Feeling the Power of International Law: Study Trip to the Hague

In recent years, it has become more and more important for young people to learn more about international law, which is why UNYANET has decided to organize a Study Trip to The Hague in August 2017 that revolved around such topics. Read on if you would like to hear about our group’s interesting and fun trip!


Day 1.

After a few minutes of wondering about whether or not there was a sauna in our first destination, we had the honour to step into the Embassy of Finland where we were warmly welcomed by Ms. Katri Viinikka, the Ambassador of Finland in the Netherlands. Ms. Viinikka was very kind to take time out of her busy schedule to give our group a fascinating presentation about Finland’s foreign and UN policy, and the participants also had the chance to ask her questions on relevant subjects. We would hereby like to thank Ms. Viinikka for the interesting presentation again – so, kiitos! ?


Following a short walk in the centre of The Hague we arrived to our next location: the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s High Commissioner on National Minorities. Here, Mr. Marc Fumagalli welcomed our group and told us about the history and background of the organization. He also gave us a valuable and fascinating insight on many different aspects of their work in the various countries where they operate in. Afterwards, the participants and Mr. Fumagalli engaged in a very thought-provoking question-and-answer session, which was delightful to both witness and participate in. We are very grateful to Mr. Fumagalli for making our visit to OSCE so interesting!


As the last program of this busy first day we visited Eurojust at their new location, where we met Ms. Laura Surano and Mr. Miklós Hegedűs from the Operations Unit. After a very thorough and fascinating presentation about how Eurojust was founded, what types of crimes they have jurisdiction over, how different cases get processed and the way said cases go through the different necessary stages (while taking notes into our awesome new Eurojust notebooks with our new Eurojust pens ?), our group also had the chance to take a look at the rooms where many people are hard at work every day, gathering evidence and building cases. Thank you again to Ms. Surano and Mr. Hegedűs for their time and efforts, and of course for showing us why Eurojust is such an important organization!

Day 2.

While for those working at the International Criminal Court this Friday might have been just like any other, we were really excited to step into this prestigious building and learn more about how it operates. After all the necessary security checks that ensure the safety of ICC and its employees, we started our visit by attending Mr. Dominic Ongwen’s hearing who is being charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, allegedly committed in Uganda. Although some of us would have been happy to just sit in the public gallery of the ICC and listen to the intriguing trial all day, we needed to proceed to a meeting room, where we first met with Ms. Ania Salinas Cerda. Ms. Salinas Cerda gave us a presentation on the history, mandate and structure of the Court, which was followed by another presentation by Mr. Fabio Rossi on the mandate and work of the Office of the Prosecutor. Afterwards, our group of participants also had the chance to ask Mr. Rossi relevant questions, but our time at the ICC seemed to come to an end quicker than we could have imagined. We would like to thank all the great people that made our visit possible once again also from the UN Association of Spain – we will surely cherish our memories and all we learnt at the Court!

Our second programme of the day was a visit to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and while there were not any hearings currently under going that we could have attended, we still had the full picture of the organization’s work through a courtroom tour and presentations by all four organs of the Tribunal. Through the fascinating briefings with the members of the Chambers, the Registry, the Office of the Prosecutor and the Defence Office our group learned a lot including why and how the Tribunal was set up, what does it mean to be trying the suspects in absentia and why the STL even tries people in absentia in the first place, the methods they use to collect evidence and of investigation, and of course, the relevance and importance of all four of the organs that make the Tribunal work and function well. After a long and fruitful visit and interesting question-and-answer sessions with the amazing representatives of the four organs, we can definitely say that we have learned a lot about the Tribunal – and we are very grateful to everyone that helped organize our visit and gave us valuable information about the STL!

Day 3-4.

Although the weekend has arrived, the UNYANET study trip team had a busy Saturday ahead, starting with a workshop on Organization Strategy. After a few hours of brainstorming, our group of participants was able to participate in a guided tour of the Peace Palace, which is where the International Court of Justice resides. Lastly, the board has organized a Project Management workshop as well, where the group had the chance to design project proposals, learn more about the different set of skills that can come in handy both during their studies and later on when they start their careers as part of the international community. On Sunday, the members of our lovely group had the option to participate in an UNYANET board meeting, but unfortunately, the time to say goodbye arrived.

We would like to thank all of our great participants for coming to the Study Trip, as well as all of the organizers and presenters of our fascinating visits! And now, we would like to end this article with participant Kelly’s thoughts on the Study Trip:

“Participating in The Hague Study Trip was the highlight of my summer. It was a very enriching experience and the participants learned valuable information pertaining to international law and the United Nations.

In my humble opinion, the trip to the International Criminal Court was the most stimulating visit. Prior to this event, I had limited knowledge of how the international law system was executed. Physically being in the facility that handles very strenuous cases was both humbling and exciting. Listening to the prosecutors and witnesses of the Ongwen case affirmed the fact that these international cases are not easily done. The immense effort on each side is incredible and it is quite overwhelming to imagine the depth of work that these lawyers accomplish.

The speakers who graciously took the time to spend with us taught us the technicalities and realities of these sorts of cases. Being able to directly speak with someone who has been in the field helped me to better understand the international law system. The Hague Study Trip has inspired me to educate myself more on international law. I will attend a conference this October in NYC with the American Branch of the International Law Association. The time precedent to this trip, I probably would have not even been interested. Thank you Anna and Pau for organizing this study trip. It has certainly broadened my horizons to becoming a more knowledgeable and enlightened peacemaker.

P.S. I look forward to the next UNYANET study trip!”

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