LLM visit to the Hague
On 2 June, we left rainy Glasgow for a sunnier Hague to see in practice what we have studied in previous semesters at the University of Glasgow. For some it was a bumpy trip: one took a 6 am flight next to a furious baby and the baby’s brother kicking her seat from behind during the entirety of the trip, and another experienced some terrible turbulence en route. Nonetheless, we all made it to the Hague, ready to explore the mysterious wonders of the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice that we have studied in International Criminal Law and International Courts and Tribunals.
First, a little love letter to the Hague, if you have not been there: it is quiet, beautiful, with canals similar to those of Amsterdam but without the tourist attractions, and it is situated right next to the sea. In fact, one of the first things the brave students of Glasgow did upon arriving was to take a refreshing swim in the Northern Sea at Scheveningen Beach. We can report that it was warmer than many of the lochs we have encountered in Scotland.
Monday 3 June we all met up in front of the ICC, a modern building meant to reflect the transparency of the institution. Judge Prost and Dr Rastan were kind of enough to take the time to explain to us the inner workings of ICC from their respective perspectives. Judge Prost talked about the challenges of being a judge in a court which includes judges coming from both common law and civil law backgrounds. Her perspective and reflections also offered a unique insight as she was involved in the drafting of the Rome Statute establishing the court in 1998. She drew some interesting parallels between the compromises and intentions of 1998 and the functioning of the Court today. Dr Rastan is a legal advisor of the court and talked a lot about the challenges facing the Court today and its possible future. After a few hours of these interesting discussions and a quick lunch, we got a tour of the ICC and saw the interior of the courtrooms where the cases we have studied have been deliberated and pronounced.
In the evening, we had the catch of the day at a restaurant in Scheveningen Beach while watching the sun go down, definitely also a highlight of the trip.
On Tuesday 4 June, it was time for our visit to the Peace Palace and ICJ. The Peace Palace is of course a symbol of international law cooperation and it was just as impressive in real life as in pictures. We got to sit in on the oral presentation of Ukraine’s counterarguments to Russia’s preliminary objections in the Ukraine v. Russian Federation case pending before the ICJ, where Ukraine claims that Russia has violated ICSFT (International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism) and CERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination). Ukraine argued that Russia’s policy towards Ukraine has resulted in violations of ICSFT, and that the results of Russia’s lack of investigation, prevention and assistance includes the shooting down of MH17 and rockets falling on residential districts. Further, it was also claimed that Russia has launched a campaign of cultural erasure directed against the Crimean Tartar and Ukrainian communities in Crimea, a violation of CERD. It was interesting to see how the case was argued, how visual aids were used and observe the dynamic between the opposing parties and the Court.
We then had a meeting with Judge Tomka, previous president of the ICJ and judge at the Court since 2003. He talked about the history of ICJ, from the South West Africa cases of the 1960s up until the situation today with 16 pending cases before the ICJ. Afterwards we got to meet two judges’ clerks of the Court and one judicial fellow, Dr Vladyslaw Lanovoy, Dr Massimo Lando and Mr Momchil Milanov, who gave an interesting insight to the inner workings of the court, the manner of which they worked and how the decisions of ICJ are written.
With that came the conclusion of our academic programme in the Hague, and we were all a little sad that it was already over.
~ Karoline Borthen - International Law & Security LLM