those of the ICTY), and it was a very big deal. I got there early, and saw the crowds of protestors and police forces outside of the Peace Palace complex, where the ICJ is.

After going through security and a passport check, I waited for permission to enter into the actual building. It is a beautiful complex inside and out; an ornate building that is decorated very elaborately on the inside, and surrounded by manicured gardens and a lake on the grounds outside. The place was swarmed with press, public observers, and members of the other international justice institutions in The Hague, as well as with vested parties, like the rows of counsel for Serbia and Montenegro, whom I sat behind in the courtroom. The only woman judge on the bench and the president of the ICJ, Rosalyn Higgins, delivered the judgment, and it was about three and a half hours long. Some of the intricacies and fine lines in the decision frustrated me (i.e. an explicit responsibility to prevent the commission of genocide doesn’t necessarily imply a responsibility to not commit genocide). While the judges did not find (to the extreme disappointment and controversy of many) that Serbia and Montenegro were guilty of committing genocide, they did find that they that had failed to prevent it in the atrocities of Srebrenica in 1995, and that they have failed to punish it, by continuing to harbor perpetrators of genocide such as Ratko Mladic (Bosnian Serb general) and Radovan Karadzic (Bosnian Serb wartime president) and refusing to hand them over to the ICTY.

After the delivery of the judgment, the courtroom was buzzing, both sides’ counsels were immediately swarmed by press reporters, and it was palpable what a monumental event this was. It was a huge judgment for the Balkan communities, and a huge judgment for the ICJ. It is very exciting that I got to be there and see it.

And, I found out tonight, one of my friends saw me on BBC World during the delivery of the judgment! And I saw myself briefly on CNN International! The excitement continues!